Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 19, No. 6, 2020
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Oslavi Linares
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


at the movies



Donald Dewey has written some 40 books of fiction and nonfiction, as well as contributed scores of stories to magazines and other periodicals. He has also had some 30 plays staged in Europe and the United States. Dewey was editor of the ASME-award winning magazine Attenzione and was editorial director of the East-West Network, overseeing a dozen in-flight magazines and the PBS organ Dial. Don's latest book, Franchisement: The Alan Gibb Story, is now available.

Long before there were multiplexes, before felons developed tactics to pay once for seeing more than one movie, it was still possible to turn a single ticket into a compound investment. And it didn't take a lot of sneaking around lobbies and keeping an eye on stub collectors, either. No ingenuity whatsoever was required.

There was the movie on the screen, of course, in Cinemascope, Vistavision, and any number of variations on technicolour, sepia, and rust. That picture offered an array of action, of dialogue, of musical scoring, of more action, more dialogue, and more musical scoring. The actors were gigantic, the smallest background hill could have been the Alps, and crystalline streams thundered like Niagara Falls. Size, size, and more size. But all the while this picture was playing out before widened eyes, a second one was running for the same single admission -- the one being unspooled in our heads. Dot, dot, and more dots.

Boredom was not the only catalyst for the second feature. Yes, it might happen that the learned on-screen discussions of Plato's principles or analyses of Lenin's strategies at Finland Station could promote mental drift. Sometimes it took a striptease to refocus on what was going on at the front of the theater. But even a striptease or an equivalent stampede of thousands of steers goring and stomping on townspeople too slow to get out of their way didn't always restore focus to where the projectionist wanted it to be. Amazing as it was, a second feature between the ears could occasionally overwhelm the first one between the sprockets, and not only because the national budgets splattered over the bigger screen had been spent unwisely.

Association -- that was the key. An actor, a look, a situation -- what set it off could have been anything, maybe even the unpopped kernel of pop corn antagonizing a cavity. All we had to bring to it was vulnerability, just as any actor had to bring to a scene to make it convincing. And we were more than actors. We were also our own script writers and directors, at times even the spectators when a memory of particular weight awoke a frisson of excitement or depression. A lot of time could elapse from one scene to another, often more than that elapsing on the big screen where a fist fight in a Texas saloon was followed immediately by the roustabouts snarling at one another from separate cells in Romania. Whatever those university film classes had to say, montage was not exclusive to auteurs. Any brain at all could edit and recompose reality.

Genre was not a problem. Westerns could spark horror shriekers, thrillers slapstick comedies. It went without saying that we were always the protagonists, for good, bad, and embarrassing. Many of our private features carried such titles as Oh, God!, Did I Really Do That?, and I Wonder What Happened to Her. As for co-stars, they had invariably been swallowed up by time, space, and, in the most melancholy cases, death. Only self-discipline held us back from following the plot into non-movie realms where we lost sight of what had been shot and what we just wished had been. We weren't that cavalier about the dollars handed over back at the box office. A double-bill was a double-bill, and that meant one feature had to occupy the lower half, had to know its place on the marquee. Guess which one.

Still, once out of the can, attention had to be paid. The law of only one to an orchestra or balcony seat provided the necessary air of intimacy. Wanting to clout the hippo getting into the row by way of your feet was merely a cartoon, the yammerers explaining everything to each other in the row behind a filler short subject. The basis for a full-length feature was more of that action, that dialogue, that musical scoring, and this time for only one to savour, agonize over, or cry about. We knew we were never going to win awards for what we had produced, but our features remained far more personal than what the screen upfront, even at its best, was trying to bathe us in. Vita est longa, ars brevis.


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Also by Donald Dewey:
Heroes and Victims
The Relationships Conundrum
The Finger
Smoke Blowers
Noticing Death
Passive Resistance
Not Playing It Safe
The Expectation Medium
Crisis in Critics
Words Not to Live By
Knowing the Killer
Racism to the Rescue
Punk Times
Not Playing It Safe
Meeting the Author
The Overwriting Syndrome
Writers As Ideas
Let Them Entertain Us
It's a Kindergarten Life
Being and Disconnectedness
History of Humour in the Cinema
Cartoon Power


Before becoming the world's most respected life, death, and everything in between coach, Alan Gibb shared that common frustration over the failure of astrology, numerology, and similar religions to direct all aspects of human behavior. They might have all been sacred systems for establishing a personal identity, but there was a rusty screw at their core. Even when the revolutionary tenets of Franchisement occurred to him, he knew they might remain stillborn without the attacks, arrests, and tragedies customarily accompanying an original vision. Happily for Gibb and the tens of thousands of his fellow believers, he was assaulted in physical, mental, and dietary ways and hauled in as a fraud, thug, and stalker even as he pressed forward on his crusade to share Franchisement with the hordes crying for it as a national pastime superior to baseball. More happily, the tragedies struck others, not him, enabling him to enjoy the millions Franchisement brought through the Internet, the telephone, and pay-on-demand cable. As he noted repeatedly, the delivery vehicle was unimportant as long as a customer thought he wanted what he was getting. "If you listen to people, the world is divided between the Yankees and the Red Sox," he liked to chuckle fondly. "Tell that to those with a crush on the Minnesota Twins. A vision that isn't comprehensive sees only its own nose."


"Granted there are many similar books too numerous to count, but this book is sui generis." --- Benjamin Acocella, S.J., President of the Council for Mental Observances.

"This book changed my life when it most needed changing." --- Sidney Willinger, Leisure Sciences Department, University of Indiana.

"Sometimes love is a 13-letter word." --- Jennifer Pryor, Harvard School of Theoretical Business.

"Gibb demonstrates how life is more than steak knives and storm windows." --- Joel Sternheim, Informercials Institute.

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Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
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