erik lundegaard

What Liberal Hollywood? posts

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:

  1. Hollywood is full of liberals.
  2. They try to inject their liberal ideals into movies.
  3. These movies fail at the box office, because ...
  4. ... 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:

AVATAR

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. 

Avatar

Sooner or later, you always have to wake up.

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?

Breitbart headline: FRED THOMPSON: CONSERVATIVE FILMS NOT MADE BECAUSE OF HOLLYWOOD 'COCKTAIL CURRENCY'

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.

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'?”

Posted at 08:19 AM on Mar 05, 2014 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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Saturday March 01, 2014

Breitbart Site Says ‘Liberal Hollywood Movies’ (I.e., Men w/Guns) Do Poorly at Box Office

The Lego Movie

“Wait, I thought FOX Business condemned us as anti-capitalist. So why doesn't the Breitbart site mention us in their anti-liberal rant?”
“Because we've already grossed $200 million. And because I'm Batman.”

How awful it must be to see the world this way. To strain the vastness of existence through the puniness of your political ideology.

In case you don’t know—and most don’t and don’t care and I don’t blame them—“Big Hollywood” is a conservative website that assures its few readers they’re right and liberal Hollywood is wrong. And that liberal Hollywood is liberal. And not popular. Totally.

Do the Breitbart writers know what they write is bullshit? They must. I don’t think you can cherrypick your facts in this manner without realizing what you’re doing.

Their latest piece is below. The annotations in bold are mine.

**

Liberal Hollywood Movies Drag Down 2014's Box Office Receipts

It's no secret that liberal Hollywood producers are under extra scrutiny these days. It’s a secret to me. Who’s scrutinizing them? Besides you sad folks.

Last year saw huge box office disappointments in the form of White House Down, After Earth, The Fifth Estate and Elysium. There were bigger box-office disappointments last year: “The Lone Ranger,” “Oblivion,” “Free Bird,” “A Good Day to Die Hard.” Why focus on “White House Down,” et al.? Because they’re “liberal”? In that three-quarters of them are about men with guns?

It got so bad in 2013 that a virtual shouting match ensued between actor George Clooney and hedge fund kingpin Daniel Loeb. Basically, what it boils down to, is Hollywood elites enjoy making liberal message films that cater to their every desire—however—those who fund the films are tired of losing money. It’s hard to parse the bullshit out of this last sentence. The conflict is generally between the artist, who wants to create the new and the relevant, and the businessman, who wants to recreate the successful. The businessman usually wins. Which is why we live in a sequel society.

So far, 2014 isn't helping the progressive cause's wallet, either. Films like Lone Survivor (pro-military) are powering huge box office profits. “Lone Survivor,” with which I had issues more related to storytelling than politics, has done well at the box office: $122 million, 25th-best for 2013. But the most successful film of 2013 was “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” at $423 million domestic and $863 worldwide. Question: Are there liberal values in “The Hunger Games”? It’s got a strong female lead and condemns economic inequality. You could argue it’s a movie for the 99%. If, that is, you want to be as reductive as the Breitbart site. 

Overseas, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug and Frozen are on the verge of grossing $900 to one billion dollars respectively. Both are driven heavily by conservative and traditional narratives. Um... This is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.

This isn't new. I wrote on how this was occurring in last year's holiday/winter frame as well. These successes are in direct contrast to recent notable box office misfires, which go as follows:

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

It's no secret that many in Hollywood want to make Christians the next “go to” bad guy in films. The filmmakers thought they had a winner in using this, while also rebooting a previously successful franchise. Instead, they quickly disappointed with a terrible January opening. In the post-mortem, it turns out younger audiences had tuned out the film with only older audiences even bothering to show up. This is especially sad when you consider the Tom Clancy brand is huge in video game arenas (an area where sales are dominated heavily by the younger market) but they won't show up when you offer them a lame religious villain meant to destroy geo-politics. YawnThe hell? I saw this movie last week. Who’s the Christian villain you’re talking about? Kenneth Branagh? He’s Russian. Is he Christian? And even if he is, how does that relate to the film’s box office success or failure? What are you basing any of this on?

The Monuments Men

In truth, this film was doomed the moment Lone Survivor became a breakout hit. Long paraded with the likes of Green Zone, Lions For Lambs, Brothers, and such, Survivor liberated audiences from these typical “anti-war” narratives where military soldiers were often the villains. You can be pro-military and anti-war. You can also be pro-war and anti-military—just look at Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Plus the hero of “Green Zone” was a soldier. I could go on, but the main lesson, an old one, is that most moviegoers want escapism from their movies, and “Green Zone” and “Lions For Lambs” didn’t deliver escapism. They also weren’t very good movies.

All of these films resulted in box office disasters. Instead, Survivor showed soldiers performing heroically under duty, and audiences couldn't get enough. This meant going to the theater to high profile progressives like George Clooney/Matt Damon in their version of a “war movie” just wasn't interesting anymore. Despite the high profile cast (which is debatable), the film struggled to make a high opening and was crushed by The Lego Movie of all things. Where to start with this last bit? How about “The Lego Movie”? I believe some FOX News analysts see it s another liberal anti-business message out of Hollywood. I believe they’ve said that. It’s also the early hit of the year: $200 million and counting. So why doesn’t Breitbart mention that? Because it doesn’t fit into its formula that liberal Hollywood movies kill box office.  But it is true that “Monuments Men” hasn’t done well at the box office. It’s a serious film, about art, and getting Americans to see a serious film about art is tougher than getting them away from the television set on Super Bowl Sunday. It's also not very good. Sadly.

Film will be lucky to even make “half” of Lone Survivor's final box office tally, a film that did so without the high profile cast. Mark Wahlberg isn’t high-profile? Tell him that.

RoboCop

Liberal film critics have been trying for years to label the first RoboCop (which I love) as some giant “anti-Reagan” opus complete with anti-capitalistic themes. This is laughable when you see the film. Even director Paul Verhoeven has said the main lead is more a “Christ-like figure” who's resurrected to save a failing city and hold firm to his own humanity (despite being turned into a powerful machine). Well have no fear liberal entities, you got to remake RoboCop this year and pack it with your liberal talking points. The result was a box office opening that made even sci-fi bomb John Carter chuckle. Taking aim at the likes of Fox News and such, audiences were left wanting to watch the original RoboCop quickly, if only just to get the bad taste out of their mouths. The original “Robocop,” with its corporate villains partnering with drug dealers, wasn’t liberal, but the new one is? *Sigh*

Look at the three movies the Breitbart site condemns as liberal. What do they have in common? They're about men with guns: one’s a cop, one’s CIA, the others are WWII-era soldiers. “Monuments Men” honors our WWII veterans. If you insist on calling that liberal, fine, but please remember that and refrain from mentioning any of it at the next GOP convention.

RELATED POSTS:

The stars of Monuments Men

Good new, liberals. We get WWII vets now.

Posted at 10:44 AM on Mar 01, 2014 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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Tuesday February 11, 2014

5 Responses to Fox News' Critique of 'The Lego Movie'

Here's Fox Business' main talking point:

Charles Payne: Is Hollywood pushing its anti-business message to our kids? First it was “The Muppet Movie”—remember they used an oil baron as the enemy—and a year later it was “The Lorax” ...  Well, now it's “The Lego Movie” with a villain named President Business. Take a listen to him.

CLIP: President Business: Would you cancel my 2 o'clock? This meeting could run a little bit ... deadly.

Payne: Looks a bit like Mitt Romney.

Payne goes on:

Why is the head of a corporation, where they hire people—and people go to work, they pay the rent and mortage, they put their kids through college, they feed their families, they give to charities, they give to churches—why would the CEO be an easy target?

Monica Crowley piles on:

Hollywood has long been dominated by the far left, which is very anti-capitalist.

Rebuttals after the video.

  1. The “Really? Hollywood is anti-capitalist?” response: Hollywood brings in $10 billion a year, domestic. It brings in even more from abroad. Its product is one of the better, more globally recognized products that U.S. companies export. The American auto industry wishes it could dominate the field the way Hollywood dominates movies globally. So why is Fox Business getting all up in Hollywood's business?
  2. The “No, Hollywood is pro-NRA” response: When a movie shows a corrupt politician, which they do all the time, is Hollywood being anti-government? When it shows a sleazy journalist, which they do all the time, is Hollywood being anti-mainstream media? Hey, how about this: Does almost every action movie ever made make Hollywood pro-gun? If I follow Fox's line of reasoning, that's the message I'd get from Hollywood. Those damn Hollywood people. They just love, love, love their guns. Let's face it: Guns in movies, being shot by heroes, are way more prevalent than villainous CEOs. So does that make Hollywood pro-gun? Pro-NRA? If not, why not?
  3. The “Sorry, but CEOs make good villains” response: Generally, you need a villain in a movie, and CEOs make good villains. Why? Because American CEOs make 273 times what the average American worker makes. Fox Business is aware of this, right? They should be. They should be aware that the nature of the corporation is to put profits before people, which includes laying off longtime workers and hiring cheaper workers elsewhere, and that means many Americans, particularly those who have been laid off, don't have particularly positive views of corporations and their CEOs. Fox News, and Fox Business, should be aware of this. It's part of the sad fabric of life at the moment.
  4. The “Did anyone there actually see 'The Lego Movie'?” response: Payne's discussion is even more absurd for anyone who's seen “The Lego Movie.” Because—and please accept the usual SPOILER ALERTS—anyone who's seen the movie knows that Pres. Business isn't like Mitt Romney. He's like ... Dad. He is Dad. The adventures we see for most of the movie are in the mind of a young boy, Finn, whose father, one imagines, goes to work at a business the boy doesn't quite understand. Then he comes home and gets mad at his son for playing with the Legos; for messing up the carefully created dioramas they've made. So not Mitt Romney. Dad. Who, in the end, realizes the error of his ways; who, in the end, is loved.
  5. The “You missed the forest for the trees” response: There's actually a message in “The Lego Movie” more dangerous to Fox News than the one they're complaining about, and, again, please accept this SPOILER ALERT. It's a message about change, and its inevitability, and how it's preferable to stasis. It's a movie that celebrates the relativism of the building blocks of our society, the constant change, the infinite possibilities. Pres. Business, in contrast, wants everything the same. He's cranky this way. He likes things as they were. Which makes him sound like almost every cranky talking head and host on this network.

I hate doing this kind of thing. I really do. I hate being in a position to defend Hollywood. So much of what Hollywood produces is just crap. But it's not leftist crap. If anything, it's conservative crap. But mostly it's just crap.

By the way, Fox Business: Next time, try to come up with some examples less far afield than “It's a Wonderful Life” and “The Hudsucker Proxy.” And Ms. Crowley? Next time, try to sound a little less HUAC-y. That's creepy.

Posted at 07:23 AM on Feb 11, 2014 in category What Liberal Hollywood?
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