Bozell Column: The Polluted Oscar Documentary Pool
The cabal that chooses the 15 nominees for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature has issued its 2013 selections. Why was the the top-grossing documentary of 2012 -- and the fourth most-successful documentary of all time – not on that expansive list?
Because it was “2016,” the film in which conservative author Dinesh D’Souza warns of a dark future for America if Barack Obama is re-elected. The film’s producer, Gerald Molen, who’s already won an Oscar for “Schindler’s List,” was scandalized. "The action confirms my opinion that the bias against anything from a conservative point of view is dead on arrival in Hollywood.”
He shouldn’t be surprised. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be indignant. Recent Oscar winners in this category include Michael Moore for “Bowling for Columbine” and Davis Guggenheim for his Al Gore flick “An Inconvenient Truth.” Is anyone anywhere prepared to argue that the political agendas in these documentaries didn’t play a role in their selection? The primary role?
The Hollywood Reporter noted “2016" made more money at the box office than the combined receipts of the 15 films the Academy put on the short list this year. So why were those other ones selected? Could it be.....politics? Consider:
– “Bully,” the Harvey Weinstein-produced film pushing the usual pro-gay agenda, which was promoted by picking a fight over its original “R” rating for too many F-words.
– “Chasing Ice,” the latest “climate change” expose, which just hit a few theaters on November 16. We’re told by photographer and activist James Balog that glacial melting is in fact the "canary in the climate coal mine."
– “Detropia,” a film about devastated Detroit by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who made the (previously Oscar-nominated) evangelical-bashing film “Jesus Camp.” A retired teacher pleads: “No buffer between the rich and the poor? Only thing left is revolution.”
– “Ethel,” which is not a “movie” at all, but an HBO documentary. Or you could call it a “home movie,” since it was made by Rory Kennedy about her mother, Ethel. This is hardly an expose. It’s more like a mawkish valentine to the woman the filmmaker calls “Mummy.”
– “How to Survive a Plague,” on the radical-left AIDS protesters of over the Reagan administration’s so-called indifference in the 1980s. The Boston Globe says it documents “the political seething at the federal government’s failure to help combat the spread of AIDS with effective medical treatments.” Chelsea Clinton recently starred at an event promoting the film.
– “The House I Live In,” Eugene Jarecki’s jeremiad against the “War on Drugs” and how it is “costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage on future generations of Americans.” TV producer David Simon rants “The drug war is a Holocaust in slow-motion."
– “The Invisible War,” a film about an “epidemic” of rapes in the military by (previously Oscar-nominated) Kirby Dick. This could be a grave problem, but it sounds hyperbolic. Dick claims half a million women have been raped in America’s armed forces. Yes, five-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero. (The hero of the trailer is ultraliberal Rep. Henry Waxman.)
– “5 Broke Cameras” and “The Gatekeepers” are both about the Israelis’ history of inhumanity toward the Palestinians.
– “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” is another HBO-backed film by (previous Oscar winner) Alex Gibney, whose other films have ripped Enron and the War on Terror. This is another expose of Catholic Church inaction with sexually abusive priests, including Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who ran a Wisconsin school for the deaf.
Exposes on the Catholic sex abuse scandal are a staple in this Documentary Branch of the Oscars. David France of “How to Survive a Plague” wrote a book called “Our Fathers” that later became a TV docudrama. Kirby Dick earned an Oscar nomination in 2004 for “Twist of Faith.” Amy Berg was awarded an Oscar nomination for “Deliver Us From Evil” in 2006.
This is the first year that the Best Documentary Feature award has new rules – promoted by Michael Moore. Instead of films being screened by small groups (of about five) and then recommended to the whole membership, all the films are now supposed to be screened by all 173 members. That simply does not happen. That means some of the 100-plus documentaries in the field are inevitably cast aside if they offend the liberal sensibilities of the judges. So, bye-bye, “2016.”
Nominees are supposed to have run for a week in theaters in New York and Los Angeles at least. Two of these films – “Mea Maxima Culpa” and “Ethel” – have yet to jump that minimalist hurdle. “Ethel” aired on HBO in October. None of it maters. There are no rules. Up with liberalism. Conservatism? Censored.