Thursday, January 03, 2008

Roundup of Year's Entertainment Shows War Only Acceptable As Fantasy Fare

San Francisco Bay Guardian: "While Grindhouse's bio-experiment rogue troops were banished to fiscal limbo, Hollywood blockbusters like 300, Transformers, and even Beowulf — stemming from comics, toys, and cartoons and steeped in the stuff of a distended childhood — turned out to be the only way Americans would swallow warfare. Fusing digital animation and live actors to produce spectacles that would have made Cecil B. DeMille reach for his next merchandising tie-in, those hit movies tacitly acknowledged the war we're in and offered candy-colored, action-packed escapism for the inner fanboy and fangirl. Six years into the war on terror, we can't feel good about imminent outright victory; hell, even the most fervent right-winger realizes, in his or her reptilian back brain and in the dark of the multiplex, that the real-life shoot-'em-ups are depressingly, futilely, infuriatingly misguided. But we still want our war to be a great ride — despite the fact that ambiguous reality finds a way of inserting itself into the metal-crushing, knuckle-skating mise-en-scène.

Picking up the air of suicide-mission doom suffusing 2006 Oscar contender Letters from Iwo Jima, 300 started the year with blood-spattered, heroic fatalism. Like Beowulf and even the tongue-in-cheek Transformers, the Zack Snyder–directed epic, based on a graphic novel by draconian edge maven Frank Miller (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), self-consciously frames its narrative — and its uses as propaganda — from the start by revealing the bard or narrator telling the tale. Here the story is recounted for the distinct purpose of leading the Spartans into battle against the Persians.

Miller may have penned the original comic in the late '90s, yet it's hard to read 300 as anything more than emotionally skilled, cinematically compelling, and blatantly racist support for a US invasion of the country most associated with ancient Persia, Iran ..."

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