Saturday, April 14, 2007

GRINDHOUSE Ground underfoot at BO. The Not-So-Simple 'Why'.

Harvey Weinstein's head from space, hours after Grindhouse hits theaters.

The online world's community of film critics, net geeks, and cinephiles is burning with righteous anger over the failure of one of the year's most hyped and unusual films. Grindhouse is an ultraviolent, ultra-profane, pornographically nasty celebration of a bygone era of cinematic trash that came into its element in the mid 70's and early 80's.

And frankly, it looked pretty cool. Not that I'm an advocate of such cinematic vices for their own sake, but I've always been of the opinion that the writing in a single episode of 'Friends' does more to unravel the essential moral fabric of society than all the 'Sin City's' and 'Kill Bill's in the world ever could. Even deliberate violence and sleaze of this sort has at it's dark heart an unshakable moral assertion that confesses a profound wrongness of the world that needs correcting; even if it uses antiheroes and exploitive violence to go there.

While that's hardly enough reason to raise exploitation pictures and general trash on a pedestal, it's far less destructive than your average sitcom, in which every character without fail lives in a world miraculously insulated from moral dilemmas or consequences. Promiscuity, unfaithfulness, selfishness are glazed over with laugh tracks, creating a cozy, indistinct world where nothing matters, and all our worst impulses and behaviours are reduced to a "Waddyagonnado?!" shrug. Meanwhile, canned laughter whisks away any niggling moral dilemmas with the surgical efficiency of sunglasses-clad presidential bodyguards removing a heckler from a rally.

With this in mind, I was anticipating Grindhouse. As the late Pauline Kael said, "Film are so rarely great art, that if can't appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them." I love good cinematic trash. My dvd collection sports such gems as Plan 9 From Outer Space, I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Super-InfraMan; a chinese grindhouse/chop-socky bit of lunacy, the legendarily ghastly 'Robot Monster', and so on.

I even have an appreciation for Tarantino and Rodriguez. I enjoyed Sin City very much, and likewise Kill Bill 2. (Vol1 is a different story) And while for other reasons I ended up choosing not to see it, the online community in question is aghast at it's failure.

Some critics have devolved their discussion of it's BO into a venomous 'red-state blue-state' tirade; spewing the expected liberal contempt that suburban rubes just didn't know what was good for them, ala a commentary by critic Jeffry Wells:

"We're really and truly living in the United States of Hong Kong -- a sprinkling of sophisticated urban havens surrounded on all sides by a massive Gorilla Nation. Two different planets, two different worlds...the high and the low...hip urbanity vs. the mentality of the mall."

Some postulated that the length scared people away. Others, the violence. Yet there are definite boxoffice exceptions to all these assertions. Violent films, even ones freakishly so, are profitable all the time. So are long ones, and on and on. They're arguing over demographics. Length. Style. Marketing. Season. (Is easter a good time to release such a thing) Absolutely everything except the thing that matters.


While I'm not going to go on a typical liberal tirade about the awfulness of Joe Sixpack's taste in movies, (and everything else) let's get a few things clear. Not everyone is a cinephile. Not everyone is a film geek, and not everyone has a historical grounding in film sufficient to whet the appetite for good schlock.

They made a critical mistake in marketing it (and possibly making it) as a kitschy 'schlock' masterpiece.
I shall reiterate, this is not to say that people don't like trash, or even shocking, violent trash. Saw, Hills Have Eyes remakes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes, etc, all found an audience.

the people seeing these films simply believe they are seeing 'good cinema', and would bristle at the suggestion that they are enjoying sensational, manipulative garbage for its own sake. Non-cinephiles who enjoy really bad films are largely immune to the fact that what they're seeing is a bad film. How many teenage girls (and indeed, grown people) have you met who insist Armageddon is their favorite film because it's so emotional? Armageddon is indeed a dreadful film; but wait a minute; that teenage girl is still correct. It contains heroes. It contains sacrifice. It is 'emotional'.

In part, the success of Grindhouse would have required mainstream moviegoers to possess greater self-awareness about what they watch and why. Hollywood pictures actively work to smother that self awareness. This is done by infamous last-minute justifications of trash; like the tacking on of morals or sentiment, the halfhearted attempts at relevance or a message, usually in the closing minutes of the third act when in the midst of all the blood and carnage and fun stuff, the characters stop to think about the significance of it all. These are invariably the worst and most contrived-feeling scenes in any hollywood feature or tv show.

But for all our disdain, they're always included because they provide the undeniable critical element:
At the very least, the facade of a story and moral significance to justify the carnage. 300 has it. The Saw films have it. Virtually any successful film has had it. It's a storytelling 101 non-negotiable rule to success. That is the one thing I believe Grindhouse lacked utterly, and why it tanked. And why it still has a shot at BO redemption if the two films are released seperately, and the marketing shifts gears to make them look like more legitimate stories rather than a kitsch time-capsule existing for its own sake.

The absolute basics of storytelling (and yes, screenwriting) tell us unequivocally that human beings are profoundly moral creatures. We seek it, we respond to it, we fight against it, but we can't escape it. For all the alleged cultural success of our post-Christian, morally relativistic, politically-correct social neutering, our appetites for irony, nihilism, relativism and artistic self-mockery remain positively anemic. Our appetite for good stories with brightly burning moral centers that believe in themselves is limitless; even when those good stories are told badly.

If you're not gonna be about something, you at least have to fake it. Hollywood is good at faking it. (or not, depending on your point of view) Grindhouse didn't even try to fake it. For cynical cinephiles who believe Hollywood is at it's stupidest when it tries to act smart, this is a breath of fresh air. Everyone else will stay far, far away.

300 to use an example, is an extremely problematic, and certainly not-great film. It contains many of the factors being discussed in Grindhouse's failure. No stars, too stylized, too violent, wrong time of year. But it also has a clear moral center, (Fight! For Freedom!) and simple, larger-than-life heroes burning brightly. Historically accurate? Who cares? Bad guys get their comeuppance in monsoons of beautifully realized digital gore, a hero's a hero, a man's a man, and that's that. And a little 60 million dollar film will be one of 2007's top earners.
Now that the Weinsteins are in Grindhouse hock up to their eyeballs, it might be a good time to rediscover that.


Technorati Tags

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous Jim Baxter said...

The Season of Generation-Choicemaker
Joel 3:14 kjv

The missing element in every human 'solution' is
an accurate definition of the creature.

In an effort to diminish the multiple and persistent
dangers and abuses which have characterized the
affairs of man in his every Age, and to assist in the
requisite search for human identity, it is essential to
perceive and specify that distinction which naturally
and most uniquely defines the human being. Because
definitions rule in the minds, behaviors, and institutions
of men, we can be confident that delineating and com-
municating that quality will assist the process of resolu-
tion and the courageous ascension to which man is
called. As Americans of the 21st Century, we are oblig-
ed and privileged to join our forebears and participate
in this continuing paradigm proclamation.

"WHAT IS MAN...?" God asks - and answers:
by James Fletcher Baxter (c) AD 2007

The way we define 'human' determines our view of self,
others, relationships, institutions, life, and future. Many
problems in human experience are the result of false
and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
in man-made religions and humanistic philosophies.

Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe.
The balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human
reason cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the
intellect can rise no higher than the criteria by which it
perceives and measures values.

Humanism makes man his own standard of measure.
However, as with all measuring systems, a standard
must be greater than the value measured. Based on
preponderant ignorance and an egocentric carnal
nature, humanism demotes reason to the simpleton
task of excuse-making in behalf of the rule of appe-
tites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands.

Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament,
cannot invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist
lacks a predictive capability. Without instinct or trans-
cendent criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with
foresight and vision for progression and survival. Lack-
ing foresight, man is blind to potential consequence and
is unwittingly committed to mediocrity, collectivism,
averages, and regression - and worse. Humanism is an
unworthy worship.

The void of human ignorance can easily be filled with
a functional faith while not-so-patiently awaiting the
foot-dragging growth of human knowledge and behav-
ior. Faith, initiated by the Creator and revealed and
validated in His Word, the Bible, brings a transcend-
ent standard to man the choice-maker. Other philo-
sophies and religions are man-made, humanism, and
thereby lack what only the Bible has:

1.Transcendent Criteria and
2.Fulfilled Prophetic Validation.

The vision of faith in God and His Word is survival
equipment for today and the future. Only the Creator,
who made us in His own image, is qualified to define
us accurately.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by
nature and nature's God a creature of Choice - and of
Criteria. Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive
characteristic is, and of Right ought to be, the natural
foundation of his environments, institutions, and re-
spectful relations to his fellow-man. Thus, he is orien-
ted to a Freedom whose roots are in the Order of the

At the sub-atomic level of the physical universe quantum
physics indicates a multifarious gap or division in the
causal chain; particles to which position cannot be
assigned at all times, systems that pass from one energy
state to another without manifestation in intermediate
states, entities without mass, fields whose substance is
as insubstantial as "a probability."

Only statistical conglomerates pay tribute to
deterministic forces. Singularities do not and are
therefore random, unpredictable, mutant, and in this
sense, uncaused. The finest contribution inanimate
reality is capable of making toward choice, without its
own selective agencies, is this continuing manifestation
of opportunity as the pre-condition to choice it defers
to the natural action of living forms.

Biological science affirms that each level of life,
single-cell to man himself, possesses attributes of
sensitivity, discrimination, and selectivity, and in
the exclusive and unique nature of each diversified
life form.

The survival and progression of life forms has all too
often been dependent upon the ever-present undeterminative
potential and appearance of one unique individual organism
within the whole spectrum of a given life-form. Only the
uniquely equipped individual organism is, like The Golden
Wedge of Ophir, capable of traversing the causal gap to
survival and progression. Mere reproductive determinacy
would have rendered life forms incapable of such potential.

Only a moving universe of opportunity plus choice enables
the present reality.

Each individual human being possesses a unique, highly
developed, and sensitive perception of variety. Thus
aware, man is endowed with a natural capability for enact-
ing internal mental and external physical selectivity.
Quantitative and qualitative choice-making thus lends
itself as the superior basis of an active intelligence.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. His title describes
his definitive and typifying characteristic. Recall
that his other features are but vehicles of experi-
ence intent on the development of perceptive
awareness and the following acts of decision and
choice. Note that the products of man cannot define
him for they are the fruit of the discerning choice-
making process and include the cognition of self,
the utility of experience, the development of value-
measuring systems and language, and the accultur-
ation of civilization.

The arts and the sciences of man, as with his habits,
customs, and traditions, are the creative harvest of
his perceptive and selective powers. Creativity, the
creative process, is a choice-making process. His
articles, constructs, and commodities, however
marvelous to behold, deserve neither awe nor idol-
atry, for man, not his contrivance, is earth's own
highest expression of the creative process.

Human is earth's Choicemaker. The sublime and
significant act of choosing is, itself, the Archimedean
fulcrum upon which man levers and redirects the
forces of cause and effect to an elected level of qual-
ity and diversity. Further, it orients him toward a
natural environmental opportunity, freedom, and
bestows earth's title, The Choicemaker, on his
singular and plural brow.

Deterministic systems, ideological symbols of abdication
by man from his natural role as earth's Choicemaker,
inevitably degenerate into collectivism; the negation of
singularity, they become a conglomerate plural-based
system of measuring human value. Blunting an awareness
of diversity, blurring alternatives, and limiting the
selective creative process, they are self-relegated to
a passive and circular regression.

Tampering with man's selective nature endangers his
survival for it would render him impotent and obsolete
by denying the tools of variety, individuality,
perception, criteria, selectivity, and progress.
Coercive attempts produce revulsion, for such acts
are contrary to an indeterminate nature and nature's
indeterminate off-spring, man the Choicemaker.

Until the oppressors discover that wisdom only just
begins with a respectful acknowledgment of The Creator,
The Creation, and The Choicemaker, they will be ever
learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.
The rejection of Creator-initiated standards relegates
the mind of man to its own primitive, empirical, and
delimited devices. It is thus that the human intellect
cannot ascend and function at any level higher than the
criteria by which it perceives and measures values.

Additionally, such rejection of transcendent criteria
self-denies man the vision and foresight essential to
decision-making for survival and progression. He is left,
instead, with the redundant wreckage of expensive hind-
sight, including human institutions characterized by
averages, mediocrity, and regression.

Humanism, mired in the circular and mundane egocentric
predicament, is ill-equipped to produce transcendent
criteria. Evidenced by those who do not perceive
superiority and thus find themselves beset by the shifting
winds of the carnal-ego; i.e., moods, feelings, desires,
appetites, etc., the mind becomes subordinate: a mere
device for excuse-making and rationalizing self-justifica-

The carnal-ego rejects criteria and self-discipline for such
instruments are tools of the mind and the attitude. The
appetites of the flesh have no need of standards for at the
point of contention standards are perceived as alien, re-
strictive, and inhibiting. Yet, the very survival of our
physical nature itself depends upon a maintained sover-
eignty of the mind and of the spirit.

It remained, therefore, to the initiative of a personal
and living Creator to traverse the human horizon and
fill the vast void of human ignorance with an intelli-
gent and definitive faith. Man is thus afforded the
prime tool of the intellect - a Transcendent Standard
by which he may measure values in experience, anticipate
results, and make enlightened and visionary choices.

Only the unique and superior God-man Person can deserved-
ly displace the ego-person from his predicament and free
the individual to measure values and choose in a more
excellent way. That sublime Person was indicated in the
words of the prophet Amos, "...said the Lord, Behold,
I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel."
Y'shua Mashiyach Jesus said, "If I be lifted up I will
draw all men unto myself."

As long as some choose to abdicate their personal reality
and submit to the delusions of humanism, determinism, and
collectivism, just so long will they be subject and re-
acting only, to be tossed by every impulse emanating from
others. Those who abdicate such reality may, in perfect
justice, find themselves weighed in the balances of their
own choosing.

That human institution which is structured on the
principle, "...all men are endowed by their Creator with
...Liberty...," is a system with its roots in the natural
Order of the universe. The opponents of such a system are
necessarily engaged in a losing contest with nature and
nature's God. Biblical principles are still today the
foundation under Western Civilization and the American
way of life. To the advent of a new season we commend the
present generation and the "multitudes in the valley of

Let us proclaim it. Behold!
The Season of Generation-Choicemaker Joel 3:14 KJV

"I should think that if there is one thing that man has
learned about himself it is that he is a creature of
choice." Richard M. Weaver

"Man is a being capable of subduing his emotions and
impulses; he can rationalize his behavior. He arranges
his wishes into a scale, he chooses; in short, he acts.
What distinguishes man from beasts is precisely that he
adjusts his behavior deliberately." Ludwig von Mises

"To make any sense of the idea of morality, it must be
presumed that the human being is responsible for his
actions and responsibility cannot be understood apart
from the presumption of freedom of choice."
John Chamberlain

"The advocate of liberty believes that it is complementary
of the orderly laws of cause and effect, of probability
and of chance, of which man is not completely informed.
It is complementary of them because it rests in part upon
the faith that each individual is endowed by his Creator
with the power of individual choice."
Wendell J. Brown

"These examples demonstrate a basic truth -- that human
dignity is embodied in the free choice of individuals."
Condoleeza Rice

"Our Founding Fathers believed that we live in an ordered
universe. They believed themselves to be a part of the
universal order of things. Stated another way, they
believed in God. They believed that every man must find
his own place in a world where a place has been made for
him. They sought independence for their nation but, more
importantly, they sought freedom for individuals to think
and act for themselves. They established a republic
dedicated to one purpose above all others - the preserva-
tion of individual liberty..." Ralph W. Husted

"We have the gift of an inner liberty so far-reaching
that we can choose either to accept or reject the God
who gave it to us, and it would seem to follow that the
Author of a liberty so radical wills that we should be
equally free in our relationships with other men.
Spiritual liberty logically demands conditions of outer
and social freedom for its completion." Edmund A. Opitz

"Above all I see an ability to choose the better from the
worse that has made possible life's progress."
Charles Lindbergh

"Freedom is the Right to Choose, the Right to create for
oneself the alternatives of Choice. Without the possibil-
ity of Choice, and the exercise of Choice, a man is not
a man but a member, an instrument, a thing."
Thomas Jefferson

Q: "What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son
of man that You visit him?" Psalm 8:4
A: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against
you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing
and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and
your descendants may live." Deuteronomy 30:19

Q: "Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that you are mindful of him?" Psalm
A: "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose
for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the
gods which your fathers served that were on the other
side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose
land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will
serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

Q: "What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is
born of a woman, that he could be righteous?" Job 15:14
A: "Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He
teach in the way he chooses." Psalm 25:12

Q: "What is man, that You should magnify him, that You
should set Your heart on him?" Job 7:17
A: "Do not envy the oppressor and choose none of his
ways." Proverbs 3:31

Q: "What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son
of man that You take care of him?" Hebrews 2:6
A: "I have chosen the way of truth; your judgments I have
laid before me." Psalm 119:30 "Let Your hand become my
help, for I have chosen Your precepts."Psalm 119:173

Genesis 3:3,6 Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 30:19 Job 5:23
Isaiah 7:14-15; 13:12; 61:1 Amos 7:8 Joel 3:14
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


Sir Isaac Newton
The greatest scientist in human history
a Bible-Believing Christian
an authority on the Bible's Book of Daniel
committed to individual value
and individual liberty

Daniel 9:25-26 Habakkuk 2:2-3 selah

"What is man...?" Earth's Choicemaker Psalm 25:12

An old/new paradigma - Mr. Jefferson would agree!
(Alternative? There is no alternative.)

+ + +

"Man cannot make or invent or contrive principles. He
can only discover them and he ought to look through the
discovery to the Author." -- Thomas Paine 1797

"Got Criteria?" See Psalm 119:1-176

semper fidelis
Jim Baxter
WWII & Korean War

Teacher, 5th Grade - 30 Wonderful years !
vincit veritas

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it!"
- Yogi Berra

9:58 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home