The rust is showing. Oscar is no longer golden. Rather this statuette and all it represents has been badly tarnished over the years but none quite so badly as this past Sunday night.W ith the Academy Awards completed and the Oscars handed out, we revisit a story from a while ago which exposed Sunday night's winner "American Beauty" as a microcosm of America's woes for the dysfunctional family treated in this film represents
the dysfunctional victim this country has collectively become. When this is laid out
bare on film for all posterity the warts take on an uglier countenance for
spoken words have meaning as do written words. When words and
stories mesh as a film script that finds its way as a finished movie
playing at your local theater, those "meanings" have an immediate effect and
influence unlike any other form of popular art.
Such is the case with the dark and forbidding "comedy" darling of the Academy. It speaks
volumes as to where Hollywood is today in regards to morals and ethics for
"American Beauty" embodies all that is wrong with America and here is nothing beautiful to behold.
It is the tale a dysfunctional family with its double plot of repressed homosexuality and adult fantasies. That's entertainment? The story revolves around the sexual fantasies of the
central character Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey, a married father
in his early forties who is having a mid-life crisis and "riding out" a
troubled marriage with his wife. He begins to fantasize about his daughter's
cheerleader friend, Angela, who sparks a renewal in Lester's life.
But, the most damaging message from the film involves Lester's neighbor,
Ricky, the handsome high school drug dealer who begins selling drugs to
Lester so that he can "expand" his "spiritual side." The constant
dope-smoking has him falling deeper into his fantasies as his wife's
screaming intensifies. The whole family is dysfunctional in the midst of
tranquil suburbia. Bashing suburban peace is a favorite theme of Hollywood
filmmakers who disdain the life of tidy houses and manicured lawns. Other
recent examples of "suburban bashing" was evidenced in "Happiness,"
"Pleasantville," and "The Ice Storm."
However, the disturbing portrait of the drug dealer neighbor in "American
Beauty" as a "sensitive and caring" individual attempts to elevate him to the
movie's only "sympathetic" character. Ricky is constantly video-taping
everything around him for the "hidden beauty" life beholds, such as taping a
plastic bag blowing in the wind. Now, that's beauty, isn't it?
But, in the end, Ricky corrupts Lester's daughter into his hazy lifestyle as
they develop their own "sensitive" relationship. The message of the film is
that drug use is just fine, since Lester undergoes a change for the "better"
as he acquires "peace, wisdom, and serenity." How about poor judgment, lack
of father figure, and even greater dysfunction?
Even though Steven Spielberg bankrolled this movie, critics are quick to point out that it's not fair to say this is a Spielberg
film, per say, because it is actually produced by Don Jinks and Bruce Cohen,
written by Alan Ball, and directed by Sam Mendes. SKG Dream Works just
"happens" to be the film's distributor. But, without a distribution
agreement by Spielberg's company, the film would have never been made, since
all the other studios in Hollywood had the good sense to turn the project
down. Spielberg's involvement was more than passive according to director
Mendes. The October 4, 1999 issue of USA Today says, "a script was handed to
[Mendes] by DreamWorks honcho Steven Spielberg over lunch." That's not
"passive" - that's about as actively direct as it gets. The article
continues, "Mendes was blown away by sitcom writer Alan Ball's story, with
its horrific and dysfunctional family, the spooky boy next door who sells
dope and constantly follows Lester's daughter with his camcorder." That's
Writer Alan Ball's own words show how personal agendas and value
manipulation are often a reflection of their own "dysfunctional" past, which
they are eager to foist on the public. In a screenwriter's magazine, Ball
says a lot of the story comes from personal experience, "I grew up in a
household with a somewhat troubled father figure and a somewhat shut-down
mother figure, so Ricky's household certainly resembles mine in ways." Does
that mean Alan Ball used to sell drugs from his house? Does Steven Spielberg
find that good movie material for a bleak comedy? Ball is also producer of
the faltering TV sitcom "Oh Grow Up!" about two roommates who take in a third
suitor who says he left his wife because he realized he was gay. No wonder
the networks are losing almost one million viewers annually.
As America's drug czar back in 1990, William Bennett made the strong
argument to the movie industry that glamorizing drug use on screen was
harmful. The effects of his convictions were immediately noticeable when the
film industry began to lessen its depiction of drug use, and when it did
depict substance abuse at all, it was shown as destructive, addictive, and
criminal. But, with the now widely publicized friendship between Spielberg
and President Clinton, there's obviously no argument coming from the White
House, especially with Clinton's past history of drug abuse and adultery.
This silence may be due to Clinton's seduction by the film business and
perhaps the chance to work for DreamWorks or even replace Jack Valenti as
President of the Motion Picture Association of America as we shall see in future installments.
The thought of that alone would surely spread greater mayhem on the
But what came to the screen this year is shattering all taboos in following the siren of satan
by exonerating and extolling homosexuality, illicit sex, transvestites and killing unborn
children. These were the themes of movies up for the majority of the Oscars Sunday
night. "The Cider House Rules" prided itself on openly promoting the "virtues of
abortion" and the awarding of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Michael Caine for his portrayal of an
abortion doctor by the Academy further verifies Hollywood's downward spiral. Caine further
exasperated pro-lifers when he said he had great empathy for the abortionist obstetrician Dr. Larch he portrayed. In this role he adopted children of unwed mothers, and then turned around and did abortions on young unwed mothers in order to save them from the "coat-hangers quacks in the back alleys." Did he or Caine ever hear of the word "abstinence?" Yet, Caine qualified it by saying it was "the most compassionate creature I've ever played." Some compassion, killing babies! But if that wasn't bad enough, Cider House's John Irving, Oscar winner for the Best Adapted Screenplay from another medium, had to really stir things up with his comments in his acceptance speech in which he openly thanked the National Abortion Rights League and Planned Parenthood.
Hillary Swank, the twenty-five year-old actress who won for her portrayal of a boy in "Boys Don't Cry," stated boldly that she "prays for the day that we can celebrate our diversity." What she was really saying was "celebrate our perversions." That is the Hollywood agenda today and its choice of winners brings that home crystal clear. The entire Awards show was dysfunctional, honoring drugs, insanity, homosexuality, abortion and non-fidelity. What does that tell you about Hollywood values? Remember, you don't vote for the Golden Globe
winners and you don't vote for Oscar nominations; that's for the industry to decide. They have and their decision doesn't speak well for Hollywood. Nor does it speak well for America, especially for the poor movie goers who plunk down hard-earned cash to see these hyped films, totally naive to the subliminal messages Hollywood is sending.