Conservatives are upset about a movie. No, I’m not talking about Fifty Shades of Grey. The outrage is over the fact that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave their Best Picture Oscar to Birdman over the Chris Kyle biopic American Sniper.
As well-made film by conservative darling Clint Eastwood that features a great performance from Bradley Cooper and which supports the troops and their families who sacrifice so much for our security and freedom, it seemed to many to be the obvious choice – indeed the only choice – for the year’s best film.
That the Academy saw it otherwise appears to American Sniper’s loyalists to be evidence of a conspiracy among Hollywood’s elitist liberals against conservative values, as though no other production could be deserving of the honor. This is unfair to the Academy and the winning movie Birdman, as well as anything else nominated and awarded against American Sniper. Both films were excellent, as was much of the competition.
There are at least four common statements that conservatives need to stop making about the Oscars outcome:
- “The people have chosen the real best movie at the box office.”
If the only determining factor of the best movie of the year is box office success, then why give out awards at all? Certainly mere popularity is not the sole indication of merit. Surely those frustrated with the Academy’s choice wouldn’t suggest that Barack Obama is the best man for the job of president on the basis that the people chose him.
Following that logic, every movie in the Fast and Furious franchise is better than The Shawshank Redemption. The latter’s increased popularity in recent years is no argument to the contrary, as Birdman, to take one of this year’s examples, has had no chance to prove its longevity.
It is important to make a distinction between the blessing of being free to choose between different goods and services and the idea that because people more often freely chose one thing than any other, it is therefore better. In fact, freedom to choose is a good (among other reasons) precisely because the majority is often not right. Especially with the arts, we should be careful not to equate what is best for an individual with what is best for all. That is the collectivist conceit.
- “Eastwood is laughing all the way to the bank.”
Clint Eastwood doesn’t need the money – or the awards, for that matter. He is worth $375 million. He has also been nominated for 11 Oscars: 5 times as a producer for a Best Picture nominee, 4 times as a director and twice for Best Actor. He has won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, as well as twice produced the Best Picture and twice been nominated for Best Director for those Best Picture winners. Clearly, he made American Sniper not because he needs cash or recognition, but because he is passionate about the subject, story and filmmaking.
The same is probably true for Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Likely he is ecstatic at the award recognition, as well the fact that his less accessible and artsy film made about $67 million. Most likely it is creating and completing the film that is most rewarding to Eastwood or Iñárritu. Still, box office acknowledgement and acknowledgement by cinema peers are both important. Furthermore, they are different; one does not substitute for the other.
- “The Academy was just patting their fellow liberals on the back/They snubbed American Sniper because it supports the troops.”
There are many reasons people, including the members of the Academy, love movies. Again, filmmakers make movies because of a passion for something in the story – and it doesn’t have to be political. Birdman was a movie with an original concept that executed it well. Really, if the Academy had wanted to be politically liberal this year, The Imitation Game and Benedict Cumberbatch would taken home two Oscars for telling the story of Alan Turing, who was a homosexual.
Eastwood himself is loved by the Academy. See, for example, all the awards and money he’s made. Even liberal idiot Sean Penn has respect for him. The same can be said of Bradley Cooper.
Besides, why should the Academy award the movie with the political perspective you agree anymore than one you don’t, especially if it’s against that individual member’s political views?
- “I won’t see Birdman because it beat American Sniper.”
Only a bratty child would suggest punishing all of the people who made the winning movie and had nothing to do with its selection for the supposed sin of the Academy in choosing it. I myself used to think I would never watch Annie Hallbecause it beat one of my favorite movies, Star Wars: A New Hope, for Best Picture in 1977. I have since realized how unfair that was.
Politics, Andrew Breitbart said, is downstream from culture. Just this year, American Sniper, Unbroken and Fury have made steps in the right direction – let’s not ruin their progress with a hissy fit. If conservatives are going to influence culture, we have to make good movies. That means recognizing the artistic merit of films that don’t display a political perspective we prefer – especially, like many of the Best Picture nominees this year, that don’t have a political perspective at all.