Friday, October 03, 2008

Matt Damon Rips Sarah Palin

This recent CBS exclusive interview of Matt Damon which caught fire several weeks ago in light of Presidential nominee John McCain’s appointment of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate has permanently found its place in American popular culture. Over 2 million people saw this interview on YouTube. The piece works as a standalone short film because of its mass appeal and the candid testimony of a hailed Hollywood celebrity.

The actual content of Damon’s spiel is not the issue of concern. To the average viewer, Damon’s fighting words should be considered of no greater value as compared to the already unreliable voices of the liberal institution of loud-mouth Hollywood which includes the likes of Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie.

But the reality of the culture established by YouTube proves that popularity is often a prerequisite to getting one’s video noticed. Sometimes this notion of popularity is earned by the filmmakers themselves after they have generated a fan base. For instance, the “Leave Britney Alone” girl and the “What’s Next” guy have secured a large fan base and even managed to establish cyber-celebrity status. But Damon is already a brand name. And while he may lack credibility, he is far more interesting than your average Jane Smith voicing her opinion.

The most compelling aspect of the film is that it occurs in one single take. The camera never moves once. For a medium that was established for the purpose of motion pictures, is it feasible to even label Damon’s interview a successful short film? Or should we just remember the piece for its interesting sound bytes (i.e. Damon considering McCain’s VP selection as from a ‘bad Disney movie’)?

In the future, when people do a web-search for Matt Damon’s interview concerning his views on Sarah Palin they won’t be looking for radio clips or press releases because it’s the video that they will remember. It can be discussed and argued that maybe such videos devalue the short film form by diluting the art form to merely a static source of celebrity gossip. But look for these videos to increase in volume and popularity over the web as many celebrities are finding the ease with which they can channel such opinions to an infinite number of people.

This also establishes a dangerous precedent. It proves that even though the internet may seem a level playing field of exposure for one’s opinions or art, a person’s popularity in the physical world is inherently far more likely to carry them far into cyberspace. Can you say Paris Hilton?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First off, I find it scary that we get our news from celebrities. Forgetting the fact that I don't care that celeb X married celeb Y, why should we care that Matt Damon does not endorse McCain/Palin? What is truly scary is that people will go to the polls and think, "oh well Matt Damon likes Obama/Biden so I'll vote that way too." YouTube makes it very easy for that opinion to be played over and over and over and over...and I'm sure that it will be, which illustrates the success of YouTube. Unlike some of the other videos, this isn't Matt Damon trying to make news or even trying to be controversial; this is Matt Damon trying to articulate his opinion and gain a backing. It is interesting to note that it is almost a political statement that CBS posted the video.

This opinion piece, I'm sure, was greatly rehearsed (allowing for no cuts). It is nice that it is done in one take, however, I don't know if it should be considered to be a short film. Maybe the entire interview could be called either a "short film" or "TV interview" but I feel like this is a webclip, a sub-category of a short film. Typically when one thinks of a short film, they think of narrative motivation, a beginning, middle and end. This holds true whether it is a documentary, "traditional" short film, or indie film. In this case, I believe that we could loosely (if we had to) label the full interview as a "documentary" but not the particular clip itself.

We should remember 2 things:
1) the sound bytes.
2) the fact that it is a single shot with no cuts.

The reason that we should remember the sound bytes is because the only important thing about the video is that it is uncensored and uncut. Matt Damon articulates clearly how he feels. His facial expressions only serve to give added emphasis to his words. It is truly the sound clips themselves that are most important.

Yes, listening to Matt Damon is more interesting than the average (forgive this next phrase, I HATE it but found it appropriate) "Joe Six Pack". We live in a society where the celebrity opinions are treated as if they came down from the Heavens above. Without that, magazines such as "US Weekly" and "People" wouldn't survive. These magazines fuel the idea that celebrity opinions should not be handled lightly. YouTube exploits using celebrities (as is the case with this Matt Damon CBS clip), and helps us get trapped thinking that celebrities are gods, when in actuality, they are normal people who get paid more and constantly surround the average person (film, TV, advertisements, video games, etc.). If Paris Hilton starts her own blog, I think I'll lose it.

PS -- I'll also lose it if Palin uses the word "maverick" one more time...