Skip to comments.HO-HUM: Stone and Hitchens Spar Over Hollywood's Efforts to be Relevant
Posted on 10/10/2001 8:27:10 AM PDT by Liz
On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 6,a group of filmmakers, Hollywood executives and writers left little doubt that the age of irony should not be laid to rest just yet.
The panelists took part in a discussion called Making Movies That Matter: The Role of Cinema in the National Debate at Avery Fisher Hall. The debate which was sponsored by the New York Film Festival and HBO, could very well have worked as a segment of WWF Smackdown.
Killer Films producer Christine Vachon, Lumumba director Raoul Peck, former Universal Studios chief Tom Pollock, New Line founder Bob Shaye, acid-tongued British journalist Christopher Hitchens, feminist scholar Bell Hooks, and leading Hollywood conspiracy theorist and director Oliver Stone needled and prodded each other as they wrestled with the question of what makes a movie political.
Mr. Stones take seemed to be that a film was political if it was directed byOliver Stone! I made a movie in which the Presidents head gets blown off in the middle of Dealey Plaza, and it was entertaining because it was a thriller! he said in a voice as loud as his pink socks.
The sound of Mr. Stone patting himself on the back provoked a Hey, now! exclamation from Ms. Hooks. A few minutes later, she said that her idea of a political film was Neil LaButes 2000 comedy Nurse Betty, because the film had made her laugh, and made [her] cry, and made us think about class, which few movies in this culture do.
Mr. Pollock, on the other hand, said that Babe, the 1995 movie about one gallant pig that hed greenlighted, was political filmmaking because it advocated vegetarianism.
Many of these comments prompted some theatrical eye-rolling from Mr. Hitchens, who alternated between clutching and sucking on an unlit cigarette. Mr. Hitchens is allowed to smoke when he appears on Politically Incorrect.
Mr. Shaye used the opportunity to plug New Lines upcoming $300 million Lord of the Rings trilogy. I just received a note that said, What the world needs now is Hobbits! he claimed.
Mr. Shaye then explained what was political about a series of movies featuring actors with pointy ears and characters with phallic names like Bilbo. Mr. Shaye said he was fascinated to learn that some readers consider the sought-after ring in J.R.R. Tolkiens 1950s trilogy to represent the quest to harness nuclear power during World War II. Thus, he explained, New Line had made a movie that incorporated politics, but by setting the pictures in Middle Earth, those politics had been made palatable.
Christine Vachon, who has produced actual social commentaries such as Boys Dont Cry and Happiness, argued that despite her political predilections, her first consideration has to be creating a salable project.
As far as producers go, you probably cant get artsier or more independent than me, she said. But I need people to give me the money to get these films made.
Mr. Stone jumped into the conversation and began to complain about the skyrocketing costs of filmmaking. He said that he could no longer make Born on the Fourth of July for the $17 million it had cost in 1989, despite the fact that theres been no significant inflation in the past 13 years.
We have a system that has gone bananas! he exclaimed. Other members of the panel tried to join in the conversation, but the Wall Street director steamrollered over them.
Ranting about the kings and barons who run the media, he pointed specifically to the Telecommunications Act that Congress passed at midnight, allowing movie moguls to own television stations.
Six people control the world! Mr. Stone said. He mentioned Michael Eisner and Rupert Murdoch by name, but left the audience to guess the identity of the other four. It was this new world order, he said, that had incited the revolt of Sept. 11.
Hey, now! The crowd started to boo, but stopped when Mr. Hitchens spoke up. What happened on Sept. 11 was state-supported mass murder using human beings as missiles! the Vanity Fair writer corrected. Meanwhile, Mr. Shaye was doing a slow burn over Mr. Stones bananas speech. He told the director he disagreed with his implication that studios weresweet fancy Moses!profiting at the expense of filmmakers.
The last guys who get paid are the studios who put up the money! If there is a tyranny, it is a tyranny of talent! Mr. Shaye said. He added that directors now earn way too much. The audience, which had been booing almost indiscriminately throughout the discussion, now began to actually hisslike Gollum.
Mr. Stone scornfully leaned back in his chair and rolled his eyes. Mr. Hitchens capitalized on the silence to chastise the panelists for their collective navel-gazing. He said he wasnt surprised that the panelists from the film industry were using this discussion about culture and the events of Sept. 11 to complain about what a hard time they were having anyway.
I dont remember a time when rich people didnt control the press and Ill be damned if I come here and moan about what a hard time I have making ends meet, Mr. Hitchens said.
Mr. Stone didnt seem to be listening, though. He was still trying to make his point. Directors have been marginalized, he said. Again he blamed the new world order, and said that the six guys who control the universe had teamed up with the banks and the World Trade Organization.
The Arabs have a point, whether they did it right or not. And theyre going to be joined by the people from Seattle and by the 10 percent who disagree with everything, Mr. Stone said. More than 10 percent of the audience proceeded to boo Mr. Stone. Meanwhile, Mr. Hitchens remarks about the self-involvement of the panelists had worked Ms. Hooks into a lather, with a small L. I appreciate Christophers wit, appreciate some of his points, but will not tolerate his disrespect! she said.
Mr. Hitchens eyes flashed. How would you know? he said. I havent dissed you yet.
The only national debate that cinema has a role in is: is it entertaining or not?
I thought Tolkien's readers were brighter than this. Tolkien actually began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1936 (I may be off a year or two there).
Zilch. Zero. Nada. Nothing.
But doesn't the audience - you and me - decide that?
. ....anthrax, too..........
Well, if Mr. Shaye had read anything from Tolkien regarding what his books mean (like, say, the Introduction to the books), he'd know that the Ring doesn't represent nuclear weapons or anything. Tolkien expressly stated that the book is simply a fantasy, a story of a quest and good versus evil and is not allegorical at all.
Besides, would these people take this conference so seriously if it was on "The Role of Movies in the National Debate". Heck, a "Cinema" is a location where movies are projected with lots of seats and sticky floors, but is being used only to make themselves sound more important.
They should be rounded up, dressed in cammies, and dropped into Afghanistan. Those who survive should be picked up a month later, far wiser about the real world than they are now.
Wait a minute -- are you saying that these people want a role in national political policy? I hadn't thought of that; I just assumed they weren't that ignorant. Well, you know what they say -- when you ass-u-me... Shame on me.
....who was it that said.....anthrax is not Hollowood's (sic) worry.....it's a shortage of botox.....
Pray for GW and the Troops!
(1)Who was the Clinton's main supporter in their ascendancy to power. (2) Who wrote the
sap-happy script for the Man From Hope? (3) Who financed the Clintons' campaigns?
(1) Harry Thomasson of TV's Designing Women (2) Yup. Uncle Harry Thomasson.
(3) Hollywood gave Clinton the really big bucks.
Are him and impeached 42 friends? They seem to like to toot their own horns.
Yup. Owl-Eyed Oliver's a real hoot. ROTFLMCO.