June 21, 2007

"Meretricious prose whose pretense at arch sophistication has become a schlock art form, the written equivalent of a Leroy Neiman nude."

Although that particular phrase comes damned close to being the thing it purports to criticize, the article from whence it comes -- "The worst celebrity profile ever written?" -- is hilarious.
Consider his opening paragraph. Facing a full-page, full-length "classy" cheesecake picture of an unclothed Angelina with a wispy silvery sheet clutched between her thighs, we find this piece of ... prose:
This is a 9/11 story. Granted it's also a celebrity profile—well, a profile of Angelina Jolie—and so calling it a 9/11 story may sound like a stretch. But that's the point. It's a 9/11 story because it's a celebrity profile—because celebrities and their perceived power are a big part of the strange story of how America responded to the attacks upon it. And no celebrity plays a bigger role in that strange story than Angelina Jolie.
So, it's a 9/11 story. That's heavy, dude. And it's a 9/11 story because, um, because, well, celebrities—which were a totally unknown phenomenon before 9/11, as everyone knows—are a 9/11 phenomenon, and Angelia Jolie is a celebrity. A stunning concatenation of insights!
You have to take into account that it's Esquire magazine. It might make sense to write like that within that context. It has a long literary tradition -- they used to publish Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Dorothy Parker -- and they've got some concept of preserving it, I think. It plays out in weird ways sometimes.

Personal notes: 1. I used to have a job -- back in the 1970s -- that included -- among other things -- reading Esquire magazine. 2. I've never seen Angelina Jolie in a movie, never even vaguely contemplated going to one of her movies.

30 comments:

vet66 said...

The hilarious, yet pitiful, theme of schlock art form is that Hollywood types actually believe it.

Funny how quick the studios changed her tune after her recent brouhaha with the press. I would not say Leroy Neiman nude, I would characterize it as a Salvador Dali nude dripping off the reality horizon.

Too Cool for School said...

Gia was good.

Zach said...

Ron Rosenbaum has written a column called the Edgy Enthusiast for several years. He uses the techniques of literary close-reading to analyze the wild-eyed fringe elements of culture -- he did a neat article on laetrile, and on the phone phreaker phenomenon. He would be quite at home writing about the symbolic meaning of onion rings in a Clinton campaign commercial.

So while "meretricious prose whose pretense at arch sophistication has become a schlock art form, the written equivalent of a Leroy Neiman nude" would be bordering on self-parody for most writers, Rosenbaum not only means it, he supports it.

wpatterson3 said...

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here!
This is the War Room."

shadow said...

"I've never seen Angelina Jolie in a movie, never even vaguely contemplated going to one of her movies."

I'm curious about that comment.

She's made some wonderful movies. Like all actors she's been in some dogs (Tomb Raider), but whatever anyone thinks of her personally, she's a terrific actress. She has a knack for injecting a tremendous amount of heart and depth into a character that is a wild, uncontrolled, free spirit.

Girl, Interrupted is a good example.

George said...

A sub-genre of the celeb profile is the InStyle celebrity charity profile in which we learn that a certain star supports the cure for some obscure disease with her time and money...usually by throwing a garden party.

You have to go back to the early 1970s to find a celeb profile that actually tells you anything about anything except the cafe where the interview took place and how fabulous the star looked.

This Gay Talese profile of Sinatra is a classic...
http://www.dalekeiger.com/wp-content/FrankSinatraHasaCold.pdf

The best celeb feature I've seen in recent memory was a LA Free Press (?) extensive report on the cover-up following Eddie Murphy's transexual hooker interlude

It's also said, he sleazily wrote, that stars grant rags like the Enquirer access for harmless cover stories in return for the publication not publishing the real dirt.

dbp said...

I think they are trying to tie her to 9-11 because she is playing the wife of Daniel Pearl in a new film.

Just looked it up: "A Mighty Heart"

George said...

A sub-genre of the celeb profile is the InStyle celebrity charity profile in which we learn that a certain star supports the cure for some obscure disease with her time and money...usually by throwing a garden party.

You have to go back to the early 1970s to find a celeb profile that actually tells you anything about anything except the cafe where the interview took place and how fabulous the star looked.

This Gay Talese profile of Sinatra is a classic...
http://www.dalekeiger.com/wp-content/FrankSinatraHasaCold.pdf

The best celeb feature I've seen in recent memory was a LA Free Press (?) extensive report on the cover-up following Eddie Murphy's transexual hooker interlude

It's also said, he sleazily wrote, that stars grant rags like the Enquirer access for harmless cover stories in return for the publication not publishing the real dirt.

As for Jolie and Pitt, I'd love to learn how many servants and nannies help them care for their 4 kids. There's a ridiculously airbrushed quote in the Esqy. piece in which she says that she and Brad never fight over anything. Sure.

Tim said...

The article feels like September 10th.

B said...

Jolie is not an "idiot actress"

She is an excellent actress who happens to be, on occasion, an idiot.

Or is it that she is an idiot, who occasionally happens to be an actress?

But, who can blame her completely? The way the mainstream press handles entertainment people as opposed to how it handles people in political life - or even sports figures for that matter - is a national disgrace. The butt-kissing-of-celebrity media does damage to the core of what it means to be an American.

PatCA said...

Jolie is indeed a very good actress. I first saw her in a TV biopic of George Wallace--she was amazing. But now her persona is so overwhelming and offensive to me that I don't see her movies, like A Mighty Heart. For one thing, the accent sounds silly. And for another, it sounds like an agenda film.

Roost on the Moon said...

Jon Stewart recently put her on the spot when she was talking about trying on a burka.

"Could it contain your hotness? It couldn't, could it."

Luckyoldson said...

ann says: "I've never seen Angelina Jolie in a movie, never even vaguely contemplated going to one of her movies."

and the reason being?

Luckyoldson said...

dbp said..."I think they are trying to tie her to 9-11 because she is playing the wife of Daniel Pearl in a new film."

Just looked it up: "A Mighty Heart"

you've got to be kidding...the film has been discussed for weeks on end, and given outstanding reviews . whether you agree with jolie's politics or not, she's considered a very good actress and has already won an academy award.

*and by the way, she was friends with pearl's wife before ever being cast in the role.

Luckyoldson said...

patca,
and what do you think the "agenda" of the film is?

*this ought to be good

Jeff said...

Don't drag Hemingway et. al into this! As Dorothy Parker wrote in a different context, "Gentle reader fwow up."

Drew W said...

I don't read Esquire -- although I do flip through their Dubious Achievement Awards issue if it and I happen to be in a doctor's waiting room at the same time -- so the likelihood of me intersecting with this Angelina Jolie article are just about nil.

I thought that I, too, had never seen an Angelina Jolie movie. Then I remembered that I'd seen her in Hackers in 1995. And it's hard to remember much from this movie -- aside from the luminously beautiful teenager they cast as its female lead. (And I never even sought out Gia, despite the hot model-on-junkie-model action it promised.)

An even better Slate media takedown was Bruce Reed's Christmas With The Romneys (from Wednesday), which described in fascinating detail the new Mitt Romney campaign commercial that purports to show the Romneys at home and unscripted, as they debate whether Mitt should make a Presidential run. I've been half-interested in watching the thing, but I'll admit I'm a little scared.

Ann Althouse said...

"and the reason being?"

What film of hers do you think is the sort of thing I might be interested in? I checked the list on IMDB. She just hasn't made anything I would care about. I know she's supposed to be good.

Revenant said...

What film of hers do you think is the sort of thing I might be interested in? I checked the list on IMDB.

She's kind of a female Gene Hackman -- an actor who is almost always great, and almost always in movies which are anything but.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Is it that she rises above the material, or that she chooses material easy to rise above?

blake said...

She's never been in a really good movie. But she's been really good in a number of mediocre movies.

In Sky Captain, you're sitting wondering if the sort of weird disconnect you feel watching Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law is because of the entirely artificial nature of the film, and then she shows up, steals the movie and vanishes after about five minutes.

What won me over to her ability was, in fact, Tomb Raider. She breathes life into a cartoon character. If they were going to have a female James Bond, that'd be her.

That said, I generally don't go see her movies, since they're usually exercises in disappointment and wasted potential.

Ann Althouse said...

The difference is that Gene Hackman has been in lots of great movies that would interest me. ("Royal Tenenbaums," "Bonnie and Clyde," etc. etc.) He has good taste apparently.

amba said...

The New Yorker critic Anthony Lane says she's far from bad -- self-effacing -- in "A Mighty Heart."

amba said...

Here's Lane's review.

Fen said...

She's the hottest female actress these days. And her acting is not so bad, but most males will admit they are drawn top her more because she is sexy than anything else.

I think she made some stupid poltical comment. Wish she would avoid that, as it ruins the fantasy.

Fen said...

/drawn to her more because she is sexy than anything else.

paul a'barge said...

Angelina

Never saw the good shepherd?

To me she falls in the same category as Sean Penn: a very talented and skilled actor with the real-world knowledge of an ant.

Good actress though.

blake said...

Fen,

Actually, I've always thought she was sort of odd looking, and I think she overcomes that with acting. If I were just (or even primarily) interested in her looks, it would be hard to be disappointed with "Tomb Raider".

Sort of the same way with Sarah Jessica Parker (though to a lesser and different degree). She makes a lot out of what she has.

amba said...

Good actors, at least good American movie actors, are like empty sleeves. When they are being themselves, they're usually extraordinarily vapid, but they have the strange gift of inviting possession by characters of much more intelligence, bite and complexity than themelves.

Therefore, the less I know about an actor's "real self" and "real life," the more I can enjoy his or her performances, and if I ever enjoy an actor's performance and want to again, I go out of my way not to read about his/her personal life.

Kirk said...

B,

The latter, definitely.

Remember how intelligent we all thought Meryl Streep was (or, at least, that's what the press kept telling us, over and over) until she weighed in on the Alar scare?