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November 1997, Week 2


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"Gareth B." <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 11:06:45 -0700
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> I  dont think there is any real question of  STARSHIP TROOPER
> being set up an ironic indictment of war and fascism.   Verhoeven's
> sophomoric use of irony is so convoluted and overwhelming
> that once again,  Verhoeven's  lack of subtility and sadistic tendencies
> will  no doubt be applauded as parody, since it boggles the mind
> to think that  Verhoeven could be as bad as his films indicate.
This sounds like one part of the exchange between Vizzini the Sicilian
and the Man in Black over the poisoned wine in THE PRINCESS BRIDE.
> But bad he is. And cunning.  Verhoeven's choice of  material
>  (50s sci-f, bad-girl melodrama -Showgirls) allows him and
> mush-headed critics the ability to justify his shoddy execution
> as a form of  ironic commentary.  One has to wonder why
> Verhoeven would choice to adapt  a book which he obviously disdains
> ideologically.
> My impression is that  STARSHIP TROOPERS is a FORMAL reaction
> against the plastic-MEATless  S.G.I. film and  Verhoeven's
>  main simple minded thesis is: WARS ARE REALLY BLOODY
> Much has been made of  Verhoeven's  war  experience and his
> exposure to carnage. Thus, he is positioned as an AUTHENTIC
> auteur of gore. None the less, this  should'nt but the sole defining
> aesthetic of a filmmaker,  but in Verhoeven's case it is.
STARSHIP TROOPERS is not a piece of philosophy.  It is a very expensive
product created (a) to make a lot of money and (b) to assure the
filmmaker gets another job.  SHOWGIRLS was so bad, Esterhaz took out a
full page ad in Variety taking responsibility for Elizabeth Berkey's
performance (about which Film Threat Magazine observed that her nipples
have two settings, dormant and erect, which is more than can be said for
her acting range).
The notion that "shoddy execution" is a "form of ironic commentary" is
naive. No one sets out to make shit.
> Verhoeven's cynicism as a filmmaker is unrivaled even by the
> standards of Kubrick and the Cohen brothers.  With the later,
> one feels at least, as if their vision/misanthropist impulse
> is informed by a keen intelligence/wit that appreciates
> subtlety and restraint.
> What I find most distressing is that  worthwhile films like
>  vilified, while STARSHIP TROOPER will more than
> likely fly under the seriouse discourse  radar. And if nothing
> else be applauded as satire,or even worse be  rewarded with
>  bonzo box-office returns.
Satire?? Hollywood, which presents itself as hypermodern, has a notion
of science fiction that is at least 50 years old.  STARSHIP TROOPERS is
a 50s dream, delayed among other reasons because stop-motion just
wouldn't have cut it.  It's bug-eyed monsters all over again.  This
isn't complex.  Just basic good-guys vs. bad-bugs.
Reading "meaning" into a movie of this sort reflects only on the
reviewer, and not at all on the film.
> It's time that critics and scholars alike realize that the shoddy use
> of established paradigms --be it the dime-store Freudianism that
> informs most noir or the over-blown, ironic posturing of Veerhoven's
> work -- should'nt be used  as a intellectual justification for shallow
> film-making.
Who said they were? It's called a "film industry" because that's what it
is -- an industry.  If you don't sell tickets and make a profit, you're
out.  Goldwyn's quote -- "If you want to send a message, call Western
Union" -- may be too cute, but when you have to write a check for
$50,000,000 to make a movie, the last thing you think about is Freud or
some film critic's notion of irony.  If a movie can be more emotionally
satisfying than HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS, be grateful that the
filmmakers could make it so.  Shallow doesn't have to mean "lowest
common denominator." And big-time success doesn't necessarily mean that
a work has no intrinsic value. Dickens, Tolstoy, and Strauss, after all,
were the world media darlings of their day.
Paul E. Clinco
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