The miasma of “truth” in art

I have pretty much nothing to say about the Academy Awards and the current wave of “political” films that are winning all the awards, which manage to surpass even the Passion of the Christ/Fahrenheit 9-11 brouhaha from a couple of years ago for phony hype. But I will say that this little piece by Annie Proulx, the writer of the original Brokeback Mountain story, makes a couple of valid points, despite being what she acknowledges to be a “Sour Grapes Rant” and even though I find it very entertaining when representatives of competing politically correct interest groups try to brand each other intolerant reactionaries (Crash is apparently the pick of “conservative” yokels). But she does bring up a good point about Hollywood acting which I’ve never been able to understand:

“Hollywood loves mimicry, the conversion of a film actor into the spittin’ image of a once-living celeb. But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page?”

And it’s true–almost every year the biggest accolades get heaped on actors and actresses in biopics that manage to do the most convincing mimic jobs of real people with whom everyone is familiar. My theory is that no one would be able to get away with portraying an invented character like Truman Capote–everyone would criticize it as a gross caricature of homosexual intellectuals. And to me this speaks to a larger problem in the arts today, that no one is willing to accept anything the least bit out of the ordinary as “realistic” unless they have the assurance that it actually happened. That’s the real issue lurking in the background of the James Frey cases of the world. And when you have an overly bounded view of representational art, this is what rules–celebrity impersonations and fake “memoirs.”

p.s. Despite the sour grapes angle, and pace Slavoj Zizek, I agree with Proulx that Crash was “a safe pick of ‘controversial film,'” simply because homophobia is an acceptable mainstream attitude (at least in some parts of the country) in a way that racism isn’t. There is no way that prominent religious leaders and politicians could away with ranting about the evils of the dark races or whatever the way that many do about homosexuality. So the film honchos manage to basically insult America with their “best picture” award, and yet amazingly hedge their bets by honoring a film that whips yet again the shebboloth that dares not speak its name rather than one for which conservatives are still willing to rush to the barricades. Sanctimonious marketing at its finest.

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