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Adam Cohen tries his hand at ironic farce in today's New York Times op-ed page in previewing tonight's Oscar presentations. He writes that -- wait, I have to wipe the tears from my eyes -- the Academy Awards have a history of avoiding politics!
This year's best picture nominees include a gay cowboy movie, and one about racial conflict in contemporary Los Angeles. There's a movie about the cycle of violence in the Middle East; one about a writer whose homosexuality, if not his journalistic ethics, is treated sympathetically; and one about a crusading TV newsman who took on a right-wing demagogue.
These films have something in common besides small budgets and low box office: left-of-center approaches to some of the day's most controversial issues. Hollywood rallying to the liberal cause may sound like non-news. As a Democratic friend said with a shrug when the nominations were announced, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is "the only branch of government we control."
But the Academy Awards have a history of avoiding politics. There have been a few onstage manifestos over the years, notably Sacheen Littlefeather denouncing the treatment of American Indians while declining Marlon Brando's Oscar for "The Godfather." But academy voters have a consistent record of handing out the top awards to blandly inspirational movies that sell a lot of tickets. This year's lineup is unusual, and it could be a modest sign that the nation's political mood is shifting.
Oh, this guy's a hoot! Just because the Best Film category doesn't always reflect the politics du jour of the Hollywood elite, Cohen thinks that Oscar shades his eyes from politics. As a veteran watcher of the awards show, I can tell you that Cohen is either willfully ignorant or selling something. The show itself usually consists of either politically-charged humor by the emcee or politically-charged speeches by the presenters or winners, especially the winners. Let's not forget the rant that Michael Moore spewed out in 2003, when he won Best Documentary -- for a film (Bowling for Columbine) that contained an egregious amount of falsehoods and fakery, but certainly had the political point of view that Hollywood adored.
In truth, Hollywood has always used their honors to reward political points of view. I dare anyone to go back and watch The Deerhunter, a dreadful and dreary movie that won Best Picture. (What were the alternatives? Coming Home, another angry Viet Nam war movie, Midnight Express, which sympathized for an American drug smuggler, An Unmarried Woman, which celebrated liberation through divorce, and Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait, the remake of a better film, Here Comes Mr. Jordan.) The nominations usually find themselves filled with politically correct films, and occasionally win the big prize. And as I mentioned before, I challenge Cohen to find any year in the last 30 when Hollywood's grand evening didn't get used as a platform for left-wing political posturing.
Perhaps Cohen can explain the hostility shown towards Elia Kazan when he received his lifetime achievement awards. A number of Hollywood's elite, notably Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, threatened to stage a protest during the awards for Kazan's cooperation with the House Un-American Activities Committee -- something that happened before they were out of diapers, if born at all. Or for that matter, perhaps Cohen can explain the continuing obsession with the blacklist, an obsession that they will once again drag out of the attic for tonight's show, thanks to the nominee and likely winner tonight, Good Night and Good Luck.
If Cohen thinks the Oscars are apolitical, then he must also consider MoveOn a nonpartisan organization.Sphere It View blog reactions
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