The Juilliard School in NY is highly revered and its deserves it. I personally always respected it, tried to know more about it and always considered it a shining beacon in the otherwise rather bleak landscape of American Arts. Juilliard traditions, its legacy, its message were and are exemplary and if there is something all the world knows about, American to the core and great at the same time- that's this School of Arts.
I don't know about other people but when I hear "the Juilliard graduate' I feel good about that person even before I see the performance. That is I felt that way until Zero Dark Thirty. Jessica Chastain is a Juilliard graduate and she played the CIA queen bee.
In all fairness, propaganda movies are nothing new. In fact, most of the movies are propaganda movies, even lyrical comedies. I do not associate the negative connotation with the word: cinema was invented as the mass --oriented art and as such it targets groups of people, not individuals. What you expect from the book- deep thinking, rich characters, psychology, individual feedback- all of that should not be expected from the "sentimental fever' as Ossip Mandelshtam had defined the cinema. It is not even a theater whose sole purpose is to concentrate the emotions flying in the air and dump them all on pitch and toss inside of the constrained space of the scene. Cinema is for everyone and as such promotes anything; its secret is in the availability of a menu- everyone enters the theater and picks his/her meal.
So before Zero Dark Thirty was, for instance "The British Agent' ( if I remember correctly) -- the 1920s movie loosely based on the "Memoirs Of The British Agent' by Robert Bruce Lockhart, the former member of the British mission in Russia during the Revolution. The movie had not much to do with real events but it featured a brilliant cast, a perfect protagonist woman- heroine, a lover and a spy played by Key Francis; it featured the portraying of then famous Russian leaders like Dzerzhinsky, the Leader of Cheka, the Political Police, also others. The movie was full of cheap and low-level cliche's; the Brit, of course, was noble and irresistible, a predecessor of James Bond when it comes to women (in real life British men are considered the least attractive, being in front of maybe, Finns- MS J ). Of course, the Russian spy-woman adores him and divulges all the secrets and he prevails against all odds. The reality was not that glamorous; the plot which Lockhart financed was discovered by a sting operation; he was arrested and deported and although there was a Russian woman, he left her alone in Russia. She eventually became a double agent for the Russian Foreign Spy System and in that capacity went abroad and resided in London until her death in 1960s. But that was not reflected in that rather successful movie; critics were very favorable about the actors and their performance.
Critics were very favorable about the actors in Zero Dark Thirty too. The story is still a story and it is quite legit; there was an internationally renowned terrorist, he had to be eliminated; that's how it was done. It was a fascinating story, ready for making a movie and a movie was made. The cast was great, the territory was well- known and as for a woman CIA- operative- even that was not that new; before Maya there was Pamela Landy from the "Bourne' series. What's the fuss, really? Enjoy the show and pay for the popcorn.
Russian literary historian Sherba defined art as a "Deliberate and calculated deviation form the norm.' The norm thus is to be defined, the reference point identified beforehand. Every form of art confronts this problem and although it is up to an individual to apparently choose the reference point and the direction on where to deviate, the history of art forms gives some guidance. And one of those guiding principles is formulated by Alexander Pushkin (I am sorry for using only Russian sources but it is easier for me: I am sure there is a plenty of Western sources too- MS):
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