Interlude—In the realm of professors and journalists: Early today, we were roused from sleep by a gaggle of sobbing analysts.
“Who the [#$%^] is Cara Buckley?” the youngsters sobbingly said.
Effortlessly, we familiarized ourselves with the problem. In this morning’s New York Times, Buckley writes a long, wondrously muddled piece concerning the current flap about the new feature film, Selma.
Buckley’s piece runs the gamut of contemporary pseudo-liberal conceptual chaos. In the course of her 1400 words, she quotes three professors, a husband/screenwriter and a director who positions himself as an “artist.”
She brought the analysts to tears—and we think they were sobbing for good cause. Her piece starts off like this:
BUCKLEY (1/22/15): The issue of historical accuracy continues to dog ''Selma,'' though it's hard to gauge how much the brouhaha contributed to the film's inability to land best director and actor Oscar nods.Is Selma “historically accurate?” The current flap about the film started with that question, which is perfectly sensible.
Blame for those shutouts has also been laid at the feet of Paramount, for opening the film late and not blanketing Hollywood with screeners, and also on the Academy for being, at least as is widely beheld, a tone-deaf boys' club: old, out of touch and white.
In all likelihood, ''Selma'' didn't garner those crucial two nominations (despite earning a best picture slot) for all of these reasons, and a few more.
Last week, the flap leeched over to the claim that the film didn’t garner those two nominations at least in part for racial reasons—because the Academy is “a tone-deaf boys' club: old, out of touch and white.”
In all likelihood, that claim is true, Buckley says. But wouldn't you know it! She never says why we should think that!
In all her 1400 words, Buckley never explains why she voices that judgment. She never says why she thinks Academy voters passed over actor David Oyelowo on some sort of racial basis.
She never mentions all the other black actors and actresses who have received Oscar nods in the past fifteen years. She never asks the obvious question:
Is it possible that Oscar voters simply didn’t think Oyelowo’s performance was one of the year's five best?
That’s a perfectly sensible question. But Buckley forgot to ask!
Propaganda looks like this; so does pseudo-journalism. But this isn’t why the analysts sobbed this day. Their heartbreak came as Buckley tried or pretended to discuss the question with which she began her piece, the question of “historical accuracy.”
As shown on our in-house videotape, the sobbing began when the analysts read Buckley’s next paragraph. By now, she quoting her first professor. No wonder the analysts cried!
BUCKLEY (continuing directly): ''Every year, I know someone is going to call me about distortion of history when we hit the Oscars,'' said Jeanine Basinger, the former chairwoman of film studies at Wesleyan University. ''It makes you crazy when you confront, year after year, the fact that no one understands either the movies or history. We're trying to hold movies to a truth we can't hold history to. History is always someone's opinion.''“History is always someone's opinion?” No wonder the analysts cried!
Don’t get us wrong! All sorts of historical judgments fall into the realm of what we might call “opinion.”
Documentary films involve endless matters of judgment. So does every history text and every historical drama.
That said, is “history” always “someone’s opinion?” Truthfully, no—it is not. There are all sorts of historical facts which simply don’t fall in the realm of opinion, at least until we let the professors present their familiar cant.
Poor Professor Basinger! In her aerie, she’s driven crazy, year after year, when we, the annoying lesser beings, don’t understand the world as brilliantly as she does!
We don’t understand the movies and we don’t understand history! We try to “hold movies to a truth” that history itself can’t be held to!
We don’t understand that “history is always someone’s opinion,” whatever that muddled claim means.
Things were already going badly. At this point, Buckley told us what the cineastes say—and a Hollywood figure by way of Norway lectured us about “art:”
BUCKLEY (continuing directly): Filmmakers and cineastes have talked themselves blue about the need for creative license when casting a version of the truth onto the big screen. Cinematic historical fiction should not, this argument goes, be taken as faithful history lessons. Time must be compressed, characters created and lost, drama injected, events synthesized. Cries of inaccuracy, said Morten Tyldum, the director of ''The Imitation Game”—which is itself a target of a few such cries—are akin to ''fact-checking art.''Doggone it! The cineastes have tried to help us understand the need for “creative license.”
According to the cineastes, “historical fiction” (we’ll ponder that term in Part 4) should not be taken as faithful history! To create the “art” of giants like Tyldum, drama must be crammed into the finished product.
It’s true—the type of film called “historical fiction” will normally run on drama or pseudo-drama. With that in mind, how much drama did Tyldum inject into his current product—the product which is currently paying his mortgage in Beverly Hills?
A bit later on in her silly piece, Buckley deigns to inform us:
BUCKLEY: Charges of historical inaccuracy were also aimed at ''The Imitation Game,'' whose subject, Alan Turing, was evidently not fully closeted and was easily approachable, unlike the character portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. He also didn't single-handedly crack a Nazi code or work alongside a Soviet spy.Say what? By our reckoning, Buckley seems to be listing quite a few “historical inaccuracies.”
But so what? Six paragraphs earlier, we seemed to be told, by the professor, that these are all matters of someone’s opinion! Four paragraphs earlier, we were told, by the cineastes, that this type of license is actually needed in some unexplained sense.
According to Buckley, we’ve been told, by Tyldum himself, that complaints about such inaccuracies “are akin to ‘fact-checking art.’” Throughout her piece, Buckley rolls her eyes at the way we rubes maintain such low-brow concerns.
In Buckley’s presentation, Tyldum seems to think that “art” is above such petty concerns. That’s why we always warn you to check your wallets when people like Tyldum tell you that they are producing “art.”
Can we talk? People like Tyldum don’t actually need to produce those inaccuracies. They aren’t required to compress time, create fictional characters or “inject drama” into their films.
They do so because they want to make money, or because they want to propagandize you, or because they aren’t “artistically” skillful enough to produce a winning script without a bunch of inventions. Then, they send their tribunes out to hand you all sorts of low-IQ malarkey about the way “history is always someone's opinion” and about the way we rubes don’t understand squat or squadoosh about their magnificent “art.”
Buckley is a flyweight. Rather, her piece is the work of a flyweight—or of a skillful camp follower.
Buckley repeats the standard cant which tends to come from our pseudo-liberal professors and “artists.” These are the types of people our modern camp-followers tend to follow. Our modern camp-followers defer to their logic, no matter how strained or murky it is.
Professor Basinger makes inane remarks all through Buckley’s piece. Then, as we near the end of our piece, we meet another professor.
In Buckley’s telling, Professor Christenson tells us that “several of the film's opponents were people with close connections to the Johnson administration.” Their criticisms of the film are “a question of reputation rather than accuracy,'' the mind-reading professor is quoted saying.
That's an ad hominem remark—and Buckley skips a second fact. Major figures with close connections to Dr. King have also rejected the accuracy of the film’s portrait of Johnson!
Buckley was picking and choosing her facts, the better to help us see the world through the lens of the professors. As Buckley reaches the end of her piece, Professor Christenson muses deeply—and we seem to be told, once again, that there’s no such thing as accuracy or fact:
BUCKLEY: But again, any misstep is in the eye of the beholder. Mr. Christensen said that in his viewing of ''Selma,'' Johnson comes across not as a malicious obstructionist but as a man in a tight spot. He said that some of the film's critics may be missing out on a larger truth: ''Selma'' is not education, it's mobilization—it's a movie that wants to move you,'' Mr. Christensen said. ''Its aim is not accuracy, but to be tragically and poignantly clever.''Any misstep is in the eye of the beholder? There they went again!
''That movie is Ferguson,'' he later added, arguing that the film serves as a reminder that Texas and other states have instituted voter identification requirements to exercise the right to cast a ballot. ''Nothing has changed,'' he said. ''That's why Johnson in some sense can't be the hero of the movie. He can't be the white savior, because nothing was saved.”
Selma doesn’t want to be accurate, this professor finally explains. That comes at the end of the piece which had the analysts sobbing.
Objectively, Buckley’s piece makes little clear sense. Its author wanders the countryside, presenting a range of murky claims, some of which seem to contradict the murky claims which have come before it.
Buckley’s essay does make sense as a script. In this familiar script, we’re told that millionaires in the Hollywood Hills get to change basic facts in the pursuit of “art.” When we saw the great Tyldum making that claim, we thought of the one time when Maureen Dowd actually got something right:
DOWD (1/18/15): The “Hey, it’s just a movie” excuse doesn’t wash. Filmmakers love to talk about their artistic license to distort the truth, even as they bank on the authenticity of their films to boost them at awards season.Exactly! Tyldum makes big Hollywood money by telling us rubes that we’ll be seeing a real historical story. But oh-oh! He has changed all those basic facts around, in service to his “art!”
It drives Professor Basinger crazy when rubes complain about such cons! For ourselves, we feel bad for parents who pay giant tuition to have their teen-age children instructed by flyweights of this type.
We liberals! We take our cues from a range of lightweights in the worlds of journalism, academics and (Hollywood) “art.” By the way, why does Buckley swallow this endless supply of misdirection and cant? This is the she was described when she moved to the culture beat at the Times, away from the metro desk:
BLOOMGARDEN-SMOKE (6/27/14): Before moving over to the culture section, Ms. Buckley spent seven years as on the metro desk.According to her editor, Buckley is “able to cover both dramas and tragedies!” But then, as we have always told you, our “news” is increasingly a collection of carefully-crafted novels. In the minds of people like these, it’s story-line all the way down.
“Her editor there, Wendell Jamieson, described her as able to cover both dramas and tragedies: a house blowing up on the Upper East Side, the view of the Rabbi about to bury the children of Newtown; and the quiet battles in many homes in December—shall we use colored or white Christmas lights?” Ms. Mattoon wrote.
Might we tell the truth just this once? We’re silly and pompous and nobody likes us! Progressive interests got a bad break when their well-being was placed in the hands of ultimate rubes such as us.
Still coming: More from our concept-challenged journalists and our somewhat dishonest professors