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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hollywood's Losing War on America



In many ways it's simplistic to tie Hollywood's antagonism to America and to patriotism as something that is purely the product of the current generation. While many people look back nostalgically at WW2 Hollywood films that were patriotic, it's rather easy to overlook the volume of films that were made before and after WW2 that were quite anti-war.

In the late 30's British and American studios churned out movies that warned of the dangers of war. From H.G. Wells' "Things To Come" in 1936 which featured the start of WW2 and mass airplane bombing raids leading to Europe being thrown back to medieval times and a plague of zombies wandering the earth only to be redeemed by a global airplane based government to The Grand Illusion (1937) or All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) often used the devastating senseless of WW1 and the populist pacifism in the intellectual and artistic circles to warn against war.

Certainly once WW2 commenced, the movies became straightforwardly pro-war. Once the war ended though, Hollywood movies centered on the aftermath and the occupation of Nazi Germany did not differ too much from what Hollywood churns out today. The characters were anti-heroic and often slimy. Consider Stalag 17 in 1953 that treats American POW's as cornered rats turning on each other or A Foreign Affair (1948) with the smoke still fresh in the air, that depicts the American occupation of Germany as corrupt and corrupting. The black market is a common theme in these movies and the involvement of the American soldier in them, as well as characters who were at best despicable.

By 1964 we had The Americanization of Emily which is more anti-war and anti-American than anything your average Hollywood liberal can produce today, depicting the war as a senseless affair driven by money and greed, the military on down as corrupt, Americans as marauders in England and its main character as a coward and a thief who dies, wrongly depicted as a war hero. Clint Eastwood's weak effort at historical revisionism in Flags of Our Fathers had nothing on The Americanization of Emily when it came to determinedly defiling anything of heroism at Omaha Beach.

By contrast modern Hollywood's weak anti-war offerings land like thuds. The latest, Lions for Lambs, a vanity project by Tom Cruise after Paramount showed him the door, and another in a series of movies by Robert Redford that no one will ever see, lacks either arresting images or a strong story.

Viewers coming in expecting to see a story about the war, instead are treated to two thirds of a story that basically involves Robert Redford as a college professor doing his best to indoctrinate his students with rants about the war. One third involves the indoctrination, one third involves two wounded soldiers having flashbacks to Redford's ramblings (a working definition of hell could consist of flashbacks to your most boring college professor which really suggests that third of Lions for Lambs could really be a remake of Jacob's Ladder) and a final third involves Tom Cruise playing Senator Tom Cruise while doing an interview with Meryl Streep about the war. It's tedious stuff and it's not hard to see why audiences are passing it up.

Hollywood's anti-war movies have become non-threatening because Hollywood has lost the ability to tell stories. Movies today are adaptations of books, cartoons and video games more than anything else. When an anti-war movie is released, it's inevitable a soporific lecture like Lions for Lambs or so vague it misses the point entirely. Hollywood's War on America has become a losing war on America because its anti-war movies carry with them the same indulgent self-righteousness as Lions for Lambs. If Robert Redford had been honest about the movie he wanted to make, he would have simply gotten up in front of a bunch of pie charts, Al Gore style, and ranted at the audience. The result would have cost less and made more money.

From Jarhead to The Kingdom to Rendition, fictional critiques of the War on Terror go nowhere. But to be fair movies about the War on Terror go nowhere too. From Black Hawk Down to United 93 to World Trade Center to Rain on Me, it's pretty clear that audiences aren't interested in Hollywood's take on what's going on period. And that's really not surprising. When people go to the movies, they usually go to escape rather than to be taught and Hollywood has generally lost the ability to hit that sweet center between entertaining audiences while making a point. It's not entirely gone, 24's success testifies to that. But on film, Hollywood's efforts at lecturing America go nowhere. Like Robert Redford in Lions for Lambs they wind up lecturing to an empty house.

10 comments:

Lemon said...

The 1950's saw hollywood deep in communism. They fell for the propaganda hook line and sinker and began to be a tool used to harm America. Most of Hollywood continues in that tradition today.
Wherever Communism had any root at all, society fell into the toilet.

Eric-Odessit said...

Sultan,
I thought United 93 did pretty good at the box office. Was I wrong?
Also, "The Path to 9/11" was pretty highly rated, or so I thought.
I think there is a market for pro-American movies. But Hollywood ideologues are rich enough and don't care if they lose money. But eventually market will correct itself, and we will see pro-American movies portraying our side as the good guys. I hope it will happen sooner, rather than later.
Eric.

Sultan Knish said...

unfortunately united 93 performed rather poorly, 31 million in the us

double that worldwide interestingly enough

Sultan Knish said...

communism hit hollywood in the 30's already

Keli Ata said...

At least films like Jacob's Ladder had an unusual plot line and strong story. The scene in Vietnam after the soldiers are given the hallucinogenic drug grabs your attention.

And you really do care about why Timothy Robbins is having all of these flash backs and odd experiences. The ending is actually beautiful as he sees his deceased little boy on the steps and they finally climb up them together.

And I do love movies with a lot of metaphors.

In Grand Illusion the emphasis on alliances based on social class versus political party was interesting too.

Hollywood lately has just gotten too self-righteous and preachy. Nobody wants to be preached to for two or more hours. You always know going into films like Lions for Lambs that it's a Hollywood-brand morality play.


BTW, a perfect article to post on Nov. 11. World War I ended on Nov. 11, 1918 with the surrender of Germany and Hitler calling those who surrendered the November Criminals.

Keli Ata said...

Sigh. Even hollywood's metaphors and symbolism are cheesy and predictable now. So easy a two year old could figure them out.

Maybe I'm dense but I really didn't know Timothy Robbins was dead in Jacob's Ladder until the final scene.

Udiyah said...

I haven't been to the regular movies in years. I'm apalled by the total chutpah of degenerate hollywood thinking they can teach me something. I won't give those know-it-all, immoral hypocrit, elitist propagandist one thin dime let alone $8.00. The last move I saw and loved and was moved to tears by was Ushpizin. Give me more movies like that and I will gladly pay $8.00.

Steven Shpielenberg said...

Hey! Who do you think you are to mock Hollywood?
Just because you are Jewish doesnt mean you are always right, just 98%of the time.

Keli Ata said...

From everything my mother used to tell me about the movies during the Great Depression and WW II, she and most Americans got their greatest enjoyment and escape in the upbeat films, the musicals and comedies. People back then went to churches and synagogues for religious and moral guidance, not rich Hollywood liberals.

During newsreels they saw news footage of the war and also advertisments for War Bonds (Victory Bonds in Canada). Can you imagine Hollywood today inserting promos to support the war financially? Can you imagine Tom Cruise singing: "Get on, get on, get on the road to Victory!"

To the Hollywood elite victory is a four letter word. The concept of nationalism and pride had a shelf life of about 48 hours after 9/11.

I don't have a problem if liberals wanting to express their views in films, as long as their balanced and are otherwise interesting stories.

Steven Spielberg could have provided balance in Munich, especially the scene where the Israelis and Palestinians are both at the same safe house.

When the Palestian is droning on and on about a homeland, the Israeli character could have explained the going terrorism etc. And no doubt the finale blamed Israel for Sept. 11. Whatever was good about the movie was destroyed in those final moments.

A scene which continues to baffle me. What happened to the Israeli athletes had nothing to do with Sept. 11.

My chief problem with liberal Hollywood anti-war movies is that you know within about 20 minutes into the movie that it's a morality piece filled with contrived angst and general preachiness.

little mordie said...

Hey Sultan, nice post! Spot on the mark, as usual. Nice to see someone stick it to Hollywood - keep up the good work.

P.S. How come you haven't yet done a commentary on that recently expired WW2 pilot who dropped the A-bomb on Japan, Hibbert I think his name was, or something? You know, the guy who was responsible for the death of tens of thousands, and had no trouble sleeping at night cos he considered it his patriotic duty...

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