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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

THIS JANUARY...

January's the month of award-announcements and presidential primary campaigning. The former are FAR more interesting, especially this year, I think you'll agree. This despite the fact that performers and reporters giving awards to one another is normally the among the most uninstructive of human activities. This year its not just the stupidity of the Republican political field that confers significance on media coverage, though. This year its the global character of the movies. Think about it. Movies are now just over a century old and they've become the only other artform besides music shared--or sharable--by every human. Then there's this, even better fact: two of the movies nominated for "best picture" of the past year are, first, an American film made in Paris about life there in the 1920s, and, second, a French film made in Hollywood about life there in the 1920s! The first is Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris;" the second is Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist." In the first, literature is about to be transformed by the movies. In the second, movies are about to be transformed by becoming audible as well as visible. In both, the lead male characters oppose the changes they see taking place, then each finds a way of taking part in the transformations. Each of the writer-directors displays a certain nostalgia for "the way things were," as does everyone who survives at least into middle age. But both celebrate the core quality of the movie: literally making visible life-as-story. Now that everyone can "film" everything there's the appealing prospect of this development replacing all the old ways of telling ourselves stories about life, like religions. In fact, I think it's the threat of this replacement that fuels so much of the rage and fear displayed by so many, from evangelicals to islamists. Come to think of it, there are already some good movies about this...

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