I gave up television twelve years ago and have not been tempted
to return to it. Had I needed a reminder of why I made that
decision, a viewing of "Outfoxed" would have provided
"Outfoxed" is a straightforward and powerful critique
of Rupert Murdocks Fox News network. Created by Robert
Greenwald, with help from MoveOn.Com and others, "Outfoxed"
doesnt pretend to be Fair and Balanced, as
does Fox News.
But its no less effective for wearing its point of view
on its sleeve. Its simply honest. And the documentary
makes it sufficiently clear that Fox News isnt. Greenwald
isnt questioning that Fox News has a right to its opinions.
The argument is that its opinions are dressed up as if they
were news. "Outfoxed" makes a convincing argument
that Fox News is really a shill for the Republican Party and
conservative politics in general.
What fascinated me most was the portrait of a man named Bill
OReilly. One suspects that something tragic must have
occurred in Bills life, something he never worked through.
The man is a bully. What isnt so obvious is how he is
able to attract guests to his show. Hes rude, impolite,
and thoughtless. He confuses loud mouthed threats with rational
argument. When his opinions are challenged, his favorite response
seems to be "Shut Up", repeated ever more loudly.
If that fails to wither the guest, his last recourse is to turn
off the guests microphone. A few episodes like that might
have entertainment value, but after a while, why would anyone
bother to tune in?
My hat is off to the folks at 41st Avenue Theatre, in Capitola,
for booking "Outfoxed". Its indeed a public
service to make this film available to the community.
Now on to a different kind of film, though at its heart, "Mean
Creek" is also about a bully. "Mean Creek", written
and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, was made for $500,000. And
its at least ten times better than most films that cost
ten or even a hundred times as much to make. With a talented
young cast and a terrific script, Estes retells a story seemingly
encoded in our genes.
A recent study indicates that the contemplation of revenge feels
good. It activates pleasure centers in the brain. (I found a
report on this study in the on-line edition of Scientific American.)
No wonder then that the small pack of teenagers in Estes
film should exhibit such relish when plotting a payback scheme
against a local schoolyard bully.
But thinking about revenge is different from executing the act.
As these teenagers discover, action carries with it the possibility
of unanticipated consequence.
"Mean Creek" is about more than revenge. Though parents
rarely appear on the screen, "Mean Creek" is also
about family dysfunction. And its about the various ways
we relate to crisis and tragedy. And most beautifully, "Mean
Creek" provides us an unsentimental but openhearted examination
of the interior life of a bully, rather than simply a record
of his social transgressions.
The performance of Josh Peck as George, a lonely, but oddly
brilliant bully, is the highlight of the film, though all the
actors do well.
"Mean Creek" is no mean achievement. Jacob Aaron Estes
is already a better director and writer than many a veteran
Hollywood hand. I highly recommend this, his first feature film.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.