Thursday, January 22, 2009


This post on the "Ozzie and Harriet Syndrome" reminds me, once again, that no one today who invokes Ozzie and Harriet seems to have ever seen their TV show (link via Dirk Deppey). The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is not like Leave It to Beaver, where father knows best and each episode offers a little moral about proper living. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is much more its own thing: a precursor of both the immature dad sitcoms - like Everybody Loves Raymond - and more "experimental" sitcoms -like Buffalo Bill or Seinfeld (because, of course, conventions weren't as set in stone). For instance, in one of my favorite episodes that combines these two aspects of the show, Ozzie decides to protest the fast pace of the modern world by... staying in bed all day.

I find Jim Emerson's argument that the action movie elements in The Pineapple Express are meant to be read as "stoners imagining themselves the heroes of a movie they'd like to see" unconvincing as a literal interpretation of the movie. Despite all the evidence Jim musters, Occam's Razor leads me to think that this is more of a case of bending and mixing genres than an attempt at a story with multiple layers of reality. Still, there's a lot there to mull over and tease out regarding the way conventional narrative movies mix and match different levels of "movieness".

This piece makes a compelling case for 300 as the definitive movie of the Bush era. Some other contenders: Burn After Reading, 28 Weeks Later, Darkon, Flags of Our Fathers, Hostel, A History of Violence, The Descent, The Village, and Mystic River. Looking at this list, I'd argue that genre films manage to capture the era better than movies that try to deal with current events directly because (a) they act as allegories/metaphors with multiple possible readings/meanings (in other words they're slippery) and (b) filmmakers have more freedom with how they enact/realize/shape fantastic/unreal/"genre" elements than they do with "real world" elements (in other words they're more supple).


Mark said...

I think part of the problem is the actual term itself - the Bush era. Maybe I'm an exception to the rule, but I've never looked at any given period of time as belonging to a specific politician - I usually think of things in terms of the eighties, nineties, ought oughts, etc. I think of politicians as being a part of the zeitgeist, but not the actual zeitgeist itself.

That said, I'd nominate Iron Man, for pretty much the same reasons that 300 was nominated, plus it's all American entrepreneurial ethic and love of technology. And if 300 gets the prize for capturing the zeitgeist, then Team America should get a nod for being slightly ahead of the curve, at least thematically.

Marg said...


Jon Hastings said...

Mark - Good points. And if I were going to take a global approach to the era, I'd have to cast my net (a lot) wider. That said, I can't believe I left Idiocracy off my original list.

Mark said...

I can't believe I didn't mention Idiocracy in my original comment. What The Big Lebowski was to the nineties, I think Idiocracy will be to the ought oughts.