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A Family Recipe that Makes Me Sick Without One Bite

Erik D'Amato cikke a Művház rovatból, 2007. május 17. csütörtök, 10:17 | 2 hozzászólás

cook-this.jpgThe other day I picked up the New Yorker magazine and read a film review that, while almost 1,000 words long, never managed to get around to saying whether the movie being critiqued was good or not. I'd say that takes the prize for arrogant media criticism, were it not for what I'm going to do now: give a scathing review of something I've never even seen.

Unlike most foreigners living in Hungary, I don't own a television, and there's something I hate about watching DVD or downloads of television shows on my computer. So I've never gotten a change to watch the fabulously popular HBO show "The Sopranos," known and (I assume) equally beloved in Hungary as Maffiózók, which is currently wrapping up its final season. But I hate it all the same, because I am just so over the entertainment industry's milking of gangster chic.

For decades, gangsters - and especially Italian-American gangsters - have made great film fodder, and otherwise been a much-savored cultural icon. (One of the best D'Amsato family stories is the 50% possibility that my paternal grandmother went on a date with Al Capone in the years after World War I.) But when I was a kid, the popular conception of maffiózók was, shall we say, far less "nuanced" than it is now. Back then, mobsters were bad guys, and in the movies or on TV they usually ended up getting set up the river or being filled with hot lead by the "good guys," namely the cops or the F.B.I. Now they are (from what I've heard about the "Sopranos") "complex characters" that viewers feel an emotional attachment to, or, in the even more demented culture of hip-hop, objects of out-and-out hero worship.

This wouldn't irk me if the American-led global entertainment-industrial complex was actually the valueless, amoral profit-making machine that some people think it is. But it isn't. It's just that the "values" it chooses to care about have changed. So if, for example, they have a character who is an oil company executive, you can bet your last petro-dollar he'll be pure evil. And now comes the news that the US Motion Picture Association of America is looking at re-calibrating its ratings to penalize films that glorify not only smoking, but - I kid you not - eating in an "exuberant" fashion. But the goombahs? The get a "family" cookbook. (Above.) Mama mia!

Conveniently, one of the best examples of this twisted morality actually involves Hungary. As you may have heard, the film rights to a popular American book about our own Attila Ambrus - a.k.a. Viszkis - was "optioned" a couple of years back, with Johnny Depp slated to play the tabloid hero. (I don't know where the project stands right now; Hollywood takes forever to make movies.) As I said at the time, the stupidity and perversity of romanticizing someone as selfish and witless as Viszkis becomes quickly clear once you substitute some other felony for armed robbery (e.g. "The Whiskey Rapist," "The Whiskey Gypsy-Beater," or "The Whiskey Asset-Stripper").

The good news is that, like all cultural phenomena good and bad, the gangster craze won't last forever. In fact, knowing showbiz, it's guaranteed not to last. Hell, maybe the producers of the "Sopranos" will even decide to get the ball rolling in the final episodes of their show, by making it clear to every last viewer that Tony and the rest of the gang are not interesting and complex characters, but human scum that deserve to be locked up in a small prison cell and forgotten. If they do, I may even break my no-TV DVD moratorium and watch the whole series from beginning to end. Just don't expect me to buy the cookbook.

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Eddigi hozzászólások (2)


pblue, 2007. május 17. csütörtök, 15:26 (#)

you took that prize erik!


Luca Brasi, 2007. május 18. péntek, 20:55 (#)

Rather dull. Perhaps a tastier bite of something else to chew on?



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