National Review / Digital
Cinema ex Machina


Everything — and nothing. Which is a bit of a problem if you’re looking for a film about . . . something. The producer Lynda Obst has a new book out purporting to explain the age of globalized “tentpole” “franchise” movies selling on “pre-awareness.” It’s called, after her best-known romantic comedy, Sleepless in Hollywood, which isn’t quite as boffo a hit title as her previous tome, Hello, He Lied. Everyone loved that one — such a perfect distillation of the industry’s flattering self-image as a shark tank of ruthless cynics that you didn’t need to read the book. Hollywood is now approaching the condition of Broadway in the “abominable showman” David Merrick’s dotage: The shows are boring but the backstage machinations preserve the glamour a while longer.

What did I call those 3D glasses? “Cardboard spectacles”? As Ms. Obst explains in her book, they love 3D overseas. So Hollywood now makes cardboard spectacles for the youth of developing countries, a half-billion-dollar summer stock for the barns of Asia. In Guangdong, the Chinese make America’s Walmart filler; in Hollywood, America makes China’s multiplex filler. The Chinese were the co-producers of the recent futuristic dystopian time-travel shoot-’em-up Looper, which I dimly recollect as a film so disciplined about its nothingness that, when the old Bruce Willis materializes from the future and meets his younger self and the young Bruce asks old Bruce if he’ll remember meeting young Bruce upon his return to the future, old Bruce advises him not to get hung up on details. Don’t even think about it.

August 5, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 14

  • Face of the lawless bureaucracy.
  • Obama’s end-run around the Senate, and the Constitution.
  • Felix Rodriguez, freedom fighter and patriot.
  • Hospitals are to blame for obscene health-care costs.
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Charles Crawford reviews Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography: From Grantham to the Falklands, by Charles Moore .
  • Daniel Foster reviews The Founding Conservatives: How a Group of Unsung Heroes Saved the American Revolution, by David Lefer.
  • Edward Feser reviews Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism, by Robert P. George.
  • Florence King reviews Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch, by Barbara A. Perry.
  • Ross Douthat reviews Joss Whedon’s film Much Ado About Nothing.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .