FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

It's the Other Oscars

by JOHN PILGER

It’s celebrity time again. The Golden Globes have been, and the Oscars are coming. This is a “vintage year”, say Hollywood’s hagiographers on cue.  It isn’t. Most movies are made to a formula for the highest return, money-fuelled by marketing and something called celebrity. This is different from fame, which can come with talent. True celebrities are spared that burden.

Occasionally, this column treads the red carpet, awarding its own Oscars to those whose ubiquitous promotion demands recognition. Some have been celebrities a long time, drawing the devoted to kiss their knees (more on that later). Others are mere flashes in the pan, so to speak.

In no particular order, the nominees for the Celebrity Oscars are:

Benedict Cumberbatch. This celebrity was heading hell-bent for an Oscar, but alas, his ultra-hyped movie, The Fifth Estate, produced the lowest box office return for years, making it one of Hollywood’s biggest ever turkeys.  This does not diminish Cumberbatch’s impressive efforts to promote himself as Julian Assange — assisted by film critics, massive advertising, the US government and, not least, the former PR huckster, David Cameron, who declared, “Benedict Cumberbatch — brilliant, fantastic piece of acting. The twitchiness and everything of Julian Assange is brilliantly portrayed.”  Neither Cameron nor Cumberatch has ever met Assange. The “twitchiness and everything” was an invention.

Assange had written Cumberbatch a personal letter, pointing out that the “true story” on which the film claimed to be based was from two books discredited as hatchet jobs. “Most of the events depicted never happened, or the people shown were not involved in them,” WikiLeaks posted. In his letter, Assange asked Cumberbatch to note that actors had moral responsibilities, too.  “Consider the consequences of your cooperation with a project that vilifies and marginalises a living political refugee …”

Cumberbatch’s response was to reveal selected parts of Assange’s letter and so elicit further hype from the “agonising decision” he faced — which, as it turned out, was never in doubt.  That the movie was a turkey was a rare salute to the public.

Robert De Niro is the celebrity’s celebrity. I was in India recently at a conference with De Niro, who was asked a good question about the malign influence of Hollywood on living history. The 1978 multi-Oscar winning movie The Deerhunter was cited, especially its celebrated Russian roulette scene; De Niro was the star.

“The Russian roulette scene might not have happened,” said De Niro, “but it must have happened somewhere. It was a metaphor.”  He refused to say more; the celebrity star doesn’t like giving interviews.

When The Deerhunter was released, the Daily Mail described it as “the story they never dared to tell before … the film that could purge a nation’s guilt!”   A purgative indeed — that was almost entirely untrue.

Following America’s expulsion from its criminal invasion of Vietnam, The Deerhunter was Hollywood’s post-war attempt to reincarnate the triumphant Batman-jawed white warrior and present a stoic, suffering and often heroic people as sub-human Oriental idiots and barbarians.  The film’s dramatic pitch was reached during recurring orgiastic scenes in which De Niro and his fellow stars, imprisoned in rat-infested bamboo cages, were forced to play Russian roulette by resistance fighters of the National Liberation Front, whom the Americans called  Vietcong.

The director, Michael Cimino, insisted this scene was authentic. It was fake. Cimino himself had claimed he had served in Vietnam as a Green Beret. He hadn’t. He told Linda Christmas of the Guardian he had “this insane feeling that I was there … somehow the fine wires have got really crossed and the line between reality and fiction has become blurred”.  His brilliantly acted fakery has since become a YouTube “classic”: for many people, their only reference to that “forgotten” war.

While he was in India, De Niro visited Bollywood, where his celebrity is god-like. Fawning actors sat at his feet and kissed his knees.  Bollywood’s asinine depiction of modern India is not dissimilar to The Deerhunter’s distortion of America and Asia.

Nelson Mandela was a great human being who became a celebrity. “Sainthood”, he told me drily, “is not the job I applied for.”  The western media appropriated Mandela and made him into a one-dimensional cartoon celebrity tailored for bourgeois applause: a kind of political Santa Claus.  That his dignity served as a facade behind which his beloved ANC oversaw the further impoverishment and division of his people was unmentionable. And in death, his celebrity-sainthood was assured.

For those outside Britain, the name Keith Vaz is not associated with celebrity. And yet this Labour Party politician has had a long and distinguished career of self-promotion, while slipping serenely away from scandals and near-scandals, a parliamentary inquiry and a suspension, having acquired the soubriquet Keith Vaseline. In 2009, he was revealed to have claimed 75,500 pounds in expenses for an apartment in Westminster despite having a family home just 12 miles from parliament.

Last year, Vaz’s parliamentary home affairs committee summoned Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to Parliament to discuss the leaks of Edward Snowden. Vaz’s opening question to Rusbridger was: “Do you love this country?”

Once again, Vaz was an instant celebrity, though, once again, not the one he longed to be. He was compared with the infamous Senator Joe McCarthy. Still, the sheer stamina of his  endeavours proves that Keith Vaseline is no flash in the pan; and is the Oscar Celebrity of the Year! Congratulations Keith, and commiserations, Benedict; you were only just behind.

John Pilger’s film, Utopia, about Australia, is released in cinemas on 15 November and broadcast on ITV in December. It is released in Australia in January. www.johnpilger.com

More articles by:

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail