On Friday I went to see Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s latest, Sweeney Todd. It’s probably the strangest film I’ve ever seen, equal parts heavily designed fantasy flick, musical theater and buckets-o-blood slasher film. Depp is amazing, as are all of the actors, who all sing their own parts. The film is 90% sung and sung extremely well to its Sondheim score. Sacha Baron Cohen nearly steals the film portraying a rival barber to Depp’s Todd. And the art and set design are what we’ve come to expect from Tim Burton: A little heavy-handed, a lot over the top, but showcasing brilliant use of light and color to create the fantasy world that the characters inhabit.
But I can’t really recommend the film in spite of all that. It’s a collection of brilliant performances and production decisions in the service of a story that left me wishing I hadn’t seen it. Some good films are like that.
The other reason not to see Sweeney Todd or any other Hollywood film right now is the heavy-handed anti-war agitprop you’ll have to sit through in the previews. Yes, the previews.
Not satisfied with its string of war flops and smears of the US military in Iraq, from In the Valley of Elah to Redacted, in March Hollywood will serve up Stop-Loss. Starring Ryan Phillipe, Stop-Loss tells the story of a soldier who is retained in the military on his last day of service and told he’s being shipped back to Iraq. But watch the trailer. Not content just to preach against one clause that’s in every single military volunteer’s contract, the film suggests that the soldier and his unit committed war crimes in Iraq. It promotes re-instating the draft. It states flatly that desertion is more honorable than service. In taking these lines, Stop-Loss is promoting the extreme left, Cindy Sheehan World Can’t Wait point of view.
As usual with these anti-war films, it doesn’t even look like an original or compelling story. The film’s backers and producers and actors probably don’t care that it’ll lose money, because they’re making their statement against the war and that’s what really mattes to them. But I’m done with the theater experience if it’s going to be impossible to go see any film for grown-ups and get hit over the head with leftist anti-war propaganda in the mix. I’ll rent DVDs, I’ll watch pay-per-view, etc, but I’ll avoid the theaters altogether. I like the theater experience but I’m fed up with Hollywood preaching to me and I’m beyond fed up with feeding that beast.
And by the way, Hollywood can produce all the Stop-Loss garbage that it wants to without fearing the wrath of McCain-Feingold. But for some reason, the political documentary Hillary: The Movie, made outside of Hollywood for far less money than the average commercial film and certain to have a far smaller potential audience than anything Michael Moore has made, can’t be advertised without running into McCain’s monster? Tell me again, Johnny Mac, how did your bill get money out of politics again?
Update: Here’s anti-war propaganda of a different variety. I suppose one of our commenters doesn’t want this talked about too.