Society and Culture

Zero Dark Oscars

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal of "Zero Dark Thirty", which is nominated for Best Picture Oscar, arrive at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 24, 2013. Both Bigelow and Boal are also producers for the film. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal of "Zero Dark Thirty", which is nominated for Best Picture Oscar, arrive at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 24, 2013. Both Bigelow and Boal are also producers for the film. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A few months ago, Zero Dark Thirty was generating Oscar buzz and was considered a leading contender for best picture. But last night, the film was virtually shut out of the Oscars. Reuters reports:

“Zero Dark Thirty,” about the decade-long U.S. hunt for Osama bin Laden, has received more attention in the U.S. Congress than it did at the Oscars on Sunday, amid political fallout over its depiction of torture and alleged intelligence leaks to the movie’s makers.

The film, which has sparked outrage among both Democrats and Republicans in Washington over its depiction of torture, and allegations that the Obama administration leaked classified intelligence to help the making of the film, won no major Oscars on Sunday and only one award overall.

Just three months ago, the thriller, which culminates in Osama bin Laden’s killing by U.S. Navy Seals, was a strong contender to pick up the biggest prize of Best Picture, as well as the Best Actress and Original Screenplay awards.

By the end of Sunday night, however, it had picked up just one award – a shared Oscar for Sound Editing, which was a tie.

Sound editing? A tie? That’s just salt in the wound.

Let’s be clear: ZDT’s Oscar exclusion had nothing to do with the leaks controversy and everything to do with its depiction of the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program. The film’s producer, Karthryn Bigelow, is an honest liberal critic of the CIA program. She believes enhanced interrogation was wrong (and calls it “torture” — something the program’s supporters reject) but she also acknowledges the obvious — that it was effective in producing vital intelligence. As she put it in an Los Angeles Times op-ed recently:

I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn’t mean it was the key to finding Bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn’t ignore. War, obviously, isn’t pretty, and we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences.

Bin Laden wasn’t defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation.

Unfortunately, this deviates from the Left’s dogma that enhanced interrogations were not only wrong, but they were ineffective — a position so at odds with reality that former CIA director Mike Hayden has compared to those advance this view to “birthers” and 9/11 “truthers.” As Hayden put it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

For all of its well-deserved reputation for pragmatism, American popular culture frequently nurtures or at least tolerates preposterous views and theories.  Witness the 9/11 “truthers” who, lacking any evidence whatsoever, claim that 9/11 was a Bush administration plot. And then we have the “birthers” who, even in the face of clear contrary evidence, take as an article of faith that President Obama was not born in the United States and hence is not eligible to hold his current office.

Let me add a third denomination to this faith-based constellation: interrogation deniers, i.e., individuals who hold that the enhanced interrogation techniques used against CIA detainees have never yielded useful intelligence.

To her credit, Bigelow’s film did not nurture or tolerate the preposterous view that enhanced interrogation never yielded useful intelligence.

In Hollywood, it seems, this is a mortal sin — punishable by shunning at the Oscars.

One thought on “Zero Dark Oscars

  1. Last night, just before the Oscars, I deliberately chose to see Zero Dark Thirty. Argo had entertainedme a few days earlier. There is no question about which is the more important and better movie, and it is not the movie which won the Oscar for best picture last night. Yet again, Hollywood has behaved badly in choosing to bow to its communal concept of political correctness in picking a faux winner.

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