Monday, September 15, 2008

When Did Art Become All About Violence?

Ever since the Coen Brothers, who have been making some of the finest American movies ever seen since 1984, finally won a Best Motion Picture of the Year Oscar at the Academy Awards for the ruthlessly violent No Country for Old Men, I've been bothered - not so much that violence at the box office and pretty much everywhere in pop culture simply exists, but that so much of what is considered art in pop culture has been taken over by the knock-em, sock-em, slash-em promoters. The last time Joel and Ethan Coen brought home Oscar prior to NCFOM, it was for the Fargo screenplay. In between these two violent epics was The Big Lebowski, Oh Brother, Where Are Thou? and a couple others of less repute but no less memorable.

In the decade the Coen brothers burst on the scene most arty fare was directed at women and socially-conscious-types. A Room With a View, Bagdad Cafe (Out of Rosenheim); Wings of Desire, The Gods Must Be Crazy, Das Boot and the Coen brothers' own Raising Arizona were all art-house smashes that audiences flocked to as an antidote to Sylvester Stallone, mindless (if entertaining) comedies, and predictable, Meryl Streep-laden Oscar heavies.

When Quentin Tarantino scored commercially and artistically with Pulp Fiction, everything changed. Nothing against QT or his films, but it feels like Hollywood and others have confused the violence depicted in that movie and others with their underlying themes. Now, even art-house movies have to go "boom" in order to be promoted and I'm relieved to not be the only one to notice and think there's something askew about it.

Paste Magazine takes on the subject in their October issue. I'm not sure when it hits the news-stands but there's a .pdf version online.

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