The way the economy has turned out since the launch of Obamanomics, some people speculate that the only argument Barack Obama might have in 2012 is, “I got Bin Laden.” Apparently, Hollywood has the same worries. That may be why a new film about the mission that killed al-Qaeda’s master has an opening date that comes three weeks before the election — a coincidence that even Maureen Dowd can’t buy:
The White House clearly blessed the dramatic reconstruction of the mission by Nicholas Schmidle in The New Yorker — so vividly descriptive of the Seals’ looks, quotes and thoughts that Schmidle had to clarify after the piece was published that he had not actually talked to any of them.
“I’ll just say that the 23 Seals on the mission that evening were not the only ones who were listening to their radio communications,” Schmidle said, answering readers’ questions in a live chat, after taking flak for leaving some with the impression that he had interviewed the heroes when he wrote in his account that it was based on “some of their recollections.”
The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made “The Hurt Locker” will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.
Well, the project is off to a great start. The writer has already been caught fibbing about his sources. The combination of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal worked well in The Hurt Locker (I interviewed Boal twice before the film opened) and gave a fair presentation of the military, in most estimations; this film will almost certainly be worth the price of the ticket. That is, it will be if the film focuses on the bravery and accomplishment of the SEALs (an acronym that the NYT manages to get wrong in Dowd’s column — it’s not “Seals”) and not on Obama. Its opening date signals a different intent.
Dowd, however, notes that the “blessing” in this case is extraordinarily self-serving for this particular administration:
The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.
It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals.
The entertainment industry seems pretty worried about Obama’s prospects, and they should be. This time, money won’t be enough. They need to make a two-hour campaign ad, apparently. For a President who rudely and ignorantly scolded the Supreme Court over its Citizens United decision, Obama sure seems happy to take advantage of it, doesn’t he?
Update: It’s stories like this that put Glenn Reynolds in the mood for some tax hikes:
Were I a Republican senator or representative, I would be agitating to repeal the “Eisenhower tax cut” on the movie industry and restore the excise tax. I think I would also look at imposing similar taxes on sales of DVDs, pay-per-view movies, CDs, downloadable music, and related products.
I’d also look at the tax and accounting treatment of these industries to see if they were taking advantage of any special “loopholes” that could be closed as a means of reducing “tax expenditures.” (Answer: Yes, they are.)
America, after all, is facing the largest national debt in relation to GDP that it has faced since the end of World War II, so a return to the measures deemed necessary then is surely justifiable now.
The president’s own rhetoric about revenues certainly suggests so. Perhaps the bill could be named the “Greatest Generation Tax Fairness Act” in recognition of its history.
Should legislation of this sort be passed — or even credibly threatened — I think we can expect to see Hollywood rediscover the dangers posed by “job killing tax increases,” just as pro-tax-increase Warren Buffet changed his tune once his own corporate-jet business was threatened.
Doesn’t everyone have to “pitch in,” as our President demanded throughout this debate? This puts me in mind of my review of Two Weeks Notice from December 2002 (pre-blogging!), a film which was overtly hostile to capitalism — and completely hypocritical:
First, TWN continues the whole “bad capitalist — good socialist” thread that runs through Hollywood films. Bullock, being the daughter of 60’s radicals (“You were on the White House enemies list when you were five years old!” her parents tell her with glee), is the idealistic lawyer (LAWYER!) who wants to set the world right by stopping Grant’s company from redeveloping New York City. Grant seduces Bullock by tempting her with the millions of dollars she can direct into charitable efforts. But nowhere in the film does she ever do anything like that, nor is that given more than a passing mention by any character in the movie. And never is any hint that redevelopment (a) provides jobs, and (b) stimulates the economy by providing lease space for businesses — and therefore more jobs — rather than leaving buildings as museums for architecture. The whole thing is very one-sided. Fortunately, TWN doesn’t beat you over the head with it, but it definitely has to get in a couple of shots at President Bush. I guess you don’t get SAG sanction without that, these days.
(Just a thought, but how exactly do they raise the money to shoot these anti-capitalist films, anyway? It takes at least $20 million to make a studio film these days. Wouldn’t THAT money be better spent on saving old buildings from destruction? Or is it only okay for Hollywood studios and stars to make profits? Dana Ivey says that a $50 million profit is “unconscionable”; I wonder what the writers think about Bullock’s and Grant’s salaries.)
Bullock’s salary for this film didn’t get released, but she made $15 million for Murder By Numbers that same year. Grant made $12.5 million for this film. I have no problem with Hollywood actors getting big bucks to star in films; they operate in a free market, and should earn as much as the market will bear. It’s their money. Too bad Hollywood doesn’t have that same attitude with everyone else.