Hollywood supports the war effort

By Michael J. Smith on Saturday March 13, 2010 12:42 PM

My man Alex Cockburn was in fine form the other day, a propos the Oscar for Hurt Locker:

The film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, said at the end of her acceptance speech, “I'd like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world and may they come home safe.”

...I haven’t seen The Hurt Locker and don’t plan to.... “We had these Blackwater guys that were working with us in the Middle East and they taught us like tactical maneuvers and stuff – how to just basically position yourself and move with a gun,” Hurt Locker actor Anthony Mackie told the New York Times’ Melena Ryzik. “We were shooting in Palestinian refugee camps. We were shooting in some pretty hard places. It wasn't like we were without enemies. There were people there looking at us, 'cuz we were three guys in American military suits runnin' around with guns. It was nothing easy about it. It was always a compromising situation.”

That quote makes me wish Mackie had some real enemies, enemies in a position to do him substantial, perhaps definitive harm.

I love Alex for breezily dismissing a movie he hasn't seen. You can tell a book by its cover, I've always said, and all you really need to know about a movie is how people respond to it. I am not being ironical here. Reception is not just the main thing, it's the only thing.

I personally made this discovery years ago, in connection with the movie The Deer Hunter, which I still haven't seen. I found that all I had to do was get people to tell me what they liked about the movie, and I had plenty of grist for my mill. Sentimentality is chief lady-in-waiting to militarism -- sloppily weeping and waving her sodden handkerchief as Moloch marches off to the fields of slaughter.

Sentimentality also gets to have it both ways. IMDB has an unsourced quote supposedly from director Kathryn Bigelow:

I'm thinking of the war and I think it's a deplorable situation. [Movies are] a great medium in which to speak about that. This is a war [i.e. Afghanistan] that cannot be won, why are we sending troops over there? Well, the only medium I have, the only opportunity I have, is to use film. There will always be issues I care about.
War is a "deplorable situation" but hey, there's Oscar gold in them thar corpses. And corpses in that Oscar -- bet you anything this is a movie that sends a fresh crop of impressionable kids off to the recruiting stations.

Comments (17)

Love the principled "cannot be won" foundation of the analysis. Beautiful, bespeaking the soul of a great artist. No wonder she won Best Marketing Campaign at the Hollywood Employee of the Year Awards.

Speaking of those and things not worth watching...

One conception of Hell would be having two perpetual TV shows running in some inescapable duoplex. The Oscars on one screen and the mutherfucking Olympics on the other...

Meanwhile, I wouldn't mind getting my two blogs on the SMBIVA roll...



We can't even look forward to documentaries entitled the Wonderful, Horrible Life of Kathryn Bigelow or hip, breezy deconstructions of her oeuvre.


I haven't seen the movie either, but I have read about it and it appears to contain a few standard "ra-ra American GIs are so compassionate" war movie tropes.

You have the scene where the tough sergeant with a heart of gold befriends a local I-raqi street urchin, only to later find the urchin cut up with a bomb planted inside his helpless little body by the evil nips, VC or A-rabs. Though in a bizarre twist, it turns out the kid in question wasn't really the urchin. The A-rabs killed the wrong kid.

Then you have the scene where the SWAHOG risks his life to disarm an Iraqi man with a bomb strapped to his chest by the evil A-rabs. Unfortunately, the SWAHOG fails, the bomb goes off, and mucho guilt results. We can assume those A-rabs who strapped the bomb to his chest got a good night's sleep afterwards...terrorist animals that they are.

I'm waiting for a movie about the keyboard-wielding Predator drone boys and the terrible angst they suffer as they commute home to Virginia. Perhaps it can be called "The Qwerty Clocker."

They also use the Muslim call to prayer and verses read from the Quran as a plot device to signal imminent danger, relying on the aversive conditioning of American audiences to regard any expression of the Arabic language or the Muslim religion as threatening.

All in all, it sounds like a thoroughgoing POS movie...sight unseen.

Ignorant American:

Thanks to Youtube, we can now enjoy Stalinist World War II propaganda.

They had Kate Moss look alikes who actually sung as they "liberated" Europe.

Comparing this to Hurt Locker makes me wonder if communism was really all that bad.


I didn't see Hurt Locker. I don't plan to. Even relatively good American WWII movies (eg Saving Private Ryan) still distort the "liberation" of Europe. Normandy was bascially just a side show. The real action was a few thousand miles to the east.

I haven't seen Waltz with Bashir either.

The one American war movie I really liked was a very obscure one called "The Boys in Company C." The white soldiers and black soldiers hated one another. There was drug dealing, sexual frustration. And when the little Vietnamese boy gets murdered by Americans, he's nothing but a little Vietnamese boy who gets murdered.

Ignorant American:

Did the Palestinians get any compensation?

Hurt Locker actor Anthony Mackie told the New York Times’ Melena Ryzik. “We were shooting in Palestinian refugee camps. We were shooting in some pretty hard places."

Too bad Mackie wasn't allowed to keep Gilad Shalit company for a few years. It would have been great training for "method" acting when he got back.

I did see it. Pseudo-quasi-objectively, it was good film making. En entre mots, the editing and cinematography were competent, and the lead actor managed to convey savagely ironic desperation into a none-too-subtle impulse to get himself and his betters killed.

But, it was also rank propaganda, despite all the hoodoo about it being beyond politics.

I've read scribblers who bemoan Cameron's lack of storytelling finesse in Avatar (which I also saw, with wife and chilluns) - but the observational truth follows as such: there was way more story in Avatar than Hurt Locker.

It wasn't perfect, and at a few points rather hamfisted, but it was a narrative.

An entertaining one, which is better than most of the fecal stew coming out of Louis B's goy-free city on the lesser Pacific.

The Hurt Locker, not so much.

But, what's to be expected from the ninth province of increasingly fascist Eretz Yisroel?

(ps - sorry I forgot the anti-spam thing the first time around...)


taking swipes at hollywood "at war "
is really shooting barreled bait fish eh ???


to me just noticing
the change of terms
from soldier boys
to warriors is enough
to take

only gets exceeded by
my love of old hollywood's
" marvelous "
twisting of gung ho

now that's golden era jarhead daring do


a dark anti empire heart brightens
with giddy manic --if ultimately enervating-- glee !!!!


avatar reminded me of the disney little mermaid


as if seen by dark light of course

fish tank rococo

atrocious ...i'm sure i'd much prefer
hurt locker
that is if the fetching mzz bigelow
can muster black hawk down
like formal gumption


War is a "deplorable situation" but hey, there's Oscar gold in them thar corpses.

So... you against art, or what?

I made the mistake of watching all the Oscar contenders, including The Hurt Locker, so I probably shouldn't comment on the film. But the reason it got the bald statue is pretty clear.

Ya see, actors make up the largest academy voting bloc (a bit over 60%). The Hurt Locker's only real competitor was Avatar, which contains very little acting and lots of gee-wiz fx. Most of the actors employed making films like Avatar are not paid SAG scale. Producers pay actors who act in front of blue screens and wearing electrode suits as "dancers" - a significanly lower pay grade than "actors."

Sure, big names with contracts are still paid the same. They're perfectly happy with the set up, since they get the same money for significantly less work. But for work-a-day actors, voting Avatar an Oscar would be like wearing a sign on your back saying "PLEASE FIRE ME AND REPLACE ME WITH A COMPUTER PROGRAM."

And even actors aren't that stupid.


alan s
excellent comment

Michael Hureaux:

No matter the blather, everyone knows the groove ain't there. Where are the directors, writers, musicians of even thirty five years ago, let aloned during the "high points" of U.S. film making. Most everything done anymore is a bunch of self-obsessive or ideological crap. Everyone may want it, but no one needs it.

Judging books by covers has a fine track record. Just ask Jack Green.


davis, r.g.phd:

A suggestion:
The adds for a film are usually instructive, done by people who understand the market for the film. Someone who sees one of the war films should also look at the advert -- and analyze the add text -- to see if it matches the content of the film. It is a bit of a thought exercise but I have noticed that if one reads the adds properly one can selectively avoid the film.

Then too the iconic elements in US culture are replayed and the narrative is also replayed. How difficult it must be to think of a new way to sell-promote-reactionary cultural codes.
NO? Yes?


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you made a few days ago? Any positive?

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