COUNTERPUNCH WEEKEND EDITION DECEMBER 5-7, 2014
If we lived in a socialist country and I had the good fortune to be named Minister of Culture with North Korean type powers to dictate what gets made, the first thing I would do is consign the biopic genre to the ashbin of history. That is my reaction to “The Theory of Everything”, “The Imitation Game”, and “Get on Up”, three DVD’s that were part of the 99 films I received from publicists in advance of the 2014 New York Film Critics Online awards meeting on Sunday. The first two are worshipful treatments of Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing and the third is just the opposite, a look down one’s nose at James Brown.
Such films are made to order for the middlebrow tastes of most critics who regard them as “serious” works, as if they could ever match up to the written biography they are often based on. For the most part, they are the equivalent of the comic book versions of the classics I used to read in sixth grade until I was able to finally work my way through “Ivanhoe” or “Last of the Mohicans”.
It is not too hard to figure out the basic flaw of the biopic. Unless you have never heard of James Brown, you have a pretty good idea of how the movie starts, begins and ends. Of course, Alan Turing is a much more obscure figure but you can bet that the audience for “The Imitation Game” will not be made up of 15-year-olds who chose it over the latest Hobbit movie after finally making up their minds: “Hmmm. What’s more fun? Colossal battles between elves and fire-breathing dragons or eccentric homosexuals trying to crack Nazi cryptography?”