Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Phoney Baloney - (What George Clooney and the rest of the Oscar crowd have served up)
Posted on 02/10/2006 11:14:39 AM PST by UnklGene
Phoney Baloney -
Thats what George Clooney and the rest of the Oscar crowd have served up
In Heinrich Manns novel Der Untertan, written just before the Great War, the central character, Diederich, is asked by Buck, You do not know whom history will designate as the representative type of this era?
The Emperor, says Diederich.
No, replies Buck. The actor.
And how. George Clooneys triple Oscar nominations for acting, writing, and directing are said to be a significant moment in the life of the nation, and not just by George Clooney, though his effusions on his own bravery certainly set a high mark. We jumped in on our own, he said, discussing Good Night, and Good Luck with Entertainment Weekly. And there was no reason to think it was going to get any easier. But people in Hollywood do seem to be getting more comfortable with making these sorts of movies now. People are becoming braver.
Wow. He was brave enough to make a movie about Islams treatment of women? Oh, no, wait. That was the Dutch director Theo van Gogh: He had his throat cut and half-a-dozen bullets pumped into him by an enraged Muslim who left an explanatory note pinned to the dagger he stuck in his chest. At last years Oscars, the Hollywood crowd were too busy championing the right to dissent in the Bushitler tyranny to find room even to namecheck Mr. van Gogh in the montage of the deceased. Bad karma. Good night, and good luck.
No, Mr. Clooney was the fellow brave enough to make a movie about cue drumroll as I open the envelope for Most Predictable Direction the McCarthy era!
How about that? I dont know about you but I was getting so sick of the sycophantic Joe McCarthy biopics churned out year in year out Nathan Lane in McCarthy! The Musical was the final straw that thank God someone finally had the bravery to exercise his right to dissent. I only hope George Clooney isnt found dead in the street at the hands of some crazed nonagenarian HUAC member.
Hes got some tough competition, of course. This years five Best Picture nominees are all films that broach the tough issues, as USA Today put it: Brokeback and Capote for their portrayal of gay characters; Crash for its examination of racial tension; Night for its call for more watchdog journalism; and Munich for its take. Whoops, my mistake. That should be Munich for its take on terrorism. In their combined take at the box office, these Best Picture nominees have the lowest grosses since 1986. That means very few people have seen them. Which in turn means these Oscars are likely to have the lowest audience ever. Okay, maybe not ever. In 1929, they handed them out to an audience of 270 in the Blossom Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and no doubt by the time you add in overseas viewership from the many chapters of the Jon Stewart Fan Club this years audience will be up around 309.
The fact that hardly anybody has seen these films does not in and of itself mean that theyre not artistic masterpieces. Thats why the Oscars are important: They can shine a light on undeservedly neglected art-house jewels that might otherwise get overlooked. But you couldnt exactly call Brokeback Mountain overlooked. Its the Jungfrau, its the peak of cinematic achievement. Its an Everest papered from base camp to summit in rave reviews. And in the week the Oscar nominations were announced the worlds most ballyhooed art-house obscurity added another 435 theaters to its outlets and business declined 13 percent.
Maybe its because Americans are homophobes. Or maybe its because these films are not as controversial as Hollywood thinks. The more artful leftie websites have taken to complaining that the Religious Right deliberately killed Brokeback at the box office by declining to get mad about it. Look at Tinky-Winky in the Teletubbies: Those fundamentalist whack-jobs denounce him as an obvious fruit and the guy never looks back hes at his beach house in Malibu sipping margaritas and eyeing up the poolboy. But make a film thats hailed as a gay masterpiece and Pat Robertson cant even arrange a lousy multiplex in Dubuque that gets struck by lightning just for showing it.
TRUE ROMANCES Well, who knows? Perhaps next time they should make it two gay sheep herders in, say, Medina, or a gay Pashtun goatherd and a gay Uzbek warlord: The Mohammedans Go to the Mountain that should light up the box office. Or perhaps they could make Broke Back Toutin, a film about an American media utterly exhausted by its frantic efforts to flog these movies to a general audience. As it is, Hollywoods new reputation for serious challenging works seems merely the dinner-theater production of the usual self-reinforcing Democrat-media bubble. A filmmaker makes a film about a courageous pressman and the pressmen hail him as a courageous filmmaker for doing so. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal have nothing on the romance between George Clooney and the worlds press. The serious press, that is, even though they sound like a cover story in Forty-Seventeen. Heres the Observer in London:
How a Heart-Throb Became the Voice of Liberal America: George Clooney was once famous for his party lifestyle and the beautiful women that he dated. Now its politics that increasingly sets his pulse racing.
And evidently the reporters too. That ran not in the entertainment section but on the news pages. Im an old-time liberal and I dont apologize for it, Clooney told Newsweek.
Good for him. And certainly, regardless of how liberal he is, hes undeniably old-time. I dont mean in the sense that he has the gloss of an old-time movie star, the nearest our age comes to the sheen of Cary Grant in a Stanley Donen picture, but that his politics are blessedly undisturbed by any developments on the global scene since circa 1974. Clooneys other Oscar movie, Syriana, in which he stars and exec-produces, reveals that behind a murky Middle East conspiracy lies . . . the CIA and Big Oil! In Good Night, and Good Luck, hes produced a film set in the McCarthy era that could have been made in the Jimmy Carter era. Thats to say, it takes into account absolutely nothing that has come to light in the last quarter-century not least the relevant KGB files on Soviet penetration of America. To take one example that could stand for Clooneys entire approach to the subject, Good Night includes shocking scenes of Senator McCarthy accusing Annie Lee Moss, who worked in a highly sensitive decoding job in the Pentagon, of being a Communist, and the heroic Edward R. Murrow then denouncing McCarthys behavior.
But we now know, from the partys own files, that Miss Moss was, indeed, a Communist. What should we conclude from the absence of this detail in the picture? That Clooney, who goes around boasting that every moment in the screenplay has been double-sourced for accuracy, simply doesnt know shes a Commie? Or that he does know but thinks its harmless? That she, like he and Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, is merely exercising her all-American right to dissent, in her case in the Pentagon Signal Corps code room? If so, thats a subtly different argument than Murrow was making: Its one thing to argue that its all a paranoid fantasy on the part of obsessed Red-baiters, quite another to shrug, hey, sure they were Commies, but whats the big deal?
Or is it that Clooney doesnt care either way? That what matters is the meta-narrative the journalist as hero, speaking truth to power, no matter if the journalist is wrong and wields more power than most politicians. Even if one discounts the awkward fact that these days CBS News is better known for speaking twaddle to power over the fake National Guard memos to which Dan Rather remains so attached the reality is that the idea of the big media crusader simply doesnt resonate with any section of the American public other than the big media themselves. Indeed, if you wanted to create a film designed to elicit rave reviews from the critics, you could hardly do better than a McCarthy-era story built around a Watergate-style heroic reporter, unless you made the reporter gay. The media seem to have fallen for it, with the splendid exception of Armond White in the New York Press who said Clooney was far more hagiographic of his subject than Mel Gibson was in The Passion of the Christ.
This is the Platonic reductio of political art. Say what you like about those Hollywood guys in the Thirties but they were serious about their leftism. Say what you like about those Hollywood guys in the Seventies but they were serious about their outrage at what was done to the lefties in the McCarthy era though they might have been better directing their anger at the movie-industry muscle that enforced the blacklist. By comparison, Clooneys is no more than a pose hes acting at activism, new Hollywood mimicking old Hollywoods robust defense of even older Hollywood. Hes more taken by the idea of speaking truth to power than by the footling question of whether the truth hes speaking to power is actually true.
Thats why Hollywood prefers to make controversial films about controversies that are settled, rousing itself to fight battles long won. Go back to USA Todays approving list of Hollywoods willingness to broach the tough issues: Brokeback and Capote for their portrayal of gay characters; Crash for its examination of racial tension . . . That might have been bold courageous movie-making half-a-century ago. Ever seen the Dirk Bogarde film Victim? He plays a respectable married barrister whose latest case threatens to expose his homosexuality. That was 1961, when homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom and Bogarde was the British movie industrys matinee idol and every schoolgirls pinup: Thats brave. Doing it at a time when your typical conservative politician gets denounced as homophobic because hes only in favor of civil unions is just an exercise in moral self-congratulation. And, unlike the media, most of the American people are savvy enough to conclude that by definition that doesnt require their participation.
A KNOWN WOMAN These films are transgressive mostly in the sense that Transamerica is transsexual. I like Felicity Huffman and all, and Im not up to speed with the latest strictures on identity-group casting, but isnt it a bit condescending to get a lifelong woman (or whatever the expression is) to play a transsexual? If Hollywood announced Al Jolson would be playing Martin Luther King Jr., Im sure Denzel Washington & Co. would have something to say about it. Were no transsexual actresses available for this role? I know at least one, personally, and there was a transsexual Bond girl in the late Roger Moore era who looked incredibly hot, albeit with a voice several octaves below Paul Robeson. What about that cutie with the very fetching Adams apple from The Crying Game? And, just as Transamericas allegedly unconventional woman is a perfectly conventional woman underneath, so the entire slate of Oscar nominees is, in a broader sense, a phalanx of Felicity Huffmans. Thats to say, theyre dressing up daringly and flouncing around as controversy, but underneath theyre simply the conventional wisdom. Indeed, Transamerica would make a good name for Hollywoods view of its domestic market a bizarro United States run by racists and homophobes and a poodle media in thrall to the administration.
You can certainly find new wrinkles on racial tensions Abies Wahhabi Rose? but Hollywood controversy seems more an evasion of controversy. If you want it in a single word, its the difference between the title of George Jonass original book Vengeance and the title of the film Steven Spielberg made of it Munich. Vengeance is a point of view, Munich is a round of self-applause for the point of view that having no point of view is the most sophisticated point of view of all a position whose empty smugness is most deftly summarized by the final shot of the movie, the Twin Towers on the New York skyline. For a serious film, it would be hard to end on a more fundamentally unserious note.
But then its hard to be serious when youve made a virtue of dodging the tough choices of the age. The BritLit blockbusters currently keeping Hollywood afloat Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings may be ghastly multiplex crowd-pleasers unworthy of great artists like George Clooney but theyre not a retreat to the periphery in the way that Hollywood seriousness is. Spielbergs lingering shot of the World Trade Center wasnt even the most exquisitely framed banality of the year. That honor goes to The Constant Gardener, which may yet win Rachel Weisz an Oscar for her role as a passionate anti-globalization activist who dies in mysterious circumstances. At one point Ralph Fiennes is doing his signature stare, peering elliptically into the distance, when the camera pulls back to show him as a little stick figure dwarfed by the mega-multinational pharmaceutical companys corporate headquarters hes standing outside.
Oh, come off it. The Constant Gardener is distributed by Universal Pictures. Dont they have a big office? If King Kongs standing outside waiting to get past security to find out why his residuals check has bounced, then Universal might look like some little Mom n Pop operation. But stick any of the rest of us on the sidewalk and wed be like Ralph Fiennes outside Big Pharma. Thats Hollywood: No one lavishes more care and expense on saying nothing.
Three months after 9/11, George Clooney was asked what he wanted for Christmas. I want, he said, one day when nobody is getting shot at. Call a truce for a day. Our own Jay Nordlinger remarked at the time that this was a childs response, correctly noting the implied moral randomness . . . People are just shooting at each other, you know, and shooting at each other is bad. If you want stories about journalists, nobody was shooting on the day the Wall Street Journals Daniel Pearl had his head sawed off. If you want stories about racial tensions, nobody was shooting on the day British expat Ken Bigley was similarly decapitated. Hollywoods bravery is an almost pathological retreat: Its against segregated drinking fountains in Alabama and blacklisting writers on 1950s variety shows. Its in danger of becoming an oldies station with only three records.
I noticed the other day that Nigeria now has the third biggest movie industry in the world, after Hollywood and Bollywood. In the showbiz capital of West Africa, you can make a feature for 40,000 bucks. What talk radio did to network news and the Internet is doing to monopoly newspapers, someone will eventually do to the big studios, and one day we may wind up with a Hollywood in which, as Clooney might say, nothing is getting shot. In the meantime, Danish cartoonists are in hiding for their lives but George Clooney will be televised around the world picking up an award for his bravery.
Mr. Steyn is NRs back-page columnist, and a writer for many other publications. His website is www.MarkSteyn.com.
Speaking twaddle to power. I'll have to remember that.
Mark Steyn should host the Academy Awards, not that metrosexual snot, Jon Stewart.
And, just as Transamericas allegedly unconventional woman is a perfectly conventional woman underneath, so the entire slate of Oscar nominees is, in a broader sense, a phalanx of Felicity Huffmans. Thats to say, theyre dressing up daringly and flouncing around as controversy, but underneath theyre simply the conventional wisdom. Indeed, Transamerica would make a good name for Hollywoods view of its domestic market a bizarro United States run by racists and homophobes and a poodle media in thrall to the administration.
Hollywood IS a bunch of posers these days. It is embarrassing,
Long piece, but right on the money.
Hey George - join the friggin' Marines and get your ass over to Iraq and fight, you liberal coward.
You are not "brave." What a tool.
Steyn is a treasure.
TRUE ROMANCES Well, who knows? Perhaps next time they should make it two gay sheep herders in, say, Medina, or a gay Pashtun goatherd and a gay Uzbek warlord: The Mohammedans Go to the Mountain that should light up the box office. Or perhaps they could make Broke Back Toutin, a film about an American media utterly exhausted by its frantic efforts to flog these movies to a general audience. As it is, Hollywoods new reputation for serious challenging works seems merely the dinner-theater production of the usual self-reinforcing Democrat-media bubble.
That appears to be all the left is capable of. If true, and the left is unable to rise to the level of mature thought and discourse, then they need to be treated as children...and can not be allowed in power. You don't let a 5 year old drive a car.
I agree. I just hope he keeps on keepin' on. I try to make certain I do not stay in the office late on Thursdays so as not to miss any of Steyn's semi-regular appearance on the Hugh Hewitt show. Yesterday, Steyn even took Hewitt to task for his head-in-the-sand approach to the Muslim Cartoon riots. Steyn said the muslims in Europe are pushing the envelope over there, "like a prospective homeowner contemplating buying a new house, who wants the kitchen redone before he moves in". Steyn says these riots and such are the Muslims' way of "re-doing the kitchen before taking posession of their new home".
Steyn is awesome. Thanks for posting. I love that guy. :)
My favorite line of an excellent article.
Of course. Americans don't take easily to propaganda, filth, and lies.
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