This is from a response I had to a facebook commenter, who in response to the new Ridley Scott, Cormac McCarthy film said that they didn’t want to feel bad watching movies anymore, and wanted instead to have beauty and majesty in their films(as if there wasn’t that in The Counselor). He said he wanted movies with more heart.
Does a drone strike on a bunch of kids in Pakistan have a heart? Does crashing the world economy for a higher profit number in that quarter make you feel better about life? It’s a pile of bullshit that we’ve gotten so soft as a society that we can wage war on the entire world, but all of our art has to make us feel great about our lives. We seem to want militarized movies that are glossed over affirmations of the goodness of our intentions and the value of the decisions we make to sacrifice the lives of others.
Right now the Counselor has about a 34% aggregate score from Critics(22% from “top critics) on Rottentomatoes. By comparison that safe-made-up white-hope-fucking-lie of a movie Captain Phillips has 94% approval amongst critics. It’s a shame The Counselor is getting lambasted by critics, because it’s the kind of movie I would like to see more from Hollywood: Smart star studded insane fests that actually move the ball intellectually. I kinda dig Brad Pitt’s pretty face avataring meditations on life and death, and the choices we make in between. You know no matter what kind of movie you make, if you have certain stars in it, certain directors on it, it will have a platform–I would like to see more glorious audacious messes of movies–but instead everytime a movie like this is made, critics join hands all together to shout it down, audiences abandon them, and the message loudly sent is “sit back down in your chair Ridley, give us ten more gladiator movies, and shut the fuck up. Which I get the need for those type of movies too. But take something like the Avengers, which is a safe, take no chances, corporate logo movie wrapped around tried and true methods of never challenging anything…I mean if you’re going to be that kind of movie–why not have action set pieces that are actual works of art and whose planning and architecture challenge what we thought was possible? Ah yeah, because Team Buffy knows about as much about direction action as a brick of driftwood. I dunno. And those are the type of movies that get rewarded by critics.
The last ten best pictures from the Oscars have been: Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby, Million Dollar Baby , Crash The Departed, No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, the King’s Speech, The Artist, and fucking Argo(actual title). There is not a single one of these films, which were all critically adored,that have even half of the intelligence of the Counselor or take even a fraction of the chances. Even though No Country for Old Men was based on Cormac McCarthy–this IS Cormac McCarthy. No Country for Old Men was the safe commodified way that we prefer to deal with genius. To an extent so was The Road. Both of those were imitations of work that was built for a different medium.
They were at best approximations of why McCarthy is one of the last truly great American authors of the William Faulkner vintage. And why something like Blood Meridian is one of the Great American Novels ever written. The Counselor captures the ugliness, the complexity, and the beauty of McCarthy’s mind more than No Country ever got close to doing. And against the rest of those films–which I know, isn’t saying much, looks like the best film ever made.
Which isn’t to say it is the best film ever made, or even in the discussion. But the for real best films ever made aren’t even in the discussion anymore. But that’s not what I’m talking about really. What I’m talking about is what we want vs. what we need. And how what we want, and what is given to us–is why you have a country where about 20-25 percent of the country are irredeemably brainwashed idiots of a scale that in a more aware society, would result in the complete re-classification of just what madness actually is. You know after the big government shutdown standoff show, there were about 12 percent of this country who thought that “Obamacare” had been repealed? The numbers of people who not only don’t want to think, but increasingly lack the tools TO think are on the up and up. And it’s not kids. It’s the establishment adults who rode in on a revolution and once got there, pulled the ladder up after themselves. The art we have now, like the government we have now, is not about advancement and challenge–it is about holding on to what you have, and the fetishism of entrenched power. And that filters down. There is a seperation of words and ideas that exists now–I don’t know when it started. Was it when Clinton said that he didn’t know what the definition of is, is? But it followed through to the Bush Administration and the imprisonment of meaning as words became the meaningless sounds we used to distract from actions. The backlash to a film like the Counselor is emblematic of the way that we have internalized this war on thinking. We no longer have intellectuals. We have pundits.
This mass idiocy, and the embrace of mediocre luke warm academy-bait is part and parcel a condemnation of the critical apparatuses that exist within the upper levels of our culture. The role of the critic is to reward advancement and punish stagnation. Not to chase web hits by how extreme you can make your opinion when it is safe to do so. There is no risk for a critic in this groupthink atmosphere to lambast a movie like the Counselor. Just like there wasn’t risk when critics piled on Blade Runner in the 80s. But in neither instance was it the correct thing to do. And if that sounds like I’m saying you aren’t entitled to your opinion, I think there is a difference between having an opinion, and as a critic expressing a view which is destructive toward the advancement of art and the taking of chances. There is a difference between an honest critical opinion, and the notion that you can impose the rubric of a set of rules that the film doesn’t even adhere to, and then fail it based upon that false library. I’ve seen Counselor called boring, a thriller with few thrills, so on and so forth. Which is a lazy opinion. Oh shit, the Counselor isn’t Zero Dark Thirty? Does it ask to be? Is there anything within the film that says “we want this film to be primarily about you being thrilled”?. Because I would argue there is not. In fact, the film goes out of its way to make this extremely clear. In another film Michael Fassbender can go all Liam Neeson and save the day–but that is never an option that is on the table. It is never beyond the shadow of a doubt that these guys will be caught, and they will experience horror. The film is about you seeing an elaborate choreographed escape. It’s about now. It’s about how in America we are so beyond fucked, that the reality we live in now, is about accepting the fucked-edness of our situation. There were choices made 50 years ago, and this is where we are now. There are repercussions and consequences to decisions. Realities construct themselves around the decisions that are made, and you don’t get to skip around those realities just because you decided you can not accept that reality. The Counselor is fucking about us, you idiots. Who do you think the Counselor is for? Fucking Michael Fassbender? It’s for you, you idiots. It’s for us. It is about accepting and understanding the horror we have created and the fall which we are parading through.
The steaming pile of “meh” that is Pacific Rim has a higher average critic score than this movie. The bulk of film critics operating today are establishment bloggers who perpetuate a system of safe dumb movies that get worse every year. Who would rather participate in a culture of fanboyism than act like for real adults that have sincere thoughts upon the questions art actually raises.
Critics would rather drool over Cuaron and James Cameron’s gizmos than they would actually really have something to say. America doesn’t want to think anymore. We think criticism is when you write an episode recap to the Breaking Bad series finale. We(both critics and audiences) don’t want to be made to feel anything but better about ourselves, because we are in denial about the core evils that our luxury and privilege perpetuate upon the world around us.
I mean oh shit, a movie made you feel bad. Or it just spent its time talking about shit, rather than blowing it up. Because I mean, it’s not like we should be pumping our breaks culturally right now and talking anymore. Team Explosion Fuck yeah. We’re spying on everyone, don’t talk about it though, full speed ahead. But yeah. Go try and stick to happy fun time movies, as if that’s EVEN what is beautiful. Fake manufactured happiness is not beauty. That’s like saying plastic surgery is beauty just because that new nose looks perfect and you don’t have to think about the way flesh and bone have been broken and mutilated to get there. Beauty is sublime. In its truest state it is a kind of fear. It’s said when you are in the presence of real beauty you get weak in the knees. That is a kind of terror. Beauty is not a US Vogue cover of an airbrushed celebrity trying to sell you beauty products. That is the affectation of beauty. The nostalgia for beauty. It is not beauty itself. They couldn’t put real beauty on a magazine cover at the checkout stand where you buy your groceries. If you saw real beauty there, you would drop your groceries and run screaming into the night never to be heard from again.
To see beauty is to see all of the ways in which we are hopelessly adrift from it. Beauty is a kind of contrast. Beauty comes from our lack of it. Beauty is about the fleeting moment that is already past you as soon as you perceive it, and how we will all die. The notion that you could ever have beauty without misery is completely delusional. Beauty comes from misery. It comes from darkness. It comes from the nature of life to be relentless in its pursuit to fucking kill you. If you feel better about yourself or the world after you’ve seen beauty–you haven’t seen beauty.
Do you know what hell is? Do you know why hell is? The central core horror of hell is that one has been removed from the divine and will never again behold the perfection that they have already seen. There is no angel that understands the nature of God and the divine, and what beauty is than Lucifer. Hell is the mind pealing prison of the after affects of that conception. Lucifer beheld beauty so closely that he became it for a split second, and then thought to replace it with his singular ego–and the fall and hell, are the ramifications of that loss. That is the primordial archetype within our culture on which the conception of beauty rests. The truth of all of our words and ideas at their purest state would terrify you.
So yeah…fuck everybody.