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SELF-SATISFIED HOLLYWOOD BLIND TO TRUTH.

Byline: Julia Gorin

ANSWERING from the stage of last Sunday's Oscars to criticisms that Hollywood is ``out of touch with the rest of the country,'' George Clooney said that if being at the forefront of racial equality, civil rights and AIDS awareness is being ``out of touch,'' then he was ``proud to be part of this academy, proud to be part of this community, proud to be out of touch.'' Others have echoed such praise for Hollywood's ``activism'' - reflected heavily in this year's Oscars with what some commentators have called ``socially conscious'' or ``progressive'' works.

But how is treating Americans to yet another anti-McCarthy movie (``Good Night, and Good Luck'') - 50 years later and after countless other films, TV shows, documentaries and TV movies have been devoted to the subject - ``socially conscious''? George Clooney took no risks in beating Joseph McCarthy's dead horse.

More socially conscious would be a movie about the way dissenters during Hollywood's capital-C Communist era were bullied by the party when they strayed from ``the code'' of behavior that was acceptable. Elia Kazan fought back against this bullying, while John Steinbeck tore up his party card, and Ronald Reagan had to sleep with a gun.

Most often, ``socially conscious'' means agenda-driven. Because if Hollywood were actually socially conscious, we'd have gotten a film or two by now about the persecution of conservative students on college campuses. We'd also have gotten a film showing the desecration of Hillel offices on campuses and the physical intimidation visited upon students affiliated with this Jewish organization. Similarly, we'd have gotten at least one foreign film depicting the continued ethnic cleansing of European Jewry.

Instead, Hollywood ``takes a stand'' by vilifying another always-popular target, pharmaceutical companies (``The Constant Gardener'') - first for not providing drugs to Africa free of charge, and then for supposedly ``experimenting'' on Africans by supplying those free drugs. This isn't socially conscious; it's psychotic.

Americans have been subjected to nothing but films ``exploring'' themes about gays (``Brokeback Mountain''), McCarthyism, race (``Crash'') and Hitler (Germany's ``Sophie Scholl - The Final Days''). Harping on the same themes isn't socially conscious; it's socially clueless. And socially irrelevant. In fact, to not address subjects that are screaming for attention for the past 20 years, one would have to be socially unconscious.

Another much-touted ``socially conscious'' film, Steven Spielberg's ``Munich,'' also seems to fall well short of that description. Perhaps ``Munich'' would be socially conscious if the Palestinian plight weren't already the emphasized side of the story by the nonfilm media. It would be socially conscious if there were by now at least a half-dozen movies presenting the Israeli perspective. But where are those movies? Tell us of a film presenting the Israeli side of the story, much less of an Oscar-nominated film. It doesn't exist. Twelve years into suicide bombings against Israelis, and there hasn't been one movie or documentary showing the world its dismembered Jews.

Hollywood likes to see itself as boldly questioning authority, and picking up where the other media leave off, but in truth, only some authorities are questioned, while others are blindly followed. Clooney's ``Syriana'' earns plaudits for whacking away at the Bush administration's foreign policy, but where was Hollywood when the previous administration invaded a sovereign European nation over charges of genocide and ethnic cleansing that proved false in Yugoslavia?

Why didn't we hear from Hollywood when the media made little of President Bill Clinton's sharing classified nuclear technology with China for campaign money? Where was Hollywood when the media didn't question why the country wasn't responding to the succession of terrorist attacks against the U.S. on Bill Clinton's watch?

And where was Hollywood when the media didn't question why that administration was acting as though the much-ballyhooed nonproliferation treaty with North Korea was still in effect even after we discovered that North Korea was going ahead with its nuclear program?

Interesting how in the eight years before the election of George W. Bush, poor reporting effectively made truth disappear. Because the film folks were on the same page as the reporters. And that's where they remain.

The agenda-driven projects that dominated this year's Oscars - but drew mediocre numbers at the box office - are ``compelling''? They're ``politically aware"? Actually, it's all very politically sleepy. Hollywood won't be ``socially conscious'' or ``progressive'' again until it gets a healthy infusion of fresh, intellectually honest minds - most likely from conservatives who aren't worried that they risk their careers when they come out of hiding.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 12, 2006
Words:744
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