Media Watch: Politically Correct Oscars

When the Academy Award nominations came out, I began to wonder who would win the Oscars. I think I can predict as well as anyone who will win this year. I can do it, because I have certain advantages that the paid movie reviewers do not. For one, I have not seen any of the films.

Sure. You say, that doesn’t make any sense. You say that I have to see for myself how the plot is structured, how the script is written, how the lines are delivered.

Posh! I say. My answer is, that not having seen the films makes me a completely unbiased, unprejudiced and ruthlessly fair analyst. I can attend to the really important features of the films and not be distracted by a pretty face.

Next, I use the Politically Correct Method of Film Criticism. Those movies and actors that score the greatest number of PCPs, political correctness points, win the Oscars. The underlying theory of this method is based on the fact that Hollywood not only creates dreams but lives them too. It’s a Lala Land of unreality. But, enough of that. Let’s get into my list of winners for best actor.

The Academy Award nominations are Massimo Troisi, The Postman; Nicolas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas; Richard Dreyfuss, Mr. Holland’s Opus; Anthony Hopkins, Nixon; and Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking.

Nobody’s ever heard of Massimo Troisi. That could be good. Being a non-American actor is worth a point or two. Being a total nobody appeals to the effete intellectual crowd such as the PC folks who run the federally funded Public Broadcasting System.

Furthermore, the story is about a mailman—oops!, a mail carrier—a government employee who makes friends with a poet. A killer combo. A blue-collar guy and a poet. Those FM-PBS types love poets. However, the film would have been much better if the mailman, er person, were unemployed because of Republican budget cuts. Unfortunately, the story unfolds in Italy—so, that has limited credibility. Yet, this one has lots of potential, especially if the relationship between the two turns out to be homosexual and one of them has AIDS.

The next nominee, Nicholas Cage, plays an alcoholic who wants to drink himself to death and finds a prostitute to help him kill time, or something. Already, you can see the potential. An alcoholic—two or three points right there. A prostitute! What would Hollywood producers and scriptwriters do without prostitutes? There’s another two points. I’d guess this movie should get another two points for each naughty peek at her breasts. As far as I know, however, she isn’t dying from any sexually transmitted disease. So, the big award looks a bit iffy.

Richard Dreyfuss plays a school teacher. School teachers, for some reason, do well in Lala Land. Holly wood has a venerable tradition of teacher movies: Mr. Chips (two versions), How Green Was My Valley, Stand and Deliver, Blackboard Jungle, The King and I. I guess it gives the film industry an aura of respectability and seriousness. Or maybe it’s because teachers are usually government employees.

Whatever. Dreyfuss plays a music teacher WHO HAS A DEAF SON! There’s irony, see? Pathos. This is a good twist. It’s not as visually appealing as the prostitute but conveys a nice emotional touch. Women will like it, especially mothers. Besides, physically challenged people are in. Remember the Americans with Disabilities Act? This has got be worth three PCPs.

Anthony Hopkins plays Richard Nixon, the disgraced president. Nixon is the antithesis of political correctness. But, that’s OK, because the movie is a hatchet job on the guy. That’s good. That’s very good. Nixon-bashing has been politically correct since before anyone even had a word for it. That must be worth at least five points.

As far as I could tell there were no prostitutes in his life, so that’s a negative. Also, no prominent AIDS victims were associated with Nixon’s life or administration, except maybe Roy Cohn. But, he was very problematic. An anti-communist, Jewish person who helped the hated Joe McCarthy. Better keep that ten-foot pole handy.

In the movie both Nixon and his wife are allegedly depicted as heavy drinkers. The drug abuse angle again—that’s good. But, here there is no redemptive result: that’s even better! Hopkins is a foreign-born actor who even speaks with an English accent. So, that is a plus.

Michael Medved intensely disliked the movie, but the premier gatekeepers of political correctness, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel loved it. That’s better than an Imprimatur.

Sean Penn plays a criminal. That’s good. Criminals are popular in Hollywood. Penn is to be executed, but a compassionate Catholic nun shows up to rescue him from the death penalty. She fails. That makes for a poignant ending. That’s good, because the film is obviously a statement against the death penalty. Three or four points right there.

If you’re a Hollywood type, you want Sean Penn to die for the sake of a strong ending. You need to set it up so that the criminal becomes a sympathetic character. Of course, it would be better if the nun died at the end. But I can’t see how that could be worked into the story. (She could be killed by an antiabortion conspirator . . . Nah!) After all, this was based on real characters; probably pretty much the way Nixon was based on real characters.

So, death is good. The death of a criminal is good. But the death penalty is bad. So, you make the execution into a statement against the death penalty. All very compelling.

Yet, let’s consider the considerable negatives. The protagonist is a nun. That makes her a women. That’s good. Women are good in film. But, she’s not showing anything, because she’s a nun. No points there.

On the other hand, it’s a good thing for the feminists, who are politically correct, and who aren’t too fond of women showing off their breasts for men. If the nun, played by Susan Sarandon, had a lesbian love affair, that would be different. If she got AIDS, well, the Oscar would probably be in the bag. But, the woman doesn’t even have a limp.

Nevertheless, there is a big, big negative here. She’s a nun, a Roman Catholic. That is not politically correct. All that Papist stuff and celibacy. No sex, no abortion, no condoms, no divorce, no fun. Definitely out. On the other hand, if she and Sean Penn. . . .

So, what’s the final verdict? According to my method, the scores tally up this way: Massimo Troisi-3 PCPs; Nicolas Cage-6 PCPs; Richard Dreyfuss-5 PCPs; Sean Penn-5 PCPs; Anthony Hopkins-8 PCPs. The big winner, the one with the most politically correct points and the least negative points is Anthony Hopkins in Nixon.

By the time you read this, the Ocsars will have been announced, and we will know how well the Politically Correct Method of Film Criticism works.

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At the time this article was published, George Kocan was a writer living in Warrenville, Illinois.

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