Sunday, August 22, 2010

Steven Greydanus: Where Are the Good Men?

Niall Mor of It's All Straw kindly draws my attention to an article by film reviewer Steven Greydanus on the subject of The Expendables and manhood as it appears on film.  Greydanus always impresses me with his level-headedness and calm thoughtfulness.  Also, he once criticized Michael O'Brien's shrill writings on fantasy, which made me into his fan.

Greydanus's article, "Where Have You Gone, Gregory Peck?", appears at the National Catholic Register and more or less says, only more clearly, what I was getting at when I announced that my granddad is awesomer than yours.

Here is Greydanus's take on The Expendables:

If many of today’s action heroes seem lacking in convincing virility, The Expendables is hardly the healthy jolt of masculinity one might wish for. It’s a movie that panders to all of the worst excesses of the 1980s and none of its better instincts. It’s egregious violence pornography, not only soaked in explicit, gratuitous, bone-crunching, blood-spurting violence, but a movie that sees the whole world through the lens of violence, a movie that presents violence as a worldview.

Manhood is seen solely through the lens of the ability to inflict and endure extreme amounts of punishment involving large numbers of opponents. To be a woman is to have essentially one meaningful choice: to be aligned with the wrong man, who will abuse or at least fail to protect you, or with the right man, who will rain vengeance on the wrong man and those around him. (An alliance with the wrong man may also result in sexual menace, torture, etc.)   [more...]

After this, Greydanus goes on to bemoan the lack of manly stars who might step in to give us more decent action films.  "Jackson might," he says, "if he can ever step out from behind Wolverine's shadow."   And, "Russel. Crowe can do anything, but he isn't getting any younger."   He adds, "Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson are too old."  I think he means to say they're too old for this...oh, never mind.

I'm not sure it's such a big deal that the actors we have today happen to be baby-faced.  Maybe they just need better, more manly parts to play.  I mean, they're supposed to be able to, you know, act, right?  I'm more inclined to blame the screenwriters and the directors than the men on screen.  I used to do a little acting myself, though not in anyplace anywhere near Hollywood, mind you, and I think I can say that the actor's part, compared to the parts played by the people backstage who work their tails off to get everything ready, is quite small.

Also, contrary to Greydanus, I think Adrien Brody can pull off the manly man thing even if he doesn't quite look the type.  He did it in King Kong, but I'm the only person in the world besides Ebert who likes that remake.
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