Thursday, December 28, 2006

Can a C-movie have a B-plot with A-implications?

I don't know why movies are so much on my mind (or at least on my blog) of late, but today's post returns to that murky cultural well. A few nights ago I spent 35 minutes watching an apocalyptic charmer called The Omega Code. Thirty-five minutes was way too long in this case, as Omega is a film where the term "disaster movie" has a double meaning. (IMDB denizens rate it at 3.1 out of 10, which is pretty damn bad.) It was unwatchable, a failure on every level: terrible acting, terrible directing, and above all, terrible continuity/editing (so bad that when the camera shifted from one point-of-view to another during the same scene, the characters often appeared to have different expressions on their faces, or even to be facing in different directions from where we left them a half-second earlier). I stuck with Omega for as long as I did only because* the B-plot concerned a best-selling author/motivational speaker who becomes the puppet of the deranged megalomaniac who's planning to take over the world. In the film, the motivational guru's latest book is titled Empower Your Future by Embracing Your Past!, a bit of winking wryness (and perhaps the one redeeming feature of the movie) that embodies the very best and worst of Dr. Phil, Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer and even Oprah, all rolled into one.

But despite the tackiness of the movie and the purposeful hokiness of the aforementioned book title, the overarching notion does give one pause. If, say, a guy like Robbins can have a convention center full of people nodding and smiling and going along with the program, taking even the cheesiest shtick in stride, doing whatever he tells them to do at each evolving moment; if a Joel Osteen can twist the whole ostensible point of religion to his personal aims, most of which seem marketing-driven and not a few of which seem outrageously incongruous with such bedrock Christian ideals as modesty and self-sacrifice...is there any limit to what today's high-powered motivational techniques can be successfully used for? How far would Dr. Phil's audience follow him if he decided to undertake a serious sociopolitical crusade? The evidence to date says: They'll follow him just about anywhere. They've already followed him into realms where his competency is dubious at best (e.g. diet and nutrition). Meanwhile, leading politicians increasingly turn to the likes of Robbins and Stephen Covey for their strategic insights.

I know what you're thinking: Gee, Steve, that was an awfully long build-up to such a thin, inferential payoff. Where's the beef?

Sorry, folks. Best I can do in the midst of returning everything I got for Christmas.

* Well, OK, I grant you, some of the scenery was pretty. And the film made me remember how much I liked Catherine Oxenberg's accent.

3 comments:

Cosmic Connie said...

What 'thin, inferential payoff'? You have, with this post, gone to the very heart of what is most deeply wrong with the SHAM industry. People as a whole just seem to need someone or something to look up to -- and, dare I say, to worship. God is too abstract and distant for many, whereas Tony, Phil, Oprah et al. are right there on the stage or set.

Fortunately, most of the SHAMster stars are probably too busy with their own personal missions of self-aggrandizement to actually try to orchestrate a sociopolitical movement. But there is always that possibility...

Trish Ryan said...

Look at you, there with the asterisk, finding a silver lining in your cloud! Honestly Steve, if I didn't know better, I'd think you were wrestling with a surge of optimism :)

Steve Salerno said...

Trish, you crack me up. Seriously. You don't say much, but what you do say is often priceless.