Scuzz Journalism By Mike White. One thing that my experience with mainstream media taught me (see CdC #3) is that journalists seldom, if ever, check their facts...

One thing that my experience with mainstream media taught me (see CdC #3) is that journalists seldom, if ever, check their facts. These mistakes get reprinted by other writers and, somewhere along the line, mutate into hard facts. Why does this happen? Is it slipshod reporting? Is it the death of the American work ethic? Is it the shift away from well-researched journalism to sensationalistic slander and rampant rumor-mongering? Perhaps. More than anything, I think it boils down to laziness.

In writing about films; why watch the movie when you can read the press kit? Why formulate ideas when you can just rehash the plot? And, hey, why bother to research? We all know that Humphrey Bogart said, "Play it again, Sam," so why watch The Caine Mutinyor whatever movie that was from...

I must admit that I’m not one to read Vanity Fair too often. Perhaps it’s because the number of ads outweigh the number of words in the magazine and that—even with all those ads—the cover price is outrageous or it might possibly be due to the lousy writing by contributors such as James Wolcott.

The April ’98 issue of Vanity Fair featured Wolcott’s "Live Fast, Die Young, And Leave A Big Stain," an exposé on "Scuzz Cinema"—an alleged subgenre of the gangster/B-movie crime film that would include films like Love and a .45, 2 Days in the Valley, and Out of Sight. It’s never said so directly, but "Scuzz Cinema" basically boils down to films that have come about due to the popularity of Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre.

In an attempt to give some more depth to his statements, Wolcott traces the roots of "scuzz cinema," frequently going back to the work of Sam Peckinpah (The Getaway, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) and David Lynch (Wild at Heart). What’s ironic, however, is that of all the films that have influenced Tarantino and, subsequently, spawned "scuzz cinema," Wolcott breezes over Ringo Lam’s City on Fire.

"A Hong Kong action film called City on Fire was reputed to have furnished the basic scenario for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs," writes Wolcott. From that statement alone, it’s obvious that Wolcott didn’t bother to watch City on Fire which is inexcusable in an article that pretends to define a cinematic movement.

The language that Wolcott uses to describe the connection between the two films is irksome. First off, he puts the sentence in past tense—"was reputed"—as if those allegations have been disproved over time. Second, and most important, is the word "reputed." One can say that Lee Harvey Oswald was reputed to have killed President Kennedy—there is a reasonable doubt there. But one can not say that two and two are reputed to equal four.

Another clue that Wolcott didn’t do his homework is a picture featured on the next page of the article with the caption, "Chow Yun-Fat and friends in John Woo’s scuzz-inspiring City on Fire." There’s no Chow Yun-Fat in the photo (which features Danny Lee instead) and despite how often it’s printed in magazines, John Woo didn’t direct the film.

I suppose I should be happy if writers only made spelling mistakes (see review of Fright X) as long as they got their facts straight by doing a little research by actually watching the films they choose to write about. Heck, I’m not being completely radical and suggesting that they comprehend them!

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