Saturday began as no easy day to care about the movies and, come to think of it, our so-called freedom of speech.
The first thing you see on TV at 72 degrees just after 5 a.m. is a guy in a heavy winter coat and thick-framed glasses over a bright white scarf stuffed into the back of a newsboy cap. At first blush more haphazardly-costumed “Invisible Man” than amateur terrorist and alleged fraud, the dude is nonetheless escorted out of his home in what looks like the middle of the night by a phalanx of L.A. County Sheriffs deputies and news cameras as NBC’s Mike Taibi mumbles something about “the filmmaker” and how his use of the Internet might have violated terms of his parole.
He stressed the figure “was not under arrest.”
Still, the images of a guy being detained after putting something provocative on the Internet gives you pause: that is, after all, in essence what you do for a living.
Then you remember how last week the nomenclature of your trade – “filmmaker,” “movie,” “film,” “consultant” – got hijacked by the media and smeared it on this coward as they staked out his home in Cerritos.
Guilt by association. Then you go to the New York Times website. The outrage continues.
The NYTimes.com movies space seems to have gravitated towards the top of the home page, buoyed perhaps by rave reviews of "The Master" and "Arbitrage" and photos of the movies’ stars.
But this ascension also means the movies space is now adjacent to the hard news space and the latest on the detention of “the anti-Islamic filmmaker” by the L.A. County Sheriffs – at the behest of of the feds, as it turns out.
The idea that “the filmmaker” “consulted” with a Jesus freak from Duarte just adds a whole new layer of shtank: if only, you find yourself wishing, the people burning our embassies in Tunisia and Cairo would take a moment to understand the fundamental difference between Duarte and Beverly Hills, Cerritos and, say, West Hollywood.
For a while the person in charge of the home page of the Times had, inadvertently or with a great sense of purpose, made it look like an anti-Islamic film, an anti-Scientology film along with an anti-Capitalism film had suddenly taken over not only our culture but our world view.
You shake it off and realize the “film” in the hard news space was the same thing that had employed some colorful local actors you’d seen on the Channel 4 news a night or two before, two innocents who saw the weird lines they read in a raw industrial space as their own kind of gift from God: a paying gig they were not sure would never see the light of day. Per Channel 4, they only just realized those line readings had been crudely dubbed over into the international language of hate.
Note to News editors: please stop calling this thing a film or a movie. Instead, please try calling it an online provocation, an act of social terrorism, a particularly virulent viral video. Anything to liberate, extricate or otherwise free the speech of cinema and nomenclature from a revered international art form from the kindling pile of fanaticism.