I was watching Robert Rossen's 1961 classic film "The Hustler" on our PBS HDTV affiliate on the night of July 13th, 2012—the night that I began this writing. It was the feature film on Elliot Wilholm's classic movie. He lauded with great praise the writer/director Rossen, Paul Newman and cast, set designers and everyone but the accounting firm and limo drivers. And then he said this one thing, which is as egregious to me as is it seemingly a bitterly sad statement on our current reality: "A film like this would never get made today. Executives would never green-light its dark and…" And that's when everything "went all black". When I awoke figuratively, I was literally writing the following:
When a great work of times gone by is lauded in apotheosis with the phrase 'It would never get made today', is it an indictment of present culture, or resignation to bow to trends? The obvious follow up would have to be "Why not?" Those of you who’ve read me or have spoken to me have probably heard me make this complaint: in this day and age, where technologically we have to tools at hand to create the greatest artistic works ever, why does mediocrity (and or mediocrity mistaken for minimalism) excel commercially and so often in the arena of critical acclaim? Roseanne Roseannadanna might respond, "Mr. SIDney Howard, you ask a lot of stupid questions."
The old saw is that it's 'show BUSINESS'. Of course, without business there is no show. But for me and many of my ilk, without artistry it's a business of bad shows and bad showings at the movie box offices and retail record centers. The fierce quantitative decline of record and ticket sales and relevance of modern popular culture speaks to that in deafening blasts.
Famously, Mark Twain once said (probably even more than once) "Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it." Well what can you do? This is the follow up sentiment of most of us whiners. The follow up action to that is usually to fall into the default. Every major election, the electorate complains that "…they're all the same…nothing ever changes…might as well do what we've been doing…it's no use; nothing ever changes." I will make a change at this point by avoiding an extension of over-using the famous Einstein definition of insanity. With music and movies, we vote with our money. Look at how 3D offerings have grown exponentially, while human interest dramas have declined for lost of interest—relegated to limited releases that only achieve them sometimes not being released directly to DVD. Meanwhile,
kIDSey DISney-esque Electro-Pop
insta-hits make the Disco we used to besmirch seem like Bach inventions or
Ellington arrangements. Rap started clever, but now is more a means to end up
men (and/or women) of means. What this means is that so-called artists are
shrewd entrepreneurial mercenaries under their "sheep's clothing"—the
five-figure woolen suits they're wearing when they're not image-enshrouded in
wares from their ghetto-chic clothing lines. SIDney
In previous blogs and discussions, I've mentioned my being raised in the Mississippi Delta, and how my mother grew up in Indianola with B. B. King when they were both children there. My first music industry mentor was Bluesman Willie Cobb (he was the "harmonica man" in the Denzil Washington movie "Mississippi Masala"). The thing I noticed about successful Bluesmen is that they would invest their relatively meager music monies in more conventionally sound ventures like barbecue restaurants or "rib joints", as I like to call them. I've grown to figuratively categorically characterize the showbiz money-funded enterprises of the in-pan flashing "done-gooders" as rib joints. Jesus Christ says that where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also. …easy as 1-2-3-4 (Luke 12:34). The telling matter about their devotion to the horse that got them there is whether or not they ride out on him or fricassee him using the family blue-ribbon secret sauce recipe. Which is to say, an artist who dabbles will become engaged with that which most interests him. If "Sucka Brothu, Hate Yo' Mama" goes double-platinum and after that former DJ "Stuffin' Puff'd" wants hence to be referred to by his Christian name: Devin Harshnip, III, Rap was a one-niter to which he'll say, "Look, baby. We was both just lookin' for some fun, I thought. We both knew this could only go so for, didn't you?" He'll "marry" his conventional business pursuits, only venturing out on odd occasions to dally with his wild and loose liaisons.
We keep electing these into their respective offices of senator, representative, governor, president, author, actor, film, television, and/or music producer, etc. And the figurative song remains the same. The onus for change lies with both the artists and the asstistifiedated consumers/voters. Christians are berated from the pulpits for complaining about the filth in popular culture. But too often the typical goodly Godly product has poor technical production values, amateur acting performances, mediocre writing, and is generally so sub-standard that paying the cost of a ticket amounts to charity. If the Christian arts & entertainment oriented enterprises want the support of consumers, who want to and are willing to pay for a great product, all that need be done is to adopt free enterprise when it comes to radio playlists and reviews of exception Indy offerings. Biblically speaking the company "Jesse's" send their "David's" out in the field, while the "Samuel"-consumers pick from the b-stock.
In the secular realm, the "…game is double-same."—Gil Scott Heron
The box-office figures dictate what gets green in greenlightations dictations.
"Hamlet" is just around the corner if the constant success of the
"Transformers" film saga goes unimpeded by their as-constant one-star
ratings by critics and viewers. This one won't have a quiet ending. Michael Bay
I'm avoiding the fact that the things I like—those things that drew me to music, and at one time fueled my desires to be an actor and then a screenwriter—might never get made again in
Sadly make the "Made in America "
motto a sad reminder of when that
was something to be proud of in our culture. I'm not saying that it's no longer
ever the case, but it's even sadder that when those scattered cases of artistic
American exceptionalism arise, they're exceptions and not the rule… or they're
glimpses on a past looking back upon great works that could never be made today—conditions
being as they are in these cultural times. America