Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Liberal" Year for Oscars?

As an avid Oscarwatcher, I felt like I should give my 2 cents into the controversy regarding the liberal slant to the Oscars this year. Please read (one of my fave websites), if you are not familiar with this controversy.


I have seen 3 of the 5 nominated movies this year (Brokeback Mountain, Crash, and Capote). I have not seen Good Night and Good Luck (it was not open at any nearby theaters) or Munich (I have not had much time to go to the movies in the past couple months, the one time I did was to see BBM).

BBM does seem to have an agenda to me. The agenda of the movie is to help to integrate homosexuality into mainstream society, so that gays are not treated differently from straights, and people will become more comfortable with gays **NOTE that I am not saying that this is the only purpose of the film, or that this is why the film is acclaimed, or that the film is not good on it's own merits. I personally enjoyed the film very much, and agree that it is not really about homosexuality per se, but about alienation and relationships. However, I do feel that is an agenda of the film. Many people find that to be a noble agenda, some do not. To say "At most, BM's political agenda is as follows: (1) Gay people really do fall in love, even gay cowboys; (2) It's probably not right to kill gay people (although no character actually says that)." [quote taken from an Oscarwatch comment], which to me seems to imply that people who are troubled by the movie want to kill gays, is very shortsighted and insulting, IMO. To wonder if the movie would have done well w/o gay characters is missing the point entirely, because the sexual orientation of the main characters is essential to the movie. Take that away, and you have a totally different movie, from a plot and artistic standpoint.

Capote, as many have said, has a gay main character because the guy was gay in real life. His sexual orientation is entirely incidental to the film.

GNGL I haven't seen, but Clooney has certainly made it no secret his political agenda in the film.

Munich I haven't seen and decline to comment on.

Crash clearly has an agenda, but more of a social agenda than political one. Nevertheless, the whole idea and concept of the movie (challenging racism in today's society, etc.) is more of an inherently liberal notion. Everybody is against racism, but as far as is my experience, conservatives seem to take a much lesser view of how much racism is present in today's culture. Some people think that this movie challenges these very people, which is fine. But not EVERYBODY goes to movies to be challenged, and many people in articles and commentary I have read seem to imply that this makes them lesser people or lesser moviewatchers or something. That is not true, in my opinion.

The FACT is that the majority of the most highly acclaimed films of the year were liberal movies with some agenda or another (almost every movie has SOME agenda). To ask if a conservative movie with the same quality would be nominated is an uninteresting hypothetical. It is not outside the realm of statistical chance that the best movies of this year merely happened to be political in nature, given that:

1) The majority of people in Hollywood are liberal and many are vocally political. Many liberal political films get made ever year, while relatively few conservative ones do.
2) Most movie critics are liberal as well. Roger Ebert, for one example, makes no bones about how he rates films higher when he agrees w/ their political agenda, as arguably should be the case.
3) Most of the non-political Oscar frontrunners or Oscar bait movies this year failed on a critical and commercial level, for a variety of reasons.

In fact, even if one of the films or more were removed, it would likely be replaced w/ The Constant Gardner (obvious political agenda), Walk the Line (no political agenda at all), or maybe History of Violence (possible political agenda is arguable).

In general, I think most of the arguments I've seen don't really hit the heart. The fact is it is generally impossible to separate a film's inherent artistic quality from it's agenda. The message and takeaway theme of a movie is one of the central aspects of it's quality..."Does the movie ultimately add up to anything?" is a central question that I think most people ask leaving a movie. And if you do agree with a movie's message, I see no reason to think that would not improve your opinion of the film's overall quality. Again, since most of Hollywood is liberal, this will benefit liberal films more than conservative ones.

Overall Conclusion:I doubt the movies nominated this year represent some paradigm shift. There were more political films released this year than last (possibly statistical chance, possibly heightened political atmosphere). Obviously the political movies released are going to be more liberal in nature than conservative. Note that in general I do not like the terms liberal and conservative, I am just using them here to illustrate my point. A look at the films suspected to be Oscar frontrunners next year, shows few political films. Especially, as I said above, that the non-political Oscar bait (Jarhead, Cinderella Man, Memoirs of a Geisha) seemed to do more poorly than expected with critics, and King Kong, expected to be a frontrunner, lost steam with its disappointing blox office numbers.

The "liberal slant" is probably overblown. I count 4 among the 20 acting nominees who play gay characters. This is a high number, but it is not statistically unlikely at all. Looking at the best actress nominees, I see that 4 of them play in movies that have no agenda objectionable to red state America (all except Felicity Huffman).

I think the tone of most of what I have read, from both the liberal and conservative sides have been very condescending towards the other side, and have done very little to advance any real debate.


Sorry for this, back to your regularly scheduled inane blathering later...


Blogger The Omnimodern Epoch said...

Good post, I also think it's interesting that 3 of the pics up for BPOTY were independent films. That will inevitably do something to skew the number that are "politically" aligned.
I think the conservatives are just mad that Deuce Bigalow: Eurpoean Gigalo and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous weren't nominated.

12:28 AM  

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