Patrick Goldstein‘s “Big Picture” column is about the non- battle in today’s media culture between the pornography of self-exposure vs. modesty and reticence, and how two of the fall’s best films — Flags of Our Fathers and The Queen — “honor” the latter.
Really? I didn’t get the idea that Queen director Stephen Frears was “honoring” Queen Elizabeth II at all. The film doesn’t appprove or disapprove of her insulated cluelessness in the wake of the August 1997 death of Diana, Princess of Wales — it’s saying that the old-school sensibilities of Elizabeth Windsor and those of her generation no longer permeate the culture, and this was an event that made this clear. The Queen is saying “she doesn’t get it” over and over — in what way is that an honoring?
And while we sympathize with the glum-faced soldiers who went on that war-bound tour in Flags of Our Fathers, the bottom line reality is that they’re….kinda boring! We have to climb up that paper mache thing?…gee, I don’t think this is right…we should be back on the battlefield with our buddies…thank you, sir, this sounds like a good opportunity…strawberry syrup, please… yes sir…buy war bonds!…tell them I’ve gone fishing, son. They’re all good fellows, but they have no spunk in them…they’re stiffs.
Then I got to the end of Goldstein’s piece and realized what was going on.
Goldstein writes, “When I ask Eastwood where he keeps his Oscars — the showbiz equivalent of Bradley’s wartime medal — he points to a corner of the room. ‘There’s a couple behind my desk over there. They’re just sitting where they were put after the event.’ He shrugs, already a little uncomfortable talking about his achievements. ‘I appreciate the honor, but the question is — how far do you want to carry it?’
Eastwood, straight-arrow that he is, is telling Goldstein what’s on his mind. He’s also saying however much money Flags makes, he’s at peace with what it is, and proud of it. And, clever dude that he also is, he’s subtly telegraphing that he’s not that concerned if Flags of Our Fathers will collect a bunch of Oscar noms or not (although it’s a moderately safe bet it’ll get one for Best Picture…I think).
By saying he’s into the “thing” of it, rather than the things that may come out of it (money, awards), Clint is media-positioning himself and his film as being imper- vious or indifferent to failure, or the perception of same.