Blessed are the “Pure” for They Shall See Oscar

The 90th Academy Awards ceremony took place last night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, at 5 p.m. PST.

The awards of late have become more politicized than ever. In the past, what was needed to win an Academy Award was a good movie—plus a considerable budget to promote it amongst members of the academy. In latter years, amid the proliferation of pressure groups, the process seems to have become instead a straw poll among various interest groups as to: “Whose turn is it to win something this year?” Nevertheless, this year’s ceremony was more interesting than usual given the new puritanism that has broken out in the Hollywood Hills.

Increasingly more akin to Salem of the seventeenth century than California in the twenty-first century, Hollywood is undergoing some form of purification. Over the last year, scandal after scandal has emanated from La-La Land. This has arguably been more intriguing to watch than any of the films in which those accused acted in, directed or produced.

And it is not just the current crop of a la mode actors and directors who have come unstuck by the scandals. Veteran actors and directors have also been fair game. Some of these have come in for a repeat of the vitriol that came their way previously (Woody Allen), while others still seem able to evade justice for crimes committed (Roman Polanski).

 

The context now is different, however. In the cases, at least, of both Allen and Polanski the opprobrium comes not simply from those who say they were, and indeed were, wronged, nor even from the court of public opinion. Those doing the accusing this time are the very actors and actresses who, having been employed by the accused, until relatively recently seemingly working cheerily with them. In Allen’s case, some of these same actors, who had once spoken of their pride in appearing in the director’s movies, now denounce Allen and all his works both on and off screen.

Some observers have described what is taking place in Hollywood as a “witch hunt.” That is unfair to witches. They at least live by some fixed moral code however misguided. Instead, what is being constantly revealed from within the Hollywood Hills is that those in the movie business who work and move about these hills live in a moral vacuum, or, maybe more accurately, they live in a universe were the moral goalposts shift constantly and are therefore totally arbitrary.

Of course, as to the recent scandals, many in the movie industry claim they didn’t know what was happening; or, that they did know but tried to warn others; or that they suspected something but weren’t sure; that, yes, “it” happened to them but they thought it was an isolated one-off incident. What none of them ever say is: “Yes, we knew all along what was really going on but kept quiet because the person involved is rich and powerful and we want to keep working.” And, therefore, today’s handwringing, gesture politics is guilt driven—or, given that this is Hollywood, just another well-scripted survival tactic.

Over the years Hollywood liberals have had a field day denouncing such characters as the anti-Communist crusader, Senator Joseph McCarthy. Is it only a matter of time before we have the likes of “Senator Clooney” and others hauling up any suspected miscreants before a self-appointed jury of La-La Land’s most self-righteous to deliberate on whether the accused should be sent to the Hollywood equivalent of Siberia—probably some small town in the Mid-West full of decent God-fearing folk.

As a backdrop to the 2018 Oscars, this does make the scrutiny of the winners of this year’s Academy Awards all the more fraught. Especially so, as in this “New Salem by the Sea,” there is now a test before any individual can be considered for such an award: the purity test.

At the introduction of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934 to the end of the 1960s, there was a movie industry list of “thou shalt nots.” These were things or situations that were not permitted to be discussed still less presented on screen. Contrary to much that is written in film criticism today, this did not constrain filmmaking. Quite the opposite, in fact, a Golden Age of movie making came into being. In any event, the “purity” talked of today in Hollywood is not a return to the days of the Code, nor is it a concept of purity known to any Christian. This new “purity” is more about virtue signaling as it is about virtue. It is not just that one has to appear to possess this new “purity” but, like Cultural Revolutionary Maoists, you must also denounce everyone in sight who does not appear to fit the bill.

The problem with all of this is that it ends in a circular firing squad. One person accuses another, who in turn is accused by another, whereby a fresh revelation is made of the first, and so on. We are seeing evidence of this already. The recent case of an actor wearing his ‘feminist badge’ to make known his solidarity with actresses across the planet was subsequently accused of all sorts of misdemeanors. Then, we were treated to an angry A-list Hollywood actress who had bestowed the said badge upon him demanding it back. What the actress in question failed to mention is the fact that she has appeared in three Woody Allen movies, and, a few years back, at a French film festival, was seen in a warm embrace with Polanski.

Hollywood, and those who work in the movie industry, should know all too well that comedy is tragedy with its pants down.

Taking our seats for this year’s Oscars, instead of the usual categories, we should have been watching out for the recipients of the newer awards: Best Virtue Signaling; Best Speech Denouncing the Unclean Among Us; Best Performance Saying “I didn’t know”; and Best Kept-Secret in a Supporting Role to the Perpetrators.

Blessed indeed are the “pure” for they shall see Oscar!

K. V. Turley

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K. V. Turley is a London-based freelance writer and filmmaker.

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