Wednesday, February 23

God, Mammon & St. Scorsese

I got very cheesed off when this Bloomberg columnist dissed Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" in a particularly stupid way. Writes Michael Lewis:
As bizarre and colorful as Hughes may have been, he wouldn't have been of the slightest interest to anyone had he not also been a billionaire. If you didn't already know the Hughes story, if all you had was the movie, you would assume the poor man died a pauper. And if you did know something of the Hughes story, you might come away thinking that the main qualification for dying as the world's richest man is to be certifiably insane. There's a dramatic reason for this, of course. People in the entertainment industry assume that money-making is inherently repellent, that if you show a character doing it you risk turning the audience against him.

That's so fucking stupid I can't even believe it, especially for a former art-history major. So I wrote:

I enjoyed seeing you raise this topic recently on, but I have to differ sharply with you over the idea that Hughes' business acumen was glossed over in the screenplay because "people in the entertainment industry assume that money-making is inherently repellent." Martin Scorsese is not just one more greasy producer of reality TV sucking off the teat of the schlock factory, you know. The selective focus of this film flows from an artistic vision that he has elaborated consistently throughout his powerful body of work. "Raging Bull," for example, is not merely a boxing movie: It's about LaMotta the man, inside and outside the ring, for good and ill, unsparingly and aside from all the crap that was ever written about him by the sportswriters. Scorsese, in my view, cares about one thing: the titanic spiritual struggle going on inside his vividly fallible characters. Rent "The Last Temptation of Christ" and watch it alongside "Bull" or "Taxi Driver" or "Bringing Out the Dead" sometime. They're essentially the same film, all of them: The story of a man who struggles with terrible demons and temptations, trying to hang on to what he believes is good and right, his duty to God and man. Same here. The film really ends just as Hughes clears the last obstacle to amassing that enormous pile of money you wish had received its due worship, facing down the Pan Am monopoly and the inquisition brought to bear by its bought-off Senate committee chairman and carrying the day with incredible panache in the name of free markets and open competition, all despite the terrible personal demons you saw him wrestling with. Hughes was a man who didn't give a damn about money per se, but rather with the amazing things he could do for the world by applying it to things he cared passionately about. What more positive view of the modern business hero could you possibly want? You apparently prefer the cartoonish abstractions of an Ayn Rand propaganda novel. The woman could smoke up a storm, but she sure as hell couldn't write a character of flesh and blood. Hughes was a tragically wounded and emotionally fragile man who mastered demons that would have killed you and me, lived large, risked it all just for the joy of flying his own pet projects, and opened up the airways of the world to me and you. He was an artist whose medium was working capital, imagination and five-nines engineering that only an obsessive-compulsive could have carried off. That is why, I think Scorsese identifies so closely and personally with that aspect of his life. In other words (edit this out if you run this), you're completely full of shit.

I hate ham-fisted ideological cliches in business journalism. The topic deserves better than this intellectually lazy dork. Just my personal opinion, but I hope our little rag will prosper because we try to provide something a little smarter than this--no disrespect to Bloomberg (the news organization; regarding Hizzoner, I leave him to Heaven).


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11/17/2005 07:12:00 pm  

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