Skip to comments.Hollywood Crashes and Yearns (Blaming "society" for all that is wrong with America...)
Posted on 03/06/2006 11:46:45 PM PST by nickcarraway
Did Hollywood wimp out by not giving the Best Picture Oscar to Brokeback Mountain? Were the electors of the Motion Picture Academy quaking in their Gucci loafers at the thought that red-state America would rise up in fury at the insult to traditional American popular culture represented by a couple of gay cowboys -- or, more accurately, sheep-boys? "Despite all the magazine covers it graced, despite all the red-state theaters it made good money in, despite (or maybe because of) all the jokes late-night talk show hosts made about it, you could not take the pulse of the industry without realizing that Brokeback Mountain made a number of people distinctly uncomfortable," wrote Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. "So for people who were discomfited," he went on, misusing the word, "by Brokeback Mountain but wanted to be able to look themselves in the mirror and feel like they were good, productive liberals, Crash provided the perfect safe harbor." Tom Shales of the Washington Post also questioned whether the award to Crash "was really for the film's merit or just a cop-out by the Motion Picture Academy so it wouldn't have to give the prize to Brokeback Mountain."
This sounds improbable to me. Not that I have any very high opinion of the movie industry's courage and daring in tackling the hard subjects or rewarding those who court controversy. But the controversy about Brokeback was mostly hype. The blue state liberals who make up most of the movie audience, certainly for films like this one, take it for granted that homosexuality is a perfectly valid "lifestyle," while the red-state types who think that gays ought to be in jail don't go to the movies anyway, or not unless Jesus is putting in an appearance. Anyway, the various controversies stirred up by gay rights advocates -- the demand for same-sex marriage, for example -- are hardly touched on by the film. In fact the gay theme is really incidental to the more mainstream (and pernicious) message about following your bliss, especially when it comes to sex, regardless of the damage to spouses and children.
Of course it's true that this is a theme which Hollywood finds entirely congenial and to which it often returns, though perhaps not quite so often these days as in the boom years for "convention"-bashing of the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, the taking up of an ostensibly gay subject matter could be seen as the film-makers' way of attempting to revitalize the otherwise moribund spirit of sexually "liberationist" triumphalism. If, once the novelty of the film had worn off and the self-congratulations of the tolerant and open-minded progressive film community had been reverberating for a couple of months, people began to think: "Been there, done that," who could be surprised? Yeah, yeah, people ought to be free to love as their glands dictate. Where, even in the movie, are the conservative moralists saying otherwise? You've got your gays and you've got your gay bashers, but in between there is only dumb suffering.
In other words, the villains in Brokeback remain faceless and voiceless. In one way the picture benefits from keeping their shadowy threat almost entirely off-stage for, once made visible and articulate, it would have been sure to have turned into a caricature. Instead, director Ang Lee and writers Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana -- all of whom did win Oscars -- almost managed to create the impression that the villain was once again "society," just as it was in the good old days when bourgeois respectability and puritanical sexual morality were still powerful enough to make it worth Hollywood's while to attack them. His heroes, Ang Lee was quoted as saying, "taught all of us not just about gay men and women whose love is denied by society, but most importantly the greatness of love itself." Ah, society. I remember that. I was very young, of course, but I can just about imagine what, back in the days of The Sound of Music, "society" (or what was left of it by then) would have had to say about a best song titled "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." Not nearly hard enough, apparently.
Anyway, "society" in that sense is obviously long gone. Just like Good Night, and Good Luck, another losing nominee last night, Brokeback groped back more than forty years into the past to find a plausible bad guy who, as some of us dimly recall, wielded genuine power. Not, that is, just the accidental power of the gay-bashers or other criminals who catch their victim alone and unprovided with the means of defense but who, backed by "society itself," must have been genuinely frightening. Munich and Capote were similarly set 30 or 40 years in the past. Was this just coincidental? Crash was the only Best Picture nominee set in the present day, and it too was more than a little tinged with nostalgia for the highly picturesque "urban jungle" world of the '70s and '80s when crime-ridden ghettos were no-go areas for whites and innocent blacks were routinely victimized by racist white cops. Oh, to have those days back again, when "revolution" was in the air! That's why the performance on stage at the Oscars of the Best Song-nominated ditty "In the Deep" from Crash took place against a backdrop of fake burning cars.
But Crash had something more than nostalgia for the comforting moral and political certainties of that revolutionary time. It had the monumental smugness of those who, like the Academy itself this year, think it a virtue in itself to be "aware" of social problems and who, in thinking about such problems, fancy their own sophistication as moralists, their own concerns for "society's victims," than their less enlightened fellow picture-goers. Crash, like the Oscars themselves, blatantly appeals to the taste of the "movie community" for self-congratulation. Movie people swallow its intolerable preachiness and easy didacticism because they think it is good for them, not because it is good in itself, let alone entertaining. They watch themselves watching Crash and think, not for the first time, "What fine fellows we are for thus showing that we care about racial prejudice in society." That word again! In Crash, as much as in Brokeback Mountain, they want "society" back so that they can have something to rebel against. Until then, they have to play at being rebels and revolutionaries as well as serious moralists and political activists. Each pose is as false as the others, but by handing out awards to themselves for their serious-mindedness, the progressives of the movie community are able to sustain themselves -- and quite a lot of other people too -- in the illusion for just a bit longer.
James Bowman, The American Spectator's movie critic, is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and media essayist for the New Criterion.
(Denny Crane: "I Don't Want To Socialize With A Pinko Liberal Democrat Commie. Say What You Like About Republicans. We Stick To Our Convictions. Even When We Know We're Dead Wrong.")
Crash was essentially a meditation on 1. Despite what we state in public, we still maintain "politically incorrect" opinions about other races (whether we are black, white, or any other color). Crash merely made the characters say what most of us think but are afraid to say. and 2. Despite our preoccupation with racism as "the ultimate public sin", many of those that superficially are racist, are actually outstanding human beings under the rough surface. The hero of the film is a "bigoted" white cop for Crissake.
This writer is so blinded by the ideology that "everything is hunky dory among the races" in America, that he failed to see the real message behind the movie: That all of us have our faults and prejudices, but that they do not define who we are as people.
After watching selected portions of the Oscarcast, I'm going to rent March of the Penguins and Walk the Line, and ignore the rest. Already seen Narnia and will buy it when it comes out on DVE.
You will not be disappointed by WALK THE LINE: pure entertainment from the first minute to the last, always interesting, never tries too hard, doesn't have to, and some of the best acting you will see in any movie>Phoenix and Witherspoon were perfection.
Agree with you. Hollywood is fast becoming irrelevant. As Mark Steyn wrote recently, it is a record shop with only three records and it plays the same three over and over again ...
You make some good points. To be honest, I am prob one of the few people on here that saw Brokeback Mouintain and actually thought it was a pretty good film. I think he right on about the manufactured hype about the movie esp on the left. I thought Crash was disappointing in alot of ways. I think the writer does have a point about the old days. The NR had quite a good article on how after 9/11 it seemed that it really disminished the race issue because we are all Americans now. In my view it certainty took the nasty "edge" off of it though. It does seems like it receded some but your right in your post though. I guess I cant see another LA Riot situation happening like that again in our current climate. or for the forseeable future.
Joaquin Phoenix is a marvelous actor, much better than Clooney and some of the other recent winners. Shame that he hasn't picked up an Oscar by now. He was terrific as Commodus in "Gladiator".
To give Best Song to that disgusting piece of drivel, the pimp-ho song....ye-gawds....
That is the truth. I think his acting is awesome. I thought a great film he was in was The village. That was some great actiing on his part. Also how he played the son in that MEl Gibson movie about Aliens was good.
I remember the days when viewers of the Oscar show actually cared about which song won "Best Song". When a tune like "Windmills of Your Mind" would stay in your mind for ages, uplifting you. When you could sit and watch without embarrassment the clips from the various movies. (The Altman montage had some quip about urinating, I found that embarrassing. I switched the channel.)
The effects of 9/11 lasted for all of one month in NYC.
Whites continue to avoid living among blacks, and many still cross the street when a group of black youth walk by. Blacks still see white people as "the enemy" in many cases, no matter how they try to supress their feelings in the work place. And class has nothing to do with it. Upper middle class blacks have moved into West Orange New Jersey in recent years, while whites have moved out.
Of course, the race issue is not as intense as it once was in this country, but it is still there, and has gotten more complex due to the influx of Latinos, Muslims, Asians, etc., many of whom are more open of their hatred of blacks, btw, than whites are. The main difference is that middle class and above folks may not SAY anything racist, but they still have images/stereotypes in the back of their mind when they encounter other races or drive through an "ethnic" neighborhood.
Speaking as one who has lived most of his life in multiethnic New York, to say nothing of stints in Chicago and Miami, I can tell you that the folks who believe that "racism is a thing of the past and we are all colorblind" tend to live in (largely white) suburban communities. Those of us in places like LA, New York, Chicago, etc. however, encounter racial realities everyday.
Yeah I see your point and I dont think Racism is dead. I t just seems a lot less heated. Interesting you mentioned Chicago. I was pretty shocked when I went there. I guess being from the South I envisioned Chicago being alot more intergrated but in reality it seemed to be one of the most segregated cities I have been in of that size as to blacks and whites interacting outside the work place. Even in the mundane things like going to the grocery store. My favorite expression was (that place is kinda of shady).
If they look like thugs, you bet. If they look like students, no.
What liberals don't understand that many times not doing what you "feel" like doing is the best course of action. Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be. Conservatives by nature understand the value of restraint. Liberals give in to every desire. Their urges for immediate gratification dominate their lives. That old motto from the sixties "if it feels good, do it" still applies to the Hollyweird crowd. They fail to understand that many people might "feel good" nuking L.A. Simply acting on ones impulses with no consideration of the consequences is not the proper course of action. If it feels good, maybe you shouldn't do it.
I have to ask, what makes someone want to even see Brokeback Mountain knowing what the subject matter is? I'm serious.. we all know what the topic was.. so what was the attraction to it for you? Curiosity?
The man running the Oscars said he realized not many people had seen many of the movies that were nominated. Which is why he did all the "clips" of old movies because everyone could relate to them. Talk about a movie industry that is out of touch with the public!
Personally, we won't be seeing Syriana, Munich, or Brokeback Mountain. We won't support movies that glorify terrorists or try to "humanize" them. (Tell that to the victims of Munich or Sept 11th who had to jump from buildings.. tell the little school girls just a few months ago in Afghanistan who were forced to watch their teacher be beheaded because he DARED to teach little girls school! Which btw, was just as Syriana was being nominated! Tell all the people they've beheaded how they are human too!) No, I don't think putting a face on a terrorist and making them seem like us is responsible at all. They aren't like us. They aren't even close! They are cold and evil!
The same holds true for a movie that tries to show homosexuality as a "normal" way of life. It isn't!
If it were there wouldn't be a disease process that the homosexual community is constantly in battle with in order to have sexual relations and even STAY ALIVE! HIV/AIDS!
The same goes for sexually active promiscuous people. People who have multiple partners are at high risk and often get STD's. I have a medical background and have worked in this area. Condoms don't solve all STD problems.
God intended for man and woman to be monogomous/married. Isn't it strange how when they are, there is NO disease?
When we turn away from Him things just don't work the way they should. There is no getting away from it. Someday, mankind will figure it out.
This life is but the blink of an eye compared to eternity. Blink your eye once and think about it!
Yet some play Russian roulette with life. I feel sorry for those who have thought there was nothing more than this life to contend with. Eternity is forever...
Anyway.. Hollywood has truly out done themselves this time. I was curious if anyone on FR would try to defend any of the movies that were out there this year.
I don't have to see any of the movies to know if they are good or bad. The subject matter is already off limits. Sin is sin. Wrong is wrong....
If they look like thugs, you bet. If they look like students, no.
If they look like Jehovah's Witnesses, yes.
When an Ethnic Group that accounts for only 14% of the U.S. population causes 42% of the crimes, avoiding that group is nothing more than self-survival.
Instead of cow pokes, they were sheep pokes.