Category Archive 'Titus Techera'

27 Oct 2021

Film Noir

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“In a Lonely Place” (1950).

Titus Techera and Terry Teachout Substacking on Film Noir.

The films noir that remain watchable, by contrast, are the ones that concentrate on the dark crosscurrents of middle-class American life & revolve, as do the great Westerns of the ’40s & ’50s, around the problem of individual responsibility. To be sure, the tacit assumption is that the anonymous cities in which films noir are set are so corrupt that upright individual conduct is all but impossible. Nevertheless, every classic film noir hinges on a crucial moral choice made by the protagonist, as Walter Neff, Fred MacMurray’s character, admits to the audience in his voice-over narration for Double Indemnity: “I’m not trying to whitewash myself,” he says about the crime he commits out of love, lust, & greed. “I fought it…only maybe I didn’t fight it hard enough.”

10 Sep 2020

We’re All Mad as Hell, and We’re Not Going to Take This Anymore!

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As American cities burn again and a bitterly-divided country prepares to battle to the death over the upcoming presidential election, Titus Techera finds all of it reminding him only too well of Sidney Lumet’s black comedy “Network” (1976) and some other Seventies cinematic visions of Apocalyptic despair and heroic struggle.

Network is so far-sighted because it takes seriously the shift in post-war liberalism, from the halcyon days of Edward R. Murrow to the transformation of the news into theater. We see the collapse and abandonment of the high hopes of transforming America through technocratic reason. As the administrative state replaces ignorant politicians with ‘experts’ on issues of burning national importance, so the national media emphasizes its objectivity and tells everyone the same stories with the same authoritative confidence.

But the Great Society failed catastrophically as race riots, urban bombing campaigns unprecedented in American history, and Vietnam protests tore the country apart and set students against the Democrats who depended on their votes. Liberalism’s authoritative media speakers lost their authority and became as questionable as liberalism’s authoritative champions in politics. When the political elites fail to act for the common good, how can the journalistic elites do their job? By damning their own ideology or lying. Beautiful fantasies or ugly truths: this is how liberalism comes crashing down.


24 Jul 2020

“Yellowstone”: Class Warfare Iliad in Montana

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Titus Techera‘s must-read review explains why the television series, now in its third season, makes some serious statements about class warfare and the changing character of the American elite.

Like Hemingway’s marlin, which achieves its greatest leap in its death throes and expires at the top of the arc, [John] Dutton is most impressive in agony. He seems superhuman compared to the new American elites. His handling of urgent problems makes him resemble the president—he is an executive. Meanwhile, egalitarianism has not created equality in America, but only a new elite, impatient, ignorant of the future, blind to necessity—thus, astonishingly able to manipulate the new systems of power, since these elites feel no concern for consequences. The real world, where people are tied to a place, to other people, to their past, and the good they pursue, is replaced by access to the institutions and finances that make the world work, which manipulate people’s lives indirectly, in unaccountable and unpredictable ways. Everyone’s tied into legal demands and their lives are increasingly regulated, but only people who know how to use the law to get what they want get ahead in this new situation. The first post-American elite is coming for the last cowboys. …

The opposite of a man in America is a bourgeois bohemian, to recall David Brooks’s signal contribution to our sociology in Bobos in Paradise (2000). Brooks is a sophist for this class, so he will not tell the ugly truth—but Tom Wolfe did in A Man in Full (1998), and even scooped Brooks. It’s not an accident that he saw clearly: Wolfe was the poet of American Stoicism and understood the threats to manliness.

The people who define elite taste in America are themselves opposed to violence, but not because they are Christian or even moral. It’s because their own rule doesn’t require that they ever take any personal risks—poorer people do that, who live in other parts of town or are completely removed from sight by gentrification. Nowadays, the rich take no responsibility for the poorer or those suffering violence, or even ever shake their hands, which is why our cities are such madhouses. There is no noblesse oblige.

Sheridan wants to show the violence in America to rebuke this bloodless view of things. … we see, through the real estate developer drama, how the new American elite is moving in to remove the last ranchers. This establishes the difference between real men and those who want to rule merely through institutions and finance, as though history had ended and we’re just dividing up luxuries.


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