Over at The Awl, there’s a grimly funny round-up of altered posters from right-wing message board designed to promote the viewpoint that Barack Hussein Obama is the real “Liar Liar,” Pelosi and Obama are engaged in “Duplicity,” etc. etc. This reminds me that Big Hollywood launched on January 6 of this year, and my life’s never been the same since.
Founded by Andrew Breitbart — who’s trying to do for the blogosphere what Rush Limbaugh does for talk radio in terms of sheer presence, unifying everyone under one wing — Big Hollywood‘s ostensible focus is the intersection of film and politics of the tea-party sort.
This has led to all kinds of insanity, though it didn’t have to be this way. One of the central tenets of BH is that there’s a a “New Blacklist” against conservatives in effect. No matter that Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammer and James Woods’ careers continue apace; it takes “courage” to “come out.” Hence, all kinds of voices are welcomed, no matter how C-list or incoherent.
Ex-“Law and Order” star Michael Moriarty is a recent addition to the roster, though my favorite mainstay is certifiable ex-“SNL” ’80s cast member Victoria Jackson, who writes things like “Obama’s speeches are all fake and they say nothing. Cotton candy for stupid people. But, you Glenn Beck, you are a thinker. Like me. You are unbiased. Like me. You are simply seeking Truth, just like me.”
When the site started, editor-in-chief John Nolte used to review each week’s major releases, but he’s apparently gotten too busy to keep up. So reviews come from every which way, and only a few films have emerged as certifiably free of liberal propaganda and good for American families. Championed, repeatedly and at length, were the early year’s surprise hits “Taken” and “Gran Torino,” something worth thinking about without smirking, at least momentarily.
Of the many essays BH published on these movies — paragons of political incorrectness, natch, with Eastwood telling it like it is and Liam Neeson kicking some towelhead ass — the definitive ones are probably Leo Grin’s “‘Taken’: The World’s Oldest Profession is Father,” which seriously proposes that a) ” the male of the species is a killer, the keeper of a bloody heroic ideal” b) Liam Neeson is a hero for staring down “the nemesis of everything he holds dear as a Judeo-Christian, as an American, and as a father. Against that evil, blood is the only disinfectant.”
Meanwhile, Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (R-MI) wrote a whole essay about “‘Gran Torino’ Conservatives,” where he manages to dismiss Clint Eastwood’s character’s racism in precisely one sentence before proposing Walt Kowalski is a “cultural conservative” who “rises to instill order upon disorder to secure justice and liberty within his community. “
Both these readings strike me as ludicrous, but I can see how they’d make ideological sense to die hard self-proclaimed “independents.” These are both undeniably conservative movies. And yet: I suspect the reason they were surprise hits wasn’t because the American public was hungering for a dose of conservative realpolitik in ass-kicking form. In fact, it seems like most audiences viewed most movies as comedies of excess (certainly that was the case at my screening of “Gran Torino”), the same way most of us watch old Charles Bronson movies.
If anything, that reveals the BH mentality in a nutshell: outdated ideas of vengeance and brute masculinity are meant to be taken seriously and unambiguously. That’s what they want every year in film; that’s why “300” and “The Dark Knight” are part of the modern canon.
Oddly, they’re mixed on “The Blind Side” — this year’s big, Christians-are-people-too movie — because of one measly Bush-bashing joke, which gives the game away. Big Hollywood positions itself on the Glenn Beck side of things (obviously), which doesn’t have anything to do with the heartland values it claims for itself; it’s all about kicking ass and taking names for moral righteousness. Happy nearly-one-year anniversary, guys; that best-of list is going to be a doozy.
[Photos: “Gran Torino,” Warner Bros., 2008; “Taken,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2009]