Saturday, November 26, 2011

J. Edgar (movie review)

Steve and I grabbed a 14, took in the Pioneer Square giant tree, as well as the underground mall (to which Steve had never been -- we didn't buy anything then), then we queued at Fox Tower to see J. Edgar, although more theaters were running Marilyn.

The film creates its own twilight zone, is deliberately "lucid dream" like, a kind of wake up call to remember history, remember the collective experience, the shared matrix. The fact that none of it looks quite right is embraced as an aspect of the dream world (remember Post Toasties?).

It's a film trying to look like a film, and in that sense it's honest. Towards the end, we learn from Clyde that much of what we've just seen is the stuff of comic books. The real history goes in the shredder. We make do with fantasy because, ultimately, fantasy is what we have to fall back on. Clint Eastwood isn't shy about making that point.

There's stuff you wouldn't show closer to the time. The evolution of forensics, crime labs, and the audience's stomach for CSI and pathologies has changed the nature of theater.

We're a far more sophisticated set of creatures today. Zooming in on a baby's skeleton is just more TV, whereas in the 1950s such scenes would have been too shocking for lay audiences.

Likewise the twisted sexuality of the various players is more ethnography, the blackmail tedious. Who cares if Mrs. or Mr. so-and-so kissed a girl or boy? When are we done playing recess? Answer per this movie: you really only grow old physically, inside we're just kids, and then we die.

The movie takes the view that it's giving Hoover a chance to tell his own side of things, but then the camera is telling a story well beyond Hoover's or anyone's abilities to deliver in real life. The omniscience of the camera is western civilization's signature religion. Who we get to be, in Plato's Cave, in the Greek theater, is as if an immortal. We become directors, more like Hoover himself.

The paranoias engendered by Hoover's paranoia form an echo chamber that has not died down. A random sweep of the web finds this author (Mat Wilson) seriously doubting Hemingway would ever have committed suicide. The FBI was to blame, had to be, just listen to G. Gordon Liddy.

Speaking of which, Hoover's reputed hatred of the CIA was only indirectly touched upon here, a rift which subsequent literature, e.g. Tenet's, has done much to repair.

Taking his date to the Library of Congress and bragging he'd invented the card catalog was kind of like his taking so much credit for fingerprinting and forensics and centralized databases containing personal health information (e.g. fingerprints). IBM was happening. SQL was on the rise.

These were the big wheels of the zeitgeist turning, the shared dream coming true. Hell, I've taken credit for hypertext the same way (me, Ted and Tim -- and Al), used to write to the Library of Congress about it, come to think of it, another weirdo with a mission, a freak of nature, roaming the wilds of DC.

We took the 14 back past Chavez to Angelo's where Lindsey joined us later. I wrote this at Open Bastion (a home office) a little later after that.

This was Civil War day in Oregon, meaning the two biggest name teams play against each other. Steve joined Glenn and I in an appropriately hot doggie sports bar kind of place, almost across from the Pauling House. The restaurant was packed with customers cheering loudly, sometimes on their feet.