The Screening of America: Movies and Values from Rocky to Rain Man

Tom O'Brien, Author Continuum $21.95 (219p) ISBN 978-0-8264-0472-5
The trend pieces collected here by Commonweal film critic O'Brien are meant to decipher how ``old-fashioned values''--``patriotism, hard work, justice, and a sense of tradition or delight in history''--have revealed themselves in movies over the past decade. Beginning with a quote from Cher and ending with another from St. Paul, the author addresses recent developments in the film genre. Rambo , he asserts, reflects a growing American nationalism; sports movies reinforce our need to win; many flicks of the 1980s idealize the virtues of home. However, the book does not come to life until O'Brien seizes on the theme of religion and posits the ``worship of irony'' as an ``odd kind'' of new native faith. He claims that certain ideological assaults against films like The Last Temptation of Christ ``reflect growing secularization in American society''; religion, he argues, is regarded by a number of that movie's detractors as simply another value, no more meaningful than any other. Not only are his thoughts in this vein original, they seem to be where O'Brien's heart lies. More detailed frame-by-frame analyses of films would have strengthened his polemics. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1990
Release date: 07/01/1990
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