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The 2003 Oscars: Where Michael Moore Dared ...

Michael Moore was booed when he denounced the Iraq war at the 2003 Oscars. This year, Kathryn Bigelow played it safe

by Margaret Carpentier

At this year's Oscars, Kathryn Bigelow won best director and her film, Hurt Locker, won best picture despite criticisms from veterans that it failed to take into account much of the daily life of the men and women serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and criticisms that the film itself was as pro-war as it was pro-soldier. Although Bigelow dedicated her award to the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, she didn't touch on the lies that sent them there to risk their lives in pursuit of a political coup.

Back in 2003, Michael Moore strode upon the Oscar stage to accept his award for Bowling For Columbine with his fellow nominees and one intention: to make his voice heard by the Oscar audience about the injustices he saw in America. At the Oscars on 23 March 2003, Bush hadn't landed on an aircraft carrier to declare "mission accomplished" even as soldiers were still fighting and dying in Iraq; America with her "coalition of the willing" had only just begun the invasion of Iraq on 20 March. Despite the prevailing sense of national patriotism and efforts by the administration to encourage the media to report their "intelligence", there were already whispers - since proven correct - that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, he had no access to nuclear materials or technology and his administration had no contact with al-Qaida. None of that mattered to a country at war, apparently.

But it mattered to Moore, and his fellow nominees. As he took the stage to a standing ovation from the audience for a film that documented and condemned America's violence-soaked gun culture, he did so with one purpose: to make himself heard. Instead of thanking a long list of people few in the television audience knew, he spoke to them as much as the audience he could see.

"I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us and we would like to ... they are here in solidarity with me because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction, as we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or fiction of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr Bush. Shame on you, Mr Bush, shame on you. And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up. Thank you very much."

As Moore declared the results of the 2000 elections "fictitious", a few members of the audience yelled in assent, but they were quickly shut down by the assembled members of the Hollywood elite booing Moore - many of whom had just sat down from applauding his award. Ironically, Moore's industry colleagues thought he deserved an award for a movie that attacked America's obsession with guns but then booed his stance on the president's orders to turn our beloved guns against a country that our "fictitious" administration knew only a long, sustained campaign of misinformation would lead people to support.

This year at the Oscars, Michael Moore wasn't among the nominees, and since his speech in 2003, many winners have taken the stage to denounce the Bush administration and its policies on everything from the environment to the wars without fear of being booed down. But then, a patriot, he stood up and denounced to jeers and opprobrium that which the rest of the country finally realised was true: that the previous administration led us into a war on false pretences, lied to us about what they were doing there, and continues to lie to us in order to keep their entry in the history books untarnished.

So Bigelow kept quiet, maybe because, for all the rightwing carping about how Hollywood is so anti-war, when push came to shove in 2003, there were very few in Hollywood willing to stand in solidarity with Moore instead of the Bush administration.

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