News broke early this morning of the passing of conservative new media mogul Andrew Breitbart. In addition to his Breitbart.tv video aggregation site, Breitbart put together a network of sites offering conservative viewpoints on different areas of politics and journalism. One of those was his Big Hollywood site, which, in addition to covering and shaping right-of-center views on pop culture, featured a steady stream of film reviews and broader looks at the movie industry.
Undoubtedly, there are some cinephiles (including Criticwire readers) who object to Big Hollywood’s frequent categorization of Hollywood as a self-serving liberal breeding ground. But most of the overtly conservative sentiments come from the site’s blog-like features (you’d be hard-pressed to find headlines like “Bill Maher: Non-Apathetic Atheist” and “Mark Boal: Hollywood’s Go-To Hack for All Things Pseudo-Military” on the Huffington Post). Looking at some of the excerpts from reviews by Big Hollywood writers like John Nolte, Christian Toto and Mike Long, “conservative film criticism” is a phrase that doesn’t always necessitate its qualifier. When it comes to discussing indie films, Big Hollywood has occasionally refrained from an explicit partisan filter. Some of their opinions are certainly the minority in the realm of film criticism, but that doesn’t mean they were always delivered in a decidedly contrarian manner. (Nolte’s list of the Top 25 Left Wing Films is somewhat less subtle, but give him credit for giving credit.)
We looked back at some of the more acclaimed American films from the last few years to see how Breitbart’s site contributed to the cinematic conversation.
“‘The Hurt Locker’ is not about Iraq, why we went there, what we did when we got there, or whether we should have gone in the first place. It is not about American foreign policy or domestic disagreement over that policy; it’s not even about soldiers or their qualities or character … it’s not about politics at all… ‘The Hurt Locker’ is not a story but a character study. It is rare that a character study is carried out with so much expert attention to making a truly engaging and entertaining picture. ‘The Hurt Locker’ is an apolitical and very entertaining movie about a very interesting man.”
“‘Tree of Life’ is a noble failure, however; an ambitious director pushing himself to create a feeling — and succeeding at times. The problem is that he’s unable to sustain that feeling over 139 minutes. Obviously Malick’s feeling his age (67) and The Big Questions feel more pressing then ever — questions about where we came from and, more importantly, where we go next. ‘Tree of Life’ tries to give us the answers, or at the very least, hope, which is worth something. But that’s the stuff of a fascinating late night conversation, not a film — where themes require the vehicle of a story.”
“If anything, ‘The Social Network’ feels like a two act film. You keep hoping and waiting for that third act where someone anyone will find some sort of personal redemption through something other than a victory in court or a deadpan quip. But it’s painfully obvious that this is a production meant to be an awards magnet, a prestige film, and for whatever reason, these days ‘important’ is always translated into something emotionally distant, spiritually bankrupt, and carried by a smarter-than-thou anti-hero destined to be left hanging in some ironic limbo of his own making. ‘The Social Network,’ is, well, clever. Yes, that’s the word: clever. And good for it. Hats off, respect, and all due applause. From the photography to Trent Reznor’s driving, moody score, I’m impressed because there’s a whole lot to be impressed by. But I’m also indifferent.”
“Durkin ladles out the flashback with frightening precision. Every reveal is slightly more menacing than the last, until we start to fear that Patrick’s cult may not be done with Martha just yet. Olsen doesn’t step near a false note here, delivering a portrait of a woman so closed off we wait for any suggestion that her mental recovery is under way. It’s a guarded performance, one unwilling to let it all hang out for the purposes of an easy awards show clip reel. Durkin needs little help ratcheting up the film’s mounting tension, but the numbing soundtrack ebbs and flows in just the right moments to make Martha’s recovery all the more dramatic. One sequence features a keening wail that all but suffocates the characters in fear… The most inelegantly named film of the year may end up being its best.”
“No stereotypes, no spell-breaking with out-of-place references to race or religion, just a very simple story told sparingly and effectively about real people — good and bad — living life their own way. Some might complain that the criminal portrayal alone is a stereotype, but that’s unfair. ‘Winter’s Bone’ is like any mob or gang drama, this one just happens to be set in the Ozarks. And though many of the characters are involved in something bad, each is given their own humanity and in many cases, even portrayed with sympathy. You also come to respect many of the character’s individual qualities; their independence, pride and intelligence. We’re not watching the condemnation of a lifestyle a bigoted Hollywood usually ridicules and marginalizes. Just the opposite. We’re shown what this poison of drugs has done to a once proud and dignified culture. I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to pay extra special attention to a scene involving an Army recruiter. Nothing major happens, but it’s a beautifully written and acted scene that uncharacteristically portrays the military in a very real, human and sensitive light. But that’s true for the entire film.”
And a reminder that some conservatives aren’t big fans of “Crash” either.
“There are all kinds of movies I dislike, ignore, dismiss and am even disgusted by. This is one of the rare titles I absolutely loathe. This overwrought, melodramatic, piece of pretentious crap reeks of a left-wing superiority that emanates from the Hollywood Hills and looks down its oh-so-superior nose on the ‘little people’ of Los Angeles. Sanctimony is its theme, superiority its muse, and smearing its goal. It’s an abomination of a film that reveals nothing about the good people of the Southland, who live and work and worship together in complete harmony, and everything about the self-serving elites who created and championed it.”