In their post-Oscar coverage on Monday, Washington Post writers suggested that Hollywood's celebration of dark movies with dark characters has a political genesis, that it came from moviemakers depressed over the Bush re-election, Iraq, and global warming. In his front-page piece, reporter Hank Stuever theorized:
But these were dark movies -- the feel-bad films of the year -- conjured up in what movie people seem to collectively sense as grave times, hatched in producers' offices and on writers' laptops not long after the 2004 election and amid increasing setbacks in the Iraq war and gloomy environmental warnings. Some of the filmmakers and actors wore orange ribbons or rubber bracelets to protest alleged incidents of torture by the United States at its prison in Guantanamo Bay, and in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the subject of "Taxi to the Dark Side," which won Best Documentary Feature.
When not offering a surfeit of death and gloom, Academy nominees this year focused, in at least some metaphorical way, on all the looming issues:
Left-wing blowhard Michael Moore didn't win an Oscar last night but the Academy of Motion Pictures didn't dissappoint the PC crowd, giving its award for best documentary to "Taxi to the Dark Side," a film by Alex Gibney and Eva Orner which accuses the U.S. military of engaging in torture around the globe:
The harrowing film throws the spotlight on US interrogation techniques at military facilities and investigates the death in custody of a Afghan taxi driver - Dilawar - at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2002. [...] Gibney, who also produced hit documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," said in his acceptance speech that his wife had wanted him to make a romantic comedy.
"But honestly after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition that simply wasn't possible," the film-maker said, before dedicating the film to Dilawar and his own father.
In his culture column this week, Brent Bozell explored how the Academy Awards have trended dramatically toward nasty art films that are not embraced by the masses. This is quite a contrast to a new anti-Oscar of sorts: the Dove Crystal Seal, issued by the Dove Foundation, which awards movies for being family-friendly. Brent notes that the standards are different, that a film can be a great artistic achievement and not be good for children, but the Oscars used to go to family films at times, and that's not so true now.
The first Dove Crystal Seals were awarded to hit movies like Disney's "Ratatouille," "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," and "The Game Plan" with the Rock, as well as Walden's religious picture "Amazing Grace." Brent found that inspirational subject matter makes the nation's film-critic tastemakers choke and say "ugh, Hallmark." For example:
Christian Toto, Washington Times entertainment reporter, dropped us a note about the upcoming release of a direct to DVD movie called, "I Could Never Be Your Woman." This flick that wasn't ranked high enough by the studio to get a theatrical release stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, and Saoirse Ronan. It's supposed to be a love triangle comedy flick, but close to the end of the thing is included a slam on President Bush that has nothing at all to do with the rest of the movie and is blatant for its gratuitous nature.
As Mr. Toto has it this "nasty bit of Bush bashing" is at about 98 percent through the film and occurs during a scene where young Miss Ronan is playing the part of a teenaged talent show contestant.
Ronan's character takes the stage for a student talent show and starts strumming a song to the tune of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic."
Then Mr. Toto gives us the faux lyrics of this Bush bashing tune...
The writers' strike is giving conservative fans of "24" a temporary reprieve from a maddening, preachy plots planned in the new season. So argues Bryan Preston at Hot Air, noting that Hollywood praises liberal anti-military, anti-war on terror fare like "Redacted," while it can't abide a pro-American, pro-war on terror far like "24," despite the latter being vastly more successful as a commercial enterprise than the former.
Preston notes that Day 7 of "24" opens by featuring lead character Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) defending his actions before a congressional committee that will doubtless rail against his methods in obtaining intelligence from terrorists. He notes this merely gives fictional liberal senators air time to echo arguments "24" fans here time and again from real life liberal politicians and the mainstream media (emphasis mine):
As its Hollywood-borrowed headline There Will Be Blood suggests, the gist of Maureen Dowd's column today is that appearances of that icky post-debate clinch notwithstanding, there is no love lost between Hillary and Obama. The junior senator from Illinois won't agree to run as Hillary's vice-presidential candidate. Or as Maureen metaphorically puts it:
Why would Obama want to follow in the frustrated footsteps of Al Gore . . . being third banana to Billary?
Along the way, Dowd appears to break some news of a confrontation between the two that one camp views as having been physical . . .
American freedom is under assault within the scientific establishment and the academic community where the proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) theory are being silenced and marginalized at the expense of research that could potentially expand human knowledge and boost medical research, according to a new documentary that raises questions about Darwinian assumptions.
A growing number of scientists with expertise in biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy have encountered a level of complexity in the observable universe that in their estimation cannot be sufficiently explained by a random, directionless process. For this reason, they are compelled to offer up alternative theories for biological and astronomical objects that appear to be carefully calibrated and finely tuned by way of an intelligent agent.
Unfortunately, scientists in the United States who offer up Intelligent Design as a possible alternative to Charles Darwin’s 150 year old theories about the origins of life and the evolutionary process often find they cannot speak out without jeopardizing their careers and professional reputations.
“Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” calls attention to the plight of highly credentialed researchers and scholars who have been forced out of prestigious positions. Instead of entertaining a free, unrestrained open debate on the merits of competing theories, the scientific establishment has instead moved to suppress the Intelligent Design movement in a “systematic and ruthless” fashion at odds with America’s founding principles, the film asserts.
Mark Moring has an interesting read at Christianity Today's Web site. He recalls all the popular movies in 2007 that feature life-affirming responses to unexpected pregnancy in films such as "Knocked Up," "Waitress," "Juno," "Bella," and "August Rush.":
To some, it was a year of war movies and "statement" flicks—including In the Valley of Elah, Lions for Lambs, and Rendition. Meanwhile, David Poland of Movie City News declared 2007 "Oscar's Year of the Man," noting that of the top sixteen contenders for best picture, only three were headlined by women.
But others noticed a different trend: In some ways, 2007 was the Year of Pro-Life Cinema.
Ordinarily there wouldn't be a link between an awards ceremony and the anniversary of legally sanctioned abortion. But this was before "Juno."
Today marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case which gave women access to legal abortions. This morning the Academy Award nominees were also announced, and "Juno," a movie in which a teenage girl chooses adoption over abortion, scored nominations for Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture.
Unlike the sensitive folks over at Media Matters, we NewsBusters are a relatively thick-skinned lot. And no one's ever confused me with Gloria Steinem. So we're not going to overreact to Willie Geist's comment this morning and demand a Matthewsesque mea culpa.
However . . . Willie did manage to diss the intelligence of his compatriots on today's Morning Joe. A Friday show tradition is for Geist and MSNBC celebrity correspondent Courtney Hazlett [a personal fave in the genre for her intelligent perspective] to predict which movie will score best at the box office during the coming weekend. When Hazlett tapped Cloverfield, an action-horror flick in which things go horribly wrong for Manhattan, Geist reacted with, well, horror.
A few years back, I interviewed Michael Moore and asked him if Fahrenheit 9/11 should be considered a political advertisement, and if so, whether campaign finance laws should apply. Moore admitted the film contained his opinions, but that his film should be treated like an op-ed in the paper.
During the 2004 election, neither ads for the Bush-bashing Fahrenheit 9/11, nor the film itself were regulated under campaign finance laws.
On a lazy December 30th Sunday afternoon, I flipped on the television, on which the previous evening I had left the History Channel (they were then doing a military analysis of the Bible, which was at once interesting and uninfuriating).
This time the tubes warmed to display a replay of Clear and Present Danger, the film based upon the Tom Clancy novel. Co-hosting the rerun were the Channel's in-house liberal historian, Steve Gillon, and guest liberal political commentator Neal Gabler (though of course neither was identified in any sort of ideological way).
What is it with Hollywood liberals and their penchant for messing with my childhood heroes by making them shills for liberal storylines. First "GI Joe." Then "Knight Rider." What's next, "The A-Team"? Maybe. (h/t Perez Hilton)
Variety reported yesterday that John Singleton is on board to direct a silver screen adaptation of the 1980s TV action drama "The A-Team." This time it sounds like oil company executives may end up being the bad guys.
Hollywood doesn't learn. Even though the latest round of America-hating movies flopped, Project Greenlight producer Chris Moore will turn "A People's History of the United States" by pop historian and Karl Marx fanboy Howard Zinn into a TV miniseries and a feature-length documentary.
Zinn's 1980 book influenced a generation of students with its negatively-framed distortions of American history which minimized successes like WWII. It exchanged traditional history for marginal topics such as Great Railroad Strike of 1877, Joan Baez and Angela Davis while omitting Washington's Farewell Address, the Wright Brothers and the Normandy Invasion.
The December 10 Variety stated production begins in Boston this January. Ironically, it will use wealthy celebrities like Matt Damon, Danny Glover and Josh Brolin to convey the book's Marxist theory (bold mine):
Miniseries will center on the actors and musicians as they read from the books or perform music related to their themes: the struggles of women, war, class and race. (...)
Always eager to promote another Hollywood film that casts a snarky eye on American foreign policy, Time magazine interviewed Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman about Charlie Wilson’s War, a new movie about a conservative Texas Democratic Congressman who secured funding for the Afghan rebels, written by liberal West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin. Hanks recalled that when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, he just knew it was the beginning of the Soviets’ Vietnam, that "They have made a mistake equal to anything wrong America has done." Moral equivalence with the Soviets? Still in vogue in Hollywood in 2007.
Reasons to be skeptical? At the time, Hanks was 23 and had yet to get his big break as Kip-slash-Buffy in the ABC sitcom Bosom Buddies; and Hanks also suggested the Soviets freshly took over Hungary in 1956, instead of merely keeping the Soviet lid on the country. The interview began with Time’s Belinda Luscombe celebrating her own ignorance about American support for Afghan rebels:
"The Golden Compass" did not produce box-office gold during its first weekend.
While ranked #1 for the weekend, the movie which opened in 3,528 theaters, was lavishly produced and promoted, only took in in $26.1 million, according to Boxofficemojo.com. Studio New Line Cinema was hoping for returns in the $30 to $40 million range.
"Compass" drew the ire of many Christians because the movie is based on the first book in a trilogy called "His Dark Materials" by avowed atheist Philip Pullman, who has said publicly that his books are about killing God. In "USA Today," Rolf Mittweg of New Line Cinema conceded that the "religion controversy might have had an effect."
What will it take for film critics to be satisfied with movies about young, unmarried pregnant women?
For most, a clever script and outstanding performances will suffice, but not so for Lisa Schwarzbaum, a film critic for Entertainment Weekly. It must also carry a weighty discussion on the "hard-won, precious rights" to choose.
"Juno,"the latest film about an unintended pregnancy carried to term, opens nationwide December 14. The movie reportedly depicts Juno, the pregnant 16-year-old lead character, deciding to place her baby for adoption after a chance encounter with a pro-life protester at an abortion clinic.
Schwarzbaum said in her review of the film, "The old-school feminist in me wishes ‘Juno'spent more time, even a tart sentence or two, acknowledging that the options taken for granted by this one attractive, articulate teen are in fact hard-won, precious rights, and need to be guarded by a new-generation army of Junos and Bleekers, spreading the word by text message as well as by hamburger phone."
What is it with Johnny Depp and Victorian Era serial killers?
Six years ago the liberal Hollywood fixture played London police detective Frederick Abberline in "From Hell," a violent conspiracy theory-driven whodunnit about the 1888 murder spree of Jack the Ripper. In his newest big screen release, Depp stars as the title character in "Sweeney Todd," a film about a fictional 19th century London barber who kills his customer-victims using his barber's razor.
Pretty ghoulish stuff, of course, but according to Depp, such a monstrous character is also deserving of some empathy. Reports Tom O'Neil of the Los Angeles Times:
Sometimes, newspapers bury the lede on purpose. Today’s Exhibit A? The Washington Post Style section profile of Chris Weitz, the director of the new anti-religious movie The Golden Compass. The Post’s anodyne headline was "‘Golden Compass’ Director Seeks True North." David Segal’s story takes eight paragraphs and a sentence before it gets to the point, why the publicity: The trilogy of books behind the movie "attacks the concept of organized religion -- more specifically, any religion that rules by fiat and claims an exclusive pipeline to the truth."
Weitz has done quite the comedy routine in defending the film. In a soundbite on CNN’s The Situation Room on Tuesday, he claimed: "I don’t think the books are a threat to organized religion. First of all, I think organized religion is strong enough to stand on its own. Secondly I don't think that Pullman is aggressively anti-Catholic or anti-religious." Come again? This is like Weitz claiming his American Pie movies weren’t about teenage sex.
To be caged like an animal and deported to Siberia as a 14-year-old girl is to know a level of brutality that seemingly stands outside of reality, as one gulag survivor puts it in a new documentary on Estonia.
When the Soviet Union began its occupation of the country, prison quotas were set for Russian soldiers who grabbed any convenient person they could find, the narrator informs audience members during a film segment that reviews key historical moments.
As it turns out, one-third of those deported to Siberia beginning in 1940 were children, according to the film.
Dictator-groupies Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover are at it again. They are among the “artists, scholars and performers” calling themselves “representatives of the cultural sphere in the US,” who sent a letter to President Bush asking him to “end the travel ban,” allowing a cultural exchange between nations.
Most troubling is the group did not address Cuba's lack of freedom and limited their travel demands to Cuba's “artists and scholars.” That wasn't a mistake. As faithful fans of the Cubano Dear Leader, they don't care about all Cubans' ability to travel, just those carefully-selected Party-approved “artists and scholars." Under heavy guard, of course, to avoid more embarrassing defections.
National Public Radio's arts-and-culture show "Fresh Air" recently displayed how its leftist ideology trumps artistic judgment, especially when it comes to movies designed to get America out of Iraq before our crazed soldiers senselessly kill more civilians. Film critic David Edelstein lauded Brian De Palma's new movie "Redacted" as a "laudable artistic response to an unpopular war," even as he conceded the movie is terrible as a work of art.
Edelstein knew some people hated the exploitative display of Iraqi corpses at the film's end, noting that De Palma thinks rubbing Americans' faces with the collateral damage will get us out of Iraq: "I think most Americans are immune to those techniques, but I respect his impulse. 'Redacted' is a crude piece of work but it's the kind of outright agitprop that rarely makes it to the big screen."
Edelstein also claims the movie centered around savage rape and murder by American troops isn't anti-troops: "But it's an act of sympathy to suggest that soldiers on their third tours of duty in a place where they have no knowledge of the culture, where they can't tell who's on their side and who wants to blow them up, stand a good chance of losing both their moral compass and their minds." Here's the transcript from the November 16 review:
As the movie studios gear up for a big Christmas movie season, one trailer that looks like a blockbuster is “The Golden Compass,” which must be trying to cash in on the “Narnia” movies. It has flashy special-effect polar bears in armor and a young heroic damsel in distress facing off against evil forces. The casting is top-notch, led by Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, the current star spy in the James Bond movies.
But buyer beware: Narnia it’s not. It’s the anti-Narnia. Instead of a Christian allegory, it’s an anti-Christian allegory. The author of “The Golden Compass,” Philip Pullman, is an atheist who despises C. S. Lewis and his much-beloved Narnia series. “I thought they were loathsome,” he said of those books, “full of bullying and sneering, propaganda, basically, on behalf of a religion whose main creed seemed to be to despise and hate people unlike yourself.”
Remember those anti-war Iraq movies Hollywood was crowing about this summer? Turns out that crowing was more than a little premature: they've been spectacular bombs at the box office:
The wave of recent films set against the backdrop of war in Iraq and post-9/11 security has failed to win over film-goers keen to escape grim news headlines when they go to the movies, analysts say. [...]
Almost without exception, however, the crop of movies have struggled to turn a profit at the box-office and in many cases have received a mauling from unimpressed critics as well.
"Rendition," a drama starring Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal about the CIA's policy of outsourcing interrogation of terror suspects, has taken just under 10 million dollars at the box office, a disastrous return.
As part of the publicity push for their left-wing movie Lions for Lambs, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise sat down with Time’s Richard Corliss for an article titled "The Lions Roar." But these lions have a very typical Hollywood Left message. In America, it’s very tough to speak out against war. "Standing up is very, very difficult," said Streep. "We vilify the people that do speak up. You're told you're not supporting the troops." Redford added: "If you're against us, you're not patriotic." They also say the American people don’t care so much about war as they do about celebrity dirt, and according to Streep, we face the tragedy of the unheeded peace-loving left: "we went forward, in the face of all sorts of warnings that are now proven to be the truth. Americans have been anesthetized by good fortune."
There have been a number of stories in the press in recent months about Geographically Challenged America. None tops the report about Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder confessing he hadn't known that people spoke English in London.
"I couldn't find London on a map if they didn't have the names of the countries," he explained. "I swear to God. I don't know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot."
I suppose we'd all have another chuckle if Crowder were asked to find Estonia on a map, but in truth how many can? And for those of us who can, how many of us know anything of significance about this seemingly insignificant little country?
How many of us know that Estonia, one of the smallest countries on the face of this earth, is responsible for one of the most extraordinary, and certainly the most unique, revolutions in modern history? How many of us know that this tiny Baltic nation defeated the Soviet Union -- with a song? This is not meant as hyperbole. It is literal truth.
In a political act loaded with cultural symbolism, Senator Hillary Clinton endorsed an effort to earmark a million taxpayer dollars for a museum in Bethel, New York celebrating the circus of 1969, the Woodstock music festival. Other senators smelled the pork and successfully voted to remove it.
The tie-dyed, drug-soaked post-war babies that populated that muddy plain are now approaching Social Security age, and the aging hippies that made their way into the establishment want to imbue the notorious excesses of their youth with respectability. The New York Times said the Bethel complex would be "what Cooperstown is to baseball" – a hippie Hall of Fame.
I liked that music. I still do. Then as now, I simply ignored the cultural and political messages. Many others didn’t.
The bohemian worldview of Woodstock Nation is in some ways dominant, and in some ways passe in our popular culture. Hallucinogenic drugs are no longer the rage, but the "free love" spirit of "if it feels good, do it" still runs strong, especially in our entertainment world. And yet, burbling beneath a noisy culture of sexual excess and self-love, there’s a quiet undercurrent in our movies carrying subtle, and even obvious pro-life themes.
NewsBusters readers are well aware of the recent controversy involving Al Gore’s schlockumentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”
A few weeks ago, a British judge cited nine errors in the film. Team Gore responded Thursday in a rebuttal published at the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog.
Now, famed climate change skeptic Christopher Monckton, in a detailed report published by the Science and Public Policy Institute, not only refuted Gore’s defense of the movie's contents, but also listed a total of 35 errors in the award-winning abomination responsible for most of the global warming hysteria sweeping the planet (emphasis added):
Of all people, you'd think a movie director would understand the importance of sticking to the script. But no . . .
There was a delicious moment on this afternoon's "Hardball." Host Chris Matthews had billed a new movie as standing for the proposition that Saudis hate Americans [note the screen graphic]. But when the movie's director came on, he declined to buy into Matthews's sweeping generalization, pitched capitalism as the answer to the region's problems, and even speculated that Iraq war has helped America's relations in the Middle East.
In his opening tease, Matthews proclaimed "Let's talk about why the Saudis hate us . . . in our second story tonight, why do Saudis hate Americans?"
Then, after an interview about Iran with Mario Cuomo [yes, he's still around], Matthews, teasing the next segment:
The problem with writing politicized movie reviews is that often most of what is seen depends on the viewpoint of the reviewer. Such was the case of the dueling movie reviews of "3:10 to Yuma" in the Huffington Post. Bill Robinson saw this movie as an allegory about the Iraq war:
As the reviews will tell you, it's an exceptional film, with gorgeous photography, stunning action and hypnotic, sublime performances. But what I am surprised I have not read, are the all-too-real parallels to Iraq.