A nation of dumb beasts

Leaving aside OTX’s suggestion that Hollywood distributors need to cough up for a more specific and intensive marketing survey system, there’s a bothersome sentence in Michael Cieply‘s 10.28 N.Y. Times piece about Hollywood’s flooded market for serious prestige dramas.

Cieply writes that “you can’t blame a potential customer who can’t see the difference between In the Valley of Elah from Warner Independent Pictures and Grace Is Gone from the Weinstein Company. Both are about dead Iraq veterans.” Correction: knuckle-draggers who haven’t yet mastered the art of going online and reading about upcoming films might be confused, but I don’t see how this would be a problem for others.

I don’t care that much about baseball, but if I wanted to know about a particular team or player, I could and would find out everything within a matter of four or five minutes, no prob. We’re talking minimal effort for anyone with a junior high school education.

Is Ciepley saying that the United States become a nation of dumb beasts, grazing on a sloping hillside and going “baaah”? Is it really that difficult to investigate the differences and similarities between the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway? Is it that much of a hassle to do a Google search on Grace is Gone and then go a Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic search on In The Valley of Elah?

47 thoughts on “A nation of dumb beasts

  1. “Is Ciepley saying that the United States become a nation of dumb beasts, grazing on a sloping hillside and going “baaah”?”

    No, that sounds like Jeffrey Wells.

    And every time I see that still, I think Cusack is playing in The Dan Aykroyd Story.

  2. What do you mean becoming? Mainstream American culture has catered to three groups: The rich, the whiners, and the dumb, for years now. Sometimes they change it up and accomodate all three at the same time.

    And deep down, Jeff, you must have known this to be true for years now. Anything above the level of obvious will go over the head of 90 percent of the public.

    As the line from American Splendor goes, “Average is dumb”.

  3. Cieply is right. For people who are film fans like I’d imagine everyone here is, this sounds like a stupid generalization. To average Joe moviegoer, who goes to the movies only a handful of times a year, a lot of these movies sound the same. It’s not that people are idiots, it’s that most have other interests that don’t include movies and frankly could care less about them. I know because whenever I drag friends to a movie, I’m the only one who knows which movies are which. It seems to me, that movies are pretty much life and death for you, but out in the real world, people have more important things to do than wasting 5 minutes to distinguish between movies with vague similarities. I wish it were different, but it’s not.

  4. Wells answers his own question: “I don’t care that much about baseball, but…”

    And that’s how some people feel about movies. It’s not about “mastering” the art, it’s about “mustering” the enthusiam. Equating a lack of interest to a lack of ability is ad hominem.

    The good news for Grace is that it doesn’t need the “unwashed” to be a success. If only the enlightened” from NY, LA, Seattle, etc… go, it will be a monster hit. Don’t blame Podunk if it flops. Plenty of art-masterers out to make this a regular phenom… You know, if they go.

  5. Obviously, the problem is that the studios have been trying to market films by using words and pictures, when it’s pretty clear that emoticons are the
    way to go.

  6. I’m a little bit disturbed about the conservative attitude towards these films. We’re fighting a war and have lost almost 4000 soldiers sailors and Marines. It may not be “much” but it’s already our 5th deadliest war. At what time in our history wouldn’t we start to make films about that? You’d prefer we act like no one has died?

    It makes it easier for me to call you guys a bunch of sociopaths. Especially your smirking king.

  7. Yeah, BurmaShave, that’s exactly the argument people like me have made. You nailed it. It was like listening to myself. Uncanny.

  8. Ugh, again? This is growing staler than Colbert’s act. I’ve never seen someone so proud to be “blue” who so hates the common man. You’re not a liberal nor a democrat, but a smug elitist (not that this is any great revalation on my part).

    The more you rant, rave, psychoanalyze, and carry on with this faux activism the less interest I have in seeing any of these films, and I guarantee you I exceed the income, IQ, education, and thread-count standards you hold when judging people socially worthy. Intelligence and wealth are very minor contributing factors to the recent run of poor box office receipts.

    The theater-going experience is dying…couple that with wealth of Iraq-related media to be found on this vast internet you reference, and there remains very little incentive to have it filtered, skewed, and poorly dramatized for us at $13 per clip…

    You sound like a devoted train traveller in the early 20th century wondering where all your fellow passengers have gone…

  9. Burma: Films designed to dishearten the American people into voting for liberals who have promised to lose the war and hand Iraq and 25 million innocent Iraqis over to terrorists and death squads are the problem we Smirking King supporters have with these films — not the timing.

    How that equates to acting like no one has died I don’t know.

    And I’d argue it’s the sociopaths who want to usher in a Iraqi Holocaust.

    P.S. Is Chimpy McHitler passe now? It’s been a while since I’ve been to the ole’ Dem Underground. How things change when I’m away.

  10. For someone who claims to be so “hip” and “with it” it always surprises me how Jeff truly does not understand how probably 97% of the country thinks. And by that I AM including those who went to college, wear high thread-count shirts, and refrain from wearing sandals in public (if they are males).

    Has it ever occured to you that perhaps there is an affluent, intelligent segment of the population that….GASP….isnt as into films as we are?

  11. the industry is no longer run by ragmen and carnies. these people don’t know how to sell. they don’t care to know how to sell. they don’t know how to lure us into a theater unless it’s the promise of seeing a 70s TV show remade.

    But what all these Iraq movies needs is a “Scary Movie” spoof. maybe that would shine a spotlight on all these films – or it’ll be a very quiet theater nobody will recognize the scenes being spoofed.

  12. Dirty Harry, they called him Chimpy when we still thought he was kind of adorable. Now we’re just sick of it.

    Is there anyone left who thinks that us leaving would devolve Iraq into death squads and terrorists? Furthermore, how would that be different from now? And if we’re so afraid of that, why did we get ride of the one guy holding it all together?

  13. “Is there anyone left who thinks that us leaving would devolve Iraq into death squads and terrorists?”

    You mean, like Frederick Kagan?

    Had al Qaeda been allowed to drive us from Iraq in disgrace, it would control safe havens throughout Anbar, in Baghdad, up the Tigris River valley, in Baquba, and in the “triangle of death.” Al Qaeda In Iraq had already proclaimed a puppet state, the Islamic State of Iraq, and was sending money and fighters to the international al Qaeda movement even as it was supplied with foreign suicide bombers and leaders by that movement. The boasts of Osama bin Laden that his movement had defeated the Soviet Union were silly–al Qaeda did not exist when the Soviet Union fell–but they were still a powerful recruiting tool. How much more powerful a tool would have been the actual defeat of the United States, the last remaining superpower, at the hands of Al Qaeda In Iraq? How much more dangerous would have been a terrorist movement with bases in an oil-rich Arab country at the heart of al Qaeda’s mythical “Caliphate” than al Qaeda was when based in barren, poverty-stricken Afghanistan, a country where Arabs are seen as untrustworthy outsiders?

    Instead, Al Qaeda In Iraq today is broken. Individual al Qaeda cells persist, in steadily shrinking areas of the country, but they can no longer mount the sort of coherent operations across Iraq that had become the norm in 2006. The elimination of key leaders and experts has led to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the al Qaeda bombings that do occur, hence the steady and dramatic declines in overall casualty rates.

  14. ” Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and a former professor of military history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He earned a B.A. in Soviet and East European studies and a Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet military history, both from Yale University. He worked as an Assistant professor of military history at West Point from 1995-2001 and as an Associate professor of military history from 2001-2005. The courses he taught at West Point included the history of military art, grand strategy, revolutionary warfare and diplomatic history. He is brother to foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan. Frederick Kagan is married to Kimberly Kagan, Assistant Professor of History at West Point and Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of War.

    Frederick Kagan and his father Donald Kagan, who is a professor at Yale and a fellow at the Hudson Institute, together authored While America Sleeps: Self-Delusion, Military Weakness, and the Threat to Peace Today (2000). The book argued in favor of massive military spending and warned of future threats, including from a potential revival of Iraq’s WMD program.[1] Frederick along with his brother Robert Kagan, who is a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, and their father Donald are all signatories to the neoconservative Project for the New American Century manifesto titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses (2000).[2]

    Kagan authored the so-called “real Iraq Study Group” report as the AEI’s “hawkish” rival to the ISG report of James Baker and Lee H. Hamilton in December 2006. The AEI report, titled Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, was released on January 5, 2007, and Kagan was said to have won-over the ear of President George W. Bush,[3] strongly influencing his subsequent “surge” plan for changing the course of the Iraq War. Along with retired Gen. Jack Keane, retired Col Joel Armstrong, and retired Maj Daniel Dwyer, Kagan is credited as one of the “intellectual architects” of the surge plan. ”

    Yeah he has no stake in the outcome of the war. And Kagan, that’s an Arab name, right? I bet he was born right in Baghdad. Next time just directly quote Rush Limbaugh.

  15. Out of curiosity, which is probably more off-base: A bunch of historians and political science scholars debating film news at a conference, or a bunch of film geeks debating world conflict on movie webpage?

  16. Yes, Mgmax, you might as well quote one of Hugh Hewitt’s endless proclamations as evidence of our victory. Kagan was on his show recently, yes? And funny how he’s one of them dangerous radical academic types, but not a soldier.

    Meanwhile let’s await the next bungled war the neo-cons want to wage while we’re still figgering out the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Victory!

  17. I think we all have a stake in the outcome of the war, BurmaShave.

    I actually knew who he was when I quoted him, Burm, but thanks for the three seconds’ Googling, I guess.

    How interesting that the response from two different people to a leading scholar should be “You might as well have quoted [a radio talk show host]!” Believe it or not, there are still some of us who don’t find the two positions interchangeable.

  18. Why don’t you go, seriously? This must sound like a ridiculous argument and a hoary clishe, but if you believe in it so much, go! Die! For god and country. I’m sure any airline could get you as far as Damascus. Come on, it’ll be awesome, it’ll be just like The Four Feathers! Like you always dreamed.

  19. Dirty Harry: you think the occupation of Iraq is being done FOR the Iraqi people? Like they’re now better off?

    It was estimated last year that up to 655,000 Iraq civilians have died since the occupation/war began in 2003.

    And here’s a newflash: your Smirking King HAS lost the war, dipshit.

    The Dems are simply bringing the troops home – ALIVE. But idiots like you would rather keep them over there because your ego won’t let you admit failure for your precious, stupid president.

  20. You think it was cruel of the Rethuglicans to vote against the SCHIP legislation? Why aren’t you in medical school? Chickendoc!

    You think Bono has the right idea about preventing AIDS in Africa? Why aren’t you helping run a clinic in Lesotho? Chickenrocker!

    You think Bush’s tax cuts helped the rich and screwed the middle class? Why aren’t you starting a billion dollar company so you can pay more taxes? Chickentycoon!

    And finally, if you think Bush’s war is so misbegotten, why aren’t you strapping on a suicide vest and fighting the great Satan yourself? Chickenchomsky!

  21. Dirty Harry: you think the occupation of Iraq is being done FOR the Iraqi people? Like they’re now better off?

    —The Iraqi people under threat of death voted in higher numbers than we did under threat of John Kerry for their freedom. They voted for a government that represents them and wants us to stay.

    Fighting and dying for ones own liberty isn’t something only white people do. These aren’t quaint little brown people missing their tyranny. These are human beings just like us. They may look, speak, and worship differently, but just as we fight and die for freedom, so do they.

    “It was estimated last year that up to 655,000 Iraq civilians have died since the occupation/war began in 2003.”

    – You’re believing a lie. The Lancet Study has been widely discreditted and is only relied upon by those desperate to believe the worst and preening actors.

    If Lancet-Study-True-Believers truly did care about Iraqis they’d want us to stay and not abandon them to terrorists and death squads.

    Oh, and hundreds of thousands did die under Saddam, however.

    “And here’s a newflash: your Smirking King HAS lost the war, dipshit.”

    –Can we just stick with Chimpy McHitler? And you wanting us to have already lost the war doesn’t make it so. Unfortunately for you there’s real progress in Iraq.

    “The Dems are simply bringing the troops home – ALIVE.”

    –Alive, defeated, and thousands dead for nothing. Home at the cost of who knows how many dead innocent Iraqis abandoned in a nest of terrorists and death squads. Home at the cost of only having to return to Iraq at some later date to fight another war with what will inevitably become a terrorist state.

    “But idiots like you would rather keep them over there because your ego won’t let you admit failure for your precious, stupid president.”

    –No, idiots like me want to keep them over there to keep our promise to the millions of Iraqis who voted — so Iraq doesn’t fall into the hands of terrorists forcing us to return to fight again — to prevent an Iraqi holocaust — and because I think we can still win.

  22. “These aren’t quaint little brown people missing their tyranny. These are human beings just like us”

    Yes, your party has shown in its love for “brown people” by freaking out because Keith Ellison didn’t want to use a bible for his swearing in. I refer you to moral phony Dennis Prager for clarity.

    We went over to Iraq for WMD’s. Bush said shit about the little people there. It wasn’t until the lie was exposed that suddenly the Republicans become global socialists…

  23. “Yes, your party has shown in its love for “brown people” by freaking out because Keith Ellison didn’t want to use a bible for his swearing in. I refer you to moral phony Dennis Prager for clarity.”

    I’d rather be a member of the party freaking out over that than a member of the party eager to abandon millions of innocent Iraqis to terrorists and death squads. Let’s see: one congressman offended vs how many innocent Iraqis butchered because we want to lose the war…? Hmmm?? Hmmm??? Hey, I am on the right side!!!

    “We went over to Iraq for WMD’s. Bush said shit about the little people there. It wasn’t until the lie was exposed that suddenly the Republicans become global socialists…”

    Lie? What lie? Was it a global conspiracy? Were the UN, Germany, Russia, and France all involved in the Lie? Because they all believed Iraq had WMD as well. Was President Clinton in on the lie? Because he said Iraq had WMD as well?

    I won’t bother with your “no one said anything about the Iraqis pre-invasion” argument, but that’s another non-sequiter. The stakes are now. Those lives are on the line now. And it’s the left who would remove the only protection between them and a holocaust. What THEN has to do with NOW means nothing. Now liberals are willing to invite a masssacre on innocents and we neocons are not.

  24. Or the Iraqis could just decide not to kill each other after we leave and protect themselves instead.

    And where is this so called Army of their’s that we’ve been supposedly training for over five years? What is taking so long with that? Anyone know…? Anyone…?

    Granted, I’m not an expert on military buildup or history, but I don’t seem to recall reading about George Washington saying in 1776, “Hey, you know what, I’m going to need 5 or 6 years to train an army, you better holdup before sending out that declaration.”

    Whoever is in charge of that should have been fired years ago. There’s no reason why you can’t build up a sizeable force of people, most of which already have a few AK-47′s in their house, within a reasonable time frame. It’s either an issue of incompetence or motivation.

  25. I would have to say that ‘the studios’ miscalculated. The American people are not even following the war in real time. Most Americans do not ‘feel’ the war, even if they are for an end to it. I guess we are a country of apathy and self-interest and we will embrace these films sometime in the future if at all.

  26. DH, you party denies children health insurance here while shedding crocodile tears about the dear Iraqis that you had no problem bombing.

    There was no plan for post-invasion. That’s a fact. As primate thinkers, the neo-cons have only one ability: Destroy. That’s why they’re anxious to start another war with a pissant country like Iran while Iraq burns. Bill Kristol is stark raving mad as are the other PNAC big brains. He masturbates to death. And Bush listens to him.

    And the Iraqis don’t trust us for good reason. Polls show they want us out. See, if we torture innocent Iraqis like we’ve done, it doesn’t win hearts and minds. What part of that don’t you get? Terrorism has INCREASED around the world since we invaded Iraq. This foolish addled president doesn’t even know the difference between Shia and Sunni, but you expect this foul administration to WIN THE WAR. How?

    And how did the French support Bush’s invasion again? The other “coalition” forces have been abandoning ship fer awhile now you might note.

    It’s as if you invaded a house next door under false premises, found out, but continued to destroy in the name of follow through. Madness.

    I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I know that this criminal administration are hardly the ones to trust for resolution.

  27. “DH, you party denies children health insurance here while shedding crocodile tears about the dear Iraqis that you had no problem bombing.”

    Yes, we proudly deny health insurance to families who make 80k a year. True. Guilty. Mighty proud of it! If your party wants poor kids to get their S-CHIP ask them to stop offering entitlements to the upper middle class in the bargain. Liberal idiots denying healthcare to poor children when Bush is ready to sign the bill… Shame on them.

    “There was no plan for post-invasion. That’s a fact.”

    A sad fact, indeed.

    “As primate thinkers, the neo-cons have only one ability: Destroy.”

    Ad hominem alert! Ad hominem alert!

    “That’s why they’re anxious to start another war with a pissant country like Iran while Iraq burns.”

    And you want to abandon Iraq while it’s in trouble. Hey, I’m still on the compassionate side!

    The question with Iran may come down to this: Would you rather they have nuclear weapons, or that we go to war to stop them from having nuclear weapons? You won’t answer that question, because no liberal will, but that’s the choice we may be facing.

    “Bill Kristol is stark raving mad as are the other PNAC big brains. He masturbates to death. And Bush listens to him.”

    Ad hominem alert! Ad hominem alert!

    “And the Iraqis don’t trust us for good reason. Polls show they want us out.”

    The Iraqis, like us, aren’t governed by polls. They voted for a representative government and that constitutionally elected government wants us to stay. That’s how it works.

    “See, if we torture innocent Iraqis like we’ve done, it doesn’t win hearts and minds. What part of that don’t you get?”

    I don’t get the part about “we torture innocent Iraqis.” WE don’t torture anyone. A few renegade deviants who were poorly supervised did that — individuals already in the process of being punished by WE when the story broke.

    “Terrorism has INCREASED around the world since we invaded Iraq.”

    We weren’t in Iraq either time the WTC was hit, the USS Cole, our embassys in Africa, or the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. It won’t go away ifwe leave. We’ll just have to go back and fight again when Iraq implodes into a terrorist run state.

    “but you expect this foul administration to WIN THE WAR. How?”

    We’re winning now.

    “And how did the French support Bush’s invasion again?”

    I never said they did. What I said is that the French also concluded Saddam had WMD and then I asked you if they along with the UN, Russia, Germany, and Bush were liars. But you won’t answer that.

    “It’s as if you invaded a house next door under false premises, found out, but continued to destroy in the name of follow through. Madness.”

    Madness and inhumanity would be leaving that house full of innocents unprotected while infested with butchers. You are the inhuman mad ones.

  28. Oh yeah, here’s my question for those who’ve seen Grace is Gone: are the reasons why Grace is gone really important to the movie or is it really just the fact that she’s gone and this is the story of her husband and children dealing with it. Is that fact that it’s Iraq significant in any way, shape or form?

  29. Oh and Dirty Harry, this has probably been mentioned before, but you might want to rethink your response style…within two lines I had your last post pegged as another DZ special and instantly had it marked for ignoring. I’m just saying.

  30. “WE don’t torture anyone.”

    The case of Khaled el-Masri, another detainee, has received wide attention. He is the German car salesman whom the C.I.A. captured in 2003 and dispatched to Afghanistan, based on erroneous intelligence; he was released in 2004, and Condoleezza Rice reportedly conceded the mistake to the German chancellor. Masri is considered one of the more credible sources on the black-site program, because Germany has confirmed that he has no connections to terrorism. He has also described inmates bashing their heads against the walls. Much of his account appeared on the front page of the Times. But, during a visit to America last fall, he became tearful as he recalled the plight of a Tanzanian in a neighboring cell. The man seemed “psychologically at the end,” he said. “I could hear him ramming his head against the wall in despair. I tried to calm him down. I asked the doctor, ‘Will you take care of this human being?’ ” But the doctor, whom Masri described as American, refused to help.

    Masri described his prison in Afghanistan as a filthy hole, with walls scribbled on in Pashtun and Arabic. He was given no bed, only a coarse blanket on the floor. At night, it was too cold to sleep. He said, “The water was putrid. If you took a sip, you could taste it for hours. You could smell a foul smell from it three metres away.” The Salt Pit, he said, “was managed and run by the Americans. It was not a secret. They introduced themselves as Americans.” He added, “When anything came up, they said they couldn’t make a decision. They said, ‘We will have to pass it on to Washington.’” The interrogation room at the Salt Pit, he said, was overseen by a half-dozen English-speaking masked men, who shoved him and shouted at him, saying, “You’re in a country where there’s no rule of law. You might be buried here.”

  31. Top Administration officials have stressed that the interrogation policy was reviewed and sanctioned by government lawyers; last November, President Bush said, “Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture.” Mora’s memo, however, shows that almost from the start of the Administration’s war on terror the White House, the Justice Department, and the Department of Defense, intent upon having greater flexibility, charted a legally questionable course despite sustained objections from some of its own lawyers.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0217/dailyUpdate.html

    And for the record:

    Karpinski, the highest-ranking officer demoted in connection with the abuse scandal, has admitted she violated the Geneva Conventions, however she said that part of the blame “Goes All the Way to The Top”, stated democracynow.org.

    The abuse scandal first broke out in April 2004, when photographs depicting the sexual abuse and torture of naked Iraqi detainees were released by the world media, sparking outrage worldwide.

    Karpinski said that military intelligence took over part of the Abu Ghraib jail to “Gitmoize” their interrogations, in other words, applying methods and tactics used at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Karpinski, who said she was being made a “convenient scapegoat” for abuse ordered by top-ranking officials, called on holding Donald Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Alberto Gonzalez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller accountable for what happened.

  32. When did “innocent before proven guilty” stop meaning anything to the left? Oh, yeah, right, when conservatives are accused.

    Nothing Karpinski accused anyone of was proven by EXHAUSTIVE Congressional and newspaper investigations. She was a lousy Commander trying to pass the buck quickly dropped even by the liberal media because too much of what she said was found to be absurd.

  33. Tell that to Rumsfeld:

    PARIS—American and European rights groups filed a legal complaint in France accusing former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of responsibility for torture in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.

    The complaint was filed with the Paris prosecutor’s office as Rumsfeld arrived in France for a visit, according to the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and two Paris-based groups, the International Federation of Human Rights and the League of Human Rights.

    http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_7289785

  34. I’m so glad I was out all morning while the rest of you fixed the world.

    “Stop trying to dissect and criticize the reasoning of others. You still have much thinking of your own to do.”

    I let Fox News do that for me, that’s how I became a low-thread-count red stater!

    Let’s see, I quoted Frederick Kagan, you quoted the last three bumperstickers you saw, and I need to think my position through more fully, Yeah okay you betcha.

  35. Christian: Sorry I was at a screening of “Jimmy Carter Hates Him Some Jewzzz…”

    I’m heartened I’ve managed to whittle your argument down to a pathetic indictment in a Vichy court.

  36. But I’m sure you brought the whole family to THE PASSION OF THE JEW HATER.

    And you whittled nothing but your own tune.

    Or more importantly, why did Rumsfeld step down?

    But you go on believing that a bunch of rogue soldiers just went all frat party one night.

    Like Rummy said, “Stuff happens.”

  37. Yes, Iran is a major superpower ranked 16 in military strength right after Canada and Mexico. Meanwhile Bin Laden rests with our ally Pakistan, a country that does have nuclear weapons. Hmmm. Glad the war president is “truly not concerned” about OBL anymore.

  38. We’re ranked #1 in the world for military strength and yet, as you like to point out, were having a tough time with a few militia.

    Again, glad to see you know what youre talking about.

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