Hollywood seems to have a death wish. After a half century of ignoring the conservative half of America, Hollywood has taken to insulting it. Headlines like “Meryl Streep Pledges to Stand Up to ‘Brownshirts’ in Tirade Against Trump” will assure another record low audience for the upcoming Oscars.
A few years back Streep was among the many who gave Roman Polanski a standing ovation when he won an Oscar for best director in absentia. That he admittedly drugged and raped a thirteen-year-old, then fled the country to avoid prosecution, did not trouble Streep and her fellow Hollywood worthies. Streep’s brownshirts apparently have a keener sense of irony than Streep does, a keener sense of morality too.
All that said, Hollywood managed to produce a better-than-average crop of Oscar nominated films, none of which actively offends and several of which are worth seeing. Many are still playing at local cinemas. A quick run down from the top:
La La Land: Okay, it is a musical, but the freshest and most original since Singing in the Rain. Will win Best Picture and should.
Hidden Figures: While Hollywood was busily producing films designed to put the white man in his place, Hidden Figures sneaks in and shows how faith, family, and patriotism pull us all together. It has proved to be a surprise hit, a surprise that is to people who don’t understand America.
Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson was allowed back in the fold and responded with this tribute to the power of Christian faith in war time. Not for the squeamish, but no more violent than an effective war movie has to be.
Hell or High Water: An amoral crime thriller but tightly made and relieved by Jeff Bridges’s shockingly un-PC banter.
Lion: Another worthy tear jerker about the power of family, this one set in India and Australia.
Manchester by the Sea: Moving and visually impressive, it is the rare Hollywood movie about real adults having real problems in real places.
Fences: An earnest if stagy film version of August Wilson’s play, Fences, like Hidden Figures, focuses on universal issues, not strictly racial ones. It co-stars Kansas City’s Stephen McKinley Henderson, whose late blooming career has not gotten its due locally.
Moonlight: Critics loved this coming-of-age tale of a young black man with sexual identity issues, but how could they not? That said, it makes some good, gritty points about the perils of family breakdown.
Arrival: A dopey, PC sci-film with moral pretensions not unlike,say, the original The Day the Earth Stood Still.