Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fer chrissakes

This highly questionable op-ed ran in The Wall Street Journal two weeks ago, when we were preparing to head off to Vermont, but it's still bugging me. It's full of ridiculous assertions about boxoffice figures that would fall apart under even the tiniest fact-checking scrutiny, but I guess that function stays on the other side of the wall that separates news stories and editorials.

It was submitted by the founder of a "Christian" film website, I put the word "Christian" in quotes, as these "reviewers" (you know why I put the quotes there) are basically apostles of the far right of the Republican party, who got its ass kicked last fall, and who remain deathly afraid of communism, civil rights, and water fluoridation.

Here's a sample paragraph, if you stopped reading after "With media conglomerates, from Time Warner to Disney to News Corp., reporting big losses, few can afford to ignore proven recipes for box-office success. And when it comes to movies, what succeeds is capitalism, patriotism, faith and values." Did you get that, Mr. Murdoch?

"Among the films with more conservative content were Valkyrie (with its theme of opposing Nazi tyranny), Defiance (resistance fighters unite to save lives in World War II), Bolt (which promotes such moral values as loyalty, sacrifice and doing the right thing), Rambo, Prince Caspian and Gran Torino. They and others in their category averaged nearly $70 million more per movie at the domestic box office than more liberal movies. That group's films range from those with very strong libertine content (such as Mamma Mia!) or licentious content (Milk and Brideshead Revisited) to those with politically correct content, such as Sex and the City and Under the Same Moon. Also in the category are movies with anti-American content, such as Stop-Loss and The Visitor, and with very strong atheist or nihilistic content, such as Religulous and Wanted.

Two can play at this game. Valkyrie (pictured) and Rambo were break-even propositions, Defiance a big flop, and Caspian a disappointment. The tainted Mamma Mia! was a huge hit, and Sex and the City and Wanted weren't far behind. Religulous was the most successful documentary of 2008, and The Visitor a popular indie that affirms American values that are anathema the more rightwards you tilt.

I know this is a pointless exercise in setting the record straight. This is all about ideology, not quality, or facts and figures. But when a piece like this, as myopic as Tom Cruise in one of its approved titles, seeps out of the blogosphere and into a paper of record, giving it an unassailable forum and an unearned legitimacy, I have to protest.

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