Brent Bozell's culture column this week explored the outer reaches of the movie ratings system, and how the movie industry is looking hard at creating a more "respectable" adults-only rating of NC-17, which is often considered for movies featuring topless Nazis, toothy private parts, and grossly obese men chewing on babies.
In time for the Persian New Year, CBS's Melissa McNamara trawled the blogosphere (including MySpace blog entries) and found bloggers who think Iran's Islamic extremist government has a point about "300" being "anti-Persian." In doing she, she produced a handful of blogs that appear to generate light traffic and in at least one case is just a rambling screed.
McNamara told readers that the "Islamic Republic News Agency" (IRNA) finds fault with the film's version of historical events. She left out that IRNA is Iran's official state-controlled news/propaganda service. CBSNews.com's resident "Blogophile" also noted objections from an Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, which she described simply as "Iran's biggest circulation newspaper."
That's akin to a journalist during the Cold War describing Pravda as simply the Soviet Union's best-selling newspaper. Hamshahri co-sponsored a political cartoon contest that the Iranian government held last year that generated hundreds of entries that were anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli. Portions in bold are my emphasis:
Cinematical.com reports that the Egyptian production company, Good News, has an Osama Bin Ladin bio-pic in the pipeline. Last year, Good News made the very successful award-winning “The Yacoubian Building,” which was the most expensive film ever produced in Egypt. Now Good News is ready to tackle one of the most controversial figures in the world today, Osama Bin Ladin.
The movie is meant to appeal to Western audiences as well as those in Egypt and will “frame” the script for sensitive Westerners. Adeeb and Good News are trying to make films more palatable for Americans to swallow and the Bin Ladin bio is no exception (my emphasis throughout):
Although it didn’t get a lot of publicity – conceivably for what will end up being obvious reasons – there was a conference held last weekend by a bunch of “environmental lawyers.” Not so surprisingly, the topic of global warming was – forgive the pun – a hot one.
Yet, maybe most fascinating was that the conference’s sponsor, the American Bar Association, actually invited members of the press – mostly believers with apparently only one skeptic I might add – to address how the views of global warming alarmists need to “percolate through the media pipeline and into general public awareness.”
One such media member seemed so disappointed about the public's lack of concern about this issue that she actually stated:
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," Sigmund Freud is purported to have once said, cautioning that not everything has a deeper, hidden meaning to it. Well, sometimes a blockbuster blood-soaked action flick is just that, a blood-soaked, special effects-laden action flick.
Just try telling that to cynical, left-wing European journalists.
According to Entertainment Weekly, everyone from gay interest groups to foreign journalists have engaged in armchair psychoanalysis of director Zack Snyder's screen adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel "300.":
Remember how Team Clinton always disparaged their enemies as peddlers of "trash for cash," selling their stories to book publishers and movie studios? The liberal media played along then, but not now. The March 5-11 edition of Variety notes that Warner Bros. moved quickly to secure the screen rights to "Fair Game," Valerie Plame’s upcoming memoir of her life at the CIA. Michael Fleming sells it: "It’s a delicious political thriller of secret government power, covert identity and White House manipulation tht would make for a great movie." Fleming doesn’t note the tale is much more "delicious" if you hate Team Bush.
With the story arriving before the verdict, Fleming warned "the path to release is strewn with land mines" with movies based on real life. Plame’s memoir has yet to be approved by the CIA, and sometimes real-life stories take "unpredictable turns." It turns out that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the D.C. jury that convicted Scooter Libby enhanced the bankability of Valerie Plame, The Movie.
UPDATE (March 9 | 13:35 EST): A very reliable source sent along an updated list that reflects 19 additional Gore critics within the scientific community. I've uploaded that new list to the media server. It's in Microsoft Excel format (29.5 KB).
On the March 5 "Hannity & Colmes," the conservative co-host ran
a scroll of nearly 80 scientists who say Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" is misleading hysteria. My colleague Dan Gainor wrote about that here and here.
Well, yesterday a reader sent along a comprehensive listing of those 76 experts and after checking into it, decided to pass it along to you.
As modern media has seen a fusion of news, opinion, and entertainment, are too many things being politicized? I think so.
The news media have contributed to this state of affairs more than any other group so it was refreshing to see the New York Times actually point out a case of inappropriate politicization in an article about "300" the new movie about a group of Spartans who held off a large Persian army.
The Times also makes the point that in many cases a media outlet will attempt to gin up controversy about its product to get the public to tune in.
Three weeks ago a handful of reporters at an international press junket here for the Warner Brothers movie “300,” about the battle of Thermopylae some 2,500 years ago, cornered the director Zack Snyder with an unanticipated question.
“Is George Bush Leonidas or Xerxes?” one of them asked.
The questioner, by Mr. Snyder’s recollection, insisted that Mr. Bush
was Xerxes, the Persian emperor who led his force against Greek’s city
states in 480 B.C., unleashing an army on a small country guarded by
fanatical guerilla fighters so he could finish a job his father had
left undone. More likely, another reporter chimed in, Mr. Bush was
Leonidas, the Spartan king who would defend freedom at any cost.
Mr. Snyder, who said he intended neither analogy when he set out to
adapt the graphic novel created by Frank Miller with Lynn Varley in
1998, suddenly knew he had the contemporary version of a water-cooler
movie on his hands. And it has turned out to be one that could be
construed as a thinly veiled polemic against the Bush administration,
or be seen by others as slyly supporting it.
Most people who tune in to morning TV "news" programs know the unbearable lightness of the product, full of celebrity cotton candy and tragic tales of tabloid woe, of climbers lost on mountains and teenagers lost in the tropics. So it was a little shocking to be diverted from that maudlin box of info-bon bons known as the Anna Nicole Smith deathmatch to questions on the grand and glorious subject of Biblical anthropology, and a "discovery" of the alleged bones of Jesus.
Why this whiplash-inducing change of subject? It's sad but true that the "Today" crew went into promotional hyperdrive for the Discovery Channel special on the alleged bones of Jesus because someone spread Hollywood glitter on it -- James Cameron, the director of "Titanic." (Christians are joking among themselves that Cameron doesn't seem to know who the real King of the World is.) The Cameron connection has been a constant attraction for The Discovery Channel.
Al and Tipper Gore just consented to an interview with Ryan Seacrest on the E! pre-Oscar festivities. (First question: Tipper's wearing Bill Blass, Al Gore reluctantly noted he's wearing Ralph Lauren.) The goofiest answer was when Seacrest asked Gore, "if you were to cast an actor to play the lead in 'The Al Gore Story,' who would you pick?" Gore quipped, "I don't know, maybe William Hung," the infamous "American Idol" reject who mangled Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." Seacrest laughed and said "I love it, I mean, the 'Idol' reference!" When Seacrest asked if that performance was one of his favorites, he said it was "right up there," and then said "no, no, no" and insisted that his favorite song is the lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge's song "I Need to Wake Up." Guess why? It's up for an Oscar for its inclusion in Gore's film. Lyrics, please:
And as a child I danced like it was 1999 My dreams were wild The promise of this new world Would be mine Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth To listen to an inconvenient truth
Actor Forest Whitaker stars in "The Last King of Scotland," the acclaimed biopic about Uganda's bloodthirsty dictator Idi Amin, who is thought to have killed over 300,000 of his countrymen during a reign that was cruel even by the standards of African dictatorships. New York Times' Africa correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman went to Kampala for the red carpet opening and made Sunday's front page with "A Film Star in Kampala, Conjuring Amin's Ghost."
"Mr. Whitaker said it was enormously helpful to walk through the actual places Amin haunted and meet actual people he victimized.
Brent Bozell's culture column this week centers on those Hollywood sore thumbs called Walden Media, who have made family-friendly and faith-friendly films. Brent told me it was a "V-8 idea," a slap-your-forehead business proposition to serve an underserved market of religious families with children. The new Walden project is the movie "Amazing Grace," as Brent explained:
It is a sad reality: Very few adults, and virtually no child can recognize the name William Wilberforce, the man Abraham Lincoln claimed was known to “every school boy” in America in 1858. Then there’s this: “Amazing Grace” is the most recognizable hymn in the land – but how many people can tell you its origin? To the rescue comes Walden again, with the movie “Amazing Grace,” which tells the true, and beautiful story of William Wilberforce, the brilliant British orator and parliamentarian who fought relentlessly to ban the slave trade in Great Britain and who ultimately succeeded, against all odds, decades before the United States fought a bloody civil war to do the same.
Diamonds don't cause conflicts in Africa, bands of armed thugs do. But you wouldn't know that if you followed the media's slant on "conflict diamonds," which, much like stories on gun control, often blame the object instead of the evil person misusing it.
After avoiding politics the previous day, the ladies on Thursday's The View seemingly compensated for their lost time. Joy Behar led the way first calling for more political speeches at the Oscars, then cheered for Gore’s nomination, apologized for Joe Biden, Rosie said she’d never run for office, and took the solemnity of a political columnist’s death to attack President Bush.
Barbara Walters returned from Los Angeles where she interviewed some Oscar nominees for her upcoming Academy Awards special. Joy Behar wants more nominees to shove their opinions on all Americans.
Joy Behar: "I pray that somebody is controversial and assertive. I pray it. Because, it’s so tedious otherwise, you know. Thank you, thank you, my piano teacher. Who cares? Say something political and interesting."
Hollywood types speak gauzily of their "art," even if nothing seems to fit the definition of some of this "art" better than "films almost no one wants to watch." Robert Redford became a hero of the "art" film world by founding the Sundance Institute in 1981, based on the call for "creative risk-taking" and "nurturing the diversity of artistic expression." But the search for risk-taking-cum-creative diversity is a hopeless free-fall into the abyss, and all too often, and too predictably, results in creative perversity. What Mapplethorpe brought to the photograph, Redford’s festival is now bringing to the silver screen.
The 2007 Sundance festival has reached a new low with a strange, yet highly publicized film called "Zoo." No, it isn’t about giraffes and hippos. "Zoo" is about "zoophiles" – you know, humans who like sex with animals. The documentary explores the activities of a group of men in the Pacific Northwest who engaged in bestiality. To be precise, they engaged in sex with Arabian stallions – until a man died from a perforated colon in 2005.
Based on what Times Watch has read, “Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi,” the documentary on Christian evangelicals airing on HBO tonight (Pelosi being the daughter of you-know-who) seems more respectful than the contemptuous anti-Christian commentary it's generated, including a paragraph Thursday from television critic Alessandra Stanley.
Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin is blogging from the annual Television Critics Association tour, and found some hot talk in recounting the Clintonista war against ABC's movie on 9/11.
Asked during his appearance on the TV critics' tour if he was embarrassed that the network had to "backpedal" on its Clinton-unfriendly movie The Path To 9/11, [ABC programming chief Stephen] McPherson took no prisoners -- particularly when it came to Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger, one of the film's chief critics. "We didn't backpedal," McPherson said. "We aired the movie. We didn't change anything for those guys. We aired it as planned on the dates that were planned. I mean, it's a little odd to have Sandy Berger telling you about what's truthful or not when he was indicted for stuffing documents into his pants on this very subject."
CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer interviewed Oscar-favored actress Helen Mirren for Sunday, and CBS sent out press materials highlighting her fondness for nude scenes. She even suggested she and Safer do their interview naked. At his routinely liberal blog for Broadcasting & Cable magazine, reporter John Eggerton applauded the silly idea as "a stroke of genius" in flouting those dictators downtown at the FCC:
For one brief shining moment I was ready to celebrate one of the gutsiest programming moves in recent years, one calculated to suggest the ludicrousness of a fixation on nudity. With CBS fighting the FCC's indecency crackdown, what a stroke of genius to have both Safer and Mirren in the nude for their interview about how Mirren, and her mother, think her past nude scenes (Caligula, Calendar Girls) are no big deal...
Julia Roberts to Diane Sawyer on why she avoids killing spiders:
"You think, that’s a person, or somebody’s Mom or somebody’s best pal.”Good Morning America, 12-13-06
I trace the beginning of my evolution from pro-choice to pro-life to a comment I heard on the radio a decade or so ago. It might have been Rush Limbaugh who made the point that many of the people moved to tears at the thought of the killing of baby seals are the same ones who "celebrate" a woman's right to have an abortion.
Something clicked. What kind of moral compass is that?
In the midst of an otherwise positive story Monday night about the “revival” of religiously-inspired movies, such as The Nativity Story and Facing the Giants, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric saw a dark side. She pressed Catherine Hardwicke, director of The Nativity Story and Mike Rich, the film's screenwriter: "Do you worry at all that non-believers may feel excluded and diminished at a time when we're so divided about so much?" As if there's a dearth of non-spiritual films for people to see. Has anyone at CBS News ever worried about how the faithful feel “excluded” and “diminished” by multiplexes playing only violent and sexually-explicit films, to say nothing of the many which include scenes ridiculing the faithful or portraying religious figures as criminals?
The CBSNews.com online version of the story has this text in place of Couric's question: “But what if you don't believe? That was Chicago Mayor Richard Daly's concern last week when he banned ads for The Nativity Story from the city's annual Christmas festival.” A “Christmas” festival without the very story on which it is based!
As the movie "The Nativity Story" premieres nationwide today, one underreported story is the city of Chicago choking on a promotion for the movie at its annual Christmas festival. That sounds sort of funny, trying to ban the Christ from the Christmas event, especially when Chicago (government and media outlets alike) so aggressively welcomed the Gay Games this summer. The Chicago story hasn't emerged yet on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, or USA Today. (Exceptions are Fox's John Gibson and Glenn Beck on CNN Headline News.) Robert Knight of the MRC's Culture and Media Institute offered his view over at Human Events:
The Christkindl, or Christmas Fairy, is welcome at a Christmas festival in Chicago. So is Santa Claus. But a film about the birth of Jesus has provoked city officials to lower the boom.
Chicago officials deny actually ordering Christkindlmarket officials to cancel an exhibit of “The Nativity Story.” They just sort of asked them to dump it, kind of the way Da Bears ask an opposing runner to gently drop to the turf. Dose Bears would be embarrassed, however, by the sheer cowardice and political correctness on display this week in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.
We lead fairly schizophrenic lives during the Christmas season in America. Our popular holiday rituals are bifurcated between the sacred and the secular; between the very worldly commercial extravaganza of Christmas as offered by our department stores – when they have the guts to employ the word “Christmas” – and Christianity celebrating the birth of Our Lord.
Hollywood hasn’t been so split on this question. It is firmly ensconced, and comfortable, in the secular world. Year after year, it offers commercial Christmas movies this time of year, with Grinches and Rudolphs, good Santas and Bad Santas, the Kranks and the Muppets. We’ve been Scrooged, been on Christmas Vacation, and taken rides on the Polar Express. We’ve seen the Christmas-as-a-backdrop movies like “Home Alone,” which, like so many others, might offer something about the Christmas “spirit” but wouldn’t dare to touch the Birth of Christ itself.
Today's starter is a delightful bit of media hypocrisy: "Movie production tops hotels, aerospace, and apparel and semiconductor
manufacturing in traditional air pollutant emissions in Southern
California, according to the UCLA study, initially prepared for the
Integrated Waste Management Board. The industry is probably second only
to petroleum refineries, for which comparable data were not available."
Sometimes, leftists make arguments that are just too odd to take seriously. On the blog News Corpse (an appropriate location to discuss whack-Bush movies, perhaps), there's great gnashing of teeth over CNN and NPR deciding not to air commercials (oops, that would be "enhanced underwriting" at NPR) for the Bush-assassination film "Death of a President."
CNN issued a brief statement that virtually admits its intention to censor, saying that…
“CNN has decided not to take the ad because of the extreme nature of the movie’s subject matter.”
By basing their decision on the movie’s “subject matter”, they have installed themselves as the public’s nanny. They believe that they are in the best position to decide for us which subjects matter. While they are a couple of yards further over the line than NPR, the public radio network’s excuse is not much better:
Hollywood has always been run by those on the left, but before the 60's and 70's, executives knew that their films had to appeal to mainstream America. That all changed when Hollywood decided to no longer censor itself, and directors got a free reign to turn movies into left-wing advocacy films. As a result, Hollywood has suffered ever since, with more empty theater seats every year.
It's gotten so bad that famed director George Lucas no longer thinks that making big-budget movies is even a viable business model.
As a company town, Hollywood has always tilted to some extent or another to the left, but the studio heads who ran it from the 1930s through the 1950s understood that its product must resonate with the American public as a whole to make money, regardless of their filmmakers' personal politics. Or as Sam Goldwyn is frequently attributed as saying, "Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union".
For Hollywood, the late 1960s began to mark a retreat from that philosophy. In a Wall Street Journal piece a few years ago, Michael Medved used the mid-1960s transition from the Hays Office, which acted as an industry-wide censor, to the G/PG/R/X ratings system we now take for granted, as being, effectively, the end of the golden age of movies. And, as Medved notes, that change influenced not just Hollywood's content, but its box office returns as well. Medved writes that in 1965, "44 million Americans went out to the movies every week. A mere four years later, that number had collapsed to 17.5 million":
The Disney movie ‘102 Dalmatians’ should be R-rated instead of G, two anti-smoking activists insist. Not because they antagonist was a demented woman bent on turning cute puppies into a fur coat. Nope. Cruella De Vil’s real crime was smoking.
“Movies that depict smoking are the single greatest media threat to children say two prominent doctors,” ABC’s Heather Nauert warned her “Good Morning America” audience.
Nauert’s October 10 story focused on two activists who call for the Motion Picture Association of America to automatically assign an R-rating to movies with any smoking in it. Yet in her story, Nauert left out how biased her sources were as well as failed to balance her story with any criticism of the doctors’ claims.
Here's a shocker: Oliver Stone doesn't like President Bush or the Iraq war. More of a shock is his remark: "Terrorism is a manageable action. It can be
Is it just me or does that seem surprisingly honest for a media liberal to admit he feels this way?
Filmmaker Oliver Stone blasted President Bush Thursday, saying he
has "set America back 10 years." Stone added that he is "ashamed for my
country" over the war in Iraq and the U.S. policies in response to the
attacks of Sept. 11.
"We have destroyed the world in the name of security. [...] From Sept. 12 on, the incident (the attacks) was politicized and it
has polarized the entire world," said Stone. "It is a shame because it
is a waste of energy to see that the entire world five years later is
still convulsed in the grip of 9/11.
British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's comic creation Borat Sagdiyev has caused so much outrage in Kazakhstan with his new movie, President George W. Bush will address the issue when he meets the Kazakh leader.
Bush is set to hold talks with Nursultan Nazarbayev over oil supply--and disgusted Kazakhs have demanded action over Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Roman Vassilenko says, "We have made it clear that we are unhappy with the character's representation. He does not represent the true people of Kazakhstan."
Apparently Bravo feels that a Michael Moore movie is worth watching on the 5th anniversary of 9/11. Starting at 4:30 EST today we can all watch Bowling for Columbine, Moore's movie on gun violence. If they are going to choose programming for this day, why not go all the way and show Fahrenheit 9/11! Is it a bit distasteful or is it just me?