Thursday, February 10, 2005

As usual Frank Rich is good today...


But two weeks out from the big night, the prospects for a little conflict are looking up. Just when it seemed that Hollywood had turned a post-election page in the culture wars, the commissars of the right cooked up a new, if highly unlikely, grievance against "Holly-weird," as they so wittily call it. This was no easy task. They couldn't credibly complain that "The Passion of the Christ" was snubbed by the movie industry's "elite" (translation: Jews), since it nailed three nominations, including one for makeup (translation: really big noses). That showing bested not only "Fahrenheit 9/11" but "Shrek 2," the year's top moneymaker. Nor could they resume hostilities against their perennial bogeymen Ben Affleck, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand and Whoopi Goldberg. All are nonplayers in this year's awards.

He said "nailed."

But seriously, when the wingnutshpere starts saying Dirty Harry is "too liberal," you know that it's time to start mandatory thorazine drips for 'em.

Mr. Eastwood's film, while also boasting great acting, is the only one that challenges America's current triumphalist daydream. It does so not because it has any politics or takes a stand on assisted suicide but because it has the temerity to suggest that fights can have consequences, that some crises do not have black-and-white solutions and that even the pure of heart are not guaranteed a Hollywood ending. What makes some feel betrayed and angry after seeing "Million Dollar Baby" is exactly what makes many more stop and think: one of Hollywood's most durable cowboys is saying that it's not always morning in America, and that it may take more than faith to get us through the night.

This actually is a theme that can be found even in the Dirty Harry Movies: although Harry Callahan has his prejudices, he learns to live with folks who are to him "the Other," and actually fruitfully collaborate with them.

This very collaboration subverts the Us/Them relationship. It also makes for damned good moviemaking, and is also why propaganda sucks.

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