February 22, 2013


Oscars 2013: what the nominations say about America : From Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained to Lincoln and Life Of Pi, the Oscar-nominated Hollywood films champion hope, faith and vengeance - or the moral values of the wild west (David Cox, 2/21/13, guardian.co.uk)

[A]merica's time-honoured vision of itself, as celebrated by the nominees, has a more robust side. Good must triumph over evil, and this may require the best efforts of American heroes. As frontiersmen or their descendants, these heroes aren't required to stand on ceremony.

The faint-hearts and surrender-monkeys of the old world may get side-tracked by scruples; but that isn't the American way. Go get the bad guy, dead or alive, appears to remain the favoured approach. Unfortunately, the nominees' enthusiastic endorsement of this outlook cannot disguise its limitations.

What the critic Michael Medved once called Hollywood's relentless message "that violence offers an effective solution for all human problems" lives on in this year's Oscar lists. Watching Django Unchained, you can feel Quentin Tarantino's delight in bounty-hunter justice. Like so many American film-makers before him, he seems to be pleading wistfully for a world in which you can simply confront evil, open fire and sling the corpse behind your saddle.

That the pursuit of such a course can dehumanise the pursuer is acknowledged but embraced. Django hesitates to shoot a man in front of his child. He is educated out of such misgivings by a wiser man, and learns to enjoy violence for its own sake; this makes him more effective at exacting justice.

The gun lobby is using Django Unchained to promote its cause among African Americans. If the film's equation of violence with justice also inspires imitation, its impact will hardly be benign. Yet at least this film is located firmly in a more primitive past. Translated to our own era, its outlook seems more dubious.

Zero Dark Thirty's much-discussed ambiguity on the use of torture reflects the film's sympathy for total war on those deemed to be the enemies of what is right. 

Posted by at February 22, 2013 5:05 AM

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