The Chronicles of Nyah-Nyah!


Anyone breezing through Miranda Devine’s SMH column on 9 March, ‘By George, Hollywood’s out of touch’ would have been well-prepared for her usual stabs at anything of a Left or progressive political nature. But even the so-called ‘liberal luvvies’ she attacks must have been amazed at the contortions Devine got herself into when she blamed them for the commercial troubles Hollywood is now in.

The White Witch and Edmund Pevensie in a scene from Narnia.

If we’re to believe the likes of Devine and an ecstatically horrified Right wing press, Hollywood is being swamped by a wave of homosexual Lefties and liberal trendies hell-bent on destroying our way of life (and the motion picture industry with it). That Devine had the gall to compare these liberals and their motives with ‘a suicide bomber aspect’ is so cheap and ugly a metaphor she should simply be ashamed.

Mixing personal sneers with factual slop, she lets us in on how George Clooney is known as ‘Clowney’ in ‘the Right-wing blogosphere,’ a place Devine is clearly very familiar with. She attacks Clooney’s recent films, Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana, as the epitome of what she calls ‘op-ed movies’ issue-driven films that, she says, are symptomatic of the box office troubles Hollywood is having.

Devine sees Clooney as the slick face of liberal madness in Hollywood, even if he is a more marketable commodity than Michael Moore, the director of Bowling for Columbine. She goes on to slam Moore for being a ‘hirsute, four-eyed, frumpy fatso,’ while ignoring the fact that he happens to make the most commercially successful documentaries of all time.

I’m surprised that someone as absorbed in the effectiveness of commerce as Devine is, should overlook Moore’s claims in that arena. But let’s leave how fat or ugly or even successful Moore might be, and deal with Devine’s spurious argument that ticket sales at cinemas are well down because of films like Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck.

Anyone interested in today’s box-office downturn knows it’s a complex problem that has been developing over a number of years. They know it’s a product of many trends including: aggressive piracy of new films (often available on the internet before their cinema release); DVDs and the revolution in home entertainment technology; and the relative cost of going to a cinema.

Big budget movies these days usually rely on opening weekends to become self-fulfilling prophecies the cry that a movie is ‘the number one film in America’ is supposed to assure potential audiences that it must be good. But people are now texting each other immediately after even during a film warning others of what’s an offer. And by Monday the whole world knows, faster than ever before, that it’s a stinker.

Audiences are asking why they should pay so much to see utter rubbish when they can just nick it off the internet or wait until it’s out on DVD.

This notion of film as something valueless is the real King Kong of Hollywood today a monster destroying the vast, excessive and inanely repetitive ‘mainstream’ machine. Hollywood has become an industry aimed at adolescents and guided by accountants and marketing gurus who have little interest in what more mature audiences might wish to see. And these people would like something other than college-boy masturbation comedies, girly date movies and the increasingly occasional quality juggernaut (Titanic, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings).

The fact that this year’s crop of Hollywood films lacked a successful juggernaut is certainly not the fault of the half dozen smaller films aimed at audiences who are interested in a more challenging night at the cinema who may wish to take a chance on slower paced films with more complex structures, depicting situations that have an element of darkness or moral complexity. Such films didn’t stop anything big or stupid or successful being made. This past year, they simply recorded a modest profit and were showered with critical praise and awards. They were also bigger and more successful than expected, in a year of commercial duds.

Miranda Devine and her friends in the Right-wing blogosphere are entitled to dislike these films, but let’s hope that a crop of half a dozen of them is not too much for them to handle. And as Devine herself alluded, there’s always real entertainment like the Chronicles of Narnia to turn to in times of trouble. If George Clooney gets to play Aslan in the sequel I’m sure she would have a great shot at being the White Witch, although I probably wouldn’t pay to see it.

It’s enough to give anyone nightmares and make me start looking for Michael Moore under the bed.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.