Written by: Mike Caccioppoli, Feature Film Critic
When it comes to the Oscars, politics has always played a big part, bigger than most in Hollywood would admit. I really started to think about this issue on Super Tuesday as I watched the commercials in between the election returns and Wolf Blitzer’s annoyingly repetitive rundown of those results. It seemed as though every other commercial had Daniel Day-Lewis screaming about abandoning his child. The monotonous trailer for There Will Be Blood played again and again, along with blurbs from various media outlets proclaiming the film “The best picture of the year.” Never has the politics of the Oscars been so transparent as on this night, when a studio’s marketing campaign blended right in with the politics of America. As I think back a month or so, I can’t remember even seeing one commercial for There Will Be Blood, not one. If not for the critics the film would have slipped into obscurity, and so would the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis. But the critics chimed in, Oscar nominations followed, and here all of a sudden are a slew of commercials for the film, a good month or so after its release.
Some may be thinking that studios promoting their films relentlessly after it receives Oscar nods is old news, and that’s true. But shouldn’t a studio know when they have a winner before the Oscars tell them so? The same question can be posed for the candidates running for President. Shouldn’t we the public know who is a strong viable candidate on our own, before the media tells us? One can compare the resurgence of one candidate or another (and I won’t mention specific names because this isn’t a pundit site) to the sudden Oscar “favorite” status of an actor or a film. One can even look at the members of the Academy themselves as lemmings that just follow popular sentiment. Do you really think that a film like Juno would have received so many nods if not for the critics proclaiming it one of the best pictures of the decade? Would the Academy members have been able to figure this out themselves? The answer is obvious.
When I was younger I would really get into the Oscar nominations. I would even place bets with friends as to who was going to get nominated in every category and then who would eventually win. I no longer care much; it has become a chore to watch the telecasts at all. I think they really lost me when they gave Crash Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain. Even though Hollywood is, shall we say, gay friendly, they still couldn’t muster the courage to give the obviously superior film the award instead going with a politically correct morality tale of life in the Hollywood hills. I think half of the people in the audience that night were in the film as well. It was the worst case of Hollywood patting itself on the back. “Hey we gave the gay film Best Director so we can give the liberal film Best Picture!” I couldn’t stomach this decision, and there are few bigger liberals than me.
This once again shows how reality is shaped and often warped by the Hollywood spin machine, the same way it is bastardized by the political pundits on television and talk radio. The so-called “frontrunner” one day is replaced by the media darling the next day and usually given labels such as “collapse” or “comeback.” Have you ever really asked yourself who these pundits are, or what exactly is their “expertise” other than being human hot air machines? I guess to be fair the same can be said of critics and members of the Academy themselves. Who are we? Why listen to us? Just because someone has been nominated for something doesn’t make them an expert on acting or directing. As I tell people time and again, a review should be just that, something you should look over once you have already seen a film, and not something you read in order to decide whether to see it or not.
The same needs to be said for how we decide who to vote for in an election. We should look at the candidates and where they stand on the issues and make up our minds instead of allowing the media to make our minds up for us. When George Orwell spoke of “Big Brother” he was speaking of just this – the government and media control machine that tells us what we should think. He wasn’t just talking about the eventuality of web cams and reality television as some may think.
As much as the media may want us to think that it’s often Hollywood vs. Washington D.C. this really couldn’t be further from the truth. They are more often than not one and the same. One can see however why they would try to perpetuate this lie as it keeps us from ever seeing the real truth, that until we are able to see through the nonsense, the spin and the punditry and make up our own minds we will never get either the government nor the Hollywood that we truly deserve.