Ed Driscoll

When Star Power Misfires

You can just picture the meeting in the United Artists boardroom: “Well boys, I say we write that check for $35 million to Robert Redford to direct and star in an anti-Bush, antiwar drama alongside Meryl Streep and the almost always bankable Tom Cruise. What could go wrong?”

Update: Related thoughts from Robert Bidinotto, the editor of the New Individualist magazine, who asks, “How does Hollywood expect general American audiences to ratify, with their entertainment dollars, movies that essentially spit in their own faces, blaming them for being a malignant force in the world?”

That dovetails into a telling anecdote from Jonah Goldberg’s USA Today essay:

The public doesn’t get to decide what movies are made. As President Bush might say, Hollywood is the “decider.” The public determines which movies are successful. Perhaps the studios of yesteryear knew something today’s moguls don’t. Maybe Americans don’t like to see America and her troops run down, even during an unpopular war.

When Peter Berg tested The Kingdom on Americans, he was horrified when the audience cheered when the FBI killed the terrorists at the end. “Am I experiencing American bloodlust?” the director agonized. Berg’s contemptuous reaction toward American audiences may point to a few of the reasons these movies are faring poorly at American box offices.

Or as George Clooney babbled last year at the Oscars:

“I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects.”

What happens when you’re an out of touch coastal artists’ enclave, and you bring up a subject? Sometimes, like the director of The Kingdom, you get whiplash when your potential domestic audience out in the hinterlands is 180 degrees out of phase from your tunnelvision and freeze-dried 1960s mindset.