Thursday, September 12, 2019

Best supporting actor

Yes, yes, art is subjective.

Until it isn't.

Is the Sistine Ceiling better than Caravaggio's Deposition? Not in a million years, I say. But we compare two masterpieces. There is a part of me that understands: who cares? The discussion is meaningless. One might as well throw in a Van Gogh, a choice John Singer Sargent, Picasso, why split these hairs? I'm wasting my time comparing the very stars in the sky.

But what if the devil doesn't want to let me go? 

Is Kansas a better band than the Kinks? Is The Wizard of Id a better cartoon strip than Doonesbury? Are there better singers than Lucinda Williams?

No. No no no! And now I'm all worked up.

Tonight my wife and I saw a movie. It was charming enough. I won't watch it again, probably, but I liked it. And in it Jack Black, an occasionally amusing actor I've never marked for his particularly brilliant abilities, played a teenage girl. It was stunning. A tour de force.

There was no reason he shouldn't have won the Academy Award for best supporting actor. But alas, what if you're the best (supporting) actor in a movie no one cares about? What if you give a masterful performance in a movie with no great ambition, or writing, or gravity? What if it's frothy, but your work is miles beyond everyone else that year?

I guess you go the way of other great robberies: Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck, Bogart in Casablanca, moments of lost recognition that cast a light that says it's all nonsense. Sometimes greatness can be picked out, sometimes it can't. And it is never compared among itselves to any profit.

The Tiffany Aching books will be slowly forgotten, though it may take time. Long Shot will win no awards this year. You will probably never hear of a book called Wicked Nix or the song Witness I Can't Hide. And if you ever find yourself on the blog "Clerk Manifesto" it will be the most freakish of miracles.

But I don't see it happening.


  1. Yes, that's a true post. I wonder how biological the tendency is (regarding first part of post). I remember being a kid of around 8 or 9 and always making a list of my favorite songs, and how almost daily they would change. It wasn't like a group could be "my favorites"--one had to be on top. I like to think of it now like nature: I mean, you *can* say "that mountain is more beautiful than that one," but it seems rather silly. Nature is. A masterpiece of art is. A witness I can't hide.

    1. Oh lord, I'm all aquiver! The singer songwriter of Witness I Can't Hide is right here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      But I like your nature analogy an awful lot. I never thought of that but it really brings it home.


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