Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Peter Roebuck, Peter Craven, and a couple of new rules when reading the commentariat ...

Primly, with pursed lips, rather like Gerard Henderson contemplating an inner west barbarian in Sydney trotting off to work in the leftist factory in Ultimo, we had resolved never to mention Lara Bingle again.

But having excoriated the Murdoch minions for their salivating, lip smacking Bingle fixation and visual fetishism (complete with standard gallery of conveniently packaged bikini-clad snaps of sun tanned flesh by which to be shocked), it seems only fair to note that in its online incarnation, the Fairfax press is equally weird, and right down there with the Murdochians.

How else to explain Peter Roebuck's smug, righteous - alright, there's no other word - nauseating, Clarke's choice: love or leadership.

Roebuck starts with a sensible point:

Ordinarily, journos are the last people on earth able to speak about anyone else's affairs. Most adopt the approach advocated by the great Bill O'Reilly, namely that players are fair game on the park and otherwise off limits.

And then of course in his quest to do a beat up about the personal life of a cricketer, immediately abandons Bill O'Reilly.

What makes it both poignant and pungent is the way Roebuck's imitation of a pot brings to mind his kettle past. If you're unaware of it, you can find the details in his wiki, here, or at the BBC, here.

Then read his sanctimonious claptrap with that in mind. Say no more. Sadly we too only abandon Bill O'Reilly when journos stray off limits and need a dust up with a verbal bit of four be two.

And if you're still carrying that bit of four be two, why not head over to Richard Hinds and his Just do what comes naturally as Pup tails the WAG: laugh.

It seems to have escaped Hinds and his desire to have a laugh at the Clarke follies that, if it weren't for the scribblers in Fairfax and Murdoch lands, no one would be troubled by the capers of cricketing clowns, which Robin Williams noted, is baseball on valium, when not, as Oscar Wile noted, requiring people to assume indecent postures.

Laugh about how the sometimes unseemly, always self-serving relationship between agents and the more sensational sections of the media means that, for all the hysterical headlines about a ''Star's Heartache'', the people who suffer most are those young or impressionable enough to have their tastes and behaviour shaped/informed by a celebrity culture now as shallow as a microbe's bath tub.

Well I did have a snicker at Hinds, and an even bigger snigger at Roebuck, and wondered how the Herald thought it was immune to the Bingle mania by printing this kind of tosh in the guise of 'deep thinking analysis'. Ye gods, a Murdoch subbie on a tabloid would go home happy after conjuring up a header "Pup tails the WAG".

Moving right along, from cricket to high culture, there's more splendid reading in the drivel offered up by Peter Craven in Modern Hollywood has forgotten that masterpieces can also be popular.

Producing disturbing signs that French auteurism of the nineteen sixties is still alive and well in Australian academia in the new millenia, blathers on about John Ford and Orson Welles, and deals out hefty blows to Avatar and The Hurt Locker. Avatar's main problem?

Avatar has its enchantments - not least the use of 3D - as well as a poignancy that is like a faint echo of the later work of the great John Ford, translated into a pygmy vocabulary.

Craven then has the cheek to mention how the tastelessly sentimental Academy always goes for hideously banal and saccharin slop like Ford's How Green is My Valley, which surely is like a faint echo of Avatar's sentimentality, translated into a banal ersatz Welsh vocabulary. If you've ever been made to sit through Ford's pile of tosh in a cinema class, feel free now to pick up a stone and hurl it at Craven's glass house.

The rest is the kind of anti-Hollwood bash you might have read in the sixties, when shows like Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus were aimed at the middle brow imagination and scored solid hits.

Oh and there's also a ramble back into the past bemoaning that Hollywood no longer produces The Godfather, and has Marlon Brando around to send a native American girl to the Oscar ceremony.

Oh and then, never mind that the Oscars are, as often as not, baloney, wonder why Colin Firth didn't cop an Oscar for A Single Man, which was otherwise also not singled out by the Academy in any cinematic field of endeavour. Now at least we know who put their pay packet on a rank outsider.

The piece could have been summed up with a header, culture vulture criticises show business for too much show and too much biz. Instead you get this kind of nonsense:

Hollywood - as represented by the Academy - sits back to admire the ''artiness'' of its own highbrow products while putting its money on lowest common denominator schlock of the most grandly produced kind.

It's the weirdest kind of shift.

Shift? When has it not always been so? Only nostalgic dreamers for the lost days of a golden age of cinema can trot out this kind of blather about the Oscars, and manage to keep doing it for decades.

And then without a trace of irony, after putting down The Hurt Locker as a bit of marginal artiness, Craven elevates A Single Man as a piece of artiness with great performances unfairly not handed a gong!

As for the lowest common denominator schlock, just give me one per cent of Avatar, and I'll have an avatar scribble these columns quicker than a pup can tail its wag.

Meanwhile, if you want to get into John Ford, don't start with Four Men and a Prayer. If you want proof Ford made bad movies, look no further. But then it's tough making a living making movies, and as Ford noted, it was a job of work, and he moved on to the next one, and who knows that might be a masterpiece, and that's the way it is, in the transit lounge in the big tent.

Every year there's some guru blathering about how this year's crop fails the test, or the Academy got it wrong, but the Academy always gets it wrong - how else could it be entertaining - and next year the same tale will unfold as the critics contemplate the Oscar tea leaves.

Meanwhile films get made, some are good, some bad, some awful, some like Avatar designed to entertain while picking your pocket (and cleverly done), some portentous like The Hurt Locker (but cleverly made), and some quiet little dvd refugees lost on a shelf designed to bring pleasure to home theatre enthusiasts.

Doing a Bill Collins dressed up as Francois Truffaut is not required when contemplating the riches.

As a result of all this, in the manner of Bill Maher, I've devised a couple of new rules today.

Whenever a guru starts blathering on about Orson Welles and John Ford while talking about the current Oscars, I'll reach for my 3D spectacles ...

... and whenever cricket writers start writing about the pain WAGS inflict on cricket, I'll reach for my trusty hand crafted willow bat, and give them a good thrashing.

UPDATE: just happened to catch James Valentine on ABC local - the joys of Sydney driving -extracting Roebuck's musings and turning them into a pompous port-driven text fresh out of Jane Austen, about the pride and prejudice of Bingle having the temerity to distract a man from his cricket. Gone into the ether now, no doubt, since his ABC site offers streaming but no podcast. But it offers a fresh insight into how to read Roebuck. Try this from Roebuck, spoken in droll Austenish tones:

All of these marriages survived the ensuing years. In each case, the wife had the maturity and adaptability needed to survive the demands of the distant life. As a result they were able to sustain stable family lives and solid homes as their husbands soared and sank. They understood their role, did not make any extra demands. They were the counterpoint that ambition required. Accordingly, their partners were able to focus on their cricket.

Oh yes, a perfect nineteenth century man. Waiter, bring me another port, the Pickwick club is in session.

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