The market that once existed for indie movies that broke people like Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino mostly died with the economy, and these days, the big studios only care about the “potential franchise” movies, which is understandable, but shortsighted (a point I’ve made more here than once) in terms of maintaining film’s long-term cultural relevancy. Sean Penn makes a similar argument in a recent interview with Esquire, which isn’t new, except that he also points a finger at his fellow actors, who he says contribute to the system by making “monkey-f*ck-rat” movies. I dunno, that doesn’t sound so bad. I like that chimp-mouthf*cks-toad movie.
In a new interview with Esquire, Penn, who appeared in this fall’s indie drama This Must Be the Place, rips into today’s film industry — including his fellow actors.
“I just did this picture that I enjoyed doing. Gangster Squad. But I do think that in general the standard of aspiration is low,” he told the magazine. “Very low. And mostly they’re just doing a bunch of monkey-f*ck-rat movies, most actors and actresses. And I blame them just as much as I do the business. I know everybody wants to make some money, everybody’s got a modeling contract, everybody’s selling jewelry and perfume. I’m blinded by it. Bob Dylan said in an interview one time — somebody asked him, Are you really this reclusive? He says, No, I’m not reclusive, man. I’m exclusive. Exclusivity is like intimacy.”
I’m with him on the actors-need-to-try-harder-too thing, but he lost me quoting Bob Dylan. You can’t tell if Bob Dylan is singing “Blowin in the Wind” or “The Hurricane” these days, maybe it’s time we stopped treating him like an oracle. “I’m tellin ya, brother, integrity is just a cat screamin’ in a dishrag.”
For his part, Penn thinks that the industry was once capable of producing such nuanced films, and laments their passing.
“When I was growing up and somebody like Robert De Niro had a movie come out, it was a cultural event,” he said. “Because he had such a confidence and a single mission that was so intimate. But when people start using themselves as instruments of a kind of consumerist mosh pit, they’re helping that take over. I mean, you are a soldier for it or you’re a soldier against it. That’s all there is to it. And we have so little of that intimacy left, it’s no wonder that interpersonal relationships have become text relationships. It’s a texting orgy. When is somebody gonna sit there, with their mate or their child, and just look them in the eye and say, ‘I love you?’ When is that life??” [HollywoodReporter]
Robert De Niro used to be a cultural event, now half the time you see him, he’s letting Ben Stiller stab him in the boner. Hard to argue on that score. But of course, then Penn goes and makes the ultimate dad argument. “These kids with all the textin’, doesn’t anyone go outside anymore!? When I was a kid, we made couch forts! These kids, it’s all video games, and the Twitter! How can you make a couch fort in a 140 characters?! The world’s gone crazy!”
Aaron Sorkin must’ve gotten a hard on reading this. I actually can’t believe he didn’t mention Twitter. Everyone older than Gen X thinks Twitter is the perfect illustration or our ruined attention spans and inability to entertain complex thoughts. I’m not saying our entertainment culture isn’t more shallow and immature than it was 20 years ago, but screaming about technologies that aren’t going away doesn’t help anyone. It just makes you look a thousand years old. Try to have a little perspective. 100 years ago you’d be shaking your fist at indoor plumbing.