Nichols thought he
knew exactly what his satirical targets were.
Posted on February 9, 2008 at 01:54:31 PM by TED
When he had decided to make The Graduate three and a half years earlier, Nichols thought he knew exactly what his satirical targets were. When he had decided to make The Graduate three and a half years earlier, Nichols thought he knew exactly what his satirical targets were. ''I said some fairly pretentious things about capitalism and material objects, about the boy drowning in material things and saving himself in the only possible way, which was through madness,'' he recalls. But the deeper he got into the shoot and the more intensely he pushed Hoffman past what the actor thought he could withstand, the more Nichols realized that something painful and personal was at stake, and always had been, in his attraction to the story. ''My unconscious was making this movie,'' he says. ''It took me years before I got what I had been doing all along — that I had been turning Benjamin into a Jew. I didn't get it until I saw this hilarious issue of MAD magazine after the movie came out, in which the caricature of Dustin says to the caricature of Elizabeth Wilson, 'Mom, how come I'm Jewish and you and Dad aren't?' And I asked myself the same question, and the answer was fairly embarrassing and fairly obvious.''
Nichols — the immigrant, the observer, the displaced boy — finally understood why it had taken him years to settle on an actor to play Benjamin. ''Without any knowledge of what I was doing,'' he said, ''I had found myself in this story.'' And in Hoffman, he had found an on-screen alter ego — someone he could admonish for his failings, challenge to dig deeper, punish for his weaknesses, praise to bolster his confidence, and exhort to prove every day that he was the right man for the role.
By June, when Nichols and his cast and crew drove to La Verne, Calif., to shoot the film's climax, they were so happy to get out of the studio that the several days on location felt almost like a field trip. Hoffman acquired his first groupie, a local girl who would hang out near his trailer and flirt with him between takes. ''Beautiful, thin, a real shiksa goddess,'' he says. ''I think Nichols took that as a sign — at least somebody found me attractive. And it didn't get past me, either!''
thought he knew exactly what his satirical targets were.
Posted on February 9, 2008 at 02:07:37 PM by TED
Dustin Hoffman and his Jewish Persona
Posted on July 12, 2003 at 03:15:01 AM by Eire
Film critic Kathryn Bernheimer writes that Dustin Hoffman "rarely plays explicitly Jewish characters (his performance as comic Lenny Bruce in Bob Fosse's Lenny was an exception), but many of his roles carry strong Jewish undercurrents." Indeed, Hoffman's roles can be used as a trope for the emergence of Jewish themes and identities in modern Hollywood. This section examines the case of Dustin Hoffman, exploring how his Jewishness, how many of his movie characters, and how some of the themes and scenes in his movies come together to illuminate Jewish identity and its role in movie making. Among the common Jewish American themes will be that of the Jewish stand-up comedian; Jewish men pairing up with the "golden shiksa"; the Jewish struggle with Nazis; and the Jew as intellectually and morally superior to the Gentile.
Characteristic of many American Jews, Hoffman is only loosely attached to formal Judaism. Whitfield writes that "Dustin Hoffman's second wife has also encouraged him `to do what I've been wanting to do for many years, which is to become more observant and pass that on to my kids. There are a few things that I really want to do before it's too late,' the actor added. `I want to learn Hebrew. And I would love to be bar mitzvahed.'" While these formal symbols of Jewish identity lay in Hoffman's future, his ethnic concerns are discernible as far back as the late sixties in The Graduate, continue into the seventies with Marathon Man, into the eighties with his Broadway performance in Death of a Salesman, and on into the nineties with Outbreak.
Breaking the chronology, I would first like to examine an explicitly Jewish role Hoffman played, that of graduate student Babe Levy,in Marathon Man (1976). Writing about the Holocaust, Bernheimer--in contrast to Novick and others--notes that the "posttraumatic terror and dread that scarred the culture's psyche was also vividly manifested in a series of fictional films of the 1970s focusing on ongoing Nazi activity." Marathon Man is one such film representing a standard post-Holocaust theme: Jew confronts Nazi and prevails, giving vicarious victory to today's American Jews over those who had killed so many fellow Jews during the war on another continent. In this film, Hoffman plays a Jewish character who encounters one Christian Szell, "a character clearly modeled on [Nazi sadist, Doctor Josef] Mengele." Szell "engages in a battle of wits and will" with the Jewish graduate student. The setting is believably Jewish--New York City--and the story begins with one of intense concern to the Jewish community: "the harrowing point that the Nazi menace still stalks our world."
In the opening sequence, Szell's brother Klaus removes from a safety deposit box diamonds stolen from Jewish concentration camp prisoners and gives them to an unknown confidant. Returning home, Klaus's German-made Mercedes breaks down, blocking the road, and a fight ensues with a loud-mouthed New York driver who happens to be Jewish. The Jewish driver opens the ethnic hostilities by gratuitously calling Klaus a "kraut meathead." From there, the conflict descends into "Jude-Nazi" namecalling, then escalates into inner-city car combat. Ignoring traffic signals and racing through crowded New York City streets, both drivers crash into a fuel oil truck and die in the ensuing inferno, as a congregation of Jews look on in horror.
Jogging through Central Park, Babe briefly pauses to observe the conflagration, but quickly resumes his training. As further establishment of the "Jew vs. Aryan" motif of the film, a tall goyische runner passes Babe, taunting him. Incensed, Babe does all in his power to overtake the Aryan, but fails. (In an ironic reversal of a concentration camp scene, a large German shepard nips at the Aryan jogger's heel.) Babe's weakness and character here are "linked to his background. Babe is nervous, compulsive, and competitive. Anxious and eager, he is also tenacious." Returning home after his run, he is also powerless to ward off the taunts of a group of Puerto Rican youths outside his apartment. In addition to being a Columbia University graduate student (suggesting Jews' higher intelligence), Babe is haunted by the suicide of his famous historian father. His father had been "hounded by McCarthyites," which is but a thinly-disguised reference to the heavily Jewish makeup of those Communists and "fellow travellers" investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Next, we are introduced to the former Nazi. Searching for his brother's lost diamonds, former death camp dentist Christian Szell resorts to torturing Babe by drilling sensitive points in his teeth without the use of anesthesia. Here, Szell is resorting to his old Nazi practices, but Babe finds the inner strength to resist and in the end he prevails. Summing up the meaning of the story, Bernheimer writes,
Marathon Man, in which Mengele serves as a symbol of demonic evil, evokes the horrors of the past. It warns of the ongoing threat of anti-Semitic fanaticism while allowing the Jew vicarious revenge and a cathartic victory. Like a number of fantasies of the era, Marathon man seeks to redress the wrongs of history by symbolically restoring power to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust who suffered terribly but, unlike Babe, were not able to defeat their enemy.
What neither Erens nor Bernheimer note, however, is the gratuitous conflation of actual Nazis with Gentiles in general. Take, for instance, Dr. Szell's first name: Christian. It is not "Adolf" Szell, nor is he referred to as "Nazi" Szell. Instead, he is Christian Szell. Thus, the audience may suppose that Nazi dentist Christian Szell is a Christian, and, therefore, Christians are Nazis, which, though an obvious logical fallacy, may be the subtle message nonetheless. In fact, this tendency among many Jews to conflate disparate groups of Gentiles is not uncommon, as was seen earlier in this dissertation and will be seen later. Just as in recent academic writing there has been a tendency to group all Germans with Nazis, among post-war cultural artifacts in America can be found instances of conflation of Nazi war criminals (and other blatant anti-Semites) with Gentiles in general. While Marathon Man understandably plays out a fantasy of revenge against the Nazis, the film may also be tinged with a more general animus toward Gentiles.
If Marathon Man was lightly tinged with hostility toward Gentiles in general, then Lenny (1974) is positively driven by it. Actually, that is not entirely true: while Jews both real and on the screen are often hostile toward Gentile culture in general, there is a powerful undercurrent of attraction to a certain type of Gentile--the "shiksa goddess"--which is precisely how Lenny begins. In 1951, a Gentile woman working in a strip joint meets the youthful Lenny Bruce (Dustin Hoffman). By way of introduction she asks about his name, prompting Bruce to explain that his original name, Leonard Schneider, was "too Jewish." Their romance explodes. Early on, Bruce buys a roomful of flowers for his lover, and, when he arrives to meet her, he sees her posed naked on the bed among the flowers. "Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It's a shiksa goddess." Unfortunately, this shiksa turns out to be a bad mother (she is incarcerated for two years for possession of illegal drugs ), and Bruce is saddled with raising their daughter by himself, the first of two movies in which a Hoffman character marries a Gentile woman who cannot provide as a mother (the second is, of course, Kramer vs. Kramer).
Bruce is quite candid about his Jewish background and the relationship of Jews and Gentiles. As seen in Part One, Bruce displayed his caustic humor toward Christianity in a nightclub rendition of one of his most well-known routines, One Who Killed Our Lord. In Lenny, Bruce makes many cracks about the Pope and Christians in general, but says nothing negative about Judaism. In fact, he has a warm relationship with his mother and aunt throughout.
Two other minor "Jewish" themes in the movie are the concept of tikkun olam and the role of the Jew as prophet, even deviant or madman. In one act, Bruce jokes that his wealth and fame rely on the fact that the world is so imperfect. If it were perfect, he would have no sources for his cutting humor about hypocrisy and injustice. Noting his own hypocrisy, however, he reflects on how little he gives to "repair the world." In Bruce's mind, his role as "deviant" is clearly related to his desire to fight injustice. Irving Howe called him "a prophet corrupted who ranted against corruption, a lacerated nihilist at once brilliant and debased." Lenny Bruce, Howe writes,
had an astonishing gift from getting to the more tender portions of our cultural shame, prodding and pricking them into red inflammation. He broke past the genteel falsities of social concord, he undermined the necessary surface of social manners. . . . he wanted to lay waste the world, while pleading, when it yanked him before its courts, that he was just a man of constructive purpose, "a Jew before this court." At the end, as his act became an action, his fantasy a delirium, and his prophecy a mere fix, it all collapsed into cold literalism.
Howe might have made more sense of Bruce's sensibilities had he investigated Bruce's views of Gentiles, for Bruce's animus appears most directly to be aimed at the Gentile society in which he lived. Whether he aimed to repair that damaged world or just attack it is open to legitimate question.
thought he knew exactly what his satirical targets were.
Posted on February 9, 2008 at 02:07:53 PM by TED
Re(1): Dustin Hoffman and his Jewish Persona
Posted on July 12, 2003 at 03:16:54 AM by Eire
While Hoffman succeeded in playing a classic Jewish role in Lenny, his first big role came in The Graduate (1967). But is the existentially pained protagonist in The Graduate even Jewish? Patricia Erens thinks not, since she fails to include this movie or any of its characters or themes in her exhaustive study The Jew in American Cinema. On the other hand, Kathryn Bernheimer takes it for granted that Hoffman plays a "Jewish hero." "Apathetic, ambivalent, and indecisive," his character finds that "Love is the (apparent) answer. . ." In fact, Bernheimer compares Hoffman's character to that of Neil Klugman, the Jewish protagonist in the film adaptation of Philip Roth's Goodbye Columbus. Desser and Friedman go even further, asking "Can anyone doubt that Dustin Hoffman's Ben Braddock . . . is Jewish, just as the sensibility behind the camera is equally Jewish?
I believe that Hoffman's character in fact plays out one of the most pointedly Jewish dramas in modern film. Though the movie uses WASP characters and settings throughout to mask the Jewish undercurrent, the final scene reveals the strong sense of estrangement from and hostility toward Gentile (read Christian) society, and highlights the Jewish man's longing for the "shiksa goddess." Sleeping with both mother and daughter from an arch-WASP family, Hoffman's character Ben succeeds in carrying out a Jewish fantasy--literally "fucking" WASP women while "fucking over" their men (or, as Roth conceived it, " This Jewish theme in general, and its specific renditions in The Graduate and Portnoy's Complaint, merit further attention. Here, Roth serves as a useful source for some Jews' thinking on the desire of Jewish men for Gentile women:
Shikses! In winter, when the polio germs are hibernating and I can bank upon surviving outside of an iron lung until the end of the school year, I ice-skate on the lake in Irvington Park. . . . I skate round and round in circles behind the shikses who live in Irvington. . . But the shikses, ah, the shikses are something else again. Between the smell of damp sawdust and wet wool in the overheated boathouse, and the sight of their fresh cold blond hair spilling out of their kerchiefs and caps, I am ecstatic. Amidst these flushed and giggling girls, I lace up my skates with weak, trembling fingers, and then out into the cold and after them I move, down the wooden gangplank on my toes and off onto the ice behind a fluttering covey of them--a nosegay of shikses, a garland of gentile girls. I am so awed that I am in a state of desire beyond a hard-on. My circumcised little dong is simply shriveled up with veneration. . . . How do they get so gorgeous, so healthy, so blond? My contempt for what they believe in is more than neutralized by my adoration of the way they look, the way they move and laugh and speak--the lives they must lead behind those goyische curtains! Maybe a pride of shikses is more like it . . .
So: dusk on the frozen lake of a city park, skating behind the puffy red earmuffs and the fluttering yellow ringlet of a strange shikse teaches me the meaning of the word longing. It is almost more than an angry thirteen-year-old little Jewish Momma's Boy can bear. Forgive the luxuriating, but these are probably the most poignant hours of my life I'm talking about--I learn the meaning of the word longing, I learn the meaning of the word pang. There go the darling things dashing up the embankment, clattering along the shoveled walk between the evergreens . . . I want Jane Powell too, God damn it! And Corliss and Veronica. I too want to be the boyfriend of Debbie Reynolds--it's the Eddie Fisher in me coming out, that's all, the longing in all us swarthy Jewboys for those bland blond exotics called shikses . . .
Then, in a telling confession to his psychiatrist, Portnoy reveals "What I'm saying, Doctor, is that I don't seem to stick my dick up these girls, as much as I stick it up their backgrounds--as though through fucking I will discover America. Conquer American--maybe that's more like it." And this is exactly what Ben Braddock and the Jewish "sensibility behind the camera" in The Graduate are doing.
The early action in The Graduate (directed by Jewish Mike Nichols, "an immigrant from Danzig, who had stepped off the Bremen right before World War II," ) gives little clue as to what possible Jewish themes it might have. Not until the church scene at the end, where Ben races to the church to break up his true love's marriage to a blond goy, does the strong Jewish undercurrent of the movie reveal itself. In a scene priceless for its symbolism, Ben arrives at the church too late; his lover has just pronounced her "I do" and is kissing her new husband. Climbing into the second-floor choir loft, Ben screams out "Elaine! Elaine!" Turning to him, Elaine realizes that Ben is the better choice, and she abandons both altar and new husband to be with him.
Before getting away, however, Ben faces a furious group of Gentiles: Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, and young Gentiles big enough to be the defensive line of an Ivy League football team. First comes Mr. Robinson, whom Ben has cuckolded. Grappling at the foot of the church stairs, Ben delivers a blow to the gut, and Mr. Robinson falls. Next, Ben faces a bevy of blond-haired young men, sparkling white teeth flashing in the crystal lighting of the church. To defeat them, Ben grabs a gilded five-foot cross and swings wildly into the seething sea of Gentiles. Thus, keeping them momentarily at bay, he takes Elaine outside the church and bars the doors with the cross, completing his escape. Has there ever been a scene so that so starkly combines the Jewish male yearning for the shiksa with revenge over Gentile society?
The final example of a Jewish Hoffman movie can be understood once we have explored his previous Jewish movies, for the themes remain consistent: the shiksa, the Nazi-like image of the white (blue-eyed) Gentile, the superior intelligence of the Jew. Outbreak (1995) represents the Walter Mittyesque fantasies of the dominant group in Hollywood. In Outbreak, Dustin Hoffman plays an eccentric but elite scientist who agrees to save society from a mad military man bent on controlling America through biological warfare. The theme is heroic outsider scientist saves society from corrupt and malevolent insider elite, or, more specifically, Jewish outsider saves society from Gentile elite (which Bernheimer dubs "Jews to the Rescue" ).
For starters, Dustin Hoffman plays a brilliant scientist (a "smart Jew"), a role which is not so unthinkable given the enviable percentage of American Nobel Prize winners in science and medicine who are Jewish. In addition, Hoffman's character, Col. Sam Daniels, is married to a beautiful blonde (the shiksa theme). From Hoffman's omnipotent vantage point, he can see what is good and bad for society, and the Gentile elite--represented by the military (the Cossack or Nazi theme)--are a "them" who must be confronted (in this case, a United States Army general, the evil mastermind, chillingly portrayed by Donald Sutherland, replete with white hair and piercing blue eyes, a suitable Aryan). Colonel Daniels appeals to the masses to follow his lead to save themselves from imminent destruction at the hands of the corrupt elite. After some unconvincing heroics--such as jumping from a helicopter onto the fog-enshrouded deck of a ship at sea--he succeeds. Not only does he succeed in defeating the corrupt general, he finds the cure for the lethal "outbreak," saves his dying (estranged) wife's life, then gets her back in the end. Just as in other movies examined here, Hoffman's characters have exhibited a wide range of common Jewish themes. ").
Posted on February 29, 2008 at 11:52:19 AM by LAX
Raised in the Midwest town of Minneapolis, they gained outsider status early by virtue of their Jewishness. Going to Zionist summer camps, they stood out amid the provincial conformity. McDormand has said that it made her husband and Ethan feel like weirdos. And like another Jew from the Midwest, Steven Spielberg, they spent a lot of time indoors watching films on television.
The results, though, could not be more different, not least in their contrasting visions of the American melting pot. 'You've got two problems of Hollywood treatment of ethnicity,' Joel has observed. 'They're either reverential or they can't deal with it at all.' The Coens seem mischievously attracted to stereotypes, and the polar caricatures of the Jew as idealistic intellectual and cunning parasite have featured in Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing, each time played by John Turturro, a Roman Catholic. If you can attribute a moral interest to the Coens, it would be in the myths society produces, rather than society itself.
I think their portrayal of (dimwitted) gentiles in their films comes from this type of indoctrination. Interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, while discussing his film "Fargo" Ethan stated that he thought the character Marge, viewed by host Terry Gross as having a big heart and likable, was "the bad guy" and "not given to introspection." Coen most identified with Steve Buscemi’s character Carl, a murderer, because he was "alien" and "an outsider." Coen didn’t identify with Carl’s sidekick Gaear either, because Gaear "was Swedish and in a sense connected to the region."
The Future of TV
Posted on March 1, 2008 at 02:54:28 AM by James Jaeger
True video-on-demand is already here. It's called: "clicking on a URL and being able to play a movie over the Internet." This is as on-demand as it gets.
There IS however one more element that will eventually perfect the demise of cable TV. That is, built-in computers and web browsers in all high-def TVs.
You will note the next time you are at CIRCUIT CITY there is a merging between the wall of high def TVs (ranging from the high-end large-screen, 1080p flat panel screens to the cost-effective rear-projection boxes) AND the wall of computer monitors in the back of CIRCUIT CITY near the computers.
This is the TV BOYS competing with the COMPUTER MONITOR BOYS.
The computer monitors are increasingly offering not only VGA, but S-video and composite inputs. The more expensive ones, such as the 22-inch Gateway, offer in addition component and DVI as well as USB I/O. Component and DVI are both high-def ports whereas composite and S-video are regular NTSC ports. DVI is slowly replacing component as S-video replaced composite. These PC monitors, however, are NOT cable ready. They do NOT have an RF coaxial port so you can plug them into your analog cable output.
On the other hand, in the TV BOYS section, these screens DO have an RF coaxial port so you can plug them into your analog cable output -- obviously, otherwise they wouldn't be TVs (especially now that broadcasting is being phased out). Increasingly the TVs also have a VGA port so you can use them as a huge computer monitor, BUT you still cannot access the Internet directly from them because they do not have built in computers or browsers, as mentioned above.
Once all TVs are not only cable ready, as discussed above, AND they can access the Internet, through a built in mini-computer and browser, THEN you will have instant multi-million channel video-on-demand -- as you now have on your desktop PC monitor when your computer is connected to any broadband Internet connection.
I would say when TVs are computerized and they have Ethernet ports and/or WIFI cards in them, you will then see the total demise of CATV.
But surprise: the manufactures are hesitating to offer this. No wonder, as SONY, one of the major MPAA studio/distributors, also happens to be one of the world's most influential hardware manufacturers. I wager it is also because of them that it took so long for plasma and LCD TVs to hit the market (at reasonable prices) as they didn't want their domestic theatrical box office undermined. And surprise, again, this is exactly what has happened as the Hollywood BO has been off for several successive years.
IMO, the studios' only remedy for this is to bring back the double-bill show and lower ticket prices slightly. No one wants to pay $10 to see a movie. But if one paid say $8 to see a movie, and then they were free to watch another one right after that, if they wanted, it would make the movie theater experience all the more appealing and competitive with the homevideo and cable markets: $4 per movie in a state-of-the-art house -- AND multi-million dollar movie theaters ARE still orders of magnitude better than home theaters.
Posted on March 24, 2008 at 03:24:51 PM by James Jaeger
This article may explain why Hollywood studios refused to fund our STALIN'S BACK ROOM project.
Hollywood's Missing Movies
Why American films have ignored life under communism.
Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley | June 2000
Every so often someone in Hollywood uses his power to break the movie colony's rules. Consider this year's Total Eclipse. Odd as it may seem, this is the first serious American film set against the background of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact, the deal that allied Europe's two totalitarian powers against the West and helped plunge the world into war. With an ally on the eastern front, Hitler sent his Panzers west while Stalin helped himself to the Baltic states and invaded Finland. A film like this could easily have turned out as big a didactic dud as the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's 1982 bomb, Inchon, with Laurence Olivier as Gen. Douglas MacArthur. But this time the verisimilitude of the script, carried by some outstanding performances, is the source of the film's dramatic power.
Dustin Hoffman's persuasive portrayal of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin obviously emerges from his close study of how power and perversity converged in the dictator. Likewise, Jurgen Prochnow sparkles as Hitler's foreign minister, Joachim Von Ribbentrop, and so does Robert Duvall as Vyacheslav Molotov, his Soviet counterpart. Duvall's delivery of Molotov's line that "fascism is a matter of taste" is a key moment, and deserves at least as much admiration as Duvall's famous quip from Apocalypse Now about the smell of napalm in the morning. The Molotov speech has drawn some objections for being over the top, but it was not invented by screenwriter William Goldman (Marathon Man); it's an actual quote.
The sheer unexpectedness of the film is almost as shocking as its content. In one of the film's more chilling sequences, the Soviets hand over a number of German Communists, Jews who had taken refuge in Moscow, to the Gestapo. Modern audiences may find this surprising, but that incident too is taken from the historical record. Indeed, former KGB officials are credited as advisers on the film, whose cast also includes some of their actual victims.
There has simply been nothing like it on the screen in six decades. It has taken that long for moviegoers to see Soviet forces invading Poland and meeting their Nazi counterparts. Audiences would likely be similarly surprised by cinematic treatments of Cuban prisons, the Khmer Rouge genocide, and the bloody campaigns of Ethiopia's Stalinist Col. Mengistu, all still awaiting attention from Hollywood.
Total Eclipse is rated PG-13 for violence, particularly graphic in some of the mass murder scenes, images of starving infants from Stalin's 1932 forced famine in the Ukraine, and the torture of dissidents. Director Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List) deftly cuts from the Moscow trials to the torture chambers of the Lubyanka. More controversial are the portrayals of American communists during the period of the Pact. They are shown here picketing the White House, calling President Roosevelt a warmonger, and demanding that America stay out of the "capitalist war" in Europe. Harvey Keitel turns in a powerful performance as American Communist boss Earl Browder, and Linda Hunt brings depth to Lillian Hellman, who, when Hitler attacks the USSR in September of 1939, actually did cry out, "The motherland has been invaded."
Painstakingly accurate and filled with historical surprises, this film is so refreshing, so remarkable, that even at 162 minutes it seems too short.
Never heard of Total Eclipse? It hasn't been produced or even written. In all likelihood, such a film has never even been contemplated, at least in Hollywood. Indeed, in the decade since the Berlin Wall fell, or even the decade before that, no Hollywood film has addressed the actual history of communism, the agony of the millions whose lives were poisoned by it, and the century of international deceit that obscured communist reality. The simple but startling truth is that the major conflict of our time, democracy versus Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism--what The New York Times recently called "the holy war of the 20th century"--is almost entirely missing from American cinema. It is as though since 1945, Hollywood had produced little or nothing about the victory of the Allies and the crimes of National Socialism. This void is all the stranger since the major conflict of our time would seem to be a natural draw for Hollywood.
Balance of article at:
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 09:08:19 PM by John Cones
Contact: John Cones Date: April 25, 2008
Los Angeles – Twenty-year Los Angeles-based securities/entertainment attorney, author and lecturer John Cones today accused New York Publisher Peter Lang, the publisher’s Managing Director Chris Myers and Acquisitions Editor Mary Savigar of dishonest bullying tactics and other disreputable business practices as the publisher sought to force Cones to remove a small amount of language from his most recent book (contracted to be published by Peter Lang) which the publisher alleged to be anti-Semitic but failed to show the language was anything more than bona fide criticism of the business practices of the Hollywood establishment.
Cones, the author of five other published books about the film industry including Hollywood Wars: How Insiders Gained and Maintain Illegitimate Control Over the Film Industry (Marquette Books, 2007), claims that not only did Peter Lang fail to demonstrate that the language was actually anti-Semitic, they did not even make any effort to do so. They simply said we think the language is anti-Semitic and it has to be removed or the book will not be published. Cones tried to get the publisher to explain exactly what language they thought was anti-Semitic, to share with him which of the many available authoritative definitions of anti-Semitism they were using and how such specific language actually exhibited all of the required elements of such a definition, but they refused to even discuss the substance of the matter with him.
Cones believes the actions of the publisher’s employees were both highly unethical and dishonest while partly designed to protect American film students all across the country (one of the target audiences for the book) from learning the truth about Hollywood, before they make a decision that might result in a waste of their professional lives, since as Cones says: “nepotism, cronyisn, favoritism and other forms of reverse discrimination are common in the film industry”. In addition, he says the publisher’s actions amount to another use of the anti-Semitic sword (the affirmative use of the false allegation of anti-Semitism designed to distract from the truth) which has also been used in Hollywood over the years to squelch criticism. He said that in the book which was to be entitled: Motion Pictures: A Complete Guide to the Industry, in a chapter discussing problems with the Hollywood-based film industry, he simply pointed out that the most accurate description of the Hollywood control group for more than 100 years is that they are “politically liberal, not very religious, Jewish males of European heritage”. He further cited at least 30 books and articles in support of that view which he also claims is not really new information. He has simply been more precise than other authors in describing who really runs Hollywood. He further contends that there is nothing anti-Semitic about disclosing such factual information. In fact, he asked the publisher to demonstrate that any statement made in the book was false and again they did not respond to the challenge. Instead they just refused to publish the book.
The entire transcript of e-mails exchanged between Cones and Peter Lang’s Savigar and Myers showing what Cones believes is a consistent pattern of irresponsible behavior on the part of the publisher and its employees has been posted on the Internet at http://www.homevideo.net/FIRM/rotten1.htm. A summarizing article appears at http://www.homevideo.net/FIRM/rotten2.htm. The book in its final draft stages with the final editorial corrections provided by Cones is also available to reporters upon request (and to other publishers).
Re(1): NY Publisher
Posted on April 30, 2008 at 06:56:11 PM by Ray Carney
Please feel free to use my name, title, university affiliation, and web site url in support of your protest. Or feel free to post any of the following comments:
I feel your pain. The entire film commentary system is a vast network of flatterers, sycophants, and terrified minions, peons, pawns, and collaborators in flight from reality. When my Faber book (Cassavetes on Cassavetes) was going through galleys, the publisher asked me to take out some truths about Martin Scorsese for fear of "alienating one of our biggest supporters." That is what film publishing is all about: sucking up to big-name stars, directors, and producers. Or at least never daring to say anything that might upset them. Your note to me asks: Should film students be protected from the truth? Well, you probably know how my own university would answer that question. I assume you are aware of how the Boston University Department of Film and Television tried to shut down my www.Cassavetes.com web site because some to the postings got a little too "relevant." I dared to speculate on how students might get a better education in other fields of study, dared to suggest that Hollywood was not the center of the universe, dared to suggest how courses and curricula could be improved, dared to compare many film production courses to learning auto mechanics. In response, I was screamed at in public, abused and name-called, and subjected to ceremonies of public dressing-down for saying what I did. My Chairman presided over hours of department meetings where colleagues shouted at me and attacked my morals and character for writing or saying things like that. Humankind cannot take much reality, as T.S. Eliot says. So if you can't say it in your book, I'll say it for you here and now: Over the past 100 years, Hollywood, by and large, with a only a few notable exceptions, has been run by politically liberal, not very religious, Jewish males. That is not the only important fact about Hollywood, and maybe it is not even the most important fact about Hollywood (which, in my view, might be the selfishness, superficiality, and materialism of the corporate and social culture and the greed and ruthless competitiveness of the individuals who work in that culture and have used their power and influence to shape and promote its products); but it is a fact. An indisputable fact that, along with other facts, is important to understanding what has gone terribly wrong with mainstream American movies and the values they so powerfully transmit to the rest of American culture. It is a sick system in too many ways to itemize in an email, and your (and to a lesser degree my) struggles are, unfortunately, only more illustrations of the sickness of the whole rotten, sycophantic, money-hungry system. But I would, no doubt, be chastised by my colleagues for saying this to Los Angeles-bound film students. It might hurt enrollments on our L.A. campus. It might force students to re-think their courses of study. It might force faculty to re-think how they teach film. But humankind cannot take much reality.
Sincere best wishes,
Ray Carney, Prof. of Film and American Studies
Author: Cassavetes on Cassavetes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Faber and Faber); Shadows (British Film Institute/University of California Press); John Cassavetes: The Adventure of Insecurity; The Films of Mike Leigh (Cambridge University Press); The Films of Frank Capra (Wesleyan University Press); Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer (Cambridge University Press); The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism, and the Movies (Cambridge University Press), and other works
Ray Carney's web site--"The Independent Film Pages"
Ray Carney's blog--"Necessary Experiences: Why Art Matters"