erik lundegaard

What Liberal Hollywood? posts

Friday May 30, 2014

Where Ann Hornaday is Right About Elliot Rodger and Hollywood

First, Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday is right: movies matter, and we are influenced by them in incalculable ways, and the violence and sexism that is threaded throughout Hollywood history can’t be doing us much good.

At the same time, laying the crimes of Elliot Rodger at poor Judd Apatow’s feet is itself a kind of crime.

Second, Ann Hornaday is still right: the movie industry is sexist, in that it’s dominated by men who are interested in greenlighting stories about men, which leaves 50% of the population leading only 15% of our stories. That creates imbalance. That’s creates marginalization. That creates a sense of privilege.

At the same time, even if half the execs in Hollywood were women, greenlighting stories starring women, these stories would most likely be wish-fulfillment fantasy. Maybe less violent but still wish-fulfillment fantasy: a spirited woman, say, choosing between two handsome men against a backdrop of historic tragedy. With bows and arrows. Or witchcraft. Or cooking. Or … 

Because what’s missing in Hornaday’s column about the movie culture Hollywood creates is the true culprit, the man behind the curtain: us, the moviegoers.

Hollywood is a business, a very risk-averse business, and it spends most of its time trying to create what they think we will like. And they do this by looking at what we’ve liked in the recent past. Then they re-do that. Hey, here it is again. This thing you liked. Happy happy. 

Which is why we get this story again: a lone man using violence to achieve justice. And why we get this story again: I love you and you love me … but not for 70 minutes yet. And this story: a spirited woman (or girl) choosing between two men (or a vampire and werewolf) against a backdrop of historic tragedy (or high school on the Olympic peninsula).

That’s worth mentioning. The fault lies less with our stars than in ourselves.

New Yorker staff writer John Cassidy is right, too: Blame the gun laws for all the people who died because of Elliot Rodger's crime.

You could actually combine Cassidy’s and Hornaday’s columns and get something worth positing as a question: to what extent can we blame our gun laws on Hollywood’s 100-year glorification of the gun?

A discussion like that might even make my day.

Dirty Harry

Go ahead ...

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Posted at 12:28 PM on May 30, 2014 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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Tuesday May 27, 2014

Ward Bond: Friend of McCarthy, Traitor to Orson Welles

This is a continuation of a recent post, “Ward Bond: Oaf, Loadmouth, Anti-Semite,” which focuses on Bond's role as self-proclaimed judge, jury and executioner for the Motion Picture Alliance, the right-wing, Hollywood organization working hand-in-hand with the FBI and HUAC to create the blacklist of the late 1940s and early 1950s. 

Turns out Bond was also a friend of Joe McCarthy:

When John Ford was making The Long Gray Line in West Point, Ward Bond would head over to a bar across the street from the location and watch the Army-McCarthy hearings. Bond knew McCarthy, and, according to Mahin, Wayne had Bond pass a message from him to the senator: “You’re going to have to name names because you’re just throwing out accusations and innuendo and not producing any facts, and you’re making everybody look bad.”

Plus he screwed over Orson Welles ... not to mention John Ford:

[John]Ford had made a tentative deal with Orson Welles to play the part of Frank Skeffington in The Last Hurrah, and as soon as the trade papers announced it, Harry Cohn at Columbia received a packet supposedly documenting Welles’s “communistic or subversive activities (alleged). . . . These were sent by an actor who had said all over town that he was to play the part—a Ward Bond. . . .“

Welles wound up not getting the part. Neither did Ward Bond. It went to Spencer Tracy. 

All of this is from Scott Eyman's ”John Wayne: The Life and Legend.“ 

The year ”The Last Hurrah" was filmed, by the way, was 1957: three years after the supposed demise of McCarthyism.

More, I'm sure, later. 

Ward Bond

Ward Bond: self-appointed cop for the far right in Hollywood. 

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Posted at 06:26 PM on May 27, 2014 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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Friday April 11, 2014

Why Breitbart’s Big Hollywood is Wrong About Almost Everything

Every other post on Breitbart’s “Big Hollywood” site is based upon the following assumptions:

  • Hollywood is full of liberals.
  • They try to inject their liberal ideals into movies.
  • These movies fail at the box office, because ...
  • ... you and I don’t like that shit.

Let’s look at these one by one.

  • Hollywood is full of liberals.

Sure, why not. Most cities are of the left, most artists are of the left, and Hollywood is a city full of artists. Plus businessmen. But we’ll let that go for now. Onward and downward.

  • They try to inject their liberal ideals into movies.

Sure, why not. Every once in a while anyway. I think of the framed portrait of Ronald Reagan that showed up whenever we dropped a defcon in 1983’s “War Games.”

But Breitbart’s second assumption comes dangerously close to the whole McCarthyite, HUAC-led and FBI-supported blacklist of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Back then, right-wing reactionaries searched for anything that might indicate leftist, un-American politics, and, in its fever dream, wound up condemning “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Gentleman’s Agreement” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Among others.

This second assumption also ignores how conservative most Hollywood movies truly are. They are wish-fulfillment fantasies about men with guns who blow away objectively evil bad guys and save the day. They’re blueprints for any speech at any GOP or NRA convention.

We’ll take the last two assumptions together:

  • These movies fail at the box office, because ...
  • ... you and I don’t like that shit.

This is where Breitbart really performs a faceplant. I don’t even need a sentence to refute these two assumptions. I just need one word:


In the 21st century, there’s been no movie, particularly a big-budget movie, that contained more squishy leftist ideals (trees, etc.), and a greater attack on the right (war, etc.), than “Avatar.” It’s basically an attack on Bush, Cheney, the Iraq War, and the military industrial complex. As I stated in my review back in 2009:

Hell, it’s not even subversive. It states its apostasy out loud. “We will show the sky people they cannot take whatever they want!” Jake, the avatar, shouts before the final battle. “This is our land!”

Psst: We’re the sky people.

James Cameron’s “Avatar” is the classic Breitbart culprit: a Hollywood movie that sneaks its liberal, leftist agenda into a mainstream movie to poison us all.

And how did it do at the box office? You might have heard a little something-something about it. I think the first something was 2.7 and the second was billion. That’s what it grossed worldwide: $2.7 billion. No. 2 all-time also belongs to Cameron: “Titanic” at $2.1 billion. Third is “Marvel’s The Avengers” at $1.5 billion. Fourth, the last “Harry Potter,” is at $1.3 billion.

In other words, only two other movies are within half of what “Avatar,” with its awful, anti-GOP message, grossed.

I’m not saying “Avatar” did this well because it liked trees and disliked war, or because its heroic native peoples attacked a military-corporate complex hell-bent on exploiting natural resources for its own financial gain. I’m saying that whenever Breitbart’s Big Hollywood makes its four big assumptions at the top of this post, they need to solve a problem like “Avatar.” Or at least address it. And they never do. 


Sooner or later, you always have to wake up.

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Posted at 06:17 AM on Apr 11, 2014 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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Saturday March 08, 2014

The Dumbest Thing Said at CPAC?


Repsonse: Right. If only Hollywood made movies starring good guys who use guns to save the world from usually nonwhite bad guys. But that'll never happen.

On second thought: That's not nearly the dumbest thing said at CPAC. Dinesh D'Souza spoke, after all.

Gerard Butler, Olympus Has Fallen

Maybe someday we'll be able to see scenes like this on our movie screens. But liberal Hollywood keeps getting in the way.

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Posted at 09:51 AM on Mar 08, 2014 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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Wednesday March 05, 2014

In Talking Oscars, Breitbart's Big Hollywood Makes Fox News Seem Fair and Balanced

Michelle Obama at 2013 Oscars

Big Hollywood attributes the Oscar ratings boost to the lack of politics at the event during the Obama years. (Above: First Lady Michelle Obama announces the best picture winner, for “Argo,” in 2013.)

How bad is Breitbart's Big Hollywood site? It makes Fox News look fair and balanced in comparison.

Big Hollywood recently posted an article on the bounce-back ratings for the Academy Awards Sunday night (43 million vs. 32 million in 2008) and attributes it solely to the lack of “boorish, smug, divisive political behavior” from the Hollywood elites during the Obama years. No Michael Moore speeches, no anti-Iraq war speeches, etc. So viewers are tuning in again. “Who would have ever guessed?” John Nolte asks smugly, if not to say divisively, at the end.

The problem? 2008 was also the last year there were five best picture nominees—nominees, by the way, that had long stopped being among the top box-office hits of the year. (See this chart.) That was the whole point of expanding the nominee pool: to get bigger box-office hits among the mix, and thus, hopefully, goose the TV ratings. Do politics, or apolitics, have something to do with the recent ratings boost? Who knows? But for Nolte not to mention the expansion of best picture nominees verges on duplicitous.

The Fox News site, on the other hand, while it gives us a boorish, divisive headline about another Oscar matter (Academy, Hollywood's failure to recognize 'Lone Survivor' a travesty”), attempts some fair and balanced reporting from James Jay Carafano.

His piece is about how “Lone Survivor,” the Mark Wahlberg/Afghanistan/anti-My Lai picture, garnered no nominations despite some critical and box-office acclaim. Certain right-wing pundits (Sean Hannity) have used this as an example, according to Carafano, of “how liberal Hollywood really hates the military.” Carafano isn't convinced. He brings up “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Hurt Locker,” and echoes the shrug of The National Review's Jonah Goldberg over the controversy.

True, Carafano writes, in over-the-top fashion:

In the annals of American war films, the technical accuracy and realism of this film is unprecedented. In this regard, it is truly a historic cinematic achievement. For Hollywood, not to salute that is a travesty.

But he adds:

That said, it’s simply unfair to label Tinsel Town as a bunch of pathetic pacifists.

(Of course, that's almost like push-journalisim, isn't it? The way that push-polling is about disseminating false facts rather than extracting true information, this could be the same from the journalism side: pretending to be vaguely objective while pushing propaganda points.)

Carafano also gets his numbers wrong.

In the first graf, he compares “Survivor” to “Waterworld,” the 1995 Kevin Costner flick that actually garnered an Oscar nomination (sound editing) even though “Lone Survivor” has none, and even though the Wahlberg flick “also crushed it in ticket sales.”

First, you can create the world's greatest film festival from the movies that never received an Oscar nomination—from 1957 alone: “A Face in the Crowd,” “Paths of Glory” and “Sweet Smell of Success”—so I'd leave that one alone. Second, the numbers are fudged. Yes, “Survivor”'s domestic box office is bigger than “Waterworld” ($123.5 million to $88 million), but when you adjust for inflation “Survivor” is the same while “Waterworld” is on top with $169 million. And that doesn't even take into account international box office, where “Waterworld” grossed $175 million in 1995 (unadjusted) and “Survivor” grossed exactly zero dollars this past year, because it hasn't been released overseas. Will it ever? Who knows? Maybe Universal feels it won't play in Europe. Or Asia. Or anywhere but here. There's a story there.

In the end, the handwringing over “Lone Survivor”'s zero noms is overdone. It's an OK movie but hardly great. For all of these reasons.

Lone Survivor

“Wait, we didn't make as much as 'Waterworld'?”

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Posted at 08:19 AM on Mar 05, 2014 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard