Because his review(s) of The Black Dahlia (coming soon) interest us more, and because his ability to click off the critical radar so as to kiss some red state ass has now reached a career zenith, we have decided to forsake a traditional review in order to quickly but carefully translate and summarize Armond White's review of We Are Marshall paragraph by paragraph:
1. AW: Sports rabble-rousers have been a movie staple ever since the first Rocky flick when Hollywood discovered how easy it is to play on audiences’ emotions: appeal to their proletarian sense of justice and inspire ideas of virtue and, most of all, winning.
Translation: An explanation of the structure and basic meaning of a subgenre a month-old koala can understand. Not quoted above: A classic Armondism coined for this subgenre -- Jock Uplift.
2. AW: We Are Marshall proves that Jock Uplift can provide a pretty good template for dealing with social issues, showing how a person’s individual problems fit into a community model. In other words, demonstrating how ideology works—how people come to share and clarify basic ideas about day-to-day living.
Translation: Because it is pure, unadulterated schmaltz, I will find some sort of rationalization to commend this steaming pile of All-American Conservatism via advanced critical language.
3. AW: Although the specifics of this tragedy describe a local community, there’s no escaping that the large-scale catastrophe parallels 9/11: Average people were forced to bear shock, grief, loss, death and a lingering depression. There’s no disrespect in the filmmakers hiking-up the significance of Marshall’s crisis. They are right to do so—making the audience members share the experience, apply it to their own lives and learn something.
Translation: I am the corniest person alive.
4. AW: This movie does something special: It confronts the problem of America attempting to heal itself.
Translation: Culturally specific ritual of football = The symbolic healing process of the entire United States.
5. AW: Director McG, best known for the Charlie’s Angels pop-fests, uses the colorful emotional shorthand of commercials and music videos—a new lingo. McG has gone from no real emotion to dealing with genuine tragedy, but who’s to say he is any less equipped than the rest of us?
Translation: Who's to say the man responsible for discovering a subtle visual vocabulary to compliment the nuanced music of Smashmouth is unfit to convey real-life tragedy and pain?
6. AW: McConaughey is steadily becoming one of the most reliable and surprising American actors.
Translation: As opposed to unsteadily becoming.
7. AW: Keeping his head bowed, leaning forward when he talks to people, McConaughey combines an egotist’s modesty with Midwestern bonhomie. He’s cadging, attentive and fumblingly seductive—not unlike George W. Bush. McConaughey channels Bush’s deliberateness and stubborn, foolhardy optimism. By offering this idiosyncratic portrait of a local commander-in-chief, We Are Marshall dares present the shell-shocked American public with an alternative idea of leadership. Which public leader myth is true: Giuliani as “America’s mayor” or Bush as America’s coach? And which is the post-9/11 audience willing to accept?
Translation: Simple-minded moral conviction, no matter how calculating or destructive, should be bought as lovable, aw-shucks gumption. Not convinced? Then I'll force you to choose it from the false binary I set up between two uncomplicated media images.
8. AW: By proposing this option, We Are Marshall redefines the body politic in more substantive ways than its pop song soundtrack first suggests. Its restorative sense of nationhood may be unpopular among liberals, but We Are Marshall is good because it’s not propaganda; its regard of healing goes beyond 9/11 to the essence of American character. Listen at the way McConaghey urges a player to “Head-slap the shit” out of an opponent. Beneath its Jock Uplift formula, We Are Marshall is sly, hard-core Americana. It head-slaps the shit out of the divisive Borat.
Translation: We Are Marshall is a 9/11 allegory that's somehow apolitical, ostensibly transcending politics by gathering viewers of all different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, religions, races, and, yes, political persuasions into its hegemonic fold -- "the essence of American character." See, even though I've refused to qualify what "the essence of American character" is in an attempt to sidestep the ideological ramifications of okaying an elementarily reactionary film's cynical plea to universalism, I nonetheless use it in order to shame anyone who disagrees with me. No propaganda here. No propaganda at all.