Monday, June 17, 2013

History is a trickster (UPDATED)

In 2008 Ross Douthat wrote an essay in the Atlantic on Hollywood's nostalgia for the 1970s. In it he noted that "the thing that actors and directors seemed to miss the most about the 1970s—the mood of the decade, the mix of paranoia and pessimism and ambivalence about America itself."

The ’70s were in many ways dreadful years for America, but they’re remembered much more fondly in the film industry. There’s no surer way to establish your artistic (and political) bona fides than to name-drop a ’70s movie—whether it’s George Clooney bringing up All the President’s Men (1976) while promoting Michael Clayton, or Stephen Gaghan remarking that of course he was “thinking about The Parallax View and also Three Days of the Condor” while making Syriana. The suggestion is always the same—that the age of leisure suits and sideburns was also the high tide of politically engaged filmmaking, before the studios embarked on the relentless pursuit of the blockbuster and the Reagan reaction pushed American culture steadily to the right.
So now, Hollywood has a public mood suffused with "paranoia and pessimism". The only problem is, the emblematic figures of the age are not glowering old squares like Nixon, Mitchell and Haldeman. The Second Golden Age of Decline is happening under the unwatchful gaze of Hollywood favorites Obama and Clinton.


Ed Driscoll notes that Hollywood might get a bigger does of pessimism than they bargained for.

Hollywood ‘Completely Broke.’ But That’s Good News, Right?

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