Pearl Jam Twenty (d. Cameron Crowe) + Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (ds. Nick Broomfield & Joan Churchill)
When Cameron Crowe'sPearl Jam Twentywas over, I lined up to use the bathroom between two other people, a woman and a man, who were at the same screening. The woman, who looked perhaps like she might've been in kindergarten whenPearl Jam's "Ten" came out, asked me, "That Chris Connell [sic], the guy with the--" she crooked her finger over her lip to indicate a pencil moustache, "--was he in the band?" "No," I said, "he's the lead singer ofSoundgarden." "Oh," she replied, and I could tell this answer didn't satisfy her in the least, but the bathroom became vacant and she excused herself. Then the man behind me, who was closer to my age (36) and patchouli-scented, wanted to know what I thought of the film. I told him that as someone who lost track of the band--lostinterestin it is the truth, but something told me not to say that, for he'd take it personally--after "Ten," I had trouble keeping up with it. He nodded sagely and said, "The thing about the drummers?"
It was as if he had read my mind: despite lead singer Eddie Vedder referring to drummers as "the heart of a band" and comparing the replacement of a drummer to "a heart transplant," the issue ofPearl Jamgoing through drummers like Kleenex is reduced to a jokey bit with guitarist Mike McCready. "Matt Cameron, the current one, is fromSoundgarden," the man in line for the bathroom informed me. I was extra incredulous for effect: "Really? You'd think they'd mention that connection. It's relevant." "Yeah," he shrugged. "I loved the movie, but then I'm a superfan and knew the subtext." As Walter Chaw wrote ofHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,Pearl Jam Twentyis for an audience that "seeks the extra-sensory validation of their interior projections." The Thing About the Drummers is also indicative of a larger lack of controversy that beleaguers this glorified "Behind the Music" special. I stopped listening toPearl Jamwhen they started making a concerted effort to be "less commercial," which is its own form of cynicism. Moreover, I felt disenchanted by the group's habit of adopting of every trendy political cause and by Vedder's childish polemics (see: "Bushleaguer" and its attendant hubbub). The film touches on each of these things, only in a way that is celebratory; a deadly combination of fanboy, friend, and Richie Cunningham, Crowe has zero objectivity about the band and transparently tries to protect them from embarrassment by skimming the surface of subjects--McCready's drug use, for instance--that can't be reframed in terms of artistic integrity.
BothPearl Jam TwentyandSarah Palin: You Betcha!, the latest muckraker from neo-exploitation filmmakers Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill, preach to the converted (Palin h8rs in the case of the latter). But that's really all they do. Structured exactly like Broomfield's lurid yet undeniably enjoyableKurt & Courtney,You Betcha!interviews many a scorned acquaintance from Palin's past--for a former mayor of an Alaskan podunk, Palin has amassed an impressively Nixonian list of enemies--as prelude to a climactic confrontation with Palin herself that happens limply in a public forum because Broomfield can't get close enough to her in private. Listen: I hate everything about Sarah Palin (including her stupid face, which is positively dick-shrivelling on the big screen), but these stories of her scandalous behaviour in the offices she's held burn too quickly as rage fuel and are destined to be dismissed as bitter gossip once they reach her supporters in an inevitably secondhand fashion. While I appreciate the urge to reiterate on the eve of the next presidential election that she's a Creationist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, hypocritical moron, the film deflates its own alarmism by suggesting her political career has already come to a definitive end and forgoes almost every opportunity to examine the cultural vacuum that allowed this ignoramus to flourish in the first place--which, history being what it is (i.e., doomed to repeat itself), may have extendedYou Betcha!'s shelf-life a bit. Though always mischievous, Broomfield's work used to have that Channel 4 veneer of sophistication, but he's strictly a tabloid journalist now.
PEARL JAM TWENTY*/****
PROGRAMME:Special Presentations SARAH PALIN: YOU BETCHA!**/**** PROGRAMME:Real to Reel