After the well-reviewed Stop-Loss failed to pack ‘em in opening weekend, a studio source told Deadline Hollywood Daily’s Nikki Finke:
No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It’s a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that’s unresolved yet. It’s a shame because it’s a good movie that’s just ahead of its time.
Stop-Loss was far from “ahead of it’s time,” and thankfully, through emerging new media, the public was clued in by talk radio and Internet blogs to the fact that Stop-Loss was yet another anti-war screed where the filmmakers take their war bitterness out on our troops by portraying them as drunks, crazies, and wife-beaters. The public was also clued in that by any reasonable artistic standard Stop-Loss was a melodramatic mess filled with contrivances only awarded positive reviews because its politics were correct.
In March of 2008, Stop-Loss was about to open, but the Washington Post had already its obituary written:
After five years of conflict in Iraq, Hollywood seems to have learned a sobering lesson: The only things less popular than the war itself are dramatic films and television shows about the conflict.
A spate of Iraq-themed movies and TV shows haven’t just failed at the box office. They’ve usually failed spectacularly, despite big stars, big budgets and serious intentions.
The underwhelming reception from the public raises a question: Are audiences turned off by the war, or are they simply voting against the way filmmakers have depicted it?
The Post, as you can see, followed the studio narrative in lamenting the box office failure of “Iraq-themed” films, as opposed to what they really are: pro-defeat films that in some cases are outright anti-American and too often defame the troops. This focus on the term “Iraq-themed” to explain box office humiliation is still in use by the left-wing media for reasons obvious to anyone interested in what audiences are truly interested in seeing.
Had the media (and Hollywood, for that matter) broadened their focus from “Iraq-themed” to “War on Terror-themed” films this would have forced them to talk about the single war film that made a profit: Vantage Point, a little Islamic terrorist thriller starring Dennis Quaid and William Hurt. This $40 million film was released the month before the Washington Post piece was written to lukewarm reviews, but still it managed to make a respectable $73 million here in America and another $78 million overseas — making it by far the biggest moneymaker of all the war-themed films to come out this last year.
No one wants to talk about the standalone success of Vantage Point because it’s a pro-American film that portrays the American President (Hurt) as a noble, brave, and selfless man. Imagine the denial some would be forced to overcome in reporting that a dozen pro-defeat films failed miserably, but the one pro-American one didn’t.
It’s not just narrative anti-war films cratering at the box office. Documentaries are somehow doing worse. Even after winning last year’s Best Documentary Oscar, Taxi To The Darkside cleared an abysmal $286,000 at the box office. So in denial is Alex Gibney, the film’s director, that he’s suing his distributor for failing to publicize the film properly, as though an Oscar win wasn’t publicity enough.
Ever the studio enablers, the L.A. Times covered this recent spate of documentary flops but saw no correlation other than genre:
Critically acclaimed films about provocative subjects struggle to make money all the time, but rarely have so many lauded documentaries consistently failed to connect at the box office.
The article goes on to list a half-dozen box office failures, most of which approach their subjects from a decidedly left-of-center point of view: Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains, Standard Operating Procedure, Taxi To The Darkside, and Bigger, Strong, Faster, (a look at steroid use, promoted with an odd Bush-bashing trailer from Magnolia’s Mark Cuban, who should know better after his Redacted failed to clear $66,000 domestically).
Like the Washington Post‘s refusal to mention Vantage Point in their look at narrative war-themed failures, The L.A. Times conspicuously ignored a title, as well: Ben Stein’s conservative look at the intelligent design debate, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
Stein’s conservative leaning Expelled may not have set the box office afire, but with a domestic gross of $7.6 million it made more than most of the left-wing documentary flops put together and currently ranks #5 as the all-time box office champ in the political documentary genre. But the L.A. Times remarkably (or not, if you’re a longtime reader) did not find this worth mentioning.
Media perpetrators of liberal bias generally look for refuge from criticism behind a “facts” defense, as though being “factually correct” is all that’s necessary in the proper and responsible reporting of a story. Bias, of course, as fair-minded people well know, is rarely as blatant and bizarre as Dan Rather’s attempt to usher John Kerry into the White House reporting on thirty-year-old military documents produced on a new computer. Instead, bias is generally the result of what is and isn’t covered — a lack of context.
One of the biggest entertainment stories of the year has been covered by Big Media in a way that can only be defended as “factually correct,” but the real story hasn’t been told.
What’s most worrisome is that Hollywood, the industry that stands to most profit from giving the public what it wants, appears to be even less interested.