Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I Want To Live without being told how to do so!

As you may well know, I am a great fan of women's' films of all eras. 50's melodrama, a 60's women's' western, yesterday's Liftime original TV movie? Bring it on! One of my biggest guilty pleasures is a film that a coworker lent me starring Susan Hayward as an old VHS copy. Backstreet is a film about a fashion designer (rae "all small letters, very chic") who falls in love with a man who happens to be married to a horrible drunk who denies him a divorce just to aid in the tawdriness of the plot. The film, though in glorious technicolor, is very cheaply done. Seldom is a shot of nature shown if it is at all possible to place the actor in a studio. Blue screen abound, the budget is spent on Hayward and colored gels to inform you precisely how to feel about a scene, in case you perhaps get lost in the course of the narrative. Blue gel = sad. Red gel = passionate. You get the idea.

Now, what made the Oscars so tedious this year stems from the age old idea that, if you've got a film that takes itself completely seriously, it deserves prestige. Now there is quite a lot of proof to the contrary. May I submit the entire career of Jody Foster as evidence. Here is an instance where too much earnest intent turns the performance (or film, as Foster's vehicles are generally her's and her's alone) into a camp spectacle. And this is no stretch for women in such film, as Pamela Robertson has stated that because of the one-sided homosexual appropriation of femininity which does not conversely occur in the performance by the "real" female, "women are camp but do not knowingly produce themselves as camp, and furthermore do not have access to a camp sensibility." There is a far more tedious side to seriousness that would site morality as its riding purpose. This is best exemplified by the artless bestowal of the Academy Award to Crash. Some films become so occupied with twisting realities to inform us as to how we should be living our lives, and, what's worse, infuse their message with a manipulative guilt that causes the (liberal, white, male...) viewer to feel bad for those persons (destitute, black, female...) whose lives crumble before them in the most absurd fashions.

Last night, I watched I Want To Live!, for which Susan Hayward earned the Academy Award for best actress in 1958 expecting, from the title alone, an over-the-top tale of a down and out jailbird who spews hilarious aphorism after hilarious aphorism (as is Hayward's specialty). Instead I endured a cautionary morality play that best resembles the worst works of manipulative Hollywood cinema today, rather than the skirt twirling lascivious dance that illustrated obscene female sexuality performed by Dorothy Malone (who coincidentally won the Oscar for that role) in Douglas Sirk's Written On The Wind. Even through the absurdity of her moral degradation (when something "wrong" is done, it is not just a bottle of whisky on the table, but a bottle of whisky, a full ashtray and poker chips - all shot with a crooked angle, no less) one could is not allowed to enjoy themselves because, "this is serious."

Now, I saw Flightplan in theaters because I knew how hilariously serious it would be. My attempt at turning I Want To Live! into a similar venture was thwarted by a nasty mechanism called Hollywood manipulation. You know it is the only reason why the racist and just plain poorly constructed (and I'm talking all aspects of production) film Crash won the Oscar. Because it demanded to be taken seriously, in all the worst ways.


Post a Comment

<< Home