Michael Moore Soaks in WikiLeaks Ooze; Festivus Meets the O.C.

Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 06:03 PM

By James Hirsen

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The Left Coast Report: A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Union Stomps on Disney’s ‘Toy Story 3’ Oscar Bid
2. Globes Less Than Golden as Oscar Omens
3. Take This Trophy and Shove It
4. ‘Seinfeld’ Holiday Upgrades Prisoner’s Meal Ticket
5. Michael Moore and WikiLeaks Founder Team Up
 

1. Union Stomps on Disney’s ‘Toy Story 3’ Oscar Bid

Disney’s unprecedented Oscar campaign to get a Best Picture nomination for the animated film “Toy Story 3,” spotlighted in a previous LCR column, has hit an unlikely roadblock.

The ad campaign that targeted Oscar voters was creative, and it appears to have been effective as well.

Perhaps that’s why Unite Here, a union whose members include Disneyland hotel workers, decided that attacking the Oscar effort was the best way to go after the company that employs them.

Involved in a protracted dispute with the Disneyland Resort, union members recently showed up to picket a “Toy Story 3” screening held for Academy members.

The union has put up a website as well to convince the Academy to snub the Disney film, and has even produced video ads lobbying against it.

In the past, Unite Here successfully persuaded the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America to pull awards shows from the Century Plaza Hotel over a union dispute.

“This is just another publicity stunt from [Unite Here] leadership to distract from the fact that after nearly three years their members are still without a contract,” a Disneyland Resort spokesman told Variety.

Don’t feel too bad for Disney and “Toy Story 3,” though. The movie is the highest-grossing release of the year, raking in more than $1 billion.

Interestingly, the fight between the union and Disney involves a company-mandated healthcare plan.

Maybe the dispute could be mediated by Mr. Potato Head.


2. Globes Less Than Golden as Oscar Omens

Despite the massive press coverage of nominees and winners, the Golden Globes aren’t always the most reliable predictors of the Academy Awards.

Remember the Pia Zadora scandal? Pia starred in the roundly reviled 1982 film “Butterfly,” which dealt with the subject of incest.

The actress won a Golden Globe Award for Best New Star of the Year. However, the entertainment press bristled with claims that Pia’s husband had bought the award with a “promotional” campaign.

The truth is the approximately 80 Hollywood Foreign Press members are a small enough group to be swayed.

This year’s Globes tally includes six combined nominations for “The Tourist” and “Burlesque,” two movies rejected by the public and critics alike.

In what appears to be an attempt to shoehorn the film into a nomination, “The Tourist” was classified as a comedy.

Allegations have surfaced, too, that Globe voters were given a trip and tickets to a Las Vegas Cher concert prior to granting her “Burlesque” movie a Globes nomination.

Various critics’ awards actually have more persuasive power with Academy voters and are consequently better Oscar indicators than the Globes. For example, Academy voters regard the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle, among others, as highly expert groups.

This year, the movie dominating the critics’ awards is “The Social Network.”

The Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG Awards) has the strongest predictive power with respect to the coveted Oscar: A significant number of individuals who vote for the SAG Awards are also voting members of the Academy. Actors make up the Academy’s largest voting bloc.

This year “The Fighter” and “The King's Speech” each led with four SAG noms including the SAG equivalent to a Best Picture Oscar, the Best Ensemble Award. “Black Swan” and “The Kids Are All Right” also snagged nominations for Best Ensemble.

Which film looks to be the favorite for the Best Picture Oscar?

Look for a hint when the SAG Awards air on Jan. 30, 2011.


3. Take This Trophy and Shove It

Oscar season, which kicks off in the fall, shifts into high gear just before Christmas as studios campaign for nominations.

Films that studios regard as contenders are released prior to New Year’s Day; this is to avoid the Academy cut-off and also so that the films will be fresh in voters’ memories.

During Oscar campaign season, studios spend gobs of money to influence Academy voters, as movies that win awards typically see a bump in sales.

Sometimes it can really get out of hand. When obsessive Oscar campaigner Harvey Weinstein was at the helm of Miramax, he allegedly leaked rumors that John Nash was anti-Semitic so as to harm the rival campaign of “A Beautiful Mind.”

The credibility of the Oscars has suffered from accusations that marketing influences the Academy more than quality.

Director William Friedkin, himself an Oscar winner and a producer of the Oscar show, uttered the unspeakable at a conference in New York in 2009, calling the Academy Awards “the greatest promotion scheme that any industry ever devised for itself.”

Nonetheless, some have famously opted out of the “promotion scheme.” Oscar ceremony protests include the following:

• Dudley Nichols, Best Writing winner for “The Informer,” boycotted the 8th Annual Academy Awards. This was due to a dispute between the Academy and the Writers Guild.

• At the 43rd Annual Academy Awards, George C. Scott, who decried the competition as a meat parade, refused the Best Actor award for “Patton.”

• Marlon Brando refused the Best Actor award for “The Godfather” at the 45th Annual Academy Awards. Brando was protesting the movie industry’s alleged discrimination against Native Americans. The actor sent Sacheen Littlefeather (a Native American actress, born Maria Cruz) to read a multi-page litany of his beefs with the industry.


4. ‘Seinfeld’ Holiday Upgrades Prisoner’s Meal Ticket

The enduring sitcom “Seinfeld,” which continues to draw audiences in reruns all over the world, recently influenced one California inmate to try his luck at getting better prison cuisine.

In a classic “Seinfeld” episode, George Costanza’s dad, Frank, comes up with an alternative to the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays — “a Festivus for the rest of us,” with its own idiosyncratic customs.

An Orange County prisoner claimed that because of his Festivus observance, he should not be required to eat salami. Convicted drug dealer Malcolm Alarmo King successfully obtained kosher meals that were salami-free.

It seems that Orange County sheriff's officials routinely make special meals available for prisoners with religious requirements. In King’s case, a judge mandated that a religious reason be given for the custom cuisine. King's lawyer, Fred Thiagarajah, stated that his client is a follower of the Festivus faith, and this was enough for the judge to issue an order for meals sans salami.

Fortunately, the O.C. eventually managed to get the order tossed out by another judge, probably one who was more familiar with fictional Festivus traditions such as the airing of grievances and feats of strength.


5. Michael Moore and WikiLeaks Founder Team Up

What do mockumentary filmmaker Michael Moore and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have in common? A lot, apparently.

Moore has rushed to Assange’s defense, even going so far as to reportedly help finance his bail and to aid in his defense against charges of rape.

Ironically, Assange is the subject of a newly leaked 68-page confidential Swedish police report, which includes detailed allegations of sexual misconduct.

The report traces events that Assange has described as consensual sexual relationships with two Swedish women. However, in the document, the women state that their encounters with him began consensually but became nonconsensual when Assange persisted in having unprotected sex with them, defying their demands that he use a condom.

In one instance, the leak mastermind is alleged to have continued to engage in sex after a condom ruptured, and in another incident he is alleged to have had unprotected sex with a woman who was asleep.

The UK Guardian reported that Assange had pinned down one woman’s arms and legs to prevent her from reaching for a condom. When a prophylactic was eventually used, the woman claimed he had “done something” with the condom, which resulted in its tearing.

Details in the police report suggest that the Swedish case could be less flawed than Assange’s defenders, including Moore, have claimed.

Assange left Sweden after initial interviews with authorities, and he has refused to return for further questioning.

In a subsequent odd turn of events, one of the WikiLeaks documents deals with Moore himself.

According to a cable leaked by Assange’s group, Moore’s “Sicko” movie had been banned by the Cuban government.

The reason? Moore had misrepresented the Cuban healthcare system as so stellar that it was somehow preferable to the healthcare system of the United States.

Evidently, Cuban officials feared a backlash as a result.

The leaked cable indicated that the totalitarian regime feared that the public would realize “the film is a myth,” and the leaders did “not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.”

According to the memo, the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some of whom became so “disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room.”

Now, in an apparent attempt to counter the WikiLeaks document, Moore is claiming that the leaked cable is false. He insists that the Cuban government promoted and distributed the movie.

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