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Monday, February 25, 2013

The Oscars

“What's fascinating is, people in Washington would rather spend time in Hollywood, and people in Hollywood would rather spend time in Washington.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

Last night I watched the 85th Academy Awards show — now known as the “Oscars” in honor of the statuette that is given to the winners. Once again the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) chose the Dolby Theater (formerly the Kodak Theater) as the venue for this gala night where Hollywood honors itself.

As usual the show was too long as were some of the acceptance speeches. The host, Seth MacFarlane, did a fair job, but to me some of his trials at humor fell short of the mark. I thought there were some highlights during the 3 hour and 35 minute show and definitely some low points. Here are my highlights:

76-year-old Shirley Bassey singing the theme song to Goldfinger during the salute to 50 years of James Bond 007 movies for which she received a standing ovation.

The tribute to 50 years of James Bond movies — no doubt the longest franchise in movie history with 23 films. It’s interesting to note that the first 007 movie — Dr. No had a filming budget of $1.2 million and the budget for the latest 007 film — Skyfall — was $230 million. This shows how the cost of movies has escalated in the past 50 years.

The musical performance by the cast of “Les Misérables.” Although the musical performances were a bit too long they did add a bit of entertainment to the commercial-laden show.

Adele Adkins singing the theme song she and Paul Epworth wrote for Skyfall for which they received the Oscar for best original song.

MacFarlane’s joke that Argo, a film about a secret operation to free some of the hostages during the Iran hostage crisis, was so secret the Academy did not know who the director was.

Now for the low points:

William Shatner dressed as his "Star Trek" character, appearing on a screen less than 10 minutes into the telecast to cut off what he called MacFarlane’s offensive jokes. Shatner said he was coming from the future to “stop you from destroying the Academy Awards.” He then went on to hold up a news article that read “Seth MacFarlane Worst Oscar Host Ever.”

Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow not being nominated for best director while their films were box office hits

Jane Fonda appearing on stage as one of the presenters. The 75-year old has been was showcased no doubt in an attempt to rehabilitate herself for her traitorous efforts during the Vietnam War. I would venture to say that every Vietnam vet watching the show was tempted to turn off the TV when she walked into the spotlight.

And no doubt the lowest point was when the aging and boring Jack Nicholson turned to introduce Michelle Obama as the presenter for the best picture award. Ms. Obama appeared on the big jumbotron screen above the stage flanked by a cadre of military members to introduce the films and then announce the winner. The only thing she lacked was the addition of firefighters, first responders, and actors playing doctors dressed in white lab coats. However, you have to give her some degree of credit as it was after midnight on the east coast.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the FLOTUS appearance was the work of Obama supporter and friend Harvey Weinstein and his daughter Lilly, who arranged for Academy representatives and show producers to secretly fly (via Disney's jet) to D.C. just two weeks ago to make the magic happen.

"This makes no sense, it adds nothing to the show," one industry expert told FOX411's Pop Tarts column with a bemused laugh, while another surmised it as something of a "suck job."

"Forget separation of church and state — we need a separation of Hollywood and state," conservative journalist Michelle Malkin retweeted, while others weighed in that it was "tacky and tasteless" and cheapened the Presidency.

After all they threw all the campaign parties, I guess it was Hollywood's way of acknowledging their continued love and support of the Obama's.

Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar acceptance speech for best original screen play for his horrible film racist film “Django Unchained.”

Now for my take on the winners and losers for best actress, actor, director, and film.

The Oscar for best actor went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his performance in “Lincoln.” I have not seen the film so I really have no opinion on this category, but I did like Ben Affleck’s performance in “Argo.”

Jennifer Lawrence took home the Oscar as best actress for her performance in "Silver Linings Playbook." In my opinion the best actress award should have gone to Jessica Chastain for her performance in “Zero Dark Thirty.” Her role of as the female CIA analyst who spent 10 years of her life doggedly chasing down Osama bin Laden was compelling and realistic.

The award for best director went to Ang Lee for his film "Life of Pi." I have not seen the Life of Pi and I am sure it is a beautiful and inspiring film but I think his award was cheapened without Affleck and Bigelow being in the running. This is the politics of Hollywood. Thank heavens Spielberg did not receive the award for his boring and historical inaccurate film “Lincoln.”

The Oscar for best picture went to "Argo." This is only the fourth time in the history of the Academy Awards that the nominee for best picture did not include the director. I was rooting for either Argo or Zero Dark Thirty. I thought both films were great and told compelling tales of the dedication and heroism of the much maligned people of the CIA.

Argo is the story about a CIA covert operator’s (Tony Mendez) effort to get six of the U.S. State Department employees out of Iran during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. While taking some license with historical facts the film still tells a great story of Mendez’s dedication and heroism — heroism for which he was awarded the Intelligence Star by the CIA.

Argo is historically flawed in a few of the scenes depicted in the film and for a few things not mentioned in the film:

  • The climax of film is a chase down an airport runway, as gun-toting members of the Revolutionary Guard try to stop the plane bearing the American refugees from taking off. "Absolutely none of that happened," says Mark Lijek – one of the freed hostages. "Fortunately for us, there were very few Revolutionary Guards about. It's why we turned up for a flight at 5.30 in the morning; even they weren't zealous enough to be there that early. The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the U.S. ambassador's residence in Berne. It was that straightforward."]
  • The part of the plot about the Revolutionary Guards discovering the diplomats' identities is fictional. They had left Iran with their fake identities with no hassle. So the scenes of trouble with the bearded guard at the last check point, the scene of the commander raiding the Canadian ambassador's residence, and the entire chasing scene at the airport and even on the runway are fictional.
  • There is a sequence in the film where the six go on a location scout in Tehran to create the impression they are movie people. According to Mark Lijek, the scene is total fiction.
  • "It's not true we could never go outside. John Sheardown's house had an interior courtyard with a garden and we could walk there freely," Mark Lijek says.
  • The screenplay has the escapees—Mark and Cora Lijek, Bob Anders, Lee Schatz and Joe and Kathy Stafford—settling down to enforced cohabitation at the residence of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor. In reality, after several nights—including one spent in the UK residential compound—the group was split between the Taylor house and the home of another Canadian official, John Sheardown.
  • The major role of producer Lester Siegel, played by Alan Arkin, is fictional.

The film depicts a dramatic last-minute cancellation of the mission by the Carter administration and a bureaucratic crisis in which Mendez declares he will proceed with the mission. Carter delayed authorization by only 30 minutes, and that was before Mendez had left Europe for Iran.

On the other hand:

After the film was previewed at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012, some critics said that it unfairly glorified the role of the CIA and minimized the role of the Canadian government (particularly that of Ambassador Taylor) in the extraction operation. Maclean's asserted that "the movie rewrites history at Canada's expense, making Hollywood and the CIA the saga's heroic saviors while Taylor is demoted to a kindly concierge." The postscript text said that the CIA let Taylor take the credit for political purposes, which some critics thought implied that he did not deserve the accolades he received. In response to this criticism, Affleck changed the postscript text to read: "The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments." The Toronto Star complained, "Even that hardly does Canada justice."

In a CNN interview, President Carter addressed the controversy by stating: "90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good. But Ben Affleck's character in the film was only in Tehran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process."Taylor himself noted that, "In reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the CIA was a junior partner. But I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats." In the film, Taylor is also shown threatening to close the Canadian embassy in the movie; in reality, this did not happen and the Canadians never considered abandoning the six Americans who had taken refuge under Canadian protection.

Affleck asserted: "Because we say it's based on a true story, rather than this is a true story, we're allowed to take some dramatic license. There's a spirit of truth" and that "the kinds of things that are really important to be true are—for example, the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. stood up collectively as a nation and said, 'We like you, we appreciate you, we respect you, and we're in your debt.' There were folks who didn't want to stick their necks out and the Canadians did. They said, 'We'll risk our diplomatic standing, our lives, by harboring six Americans because it's the right thing to do.' Because of that, their lives were saved.

Historically flawed or nor I still think it was a very good film about an actual event. As I have said before — “don’t get you history from a movie. Instead use the movie as a motivation to delve into the facts and learn history on your own.”

I did, however, think Zero Dark Thirty was a little bit better than Argo and I also thought that Bigelow should have been nominated for best director and her writer Mark Boal should have won for original screen play. Boal’s screen play was far better than Quentin Tarantino’s for Django Unchained.

Zero Dark Thirty and Bigelow were doomed from the get go by the Hollywood elite. People like Ed Asner, the unabashed Marxist, and Martin Sheen called for a boycott of the film. They wanted the boycott on the basis that Bigelow and Boal glorified torture in the film. Of course Asner in his performance in “Roots” was a slave master. Did he endorse slavery? Oh, how shot the memory of the liberal progressive. As C. Roger Denson writes in the Huffington Post:

“We expect actors as talented and esteemed as Martin Sheen, Ed Asner, and David Clennon to know all about the principles of irony, catharsis and sublimation at play in theatrical dramatizations. Simply stated, these are methods of portraying human events and behaviors that are detrimental to real people and societies, but which -- besides providing fuel for artistic and entertaining dramatizations -- are crucial to our understanding that simulation of inhuman behavior can be for a higher end. An end such as informing audiences of the hidden and heinous activities we want to eliminate from our lives and our governments -- not least of which are those activities of which many in the audience may be unaware.”

Even Rotten Tomatoes, a publication devoted to criticizing films gave ZDT a 94 out of 100 rating.

The film, which has sparked outrage among both Democrats and Republicans in Washington over its depiction of torture, and allegations that the Obama administration leaked classified intelligence to help the making of the film, won no major Oscars on Sunday and only one award overall.

Just three months ago, the thriller, which culminates in Osama bin Laden’s killing by US Navy Seals, was a strong contender to pick up the biggest prize of Best Picture, as well as the Best Actress and Original Screenplay awards.

By the end of Sunday night, however, it had picked up just one award – a shared Oscar for Sound Editing, which was a tie with Skyfall.

Early signs of trouble came in mid-December when leading US Senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, both Democrats, and John McCain, the Republicans’ 2008 presidential candidate, sent a letter to movie studio Sony Pictures, castigating the film.

They called the film “grossly inaccurate and misleading” for suggesting torture helped the US track the al Qaeda leader to a Pakistani compound, where he was killed in 2011.

Three weeks later, the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, was omitted from the Oscar’s Best Director shortlist, chosen by about 5,800 movie industry professionals who make up the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Bigelow was one of only four big directors to be snubbed while the film did receive five Oscar nominations

In January, Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan pointed the finger at Washington, writing: “Chalk up this year’s nominations as a victory for the bullying power of the United States Senate and an undeserved loss for Kathryn Bigelow.”

This is chilling as now these senators are calling for hearings to determine how much information Bigelow and Boal received from the CIA in the making of the film To this extent Boal has hired an attorney to represent him. These actions by the United States Senate harken back to the days of the Dies Committee (HUAC) and the Hollywood Ten — something the liberals in Hollywood still harp on. This is McCarthyism in reverse and it has a chilling effect on free speech.

It should be noted that the entire cast of ZDT is supporting a effort to get Dr. Shakil Afridi freed from a Pakistani prison. Afridi has been imprisoned for giving help to the United States for going door to door in Abbottabad under the guise of giving vaccination in order to collect DNA to determine if it truly was bin Laden sequestered in the compound where he was thought to be. Fox News reports:

“Zero Dark Thirty" actress Jessica Chastain has thrown her support behind the effort to free the jailed Pakistani doctor who was integral in helping the U.S. track down and kill Usama Bin Laden.

"[It ] breaks my heart he's still in prison," Chastain told Fox News on Sunday on the red carpet of the 85th annual Academy Awards, referring to Dr. Shakil Afridi.

Chastain played a C.I.A. agent who directed the operation to find Bin Laden, but told Fox news "there are hundreds of unsung heroes" in the successful operation and she didn't think there was "one person who should be credited."

Bob and Kira Lorsch and their RHL Group took out a full-page ad with the headline: “Oscar, Help Free Afridi. America’s Abandoned Hero.”

The ad, part of the group's “Free Dr. Afridi” campaign, read in part: “Dr. Shakil Afridi is the man who verified Usama bin Laden’s location in Pakistan for the United States. Without Dr. Afridi’s sacrifice, we may not have pinpointed the location of the world’s most dangerous terrorist. His Reward… he was abandoned, captured and is still being tortured by Pakistan ever since Bin Laden was killed in May 2011. After all, who will stand up to help America next time if this is how we treat our friends?”

The advertisement also acknowledged a number of individuals and organizations it says have championed the issue, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the cast and crew of "Zero Dark Thirty," and Fox News Correspondent Dominic DiNatale and Producer Sib Kaifee, whose exclusive reporting has helped shed light on the Afridi case.”

You can read my critique of Zero Dark Thirty by clicking here.

For those of you who managed to miss the Oscars or don’t much here is complete list of the winners:

1. Best Picture: "Argo."

2. Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln."

3. Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook."

4. Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained."

5. Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables."

6. Directing: Ang Lee, "Life of Pi."

7. Foreign Language Film: "Amour."

8. Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, "Argo."

9. Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Brave."

11. Production Design: "Lincoln."

12. Cinematography: "Life of Pi."

13. Sound Mixing: "Les Miserables."

14. Sound Editing (tie): "Skyfall," ''Zero Dark Thirty."

15. Original Score: "Life of Pi," Mychael Danna.

16. Original Song: "Skyfall" from "Skyfall," Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth.

17. Costume: "Anna Karenina."

18. Documentary Feature: "Searching for Sugar Man."

19. Documentary (short subject): "Inocente."

20. Film Editing: "Argo."

21. Makeup and Hairstyling: "Les Miserables."

22. Animated Short Film: "Paperman."

23. Live Action Short Film: "Curfew."

24. Visual Effects: "Life of Pi."

All in all the night of the Oscars was average. Once again the Hollywood elites pushed their liberal agenda on the film makers demonstrating the films they approved of and those they don’t. The only true way to judge a film is to see it yourself and notice the public’s reaction by the box office receipts.

According to through their first 65 days of release, Zero Dark Thirty has made over seven times as much in U.S. box office receipts as did The Hurt Locker, with nearly $90 million in receipts just in the United States. That figure then represents the real difference between being pro and anti-American at the U.S. box office.

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