Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Priorities Skewed, And Not

Every child in public school is introduced to the United States Constitution, including Article IV, Section 2.  Perhaps you remember that it begins "The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States, including the right to an Academy Award."

Weren't you aware of that provision?   Neither was I until directed to it by co-chairperson Amy Pascal of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Sony Pictures Entertainment is the production/distribution company for Zero Dark Thirty, nominated for five Academy Awards, including best movie.   By all accounts it is an impressive movie but Martin Sheen and Ed Asner, two actors accustomed to liberal advocacy, have criticized the film.  And deciding that principle trumps artistry, actor David Clennon has announced

I firmly believe that the film Zero Dark Thirty promotes the acceptance of the crime of torture, as a legitimate weapon in America's so-called war on terror. In that belief, following my conscience, I will not vote for Zero Dark Thirty in any category...I cannot vote for a film that makes heroes of Americans who commit the crime of torture.

Appearing on Cenk Uygur's The Young Turks, former CIA operative Lindsay Moran explains

It is an amazing movie, but very revealing about the entire hunt for Osama bin Laden.   It contains a lot of disturbing scenes of detainees being tortured...  What I find ironic is the government claiming that this is classified information and would put Americans at risk at the very same time that two Hollywood filmmakers were given unprecedented access to the CIA -- basically made an infomercial about CIA interrogation.

But exploding in righteous indignation, SONY President Pascal thundered

To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate. We fully support Kathryn Bigelow and [screenwriter] Mark Boal and stand behind this extraordinary movie. We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda.

Competing values sometimes make for a difficult ethical decision.  Not this one.

Barry Bonds, who (along with other baseball greats) this month received far fewer votes than necessary for induction into the Hall of Fame, is a difficult ethical decision.  Bonds was front and center of the steroid era who, as Sports Illustrated put it in 2006, took "a wide array of performance-enhancing drugs over at least five seasons in a massive doping regimen that grew more sophisticated as the years went on."  He also was inarguably the best player of his generation and arguably the best player ever, a sensational outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants before he even began 'doping.'

So go ahead- ponder away about whether Bonds and the other players (all rejected) up for the Hall should have been denied admission for 2013.  But the argument of Amy Pascal about another sector of the entertainment field is askew and just plain hypocritical.

Pascal criticizes Clennon on two fronts:  Zero Dark Thirty is "extraordinary" and the actor/voter merely is "advanc(ing) their own political agenda."   The first is probably true but subjective, and irrelevant.  It is a zero sum game, with one film winning and the others losing in each category, and presumably each of the films merits a place on the ballot.

And advancing one's own political agenda?   This would hardly be the first time political considerations have entered into nominations or voting for awards in the industry.   Hollywood, further, is rife with politics and would-be politicians.  Perhaps, someday, there will even be an actor who goes on to become a big-state governor and two-term U.S. President.  Nah.  That'll never happen.

But the controlling factor is whether Zero Dark Thirty a political movie.   This is not A Hard Day's Night or even North by Northwest.  It is a movie about Osama binLaden, and one which strongly implies torture is efficacious, a highly controversial position.  It serves, intentionally or otherwise, as propaganda for the U.S. government and its approach to terrorism and whose screenwriter and director apparently benefited from a curious relationship with the C.I.A.

It's good entertainment, though, and is making lots of money for lots of people.  And that, apparently, is all which matters for people who embody Hollywood's sense of entitlement.  There is no Constitutional right to win an Academy Award.   Amy Pascal may not understand that, but at least a few people, David Clennon among them, do.

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