Way back on January 17th, I decided to nominate the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Bunch of Hypocrites. That’s because I felt this year’s dirty little Oscar secret was the anecdotal evidence pouring in to me about hetero members of the Academy of Motions Picture Arts and Sciences being unwilling to screen Brokeback Mountain. For a community that takes pride in progressive values, it seemed shameful to me that Hollywood’s homophobia could be on a par with Pat Robertson’s. So in the February 1st issue of LA Weekly, I warned that, despite the hype you saw in the press and on the Internet about Brokeback, with its eight nominations, being the supposed favorite to take home the Best Picture Oscar, Crash could end up winning.
Well, turns out I was right. Hollywood showed tonight it isn’t the liberal bastion it once was. That’s pitiful if you’re a progressive, and pleasing if you’re a conservative.
After my column came out, it was picked up by the Drudge Report. Hundreds of angry emailers accused me, and Hollywood, of trying to promote “the homosexual agenda” by somehow “forcing” them to see a movie they found sexually reprehensible. What those emailers failed to comprehend was that the Oscar voters shared their distaste for it.
At the time, I explained that the real Best Picture issue wasn’t which film was better. The real issue was which movie was seen by the Academy. I found horrifying each whispered admission to me from Academy members who usually act like social liberals that they were disgusted by even the possibility of glimpsing simulated gay sex.
The forces that hate Hollywood salivated for Brokeback to win Best Oscar. But that it wasn’t the favorite was foreshadowed at the Screen Actor Guild awards, when Crash topped it for best picture and Philip Seymour Hoffman won over Heath Ledger. The excuse given was that Crash only won that award because the producers had sent the film to every SAG member, which is something of a rarity. But, still, Brokeback fever continued unabated. It became part of America’s lexicon, it generated a nightly joke or two on Leno and Letterman, it spawned innumerable parodies. But just how did it measure up as a movie? I found Crash and Brokeback both good, if flawed, films. Oscar-worthy since they were about something, a prerequisite. Crash makes up in aesthetic bleakness what it lacks in subtlety — Los Angeles is a city of minorities divided but colliding, duh! — but it’s also gripping and powerful. Brokeback gives us closet-case sheepherders tastefully presented so they redefine the notion of love. But it’s also slow and ponderous.
I sounded a note of extreme caution about Brokeback‘s Oscar chances because, in Hollywood, the cowboy has been an iconic figure in motion pictures through the ages. Many geriatric Academy members not only worked on oaters, but also worshipped Audie Murphy, Gene Autry, John Wayne and other saddle-sore celluloid heroes. And I noted that only an equally iconic figure like Clint Eastwood could redefine the genre in Unforgiven in a way that didn’t turn off the old-timers. I wasn’t just talking geezers. I was talking baby boomers and younger Academy members sketched out about seeing Brokeback.
I knew there was a chance that, even without seeing the movie, Oscar voters could feel guilt-tripped or succumb to a herd mentality to vote for the “gay-cowboy” movie and strike a blow against Republican wedge politics and extremist religious hatemongering. But they didn’t, and Brokeback lost for all the Right’s reasons.
So, red-staters licking their lips to give Hollywood a verbal ass-whooping will be chagrined tonight. I’ve been keeping a running tally on just how political were the 78th Academy Awards. And the answer is overwhelmingly hardly at all. GOP politicos hoping to use that old saw of “Boy hidey, those show-biz folk are just a homo-promotin’, liberal-media-embracin’, minority-lovin’, devil-worshippin’, pimp-hustlin’, terrorist-protectin’ bunch of pansies, commies and traitors” are going to have to find another way to discredit Hollywood’s actor activists when they campaign come the midterm elections in November.
Turns out Hollywood is as homophobic as Red State country. In touch, not out of touch.
I was right about Rachel Weisz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, Ang Lee, and Crash. Only Clooney’s win I didn’t anticipate. I thought the ugly guy, Paul Giamatti, would bag it. Damn that Supporting Actor category: trips me up.