Tuesday, January 02, 2007

You Can Be a Part of the Lamest Film Award

Happy New Year from J.B. Spins. The start of each year kicks the film award season into high-gear. Roger Friedman on Fox.com routinely assails the National Board of Review as a meaningless, cliquish organization which exists only to be courted by film studios for its annual award. However, there is a lamer film award, and I get to vote on it.

Every year the Political Film Society gives awards to the best political films in the categories of Democracy, Exposé, Human Rights, and Peace. I have never seen studio ads trumpet PFS awards, but imdb does list them in their award sections. Some past winners have not exactly been critics’ darlings, like Guilty By Suspicion 1991 Exposé winner, an anti-McCarthy piece that not even hyper-partisan critics could embrace. The Jim Carey derided bomb The Majestic took coveted Democracy honors for 2001. The laughable Rapa Nui got the Democracy nod in 1994. For most viewers the only good thing about Murder in the First was it established quick links between Kevin Bacon, Christian Slater, and Gary Oldman, but it took home the Human Rights award in 1995. However, all these films conformed to the ideology of the Political Film Society and its voting members.

Members recently received their preliminary ballots, which ask us to vote to accept or drop the first round of nominated films, along with a helpful description of each film’s content. What do we have to choose from? For Exposé, we have choices like: The Listening: “NSA aids industrial espionage of European firms,” Road to Guantanamo: “How innocent men end up as American prisoners,” and The Good Shepherd: “How the CIA began as a torture agency.” Here, I have to support Sophie Scholl: “Germans reveal Hitler’s lies in 1943” and Glory Road: “First all-Black basketball team” (ok, but does that really constitute an exposé?).

Indeed, they give an Orwellian twist to the category of Democracy by nominating Death of a President, a film that revels in the fictional assassination of a democratically elected president. The PFS review admits the film is “formulaic,” but nominates it anyway for its anti-Bush viewpoint. Any other words, politics trumps artistic merit. Like most Americans you probably did not see Robin Williams’ Man of the Year, because the clips featured in the ad campaign were distinctly not funny. However, it too is a potential Democracy nominee, because it shows: “Voting machines can produce phony results.” So can Chicago graveyards, but that doesn’t necessarily make for an award worthy film.

How does one join the Political Film Society? You fill out an online form and send a five dollar check for your lifetime membership. The over-wrought reviews make membership worthwhile—fresh half-baked comedy delivered to your in-box periodically. A review of Three Days of Rain states: “Indeed, not much has changed since Chekhov’s critique of heartless capitalist society.” Talk about letting the ideological cat out of the bag. (I actually haven’t seen Rain, but I definitely recommend the Bob Belden soundtrack.)

A review of United 93 takes issue with the film for not incorporating elements of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit largely discredited critique of Bush’s handling of that fateful day. When describing the action, Michael Haas writes: “Their reasons for the hijacking are unclear, but they prey to Allah at various times.” Hard to figure out, indeed.

The problem with the PFS is that it should be called the Politicized Film Society. Every film is evaluated on how it fits an ideological prism, and never for what it actually is. I certainly have a point of view here, but I have reviewed many books favorably that are politically neutral, or even disagree with my opinions in many ways. I would argue that there is difference between writing with a political perspective, and politicized writing. So for a fiver, join me and next year we can give the PFS the benefits of our more expansive perspective. For this year, I’ll vote for a Sophie Scholl sweep, for what its worth.