Sunday, January 26, 2003

Saw a couple of movies this weekend. Barbershop was okay, a harmless slice-of-life kind of movie, notable, as you might know even if you’ve not seen it, for one character’s screeds against the modern civil rights movements, inveighing against Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and the reparations movement. Jesse Jackson and others pressured the filmmakers and the studio to edit those scenes for the video release. It’s not even worth discussing, is it? The comments were totally in character and were clearly understood as much by the other characters in the movie, who argued with him, heckled and shouted him down as he went on. There’s not much that aggravates me more than people who insist on seeing artistic expression as prescriptive in one sense or another. There are lots of levels at which you can argue with the promotion or presentation of a piece of art: should a particular book be assigned reading in schools that profess to be Catholic? Should taxpayers’ money support the display of a certain piece of art that might offend large numbers of them? Should there be controls on how available and accessible certain films or television shows or channels are?

That’s a different argument. But when it comes down to the content of the movie or book or painting itself, those who create those things can censor themselves for any reason they want – the realities of the market included, which they do with great frequency – but it’s just silly for outsiders to go to work and put demands on those who create.

A Beautiful Mind:

Finally saw it last night, and this is what I thought:

They did a great job with Russell Crowe’s makeup as he aged. Seriously. Most impressive.

But as a whole? Even without reference to the hash they made of Nash’s life and the realities of his mental illness (outlined here – in short, he was hospitalized many times, not once, his presence at Princeton during the 70’s and 80’s was not as benign and charmingly eccentric as the movie makes it out to be, there was another child, born out of wedlock, and most importantly – his wife divorced him in the early 1960's - they remarried later, but still...), the movie was your typical, simplistic Ron Howard job which leaves no surface unscratched, and that’s about it - no serious efforts to ask questions about Nash’s illness in the context of his unique brilliance and explore what both tell us about the life of the mind.

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