Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Oscars

I was born in Hollywood too many years ago. My family moved west before World War One, and watched bemused as the movie industry transplanted itself to Hollywood from the East Coast.

To say the family were unimpressed with "the movie people" would be a vast understatement. "Fear and loathing" would only be half right, the "loathing" part. There was no fear.

My dear old dad's too-sweeping generalization was that they were "lowlife scum." I figured out later he made particular reference to Fatty Arbuckle and his fellow orgiasts. The generalized sleeping around was scandalous then while very ho-hum today. Their politics didn't impress him either.

I'm sure you've heard about Sen. McCarthy and the Red scare of the 1950s, plus the resulting Hollywood blacklists. The conventional wisdom is it was horrible and unjustified. Dad had friends on the LAPD "red squad" who took it very seriously ... it was the real deal.

Try a thought experiment. Imagine that Hollywood actually was permeated by Communists in the 30s and 40s, people trying to sell the Marxist line of thought through films. Not so much the onscreen talent, more the directors and particularly the writers.

Now rewatch the Bogart/Bergman classic Casablanca and actually pay attention to the dialog and plot line. It is clear the Paul Henreid character was a Communist in everything but name, and the Bogart character is alleged to have leanings in that direction as well, although he half-heartedly denies them. It's still a great movie, but it's also subtle agitprop.

The last couple of movies out of Hollywood I've seen - the most recent Star Wars and Harry Potter series films - have been real bow-wows, pretty to look at but with very weak plot lines. I'll pass on watching the Oscars, as I have for perhaps two decades, it's just not my thing.