Early Musicals

Still brooding about “Avatar” and the possibility of a paradigm shift coming up, I took a look at nine early musicals recently released in the Warner Archive Collection, searching for clues to how Hollywood managed that major transition. Results are here in the New York Times.

314 comments to Early Musicals

  • Kent Jones

    Peter, there are no “sides,” at least as far as I’m concerned, therefore there’s no one to “discredit.” I realize that Michael was talking about an impossible object. I was just reflecting on the fact that such an idea lingers in criticism, or maybe “haunts” it is a better term.

    Look, I’m just not that taken with the terms on which violence in movies is discussed in general. It doesn’t add up as a genuine topic for me the way it does for you. I don’t understand why the “depiction of violence” is any more or less important than depictions of sex, manual labor, or cooking. That it has been ruthlessly exploited I have no doubt, but no more or less than cancer or infidelity. It stands to reason that prolonged exposure only decreases the level of veracity, which is undoubtedly why the last installment in the SAW series was such a dud at the box office.

  • Peter Henne

    Kent, Again, this is where studies may come in which suggest “depictions of violence,” not all of them but certain kinds understood in some fairly specific way, have a negative impact, especially on kids. I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks so:

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2009-2146v1

    (Please note on the second page where the qualifier “much
    of it in an entertaining or glamorized manner” is used. That’s close to what I’m getting at.)

    I’m not against violence per se and Blake is absolutely right that it has a vital role in dramatic art. WEEKEND, ANTONIO DAS MORTES, and THE WILD BUNCH are three masterpieces quickly coming to mind which you could say are knee-deep in the stuff. But it is the unmitigated, uncritical violence popping up across media, as though plastered on every market wall, that seems to make civilization cruel.

    “It stands to reason that prolonged exposure only decreases the level of veracity”

    Why? Would you say that for love scenes too? Is fiction wearing off, Kent? Besides, forty years of a steady stream of ratings-era blood says otherwise. I’ll wager people believe it as much as ever, whether they are 20 years or old or 60.

  • Kent Jones

    Peter, I hope you can agree that we’re both morally responsible adults. You seem to be implying that I’m ready to throw morality to the dogs. We’re both looking at the same picture, just seeing it differently. I guess the difference could be summarized like this: you think civilization is made cruel by the ever-multiplying images of violence; I would say that civilzation IS cruel, among other things, and that images of violence, real and fabricated, are a manifestation of that cruelty. But like I said before, I think they also offer an embodiment of fantasies of ultimate control and speed.

    In the statement from the AAP you included, the phrase that I find particularly relevant as a parent is “media literacy.” I’ve watched most of HEROES with my younger son, and whenever Sylar opens up someone’s skull or Claire survives a mortal injury, we talk about how it’s done. And that, of course, points to something much more fundamental, which is communication between parents and kids. Parents leaving kids to their own devices to figure things out on their own is a far greater danger, in my eyes, than the proliferation of media violence. Because a child can be damaged by anything incomprehensible with which they’re just left face to face by parents without the time or the inclination to discuss it.

    As an aside, I don’t think the comparison between love scenes and scenes of forensically accurate violence holds. Love scenes don’t require any technological artifice. Which is always going to be noticed if someone is ready to see it, and which is always on the verge of being rendered obsolete by newer developments.

  • Peter Henne

    Kent, actually, I’ve long been impressed by remarks you made on autism, children and Cassavetes. I’m not impugning your moral character, far from it. I’m grateful to hear your point of view, as always, and I’m willing to say we’re at an impasse on this one. Before long I’ll hop onto the Rossellini thread. Whadya think the chances are morality will enter into that subject?

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘I would say that civilzation IS cruel, among other things, and that images of violence, real and fabricated, are a manifestation of that cruelty.’

    I agree about that Kent. There is long history of cruel entertainment. In Japan dog fight, badger fight and other animal fight was popular entertainment until 17th century when forbidden by government. There is also violent wood block print image (it was popular art until 20th century, then seen to be fine art.)So that tendency is part of human civilization.

    Coming to present era, I agree with Peter Henne to one extent, but I think it is dialectical situation: violent society produces violent entertainment, but violent entertainment encourages violent society. Because media is everywhere, situation is different then in pre-mass media era, but always there was cruel and violent tendency in civilization.

  • Peter Henne

    I’m not trying to get in the last word or anything, but I want to thank Junko for putting thoughts together better than I did in the last paragraph of her 1-25, 2:26pm post. Junko, I could have added a film by a director whom I believe you like, ECSTASY OF THE ANGELS by Koji Wakamatsu, among the other three films I named which I think are brutal but also responsible. Do you happen to know any way I can see Wakamatsu’s UNITED RED ARMY with English subtitles?

  • Kent Jones

    Yes, I think Junko states it succinctly. Now, we could look at it from a completely different vantage point and discuss the invasive violence OF the proliferation of moving images. This may seem like a minor point, but I don’t recall anyone in New York asking for TVs in the back of every taxi, or moving image advertisements at the entrances of subway stations. I for one do not want to be looking at some guy from a TV series winking at me at 7am as I make my way on a downtown train.

    Thanks Peter, and the feeling is mutual. What is the likelihood of discussions of morality around Rossellini? High.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘Do you happen to know any way I can see Wakamatsu’s UNITED RED ARMY with English subtitles?’

    Peter, Japanese DVD does not have English sub-title. Could be released with English sub-title this year. There is web download version with English sub-title, but I have not seen it, I do not know how it looks from web download.

  • Kent Jones

    Peter, I might have it. let me check.

  • Peter Henne

    Junko and Kent, Thank you. If either of you have any more information, could you email me at peterhenne@cox.net. Thanks so much.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Junko,

    If Dave K will excuse me, I have an OT question.

    When staying with a friend in Swansea (UK) he had a bottle of Japanese whiskey called WIKKA (sic!) or something similar? It had the head of a Samural warrior on top.

    We wondered if it was safe to drink after a period of time.

    Illinois wine turns into vinegar after a few months hence my enquiry.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘When staying with a friend in Swansea (UK) he had a bottle of Japanese whiskey called WIKKA (sic!) or something similar? It had the head of a Samural warrior on top.

    We wondered if it was safe to drink after a period of time.’

    There is whiskey called Nikka, it is company that has Black Nikka and more expensive kind (I do not remember name.) I do not know so much about whiskey, but if bottle is sealed it will be safe.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Thank you. That sounds like it so I will inform my friend in Swansea.

  • andrewbl

    Junko’s citation of Masumura’s great Akai tenshi / Red Angel is most welcome, as it’s very pertinent to this discussion. If there’s any film that avoids the seemingly unavoidable trap of making war at some level appealing – if only for its adrenaline rush – it’s this one.