Video Virgil: Antique Self-Portrait

While on the subject of movies about Hollywood, it's worth revisiting one of the great ones: "The Player," directed by Robert Altman and based on the icy-hearted novel by Michael Tolkin.

The plot is simple: an egotistical, unimaginative producer (Tim Robbins) is terrified of losing his job to an even more egotistical, unimaginative producer (Peter Gallagher). Plus he keeps finding threatening postcards in his car, desk, pockets, and home. Someone is stalking him, and since his job consists of sneering at writers' pitches all day, he suspects a disappointed writer. After guessing which one, he tries to buy the guy off, then semi-accidentally murders him.

"The Player" riffs beautifully on the old themes of art and commerce and the ugly side of human nature as revealed in the sort of competition where the prizes don't go to the best but to the most cutthroat. Our producer comes out on top without being redeemed in any way. Indeed, the film cleverly manipulates our ingrained expectation of a happy ending.

It was not a Hollywood mogul but the novelist William Dean Howells who said, "What the American audience really wants is a tragedy with a happy ending." To their credit, screenwriter Tolkin, director Altman, and the many Hollywood luminaries involved in this film stay true to that ironic line.

Two caveats. First, the love interest played by Greta Scacchi is annoyingly opaque. I was ready for her to be the mastermind behind it all, not just one of the prizes. But that would have required a female to be smarter than all the males, NOT a Hollywood trope.

Second, "The Player" came out in 1992, long after the system was taken over by the blockbuster - or to use the term of art, "locomotive": huge, repeatable extravaganzas like "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Terminator," "Indiana Jones," "Die Hard," "Batman," "Harry Potter," "The Fellowship of the Ring," "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," "Shrek" ... the list keeps getting longer. In this context, "The Player" feels downright antique. If there is a good blockbuster parody out there, please tell me about it!

April 14, 2005 10:00 AM |

Categories:

Soundtrax

PRC Pop 

The Chinese pop music scene is like no other ...

Remembering Elvis 

The best part of him will never leave the building ...

Beyond Country 

Like all chart categories, "country" is an arbitrary heading under which one finds the ridiculous, the sublime, and everything in between. On the sublime end, a track that I have been listening to over and over for the last six months: Wynnona Judd's version of "She Is His Only Need." The way she sings it, irony is not a color or even a set of contrasting colors; it is iridescence.

Miles the Rock Star? 

Does Miles Davis belong in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Here's my take on his career ...

Essay Contest 

Attention, high school jazz listeners ...

more trax

Me Elsewhere

Edward Hopper 

Painter of light (and darkness) ...

Dissed in Translation 

Here's my best shot at taking Scorcese down a few pegs ...

Henri Rousseau Revisited 

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris" appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington this fall ...

Paul Klee's Art 

Paul Klee was not childish, despite frequent comparisons between his art and that of children...

Our Art Belongs to Dada 

Rent my "Dadioguide" tour of the Dada show (before it moves to MoMA) ...

more picks

Blogroll

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on April 14, 2005 10:00 AM.

Video Virgil: Self Portraits was the previous entry in this blog.

How Michael Saved Mickey is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads


AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

culture
About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

jazz
Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Rifftides
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PianoMorphosis
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

publishing
book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

visual
Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
Artopia
John Perreault's art diary
CultureGrrl
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.