Published on Tuesday March 1, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Million Dollar Farce
by Sheldon Drobny
The Academy Award show was very entertaining and moved along well. The production was great and I enjoyed the three-hour show on ABC. My compliments go to the producer and director. And that's where the kudos ended for me. Again big media has manipulated our thought processes by making some of the worst choices the Academy has made for its annual tribute. And let us be clear that the same companies that control broadcast news are continuing their manipulation of the public for commercial reasons in Hollywood.
Million Dollar Baby actually won best picture award for 2004. That now puts the movie in the same high honor as Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and others of that caliber. They must be kidding. Did I see the same movie as the members of the Academy? Has this annual Hollywood orgy become a popularity contest meant only to award the cheapest form of exploitation to increase the box office receipts of the big studios? Lets give this a further look.
Million Dollar Baby was a pretty good movie for about an hour. Hilary Swank finally got her dream of fighting for the championship. She was doing OK until the champion hit her with a violent blow on the back of the head after the bell had rung. She then fell on her stool and broke her neck, thus becoming a quadriplegic requiring a breathing machine ala Christopher Reeve. How touching. According to the writers, the champion was not even disqualified, let alone charged with attempted murder.
Did someone miss the replay? This tragedy is then followed with her trailer trash family going to Disneyland. They come to the hospital to visit her with Mickey Mouse tee shirts after hiring a lawyer to take all her money. Now that is creative writing. The rest of the story is about euthanasia. Hilary gets her wish and Clint ends her life and just disappears.
Of course Morgan Freeman has narrated this whole story in the style of The Shawshank Redemption, the movie for which he really deserved an award. For all of this genius, the movie got 4 major awards including best director. Orson Welles must be rolling in his grave. Clint Eastwood is a good director, but he does not fall into the class of Welles and Sidney Lumet who received a lifetime achievement award Sunday. And so it goes with the big media companies.
What is the whole point of this? Does it really matter who wins these awards? My answer is yes. The reason to me is that big media has given us so little art and quality content that they have poured enormous amounts of money into convincing us that the movies coming out of the big studios are really art. These companies control almost the entire distribution system of movies in this country. Together with the ownership of TV and radio, there is little room for any independent quality content. Therefore, we get stupid movies and silly TV shows which goes very well with rigged news stories.
The actors, directors and other artists are liberally oriented, but they are still subject to the whims of the owners. And the successful artists are making such obscene money that they probably do not even realize that they are selling out. Oprah Winfrey thinks she knows what is quality art in this country. Her major qualification is that she is a billionaire. Yet I have never heard her talk about any subjects with confidence other than food, training, diet, and abuse. As Tevya said in Fiddler On The Roof: When your rich, they think you really know.
I hope my message is clear. Hollywood is just another of the problems with the media. And the successful artists who claim to be liberal are doing nothing about it. They may on occasion speak out for artistic independence, but I have not seen any examples of real courage in that community. And the reason is always money and fame. The artists that make these mega millions of dollars have enough money to make them very secure. They do not speak out seriously because as artists they are always afraid of failure and not getting that Academy Award role in the future. That is where they are misguided. Because they are rich and independent, they more than others should demand change because without the talent, the owners are finished.
This is another case of worker exploitation with the exception that the workers are millionaires. So let's not have any illusions about The Oscars. It is a sellout by the rich artists for money and idol worship. It is a Faustian bargain made for fame and power and the result of any such bargain is a deterioration of the very art form that these artists and the country needs to reach its better angels. It is my hope that the public and those in the movie industry will understand. But, it will take more activism to achieve this worthy goal.
Sheldon Drobny lives in Chicago. He is a co-founder-Air America Radio.