Commonplace

“The plight of the contemporary critic seems, oddly enough, analogous to the plight of the actor. Both willingly subject themselves to an industry whose economics ensure that they will almost always be asked to work well below the level of their talents. It is among the most perverse of movie-business ironies that most Hollywood stars are, in fact, almost as gifted as their publicists would have us believe; but it has been determined that maximum profitability is to be had by using these gifts as varnish on deliberately mediocre work. Our national acting treasures practice their craft thusly: Robert De Niro in Hide and Seek, Meet the Fockers, Godsend, Analyze That, City by the Sea; Al Pacino in The Recruit, People I Know, Simone, Insomnia; Dustin Hoffman also in Fockers, The Runaway Jury, and lending voice talent to the horse-zebra cartoon, Racing Stripes; Meryl Streep in The Manchurian Candidate, Music of the Heart, One True Thing, The River Wild. Perhaps the titans feel they have nothing left to prove. What about younger lights of the medium? There’s Denzel Washington (The Manchurian Candidate, Man on Fire, Out of Time, John Q); there’s Edward Norton (The Italian Job, Red Dragon, Death to Smoochy, The Score). What if market research one day revealed that Americans preferred to see athletes play below their skills? Can we convince Lance Armstrong to stop doing these interminable Tours de France and maybe compete in some shorter, more easily televised races?”

—Andrew Bujalski, “What Independent Film?”, N+1 (Fall 2005)

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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