Monday, September 26, 2005

Popcorn by Ben Elton

Author: Ben Elton
ISBN # 0552772976
320 pages

Bruce Delamitri is a movie director on a mission - winner of the Best Director Oscar, he's the hero of the MTV generation for his violent films which, he claims, simply hold up a mirror to real life & portray the lives of ordinary Americans. But in a world where explosive & extreme violence is becoming common-place, is it time to admit that art doesn't only imitate life - it influences it. Enter Wayne & Scout - the notorious Mall Murderers. They've got a plan & they might just get away with murder - literally!

Popcorn is Elton's satirical take on the shallow inhabitants of Hollywood & the movie-culture of the nineties. Delamitri is a fictional characterisation of Oliver Stone & his movie Ordinary Americans is his Natural Born Killers. The apathy of the American film industry & the refusal to accept responsibility for one's own actions comes under sharp attack here & Elton asks us what the world has come to when we can blame everything on our upbringing, social circumstances or personal tragedy rather than admit we may be at fault ourselves. It encourages you to examine the motives behind the denial - is it as unconscious as we would have others believe? Or is it coldly calculated as a way to defer responsibility onto others?

Elton's brutal honesty & acerbic wit are perfectly suited to the subject matter & although cynical, the dark humour is never far beneath the surface& the reader is left with no doubt as to how the author feels. We are, however, left with questions about the validity of media claims that movies are the cause of wide-spread violence as it champions the free-thinking individual as able to make up their own minds, make their own decisions, & accept responsibility for their own lives.

One of Elton's earlier forays into writing, it remains one of his strongest pieces to date, bested only, in my opinion, by the likes of Dead Famous (where he examines the phenomenon of so-called reality TV, in particular, Big Brother), & Past Mortem (a murder/mystery for the computer-age). His style, although jarring in places, never holds the reader back from the plot, letting us see the story from all angles as it unfolds.

Rating: 6/10


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