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Focusing on the Oscar Élite, Hollywood Loses Sight of America

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 9:07 pm - March 10, 2006.
Filed under: Annoying Celebrities,Movies/Film & TV

Given that my computer crashed as I liveblogged the Oscars, I thought I would do a kind of reflections post on the celebrated ceremony. With errands, obligations and assignments (not to mention catching up), I fell behind and feared it might be too late for such a post. When, however, I realized that not only did one of my predictions bear out (that viewership would decline) but learned last night as well that the great Peggy anticipated (some of) my thoughts in her brilliant column,* I decided to post.

To be sure, the Oscars did have their great moments. Robert Altman (a great director despite his looney tune politics) delivered the classiest speech of the evening, eschewing politics and focusing on his craft. Jon Stewart actually showed class as well. And while I didn’t find him particularly funny, he did make one of the best jokes (I have yet heard) about the Vice President’s hunting mishap — and pretty much steered clear of divisive partisan barbs. A number of talented artists won much-deserved honors, including director Ang Lee, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, actress Reese Witherspoon, animated filmmakers Nick Park and Steve Box (Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit), documentary filmmakers Luc Jacquet and Yves Darondeau (March of the Penguins) and a few others.

But, in many ways, this year was George Clooney’s Oscars. With his three nominations, many entertainment magazines covers featured his smug mug in the run-up to the ceremony. It seems that Clooney’s stock has risen with the Hollywood elite in direct relationship to the decline of his box office receipts. He hasn’t made a genuine hit since 2001 with Ocean’s Eleven. (To be sure, that film’s sequel Ocean’s Twelve didn’t fare all that poorly at the box office.) His remaining great flicks (O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Out of SIght were in the 1990s). And even those movies didn’t do all that well at the box office.

Thus, although Clooney has failed to win the hearts of moviegoers, he has won the affection of moviemakers.


In observing that “Clooney is Hollywood now” Peggy contrasts him to Orson Welles:

Welles had a canny respect for the audience while maintaining a difficult relationship with studio executives, whom he approached as if they were his intellectual and artistic inferiors. George Clooney has a canny respect for the Hollywood establishment, for its executives and agents, and treats his audience as if it were composed of his intellectual and artistic inferiors. (He is not alone in this. He is only this year’s example.)

Contrast Clooney, a Democrat, to Tom Hanks, who also supports Democrats. The former wears his politics on his sleeve while (outside his acting and producing responsibilities) the latter distinguishes himself by raising money for memorials honoring World War II veterans. The former is interested in showcasing issues which will increase his standing in the cultural left (which dominates Hollywood); the latter focuses on an issue to which all Americans can relate.

No wonder Tom Hanks’ films do better at the box office. It’s not just that people prefer his advocacy to Clooney’s; it’s what his advocacy says about him. Clooney understands what appeals to the Hollywood elite. Hanks understands what appeals to the overwhelming majority of Americans — regardless of their political affiliation. (Indeed, I think most moviegoers could care less about an actor’s politics so long as he does not allow himself to be defined by it.)

As Peggy puts it:

The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they’ve experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven’t experienced life; they’ve experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it. And that media itself came from certain assumptions and understandings, and myths.

I moved to Los Angeles because I believed in the power of film to transform people’s lives and bring up together, reminding us of our shared humanity. And until Clooney and other leaders of the entertainment establishment understand that their — that our — shared humanity includes political and social conservatives, they will fail to make movies which resonate with audiences all across our nation (and around the world), the kind of movies that once Hollywood’s product among the greatest of American accomplishments.

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com

*Yes, I realize that calling a Peggy Noonan column brilliant is stating the obvious.

ADDENDUM: The adorable Matt Szabo calls Clooney a “Sanctimonious Hypocrite” for his “shamefully ironic Hattie McDaniel Remark.” As Matt puts it, “As Clooney demonstrated in spectacularly disgraceful fashion, Hollywood is not out of touch because it is thoughtfully liberal – it is out of touch because its ambassadors rarely know what the hell they are talking about.” Read the whole thing!

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31 Comments

  1. Speaking of Clooney, I’d like to add Charles Krauthammer’s take on Syriana.

    Comment by John — March 10, 2006 @ 10:57 pm - March 10, 2006

  2. O Brother, Where Art Thou is a fabulous movie.

    Comment by Synova — March 10, 2006 @ 11:06 pm - March 10, 2006

  3. Couldn’t it be that the high cost of tickets coupled with the advent of the DVD might be a major factor in the decline of movie attendance?

    Way back I got into movies for 9 cents. Today an 11 year-old pays $$$ for a first run movie. Gibson’s movie had a lot of attendees, but out here in Palm Springs blocks of tix were purchased by religious organizations. Eventually, though, attendance dwindled.

    There are many factors to be considered. It’s dangerous to the argument to focus on too small a number of causes.

    Comment by Gene — March 10, 2006 @ 11:26 pm - March 10, 2006

  4. I’m not a violent person, but there are times I think I’d be willing to serve a couple months in jail for the pleasure of slapping that smug smile off Clooney’s face. 🙂

    Comment by Jack Allen — March 11, 2006 @ 12:36 am - March 11, 2006

  5. Jack: you don’t have to use violence.
    Just say, “Oceans Twelve”.

    Or “Three Kings”.
    Or”Batman and Robin”
    Or “Return of the Killer Tomatoes” (!)
    Or…

    Comment by DaveP. — March 11, 2006 @ 2:05 am - March 11, 2006

  6. Speaking of which…
    Did you folks know that The Great Politico-Artiste Clooney has a role in a movie called “The Harvest”… as ‘Lip-Synching Transvestite’?

    IMDB is SUCH a gas…

    Comment by DaveP. — March 11, 2006 @ 2:08 am - March 11, 2006

  7. Tammy Bruce has a great point about the Oscars: http://tammybruce.com/archives/2006/03/what_the_death.php

    Comment by Calarato — March 11, 2006 @ 2:34 am - March 11, 2006

  8. #2

    Second.

    Though I never had the pleasure of reading Homer’s Odyssey, I got the references.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 11, 2006 @ 4:36 am - March 11, 2006

  9. O, Brother was a very good movie.

    Other than Batman I don’t think I have seen any other Clooney movies, and I was never a fan of ER. Never a fan of Clooney either.

    I will take Tom Hanks any day over Clooney.

    Comment by just me — March 11, 2006 @ 9:16 am - March 11, 2006

  10. Where does the line begin for the slugfest? I’d like to wipe that smug grin off of Pretty Boy’s face as well.

    Regards,
    Peter Hughes

    Comment by Peter Hughes — March 11, 2006 @ 11:36 am - March 11, 2006

  11. Just Me….

    Hanks is about to star in The DaVinci Code, so I’m sure Fox News will instruct you to dislike him as well.

    Comment by Skippy — March 11, 2006 @ 12:39 pm - March 11, 2006

  12. Hanks is about to star in The DaVinci Code, so I’m sure Fox News will instruct you to dislike him as well.

    Huh?

    Why am I supposed to not like Hanks for that? I love Ron Howard as a director, and while I didn’t read Da Vinci Code I always though Angels and Demons read far more like a screen play than a book (not to mention how much you had to suspend belief). I didn’t like Angels and Demons well enough to go out of my way to read Da Vinci. Give me a good Michael Connelly book anyday.

    Comment by just me — March 11, 2006 @ 3:33 pm - March 11, 2006

  13. Hanks seems weirdly sex-less to me… but yes, given his sanity and his acting skills, I will take him over Clooney any day.

    Comment by Calarato — March 11, 2006 @ 3:51 pm - March 11, 2006

  14. Just Me…. You don’t think that The DaVinci Code will be a new battle front on the fictitious “War on Christianity”?

    Comment by Skippy — March 11, 2006 @ 3:54 pm - March 11, 2006

  15. To be fair, Clooney doesn’t seem interested in making major box-office hits these days. He’s hitched his wagon to Steven Soderbergh’s indie-film factory, and seems to prefer directing to acting. (Hanks’s sole directorial effort — That Thing You Do! — was a mediocre flop, and he’s stuck to high-profile Hollywood offerings ever since.)

    So Hanks and Clooney are taking different career paths. Clooney’s is less lucrative and more prestigious, as one would expect from a bachelor; Hanks is more middle-of-the-road and profitable, which is what you’d expect from a married guy. All choices come with tradeoffs and opportunity costs, etc.

    Comment by Tim Hulsey — March 11, 2006 @ 4:27 pm - March 11, 2006

  16. Clooney’s career not lucrative? LOL

    Comment by Calarato — March 11, 2006 @ 5:27 pm - March 11, 2006

  17. Bachelor? 44 years old? Dates a string of women whom he never commits to? hmmmmmmm…….

    Comment by Kevin — March 11, 2006 @ 6:26 pm - March 11, 2006

  18. 10: I feel the same way….I’d pay money to wipe that smug grin off of George Bush’s face any day.

    Comment by Kevin — March 11, 2006 @ 6:28 pm - March 11, 2006

  19. Clooney’s career not lucrative? LOL

    Read my post again, Calorato — I said Clooney’s career path was “less lucrative” than Hanks’s. Clooney is passing up $20 million lead roles in Hollywood blockbusters so that he can direct $8 million indie films. Hanks is taking those $20 million lead roles, and passing on low-budget indies. Ergo, Clooney is following a less lucrative career path than Hanks is. (Economic tradeoffs, opportunity costs, etc.)

    Comment by Tim Hulsey — March 11, 2006 @ 7:08 pm - March 11, 2006

  20. Skippy while I think Christians have some legitimate complaints with regard to treatment in certain situations, I don’t think this is one of them. I just can’t see getting all worked up over a work of fiction. If Da Vinci was presented as fact, I might listen, but it sort of reminds me of the argument people who think Harry Potter is evil and dangerous.

    If you don’t like the material in Da Vinci, don’t read it, or do what some have already done, and write a book refuting some of the arguments presented for the sake of getting facts right (or at least clearly debated), but I think fiction should be appreciated for fiction (although I admit I haven’t read the book, I might get around to it eventually, but for now I would rather spend my reading time on books I know I want to read).

    Comment by just me — March 11, 2006 @ 8:00 pm - March 11, 2006

  21. Oh and Skippy if Da Vinci is anything like Angels and Demons, I think the story will probably translate well into film, and with Ron Howard directing I think it could make for some entertaining movie watching. I suspect it will end up with a rating outside the G/PG scale, so it is unlikely I will see it in the theater, and unless it gets stellar reviews, I probably will make about as much effort to see it as I did reading the book.

    Comment by just me — March 11, 2006 @ 8:02 pm - March 11, 2006

  22. Kevin, most of us feel the same way about you.

    Except GW. He doesn’t even notice you exist.

    Comment by DaveP. — March 11, 2006 @ 8:15 pm - March 11, 2006

  23. 21
    Da Vinci is EXACTLY like Angels and Demons. It is also EXACTLY like every other book by Dan Brown. He has been honing that formula for years and years, and finally hit it big.

    Where was the outrage when the book came out? It’s been a blockbuster for a couple of years now. Was the Church waiting for the movie so they could get more press? It’s a fun book to read, and that’s about it. Maybe it’ll be a fun movie to see. At any rate, it’s only a book, and it’s only a movie. The more stink that people like Donahue, (not Phil, the other one) raise, the bigger the film is gonna get.

    Don’t these fools ever learn anything? “Banned in Boston?” Surefire HIT!

    Comment by hank — March 11, 2006 @ 8:34 pm - March 11, 2006

  24. I’m a Christian and I couldn’t give a crap about “The Davinci Code” – book or movie. So Clooney and Hanks can make any movies they bloody well please and I won’t be seeing any of them, thank you very much. Why? because movies suck now.

    Comment by m — March 11, 2006 @ 9:00 pm - March 11, 2006

  25. Why? because movies suck now.

    While I wouldn’t say they all suck, I think you have to look really hard to find the good stuff amongst all the crap.

    I just wish they would stop doing the remakes of old tv shows-I mean was a remake of Dukes of Hazard really neccessary?

    Comment by just me — March 11, 2006 @ 9:22 pm - March 11, 2006

  26. The fact that you’re going to glorify Peggy’s “point” is pure lunancy. Isn’t essentially EVERY film that is based on some sort of historical epoch derived from media presentations, history books, and/or other individual’s perceptions on the events as they happened? To imply that someone must have actually experienced something in order to use its themes artistically and/or express feelings towards it is to strip from our culture some of the most inspiring peices of art, literature, and music. Some of the most universally portrayed scenes the arist was sometimes millennias away from experience, ie Madonna or the Last Supper. Perhaps your fixation on Clooney and “The Left Wing Conspiracy” has clouded your judgment. In any respect, I am thankful that you are no art critic.

    Comment by Melissa — March 13, 2006 @ 4:49 pm - March 13, 2006

  27. Melissa, I thought Dan was an art critic… there aren’t any requirements for the job. Hey, maybe that’s why liberals tend to be art and movie and theatre critics?

    Dan would be one of the few conservative ones around. He’s well read, writes well, can construct a cogent argument. Nawh, he can be an art critic… all he has to do is grab a matchbook cover, draw Floppy the Squirrel, send it in and presto, he’s an art critic.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — March 13, 2006 @ 4:58 pm - March 13, 2006

  28. On the other hand, I can’t fathom why you dis’ Ms Noonan? Or is she on the Democrat Left’s hit list because of her former employ with RR and GHWB?

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — March 13, 2006 @ 5:00 pm - March 13, 2006

  29. Hey, maybe that’s why liberals tend to be art and movie and theatre critics?

    It would be just as easy — and just as mistaken — to say that art, movies, and theater demand a degree of empathy and intelligence from spectators that conservatives do not possess.

    Art and theater critics tend to be liberals because the art and theater scenes are completely dominated by hardcore leftists. Still, you need more than a tolerance for extremist rhetoric to critique these forms responsibly. A solid knowledge of tradition, as well as an awareness of current styles and trends, is vital for anyone who wishes to write about the arts. Most newspapers, alas, skimp on the necessary expertise, which is why arts criticism in the US is so seldom worth reading.

    I find cinema much less ideologically hidebound: You can find plenty of conservative films — or better still, true, thoughtful films that will accomodate a conservative worldview — but you have to seek them out. Most conservatives, alas, would rather carp than look.

    Comment by Tim Hulsey — March 13, 2006 @ 5:22 pm - March 13, 2006

  30. Interesting comments, Tim. Can you name me 4-5 films in the last 5 years that you think represent a conservative worldview and why? For some reason, Passion –a film made against the collective will of Hollywood– is one that comes to mind for me… after that, maybe some Selleck western.

    Any where eco-terrorists in the rain forest are accurately depicted as polly anna types? Or manipulative journalists creating stories ala Network fame? Or PLO operatives in their wanton slaughter of innocents in the Middle East plotting to kill for the sheer thrill of killing and glory? Or maybe an ACLU or trial lawyer who’s “in it just for the press, noterity and bucks” shucking a case up to the SCOTUS while distancing themselves from the interests of their client?

    I’d really like to know what films you think fit with the conservative worldview. Maybe a documentary showing Iraqi school kids interacting with Marines building a playground or school?

    4-5 in the last 5 years –and any mainstream movies?

    I think liberals tend to be art critics not because of some special empathetic feelings capacity or because they can speak with authority to intelligent, cultured elites (good God) –I think liberals tend to be film and art critics because it’s a profession that requires more litmus test passes via associations than merit… it’s all about being read by those who populate the leftside of the arts community.

    Just like picking a bishop in the Catholic Church: they usually pick one from the bureaucrats toiling in the Chanceries because they beging the process of selecting candidates.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — March 14, 2006 @ 6:17 pm - March 14, 2006

  31. And I still think Dan could go a great job as arts or film critic… it’s just that few left-of-center cultural elites would read him. Sort of the same problem Ben Stein has in Hollywood.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — March 14, 2006 @ 6:18 pm - March 14, 2006

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