Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dueling Criticism

Ginia Bellafante talked back to fanboys and fangirls who sent her numerous emails and tweeted, blogged and in general caused a furor over her review of Game of Thrones, and she wasn't half rude.

Ms. Bellafante admits she doesn't know a single person who enjoys or writes fantasy and opines that there are few of those fantasy lovers "...who worship at the altar of quietly hewn domestic novels or celebrates the films of Nicole Holofcener or is engrossed by reruns of “House.”" Once again she is wrong. I write, review and enjoy "quietly hewn domestic novels" and I have seen Nicole Holofcener's films. As for House, I am a faithful watcher who enjoys the reruns and I understand House's axiom that everyone lies, including Ms. Bellafante.

I agree that Ms. Bellafante was the wrong audience since she obviously had her mind set before she watched HBO's Game of Thrones. She openly admitted in her review that she does not like the current trend in HBO programming since it has moved away from socially relevant themes and toward what she considers common fare in the mold of The Sopranos. "Like “The Tudors” and “The Borgias” on Showtime and the “Spartacus” series on Starz, “Game of Thrones,” is a costume-drama sexual hopscotch, even if it is more sophisticated than its predecessors. It says something about current American attitudes toward sex that with the exception of the lurid and awful “Californication,” nearly all eroticism on television is past tense." With that kind of attitude, how could she write anything but a pan of the series and the whole genre, relegating women who watch such shows as "fanboys?"

Since Ms. Bellafante seems to invite commentary on her preferences in literature and entertainment, I would like to offer mine on Nicole Holofcener's Just Give.

There was sufficient "sexual hopscotch" in Holofcener's quiet domestic drama, Just Give to render it in the same vein as The Tudors and The Borgias. Since most of the sexual hopscotch was portrayed by Oliver Platt casting his considerable "talent" on Amanda Peet's obviously uninterested and petite body, it was painful to watch and somewhat boring, and so was Ms. Peet since she leafed through a magazine while Platt was plowing her furrow, and this from a man who was supposedly committed to his family and family values. Catherine Keener's misplaced and often rude attempts at charity were even more painful that Platt's plowing. She even breaks down while checking out a local center for mentally and physically challenged young people, crying in the bathroom while one young woman with Down syndrome stands outside and asks if she is all right.

Keener and Platt are owners of a high end antique store and they supply their stock by checking out the obituaries and offering to buy whatever antiques they find worthy from grieving family members. They have bought the apartment next door to theirs in a co-op building but have generously allowed the tenant, an elderly woman about to die at any moment, to live there until she finally does die and they can scoop up her antiques and break through the wall between apartments to enlarge their own space. Peet is one of the old lady's granddaughters and she's in it for the money, having already established herself and self-involved and downright mean where her grandmother is concerned. Peet is stalking the woman who replaced her in her previous relationship and talks incessantly about her fake boobs while she wonders just exactly what she has that Peet lacks. How about compassion and a likable personality for starters?

Keener feels guilty about her wealth and privilege and tries to give it away to people on the street. In one instance, she offers money to a black man waiting outside a fashionable restaurant who turns out to be a patron waiting for a table just like she and her family. Constantly apologizing for her wealth while she scopes out the obituaries and whining about giving something back while she refuses to buy her daughter an expensive pair of jeans is disingenuous at best and patently absurd. Is Holofcener pointing up the hypocrisy of the nouveau riche or is she celebrating the sangfroid of the rich and privileged? All I do know is that the movie did nothing to improve my opinion of such poseurs or their false charity and guilt while scooping up some unfortunate family's treasures at a bargain, nor did Platt endear himself by pretending to be the misunderstood husband while sneaking out to cheat on his wife. All in all, if this is the kind of entertainment that Bellafante finds socially relevant, I feel better about disagreeing with her assessment of Game of Thrones.

I would also mention that I had seen Just Give a few months ago and was unimpressed, hence my assessment of it here.

Criticism is an art form and should have some substance. I find Ms. Bellafante's review and her subsequent defense of that review to be rude. As for what I think of the first episode of the series after having seen it twice, I'd have to say my views are somewhat changed. I enjoyed it thoroughly and have watched it twice now. I've also bought the whole series of books and plan to enjoy those even more. Seeing Game of Thrones a second time gave me a chance to pick up nuances I had missed the first time around and I will likely watching it again.

No comments: