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Fake Christmas movies! In recent years, people we rightly call trolls have taken to calling Die Hard a Christmas movie, partly in jest, but often because they have something against Christmas movies. Like all aggressive jokes in our times, this too is an attempt to assert some kind of dignity by way of fandom. It’s an identity, after all. Well, there was a guy who did that long before trolls and he was the best action-comedy writer-director: Shane Black.
You remember his movies and the great roles they had for men. We wrongly call those “buddy cop” movies:
- Lethal Weapon (Mel Gibson and Danny Glover–by the way, this is the 30th anniversary of the movie)
- The Last Boy Scout (Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans)
- The Last Action Hero (Arnold Schwarzenegger and a boy, in the only genuine fairy tale of our times)
- The Long Kiss Good Night (Geena Davis, in one of the early femme fatale as action hero roles, and Samuel Jackson),
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Robert Downey, Jr., in his comeback role, and Val Kilmer in what, it turns out, was his valediction)
- Iron Man 3
- The Nice Guys (Ryan Gosling, who finally became funny, and Russell Crowe, who, well, did likewise.)
So, I’ve done more than a bit of writing about this Shane Black and ran into a critic talking about his penchant. Black sets all his movies during Christmas. Here, we get another example of the problem with half-educated criticism. Below is a better video than the one I showed you yesterday because it’s much less presumptuous. But it shows the same clever-kid-in-school problem, coming up with pat answers that ignore the movies themselves, which are only mined for some evidence to confirm a fairly mindless thesis.
The critic, however, does one job he’s suited to: a bit of film history. That’s important for genre and stories about manliness. He talks about the Walter Hill aesthetic. The ugliness that shows up as the cinematic indictment of a society that will see no evil. Same as Raymond Chandler … he doesn’t make much of this, because he doesn’t understand the problem of manliness, although anyone who watches the movies he mentions will find it staring him in the face relentlessly.
As for talking about Black, the critic notices two things of importance for these Christmas stories:
- Family and the domestic respectability of the holiday are always threatened and sometimes mocked.
- People have to find redemption.
But then he screws up everything because he doesn’t want to reflect on how these two elements come together. Instead, he wants to force everything into family. Sure, not nuclear family — but anything like friendship or business partnership can now be called family. That’s a stupid thing to say and a disservice to criticism.
The other stupid thing he says is that Christmas is the biggest holiday in Western Civilization. No, that’s Easter. Anyone who knows even a bit about Christianity would know that — there’s a reason Christians sign themselves with the cross and depict it everywhere. I think this is so obvious that I don’t believe the guy is stupid — he’s just thoughtless about the thing he’s talking about. But Christmas is the biggest holiday for America, just like Santa plays God in public America.
This is tied up very much with Black’s attack on respectability and this sort of fake piety. His manly heroes pose an existential individualistic problem to domesticity. Of course, this critic also says the meaning of Christmas is whatever — his cynical attitude about American consumerism/commercialism and the collapse of the American civil religion corrupts his understanding. Black takes Christmas in America seriously and is a kind of enemy of it because of his seriousness. What he seems to offer instead is friendship between men, which is destroyed by family.