Sunday, December 23, 2012

At Risk - a Violence-Obese Nation?

By Gary Berg-Cross

It started with a preview of Les Miserables.  I recently went to see the movie Lincoln and was sitting through the previews following a series of gratuitous ads I was help hostage to.  This new screen version of Les Miz has a brisk pace filled with violent action that grabbed my attention. Does it need violence to liven up what producers feared would otherwise be a dull musical? Or maybe they just need block buster insurance and draw segments of society that violent action appeals to. I guess it was some sensitivity caused by the Newtown massacre.

My discomfort escalated with a preview of a violent period thriller Gangster Squad. It’s not that it looks like a poorly done movie.  It stars many actors I like seeing - Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Michael Pena and others. It’s just that it seemed like nonstop gun violence from start to finish, including assault like weapons. Well to be fair some sex was thrown in, but on the whole it seems a historically atmospheric of the 30s film that glorifies the idea of violence against violence.  Similar thing with the next trailer for Zero Dark Thirty.  Here there is suspense but the  message seems to be that we need “torture” (aka enhanced interrogation)s to solve terrorist problems in a violent world. Violence solves problems.  A popular trope in our society although real world evidence twined with moral values suggest otherwise. Of course, violence leading to a happy movie ending of getting “our man” whether it be Jewish Mafia Mickey Cohen or the Muslim Osama seems to be an important, gratifying ingredient. Its arousal with transfer to emotional satisfaction.  No such satisfied arousal Newtown, which makes for a jarring contrast of movies and life around us.

But there was more.  Next was ‘Django Unchained’ described by one reviewer as “Gloriously violent, impeccably scripted, darkly hilarious” with a sensational soundtrack.  OK “Quentin Tarantino is his own brand,” and every Tarantino movie (like Reservoir Dogs) is SHOOT ’EM UP,  but artful and in a skilled way with actors good at their craft - Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz. But it just seems like too much to get across whatever the message is. This is an eye for an eye going wild.

But there was more. The next up? The “Jack Reacher”  preview which assaulted the senses with the slaughter of innocent people by a crazed gunman (using an assault weapon) Jack Reacher is yet another  badly timed 2-fisted, gun-slinging, car-crashing action movie that goes for the thrill and not thought. The mid-Dec. New York &  Pittsburgh premieres of Jack Reacher were actually canceled out of respect for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  That seems practical if not admirable.

There was one more preview of note.  A little bit father off. The summer release of Gore Verbinski's The Lone Range with Johnny Depp in a much-anticipated performance as Tonto. The trailer starts with explosions and violence and fits all of the shallow downsides of an exploitative  movie, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. It’s probably better than the banned  Cannibal Holocaust (1980), but it seems a formulaic blockbuster catering to violent justice.  The action, violence and filmatic vividness may draw us in, but there may be little substance to live on. 

Ultimately we all decide what we watch, but there is also a supply side issue on these things as  we as a society  become filled with action-obese people.

Image Credits:

Reservoir Dogs:

Jack Reacher: 122012jackreacher14.jpg


1 comment:

Edd.Doerr said...

Good column, Gary. Unfortunately,even good gun control cannot prevent crazies from getting weapons. Norway has very stringent gun control, yet Breivik was able in a few minutes to kill twice the % of Norwegians as the 9/11 nuts killed people in the US.