March 5, 2006

"I just feel that filmmakers are much more proactive since the second Bush administration."

Says Steven Spielberg. "I think that everybody is trying to declare their independence and state their case for things that we believe in. No one is really representing us, so we're representing our own feelings, and we're trying to strike back."
Emanuel Levy, professor of critical studies in the UCLA Film School and author of the book "All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards," said he thinks the tremors of a post-9/11 world have just caught up with Hollywood in this year's Academy Award races. Levy said that when society faces a divisive issue, such as the war in Iraq or the response to terrorism, critical movies emerge, but not immediately.

There is an expression in Hollywood that the studios make movies about what people were talking about last year. There is always a lag between idea and premiere. "Munich" took six years to reach the multiplex. "Brokeback Mountain" took eight. "Syriana" is based on a book written during the Clinton administration.
In other words, Spielberg is totally bullshitting. It's not about Bush, it's about Clinton.


Jacques Cuze said...


Jake said...

The entertainment industry delights in knocking conservatives. And conservatives delight in watching the industry's revenue drop like a rock as a result.

Mike Lief said...

With regards to this post, and the previous one about the Oscars, a thought to tie the two together.

Anne, I've been a HUGE movie buff (cinephile sounds too snobbish) since I was a little kid, when my mom would drop me off at the Studio City Theater and the La Reina on Ventura Blvd. for their summer movie programs in the early 70s.

My wife cautions before each Costco visit, "You're not going to buy anymore DVDs, are you?" Of course, it's hard to resist when you can own a classic flick, or even just a pretty good one, for less than the price of two tickets, drinks and popcorn.


I got to meet many old-time actors and technicians while hanging out at the Studio City Driving Range with my dad, and later when I got my first job in the coffee shop, where the duffers would drink coffee and shoot the breeze about the good old days.

How many kids got to see Jack Albertson do a softshoe with a putter standing in for his cane; Harry Warren talk about writing "Atchinson, Topeka & the Santa Fe," and how he'd been enjoying the royalties for 40 years; George Tobias talking about his time on the set with Cagney and Bogie.

I grew up watching the Oscars, and went to school with actor's kids; Walter Matthau's son would go to the races with his dad, sporting his own bankroll to bet on the ponies.

Anyhow, having stated my bona fides, I will not be watching the Oscars tonight. I haven't seen any of the nominated films, and have no interest in doing so.

Between the sexual identity agenda films (Brokeback and TransAmerica) and the anti-American, anti-Western political agenda flicks (Good NIght, Crash, Munich and Syriana), I've avoided the movies like a bathroom in a Chinese restaurant.

If you're so inclined, I wrote about two of the films here.

The theaters themselves are annoying, with high ticket prices, ads (frickin' ads!) playing before the feature, dim pictures because of theaterowners trying to extend the life of the projector bulbs, and rude, crude, socially inept patrons, talking, answering cell phones, and bringing squalling infants and complaining toddlers to grossly inappropriate films.

We bought an LCD front projector, which we put on the coffee table, and now watch on a pull-down six-foot widescreen screen, on a comfy couch, and quite frankly don't miss the communal experience Manhola Darghis describes.

The only genre that suffers as a result is the comedy; nothing compares to hundreds or thousands of people laughing, the sounds of their laughter ebbing and building, rolling throughout a darkened theater.

But few comedies of late inspire that kind of hilarity. . . .

Finally, the last place I want to get my politics from is the movies. Spielberg has gone off the rails; a good technician who produced rousing pop entertainment has decided he needs to educate us about the moral complexities of the Middle East.



I wonder how Schindler's List would look had it been made during Spielberg's new, "speak-truth-to-power" phase.

Jake said...

Mike Lief:
You hit on the other reason people don't go to movies anymore. A typical person can afford to get a better picture and better sound in his own home than he can get in most movie theaters.

Ricardo said...
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Balfegor said...

It's not about Bush, it's about Clinton.

But Clinton's policies -- what he actually did -- didn't really come from where one might think he was politically, did they? For example, if Brokeback Mountain took 8 years, that means it started up around 1998, two years after Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which spelled out that gay marriage != marriage. So that movie makes sense, as a political reaction, no?

Despite the Democrat in the White House, the politics and legislation of the latter half of the 90s are, I think, unmistakably Republican -- right up to Clinton's lame little "micro-initiatives," like V-chip censor systems and school uniforms. By and large, I think Clinton was forced to take positions way over to the right of where people think he personally would have been (judging from what he tried and failed to do during his initial honeymoon).

If Bush, then, just came in as President reflecting this right-ward political shift, rather than leading it, it seems perfectly reasonable for Spielberg to latch onto him as a visible symbol for the shift that has left Hollywood behind.

Ricardo said...
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Ricardo said...

I haven't been to a megaplex in two or three years now. The screens are too large, the sound systems are too loud, and the introductory commercials are annoying. There is no reason why I should "pay" to have an unpleasant experience. On the other hand, I'm constantly watching recent releases from Blockbuster, or even buying the ones that catch my fancy. Why won't the industry understand that if "the medium is the message", they are being ill-served (at least for boomer-aged people like me) by insisting we watch the latest releases in unpleasant megaplex surroundings (and I haven't even mentioned the price of the popcorn!)

On the other hand, last summer I stumbled on one of those small-town tiny movie theaters (the ones with small screens and only about fifteen rows of seats). The evening ticket price was $3, and the cost of popcorn $1 ... can you believe it? I saw "Wedding Crashers" there, and it was a delightful experience.

The only reason I mention these things is because like Mike Lief (above) I'm a movie buff. But "political proactivity" or any obscure intellectual reason has nothing to do with "why" I won't go to megaplexes. It's because the industry has made it a painful experience, and who in their right mind chooses pain?

Palladian said...

"It's because the industry has made it a painful experience, and who in their right mind chooses pain?"

Anyone who would go see "The Shaggy Dog"? Just seeing the poster for that makes me want to throw myself in front of a train.

"No one is really representing us, so we're representing our own feelings, and we're trying to strike back."

Hahahahaha. Left/liberals like Spielberg have tight control of the largest megaphone in human history, yet NO ONE IS REALLY REPRESENTING US! Who's us, anyway? Billionaires? People who make movies about giant sharks and charming aliens?

Wade_Garrett said...

Speilberg isn't just totally bullshitting. Munich may have taken years from the idea's conception to the day it was released, but, in reality, the movie was shot in a hurry (in just a month or so in the fall of '05) and edited together quickly in order to get it out on time. In fact, the studio was worried that it wouldn't be ready in time. So no matter how many years it took to get the funding and the cast lined up, he actually filmed the movie in 2005, and the script was re-worked extensively in '05 and even during the shooting of the film.

Michael said...

What really soured me on the idea of seeing Syriana was when I looked up the actor who plays Prince Nasir, the total fantasy democratic good guy Arab sheik.

His roles have included... two other characters named Nasir, and one named Bashir (on Star Trek).

If you can't even come up with an original NAME, what are the odds you're going to come up with an original take on geopolitics?

Drew said...
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Drew said...

American Idol's success is an excellent example of what happens when Hollywood pays attention to the rest of America.

If they want ratings and box-office sales, they should look to the American consumer outside of their ideological bubble.

Elizabeth said...

American Idol's success is an excellent example of what happens when Hollywood pays attention to the rest of America.

Does that explain why most of the performers who've done very well on Idol are absolute crap?

Decklin Foster said...

Meet the new elite, same as the old elite.

doug said...

"American Idol's success is an excellent example of what happens when Hollywood pays attention to the rest of America."

Oh now I am depressed. Caught between the Scylla of 'liberalism' run amok and the Charybdis of absolutely nothing worthwhile whatsoever.

Geez. Can't anyone just make a good flic anymore? I don't really mind 'message' films; I just prefer a little objectivety in the choice of message. Agitprop all the time grows tiresome.

Thank goodness for TCM.

Drew said...

Does that explain why most of the performers who've done very well on Idol are absolute crap?

No, that helps to explain why Idol had ratings higher than its three closest competitors combined.

redraidersrule said...

I don't really have anything political to say but I saw Freedomland the other day and it sucked. I would just like to watch something good for once.

Jeremy said...

I read the book by Bob Baer that Syriana is supposedly based on, but it's nothing like the movie. The movie seems pro-terrorist, anti-US. The book was more complaining that the US wasn't anti-terrorist enough. The author was upset that we never retallized against Hezbollah for killing all the Marins and CIA officers. And the author was aghast that he was investigated for by the FBI for plotting against Saddam.

AST said...

Proactive? It means "Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty; anticipatory: example 'proactive steps to prevent terrorism.'"

I thought these people consider themselve artists. Is there such a thing as proactive art?

What is he trying prevent from 6 years ago that hasn't happened yet?
I hope it wasn't the election of Hamas to run the Palestinian state, cause his movie is too late for that. And his portrayal of Palestinians as just average people like us, doesn't quite sound so convincing since they voted for a terrorist outfit to run their "government." That was a tough sell anyway when you think of them sending their kids off to be kamikazes just to kill a few people they don't even know.

F15C said...

Hollywood has become, for all intents and purposes, another planet.

The denizens of said planet have their own culture, values, and politics based upon the tiny bit that they are able to comprehend of the politics and cultures of Earth.

Hollywoodians used to resemble the inhabitants of Earth, but over time they became convinced of their own omnipotence and have since become essentially unlike any living human being.

Their remaining entertainment value to Earthlings derives from what some Hollywoodians will say, do, and wear which brings laughter, pity, and sometimes sympathy to many Earthlings yearly.

They also provide money that to fund motion pictures made in New Zealand that Earthlings find entertaining. However, almost all product produced by indigenous Hollywoodians is palatable only to other Hollywoodians and tends to make Earthlings sick and/or disgusted when consumed - which they are doing in ever decreasing numbers.

Bill Peschel said...

Sounds like it's time for a revival of Preston Sturges' "Sullivan's Travels," about a director of "serious" films who learns that what people need is to laugh.

Someone get the Farrelly brothers!

reliapundit said...

what's so bizarre is that (a) these lefties like spielberg actually believe this crap; and (2) they make movies about unpopular themes which undermine traditional values, and (3) then they say stupid stuff even though it's bad for business.

if h-wood made movies which reflected popuar values then they make more money.

but i guess these h-wood millionaires all have enough dough, so they feel like their leftist propgandizing is so important it's worth sacrificing some additional personal income (which they can certainly afford to do.)

and because it's a closed industrial community they think their normal, only they all got Pauline KAEL'S disease: she's the film critic who said after Nixon one reelection in the biggest landslide of all time: "I don't belive it! EVERYONE I KNOW VTYED FOR MCGOVERN!"

the success of narnia and passion and incredibles and lotr proves that there's a huge market for good movies which reflect traditional values.

h-wood would rather tear down our traditions and make less money. this typical of RICH leftists.

DRJ said...

Gosh, Mike Lief, aren't you being a little tough on bathrooms at Chinese restaurants?

Mike Lief said...

DRJ --

Having visited bathrooms the world over -- I've become something of a connoisewer -- I have to rank the facilities in Chinese restaurants consistent winners of the Poo-Poo Platter for Poor Sanitation.

Sorry 'bout that pun.

But am I wrong?

Ann, sorry about the momentary OT excursion.

Semanticleo said...


I have blogged at numerous sites both left and right wing and have never seen
such a display of self-importance and disregard for the opinions of those who
differ from your own.

You embody every negative aspect of Academia available rolled into one
piece of work carved from the dead wood of meglomania. You apparently
fear thoughts which counter your own, and scrub them from your comments
and your grey cells, apparently. That sort of mentality belongs buried
with the radioactive material, and Soviet methodology, at Chernobyl

You are a despicable, and raunchy paragon of denial and have no place
in a public University where young minds need open and honest
reality, not your brand of closed-loop faux-feminism and egregious

Perhaps you've noticed your posts average about 12 comments per.
I shouldn't wonder if that doesn't concern you, as the pap you administer
relates mostly to popular entertainment and drivel that others say and
you, like your alter ego Instapusillanimous, merely reference, to avoid
the untidy results which sometimes accompany a principled position.

Go feed your ego and bank account. Enjoy them while you are able.


Electronic Bubba said...

I have blogged at numerous sites both left and right wing and have never seen
such a display of self-importance and disregard for the opinions of those who
differ from your own.

look in the mirror, ahole.

Elizabeth said...

No, that helps to explain why Idol had ratings higher than its three closest competitors combined.

But the singers that rise through the weeks to the top are still mostly crap, whatever the ratings. Justin whassisface? Crap. Kelly Clarkson? Nothing special. Clay Aiken, triple crap. Maybe middle America has been deprived of good talent for so long, now it settles for crap. Been down so long, it looks like up.

Drew said...

Elizabeth, perhaps you should get in a car and head for Middle America for a lesson in American culture. You might be surprised how "up" they are. I've lived in both the mid-west and on the west coast. I've never met more hospitable and genuine people than those in Middle America. Contrast that with heightened levels of intolerance and snobbery on the west coast. Don't get me wrong, I love all parts of this country.

Oh, on the original topic: Kelly Clarkson and Carry Underwood give Brittney Spears and Christina Aguilera a run for their money. Both have spent a lot of time at the top of the charts.

David said...

I was raised in Southern California and spent many an evening cruising Hollywood, Vine, and Sunset Blvd. all the way past dead-mans-curve to the beach at Santa Monica.

The people who live along Mulholland Drive, Malibu Canyon, Encino Hills, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Aire, Holmby Hills, etc., remind me of the Universal Studios tour. They believe the hype!

I have said it before that Beverly Hills exemplifies the elite Hollywood attitude toward the unwashed masses in need of enlightenment. They seal off the city during Halloween to keep the riff raff out and then try and create movies designed for the riff raff.

If outfits like Napster can outwit the music industry, not really difficult given the fratricide going on in the rap business, and movies are basically made for immediate release to DVD, where do the elites get off complaining about low ticket sales?

Entertainment types are small of stature and small in inspiration. Most Americans could care less about abortion, gay rights, glorifying terrorists, and the rest of the "I hate America" type of self-loathing endemic to a group that can never have enough of anything and can never be happy.
There Gods are, to list a few, aromatherapy, waxing, silicone implants/injections, living large, thinking small, fearful that what they have will be taken away from them, bulimia, anorexia, illegal immigrant help, and outsourcing movie production to France and Canada.

I'm not feeling the love!

David said...


Your stream-of-consciousness, or unconsciousness as it were, is fascinating when measured by it's sheer length, pomposity, and preaching.

Thanks for sharing and stopping by to share your witty-by-half take on this site.

I enjoyed your reference to the average number of 12 you came up with when your post was what? 23?

Now serving number 31!

Elizabeth said...

Drew, perhaps you should learn not to make assumptions about the person making an argument, and instead focus on the argument. I've lived in red states all my life. My point is that being on the charts doesn't mean anything about talent, or quality. Good sales doesn't equate to being a good musician. Britney is not a singer; she doesn't produce music But she makes money. To me, that indicates a cavernous hole in American taste. Christina A. actually has pipes, and bothers to train them. That's a good thing. The people that get the votes on American Idol are mediocre. Maybe middle America likes mediocrity. Maybe it's comforting. Maybe they've bought into the craven idea that there's something evil and elitist about performers with talent and training, who've done more than learn some dance steps and big gestures to cover up that they're flat when they belt that high note at the end.

If that's so, that's too bad. Just because Middle America buys it, doesn't mean it's worthwhile.

Drew said...

Elizabeth, fair enough. I apologize for the distasteful post. I just disagree that the Idol winners are all that bad (In the realm of pop culture talent). True, some of the early contestants are quite awful, but the idea being that they get voted away during the competition.

As my friends pointed out recently, I can be a d**k sometimes without knowing it. I apologize.

Balfegor said...

If outfits like Napster can outwit the music industry

Uh, is that really the best example? I mean, the music industry took Napster to court and destroyed it. Who uses Napster now? It's all iTunes, if you want it legally, and BitTorrent or Kazaa or whatever if you don't.

Pogo said...

Hoolywood suffers from the disease of intellectualism.

In his book, Intellectuals, Paul Johnson summarized the error thus:

"One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity is - beware intellectuals.

Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice.
For intellectuals, far from being highly indivualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns of behavior. Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value. This is what makes them en masse so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves generate irrational and destructive courses of action."


Verification word ~nygbrrgh:
What I say when scanning down the myriad films at the Googleplex theater, finding nothing I want to watch, except maybe Walking the Line. Again.

Pogo said...

And Semanticleo,

Are you gonna post this identical post on every thread here? Sheesh, whatta bore. Just like Hollywood: repetitive pedantic prigs.