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February 03, 1980 - Image 12

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-03
Note:
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Page 2-Sunday, February 3, 1980-The Michigan Daily

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The Michigan Daily-Sunday

Free space

I like movies

The

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By Owen+
Gleiberman
I LOVE WATCHING movies on
television. That's the sort 'of con-
fession at which film buffs cringe with
disbelieving awe, especially when one
considers the particulars: Is there
anything to like,let alone love, about
watching films on an ugly little box that
reduces a picture to the size of an LP
jacket, zaps the visual quality of any
beauty, trims away the edges of the
frame like so much fat, off a round-
steak, and arbitrarily cuts the whole
deformed fiasco into choppy, 11-minute
segments, interspersed with ads for
products you wouldn't wish on your
worst enemy? The answer, my dear
buffs, is that there is, but first-'to quote
Alvy Singer-we must "establish a set of
aesthetic guidelines." The rest will be
easy.
Consider a literary analogy: You're
seated in the waiting room at the den-
tist's office, about to be shot up with
laughing gas so that you'll just giggle
your blues away when the good doctor
extracts your impacted wisdom teeth,
which, should they continue growing in
the direction they're now pointed,
would soon be sticking out the top and
back of your head, giving you the ap-
pearance of a huge, blobby-faced
voodoo doll.
To take your mind off the impending
operation you pick up the most
palatable reading material
available-the current issue of
Cosmopolitan. You thumb through the
tampon ads and articles on What to
Wear.This Fall until the title of one of
those She-Lost-Her-Honor-And-Lived
short stories blares out at you like a
police siren and says, "Read me!" So
you read. You read your heart out, right
through to the cathartic finale, and
follow Sally or Gayle or Quinn as she
makes her way through the confusing,
wonderful, painful world of men. And
you love what you're reading, because
never did you imagine it could be this
much fun to be a Cosmo Girl.
The key here is context. When you're
about to go under the dentist's drill and
Rolling Stone, The Nation, Paris Match
or whatever aren't in sight, who com-
plains about the choice of reading mat-
ter? (The Chief: "Max, are you reading
Cosmo?" Smart : "And loving it!")
T he same- aesthetic is even more
powerfully effective when applied to
television. We all grew up slogging
away the hours in front of Mr. Tube
Owen Gleiberman writes a regular
film column for the. Sunday Maga-
zine.

(apologies to the few of you who curled
up nightly with Dickens and Thackeray
and cried yourselves to sleep every
night), a medium whose pleasures are
nothing if not reductive. There's always
been more stimulating entertainment
available than The Brady Bunch or
Gomer Pyle, but we watched them,
because nothing, not even comic books,
could quite match their lowest-
common-denominator accessibility.
Johnny Carson monologues, sitcoms,
afternoon talk shows, sleazo dramas
like Dallas, even television news-what
else can we effectively watch at the
same time we bury ourselves in our
hdmework or our crossword puzzles or
chat with friends about the latest blow
to world freedom?
Television can virtually be ap-
prehended with your eyes closed. It's
the great peripheral medium, as
soothingly undemanding as a warm
bubble bath. That, of course, is exactly
what's so Godawful about it-or even
what's "evil" about it, if you're one of
those distraught zealots intent on
saving what's left of our rotting brain
tissue. But since the shows are so
uniformly ghastly, TV is bound to ac-
cent anything of quality. It made All in
the Family and Mary Tyler Moore look
like high drama, and for movies, it's a
showcase, a place where diamonds-in-
the-rough are made.
M OST OF US turn off the PBS
shows because they're blunt-
witted and doggedly anti-television; the
documentaries and discussion shows
aren't conceived for a "television"
audience, and there's something awk-
ward and wrenchingly dull about their
attempts to salvage the medium by
pounding ideas at us.
But most movies, while several cuts
above the average network shows, are
nevertheless a natural extension of the
populist aesthetics we absorbed from
television; they're like super-TV. And
so otherwise unremarkable films like
Coming Home, Papillon, Alice Doesn't
Live Here Anymore, or some of the Mel
Brooks comedies are suddenly class ac-
ts crammed into a medium that just
doesn't deserve them. This isn't a con-
scious reaction on our part; we're sim-
ply so attuned to the crude pleasures of
watching junk that the movies on
television don't feel exactly like
movies, but like great junk.
This is especially true of the older
films. I couldn't imagine wanting to sit
in a theater to watch Spellbound, A
Pocketful of Miracles, a guilty-liberal
warhorse like The Blackboard Jungle
or most horror movies. On television,
they're gleefully trashy, and the little
nuances of feeling are liable to seem
magnified to the smallness of, the

medium. We can react to them
honestly, without summoning up the
reserves of fake emotion sometimes
necessary to carry one through a lousy
picture in a theater. Television and
screwball comedy were made for each
other. Something about hearing the
snappy, cacophonous dialogue in a
Bringing Up Baby on the tube at 1 a.m.
multiplies the movie's natural in-
sanity.Most films from that period are
several large steps removed from real
life anyway, and TV glorifies artifice
like nobody's business. When Grant-and
Hepburn have to quack at each other
standing inside a 2' x 2' box, a movie
can turn from a piece of stylized reality
into a pure, flourescent comic book.
But older films are generally lacking
the visual complexity of the stuff that
comes out today, and the loss of visual
detail on television therefore isn't an
essential one. With modern films, it is,
especially if we've seen the movie
before in a theater and loved it for its
visual expanse and sensuality.
Something like The Godfather is crip-
pled on TV, because it loses as many of
the elements that made it transcend the
gangster genre in the first place-the

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The Games (from a poem in progress)

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All day, they dreamed of the violence
they could spread like flame
shot from jets through the air.
Of course, there are accidents
moving between gladiators
and blindness brings the lovers
toward the kill.
In autumn, birds divide before the games
as an old general calls them good.
I wonder, why do I stand
beside myself, weeping
and rattling the bones ip the sack
I will always carry with me?

My body tells me I am pregnant
with this wrath of war
cheered by fools in bright colors,
drunk with a taste of blood
they wallow in.
I want to shout with my own horn,
"Retreat, surrender."
The stars say falling,
"The devil returns to his own roost
in the sixth jet
above your games."
Action speaks louder than thought.
I am left in the hall
with no music.

The trees do not burn 4
in the pitch of desire.
There will be no victory
for the record,
my wind pushing the door open
as it also laments the field.
How many dead-
will the pther side of light
count this time?
-Carolyn Holmes Gregory
Carolyn Gregory Holmes has been
the coordinator of the' West Park
Poetry Series and is current poetry
coordinator for the Guild House.
She has been published in numerous
poetry and literary magazines and
journals.

Noon struggles with darkness.
Horns play an auld lang syne,
bewildering the sparrows.
Foxfire brushes the stone fence
keeping neighbors apart.

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