Fearless Forecast: American Sniper will NOT win for Best Picture

If you’re laying down money on the Oscars… well, you might have a problem. But since we’re this far, my gambling advice would be to take the field against American Sniper. (Just remember: gambling advice is easy when it’s someone else’s money.)

We’d like to believe that the Academy Awards are only about excellence, but that’s a ridiculous expectation. There’s a vote on each award, which means a human element that’s susceptible to the winds of Zeitgeist. (Sidebar: Winds of Zeitgeist sounds like it should be a dime-store novel.) That’s why Michael Moore’s non-criticism criticism of American Sniper back in January damaged the movie’s chances. By injecting his opinions, the once-relevant documentarian Moore predictably drew a response. Conservatives praised the movie loudly while bashing Hollywood liberals.

The result was plenty of chatter about leftist Michael Moore and troop-supporting conservatives – but little about the film’s portrayal of war and the effects of military service on families back on the home front. Given the fact that Chris Kyle’s real-life alleged murderer is on trial right now, the film could have been recognized for making an important statement about post traumatic stress disorder. Instead, Newsmax is banging the drum for a Best Picture Oscar.

If liberals really do control Hollywood, would those who are Academy voters want to cast a vote for a movie that would validate the red-meat conservatives who have so vocally opposed Moore for nearly two months? If you’re looking at two or three movies and wondering who gets your nod, does the idea of controversy steer you away from Sniper?

Michael Moore clearly didn’t hurt the film at the box office, but the controversy over his comments made it tougher for American Sniper to pull off a win on Sunday night.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t see American Sniper, so these arguments aren’t on the merits of the films. (One of the joys of parenthood is that you can critically review every film you go see with, “While the storyline was somewhat derivative of earlier works, but sweet mother of jellybeans it was nice to get out of the house for two hours.”)  Maybe the other movies are actually better; maybe they aren’t. But clearly, thanks to the backlash against Moore, Sniper has a brand beyond being among the five-to-ten best movies of 2014.

Playing two sides against Afghanistan

It’s one thing for a politician to draw criticism for a policy from his opponents, but the reaction to President Obama’s Afghani-plan speech last night from the left is potentially more problematic.

Obama’s speech was unsurprising – not only had his plans for troop escalation been the worst kept secret in Washington for weeks, he promised to do as much during the campaign last year.  Still, pundits like Michael Moore – normally a water boy for all issue blue – have issued strongly worded rebukes against such a strategy.

Moore’s warning, in an open letter, that Obama would “destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in” him suggests that he wasn’t paying attention to the substance of Obama’s campaign rhetoric.  As a likeable candidate, Obama made it easy for folks like Moore to ignore policy details and revel in the fact that their newest candidate wasn’t a wonkish robot (like Al Gore in 2000) or a New England blue blood (like John Kerry).

Unfortunately for the President, that raises expectations to the level of his follower’s wildest dreams – not a good thing in an environment where success or failure often comes down to the size of the yardstick.

In support of Capitalism

There’s no way to protest capitalism like champagne in a penthouse.  That’s how the afterparty for the premiere of Michael Moore’s newest movie, Capitalism: A Love Story supposedly went down.

This stunt invites the typical criticism of Moore: that he’s a hypocrite enamored with the idea of himself as a Hollywood star.  He’s an easy target for ridicule from the right, and his methods are questionable, but that’s not why Moore fails as a filmmaker.  Moore’s shortcoming is in the types of movies he makes.

Ever see Canadian Bacon?  It’s a great movie about the military industrial complex hijacking the US government written and directed by Michael Moore.  There’s a strong anti-military undercurrent if you are looking for social commentary; if you aren’t, it’s just a funny movie that paints the picture of a country bought and sold by military contractors.

Could a similar movie have gotten Moore’s points across better than Bowling for Columbine or Sicko?  Probably – just as a novel is more memorable than a textbook.  Of course, that may not be Moore’s goal.  Perhaps he is trying to be the conscience of Hollywood – the compass which gives direction to other movies which hit the same themes.  In DC, the analogy might be to think tanks like the Heritage Foundation or Center for American Progress supplying research and ideas to political candidates.

Either way, come October 2, Michael Moore’s movie is coming to a theater near you.  I’m looking forward to it.  And the irony of decrying capitalism in a venue which costs $10 in admission will not likely be lost.