NIHILISM? SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
Re: “Whatever: The New Nihilism” [November 27December 3]. I can't figure out why Peter Berg's film has engendered such a nasty reaction from Ms. Dargis and her critical brethren — the very same critics who declared Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers cinema gods for mining much the same ground. Is Berg's work really more “execrable” than, say, the wood-chipper scene in Fargo? Ms. Dargis and her associates seem to be punishing Berg (and, to a lesser extent, Neil LaBute and Todd Solondz) for taking the puerile posturings of Tarantino and the Coens one step further, into the “offensive” range. Maybe the critics are feeling just a bit guilty for unquestioningly deifying those previous dark works.
The Weekly doesn't usually shy away from hard issues, political or otherwise; therefore, it's puzzling why you've fallen so short in understanding films like Happiness and Gummo. Disturbing films may be rejected by the paying audience, but for a magazine devoted to the arts to do the same is an abdication of responsibility — not only to readers who look for help understanding complex films, but also to a fragile and increasingly threatened artistic community brave enough to hold a mirror up to our degenerating society.
–Elaine Taylor Gray
Manohla Dargis' article should be required reading in every industry boardroom, production office and agents' den. Your audience isn't laughing, ladies and gentlemen; it's sniggering in the dark. Any half-assed standup comedian knows how to tickle an audience's dark underbelly. Class clowns do the same thing with booger jokes — then, apparently, grow up to make “geek cinema.” Which is big money these days. We can hear them laughing all the way to the bank. Oh yes, I know: They're laughing with us, not at us . . . but we're not laughing.
–Michael Sean Conley
Someone please tell Ernest Hardy that it's not the abundance of “pop-culture-addled animatrons” that's hurting American independent cinema. As in any genre, it's bad storytelling that kills a film, and irresponsible, misrepresentative hype that wounds a healthy film movement. To boldly attack a film like Slam despite the surge of popular hype in the mainstream presses, then sit down and write a fluffy capsule review of Ten Benny [New Releases, November 27December 3] is not just careless, it's downright odd. Ten Benny isn't a “refreshing” exception to the onslaught of hip-but-empty indies; it's simply one more addition to the continuum of immature, poorly written, poorly directed films that leave audiences in bewilderment over how anything so bad can make it to the big screen — and even more odd, how an intelligent movie critic can possibly give it a good review.
HE'S BIG, AND HE'S YOUR
Regarding Adrien Maher's article “Permit To Pack” [December 410], which complains about Culver City Police Chief Cooke's refusal to give out the personal information of persons permitted to carry concealed firearms: Society would be a lot better off if you would drop this issue. Studies show that robbery and rape decline when criminals think law-abiding citizens are armed and able to defend themselves. Society would benefit if you would obtain and publish the names, physical descriptions, home addresses and other personal information of convicted criminals. This would allow law-abiding citizens to identify the proven threats to our families. Why don't you spend your energy getting us that information?
CREDIT WHERE DUE
In his article about Mike Davis [“Jeremiah Among the Palms,” November 27December 3], Lewis MacAdams states, “Marx and Engels never wrote about the consequences of environmental change on human history . . . Davis was the first to link . . . social injustice and ecological distress.” This is incorrect. Marx and Engels were all over the issue of ecology. In Marx's view, exploitation of the Earth arises from the very same mechanism as exploitation of humans — commodification and alienation resulting from the capitalist mode of society (see Capital, Volume 1, Page 638 of the Vintage edition). Engels also discusses the issue (on Page 181 of the Pathfinder edition of The Origins of the Family, ä Private Property and the State).
Mike Davis is a newcomer to Marxist ecology. Let's be a little more educated about Marxism. Give credit to the original sources.
In the summer of 1987, while working as a student architect at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, I would spend my lunch hours scanning old microfilm looking for interesting drawings. One day I found four magnificent drawings of the Los Angeles River, dated 1897. These drawings represent the course of the Los Angeles River in its natural state and the accompanying Main Supply Ditch, which helped to supply water to Los Angeles. In the fall of 1989, I invited my former SCI-Arc seminar instructor Mike Davis to my Echo Park home and, on my living-room floor, rolled out these drawings for him to admire — the very same drawings Lewis MacAdams reports “Davis had unearthed from dusty obscurity” (something I've never heard Mike claim).
In order to get a wider audience for these drawings, I presented them at the Southern California Environment and History Conference in 1996. I have made reproductions available to various researchers and scholars, including Jennifer Watts of the Huntington Library. It was Ms. Watts who brought these beautiful drawings to the general public in her and Claudia Bohn-Spector's show “Envisioning Eden” at the Huntington Library last year. The drawings are now part of the library's collection.
I believe that Ms. Watts and I have had more to do with getting the “blueprint for the restoration of the wetlands of the Los Angeles River” out there than Mr. Davis has with his “dog-eared” reproduction.
–M. Scott Fajack
Congratulations for 20 wonderful years of beating up on lousy-to-crooked politicos who are not so good for the People — but never attacking the evils of cigarettes and the tobacco industry!
Congratulations for 20 years of protecting the gay and lesbian groups and their right not to be murdered by skinhead types — but never attacking the evils of cigarettes and the tobacco industry!
Congratulations on your defense of the rights of other minorities — but never attacking the evils of cigarettes and the tobacco industry!
Congratulations! You have the courage to take on and expose police brutality, hostility and mayhem — but never attack the evils of cigarettes and the tobacco industry!
“Hey! A buck's a buck. Look at all those wonderful full-page ads and double-truck ads they buy from us!”
Please, no more self-aggrandizing bullshit by publisher, editors and the like. But gosh, I almost forgot . . . you do give good crossword puzzle!
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