Skip to main content

The Longest Ride

Namuth - Pollock.jpg


My recent movie-going experiences include The Longest Ride, an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

I'm not going to talk about the plot, especially, so there's no need for a "spoiler alert." This post concerns a secondary theme of the movie by which I was struck.

A little information about structure and cast will get us there. There are two stories, one framing the other, The frame involves a pair of young lovers, rodeo star Luke Collins (played by Scott Eastwood, Clint's boy) and aspiring art curator Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson). Their story is not especially interesting except that it provides a frame for a better love story.

Luke and Sophia become involved in the life of an old man, Ira Levinson. Ira as the old guy is played by Alan Alda, though Ira as a young man (in flashbacks triggered by readings of old letters) is played by Jack Huston.  Young Ira's beloved, starting in 1940, is a refugee from Austria, Ruth Pfeffer (Oona Chaplin). As I've indicated above,  the Ruth/Ira relationship holds one's interest more successfully than that of Sophia and Luke, though here too, I won't go into the particulars. Suffice it to say that they too represent a good Hollywood mismatched match: a country bumpkin who has lived his life in small town North Carolina and a young enthusiast of modern art from that world center: interwar Vienna.

This gets us to the secondary theme of the movie that stayed with me. In both romances, the woman is engaged with modern art, and in both situations, that baffles the man.

In the greatest-generation romance, their courtship and their years together after the war (oops, a bit of a spoiler there -- yes, he survives the war and returns to Ruth -- he's the old man still alive in the 21st century, after all, so that's pretty much a given anyway) this time coincides with High Modernism. Jackson Pollock and his New York crowd were in these years of the Ira/Ruth Honeymoon inspiring both philistine gibes about how "a child could do that" AND critical raptures by such figures as Clement Greenberg. [That's a famous photo of Pollock at work, above. I'll say something about Pollock and/or Greenberg in a post next weekend.]

But Ira himself, not-especially appreciative bumpkin though he is, and incapable though he is of Greenbergian rapture, doesn't engage in the above referenced sort of gibe, either. He is portrayed both as a gentleman and as deeply in love, and for both of those reasons disinclined to say anything contrary about the non-representational art Ruth loves.

In the present-day romance, the artworks that enthrall Sophia also seem, well, broadly modernist and non-representational.  Yet this is the 21st century, and Luke the bull rider isn't quite so polite about his non-appreciation as was Ira. In an art gallery, speaking to a woman who may soon be Sophia's boss at an internship, he says, "There's more bullshit here than where I work." He complains that he doesn't want to pretend that "squiggles of paint are something more than squiggles of paint."

I would like to think that Luke learns a lesson from Ira, and that at least part of the lesson is to be more open to those 'squiggles' and to what they may mean to those who are fascinated by them, or at least to be more closed-mouth about his own prejudice. Alas, the ending of the movie seems to leave that lesson as one more for us than for him.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

England as a Raft?

In a lecture delivered in 1880, William James asked rhetorically, "Would England ... be the drifting raft she is now in European affairs if a Frederic the Great had inherited her throne instead of a Victoria, and if Messrs Bentham, Mill, Cobden, and Bright had all been born in Prussia?"

Beneath that, in a collection of such lectures later published under James' direction, was placed the footnote, "The reader will remember when this was written."

The suggestion of the bit about Bentham, Mill, etc. is that the utilitarians as a school helped render England ineffective as a European power, a drifting raft.

The footnote was added in 1897. So either James is suggesting that the baleful influence of Bentham, Mill etc wore off in the meantime or that he had over-estimated it.

Let's unpack this a bit.  What was happening in the period before 1880 that made England seem a drifting raft in European affairs, to a friendly though foreign observer (to the older brother…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Francesco Orsi

I thought briefly that I had found a contemporary philosopher whose views on ethics and meta-ethics checked all four key boxes. An ally all down the line.

The four, as regular readers of this blog may remember, are: cognitivism, intuitionism, consequentialism, pluralism. These represent the views that, respectively: some ethical judgments constitute knowledge; one important source for this knowledge consists of quasi-sensory non-inferential primary recognitions ("intuitions"); the right is logically dependent upon the good; and there exists an irreducible plurality of good.

Francesco Orsi seemed to believe all of these propositions. Here's his website and a link to one relevant paper:

https://sites.google.com/site/francescoorsi1/

https://jhaponline.org/jhap/article/view/3

What was better: Orsi is a young man. Born in 1980. A damned child! Has no memories of the age of disco!

So I emailed him asking if I was right that he believed all of those things. His answer: three out of …