Friday, January 28, 2011

Dissecting Leftism: If it doesn't fit the Left's meme Hollywood doesn't care.

'Superman' slapped

The most widely seen Amer ican documentary of the year sparked a national dis cussion, received almost universal acclaim from critics and delved deeply into the details of what all agree is a subject of massive importance -- the increasingly alarming dysfunction of much of the US public-school system. Yet this vital and heartbreaking film, "Waiting for 'Superman,' " this week failed to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. Why?

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim has impeccable credentials with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He won an Oscar for his previous documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," which made him the toast of liberal LA. But "Waiting for 'Superman,' " which starts with Guggenheim explaining how terrible he feels driving his kids past a series of broken and diseased public schools to the posh private one his own cosseted lambs attend, backs an argument that conservatives have been making for more than 20 years.

Welcome to reverse McCarthyism. Not only are conservatives unwelcome (bordering on unemployable) in Hollywood, but even fully paid-up and lionized liberals like Guggenheim must be shunned for making a case that conservatives agree with.

Even if that case is so airtight that the nation's leading liberal film critics were all but united in their praise.

"This is an indictment -- our schools do not work," wrote Roger Ebert, praising the efforts of reformers like the movie's hero, Promise Academy visionary Geoffrey Canada, who gives Harlem kids the option of attending a superior charter school that puts students first -- instead of allowing teachers' unions to run the show, as they do in the desolate nearby public schools.

"This is more than an Important Documentary: It is engaging and, finally, enraging -- as captivating as any 'Superman' movie, and as poignant as a child's plea for help," wrote Richard Corliss in Time. "Exhilarating, heartbreaking and righteous," wrote John Anderson in Variety. "One of the most galvanizing documentaries I've ever seen," wrote David Edelstein in New York.

Oscar's short list of five feature documentaries instead made room for such trifling works as "Waste Land," about a guy who makes art out of junkyard scraps in Brazil, and "Exit Through the Gift Shop," a movie by the London graffiti artist Banksy about a hack French counterpart in LA who eventually makes it big selling derivative crap like mock silk screens of Elvis and Marilyn.

These films are more important than one that devastatingly explores the educational mechanism via which millions of poor children, most of them black or brown, are being doomed to a life of misery?

Where is Oscar's vaunted social conscience -- the one George Clooney boasted about when he won his statuette for "Syriana"? "We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while," he said in 2006. "I think it's probably a good thing. We're the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939, when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters."

Poor George was unaware that the "Gone with the Wind" supporting actress was the first black person to attend the Oscars, that MGM disinvited her from the premiere in Atlanta (and yanked her picture from the program distributed there) -- and that at the Oscar ceremony, she was made to sit on the periphery of the room even though her victory had been leaked in advance. "Even on this evening of firsts, segregation remained the rule," wrote McDaniel's biographer Jill Watts.

Today, innumerable urban black children are effectively segregated in the "dropout factories" so excruciatingly depicted by Guggenheim until they either stop bothering to attend or are given useless diplomas, in either case getting dumped back on the street with no future. Unlike McDaniel, they won't be present or even represented in the room on Oscar night, on the periphery or anywhere else.

No comments: