And so we walked out of The Short Stop and talked for a couple minutes about movies, post dancing, discussed There Will Be Blood – which, like No Country for Old Men - is surprisingly funny, when Robin noted something.
“Dellamorte, you’re steaming.”
And it was true. We had danced so hard that I created a slight fog around me. I guess the weather’s getting better in Los Angeles.
STAY OFF THE MOORS, AND BEWARE THE BACKLASH!
When I was in Portland for my father’s funeral, a family friend brought up Radiohead’s recent album and the three million they made off the downloadable release (stay with me here, I’m getting to it). My brother said plainly “I don’t like Radiohead.” Shock coursed through me. “What?” “Yeah, I don’t like Radiohead.”
I responded “Oh yeah, you don’t like pop music.” And such is true, my brother said he finds The Beatles boring, and in that flash I realized something. Our children, such as they are, will probably have the same reaction to Nirvana and Radiohead that I reacted to The Doors, Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd: Interest in the teenaged years, and then abandonment, later gauged as radio music. My brother’s defense was “I like Jay-Z,” to which I countered “Yeah, but he’s black.” My brother and I had spent some time recently playing chess, and we both realized I had found a checkmate. I hammered the point home “black music doesn’t count the same.” He conceded, but I was too happy to find that truism to let it go lightly.
This lengthy preamble is my way of suggesting that Diablo Cody and Juno are about to get hated on bad. Not that the backlash hasn’t already kicked in (Jeffery Wells is already bemoaning Cody’s success and possible Oscar win), but with this weekend, where Juno has a clear shot at taking the number one slot after being the number one film Monday through Thursday, it’s going to kick into high gear, and it’ll get especially bad when the film gets to One Hundred Million (which, at this point, is a foregone conclusion).
That’s not to say white culture doesn’t bemoan certain African-American successes (there will be a couched racism apparent in the derision geared towards whatever success First Sunday will have, not to mention the distaste some have for Tyler Perry, or the kneejerk responses geek culture belched out over Will Smith’s casting in I Am Legend), yet it tends to be more forgiving of pop artists who are of a different culture simply because they are of a different culture. More to the point, white culture – and especially indie culture (to which Juno, with its festival pedigree, belongs) – digests itself so quickly that when anyone does anything that could be labeled as selling out, or hits a level of unexpected success, there is an immediate backlash.
Some of this is fair. Hype is an intangible thing, and it affects each audience member differently. Biases are created partly out of whim, partly out of jealousies real or imagined, and partly out of overexposure. When you hear repeatedly how great something is, especially when it’s a small, gentle thing, it’s bound to take some time to let its value become apparent, and an immediate (and possibly lasting) response may be “Really, that?”
And the fact that Juno made all but Devin’s top ten lists from this very site alone (not mentioning Roger Ebert’s decision to name it the best film of the year) may make it (for anyone reading this) a little oversold, and possibly overcooked. That’s not to mute anyone’s enthusiasm for it – and to be fair it’s just out of my personal fifteen because of this year’s abundance of greatness, yet I loved it too – but if you feel that you’ve hit saturation point, maybe the best thing to do is wait for a while. Alas, it’s not going to get less hyped for a long while, and there will likely be some Oscar Gold for the title.
I wonder, here, if the first couple minutes of Juno – which feature a painful (in my eyes) cameo by Rainn Wilson – are intentionally misleading. It, and the moving of the furniture set, suggest the sort of forced whimsy that followed in the footsteps of Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (read: Napoleon Dynamite, Garden State), and the sort of forced quirkiness that has become the bane/comfort food of the twee set. It should be noted that really only Juno and her BFF talk like “that” and everyone else in the film has a different voice – a voice that suggests screenwriter Diablo Cody is not the femme-equiv of Kevin Smith. It also has an honest-to-goodness heart, and though Juno may appear the ironic hipster qua 16-year-old, the film really does earn its pulling on your heartstrings.
But this success is, from a business standpoint (ah, yes, the essential purpose of this column) good and bad for Diablo Cody. In some ways, I want to draw some parallels to Hilary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. To a certain extent people do hate on both for being women in a man’s world. That’s not the only reason to hate on either, but for some it’ll do. And that’s unfortunate. It’s both a shield and a curse that makes it hard to sometimes explicate discomforts real or imagined. The truth can get muddied by cultural biases that may have nothing to do with the big picture. But with Cody, the backlash may have more to do with the artist than the art.
Her ascension has been marked by her brash demeanor, her tattoos and her tawdry background. Few interviews, few anythings about her or her art don’t stop to mention that she spent some time as a stripper and wrote a book about it. But the dwelling on this suggests a cultural stammering that can’t hide America’s secret fascination and repression of its sexual interests. Cody has used her sexuality, partly, to get where she is today. The question is: So? And then there’s the hipster credentials. Someone on the Chud boards was noting that she always defers from saying that she’s cool, and it may be true that she could be faking her sense of whatever, it’s also a cagey move because being pegged as hip also marks you as being of the moment – besides the fact that she likely does see herself as a nerd in a stripper’s body (I suggest only the latter because… well, she did strip). My only experience of Cody in person – which I share only because it proves her point – was at The Wright Stuff, when Greg Nicotero handed her the Book of the Dead. After he showed her the book I had to gravitate over because it was the fucking Book of the Dead, and I wanted to hold it too, and as I got my turn she called her brother to tell him that she just held the BotD, cause they had watched the film together a couple of weeks ago.
I’m sorry, that’s the geekiest shit evah.
My point is this, though… What the fuck does any of the talk of her coolness or stripper past have to do with her talent? What the fuck does any of that have to do with Juno? Quentin Tarantino (besides not being a Calvin Klein model) never really had to answer these questions in that sort of pointed way. His non-movie star looks made him safe and nerdy by sight. Same for Kevin Smith, or whomever else has followed. In some ways (not to denigrate Gone Baby, Gone), Ben Affleck and Robert Redford get passes for their attempts at filmmaking because there’s a sense of “You’re attractive and can do this? Wow!” Hello, guess what? I’m reciting all of the sexual politics of the current world we live in. But they’re being used against Cody already. Perhaps because most people are intimidated by a smart and attractive woman (Lord knows, I am), there’s nothing better to do than tear her down. Diablo Cody as a famous entity has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Diablo Cody the writer, and until she inserts herself as an actress in her films, it’s better to judge the art not the artist.
Alas, this is going to be a problem, possibly the problem with her career until she’s older or less attractive, and it’s not going to get any easier if she wins an Academy award. I’m pulling for her to win the Oscar (to which her nomination is a mere formality at this point), but in some ways it could be the worst thing to happen to her career. From all accounts – that is to say, talking to Jeremy and Devin – Jennifer’s Body is an entertaining piece, but if it’s from Oscar Winner And Former Stripper Diablo Cody, people might rip it a new one for being something it isn’t. At the same time, she’s caught the Zeitgeist with the film, and that may not happen again for her. Again, no one holds the same weight against the dude who won for Little Miss Sunshine.
Not to take anything away from Cody, but her nomination (and a win is a likely thing) should hopefully drum up the support for Jason Reitman. He deserves a lot of credit for bringing the right sensibility to the film. How much of this was a partnership, how much credit goes where is unknowable, but I think the best way to deflect some of this burgeoning Cody-hate will be to give credit to Reitman for guiding this material so successfully to the big screen. In a sense she got lucky that Reitman didn’t turn the film into a quirk-fest, which the material could have suggested to a lesser director looking for an easy indie hit. Not to give a/the man too much credit, but I’m just saying… I see a bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way.
HEY MISTER, HAVE YOU GOT A PREDICTION? HEY MISTER, YOU WANT TO SPEND SOME TIME (PREDICTING?) I’VE GOT WHAT YOU WANT, YOU’VE GOT WHAT I NEED…
Hey Bucket List goes wide. Wha wha. First Sunday, Dr. Uwe Boll’s Latest Film with a Cast of Wash-Ups, And Veggie Tale’s Hidden Christian Message all hit multiple screens this weekend. Bucket List or First Sunday could challenge Juno for the top spot, but I think Juno wins, partly based on apathy. In The Name of Love and Pirates are wash-outs, but Jack’s gotta still have some draw, so I’ma gonna guess this:
1. Juno - $15.5 Million
2. First Sunday - $14.2 Million
3. The Bucket of Shit - $13.2 Million
4. National Treasure 2 – $11.8 Million
5. I Am Legend - $10.2 Million
The Veggies should come in around eight, and King around five. Then on Sunday I’ll talk about how much I love the films of Max Ophuls.
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