Even in his wild, stoned to death, easy rider cuckoo times, Jack Nicholson would never have imagined he would one day tag team with the First Lady of the United States to present an Oscar for Best Picture.
This is more Hunter S Thompson than Academy territory – and hardly presidential. But it did – beautifully – make the point about the marriage between Washington and Hollywood. If George Clooney marries Sudan (but not Palestine), why not Jack schmoozing with Michelle? What next? Obama sharing intel with Jessica Chastain?
The marriage that really counts – for the future – may be at the heart of the military-industrial-security-Hollywood complex, as in Zero Dark Thirty and endless variations of the Marvel ethos (see Zero Dark Oscar, Asia Times Online, February 22, 2013). But for now, in terms of poetic justice, nothing makes more sense than Best Picture going to the Ben Affleck-directed (and Clooney co-produced) Argo.
Those 6,000-plus Academy voters simply could not resist a plot loosely based in facts in which a patriotic and resourceful Hollywood saves the CIA. And with a certified Hollywood ending as a bonus. Thus, predictably, this was Hollywood awarding an Oscar to itself, to hyper-nationalism, to American heroes and of course to good (Americans) over evil (Iranians).
And how poetically towering this justice becomes when a movie about a fake movie that fooled revolutionary Iranians during the 444-day hostage crisis is crowned Best Picture just two days before the US and other members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, go back to the table to discuss whether Iran is now fooling them – and going for a nuclear weapon.
Argo strives to prove the point that Iran hates the American Satan but Iranians love Hollywood. Over three decades later, Iranians are not so gullible; they are even going to shoot their counter-Argo. And the absolute majority of the population – even under harsh US and European Union sanctions – supports a civilian nuclear program. In parallel, it will be fun to watch how Argo plays from Karachi to Caracas.
Back in Hollywood, as Orson Welles taught us all, it’s all fake. Even former president Jimmy Carter admitted on CNN that the Argo plot itself was Canadian – mostly concocted by then ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor. Everybody knows this in Canada. But obviously not in the US.
Ask Christoph Shultz
What really matters at the Oscars is the red carpet – with its immortal inbuilt phrase “What are you wearing”. In a festival of wardrobe malfunctions worthy of an FBI investigation at least there was Charlize Theron in Dior, Naomi Watts in Armani Prive and Anne Hathaway in Prada to soothe weary eyes. This is what will be doing the rounds digitally all over the planet – as most of the winners are already forgotten by now.
There were no surprises. If Daniel Day-Lewis playing the American God, aka Lincoln, didn’t get his (third) Oscar, that would be blamed on a Chinese cyber attack. Actually, there was a surprise; Hollywood’s Zeus, Steven Spielberg, was spurned to the benefit of Life of Pi director Ang Lee. Cynics immediately volunteered this has a lot to do with Hollywood’s pivoting towards the lucrative Asian market.
Quentin Tarantino said this was the year of the writers at the Oscars. It was certainly his year. It makes total sense that his revenge classic Django Unchained won for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (the Viennese master, Christoph Waltz).
For Tarantino, only a humongous body count can lead us to Justice. One may occasionally be fed up with his perennial over-the-top antics. But the fact is that his prescription for America – when evil stares into your face you go out all guns blazing – is believable because his characters are so splendidly written. No wonder the gun lobby and assorted National Rifle Association fanatics are using Django as prime PR among African Americans. Were they to follow Django (“the D is silent”) to the letter, post-apocalyptic US would probably look like this Django Uncrossed spoof.
The Academy may in fact have redeemed itself a bit for its love story with the CIA when Best Screenplay went to Tarantino instead of Tony Kushner for the totemic Lincoln. Arguably Kushner – and Spielberg – built their anti-slavery epic without so much as a glance towards Frederick Douglass or W E B DuBois’s Black Reconstruction in America – where it’s clear that “it was the fugitive slaves who forced the slaveholders to face the alternative of surrendering to the North or surrendering to the Negro.”
Without at least 200,000 black people in the Army and another 200,000 working in supporting roles, the North would have lost the war. Or, at best, the white supremacist South would have remained as it was – slavery and all. None of this is addressed in Lincoln.
What Django‘s two Oscars prove once again is that Hollywood is a sucker for revenge. Even when it comes in the form of a warped, cripto-psychedelic spaghetti-western that would make John Ford puke. Well, it’s still a Wild West. Wilder than Jack Nicholson’s wildest dreams.
Tarantino may now be the best-qualified screenwriter to decode Barack Obama, the new Lincoln. What about a gourmet western showing the passage from GWOT (global war on terror) to invisible, shadow war, while internally the new Lincoln goes for gun control mixed with drone surveillance.
What about Christoph Waltz playing the devious John Brennan – a confidante to then CIA director George Tenet fully updated on “the intelligence and facts being fixed around the policy” to justify the war on Iraq, and later setting the parameters on torture and seeking Justice Department approval for it.
Picture a scene with Waltz, with his trademark delivery, testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee – as Brennan did early this month – that “the regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang remain bent on pursuing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile delivery systems.”
Argo is for pussies. The time has come for Obomber Unchained.