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Ed Driscoll

Springtime for Secretariat

October 8th, 2010 - 12:47 am

Watching the trailer for Secretariat that trotted onscreen before (if I remember correctly) Toy Story 3 this past summer didn’t exactly leave me with a great desire to see the film, but man, after reading Andrew O’Hehir absolutely lose it in Salon, I’m starting to get pretty psyched. (Link safe; goes to John Nolte at Big Hollywood):

[T]he movie itself is ablaze with its own crazy sense of purpose. (Or as if someone just off-screen were burning a cross on the lawn.) …

“Secretariat” is a work of creepy, half-hilarious master-race propaganda almost worthy of Leni Riefenstahl[.] …

Although the troubling racial subtext is more deeply buried here than in “The Blind Side” (where it’s more like text, period), “Secretariat” actually goes much further, presenting a honey-dipped fantasy vision of the American past as the Tea Party would like to imagine it, loaded with uplift and glory and scrubbed clean of multiculturalism and social discord. In the world of this movie, strong-willed and independent-minded women like Chenery are ladies first (she’s like a classed-up version of Sarah Palin feminism)[.] …

[Randall] Wallace, also the director of “We Were Warriors” and the writer of “Pearl Harbor” and “Braveheart,” is one of mainstream Hollywood’s few prominent Christians, and has spoken openly about his faith and his desire to make movies that appeal to “people with middle-American values.” …

But it’s legitimate to wonder exactly what Christian-friendly and “middle-American” inspirational values are being conveyed here, or whether they’re just providing cover for some fairly ordinary right-wing ideology and xenophobia. …

[Secretariat] himself is a big, handsome MacGuffin, symbolic window dressing for a quasi-inspirational fantasia of American whiteness and power.

As John Nolte jokes:

Wow! Cross burning, xenophobia, Leni Riefenstahl, master-race, and whiteness and power, all in a review of a harmless little family flick about a horse. There’s part of me that admires O’Hehir’s ability to summon that kind of rage. Where was he when I couldn’t pull those grocery carts apart?

You can read the whole write-up but the full rant and rave won’t make any more sense … because it’s not supposed to. The buzz words are all that matters, the tainting as Hitler-ish those apostates in Hollywood who dared produce a film for the everyday Americans O’Hehir so obviously despises and fears.

That’s one safe bet about the critics on the left: once they compare a mainstream Hollywood movie to the products of Leni Riefenstahl, you know it’s going to be good. In the previous decade, the Riefenstahl card was only reserved for films like The Passion and 300 (Another film I only watched because so many leftwing critics wet themselves over it). Oh, and that frightening piece of radical rightwing Christianist agitprop, Tom Hanks’ The Polar Express.

Back in 2006, when Brokeback Mountain debuted to boffo reviews in all the usual places, but only so-so box office, Michael Medved wrote:

The publicists and activists involved in promoting Brokeback Mountain seem almost disappointed that religious conservatives have expressed so little indignation. No major organizations called for a boycott of the film, or threatened its producers, or made any serious attempt to interfere with those who might enjoy this artfully-crafted motion picture (it has become a modest commercial success). In the heartland of Evangelical America, Brokeback has generated more ho-hums than howls of protest (or hosannas).

Similarly, around that same time, Mark Steyn added, “The more artful leftie websites have taken to complaining that the religious right deliberately killed Brokeback at the box-office by declining to get mad about it.”

So when will the left get the hint that playing the Riefenstahl retort is a losing hand, as it will likely cause people to see what the fuss is all about…in this case, about an innocuous family Disney movie about a successful racehorse and the team that ran it to victory?

But these days, just about every major film gets accused by some critic of being racist, and/or having subliminal Nazi imaginary buried in it. And these are “liberal” film critics who profess to liking the movies industry! Is there a cumulative impact of those complaints — most of which are coming from the same side of the political aisle as most Hollywood insiders? If one were to take them all seriously, you’d have to assume that Hollywood is an absolutely seething hotbed of hatred and racism — and if that’s true, why would anyone want to see their product?

By the way, any word on whether or not Jodie Foster will ever get to make her dream movie — a more or less sympathetic biopic about Riefenstahl? I can’t wait to read the reviews in Slate and Salon about that one.

Update: Welcome Big Hollywood readers! If you spot any other reviews from major film critics or liberal Websites that link a Hollywood product with Leni, let me know in the comments.

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