Thursday, January 31, 2008

Art, Not Artiness

(Continued from another blog.)

When I said I would judge movies as art and experience, I didn't mean by this I would choose "art" movies (see European films), which often have little to do with true art.

True art keys into the rhythmns and patterns of nature and the universe and in so doing touches chords within our souls.

My most recent choice (#9: "The Guns of Navarone") does this beautifully. It has about it the mythic; the archetypal. Something is primal about the commandos' journey: They climb from the sea like a new species. Through many difficulties and betrayals they arrive inside a temple-- a sealed room containing secrets of the all-powerful gods, which is how the thundering two cannons appear. Then the heroes are cast suddenly back into the water, their adventure come full circle, the memory of it playing in their heads to be preserved and spoken about as myth.

Movies once functioned both as entertainment and as art. Most "entertainment" movies today come across as a series of hyperedited computer effects; manic video games or pointless violence. Knowledge of art has been lost. "Art" movies on the other hand are deliberately boring, closing themselves off from the nature of the art, which is first, bigness: big themes, patterns, characters, settings. The narrowness removes all possible effects on the moviegoer; all opportunity of challenging him. It's art become genteel: safe, domestic, and comfortable; the narcissistic emotions of the affluent. Little stories, little happenings, tiny tragedies. ("The Queen" the first example which pops into my head.)

The divide in movies now between "art" and "entertainment" matches that we've suffered for forty years with our fiction and poetry.
The most blatant movie entertainment, such as the western, can be the vehicle for the greatest art. A film like "Shane"-- a haunting, almost perfect movie which should've made the list-- with its form and motifs, iconic good guys and bad guys, set against a backdrop of stark reality, is an art movie. It contains great depths: the hero's shooting of the villain at the end is the killing of his "William Wilson" mirror image; the other, darker half of himself; the crippling of himself, and so the hero rides off mangled, mortally wounded, representing the extermination of his kind, destruction of the wild.

The lesser-known western "The Bravados," with Gregory Peck, is art-- a masterpiece of structure; put together like a great chess game or a symphony. Study the opening minutes, the way opposing characters are introduced, enormous tension created, until the tension is suddenly released in the form of a hectic chase. Movement in cinema on the screen is also movement inside the mind. Here is a story playing out through the Peck character's mind. Fittingly, the chase arrives at his own ranch. The story after all isn't about chase or revenge, but himself. So workable is the movie AS ENTERTAINMENT that the key question about the character is never asked: Why his character's extreme pursuit of vengeance? What internal guilt is he wrestling with BEFORE the chase? The answer is visible in front of us almost from the start. (An "Attaboy!" to the first person who watches the movie and guesses the correct answer.)
I seek not artiness, but art. I moved the "Ten Best" movies series here because this blog is a reaction to artiness-- insufferable bourgeois artiness found from first page to back cover in a lit journal I received recently.
(#9: "The Guns of Navarone."
#10: "Zorba the Greek."
NEXT UP: #8.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Dream

Am I in a dream?

As America's crisis worsens-- moral and financial bankruptcy-- is there any reason to dream about a revived American society, revived culture, revived land?

Hell yes! In crisis comes opportunity-- a chance to give this madhouse of a country a good knock to get it back on track.

A journal sent to my old Philly address by one of the ULA's two major rivals finally caught up to me. I took it from my building mailbox after walking home through darkness, snow, and cold from my current job.

Night, strong northern wind assaulting the window of my room, I flipped through the journal's pages. How depressing! Nearly the entire volume written in word-clotted academia-speak. "N + 1," the thing's title. It stands for "Negativity Plus." Though the editors are the darlings of high literary society-- this culture's alleged best and brightest-- the picture they painted in their pages was one of unrelenting bleakness. No prospects, no hope-- according to them-- for any of us. They represented not the future of literature, but its end. The editors had retreated within a cocoon-like blockhouse surrounded by a moat; put up a white surrender flag and raised the drawbridge.

I was living in rather desperate circumstances in a desperate city, yet I didn't feel nearly as depressed as these fellows. In fact, the toughness I'd faced the last few months-- the last two years, really-- had strengthened my optimism. I was surviving everything thrown at me.

With the wind raging against the shaky window; with conflicting thoughts running through my head, I fell asleep.

I dropped into a happy, sunny day: an optimistic America kind of sunny. We as a nation were starting over at the beginning; given a fresh opportunity.

I saw to the side four young women; four colorfully dressed nerdy quirky girls with glasses. (I may have already seen them on Detroit's streets.)

They were:
-A pale white girl with short black bangs.
-A black chick with jheri curls.
-A blonde, straight hair to shoulders.
-A kinky-haired redhead.

All were skinny and wore short skirts of stripes or polka dots or paisley; aqua and pink; yellow and black; orange and pale blue; purple and green. Their eyeglasses were of equally vibrant colors. A few young men joined them, wearing loud sportjackets, crazy ties, and porkpie hats, colors clashing every which way. Around this group expanded a cool bright glowing city, an eternally clean rushing blue river at the end of a plaza; as dream city's focal point: as life force. Birds, trees, calling voices, freshness-- no, the game wasn't over; not yet! It was beginning.

Since then I've been living inside the dream.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


A One-Year Project.


I'm celebrating in advance the inaugeration of a new President one year from now. WHOEVER that is, it's worth a brief "Hurray!" before any disillusion to follow.

I'M ALSO, though, pointing the way toward a full renewal of the culture. For that as well I'm prematurely celebrating.

In the past, have I been too negative? Disturbed too many sinecured mandarin folks? Taken writers into dangerous territory? Here will be one place not to frown but to smile, because change is in place. Change is now. The tottering current system of literature is in collapse, better days ahead, accompanied by the fun and adventure which come WITH making change, renewing an art, discovering new talent and announcing that fact, which is my task.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


What is this site?
How did I get here?