Today, Andrew Breitbart and David Ehrenstein attempt to define Hollywood values. Yesterday, they discussed the role filmmakers should and do play in the domestic political debate, and Monday they pondered the fall season of antiwar flicks. Later in the week, they'll attempt to locate Hollywood conservatives and assess whether Tinseltown even matters anymore.
The many lives of Warren Beatty
By David Ehrenstein
Our questions today get right to the beating heart of the matter -- and the last one is the hardest to answer of them all. While I gather you find Hollywood an ideological monolith, that hasn't been my experience at all. Among its "lefties" (i.e., those who don't vote Republican), you'll find considerable variety of artisans whose politics range from the gob-smacking sophistication of Warren Beatty to the free-range wackalooniness of Oliver Stone.
In between, such far-less politically pointed souls as Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet have had a lot to say about society and the individual in general, but not in a form designed expressly to either upend the status quo or deliver the vote for Hillary Clinton. The latter is the pet cause of diva absoluta Barbra (no last name needed), while her political "bel canto" ally, Oprah (does she even have a last name anymore?), has put her considerable muscle behind Barack Obama. Voting for either one means not voting for a Republican. And nothing else.
The reference to "free love" strikes a nostalgic chord in yours truly, who indeed remembers the '60s and its wildly overrated "Summer of Love" quite well (must have been the "good acid" I was on). I much prefer the soignee sophistication of the pre-'68 sixties exemplified by Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick and Richard Rodgers' glorious one-off, "No Strings." In fact, Edie was given to getting up on top of restaurant tables and belting out "Loads of Love" from that great score. Can't imagine what she'd have to say about either Osama bin Laden or Jenna Bush. But in those few brief years when she was fully functioning, Edie was an utter delight, with much more to offer than the slug-like Paris Hilton -- to whom she's been most unfairly compared.
Queen of the "fruit-flies" (as the late, great Dorothy Dean called them), Edie would be delighted by the increasing openness of today's Hollywood gays, particularly the fabulous Neil Patrick Harris and his equally talented and gorgeous boyfriend, David Burtka. Along with T.R. Knight and Jane Lynch, they are harbingers of a new gay and lesbian Tinseltown leaving the closets of the past as empty as theaters currently playing "The Brave One." As for (once more no last name needed) Rosie, her self-aggrandizing antics annoy me far more than they do you. She's the party guest no one remembers inviting who simply won't leave.
Turning to the town's "openly gay" filmmakers, I doubt Mr. Mainstream-at-its-most-boring, Joel Schumacher, would have much to say about Bin Laden -- outside of criticizing his grooming, headgear and the dishwater-dull schmattas he clomps around in. Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes and Greg Araki have far tastier fish to fry, in that they occupy the increasingly crowded margins of the so-called independent cinema and, consequently, deal with the gay-political on a much more grounded level, i.e., how it actually affects actual daily lives.
The citation of taxes is most amusing in that it evokes the anal retentiveness that so many Republicans are heir to, while also turning the discussion back to the aforementioned Mr. Beatty. After doing freshman acting duties as spoiled rich boy Milton Armitage on the beloved late-50's sitcom, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," Shirley MacLaine's kid brother made his movie debut as the star of "Splendor in the Grass" in 1961 and has been a star ever since. His reputation as the most flamboyant heterosexual of the 20th century (only adventurer/photographer Peter Beard comes close when it comes to making love to the world's most desirable women) is legendary. His political activism less so. If you want a crash course on it, get ahold of a copy of his masterpiece, "Bulworth," which both explains why he's never run for office (though solely tempted to do so on numerous occasions) and what he thought of his friend Robert Kennedy -- whose assassination is evoked in the film's finale.
Having finally "settled down" to marriage in 1992, with the gorgeous and talented Annette Bening and promptly producing four offspring, Beatty's political fires have been somewhat banked of late. But he was most amusing during the last gubernatorial run, chasing Arnold Schwarzenegger from campaign-stop to campaign-stop in order to "just ask him a few questions," with the ever-nimble Arnold managing to dash off at the last minute, like a considerably-larger version of Chuck Jones' Roadrunner.
Maybe Warren will have one of his kids run for office. Hey -- the old man sure knows the territory.
"Bulworth," by the way, was financed entirely though the money Rupert Murdoch promised, but failed to deliver, for Beatty's "Reds." Rather than go though with a lawsuit, he offered to make a movie for Fox instead (which like so much else in the known universe, Murdoch owns) -- for the precise price at issue. And nothing more. In other words, Warren Beatty believes he has enough money. And in Hollywood, he's not all that alone in this.
I know, being a Republican, that's a hard concept for you to grasp. But there it is. And there too are those oh-so-famous taxes that Republicans are loath to pay even as they line their pockets by profiteering from needless and destructive war.
As for "pro-jihadi movies," I really can't see reigning "wonder boy" Judd Apatow making one. But never fear that Hollywood is neglecting the most important story of our time, for there's "Harold & Kumar 2" in which our pot-happy heroes (Kal Penn and John Cho) board a plane for Amsterdam and are promptly mistaken for (yes, you guessed it) terrorists. And just as in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," Neil Patrick Harris is in the cast.
"I haven't the slightest doubt that Andrew feels Hollywood should be working 24/7 on stemming the Islamic tide threatening to overwhelm all that's white and Christian..."
David, we've never met, yet in yesterday's post you painted me as a white supremacist. And now I'm supposed to chat up Barbra Streisand's tax returns and play connect the dots with a whirligig of old-time film titles?
I know your biracial homosexual bio perfecta trumps my humble multiculti checklist, but I did have a bitchin' Bar Mitzvah; I adore my Latina sister (we're both adopted); and I chose to go to college in New Orleans because I really liked Lisa Bonet in "Angel Heart." Isn't that enough not to have an embroidered scarlet KKK on my hooded sweatshirt?
It's not just you, David.
I think you represent the majority in Hollywood. The type that green-lighted a troika of Matthew Shepherd movies after he was senselessly killed because it affirmed their gut feeling that a gay young man living in backward America is destined for death at the hands of hateful ultraconservatives. A street in West Hollywood still stands in his name despite ABC News reporting the story false: He was killed by crazed meth addicts for drugs and money -- not because he was gay. Isn't that tragic enough?
Yet Shepherd is still the icon of gay victims' rights, and the mistaken story of his "fate" soon thereafter befell Jake Gyllenhaal's character in "Brokeback Mountain." The Oscar statuette stands as the exclamation point. Victimhood wears like a cashmere sweater in Hollywood, and the mistaken story line of red-state Americans as murderous homophobes is now a timeless artistic truth.
Yet no L.A.-based gay rights group or concerned gay actor readies a film illustrating exactly how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his 70-million strong country "gay free." In the studio system these days, only white, conservative Christian Americans get that treatment. Maybe Tony Kushner doesn't want the headache of a fatwa.
Yet despite all of this, you really got me thinking. About race, sexual identity, victim politics, Hollywood values -- and even time travel. If I could go back in time, I would go back to your childhood to beat up the boys who beat you up as you started grappling with your homosexuality. I'd go into your past to erase the "hate crimes" that now cause you to blame political conservatism for your deepest wounds. I want to breach the time/space continuum to find out what those young hoodlums were thinking when they went after you. My suspicion is none of them had ever read F.A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," (no, that's not Salma's father) or Russell Kirk's "The Conservative Mind."
Let's get Hollywood to option the rights to the story: It's got it all -- race, violence, sexual identity, science-fiction and a character Ang Lee could really sink his teeth into. Think "Boys Don't Cry" meets "Back to the Future." And at the end of the film, it's 2014 and I see that you and your partner have been nabbed by Chomsky-quoting al Qaeda fanatics who are getting ready to behead you in an abandoned auto factory in Michigan for the sin of brunching in Dearborn.
But the moment before they chop your heads off -- in the nick of time (just like in the Republicans' favorite show, "24," which we are grateful you guys allowed us to have) -- the good guys, in this case the U.S. Marines, bust through the doors to save you both. At this point, I will have drafted a powerful soliloquy for your character. It'll be a cinematic epiphany in which you show remorse for tilting at white, straight and conservative windmills -- to which you and Hollywood almost exclusively blame for all that is wrong in the world.