Saturday, February 05, 2005

Don Feder's Oscar Schpiel

NOTE: As before, this post involves a political pundit taking aim at the Oscar Nominations in order to further his/her own political agenda. Thus, it contains potential spoilers about the film's in question. I'll try to tread as lightly as I can over the specifics, but if you haven't seen some of these films (specifically: Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby") you may wish to read at your own risk.

Don Feder is a political writer, and at that he's pretty damn talented. He's also, by manner of his postings, (which you can read at his website an ally of the so-called "Religious Right," and at that he's pretty damn loyal. Yesterday (Friday, Feb. 4th) he posted his thoughts on this year's Oscar nominations at David Horowitz's website,, and, Mr. Feder, on your rationale here I find you pretty far off base.

Before I get into this, I want to point out that Horowitz is an admirable scholar and that his Front Page site is "fair" in a way that most "conservative" news outlets never are. It's to his credit that he offers equal time to "hard-right" fellows like Feder and moderates like Andrew Sullivan. Check the site out here:

Here's the thing, folks. The "religious right" was planning on using The Passion and The Oscars as a post-election hammer with which to bludgeon it's Hollywood enemies whether it was nominated or not. In the absence of nomination, the attack has been predictable: Pick peices out of the nominated films that make them appear "liberal" (read: not-explicitly-religious-fundamentalist) and contrast them against the "holy" Passion. Also present is propping up Passion's boxoffice numbers, in order to turn the standard occurance of non-blockbusters racking up Academy nods into another chapter into the myth that Mel Gibson's torture-porn zealotry is "a film of the people."

Feder sticks to this script like glue, and in the end that's what hurts him: The outline doesn't fit real life, and anyone with even a basic knowledge of real Academy "politics" can see that. Read his original, whole article HERE: (spoiler warning)

Take a look at his thesis statement here:
"The Oscars are Hollywood’s way of celebrating its values – the agenda of a gang of celebrity cretins who need a teleprompter to think."

Truth is, The Academy is comprised of thousands of people from all aspects of the industry, not only actors and directors but also writers, crewpersons and technical engineers. While it's true that actors make up the largest voting bloc, "celebrities" (cretins or otherwise) are a minority and many are too busy during the year to vote on the awards themselves. (you have to see all the nominated films to vote.)

He gives away some spoilers, a'la Michael Medved, in the exact quote about his case studies, but I can tell you he zeroes in on "Million Dollar Baby," "Kinsey" and "Vera Drake."

"Two were box-office bombs. “Kinsey” earned an anemic $9 million and “Vera” $2.3 million – one-tenth the box office of “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.” “Baby” has yet to prove itself."

"Bomb" is a little on the extreme side. "Kinsey" never opened "wide" and "Vera Drake" is a small, independent British film for which 2.3 Million is a respectable take. This is basic business stuff, and standard for Oscar nominees.

Kinsey has a single nod in an acting category, and not even for the actor playing Kinsey. The film is only mentioned here, I suspect, so that it can be feigned that this is about more than The Passion, and because the "religious right" so despises Kinsey that they had planned a year-long assault on the film are a little dissapointed that it doesn't have more acclaim for them to complain about.

"At the same time, “The Passion” (winner of the People’s Choice Awards) will go down as one of the most popular movies of all time, grossing $370 million in domestic box office receipts, and $611 million worldwide. It received a backhanded compliment from the Academy -- three nominations, all of them technical."

But wait... is he really suggesting that being a big-grosser should qualify one for an artistic achievement award? Does this mean he'll also demand a Grammy for Eminem?

“Spiderman 2,” the summer blockbuster ($373.5 million) that praised virtue, also got three minor nominations. “The Village” got one nomination (also minor)."

Nice sleight of hand here, attempting to woo action fans and film geeks by trying to create some link between "Spider-Man" and "The Passion." The only thing they have in common is that "Spider-Man 2" is a better film about a put-upon hero making sacrifices for the greater good than "The Passion" could ever dream of being. Why is "The Village" in here? You've got me.

He goes off on "Baby," playing spoiler for the whole thing so I won't repost it. But listen to this:
"Eastwood has been in the industry long enough to know exactly how to butter Hollywood’s agenda bread."

Clint? Is he serious? The actor the New York Times labled as "facist" for "Dirty Harry"? The former Republican mayor? Who campaigned on behalf of Ronald Reagan? Is buttering-up "liberal" Hollywood? Does he honestly believe what he's saying here?

“Spiderman 2” was the number 2 top-grossing movie of 2004, as well as a rarity -- a sequel that exceeded the original. It was fresh, exciting, and dealt with serious subjects in a serious way. It was nominated for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects – rather like being nominated for a seat on the Burbank city council."

On this, sir, we agree. One out of one-hundred ain't bad, eh?

"M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie, “The Village,” was reactionary in the best sense of the word – rejecting modernity, while positing the virtues of a bygone era. It was nominated for Music (Score)."

And there's the answer to that question. He must be joking. The reactionary villagers of "The Village" are the good guys? That he can glean that says an awful lot about how much of an artistic failure "Village" really was and even more about how Feder just doesn't really have an argument here.

"The Academy Awards are more than Hollywood thumbing its nose at those whose patronage pays for the extravagant lifestyles of actors and directors. Winners achieve recognition they rarely deserve."

"Deserve?" It's an industry award, with voted winners.

"Then the sheep flock to the Oscar-winning film – and in turn are indoctrinated in the industry’s worldview. Thus, those adorable statuettes might be seen as an army of little soldiers marching into battle for Hollywood’s favorite causes."

Okay, so, let me get this right: When people blindly obey the command of Pat Robertson and James Dobson to flock to indoctrination from "The Passion," their exercising some kind of vox populi dollar-vote of their true feelings... but if they blindly trudge to the Academy Award winner.. then their sheep?

"The spectacle that will take place three weeks hence at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater has nothing to do with art and everything to do with ideology."

The same could be said, sir, of this and all other politically-motivated "film" columns like this one.