Thursday, January 10, 2013

Academy Snubs Best Director Nomination for Katherine Bigelow and 'Zero Dark Thirty'

I took my oldest boy to see "Zero Dark Thirty" last night at the Irvine Spectrum. (That's him at the photo below.) This movie is freakin' spectacular. Knowing there's so much controversy I wanted to read around a bit before doing a big write up, but the film's in the news with today's announcement of the Academy Award nominees. The movie should have swept the nominations, not just for Best Director, but Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Cinematography and more. Folks may recall that Bigelow also directed "The Hurt Locker," an ultra-realistic drama of the Iraq war for which she won Best Director in 2010. We need more people like her in Hollywood. In any case, the interrogation scenes are indeed graphically portrayed, but the left's attacks on the film have been entirely knee-jerk, which is why I was waiting to comment on my experience, to read around for some background. So, look for more on this later.

Meanwhile, here's Kenneth Turan, at the Los Angeles Times, "'Zero Dark Thirty' is undeserving victim of politics":

Chugger Zero Dark
If you're keeping score this Oscar season — and who isn't? — chalk up this year's nominations as a victory for the bullying power of the United States Senate and an undeserved loss for "Zero Dark Thirty" in general and director Kathryn Bigelow in particular.

Yes, "Zero Dark" did get five nominations, including best picture, lead actress for Jessica Chastain and original screenplay for Mark Boal. But that was only one more than for the ineffective "Anna Karenina" and nowhere near the 12 picked up by Steven Spielberg's front-running "Lincoln."

Worse than that, Bigelow, the same filmmaker who won the directing Oscar in 2010 for "The Hurt Locker," could not manage so much as a nomination for a piece of work that has been almost universally acknowledged as formidable. What changed between then and now? Three members of the Senate, a deliberative body not previously known for its cinematic acumen, decided to place their feet on the neck of this particular film.

Back on Dec. 19, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) wrote an open letter to "express our deep disappointment with 'Zero Dark Thirty.' We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of Usama Bin Laden."

To anyone who knows the academy's traditional aversion to controversy (for example, disagreement dogged "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and the highly regarded "The Hurricane" ended up with only one nomination, for star Denzel Washington, after questions were raised about its accuracy) knew that letter meant Oscar trouble for "Zero." It's not even that surprising that it was the directors who caved in to the drumbeat of condemnation. As one of the smaller voting branches of the academy, it is more susceptible to the vagaries of outside pressure.

Once the senators signaled that it was open season on the film, it was a given that in this age of Internet bloviating, other voices would join in. Naomi Wolf, for instance, writing in Britain's the Guardian, called Bigelow "an apologist for evil" comparable to Nazi-era German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and howled that the director "will be remembered forever as torture's handmaiden."
See what I mean about "knee-jerk"? Notice that disgusting Naomi Wolf moral equivalence attack on the U.S. as Nazi Germany, which is so last decade it's ridiculous. (More at that top link.)

Plus, at WSJ, "Why Did Kathryn Bigelow Get Snubbed For Best Director?"

And I can't find anything disagreeable at this movie review from Bill Goodykoontz, at the Arizona Republic, "'Zero Dark Thirty' passes test of honest intentions."

Until then...