The Hurt Locker and Hollywood

Last night I watched my first Oscars telecast since at least 2004.  I will admit to having developed a profound distaste for the event during the Bush years, when poorly educated, overpaid actors professed their opinions (and feigned knowledge) of international politics and foreign policy.  These opinions -- from the likes of Sean (Jeff Spicoli) Penn, George (ER) Clooney and others -- were harsh, anti-Bush and, at a time when American is at war, anti-American.  And when coupled with the snarky comedy of David Letterman and Chris Rock was enough to make me ask repeatedly:"Where have you gone Billy Crystal"? The 2010 edition of the Academy Awards seemed to represent a change -- if not of political perspective, certainly of attitude.  Not only did "The Hurt Locker" -- a film about the U.S. military in Iraq -- run away with the evening, but it's victory was accompanied by an acceptance speech from the film's director that actually paid tribute to American soldiers in harm's way.  While in previous generations such a statement of support might not have been anything unusual, in today's leftist Hollywood the speech by Best Director recipient Kathryn Bigelow is significant, indeed.  Her words, greeted by polite applause by the audience, were not echoed by the film's producers who also accepted the Best Picture award, leaving Bigelow to again repeat her "thanks" to "those who serve" a second time, though this time she did seem a little sheepish (saying "sorry to reiterate") and then throwing firemen, hazmat teams and others who keep us safe.  In a telecast with admittedly very low expectations, and even with Bigelow's slight temporizing at the end, it was a significant moment for Hollywood.

But what does it really mean?  Bigelow herself has called the film "anti-war" -- which may have swayed some dovish voters to support it, though when I saw the movie I did not come away with that message at all.  The Academy may have been rewarding a female director who has gotten herself out of the outsized shadow of her ex (fellow Best Director nominee James Cameron), or it may have found a movie that allowed it to tell the rest of America that it is "pro troops" even as it remains anti-war.  Or maybe in a crowded field where Avatar and its computer generated characters took the air out of the room, the movie was simply "the best of the rest".

We will never know the collective reasoning of the Academy, of course.  But could it mean that Hollywood has begun to tire of the leftist diatribe it has been on for the past decade?  Roger Simon at Pajamas Media asks this question in a piece entitled: "Did the 2010 Academy Awards mark the end of liberal Hollywood"?

The 2010 Academy Awards may not have marked the end of “liberal Hollywood” as we know it, but they certainly put a solid dent in it. With the pro-military “The Hurt Locker” winning over the enviro-pabulum of “Avatar” and Sandra Bullock garnering the Best Actress Oscar for a Christian movie, the times are a-changin’ at least somewhat, maybe even a lot.

But one thing is now certain. It is time for conservative, center-right and libertarian filmmakers to stop feeling sorry for themselves and go out and just do it. Their “victocrat” days are over. No more excuses. “The Hurt Locker” and “The Blind Side” have proven that it can be done. Get out of the closet, guys and gals. If you want to make a film with themes you believe in, quit whining about Industry prejudice and start writing that script and trying to get it made. That’s not an easy thing, no matter what your politics.

Right siders can take inspiration too from Sunday’s Oscar ceremonies themselves. They weren’t defamed for a moment. Missing in action was the usual libo-babble, no extended hymns to the cause du jour or ritual Bush-bashing. And Barack Obama wasn’t even mentioned. Not once. But the troops were – several times by Kathryn Bigelow.

We are obviously long removed from the Hollywood of John Wayne, who embodied American patriotism in film, or of Jimmy Stewart, who heroically flew a B-17 in combat in the real war against Germany. But it is possible that we've turned a bit of corner in the vehement anti-Americanism that Hollywood has taken up since 9/11, though I certainly wouldn't call the success of the Hurt Locker last night a sea change.  As Donald Douglas has recently pointed out, there is an effort underway by Robert Greenwald's  Brave New Films to fund a series of "hardline leftist films on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars" that use U.S. veterans to pursue a very typical anti-American line of exploitation and imperialism.
If past is prelude, I'd say that Greenwald will need a big star or some gratuitous nudity to find a large audience for his leftist fare: previous anti-American films on Iraq have fared badly at the box office, and have failed to find an audience -- let alone win mainstream cinema awards.  The Hurt Locker's appeal stems in part from its avoidance of policy and its gritty, realistic portrayal of young American soldiers in battle.  In fact, I found the Hurt Locker to be a patriotic film -- not in the "Flying Tigers" or "Hellcats of the Navy" genre, but rather in it's portrayal of American kids showing courage, ambivalence and even fear under fire.   These are things that ordinary Americans can relate to, and that is in part why the film has been so well received.