February 24, 2013

Ahhh...the glory of never having to admit that you're clueless. In the face of tonight's Academy Awards program and the surprisingly high percentage of political films nominated, host George Stephanopoulos asks his panel to give their predictions of who will take home the Oscar.

Whodathunk that the partisan hacks--who are equally as clueless about their domestic policy predictions--use the opportunity to thump Democrats:

Of the three politically charged films up for Best Picture, ABC News contributor George Will thinks “Zero Dark Thirty” should take home Oscar gold.

“It’s a genuine contribution to public education,” he said. “Sufficient reason for voting for it is a rebuke to Sens. Levin, Feinstein and McCain, who have enough to do without being movie critics and falsely accusing that movie of taking a stand on torture it does not take.”

TIME Magazine contributor Steven Brill agreed.

Because, you know, those Academy voters are always looking for an opportunity to teach a lesson to Democratic senators.

And even then, Will doesn't get the criticism correct. Levin and Feinstein did not object to 'Zero Dark Thirty' for taking a supposed stand on torture. They objected to the way the film elides over the years and false information given via torture before they finally did get actionable intelligence, something an FBI agent involved confirmed.

In arguing with Susie Madrak against a 'Silver Linings Playbook' Best Picture win, I reminded her that Academy voters love sweeping epics and elevated films and tend to reward that. Kathryn Bigelow's 'Zero Dark Thirty' did not do that and even the nominations reflect that:

But I suspect that the real problem for academy voters with Kathryn Bigelow’s film is not the torture sequences, but how utterly devoid of larger context the movie is. Should that matter? No, unless you make the claim, as the filmmakers have done, that your version of “history’s greatest manhunt” carries the imprimatur of journalistic accuracy — durable enough to become the art of record.

The duty of a dramatist is to tell a story, with conflict, peril and resolution. The duty of a historian is much the same, with the added responsibility of assembling a factual narrative. In trying to have it both ways, “Zero Dark Thirty” lost a large segment of thinking movie lovers.

I first saw the film with two highly opinionated women, and we had the same instant reaction: best picture. Maya, the composite character of the C.I.A. band of sisters that tracked Osama bin Laden, was mesmerizing. It was emotionally satisfying to see a mass killer in a body bag. The stomach-turning visual style was similar to Bigelow’s best-picture winner, “The Hurt Locker,” which I loved.

That was six weeks ago. A second viewing with journalist friends who know the story well led to a more troubling take-away. It’s not just the torture and its inherent message that young, attractive Americans got the ultimate payoff in part by doing what German bad guys used to do in the movies.

It’s the omissions. In “Zero Dark Thirty,” several larger truths — the many intelligence mistakes, the loss of focus and diversion of resources, and the fallout from the folly of the Iraq war — are missing. This is a crucial point, because the film is likely to end up as the most popular version of the singular trauma in the first decade of the 21st century.

It’s obvious, now, why the C.I.A. was cooperative with the filmmakers: it couldn’t have asked for better product placement.

The Academy--unlike George Will--does not want to appear to be in bed with the CIA. That's why we can chalk up yet another incorrect statement out of the mouth of Will. Not that it will ever matter to ABC News.

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