Thursday, October 25, 2007

What does preachy Hollywood know about war anyway?

The wisdom of American moviegoers. Unlike the mostly anti-war VietNam movies that were made long after the conflict ended, this crop of anti-war flicks are made without full knowledge, retrospection or gravitas. The people aren't fooled by the know-it-all moralists like Brian DePalma who recently had the gaul to criticize embedded reporters.
It doesn't matter how many Oscar winners are in front of or behind the camera — audiences are proving to be conscientious objectors when it comes to this fall's surge of antiwar and anti-Bush films.

Both "In the Valley of Elah" and, more recently, "Rendition" drew minuscule crowds upon their release, which doesn't bode well for the ongoing stream of films critical of the Iraq war and the Bush administration's wider war on terror.

"Rendition," which features three Oscar winners in key roles, grossed $4.1 million over the weekend in 2,250 screens for a ninth-place finish. A re-release of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" beat it, and it's 14 years old.

"Rendition" follows an Egyptian-American who gets kidnapped by U.S. authorities who think he's a terrorist. Reese Witherspoon plays the man's wife, Meryl Streep dials up her dark side as the official who keeps his disappearance a secret and Alan Arkin is a senior senator with the power to influence the case. Meanwhile, the man is shipped off to an unnamed North African country, where he is tortured for information.

"Elah" boasts Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon, another Oscar-winning triumvirate, under professionally red-hot director Paul Haggis, who won his own Oscar for "Crash." Mr. Haggis' drama focuses on the disappearance of an Iraq war veteran upon his return home.

Beyond the fiction features, the anti-Iraq war documentary "No End in Sight" (box office: $1.4 million) couldn't capture the indie crowd, beating a swift retreat to DVD next Tuesday despite glowing reviews.

Brandon Gray, president and publisher of www.boxofficemojo.com, says audiences seek out movies for inspiration, for laughter and to be moved.

"Many of these recent dramas fail on all those fronts," Mr. Gray says. "They're too heavy handed in their presentation."
With their anti-war posturing these movies probably have all the subtlety of a daisy-cutter. Bill O'Reilly has more.

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