2006-03-17 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

By Howard Schwach

You could almost hear the millions of television viewers in the red states turning their television sets to another channel.

Channel seven's showing of the Oscar Awards was proceeding as usual - the usual thank-you speeches, the usual platitudes about going to movie theaters for a genuine movie experience. Then, came the award for the best song.

A rap group named "Three-6 Mafia" sang (although that's stretching the point in my opinion) the lead song from the movie, "Hustle and Flow." The song was entitled. "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp." I kid you not.

Like nothing else at the award ceremony, that pointed out the fact that Hollywood is far from being in touch with mainstream American. Perhaps the movie industry and the academy will learn from that. After all, ratings for the show were down more than ten percent from last year's show.

Since money is the prime ingredient in Hollywood's galaxy, you would think that somebody would say, "Hey, we seem to be losing them for some reason."

That, however, will not happen.

"Pimp," by the way, won the Oscar, followed by an incomprehensible thank-you speech that would have embarrassed a ten-year-old.

Last Sunday, a black female commentator on CBS's "Sunday Morning" said that she was personally embarrassed by the fact that her culture was represented by hookers, pimps and gangsters. She said that "Pimp" represented the worst of her community and she blames black rap stars as well as white music industry officials for making a fortune off the worst of the black community.

She made the point that glorifying the pimps and the hookers, the gangsters and the drug dealers, especially in a glitzy Hollywood setting, makes that lifestyle look glamorous and seductive. She lauds Hattie McDaniel and Sidney Portier as two black actors who won awards while keeping their credability and their honor intact.

In addition, Hollywood is back on its Anti-America kick again. It went through that phase at least once recently and that was during the war in Vietnam.

Look at the pictures that were up for the "Best Picture" Oscar.

The winner was "Crash," which covers a 36-hour period in Los Angeles "as the lives of people of many races collide in a way that highlights bigotry,"

Then, there were two movies that spotlight gays. One was the highly-touted "Brokeback Mountain," a story of two gay cowboys who try to find happiness out on the trail.

The second was "Capote," the story of how the famously-gay author researched and wrote "In Cold Blood."

"Good Night And Good Luck" was the story of the liberal and revered television newsman Edward R. Murrow, who won his battle with right wing senator and ideologue Joseph McCarthy.

The final movie in contention was "Munich," a movie about Israel's retaliation for the 1972 massacre of its athletes at the Munich Olympic games. The movie posits that there is a moral equivalency between the terrorists who killed the eleven unarmed athletes and the Israeli hit team who tracked down the plot's leaders and executed them.

Are we seeing a pattern here. Add the movie "Syriana," in which George Clooney was a supporting actor (he also directed "Good Night And Good Luck") and which posits that the CIA goes around killing people in order to save American businesses.

Even Clooney admits that Hollywood is out of touch.

"We are a little bit out of touch," Clooney told Reuters. "I think that's probably a good thing. We are the ones who talked about AIDS when it was only being whispered of and we talked about civil rights. I am proud to be part of the Academy and proud to be part of this [movie] community."

"Crash" producer Cathy Shulman put it a little differently.

"You have made this year one of the most breathtaking and stunning maverick years in American cinema," she said.

It was indeed stunning and "maverick," at least from the point of view of those who make the movies. Not everybody else was too sure they wanted to buy into the idea that Hollywood was just following the crowd - making movies for which the American public is clamoring.

Adam Cohen writes a column for the New York Times, a newspaper that is often as liberal as the movie industry.

"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," he writes. "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."

He adds that one Democratic friend told him with a shrug that "the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in the only branch of government that [the Democrats] control."

He is more right than he is facetious.

Perhaps the outstanding example of the liberal bias of the academy is the nomination of "Paradise Now," a film made by a Palestinian that tells the story from the viewpoint of a suicide bomber. It was nominated by the Academy for The Best Foreign Film. That outraged many Americans, including some who lost their sons and daughters to suicide bombers and other terrorists, both in Israel and in the World Trade Center.

One such father told the academy, "I'm not arguing that the film should not be made or that it shouldn't be shown - that would be against free speech. But there's a big difference between making it and endorsing it with an Academy Award."

"The film presents a dangerous message," he added. "It justifies the killing of innocents. That is the one thing I resent most."

The move to take the nomination from "Paradise Now" started only after it won a Golden Globe Award earlier in the year.

"Would they have given the same accolades if the film had been about the young men from Saudi Arabia who moved to the United States and took flying lessons for their holy mission to crash airplanes into the twin towers and the Pentagon," an angry Israeli parent wrote.

The problem is, they probably would have voted to honor a movie that presented Mohammed Atta and the others in a positive manner.

The movie industry seems hell-bent on blaming all the problems of the world on the United States and Israel, attributing all sorts of wrongs to those two nations.. George Clooney seems to be the leader of the pack.

When will this end? When people stop going to those movies and stop watching the award shows. After all, it is money, not ethics that talk in Hollywood and the American people will one day be heard on this issue.

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