Anti-war films not doing so well here in the US

The Washington Times reports:

It doesn’t matter how many Oscar winners are in front of or behind the camera — audiences are proving to be conscientious objectors when it comes to this fall’s surge of antiwar and anti-Bush films.

Both “In the Valley of Elah” and, more recently, “Rendition” drew minuscule crowds upon their release, which doesn’t bode well for the ongoing stream of films critical of the Iraq war and the Bush administration’s wider war on terror.

“Rendition,” which features three Oscar winners in key roles, grossed $4.1 million over the weekend in 2,250 screens for a ninth-place finish. A re-release of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” beat it, and it’s 14 years old.

“Rendition” follows an Egyptian-American who gets kidnapped by U.S. authorities who think he’s a terrorist. Reese Witherspoon plays the man’s wife, Meryl Streep dials up her dark side as the official who keeps his disappearance a secret and Alan Arkin is a senior senator with the power to influence the case. Meanwhile, the man is shipped off to an unnamed North African country, where he is tortured for information.

“Elah” boasts Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon, another Oscar-winning triumvirate, under professionally red-hot director Paul Haggis, who won his own Oscar for “Crash.” Mr. Haggis’ drama focuses on the disappearance of an Iraq war veteran upon his return home.

Beyond the fiction features, the anti-Iraq war documentary “No End in Sight” (box office: $1.4 million) couldn’t capture the indie crowd, beating a swift retreat to DVD next Tuesday despite glowing reviews.


“The Kingdom,” a more ambivalent film, which shows U.S. forces smiting a terrorist cell, has pulled in a more respectable $43 million (so far).


Films with bold perspectives also spark op-ed flurries which can lead to more ticket buyers, says Dan Vancini, movies editor with

“Then, you’ll get your audience in who already resonates with the message,” Mr. Vancini says, though he adds such free publicity isn’t always a good thing.

Such may be the strategy of splattermeister Brian De Palma, director of “Redacted.” Scheduled for a December release, the low budget/no stars movie is based on real events involving American soldiers who raped a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then killed her family. Mr. De Palma has been complaining publicly that disturbing photos, which run at the end of the film showing dead and dying Iraqis have, ironically, been redacted by the distributor, Magnolia Pictures. (The faces are blacked out for legal reasons, the studio says.) The Drudge Report picked up on the controversy — generally not bad for business.

Hollywood’s antiwar drive continues Nov. 9 with “Lions for Lambs,” in which Tom Cruise, Miss Streep and Robert Redford spar over matters of patriotism and war. And “Grace is Gone” follows a father (John Cusack, no shrinking violet when it comes to his anti-administration rhetoric off-screen) who can’t bear to tell his children their soldier-mother died in Iraq.

Captain Ed writes:

With all of these agenda films, one might think Hollywood could produce some balance. Why not make a movie about Sgt. Paul Smith, who gave his life for his comrades in Baghdad? A film about the heroism of Lt. Michael Murphy might make for a stirring motion picture. Americans might want to see the stories of Medal of Honor recipients. They obviously don’t have much interest in sitting through lectures by Hollywood celebrities.

Eventually, even Hollywood has to acknowledge the market forces that drive ticket sales. If moviegoers refuse to watch ham-handed political screeds, investors won’t put any more money into them. They will have to either start providing more balance to their offerings or go back to ignoring present-day reality again. I can’t wait for another movie where Tom Cruise doesn’t battle aliens.

Not so fast, says Ed Driscoll:

Wanna bet? A handful of blockbuster non-political summer hits and an endless stream of DVD and cable/DBS royalties buys a lot of low/mid-budget leftwing agitprop. (Not to mention also keeping Altman and Woody Allen behind the camera long after their freshness date had expired.)

That second link of Ed’s caught my interest. In it, contained this story, which I think is, unfortunately, on the mark:

The model Hollywood’s following here is that of “Fahrenheit 9/11” Michael Moore’s $6 million film from 2004 that generated $222 million in worldwide boxoffice. “Fahrenheit” opened a lot of eyes in Hollywood – but not about George Bush or Iraq. Those bulging eyeballs were staring at “Fahrenheit”‘s grosses.

One company that’s adopted “Fahrenheit”‘s model is Participant Productions, founded by eBay’s Jeff Skoll. Participant co-produced “Syriana” “Good Night, and Good Luck” “North Country” and soon will release the Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and Richard Linklater’s adaptation of “Fast Food Nation.” None of these films cost very much (“Good Night” cost only $6 million), and are easy films to sell to the sort of people who read The Huffington Post or The Daily Kos. Crazy as this may sound, this business model is increasingly making sense in Hollywood’s competitive marketplace.

So here’s the bad news: Hollywood doesn’t need the Heartland anymore. There’s basically no pressure for Hollywood to change what it’s doing, because there are plenty of Blue State audiences and DVD sales out there to make even something like the gender-bending “Transamerica” a hit, so long as the film doesn’t cost too much.

I’ve heard conservatives tell me for years that ‘market forces’ will eventually force Hollywood to change, become more mainstream. The argument goes something like this: Hollywood’s product will eventually become so toxic, so nakedly political, that there will eventually be a ‘backlash’ from the public – at which point things in Tinseltown will magically change for the better.

Guess what? It ain’t happening. Hollywood simply doesn’t need the Red States any more. Hollywood’s more interested in how a film plays in Mexico or France these days than in Kansas. After all, Charles Krauthammer may hate “Syriana” – but the Germans and the Brits love it! So do the Spanish and the Italians. That’s the global economy for you – Hollywood’s now out-sourcing its audience.

The author of that piece mentioned how the producers of anti-America flicks are motivated by money. While I know that is certainly true, I have no doubt in my mind that most of the producers/directors/writers of these films would make these movies regardless, motivated by the “urgent need” to get their version of “the truth” out there, even if nobody watches. Not only that, but anti-Americanism in Hollywood is fashionable (and award-winning) these days, and nothing elevates the stature of a producer/director/writer more than making a film that glorifies moral relativism and self-hatred while at the same time mocking traditional American ideals – much of it in the name of “globalism.”


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