Did you watch the Oscars on Sunday? My Yahoo! home page led with an account of the Best Actress winner stumbling on the steps up to the podium, complete with picture. Really? That's the most interesting thing that happened all night? That's how you lead your news coverage—somebody embarrassed themselves? That would seem to damn us (or Yahoo's audience, at least) as mean, petty, and puerile. I'm not a priss or anything, but to single out that event as the most significant moment of the evening is spiteful. Very low-grade as outrages go, admittedly, but pitiful nonetheless. Sigh.
If you'd like something with a bit more substance, I came across this excellent article by Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian, in which he explains why he thinks Zero Dark Thirty got so thoroughly snubbed. Interesting.
This pertains to our recent discussions about how movies shape public opinion, and their relationship to honesty and veracity about things like history and politics.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Ed Richards: "I teach national security law in my day job. Zero Dark Thirty is controversial in the field. It follows in the path of the TV show 24 in the illusion that torture is effective. From what I have heard from expert at the FBI, there is no support for the idea that torture works. They feel that we might have gotten valuable info had we not used torture. But the hard question is whether this is art that should be judged on it own. I do not think so, in that its power is precisely that pretends to tell us about a real event. Torture was a check off for upping rating and appealing to the teenage boy market, not an integral part of the real story."
latent_image: "I'm still grinding my teeth over Argo. Even President Carter recently stated that the operation was 90% Canadian, yet the Oscar went to a chest-thumper of a movie that makes the CIA look like the major player.
"I remember that era well. During the summer of 1979, I attended a U.S. university that had a sizeable Iranian student population. If the CIA had been reading the posters I casually read all through that summer on student bulletin boards, maybe they would have made sure Americans were sent home earlier the way Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor arranged for 850 Canadians to leave Iran in January 1979. During that summer I kept telling my wife that something was going to pop in Iran. It certainly seems that American diplomats were caught flat-footed. I don't think it was the CIA's finest hour, but I'm no expert in such matters. However, I'm more than willing to believe President Carter. He should know."
Rob: "When I saw Zero Dark Thirty, I was filled with mixed emotions. It is, indeed, an excellent piece of filmmaking, but it is also a fundamentally dishonest portrayal of role that torture played in finding Bin Laden. The actual depictions of torture are disgusting, but one cannot come away from the film without wondering whether the torture may have been justified, in the sense that the ends justified the means.
"It appears that the director, Kathryn Bigelow, was fed a biased account of events by her CIA informants, who want their version of history to be the commonly accepted one and who also want justification for their own actions. Did Bigelow know that she was being used, or did she not care, because the story was such great material for her film? And just as importantly, why are her CIA informants not in prison for leaking highly classified information, as Bradley Manning is for doing exactly the same thing? We would do well to ponder this quotation from George Orwell: 'Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.' ZDT is a demonstration of how the past can be controlled."