William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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OSCAR – AT 10:38 A.M. ET:  It's Oscar night tonight.  Aren't you excited?  The fading of the golden age of American film coincided with the growth of television, so at least we got to see, if only on grainy black-and-white sets, what real movie stars looked and sounded like. 

It may have been pure surface, but at least there was some class to it.  Tonight we will be treated to a parade of "stars" who most of us never heard of.  Some are very talented, no doubt.  The acting quality today is probably better than ever.  What will be missing is size, that "indefinable something extra" that makes for an enduring star.  We will also be treated, no doubt, to the usual political comments from the fringe left that dominates the movie industry. 

When I worked on "The Tonight Show" many moons ago, I witnessed part of a cultural transition:  It was the TV stars, not the movie stars, who got the greatest applause from the audience.  The movie stars, at least the more mature ones, at times appeared to the audience to be curiosities.

There will be some good movies on display tonight.  There always are.  With all its current failings, the movie industry does turn out a certain number of solid films each year.  We also, though, may see something very sad – the denial of the "best picture" Oscar to the most deserving film, based on political considerations.  In my view, "Zero Dark Thirty," directed by Kathryn Bigelow, towers over the other entries.  It also was our chance to get Hollywood back to some semblance of pro-Americanism.  The movie superbly depicts, and cheers, the successful effort to get Osama bin Laden, and does so without tackiness.  But because it depicts rough interrogation techniques, it has been accused of championing those techniques, which it never does.  Depiction is not advocacy.  But the accusation has allowed the left to have a field day, denouncing the movie and setting it back in the Oscar race.

So, unless there's a revolt by the Oscar voters, the prize will probably go to some other movie.  That's sad.  It's especially sad because Kathryn Bigelow is our leading female director.  The trashing she's received from the left shows, once again, how little regard the left truly has for women's accomplishment.  Get out of line politically, girlie, and we'll ruin you. 

The Oscar betting is on "Argo" and "Silver Linings Playbook."  "Argo" is a terrific movie, very enjoyable, and "Silver Linings Playbook" is overrated, with moments of quality.  But neither compares to "Zero Dark Thirty."  Neither does "Lincoln," which could have been so much more. 

The history of Hollywood is filled with movies that took years to win full recognition.  "Singin' in the Rain" was only mildly successful when it first came out.  I hope "Zero Dark Thirty" will get its due when America wakes up from its current cultural sleep.

February 24, 2013