Wednesday, January 12, 2005

the power of the (entertainment) press

Lisa Schwarzbaum used to be my favorite Entertainment Weekly movie reviewer. She rarely indulges in the sneering "I'm too cool to be moved by positive emotion" attitude that most of the EW writers wear like a badge of honor, an attitude they cribbed from the surrounding culture even as their donning of it keeps it strong, vital, and in vogue. But lately she has been pedaling politics under the guise of reviewing movies.

She begins her review of The Sea Inside with a paean to a particularly controversial (and repugnant) social trend with no irony whatsoever, as if of course all honorable people see it this way:
In Spain, Ramón Sampedro was the national hero of a real-life saga about the right to die. The bedridden, quadriplegic former ship's mechanic, embodied with exquisite care by Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside, tussled with the courts, the church, and his own family for nearly 30 years before getting his wish to end his own life in 1998. (He had the event filmed and it was broadcast on Spanish TV.)
She goes on to review the film and Javier Bardem's performance as if there were nothing worthy of discussion in the fact that western civilization's centuries-long condemnation of suicide is being dismantled piece by piece in the courts and the legislatures of the nations. Nothing to discuss? Tussles with the courts, the church and his own family? A national hero?

Not to everybody, in Spain in 1998 and in the United States in 2004. I am afraid I have lost faith in Lisa Schwarzbaum's ability to write objectively about serious matters. Her review is pretty much an endorsement of assisted suicide, point-blank, and if that's the function of a movie reviewer... well, I'm going to take a second look at Dalton Ross' lack of seriousness, even with its ever-mocking tone.

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