America: bad film from the declining power – the Oscars

C'mon Hollywood, you can do better than that!  Source: Google Images
C’mon Hollywood, you can do better than that! Source: Google Images

A bad year for film in America.  The Hurt Locker was a good anti-war film, but c’mon, Best Picture!  The past year may have been a record year for Hollywood financially, but in terms of art, Tinseltown is in decline.  Bad film.  Bad TV.  Bad Late night.  What we badly need is some insight into the human condition in a compelling narrative.  Perhaps the examination of an individual’s simultaneous capacity for good and evil.  Remember that film, Crash, a few years back?  It won Best Picture — deservedly.  Give us some more of that, Hollywood!

Sure, The Hurt Locker was a compelling profile of a horrible, though heroic, job — dismantling bombs.  And more generally, fighting wars is a horrible, thankless occupation pushed on our young men and women.  But anything deeper on war and peace, Hollywood fails to provide.  Yes, the adrenaline rush and even addiction that war forces on young men is an interesting angle.  But, as one war veteran commented, he did no know anyone who preferred that addiction to wife and son. 

Hollywood never tackles war’s complexities, never attempts to inspire or inform policy makers (and voters) who have to make decisions on war and peace.  What about the numbers of war dead, the reasons for these numbers, and the implications for whether or not America should fight wars?  More than 58 ,000 Americans died in Vietnam, whereas just over 4,400 died in Iraq (and over 30,00o were wounded).  And civilian deaths?   Most estimates put Iraqi civilian deaths due to the war at around 100,000, though other estimates reach as high as 600,000 to 1 million, including in this the result of increased lawlessness since the ending of Saddam Hussein’s regime. 

What about a film of counter-history of what the world would be like with Saddam Hussein still in power?  How many dead then?  What about the fragile democracy slowly taking root in Iraq, what would oppression in Iraq look like today under Saddam by contrast?  What would the civil war in Germany have looked like if the allies had intervened in 1936 when Hitler re-militarized the Rhineland?  Maybe 100,000 Germans dead in a nasty civil war instead of the 60 million who died as a result of WWII, including the genocide of 6 million Jews and millions of Gypsies and other enemies of the Reich.  What would that film have been like?  More fanciful than Avatar?  Certainly more interesting.

Estimates of the deaths in Rwanda where US intervention never took place range from 500,000 to 1 million.  In Darfur, where foreign intervention has been nearly non-existent, estimates of civilian deaths range from 50,000 to over 400,000.  The Congo has been a killing fields as well.  When is it right, or even necessary, to send young American men and women to war, to endure all the horrors shown in The Hurt Locker?  These are interesting questions — what is and what would have been — how much human suffering there has been and how much there might have been.  However, you will never get a deep probing of war and peace from Hollywood.  It is hard to write a narrative that deals with such issues.  Someone brave and creative should try.  If I were in the Academy, I’d take a long look.

Best Actor went to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart.  I love Jeff Bridges, but a film about a drunken musician who abandons his family and can’t look after a kid in a shopping mall and the irresponsible single mother who loves him!  Just what everyone in countries not friendly to America believes American values are all about!  The music in the film was good, but that was about it.  What about a film about a musician who struggles to avoid addiction and lead a normal life in an environment of rampant substance abuse?  I guess that is boring story.

At least this year, gratuitous violence was not celebrated the way it has been in years past.  The Departed, that piece of trash given us a few years back by that overrated purveyor of violence, Martin Scorsese, was a travesty when it won Best Picture.  I wrote about that in a blog a while back.  Why can’t more films like Crash win?  That film is the epitome of what I am talking about in terms of delivering an interesting insight into the human condition in a compelling narrative.  Angry racist white cop shows his humanity in a car crash by risking his life to save a black woman from a burning vehicle.  That is what it means to be human.  To be complex.  To be simultaneously good and evil.  Friend and foe alike of America should know that the richness of America exists in our arts, in our film, and not just in the two-dimensional characters — usually violent dirtbags — that strut across so many a silver screen and the never-ending flow of rock-em-sock-em action films that reap millions for mediocre people in Lala-land who have the gall to call themselves artists.

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