Monday, April 7, 2008

Planet of the critics

Victor Morton, The Right-Wing Film Geek, weighs in:
[S]o many liberals felt a need to say, on this day of all days, that Heston was a bad actor (though I don’t believe Fire Dog Lake or the Yglesias commenters are doing anything but rationalizing their political judgments; you want to retch at stuff like this). Acting tastes differ and acting fashions change (more on that in a moment), but how narrow must a man’s moral sight be to waste neurons, silicon space, and perfectly good 1s and 0s ranting about what a bad actor a man (supposedly) is on the day of his death. Though political figures by definition have mixed legacies, and noting this in a respectful fashion is quite fair even in an obit, I devoutly believe in “de mortuis nil nisi bonum,” particularly about artists, and doubt the moral sanity and basic decency of those who do not — one reason I doubt that moral sanity and basic decency are widespread among liberals.
Definitely read the whole thing. The Latin phrase roughly translates to "speak no ill of the dead." I know Latin because I studied it in high school. Victor knows Latin because he's a latter-day Guy Fawkes.

Speaking of conspiratorial in-jokes, the fact that The Washington Times obituary by Jennifer Harper used the same quotes ("Soylent Green is people!" and "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!") as my American Spectator remembrance, is merely a coincidence, Victor assures us:
I swear to God that it is a coincidence that Stacy and Jennifer quoted almost the same two lines — they were such clear-cut choices for quotation. The first-named line was the one the AME in charge at the Times imitated when he and I were discussing Heston on Sunday — it’s a guttural cry of despair that a lesser voice could not make so memorable, even for parody’s sake (he also remembered an SNL sketch in which Heston parodies himself). As for the second line, it’s the first time that the apes have heard humans speak, and hearing them from the Charlton Heston voice, you better believe it shook them down to the bones as much as an ape talking to us today would.
Sure, it's just a coincidence -- like it's just a coincidence Karl Rove knows Republicans in Alabama. Ask Don Siegelman about that.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin links what she calls a "most excellent and thorough tribute to Charlton Heston" by Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post. Except . . . it's not a tribute:
Was he a great actor? Many think not, and few would rank him with contemporaries like Brando, Dean, even Widmark or Wayne. . . .
His greatest film, 1958's "Touch of Evil," featured Heston as a Mexican narcotics detective, probably his biggest stretch and not really an outstanding performance. . . .
In his private life, he was given to follow that strange calling that is half public service and half self-aggrandizement with the distinction frequently blurred. . . .
Why . . . did he take the leadership of the NRA, never the most popular of lobbying outfits in Washington? One cynical explanation is that the old star was looking for an audience that would treat him as he had been treated in the late '50s and early '60s, almost as a god.
Hunter repeatedly damns Heston with faint praise. Would a "most excellent and thorough tribute" suggest that Heston was less able an actor than Richard Widmark or John Wayne?

Hello? If there is anything that is a solid consensus among film snobs, it's that John Wayne was a lousy actor. I'm not a film snob, and thus not part of that consensus, but when Hunter says "few would rank" Heston with Wayne, that's about as vicious a put-down as a Washington Post film snob can muster. And while Widmark worked steadily, he was never the kind of marquee name who could carry a picture all by himself. So by classifying Heston as inferior to both Wayne and Widmark, Hunter is double-damning him as barely better than a B-movie actor.

Even more astonishing is that Hunter, in the process of taking these oblique cheap shots at Heston, trashes Cecil B. DeMille:
Nobody ever accused . . . Cecil B. DeMille, of greatness; DeMille was more entrepreneur, logistics expert, visionary and carny barker than true artist. And [The Ten Commandments] remains a monument to kitsch. . . .
Great balls of fire! Technicolor spectaculars may not be your cup of tea (or my cup of tea), but to deny "greatness" to an Academy Award winner? DeMille was one of the few directors to succeed first in silent films, then in talkies and then in color. He was and remains one of the giant figures of motion picture history. What kind of twisted and embittered soul would diss DeMille as a "carny barker"?

And anyone who accuses Heston of overacting or playing a "type" should hesitate -- and perhaps halt -- before heaping praise on James Dean, who exemplified what might be called the Schizodramatic Style: 90% morose neurotic, 10% raging psychotic. To suggest that Dean's acting was "nuanced," in a way Heston's was not, is just balderdash.


1 comment:

  1. Where in the movie did he kiss an Ape? Must be the uncut version...