17
Jan 06

The Decade Of The Smugs

Do You SeePost a comment • 274 views

Mr Busy, the slightly gossipy insiders view of the movie industry page of Sight And Sound wanders into a minefield this moth. In trying to define a cultural mindset, a move away from direct arthouse snobbery into what he describes as “Smug”, there are a number of contradictory ideas at play. Is he just talking about middle-brow, not hardcore arthouse but at the same time pooh-poohing populist cinema? Not really, that region of film is easily defined by the awards season. He is almost talking about the opposite – the fact that films with vaguely daring agendas are patronised and then downgraded. But until he gives us a concrete example, the concept seems to elude him.

His suggestion is that the critical stance of “the smug” are the type of people who were initially interested but quickly turned off by Dido. Initially she was interesting because she wrote her own tunes, was involved in UK Dance and of course was sampled on one of Eminem’s best records. However once either
a) critics realised that actually the songs were just inoffensive ballads
b) she sold lots of records to the general public
the critics went off her. To the extent that she epitomises a bland naffness.

The cinema equivalent of Dido, Mr Busy suggests, is Alan Parker. No-one would be seen dead rating Alan Parker as an interesting film-maker these days, indeed no-one would be seen dead writing about Alan Parker. And he is right, but is it due to blandness? Possibly. Is it due to populism? Again, only possibly. Is it due to Parker being a self-involve gobshite who constantly berates the media. Probably.

I like the thesis, I know exactly what Mr Busy is talking about. I even thing Dido (or Coldplay) as the epitome of it is correct. But I am not sure if Alan Parker is their man. But then directors are rarely as connected to their work as musicians are, especially when the work is deigned to be bland. Maybe the Dido of the film world are directors like Bob Zemeckis or Martin Campbell. Or maybe the concept is not applicable to directors at all, and rather films themselves.

(For what its worth, this is the best copy of Sight & Sound I’ve read in a while, where the magazine for the first time seems positively forward looking and perky about cinema. I even liked the David Thompson piece. Still not enough television, but it was ever so).

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