[Marxism] Jonathan Rosenbaum

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 1 17:05:53 MST 2004

Jonathan Rosenbaum. Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What 
Films We Can See. London: Wallflower Press, 2002. 192 pp. Notes, index. 
£12.99 (paper), ISBN 1-903364-60-4.
Reviewed by Fred Davies, Centre for Continuing Education, University of Sussex.
Published by H-USA (December, 2003)

Rosenbaum's Bitch-Fest

Movie Wars was originally published in America by A Cappella Publishing in 
November 2000 and has been reissued in Britain. The reception on this side 
of the Atlantic will probably be sympathetic, as we also suffer--if not 
more so--from the disease of American blockbusters that invade our shores 
and colonize our screens. In 1997, the then-chairman of PolyGram Filmed 
Entertainment, Stewart Till, was appointed by the new Labour government to 
chair a committee on the British film industry. The result was a report, "A 
Bigger Picture." It pinpointed distribution as the Achilles' heel of the 
British film industry: many British films (if indeed most of them) never 
even got a release. British multiplexes are in the main owned by American 
studios or closely linked to their distributors. Britain's key player in 
the field, Film Four, has collapsed. In France, Canal Plus suffered a 
similar fate. PolyGram, the one independent European distributor (and 
financier)--responsible for backing such British films as Trainspotting and 
Four Weddings and a Funeral--has also disappeared, liquidated by an 
American studio. This is the territory covered by Jonathan Rosenbaum's book.

The book's title is quite misleading, as it would indicate a serious 
engagement with the political economy of Hollywood, at least on the lines 
of "A Bigger Picture." Instead, it is a funny and informative but supremely 
arrogant and self-serving meander through Rosenbaum's memoirs. It "loses 
the plot" soon after the first few chapters and rambles through what seems 
to be a reheating of old essays rather poorly stitched together. Clearly 
one would expect to meet concepts like "oligopoly," "synergy," "Marxism," 
or "capitalism," but maybe these have been erased for the dumbed-down 
reader, just what Rosenbaum accuses his targets--his colleagues and fellow 
writers on film, or at least their editors--of doing. He coins the cute 
little phrase "media industry complex," which makes good copy, but with not 
a reference to C. Wright Mills and with no further expansion into a 
discussion of the challenge of the media giants--Murdoch, Berlusconi, 
Lucas, Spielberg, Eisner--and their many-tentacled trans-national 
corporations in our age. Instead, he launches into a personal ad hominen 
bitch-fest and a celebration of his own writings. So this is not an 
intellectually interesting book, but rather a good read from an insider 
dishing the dirt and pedantically trashing his colleagues. His personal 
venom is worse than his intellectual bite. He is in a great tradition of 
American polemicists. Indeed a long time ago de Tocqueville wrote a whole 
chapter on "Why American Writers and Speakers are Often Bombastic."

full: http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=241881075675488

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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