August 21, 2019


America the Frenemy: How Hollywood Just Can't Quit Loving the Country It Wants to Hate (John Podhoretz, July 2019, American Consequences)

Even more striking, the year Apocalypse Now was released, Hollywood gave the best picture Oscar to The Deer Hunter, a movie about Vietnam and its effect on people who would, four decades later, hand the presidency to Donald Trump. Its characters go through hell in the course of its three hours, and yet the film concludes with them sitting at a bar mourning the loss of a friend to the madness of Vietnam. Slowly and quietly, then not so quietly, they break into "God Bless America."

The Deer Hunter also beat out Coming Home, a movie about a California housewife with a martinet military husband who does not fulfill her sexually. She only finds satisfaction with an anti-war Vietnam vet in a wheelchair. Her husband intends to kill them but instead drowns himself in the Pacific Ocean in a happy ending that could only have warmed the heart of its star and producer, Jane Fonda. But Coming Home did not go away empty-handed. Fonda won the Oscar, as did Jon Voight for playing the paraplegic. (Decades later, Voight would proclaim Donald Trump the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln, suggesting there will be no reboot of Coming Home anytime soon.)

Nothing, save Trump-hatred, has ever united the American cultural left the way hatred of the Vietnam conflict did. But even Hollywood could not resist the siren song of a bunch of wounded steelworkers intoning "God Bless America," an anthem written by an immigrant boy named Izzy Baline who spoke only Yiddish for the first six years of his life before growing up to become Irving Berlin. And so it would be over the next 40 years, as the anti-Americanism of Oliver Stone and Michael Moore was garlanded by Oscars upon movies more or less forgotten today, while more populist fare like Stripes starring Bill Murray turned into cable classics with every single line of dialogue memorized by millions.

"This is America," Murray says as he rallies the troops to a dazzling performance at their graduation from basic training. "We're 10 and 1!" Later, Murray and his fellows will kind of win the Cold War by invading and then exiting Czechoslovakia in an RV. Harold Ramis, who co-wrote and starred in the movie and fancied himself an anti-establishment type, scoffed at the third-act turn and blamed it on director Ivan Reitman. "That was just Ivan grinding his anti-Communist ax," Ramis told GQ. "His family were Czech refugees." Yeah, an anti-Communist ax. Could you imagine such a thing from a refugee from, you know, Communism?

Stripes is about a rudderless man afflicted by a horrible problem with authority who finds manhood by becoming part of something larger and greater - the United States Army.

After he mouths off one too many times, Murray's drill sergeant says, "You think you know something about everything, don'cha, but you don't know nothing about soldiering... I'm talking about something important, like discipline and duty and honor and courage. And you ain't got none of it!" The sergeant then invites Murray to take a swing at him. Murray does, and misses, and the sergeant knocks the wind out of Murray with a punch to the midsection. The post-'60s jerk gets his.

At the end of the movie, both men salute each other with admiration. No wonder everybody loves Stripes and no reasonable human being on Earth would watch Stone's Platoon a second time.

The most hilarious part of the dustup over The Hunt, even funnier than the Right not getting satire, is that there is not a single counter-cultural movie among the box office leaders.  Popular American movies are, almost exclusively,  about good guys/gals defeating evil.  

Posted by at August 21, 2019 12:01 AM