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March 6, 2006
Turan: Hollywood Isn't Liberal Enough

Kenneth Turan is angry that Oscar didn't anoint Brokeback Mountain as its Best Picture winner, and he's certain he knows why it didn't -- all that latent homophobia running around Hollywood. It couldn't be anything else ... right, Kenneth?

Sometimes you win by losing, and nothing has proved what a powerful, taboo-breaking, necessary film "Brokeback Mountain" was more than its loss Sunday night to "Crash" in the Oscar best picture category.

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 this film made a number of people distinctly uncomfortable.

More than any other of the nominated films, "Brokeback Mountain" was the one people told me they really didn't feel like seeing, didn't really get, didn't understand the fuss over. Did I really like it, they wanted to know. Yes, I really did.

In the privacy of the voting booth, as many political candidates who've led in polls only to lose elections have found out, people are free to act out the unspoken fears and unconscious prejudices that they would never breathe to another soul, or, likely, acknowledge to themselves. And at least this year, that acting out doomed "Brokeback Mountain."

Now, Hollywood has a lot of faults, but latent homophobia just isn't one of them. The movie business is one of the most gay-friendly industries in the US, and by any reckoning it includes more open gays among its power elite than any other big business. Their products routinely support gay issues and the gay culture, and their representation in the Academy certainly surpasses their demographic standing in the population as a whole.

Why does Turan want to assign the loss of the Oscar to homophobia? Because it was his favorite film of the year, and Turan does not want to consider that others may not share that conviction out of honest opinion and not some hidden bias against gays. And this is exactly why the Academy Awards always turns out to be more about politics than actual film excellence. When a film loses -- a film which, by the way, got nominated as one of the top five films by the same Academy -- its partisans always throw rhetorical and political firebombs at the Academy and its voters. Turan demands that the Academy honor this film because of its subject matter, or else it proves that Oscar voters have a secret bigotry towards gays.

It's rhetorical extortion. Turan argues for political anointment rather than honest opinion. He's a martinet instead of a film critic, and he's not alone.

No doubt Turan is upset that his favorite film lost. Perhaps he should put himself in the position of most Americans, who wondered why the Academy rarely nominates any of their favorites these days, a good question in a year in which all of the nominees had less-than-impressive runs at the box office. (via Mickey Kaus)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 6, 2006 7:16 AM

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