Modern Progress: Lowbrow as Highbrow

Some people don’t know when to shut up. Some people don’t know which issues are not worth politicizing. Some people don’t know how little they really know. Some people don’t know that their hatred does not count as wisdom. Some people, as my father used to say, don’t know their a**es from third base.

All of the above applies to the current political climate in the United States, and determines most of what is said on every issue, by almost everyone.

Donald Trump, who as U.S. President feels a very unrepublican need to weigh in publicly on absolutely every mainstream news story, has responded to the criminal conviction of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on a couple of sexual assault charges — as if the case had anything to do with Trump or the American government — by saying “I never liked him.” And we should care whether Trump liked Weinstein because…?

As ridiculous as Trump’s egomania can be, however, the mindlessness with which the “mainstream” (i.e., radical) Left sets about reflexively attacking his every meaningless effusion only highlights their stupidity, rather than his.

A perfect case in point is the reporting of Trump’s silly Weinstein comments at the reliably useful-idiot progressive website Yahoo News, by one Dylan Stableford. Needing so badly to find an angle from which to assail Trump — not because he is Trump, but merely because he is a Republican, and therefore an evil sexist-racist-warmonger-homophobe by definition — Stableford is even willing to go so far as to take the side of a newly convicted sexual predator against Trump, in a humiliatingly stupid attempt to make a Republican look bad. Hence, in the middle of an article outlining the serious charges against a grotesque Hollywood mogul, the “serious journalist” inserts this non sequitur:

Trump frequently comments about movies he admires, a list that includes “Gone With the Wind,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Goodfellas.” Weinstein was known in part for highbrow films such as “Shakespeare in Love” and “The King’s Speech,” which didn’t make Trump’s list. In a 2013 tweet he called “Django Unchained,” which was co-distributed by Weinstein’s company, “the most racist movie I have ever seen,” adding: “It sucked.”

Trump is a dumb and vulgar man, and hardly a sound source for movie recommendations. But Stableford’s desperate attempt to belittle Trump’s taste in films — as if that has any relevance to the issue at hand — only screams out his own poor taste, not to mention a more fundamental lack of aesthetic intelligence. 

Let’s take a moment, since the Yahoo yahoo has brought it up, to compare the two men’s respective cinematic preferences, as Stableford himself represents them.

Trump’s Choices:

Gone with the Wind (1939), though certainly not great art, is an unquestionably successful piece of Grade A entertainment from Hollywood’s golden era: directed by outstanding craftsman Victor Fleming, with classic star turns from two of the most beloved actors of the era (Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh), it features one of the most famous musical themes, composed by the great Max Steiner, and perhaps the single most famous line of romantic dialogue — “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” — in cinema history. It was the first color film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and has survived the test of time as one of the most perennially popular Hollywood movies.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) is the most popular and, by most accounts, the most cinematically successful of Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti westerns,” featuring an early performance by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, and a score by Ennio Morricone, one of film history’s most recognizable and influential composers. Not the pinnacle of film art, but again a film that garnered a lot of serious attention at the time, is highly regarded by respected critics and many major filmmakers — even super-cool postmodern-chic director Quentin Tarantino calls it “the best-directed film of all time” — and has become something of a popular culture landmark, not least for its universally famous title, which has become an English idiom.

Goodfellas (1990) is many people’s choice as the very best film ever directed by Martin Scorsese, widely regarded as one of the greatest American filmmakers, and by many critics as the greatest. (I am far less impressed by Scorsese than those people, but I would nevertheless rate Goodfellas as an extremely well-directed, well-acted, and brilliantly-paced movie — certainly the best Scorsese film out of the six or seven that I have seen.)

Stableford’s Choices:

Shakespeare in Love (1998) is an embarrassingly childish scam of a movie, the sort of thing that Hollywood only gets away with selling as “art” these days due to the general vulgarity of modern popular culture, according to which merely using the name Shakespeare equals “seriousness” — because Lord knows no one actually goes to the theater to watch one of those boring old plays by the actual guy anymore. It is postmodernism for morons, with a “screenplay” by a famous and admittedly not untalented playwright, Tom Stoppard, operating here at his absolute nadir (must have had a mortgage). It’s a trivial fake love story concocted in the imagination of someone (or rather a committee of “someones”) with the romantic sensibility of a junior high school cheerleader, and the historical sense of that cheerleader’s football quarterback boyfriend. Every scene is unmemorable, every line of dialogue (aside from the scandalously abused Shakespearean scenes) is pretentious and overblown, the lead performances by Joseph Fiennes (a sensitive Nineties man devolution of William Shakespeare) and Gwyneth Paltrow (as dull as a lump of coal, as convincingly British as your average North American high school Shakespeare production) are undistinguished to the point of being citable as evidence that both of these “stars” owe their roles and fame entirely to being the relatives of more talented actors, and the whole saccharine teenage fantasy is smothered in swooshing “feel-this-way-now” strings, turning the various clichéd mating scenes into easily-packaged music videos. This dreck has become especially infamous for winning the Best Picture Oscar over Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, and the subsequent revelations about how Weinstein essentially bought that award — and incidentally, how Paltrow sold her dignity to be Weinstein’s Oscar-winning star, before the phony “MeToo” movement gave all his starlets an escape hatch from the truth of their own morally compromised careers.

The King’s Speech (2010), though much better than the trashy Shakespeare in Love, is, at its best, just mainline popular entertainment for the non-action-movie crowd, utilizing all the standard shorthand of Oscar-baiting success in today’s depleted movie world: “British” equals sophisticated; “royal” equals classy; “historical” equals serious; “pop-psychological” equals deep. The film is basically enjoyable and very well-acted, though like the previous case, overbaked in momentous music — and I am thinking particularly of the famous use of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony behind the climactic delivery of the titular speech, which deserved to stand alone, for all the very reasons this story was ostensibly worth telling in the first place, but which was not trusted by the filmmakers to stand alone, for all the reasons that genuinely adult movies (from when that term was not reserved for pornography) can no longer be made for general audiences.

I haven’t seen Django Unchained, but everything I have read about it suggests that Trump’s assessment — “racist” and “It sucked” — is probably about right.

In sum, then, there can be little doubt that if you were looking for a worthwhile way to spend an evening at the home cinema, you would do better to follow the sensible middle-brow recommendations of the Orange Dimwit than the pop-driveling low-mindedness of the spiteful Yahoo writer.

Most interesting to me is Stableford’s attempt to aggrandize his bad taste, while smearing Trump’s better taste, namely by branding those three Weinstein productions “highbrow,” thus implying that the simpleton Trump wouldn’t be expected to understand such art. Such is the fate of art, standards, and intellect in today’s progressive egalitarian quagmire, that predictable, manipulative, transient award-mongering feel-good films like The King’s Speech (decent entertainment at best) and Shakespeare in Love (ugh!) may now be called “highbrow” without an ounce of irony, let alone parody, by someone daring to question and belittle the intelligence and taste of a man who likes the best films of Victor Fleming, Sergio Leone, and Martin Scorsese. 

All going to show that, as I am never too tired to repeat, most progressives are idiots — all the more ridiculously so to the extent that they attempt to look smart.

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