Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Just. Stay. Down.

I don't often get involved in blog-spats. My first show-runner, Norman Steinberg, once killed a television in-joke with a grimace and a head-shake. "Television referencing television ... a bit too much like a dog eating its own vomit." Always what blogger -to-blogger sniping struck me as. We need to strike at the arguments, hone our ideas. THAT's how we arrive at truth.

However, I think I finally understand -- exactly --the tone of voice General Tommy Franks used when describing the REMF-platonic-ideal Doug Feith as the "fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." It is not a snarl, nor a roar, but instead a sort of exhausted awe. Because I must say, I do think Jason Apuzzo of Libertas, the wee conservative film movement, possibly may be -- and I do not offer this lightly -- the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.

First, apologies to TBogg, but he neatly excerpted Jason's latest essay on the Oscars, and I'm going to borrow wholesale as the Libertas website seems to be crashed right now (CORRECTION -- there it is now). Now, from Jason, with a few small comments along the way:

JASON: Everyone in Hollywood loves to spot trends, myself included. So now that this year’s Oscar nominees have been announced, everyone around town is reading tea leaves or examining entrails - all wondering what this particular constellation of nominated films ‘means’ for the movie industry.

KUNG FU MONKEY: No. No we're not. We're all arguing over simultaneous theater and DVD day-and-date release, DVD residuals, and what the hell Big Momma's House 2 opening at $28 million dollars 'means'. Because we are in the business of making money. Seriously, the grown-ups who actually work in Hollywood who don't have any movies in the Oscar running, we nod politely and get back to work. The nominee folk cackle at the uptick in box-office they hope to garner as a result of the nominations, and the DVD bump they'll get with a win. Do you see a common theme there?

JASON: My sense is that the Academy’s selections this year will ultimately ‘mean’ very little. Why? Oscar season is no longer the rite of passage it once was for genuinely great films like “Gone With The Wind,” “On the Waterfront,” or “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Instead, today’s Academy Awards have devolved into just another marketing tool for ‘indie’ films nobody’s seen. (italics mine)

KFM: Okay, let's go with this, ignoring the fact that the people who vote for the Oscars are not movie executives with their agenda, but cranky older actors who watch screeners at home. Basically, the people who PROFIT from the movies are not the people who VOTE on the movies. This conflation of different parts of Hollywood, typical of an outsider's view, we'll let that pass. Jason's theme here -- his veritable raison d'etre, crucial to his slot in the conservative milk teat line -- is that Hollywood is a.) a single organized business/social/political entity and b.) it not only posesses but pursues successfully a single liberal socialization agenda.

Now, I have dealth with this before, smashing down that idiocy with little things we like to call facts. But Jason has stumbled back to his feet, unwilling to surrender to the sweet asphalt embrace of the truck-stop parking lot. Why, why must he still try to rise?

Instead, today’s Academy Awards have devolved into just another marketing tool for ‘indie’ films nobody’s seen. (worth repeating) The tipping point in this process probably came in 1998, when Miramax’s low-budget “Shakespeare in Love” stunned the industry by beating out Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” for Best Picture. Oscar season hasn’t been the same since.

KFM: "Oscar season hasn't been the same since." The "tipping point".
Remember, Jason's staking his Hollywood savvy on this idea. His credibility as a filmmaker and commentator. Hold that phrase in your mind ...

Yes, since 1998 Oscars have been all about indie films that nobody's ever seen. How in the name of God did Saving Private Ryan, which grossed over $216 million dollars at the box office, get beat by the scruffy little "indie film nobody saw" Shakespeare in Love, which limped across the finish line with the pathetic indie film gross of $100 million dollars. I mean, that's practically community theater gross! Peh. Spielberg was totally shut out -- all he won was Best Director that year. That's ALL. Con-so-lation prize. Just that sad little Best Director Oscar and ... five of the eleven Oscars for which his film was nominated. Granted, Shakespeare did win seven of the thirteen for which it was nominated, two more then Ryan. However, those extra two were for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, and seeing as Saving Private Ryan had, um, no actual female roles in them, I think those were kind of gimmes.

To hammer home the point -- the 16 films between Ryan and Shakespeare in box office that year? Since "how many people have seen the film" is an important metric, according to Jason?

Saving Private Ryan ... Armageddon, There's Something About Mary, A Bug's Life, The Waterboy (?!), Doctor Dolittle, Rush Hour, Deep Impact, Godzilla, Patch Adams (?!?!), Lethal Weapon 4, The Truman Show, Mulan, You've Got Mail, Enemy of the State, The Prince of Egypt, The Rugrats Movie ... Shakespeare in Love.

With the exception of The Truman Show, not a lot of Oscar competition in there. And trust me, you do not want to see the next twenty. No, as a matter of fact, do. Go find me a single other movie in the top fifty of that year that deserved an Oscar nod.

But you see, according to Jason and his folk, that's all part of the conspiracy. We in Hollywood are intentionally making shit movies that are profitable and then making good movies at low budget that don't gross a lot in order to advance our agenda of ... I mean, we make big movies that are profitable but then manipulate the voting process to scorn them -- and therefore ourselves to ... wait, for this to even work, we need to nominate not only our little indie films, but also some big film for it to humiliate (so wait, who votes for the indie and who votes for the blockbuster, do we get memos or signals ...?) and then somehow make sure the second round voting falls toward the indie ... I don't know. It all gets too crazy to even satirize at that point.

Now, if Jason had any skills, he'd counter my Kung Fu with "Shakespeare in Love came out during December of that year, and so a big chunk of its profits would have come after the nomination." So, given that Shakespeare had made about $40 million bucks by that point (still, hardly shabby) -- oh, wait, about $17 million dollars of Ryan came after the nominations, too. Seeing as Ryan had been out since July, does that mean we can call the Oscar bounce $17 million? Or is it $60 million? Which? And for Jason's argument to make even a shred of sense, you also have to ignore that 1998 was the year the Weinsteins essentially invented Oscar pimpage, spending millions of dollars in advertisements for their movies . You know why they did that? To advance the radical liberal agendas of Shakespeare in Love and Life is Beautiful? No. TO. MAKE. MORE. MONEY.

To wit, any of this discussion outside the specific context of the Hollywood power game in each and every specific year is essentially useless. But -- Jason's the one who introduced the rules to this retarded size comparison game. So we'll play by them. Poor bastard ...

Does this shocking trend of tiny movies grossing only $100 million dollars upsetting the big moneymakers at Oscar time continue, as Jason -- drawing on his insight into the film world -- predicts? Well, just looking at Best Picture (his metric, not mine), and going by box office gross :

1999 nominess: American Beauty ($130 million gross) wins over Green Mile ($137 million), Cider House Rules ($57 million - slacker) , The Insider ($27 million) and The Sixth Sense ($294 million).

2000 nominees: Gladiator (ah yes, that little indie, $188 million boxoffice, #4 for the year) wins over
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ($128 million), Erin Brockovich ($125 million), Traffic ($124 million) and Chocolat ($71 million). That's right -- the #4 movie, mainstream big-budget historical drama, dominated the 2000 Oscars.

Wow, 1998 certainly was "the tipping point" of a trend ... that lasted ... sort of lasted ... ONE. WHOLE. YEAR.

But no, don't stop now! ...

2001 nominees: A Beautiful Mind (Who was going to see this? It only starred Russell Crowe, directed by arthouse fave Ron Howard. Thank the Oscar Gods for its $170 million dollar take!) wins over The Fellowship of the Ring ($313 million), Moulin Rouge ($57 million), In the Bedroom (which is guilty of the sin of not making a lot of money, no more than $36 million, but just instead being a FUCKING FANTASTIC MOVIE) and Gosford Park (which was indeed a little indie ... directed by Robert Altman, one of the greatest American directors. Weird how the Academy seemed swayed by that)

2002 nominees: the first year all the nominees came out in December, by the way, use that lens on these numbers as you will -- Chicago (starring indie nobodies Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellwigger and pulling down $170 million dollars) wins over The Two Towers ($340 million) and The Gangs of New York (Martin who? Leonardo Di-whosy?) at $78 million, burying The Hours ($41 million) and The Pianist ($33 million).

Oh, this is the masterstroke for Jason's argument. This is the CLOSER, baby*. Tiny, shoestring-budget Return of the King ($377 million dollars) beats Master and Commander (there's indie-cellar-dweller Russell Crowe again, netting a pathetic $93 million), feel-good period piece Seabiscuit ($120 million dollars), ensemble-cast-of-the-gods and directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood Mystic River ($90 million) and Lost in Translation (the only real indie in the bunch)

Yes, Mr. Apuzzo. That is me beating you with your own idiot stick.

2004: Now here's where we let Jason kneel in the metaphorical parking lot, spit out some teeth and collect himself. Jason might grab a weak, weak handhold here in his half-assed data scan. By the time
Million Dollar Baby, The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, and Sideways were nominated, none were considered blockbusters. They were all indies that were then picked up and marketed by majors. You can absolutely argue that the Academy nominations were crucial in getting more people out to see these movies -- although only Million and Aviator broke the $100 million mark, Ray and Sideways hung out in the mid $70 millions, and Neverland topped out at $51 million. All of these movies are remarkably politically/socially neutral, however. And, even we Hollywood folk admit, 2004 was a shit year for film quality. You want to argue Shrek 2 should have gotten the Oscar nod that year, you go nuts. **

So, let us proceed, already having established that Mr. Apuzzo's very first paragraph is damn close to the fucking stupidest thing any single human being could have said, and well past the Event Horizon of Stupid for someone who allegedly works in the industry.

JASON: Nonetheless, a new trend is developing in what ‘indie’ films the Academy honors.

KFM: If by "trend" we mean "just this year" and by "what indie films the Academy honors" we mean "indie films the Academy almost never honors".

JASON: This year the Academy is hot for left-leaning, ’social issue’ films: “North Country” (sexual harassment), “The Constant Gardener” (evil pharmaceutical companies), “Good Night, and Good Luck” (evil Republican Senators), --

KFM: -- I'm sorry, I just want to chime in here. Are you trying to play that McCarthy was just a well-meaning Senator who's just now being maligned by revisionist liberals, and that his vicious drunken smear tactics, abuse of his office and treason-mongering are only being made subject of the film because he's Republican? Seriously, you want to live in that camp? ... oooookay. Just checking.

JASON: --“Syriana” (’it’s all about oil’), “Brokeback Mountain” (gay cowboys), “Munich” (the ‘cycle of violence’), “Transamerica” (sex change operations), etc. --

KFM: wait ... Transamerica? What the hell category is that -- oh, Best Actress, Felicity Huffman. One nomination in the Big Six. Actually -- the only nomination the movie got. Is the Academy really "hot" for a movie it nominates only one performance for? Well, maybe it's indicative of the problem with all the nominees. Who else is in that category ....

Goddamit, he's right! Charlize Theron for North Country is in here! This entire category has been co-opted. Look, Keira Knightley in the socialist manifesto Prise and Prejudice! Fiery narco-feminist Judy Dench playing an old English lady who runs a theater in Mrs. Henderson Presents! Reese Witherspoon in WALK THE GODDAM LINE! Did you see that? It was about how God and love saved Johhny Cash from drugs! BASTARDS!

Of course, Ms. Huffman may win. When she does, it will because we are advancing our evil Hollywood agenda, not because her performance, in which she's an actual woman who manages to make you believe she's a man who's not a woman trying to be a woman and failing is in any way a particularly difficult or virtuoso piece of acting. Please.

JASON: Taken together these films embody an important new Hollywood trend I’d like to call: The New Triviality.

Hollywood, you see, has become a lot like the Democratic Party - namely, a loose coalition of aggrieved constituency groups requiring representation. And just as in the Democratic Party, these groups will now get to fight it out over the next few weeks over who gets Oscar gold ...

... But let’s back up for a minute. What characterizes a Trivial film? A good place to start is whether the film was produced by eBay co-founder Jeff Skoll’s Participant Productions ("Good Night, and Good Luck,” “North Country,” “Syriana,” the forthcoming “Fast Food Nation"). Participant’s films received 11 nominations this morning. And for those of you who don’t know, Participant’s avowed purpose is to produce films around which social activist (read: ‘left wing’) campaigns can be organized.

As Participant vice-present Meredith Blake put it in a recent interview, “Our product is social change, and the movies are a vehicle for that social change.”
Participant is essentially the of Hollywood.

KFM: Okay, now the joking is over. Jason Apuzzo, who runs an organization called Libertas which has as its explicitly stated purpose the promotion of conservative political thought in Hollywood, the independent financing and production of films showcasing conservative values he holds dear, is calling bullshit on a group of producers who are independently financing and producing films showcasing political values they hold dear.

We are left with two alternatives here, people, neither pleasant. In my completely unprofessional and personal opinion, either he is a breed of idiot so magnificent that he can genuinely not see the parallel and resultant hypocrisy -- scary -- or he is willing to be that openly and unrepentantly disingenuous -- scarier.

JASON: ... So, for example, in the case of “Syriana” - an infinitely trite thriller about the ‘relationship’ between oil and terrorism - Participant uses its film to encourage the online purchase of ‘TerraPasses’ to help reduce auto emissions. If ‘TerraPasses’ aren’t your thing, Participant’s web site for “North Country” cheerfully encourages visitors to sign a “Women-Friendly Workplace Pledge” and “implement a sexual harassment policy at your school.” Yes, comrade!

KFM: Because me not wanting you to grab my wife or daughter's ass while she's trying to earn a living is socialist. You are the FUNNY!

God, seriously, let's just put this guy out of his misery. Back to you, Jason.

JASON: I don’t recall whether David Lean bought any ‘TerraPasses’ while shooting “Lawrence of Arabia,” be he certainly made a better film than this year’s Oscar crop.

KFM: Sweet God.

Sweet. God.

Are you honestly, shamelessly a.) claiming to know how to write a film
and b.) can't see the enormous structural and thematic parallels between Lawrence of Arabia and Syriana? Are you actually claiming to be a film-maker but you don't realize, as does every single wee amateur Spec-Monkey reading this column, be they a UCLA film grad or a part-time Mom screenwriter in Oregon, that you picked the two most similar films in your rant list to set up your dichotomy? How in the name of Pauline Kael's Haunted Panties do you critically analyze cinema? By film stock? By the number of tracking shots? By counting the number of words in the script without the letter "e"?! HOW?

Okay. Okay. Deep breaths. He's got to pull it out somehow. For chrissake, the man's got a PhD from Stanford and a philosophy degree from Yale. It cannot get worse. Sure, Jason Apuzzo has shown he is ignorant of how Hollywood business works; completely clueless on recent film and Oscar history; either an idiot or a hypocrite when it comes to the purpose of the very foundation he has set up; and revealed with, I must admit, breathtaking efficiency, he has no critical film analysis skills whatsoever. There is no way this can get any uglier. Let's dive back in where we left off:

JASON: I don’t recall whether David Lean bought any ‘TerraPasses’ while shooting “Lawrence of Arabia,” be he certainly made a better film than this year’s Oscar crop. And so, by the way, did George Lucas.

KFM: RACK FOCUS on John Rogers, his eyes widening in a Cthulhoid mix of delight and horror ...

JASON: You may remember George Lucas. Some thirty years ago he made a little film called “Star Wars” that revolutionized filmmaking, inspired a new generation of filmmakers, and saved Hollywood’s finances. Lucas recently revolutionized filmmaking again by pulling Hollywood kicking-and-screaming into the digital age. In 2005 he made a little independent film called “Star Wars Episode III” that was the year’s box office champ, received some of the warmest reviews of Lucas’ career, and successfully rounded-out the most popular and influential film series in movie history.

George’s thanks for all this? “Star Wars Episode III” got one nomination this morning, for Best Makeup. Lucas wasn’t nominated for Best Director, although George Clooney was for “Good Night, and Good Luck.” “Star Wars"’s Ian McDiarmid, playing the deliciously wicked Chancellor Palpatine, wasn’t even nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

So sorry, George Lucas. If your film doesn’t get us angry at Bush, Oscar just doesn’t care. Why? Because we’re now in the era of film as social activism, The New Triviality ...



... I ...

... let me walk that off. Let Jason wrap it up while I ... wow.

JASON: The Trivial film, you see, is merely an occasion for social activism or celebrity posturing. For example, on accepting a Golden Globe for his role in “Syriana,” --

KFM: Hi, me again. I don't think we can go on. I could never, in my wildest dreams, have nailed the close to this discussion like that. It's ... sublime. It's like looking into the solar corona of hackery, eclipsed only by the lunar body of cluelessness. Even when you go into the comments on his own right-wing site, you read things like: "I too believe Hollywood is filled with perverts and socialists. But an Oscar for Episode III? Are you high?"

I am usually very leery of criticizing fellow artists, and there are quite a few people who I disagree with politically -- Warren Bell for example, over at The Corner -- who I will tell you right now, is a helluva screenwriter.

But Jason Apuzzo, although he may well be a fine man, father, husband, uncle, businessman, friend, patriot, devoutly religious ... in my opinion Mr. Apuzzo has just proven himself to be, in this Feith-ian context, "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."

(NOTE: Yikes, Firedoglake is like a storm surge. All you newbies, please go here for an index of similar stuff. And thanks for swinging by)

honest to Christ, I actually started giggling as I typed this.

** there is, of course, a separate discussion on whether Passion of the Christ deserved any Oscar nominations that year. I think that's fair. I don't think it did, but it's arguable. If you feel it was robbed, get in line behind Bill Murray for Lost in Translation, and Val Kilmer for Tombstone, oh, and Paul Giamatti for Sideways. This shit happens, it's the Oscars.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. Val Kilmer was certainly robbed in TOMBSTONE.

In awe of the prose, as always. But, on another subject, does anyone here know who that cat-chick in the blue and gold costume was who got her block knocked off by Superboy in IC #4?

Drivin' me crazy.

Should have been Starfire.

I'm just sayin'.

John Seavey said...

In addition to that, there's a wondrous little dollop of icing on the crazy-person cake when he insists that Episode III, in which a power-mad villain turns a democratic state into a dictatorship by faking a war and using it as an excuse for a blatant power grab, wasn't nominated for any big Oscars because "it wasn't anti-Bush".

It's only just a cigar if you're not fondling it and screaming, "Oh, yeah, baby, rub it down like that!"

Scott Roche said...

Your spot on critique appears to have blown up his blog! Good on ya mate!

Anonymous said...

rogers expounded: "He's got to pull it out somehow. For chrissake, the man's got a PhD from Stanford and a philosophy degree from Yale. It cannot get worse."

I always felt that you get out of the academic experience exactly what you put into the academic experience.

In keeping with the Tombstone motif: "Ah, an educated man. Now I really hate him."

Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith deserves an Oscar?

Why? If he thinks it's 'cause George Lucas never got acknowledged for the original Episode IV: A New Hope (and I'm not convinced he should have. I love that movie, but Oscar?) then why isn't this guy also clamoring for a posthumous award of the Nobel Prize for Literature on behalf of Jorge Luis Borges (who, goddammit, shoulda had one of those, because he's a fucking genius with the pen and the paper and the writing of the things that end up with the perfect binding and the nice cloth or paper covers)? His translator should also receive a similar honor, but now I'm adrift.

From that girl: "Hold me, like you did on Naboo."

Thanks. Invoice for a new computer monitor and keyboard due to sudden and unfortunate coffee-drinking reversal forthcoming.

rogers, always nice to watch your technique in action. Thanks for the blog.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, John Seavey. You not only beat me to it, but you did it better than I would have.

Isaac said...

Damn, that was entertaining. Well ranted, good sir.

Gotta love that movies with a point of view are “trivial” while Star Wars is prime example of non-trivial.

Anonymous said...

He also loses 50,000 creditability points for writing an article on Oscar races of the last decade without mentioning either Weinstein brother. If anyone claims the SHAKES vs. RYAN rumble was won via anything other than the sheer willpower of the Weinsteins, I ain’t buying.

Scott said...

I love you, man. If you ever need a kidney, you can have mine.

If we have to give Lucas an Oscar now because of the original "Star Wars", can't we also use the existence of Jar-Jar Binks as an excuse to decree that Lucas can never have an Oscar, no matter what?

Also: winkydinky, the cat-chick was Pantha, a minor character from one of the old Teen Titans series.

Anonymous said... one of the best blogs concerning the oscars I have ever read. This made my morning.

I especailly liked the beginning with your connections of how the oscars relate to the movies selling points and DVD sales. I hadn't really thought of it like that.

Thankyou for the great commentary and showing the TRUE reason why Hollywood does anything.


But in retrospect, I think that's something we all want to do.

PS. Oscar for Episode III? You've got to be kidding me...(let's ignore the fact that the two SW movies that are considered the 'best' GL didn't even write (or so I've heard)).

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Definitely. Definitely robbed. Val Kilmer was DEFINITELY robbed for TOMBSTONE.

Fairly crappy movie otherwise, though.

coltrane said...

Uh, I actually thought Shakespeare in Love was a better film than Saving Private Ryan. Ryan, once you get past its mind numbing technical genius, was a fairly one dimensional piece of work. Shakespeare in Love is a damn near perfect romantic comeday, probably the hardest genre to nail, and I know becuase I've tried...As for this Jason guy...Next thing he'll say is that Jar-Jar Binks didn't get a nomination because of politically correct, knee-jerk liberals.

RICHARD said...

'... in the name of Pauline Kael's Haunted Panties'.

Those would be some scary undies.

Jason’s arguments make my head hurt. I also think that the rabid flag-waving for Episode III should convince anyone that the author's grip on reality is a frail and failing one at best. Of course, how could the Academy be so myopic as to miss cinema gold like Frankenvader’s, ‘Nooooooo!’

Excellent post, sir.

Simon Underwood said...

I get scared and frightened whenever I'm reminded people like that exist and are allowed to put forth views that ARE QUITE CLEARLY INSANE. Sniping at another company for doing the same thing he is from a different viewpoint, how dare they!

Restore the sanity, oh strong monkey.

Re: My Episode III gripe - giving the worst child actor among the younglings the only line. "But Master Skywalker, what are we going to do...Was that really good, Mum?"
You could just see the other kids seething that they could do better.

Whaledawg said...

I stoped reading at "Stay down Jason, stay down". This is the most annoying, self righteous geek slap fight ever and you decided you had to start it.

You really brought yourself down a level with this one, whether you were right or not.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

(commented edited for spelling. geesh, early morning)

Sadly, this isn't a geek fight between nobody blogs, or I wouldn't have bothered. Jason Apuzzo runs a company/foundation/whatever dedicated to financing conservative-themed movies. He's brought onto CNN as a MEDIA COMMENTATOR. Apuzzo is, in absolute media terms, far more influential and well-known than I am (and he's welcome to it). He is out here, right now, representing himself as a film-maker in order to get money from rich conservative people. You cannot put yourself out there as a public figure -- and that's his sum role, public figure for the conservative film movement, because he's never actually worked in Hollywood as far as I can tell -- say something this massively dumb, nd not expect to get called on it.

This bothers me particularly because I actually like the idea of Libertas. I think there should be more individualized production entities, and that the future of entertainment is preciselythis sort of micro-targetting. What kind of irks me is that this scam artist is th guy who's doing it.

That said, some of the rhetoric is a bit 5 am-ish. I'll tone it down. Thanks for the feedback.

Unknown said...


RE: Toning down.

Please don't.

Great post. Anyone who holds up the last few SW movies as great moviemaking deserves nothing but scorn.

Anonymous said...

Tone down why? It was a hilarious post and on the money. I only see one comment agin ya!

Scott Lemieux said...

Well, if the Oscars had a "best post demolishing a witless conservative hack," I think this could be the only nominee...

Chris said...

Brill-fucking-iant. At least he didn't say it started in '97, though, with that wonderful indie classic, and liberal treatise on class conflict, Titanic. That would have made his case for biggest idiot in the entire world air tight.

Vince said...

Sterling work, John. Just wanted to point out that Felicity Huffman's nomination was not the only one that 'Transamerica' received. It also got a nod for Best Original Song (Dolly Parton). Again, a bang-up job.

Anonymous said...

Obviously your call to tone it down, but I'd say: "Why?" Your blog. Your forum. Conduct yourself as you see fit. I enjoyed your post enormously, and am not alone in that, and that's still irrelevant to how you post.

Great, great analysis and response, sez me.

I also find it funny that there's someone out there who thinks that Hollywood (not filmakers, per se, though there are plenty of exceptions, I'd guess) isn't some kind of industry, but is, in fact, some sort of higher (for lack of a better term) ideal factory. It may occasionally aspire to that (which ideals are up for debate), but let's not mistake it for what it is, first and foremost.

Well struck, sir!


Unknown said...

Got me. Best Song -- a category which, however, I think we can exempt from the accusations of agenda-mongering. I hope.

Anonymous said...

Pauline Kael's Haunted Panties is going to go on a batch of t-shirts for this blog. (Rogers, where are the t-shirts?!? SCHNELL!)

I love that he defends Lucas, after so many saw SW:Ep.III as a Bush allegory.

Think Lucas isn't a liberal? THE GUY USED TO DATE LINDA RONSTADT.

Besides, anyone who has seen THX 1138 knows the guy had to have been stoned when he made that anyway.

Geoff Thorne said...

Damn, Rogers.

You really have to learn to speak up and not dilute your real feelings with false gestures of diplomacy. It's never a good thing to hide your light or your opinions.

John Seavey- you inspired my first spit take of the day. Many thanks.

Cunningham said...

If there was ever, ever any doubt that Hollywood likes money and capitalism, then I would suggest that person (You, there with the "Libertas" t-shirt. Yeah, you!)read the following excerpt from the Washington Post review for Epstein's THE BIG PICTURE.

(You guys are going to have to teach this old, mad, pulpy bastard how to code links in the comments--OKAY?)

We like the money. From whatever niche it comes from...

Vince said...

"Best Song -- a category which, however, I think we can exempt from the accusations of agenda-mongering. I hope."

With "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" in the running? I don't know ...

Piers said...

Please don't tone it down.

I love to see Righteous Anger in action.

Anonymous said...

I have to concur whole heartedly with the last few people. Toning it down is the last thing you do. The only thing I fear is what would happen if you turned it all the way up to 11, because damn if you didn't knock that sucker out of the park. I bow to the master.

Anonymous said...

Great screed, really enjoyable. But I have a question. You said: also have to ignore that 1998 was the year the Weinsteins essentially invented Oscar pimpage, spending millions of dollars in advertisements for their movies...

Haven't the studios long been in the habit of releasing their "quality" fare late in the year? I always thought that a large part of the reason for that was that the more recent titles would be fresher in the nominators' minds, maybe still radiating some hype glow, etc. Anyway, is it really accurate to say that the Weinsteins started pandering to the Oscar judges?


Anonymous said...

Great post, John. I hear you on Libertas. When the day comes that all films are delivered via T3 connections, and not hard copies, we may see small niche films being able to fill matinee and special time slots (Wednesday evening Foreign film night, advanced ticket sales shows, etc.) in theaters all over the country. I think it will be the best thing for both the studios and the indie houses. But especially for us writer/directors.

Ross Richie said...

Dude, why are you beating on a guy that so clearly rides the shortbus?

Move along, move along, paying attention to a dude like this is just giving him legitamacy.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see that I'm not the only one who appreciated Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Shakespeare in Love in general.

As for the rest, John, I grinned ear-to-ear reading this. Although I usually try not to feed trolls of any stripe, sometimes the Wizened Master must put the boot to the head of the brash young challenger. Not only because it shows the rest of the class the sublime beauty of the Art in action; not because you hope to show the challenger his errors and give him an opportunity to correct them; but because sometimes it just feels good to do.

Anonymous said...

Hm. I was going to pass on Syrania until it hits DVD (I like to save my poor movie shekels for, bizaarely enough, more mindless fare that looks good and blows up pretty on the big screen) but now I'll have to dig out Lawrence of Arabia and then go see Syrania.

I'm not a Spec-monkey, and I don't claim to be any kind of learned scholar of the film genre, but I am an interested bystander.

David Watkins said...

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Dr Molly Black: The Philosophical Epicurian said...

Your rebuttal is a pretty awesome post. Call me thrilled and tickled pink at your dissection of the ridiculousness of all the points as rendered.


Oh, and definitely don't tone it down. Some of us enjoy our takedowns with a fair amount of snark engaged.

Anonymous said...

Also don't forget that conservative columnist John Tierney not only recognized that there was analogue and relevance, but Embraced the Dark Side and declared that, well then, the Jedi were the Bad Guys and the Empire representing Law'N'Order and strength, the Good...

ROTS was bitterly disappointing. But it was certainly as anti-Bush as anything else...

Stanford? Really? If this prat really has those degrees, this is great for me - I'm working on a post on intellectual snobbery on the Left, and rather than just *saying* that there are a lot of idiots with expensive college degrees (it's this silly chain of assumptions that a) being smart entails b) a college degree from c) a good university which will guarantee d) liberal views) I can just point to ol' Jason here.

Anonymous said...

Whaledawg said...
I stoped reading at "Stay down Jason, stay down".

No he didn't. He had to get to the bottom to click on "comments" and you just KNOW he read the rest of the essay, teehee

Anonymous said...

That was wonderful. You took Tbogg's crude stone wheel and crafted a graphite composite rim.

Gary R.

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John Rogers (if that's your real name ;) ), you, sir, get my nomination for Metaphor of the Month ("It's like looking into the solar corona of hackery, eclipsed only by the lunar body of cluelessness.") I have posted your wisdom and a link at Pam's House Blend.

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Anonymous said...

The Episode III is not anti-Bush bit floored me the most (and has finally gotten me to comment) as it's the only non-documentary from last year that I can even remember as being heavily anti-Bush. I even remember feeling my uh-oh-crazy-liberal-sense tingling while I watched it (either that or my cell phone was on vibrate).

Did he also miss Episode I where two of the villians (Lott Dodd and Nute Gunray) were named after the two most powerful Republicans in Congress at the time? (I just totally outed myself as a Star Wars geek, didn't I?)

(And off topic, been following along since CHUD directed me here near the beginning and watched (and liked!) The Core because of what this blog. Figured it was time to say it.)

darrelplant said...

"Why, why must he still try to rise?"

And you call yourself a film guy. Dude, he's Jason! Of course he never dies!

Robert Green said...

warren bell
john milius
michael beckner
lionel chetwynd

and many many other fine writers in town who are right wing. it doesn't fucking matter. i've sat in a thousand rooms where story was discussed. some were sort of political allegory type movies (gladiator was pitched to the company i worked at as a fascism v democracy thing by franzoni), some were not so much. i've never seen anyone care about the writer's political views, just their take on the material. and that take, as well, is rarely predicated on politics, 96% of the time it is predicated on story.

unless you are at crusader, where anschutz has his (extremely mild, in practice, though quite virulent, privately, and very old school right wing) agenda, or participant, where things are more of a left variety. for everyone else--whatever, can we get the studio to greenlight, or get our investors to write a check? if yes, then do it, if no, then don't. the end. full stop.

Anonymous said...

"How in the name of Pauline Kael's Haunted Panties do you critically analyze cinema?"

John, I just want you to know the comedy quotient of that remark was so high I involuntarily did a spit-take that formed a cloud in the shape of Danny Thomas's head.

Doogman said...

I can only imagine the 'conservative' films we'll be seeing soon.

"Missing in Action II" - the story of George Bush in the Air National Guard's Champagne Bridgade, valiantly protecting America (single-nostrilly!) from the onslaught of Peruvian Flake.

Well done KFM. Your Chi is strong. My linen is ruined.

Otto Man said...

Wow, that was good. "I Miss Republicans" good.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go enjoy a cigarette now.

david golbitz said...

John, that was absolutely beautiful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the other posts but I did think it strange to praise Star Wars Ep III.
Episode 3 was probably the most anti-Bush movie in years. Clearly the most anti-Bush movie of the year by a mile.
When it came out there was plenty of complaints from wingnuts saying it was anti-Bush. Some even said they wouldn't see it just because of the rumors of it being anti-Bush and this was weeks before it came out.


Anonymous said...

"He missed the anti-Imperialist *and* the homo-erotic texts in "Lawrence of Arabia." I mean, good lord, they're not even *subtext*--!"

Lawrence was indeed gay and this was confirmed by people who knew him.

But the director made sure it was not too evident. Afterall this was the 1960's and not 2000's.


Anonymous said...

Great post, no need to tone down at all..

I think its been said before but holding up Star Wars episode III as an example of a non political movie is somewhat strange..

It is allegorical with a level of subtlety only George Lucas could be cabable of- i.e. Young Darth Vader: "You are either with us or against us." Obi Wan (possibly french) Kenobi: "That kind of binary thinking is not the way of the Jedi".

The original three Star Wars films get reconfigured as a battle between rebels (hollywood liberals) who struggle against a burgeoning and out of controll republic with an evil leader who looks scarily similar to Dick Cheney.

Now we can only wait for the glorious Lucas to show the world the due process for re-building the once glorious american nation as a harmonious Jedi paradise- as he surely will if he makes another triolgy of star wars films.

Anonymous said...

After crawling through the usual blogs and feeling sucker punched by all the disturbing news, you made me laugh. Thank-YOU!

Also, thanks for the reminder that politics sometime provides some fine comedy, too. Here's Tommy!

Martin Wisse said...

"This bothers me particularly because I actually like the idea of Libertas. I think there should be more individualized production entities, and that the future of entertainment is preciselythis sort of micro-targetting. What kind of irks me is that this scam artist is th guy who's doing it."

The problem with Libertas is that it's set up by people for people who, as you so nicely proved, have no clue about the world outside their thinktanks.

It is quite possible to make a movie with conservative values that speaks to a non-political audience, but I doubt Libertas would be capable of it.

These people want their propaganda neat.

Anonymous said...

From assparrot: "I sometimes wonder whether part of the reason the Bush wiretapping scandal isn't pissing off America as much as I'd expect is because we're fed a steady film/TV diet of frustrated cops and feds who finally say 'fuck it' to the them damn stupid rules like warrants to catch the bad guy.

This is an interesting thought, and as a parallel, I wonder if people are also not more pissed off because we're fed a steady film/TV diet of good-hearted feds and cops who always do the right thing, recognize the internal corruption that may exist in their organization, and, completely without authorization, bring it down, usually in a flurry of still-smoking ejected shell casings and prismatic rolling fireball explosions.

Are the same people who think it's o.k. to tap without a warrant because it's the only way the good guys can get the job done also waiting for those same good guys to stand up to a growing internal autocratic disregard for rule of law and topple it?

I love big explosion movies as much as the next person, but I'm not betting the sanctity of my country's flawed-but-great democratic system on a posture of celebrity-vehicle fantasy.

Also, I figured out, I'm not "Anonymous," I'm "Other!" Yeah! It's the little things in life!


Anonymous said...

From bellatrys: "(What, Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor had extramarital sex in a movie in 1941?!?! you're kidding!?! [/Jason])"

This news is going to really hit the Republican stork baby-delivering industry hard.


Anonymous said...

I was with ya right up till you called Warren Bell a good screenwriter. "According to Jim" is a gigantic toilet-pickle that somehow permits Bell to prattle on about how lazy his inferiors are, and how wonderful his Maserati Quad sounds when he idles it outside his kids' school at pick-up time.

I hope Bell's cock falls off.

Anonymous said...

KFM, I was directed here from Firedoglake. You are welcome.
Love the post - excellent dissection of the logistical reasoning of a man with a philosophy degree from Yale!
The writing and the humor will bring me back for more.

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that ILM has won several technical awards at the Oscars. I'd think this would cover the oscar quotient that we supposedly "owe" Lucas for the Star Wars films. Then again, I don't know too much about the Oscars so maybe ILM hasn't won anything.

Anonymous said...

Laurean, George wrote all six of 'em (though he has shared writing credit on several and only a story credit on Empire), but he didn't DIRECT two. One of the two was Empire which is widely regarded as the best of the six.

CNK said...

either he is a breed of idiot so magnificent that he can genuinely not see the parallel and resultant hypocrisy . . . or he is willing to be that openly and unrepentantly disingenuous

Now don't just pick on poor Jason, these are qualities that virutally all rightwing parrots embody.

Vyan said...

The deeper irony of his choice of "Episode III" in Jason's list of non-activist movies is that - Episode III is the most activist and political film of Lucas' career. Many felt, incorrectly since the film was originally written in the Watergate days, that it was a direct comment on the Bush Administration.

It's only coincidence that a new Sith-Lord happens have ascended and made himself President - erm, Emperor at exactly the time that Lucas finally finished his double trilogy.

Serendipity is a bitch.


Anonymous said...


How the hell did this guy finish college, let alone go on to obtain a PhD? This is an obvious illustration of education being entirely different a thing from intelligence.

I'm curious as to what he thinks is "liberal" about things like being against sexual harrassment. Heaven forbid women are treated as people and not just semen-receptacles and baby-dispensers. Does this guy have any daughters? I'd love to slap their asses, grope them, tell them I'll give them a job if they blow me, and get away with it. Though, given the conservative attitude toward feminism and the status of women in society, I'd expect they'd be trained to just accept that as their place.

You know, I think he got it wrong. I think Episode II is the one truly worthy of Oscar recognition. "You are not like sand"? Come on! That's screenwriting gold! You don't get dialog that deep and natural-sounding in movies like American Beauty and Lost in Translation and such. All screenwriters should aspire to such lovely, flowing prose!

He does have a point, though: Hayden Christiansen's "Nooooooooo" at the end of Episode III conveyed so much more emotion and was so much more moving than, say, the end of Million Dollar Baby. Yet no nomination for Best Actor? What gives?


Great commentary, though. This kind of thing makes me wonder how these people gained control of our government. When did "stupid" become a desirable trait? And why can't intelligence stop it? Certainly there must be a way.

Anonymous said...

You were right in the first place. It was like a dog eating his own vomit. He eats it but does anyone really care? Besides Jason Apuzzo is bald. I still have my hair.

Anonymous said...

If Jason Apuzzo’s filmmaking talent is anywhere near the levels of his web design talent, he’s... well, completely talentless.

Anonymous said...

Am I misunderstanding or is the crux of Apuzzo's argument, all bogus evidence aside, that social commentary films are "trivial"? Only if they espouse a politics opposite his?

Anonymous said...

"How the hell did this guy finish college, let alone go on to obtain a PhD? This is an obvious illustration of education being entirely different a thing from intelligence."

I thought the same thing at first, then remembered my days as a PhD student at a major research university, which taught me that
there are a lot of well-educated people out there with truly lousy taste in movies.

Anonymous said...

Rob: Also, I figured out, I'm not "Anonymous," I'm "Other!" Yeah! It's the little things in life!

An important breakthrough! Congratulations!

Don't have much to add on the J-Puzz front that hasn't already been said, really, except to say that the really sad thing is that this guy is what passes for high-end "Conservative" thought on film. Which is really just one more indication that movement conservatism vanished headfirst up its own rectum and imploded some time ago.

In fairness to the guy, though, it should be noted that he did stake out a bold, maverick stance on Lucas in the conservatarian spectrum some time back by being one of the few of his ilk who slammed Lucas for misrepresenting Sith as a criticism of Bush (while the rest simply slammed Lucas for being a commie Islamofascist traitor bastard liberal jabberjabberjabber etc.), when it was truly -- in his eyes -- a brilliant work of art. So he gets points at least for some fairly original nuttery on the Star Wars front.

Anonymous said...

Oscar for Star Wars?

Shortly after the first Star Wars movie (which I liked) came out, there was a parody in Mad Magazine, which included a bit of dialog something like this:

Luke Skywalker to SeeThreepio: Has anyone told you you look like an Oscar?

SeeThreepio: Take a GOOD look. You sure won't be getting one for THIS.

Anonymous said...

When she does, it will because we are advancing our evil Hollywood agenda, not because her performance, in which she's an actual woman who manages to make you believe she's a man who's not a woman trying to be a woman and failing is in any way a particularly difficult or virtuoso piece of acting.

Please. Ann Coulter does that every day of her life and no one is nominating her for an Oscar. It's just more proof of Hollywood's anti-conservative bias.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Jason Apuzzo is just an opportunist trying to make bucks from rich conservatives by attacking Hollywood for its supposed liberalism. I guess he read how David Horowitz makes nearly half a million dollars a year attacking liberals and thinks it's a good gig.

Unknown said...

Half a million -- ?

Fuck YOU, HOWARD DEAN! FUCK YOU! Single payer health care is SOCIALISM!

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cakreiz said...

I'm late to this thread but I wanted to thank you. I bought Apuzzo's analysis hook, line and sinker. Somehow, never dawned on me that there was no factual analysis, something you more than adequately supplied. Thanks for turning the lights on. Gesh.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious exchange! Thanks for taking the time to discredit this boob. A minor point on Syriana. My cinema studies students really engaged in a stimulating conversation about it after I suggested that it was really a story about fathers and sons. Talking about big oil and terrorism seems rather tired to me.


Anonymous said...

This is not in defence of idiotic comments my your adversary. There may be a market out there for his idea of film making. If he wants to put the money in, go for it. However, I take exception to one comment you made.

Your quote:
"KFM: -- I'm sorry, I just want to chime in here. Are you trying to play that McCarthy was just a well-meaning Senator who's just now being maligned by revisionist liberals, and that his vicious drunken smear tactics, abuse of his office and treason-mongering are only being made subject of the film because he's Republican?"

McCarthy was demonized by the press at the time of his accusations because he was pointing his finger at a well respected (treasonous) Harvard professor, not because he was Republican. Check out where the info that McCarthy used is now open to the public. He was right, every single time. Released USSR documents collaborate his accusations as well. Particularly where they show the payroll logs of some of our high ranking government officials. Good ol 'Uncle Joe' was doing just what we were warned of and McCarthy was beat up by a duped press for blowing the whistle. I haven't seen the movie but I get the impression from your response that the writer never looked at the facts but rather went with press accounts which were never revisited to a scale large enough to vindicate McCarthy and prove he was the true hero of America.

Your qualifications give me the impression you are a thinker. Take a look at the facts and think for yourself.

Anonymous said...

It must be exhausting having to refute the Jasons of this world who sound like they're still ten years old and sucking their thumbs while they excitedly watch endless repeats of Revenge-of-the-high-tech-Sith movies. *sigh* But I applaud you for taking the time to explose the motherfucking imbecile. I'm stunned that Jason's upset considering all of the blockbuster crap Hollywood creates for the likes of him.

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Go find me a single other movie in the top fifty of that year that deserved an Oscar nod.

Blade. Undoubtedly Blade.

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