Depressing movies

The worst-performing new film of the weekend in America was Stop Loss. It’s an anti-military, anti-US, anti-Iraq war film that got huge promotion and advertising money, wonderful reviews from the critics, and a response from movie fans that put it in the tradition of the other great anti-Iraq war films of 2007 and 2008: In the Valley of Elah, Lambs for Lions, Rendition, Redacted

At Deadline Hollywood, a morose, misguided explanation:

“It’s not looking good,” a studio source told me before the weekend. “No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It’s a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that’s unresolved yet. It’s a shame because it’s a good movie that’s just ahead of its time.”

Is that really the reason? Are people really put off by the Iraq war? These films have stars (Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon). They have directors (Brian de Palma, Robert Redford). And every one of them, no expections every single one of them has a political viewpoint that the war, the soldiers, the policy and America are evil. Every anti-Iraq war film oozes the evil that is America, with no redeeming values. 

But it’s worse. “America shuns Hollywood’s take on Iraq”, screams the Guardian newspaper of Britain. Britain… sounds familiar. Oh, wait, right, that’s the country where anti-Iraq films are reviewed by newspapers like the Guardian, and shunned by the movie-going public, right?

It’s not like Hollywood is getting rich feeding its own cannabilistic anti-American fantasies to Japan, France, Britain and Thailand after all. The movies have tanked around the world. Hollywood can’t find anyone, anywhere who likes its anti-Iraq war films.

Now. The Number 1 new movie of the weekend at the American box office was 21. It got mostly terrible reviews, but it turns out that the critics were as wrong as they usually are. Same source, this time quoting a marketing person:

“It is wish fulfilment in the truest sense of the phrase, this notion of a real person being able to beat the system, get the girl and live the life. The pic tapped into that really nicely.”

So around a dozen major and semi-major films with a message of gloom, doom, anti-Americanism fail. And a predicted failure of a movie with a message of hope, opportunity, achievement and love succeeds.

The sad lesson is not that the US movie industry fails to pour money and star power into Iraq-war movies. The lesson is that to get the money to make a movie on the Iraq war, you have to be a certain type of star, with a certain world view. You want proof? How much do you want to bet that Hollywood will back an Iraq war movie by Bruce Willis?

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