Rewriting History

Rewriting History

I watched a couple of movies today that really pissed me off. First, Lady Sings the Blues with Diana Ross smoothing out the rough edges of Billie Holiday. Every time Ross diva-fied a classic Holiday tune, I kept wanting to pull out the a CD and listen to the original again. It dawned on me that what troubles me the most about writing about the history of photography is that the beauty is in the phrasing. The nuances of an individual can’t easily be captured by trends or movements, or generalities of any kind. I was thinking about the “American quilt” metaphor, and thinking that the parts of that quilt are not held together by delicate embroidery, but by harsh sutures of raw bits of flesh. From a distance, it looks well put together, but up close there are rough spots that have never, and will never heal. It’s such a sham to try and plaster them up with cosmetics, and turn ugly or tragic people into beautiful stars.

But the worst re-write of all was Rock Star. A fictitious plastic 80s metal star is transformed into a Kurt Cobain prototype. Wahlberg is great as a 70s or 80s hairy loser, and Jennifer Aniston is perfect as his plastic Barbie girlfriend. But the script! I can forgive Cameron Crowe’s wistful sentimental view of rock stardom, but the arc of this thing was totally irritating. Horatio Alger updated for the new millennium. Some tropes just refuse to die. Truly, truly, bad. Don’t get me wrong. I love crappy movies, I really do. But this abused even my surreal sense of cinematic rhetoric.

Pondering who would win a battle between the toilet duck and the scrubbing bubbles is more intellectually challenging than either of these movies.

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