coming out of the dark?

I would like to share with you a view of the States that I have come to acquire, in critique of this nation that stands only to improve, I hope. A pillar of our society is Hollywood.
There is an insatiable appetite by one of my favorite industries, to inspire its viewing audience. It does this by taking those who have been oppressed. And, if not yet oppressed, by oppressing them, to ultimately give them (through extremely hard work and fortitude in trials) and with sometimes degrading method, a chance at fame and fortune.
Some Americans and some sophisticated among them do not believe that talent, hard work, and ability alone give enough substance to success anymore, or a promise of active work in the film industry. Now, some people think that a hard and bitter life or even a checkered past must be on the unspoken resume of a Hollywood star. In Hollywood, there are seemingly no secrets with regard to celebs’ lives. In fact, the industry does have its secrets. Players love to talk about their “battle scars” for affirmation and industry credibility. The truth is, that there will always be more unsung heroes in America than Hollywood can validate and cultivate and reward. Even by going to great lengths in seeking them out.
Stars will always have endured strife and heart breaking, so long as there is a movie to audition for. But, equally important, is honesty; finding voices that are relevant and true. Writing that actors recognize as true is paramount. Work they can agree with and validate lest their performance be empty. That task may or may not require a bitter life of “paying ones dues” from which to draw upon in performance. “May” or “may not” is a distinction to why I write this. My argument is that it should not be a pre-requisite for casting. (And I’ll explain why). Contrary to an artist who lacks depth of character and experience, who may not be good at all as a creative artist, (or miraculously still somehow may), are those who have a hard past and great incontestable nourished talent both. But, you and I have both witnessed, some of Hollywood’s favorites, (not necessarily in a big film) who behave in a way, that suggests little strife in their past, or even one of great privilege, and yes, also a lot of incredible talent to go with that. It can be in as few as three spoken words in person that one recognizes this truth, and its nothing to shame.
So, isn’t one’s past suddenly less relevant? How hard they worked or did not work-irrelevant? Isn’t talent more important than dues paid; a capacity and hunger to work? I think so. Should people who don’t respect, or, understand the process or the truth of the film be removed from work?-yes. (They shouldn’t even be included in the process). It’s interesting to hear about the dues paid, but our nation need to find good work as opposed to good foot soldiers.
Now to address good work and how an industry can continue to make good work as a collective, I point out the following opinion: When the nation itself does not celebrate that which is being rewarded by the film intra community for its own participants, then it becomes harder and harder to find the creators, who will take a risk to portray what is artistically important. This makes it more difficult for the American people to believe in the work; for it to resonate. Together, to get into the theater and watch the movie they want to see, audiences must connect and respect the work. In an effort to rebalance its position and relevance to society, to stay relevant, the industry and movie makers must know how to entertain foreigners as well as our Americans with sensitivity and diversity!
Also important, film should not be used to start a political mass movement, rather to depict many. Movies are for reflection as throughout history has been rightly practiced, in enduring spirit. I believe that stars are in danger of being manipulated to perform according to the personal agendas of an individual film maker who might be an excellent auteur, but ethically mal-aligned. This is one reason why some people call Hollywood “Holly-weird”. And they’re right to. Sometimes filmmakers are so proud of themselves for actually being out of touch. Best, is to not create films in the interest of taking away from actor freedoms.
This analysis brings me to propaganda. It is easy for critics to label any film as propaganda, and often they are right. Decades ago, it became popular to exploit women, and blacks in what was known as black-exploitation. Think of “SHAFT”. This was celebrated much like gay, lesbian, and transgender film has been over years as well. I’d like to point to the film “Milk”. Is it gay propaganda? Or is it a historical account of Harvey Milk’s public life? Or, is it both? I will see “Milk” to see if I can call it gay propaganda or not. Unfortunately I find some movies to be overt in their attempt to shape public opinion. But even propaganda begs the question: What has come to pass and what might we do about it, if we care to? That is what moviegoers either want to see or need to see. Seeing it and calling it what it is, should better accomplish neither marginalizing nor offending.
“Norma Ray” comes to mind; it championed for woman’s rights, and labor rights, but it also glorified unionism. In fairness, during that time, it may have averted mass poverty. Similarly, “Shaft” was in that time celebrated. Movie going is not a political commercial, but can be a politically motivating experience. But it should always be a human experience, depicting no segment too marginal, with an emotionally attached thesis that respects and appreciates disagreement; maybe even showing its own flaws. The movies that sustain the industry are made by those who create lasting impressions for viewers, but also palatable form. And lasting impressions come from truthful writing that is not written with the aim of deceiving.
I have yet to see “Milk” to decide for myself whether my speculations here have any credence.
In regard to social cohesion, audiences will resent Hollywood if social agendas become the unimpeded motivation for making movies. Fortunately, we enjoy freedom from the suppression or censorship of elements in films today. Freedom of expression and freedom of viewing has persisted very successfully. So too must heterosexual lifestyle be depicted in film. Conspiracy to marginalize authorship for the lifestyle goals of the producers of a public commodity-that is film, would be a social crime as severe as suppressing or burning thought. Misrepresenting heterosexual lifestyles or religion in film, or preventing such theme from being represented, would be an artistic crime as well.
I aspire for a Hollywood that represents moderates and even some recognizable conservative voices. I have yet to see a challenge to the cliché adages of ultra-patriotism that have been occasionally represented in films of late, with pro-war inclinations. Unfortunately they have irrefutable status that compromises artistic integrity. That can only be challenged by allowing those voices as part of the mix, such as mine, and trusting the diversity that is our “constituency”. Washington speaks of bipartisanship and it has functioned despite disagreements and resignations, so long as our country has been a seeker of democratic practices in perfection. Our country looks to government for the answers. I guarantee that Hollywood is equally susceptible to being mistrusted by its people as a government can be, and a word of warning to the wise from me, as a long-standing, developing participant… Don’t string out those who have sacrificed to keep Hollywood ticking. Our government has enlisted soldiers whether we objected or agreed, and there was no pulpit strong enough to support dissent; and Hollywood has enlisted talent, talent that deserves to be heard, and a people who deserves to find refuge and hope in our movies.
Beginning with this years’ Oscar award show, which had great classic style and huge talent, we the people (the show producers of course, for us) made a big effort to create a “low production value with a great lavish appearance” to connect with suffering financial America. The ensemble cast was well received by viewers I think; by me anyway. But, let’s not forget that the vast public is aware of the salaries that these hard workers draw in. It’s borderline insulting. Borderline, because although the show was put together magnificently, reliant upon creativity and guts, and while Hollywood has felt the pinch (relatively speaking), their salaries still have exceeded that of most people. Viewers are sensitive to this and Hollywood knows it; all the more reason to empathize with its viewing public. The real pressure that A-List celebrities contend with, is that they don’t want to be scrutinized by the law, but they still know that they have to stay visible and relevant to stay paid. That means that they are aware that not every paparazzi can be locked away. That all came across and was communicated; I doubt that many appreciated that confession or declaration as much as I did. And privacy laws must continue to ensure their protection as they do protect “everyday” people.
But, let’s face this truth also – the family unit in America has not been what it could be, war-torn, and divided… stretched beyond recognition. And some corporate bailout recipients offer a bad example or reflection for a pirate loot mentality where the public means comparatively little to them and profit rules their day. I hope this changes and fast.
Individual stories are inspiring to many, and this is a fact that Hollywood loves and embraces with its great splendor. But let’s remember that a star’s success is not necessarily the success of a movie goer. And an actor is not the character unless he acts like it, or plays himself, or deludes. Their success is really theirs. And though they deserve the respect and admiration of their peers and collaborators such as me, viewers really go to the movies for their own lives and to view and partake, not out of the interest of paying for million dollar proceeds that an A-list actor may collect on. I watch the fanfare of awards shows because I look for the most honest award winners I can find. I love a humble speech. I equally love the speeches where people just say thanks to the academy, thanks to mom and dad, or even those where the recipient tell everyone to go f*** themselves in “Jack Nicholson acceptance style”-but that’s entertainment value and a little known fact, that people in Hollywood sometimes really either hate or love each other only on the surface… to play to the audience (unless they really are somewhat roguish). In actuality, I think there is a lot of mutual respect among A-Listers, as there should be. Best of all is when the actor seems to remember that they love the work and the craft more than they do the award. And of course exciting it is to see the diversity of emotions among them for getting recognized for their work.
Are the Oscars an industry event or a public one? There are plenty of private engagements that the public does not know of, many of which I’ve attended, as well as some awards shows that are private (most of which I have not attended). An element of viewer voting has to be part of the equation and is given much of the weight if the industry is to remain true to itself and the public. Since the Oscar’s award show has traditionally been broadcast on TV, you’d think it must be a public event still. And, it must be, with a public demand that it remain so.
When an award’s recipient cry’s or falters, I enjoy this also, because they truly had an emotional precipice. That’s a sign that they care about their fans who aren’t just fans, but fellow, relevant, human beings. And let’s not forget that actors themselves enjoy going to the movies just as much as the rest of us. And why shouldn’t they? I appreciate those who don’t cry, scream, or faint at the podium also. Whatever is a real reaction is what I enjoy, I suppose, since this is a time if ever one, where they shouldn’t be acting in public eye.
In regard to feeling ownership for an industry, and the relationship that viewers have to the product they buy, Hollywood does not own the public, but without our criticism, it might like to. The person paying that tax, or paying that movie ticket, (or even not paying a tax, or watching the free movie or free TV)- he and she owns Hollywood; because, Hollywood is a business with a product of intellectual copyright. It is a business which depends on the public. The public is always smarter, the public is always larger, and the public is always most relevant. And, the public is where writing comes from and where people give time to watch movies. Outside of the blinding lights, lies another reality for most.
Also, in continuation of my initial point about characters, “Harvey Milk”, a deceased public figure, became a Hollywood icon presented to the public this season. As fast as Hollywood icon Arnold S. became governor of CA. Amazing. Incidentally, I hear that now Arnold S. is boosting a green economy in northern CA. That should reduce our state and even federal deficit (if apportioned) if more than only celebrities and foreigners can purchase the vehicles. Wouldn’t that be nice? A resounding “Yes!”
Regarding the films, I have met the writer of “Benjamin Button” before I knew he wrote it, and thanks to Eric Roth I care to see that. I came up with that idea years ago as well, but it’s a concept that not only I had come up with. And, the novelist F. S. Fitzgerald also evidently wrote a short story about it… I did not know that.
I have seen “Wall-E” which I adored, and I have seen “The Visitor” which I also adored, and it also received much deserved praise. I always hoped it would receive an Oscar and I never thought it would even be nominated… hurray for Hollywood! And I’m so appreciative of some of the films made this and last year; real gems, and praiseworthy. So, I just want to warn an industry that matters, as I would warn a friend, please don’t aggrandize strife and don’t deny the intelligence of an audience that may disagree with the politics of a film. I think by-in-large people don’t want Hollywood’s selfserving agendas in the films they watch, any more than they want Washington’s selfserving agendas. And I do talk to people who care and who deserve more than politically motivated film. It might also be nice to respect votes and accept bitter decisions. As for the courts, they should know better than to force issues or speak on behalf of voters before the issue can reach the ballot.
Incidentally, there’s plenty about Hollywood where the public could say “shame on you” so actors should not say “shame on you” to the people who go to the theaters in their leisure time; if they only knew. The public would find just as much at fault with Hollywood as they do with our government if they were as accountable to the people. But much of this is unspoken and left to the public’s perceptions which are often false anyway. I might just spill out a story or two about how people are broken down ’til they break. I’m not sure the late Heath Leger’s death can be blamed on coworkers, or on a goal of achieving a political end, but one thing I do know is that a cocktail of medicine is never one person’s fault or responsibility. The conditions create the use to some large extent. I feel robbed to lose people my age long before their parents reach old age themselves.
Generally, Hollywood is, as we know, necessarily an insider’s club for some valid reasons. But when the inside is maintained at cost of its own relevance to people, then the art is lost in the act of paying homage to fellow artists, producers, directors, actors etc. Decay into (Quid pro quo) among only the inside crew can eventually lead to moral corruption, unless diversity and seasons prevail.
I also think that our society at large deserves a critique of Hollywood, not just Hollywood’s product. Critique sets the balance and prevents vanity. Vanity is boring.
The industry, I believe, has been under an enormous strain and public demand for their obligation to equalize “everyone” by race, by showcasing “them” in this business. This is a challenge faced by incredible expectations of people wanting to express themselves publicly for a paid living. Tenacious determination is at work yes, but, I think that individual dreams are in some cases, or have, cost the lives of others and selves. Is this why some people I know, don’t even care to watch another celebrity receive an Oscar?
In the pressure of inclusion, does Hollywood feel it must cater to more than it care to? No, I still think that it’s appetite to produce is insatiable. It is convenient to turn a product.
Another critique: I think that Hollywood risks falling in love with itself if they over value the impact they have on everyday lives. And testimonials are artificial tools that market forecasters use to trick viewers into seeing something that has a self-created buzz, not a buzz that is viewer recommended; a trick that people learn to resent. The truth lies in the opinions of viewers after they’ve seen the film, and in the process of making the film for viewers. That’s the magic. Often the feedback of viewers gets lost, because some people don’t even care to share their opinions. They may not care anymore since they are deluged with pieces that feature everyone for the sake of satisfying a racial need by some individuals, to be “represented” and depicted in the way that they want to be. Not being on “You Tube” or publishing a blog does not necessarily make one relevant as part of the social fabric. It’s the message that is important and rewards need to go to those who deliver them.
Now a few comments about race: Germans have long been emotionally plagued and guilt ridden because of the terrible vision and deeds of, now dead, “beast”, Adolf Hitler. It was a tragedy that his genocide flourished in the late 1930′s and 40′s by the might of his dictatorship; unfortunately he also hated and found reasons to justify genocide, which is never justified. It is clear that he also put dissidents and gays to death. Anyone who spoke out against him or assisted him was put to death.
Because of that man and the US ill reproach cast onto German Americans, I have learned from a family that absorbed tremendous levels of guilt for a man they neither knew nor cared for, that race relations are shaped by ignorance and stereotypes that were cast upon all German people. That is finally changing. Such a galvanizing is unfair, as is the action of those who hate. Unfortunately, often those who manifest hate onto others and organize hate groups leave a minority to have to clean up after those who then hide in the shadows of social discourse or wind up dead. Incidentally, where were the other nations when the prison camps were implemented? And currently, why in the USA, did no other nation act to close Guantanamo. How many people were asleep in their ignorance or apathy there? And why was it so difficult for America to turn a chapter there? Well they did finally come and put an end to the brutality in Nazi Germany, thank God. I speak neither of manner nor method when I say that he was effectively removed and the regime ended. We can argue the same for the late Saddam Hussein, who reportedly tortured his personal and political enemies, with acid. It took work to quickly and swiftly remove him with tremendous power. If only our president had been able to better explain that intention to the public. I don’t think it was possible; something which the mainstream American public was very slow to understand since I (and I imagine many others) knew nothing of his brutality. His posturing: yes. His actual acts, no. We second generation and first generation German-American’s in America and Germany, remember first hand or know all too well, the dangers of despotism. And, I have accepted all claims of anti-Semitism without a word in return-for years. But when does one generation’s psychological burden ever die along with ones elders, as they should, as opposed to with their children or even grandchildren? Are we to eat the babies of former foes? No more than we do with Vietnamese refugees now living in America, or Iraqi refugees now living in America; or, Korean refugees now living in America. This is an important realization if one is to avoid the temptation of rallying and capitalizing for self, upon the backs of old foes. Most Americans probably don’t realize how many years of monetary reparations have been given to the state of Israel for the atrocities of Hitler. The US also has paid much to this day with great responsibility and assisted in Israel’s statehood. It’s time for an acceptance of Germany’s apology who, as a nation, are increasingly children and grandchildren of the Second World War. The US appears to be helping Germans arrive at some redemption. We turn a cheek no more. When the US decided to go to war with Iraqi civilians however, this does send a chill down our spine.
Many European Jews have found amnesty in the United States and through hard work in return for friendliness and safe harbor, have profited in the United States with incredible determination and savvy. They have thrived in Hollywood and presented good product for many years. I am pleased to see that they now begin to share the stage with my generation of artists, and encourage and recognize some well deserved art by Germans (and Austrians), showcased in the industry. Germans, who have no apparent agenda, other than to tell inspiring stories; all too familiar with the dangers of propaganda and self- adoration. And I’m pleased that money from German financiers was also accepted over the years by studio heads in the 80’s and 90′s. That’s encouraging and I appreciate knowing that. Of course financial backing doesn’t amount to deciding the content with exclusivity, lest it be propaganda. And it is my great hope of course that my own future in the business I love, show progress through my writing talent that I have shared with a fair amount of approval thus far. I thus remain true to my skill, friends and family. I have won no academy award, but I thank my friends and family, for their patience, that I request of them, to give those I pledge my enduring trust and loyalty for, the time the industry needs to recognize my relevance.
I’ve learned to separate the prejudices of people I know from my own belief system, accept no friendship on grounds for being “in” or for personal favors, and I will not accept the prejudices of another to replace that free thinking which I practice and believe in. I am not anti-gay, black, Jew, Chinese, or other. I am pro people who play fair, I am pro character, I am pro authenticity; and to this, I will remain true and expect not so much as even a thank you. It is all of our duty. Equity along with intellectual counterparts and freedom to work as a writer would be nice in this land that promises so much. Is it a requirement? No. Is it my demand? No. Above all, my generation will rise up together, to be honest story-tellers.

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