I’m forever grateful to Megan Ellison. She helped finance some of my favorite films this year, including Zero Dark Thirty, The Master and Killing Them Softly. Until this morning I had not heard Ellison’s reaction to the Academy’s failure to nominate Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director — “That’s so fucked up,” she tweeted yesterday. Letterman called the Best Director oversight “a travesty” and Kenneth Turan at the LA Times says Bigelow is a casualty of “the bullying power of the United States Senate and an undeserved loss for Zero Dark Thirty in general and director Kathryn Bigelow in particular.” (Deadline)

Full Complete 11-minute segment between Bigelow and Letterman after the cut.

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  • Mrs Rochester

    Controversy aside, the Academy clearly considered that one nomination is enough when it comes to recognizing one of the energetic, personal and outstanding voices in modern cinema. If only she were a man…

    Shame on them!!!!!

  • filmboymichael

    Thanks for posting this – I’m always in bed at that hour, this is essential viewing in my opinion….I wouldn’t call it a travesty, but it definitely was surprising. What I found “fucked up” was that it failed to get nominated in other areas where I thought it would have shown up – like cinematography, score, production design….

  • Christophe

    What a graceful reaction from Megan… I guess she fits right in, producers are such an articulate and compassionate breed.

  • Christophe

    selfless was the word i was loking for instead of compassionate!

  • filmboymichael

    ….also, I have to say that even though bigelow was overlooked for best director along with affleck, they are both nominated as producers of their respective films.

  • Sasha Stone

    Just to play devil’s advocate, Mrs. Rochester, if she were a man no one would care particularly if she had been snubbed. So it goes both ways.

  • steve50

    “they are both nominated as producers ”

    Could have been a factor in spreading the wealth, but if that were the case, you’d think that the previous winners would be dropped, not Affleck. Regardless, both have an equal shot at winning a statue (until Sunday, anyway).

  • Mrs Rochester

    Sorry, English is not my first language.
    What I was trying to say is that the directorial work in Zero Dark Thirty wouldn’t have snubbed had it been done by a man. Hopefully that comes across in a clearer way.

  • Mrs Rochester

    *wouldn’t have been snubbed

  • Christophe

    sorry, but i really think we shouldn’t read too much into precursor awards, the ampas has shown us yesterday its members don’t really care what bfca and gg say, they vote for whomever they feel like voting in the end…

  • unlikely hood

    I get the whole sexist-snub? question. The kids here may not know that the Academy has a history of nominating woman-directed Best Pictures while snubbing the director – 20 years ago they did it twice in two years (Awakenings and The Prince of Tides; then they had the balls [balls?] to call the next year the Year of the Woman).

    And some of the more vile charges against Bigelow re ZDT are the kinds of things you never hear leveled against a man. But maybe that was just the rather unusual nature of the movie. Clearly, no one who comments here can think of a precedent for this film. But maybe there is something sexist lurking there.

    So I get the question about sexism. Could Ben Affleck have been collateral damage, to inure such charges?

    I prefer to think that this was just an old-fashioned snub, like Spielberg used to get all the time.

  • Aragorn

    There could be tons of different reasons why those two didnt get nominated. But as Sasha says from time to time, Academy members vote for whatever touches them, whatever they love, more than what they think is the best. Heart wins over brain.

    So I wonder if Academy members felt more emotional connection with Amour and the Beasts of the Southern Wild after the screeners and voted for their directors based on that emotional connection.

    And of course it is possible that 10 different members did not vote for Bigelow or Affleck for 10 different reasons, but regardless of the reasons at the end their total “non-vote” was enough for those not to get nominations.

    We never know. It is possible that both Affleck and Bigelow got only a couple votes less than Russell or Haneke. Just one vote is enough to make a difference!

    Sometimes I think why “5” is such a magical number for all other categories but BP for AMPAS. Why 5, but not 4 or 6! Oh well. I think that’s a different debate!

  • Mrs Rochester

    @unlikely hood: Very interesting point about Affleck maybe being collateral damage…

  • steve50

    “they vote for whomever they feel like voting in the end…”

    True, but they are human, and everybody wants to be on the winning side. Even here – look at the results of the AD simulation and compare with the posts in the past 3 moonths. There are some real disconnects that a few of us jumped on.

    Whoever wins the GG on Sunday will have a leg up. How much, we’ll have to wait and find out.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    So no one except the directors branch felt this incredible pressure to snub zero dark thirty?

  • Derek 8-Track

    I know the argument could be made that “well Les Mis was a terrible movie, that’s why Hooper didn’t get nominated”, But i think maybe Bigelow didn’t get nominated for the same reason Hooper didn’t. they both just won like yesterday. Then you have to bring up Spielberg, “well he’s already won twice.” True, but like Meryl Streep with acting he’s one of the few directors on the planet where you could argue he’s due for a third Oscar.

  • So no one except the directors branch felt this incredible pressure to snub zero dark thirty?

    It was being discussed in the movie-writer twitter circle last night how much we all dislike the word “snub”

    Everyone knows that Bigelow or Affleck were the most likely #6 and #7 choices. To rise to a position of esteem where you’re the 6th most popular director of the year, that’s hardly a snub, is it?

    But the fact remains, this media controversy and snots like John McCain finding a fresh fit to throw did some damage to the initial soaring accolades the Zero Dark Thirty was accumulating. The touchiness of the topic made people visibly skittish. I myself would clam up on Oscar Podcast, afraid to speak out, for fear of the reactionary backlash to some feelings I have that I know are outside what’s supposedly acceptable.

    Academy members are in the Image business. Their own image is enormously important to many in the AMPAS. They don’t want Oscar Night marred with protesters and continual henpecking from the media.

    So yes, Bigelow barely missed getting a nomination. That’s not a snub. It’s just the math of musical chairs. And this sticky controversy is undeniably a factor that contributed to subtracting votes away from her on many ballots.

    How is this even in question?

  • Houstonrufus

    The problem I have with this persistent “snub” conversation is it toally discounts the fact that five directors actually received votes. Rather than constantly seeing this as the directors branch willfully excluding two candidates, I tend to see this as them giving more votes to five others. Now you can disagree with their choices. Personally, I would have selected Bigelow (or Affleck for that matter) over Russell. But this constant obsession with those who didn’t make the cut leaves out the actual nominees’ achievement, which shouldn’t be so casually dismissed. And it’s not like Argo and ZDT won’t be represented come oscar night.

  • OsminBet

    In all honesty I believe Bigelow’s omission shouldn’t be controversial. I saw ZDT opening day in NYC. It’s a superb film. The subject matter is quite complex and people either love it or hate it. The irony here is that I think ZDT to be a stronger film than The Hurt Locker. I was expecting Lincoln for directing and ZDT for Best Picture. I guess that’s not about to happen with ZDT lacking nominations in key categories.

    I do believe Affleck should have been nominated for directing Argo. Thankfully both Affleck and Bigelow are nominated as producers 😉

  • Chris

    I saw ZTD at an advance screening last night and was blown away by it. It was a very good film and sparked a very passionate debate about the war on terror and the use of torture. Did KB deserve to get nominated yes (on the raid scene alone she deserved it); however, with that said I think Derek is right the snubbing of Bigelow likely occurred in part due to her recent win/large list of deserving nominees. We have seen time and again Oscar guilt rewards actors/actresses/directors for lesser works and at the same time I think its easy to see the reverse happening especially in a crowed year.

  • But I think maybe Bigelow didn’t get nominated for the same reason Hooper didn’t.

    That might make a teeny smidgen of sense if nobody knew about charts like this that have Zero Dark Thirty placed at the very pinnacle of acclaim in 2012. Look way down at the bottom to find Les Mis.

    The two movies you’re trying to compare “for the same reason” could not be farther apart.

  • Mohammed

    Having listened and read so many of her and Boals interviews it’s amazing how much bs comes out. It’s the same talking points and no willingness to adress the substance of the critics points.

    In regards to directors nominated: Spielberg can make a turd and he’ll get nominated. Is that because he is the greatest american movie director ? Doubtful. But he has the connections and influence. It’s the same talent the Weinsteins have to get their pictures nominated and win. It has very little to do with the quality of the picture.

  • Spielberg can make a turd and he’ll get nominated.

    tell us when that happened. so we can tell you how you wrong you are.

  • chiefy

    So Ryan, according to that chart, we should all be mourning about The Master, not ZDT 🙂

  • Houstonrufus

    So Lincoln is a turd? Where is the middle ground here? So makes turds and people incorrectly label him as the greatest american movie director. Can’t Lincoln just be a good movie, even worthy, and it happens to be directed by one of America’s more well known and acclaimed directors?

    Honestly, even if I find your statement ridiculous, I do think this sentiment, or a less vulgar version of it, is Spielberg’s greatest vulnerability. Seeing him win another oscar doesn’t exactly light the fire under alot of people. It’s as if, well, we’ve given him awards, he’s richer than god, what else does he need? What if the reverse of what you say is true? What if he is in fact one of our great film makers, he has made one of his greatest films, and people don’t want to award him because they think it makes for a boring oscar night? That’s the scenario that worries me more.

  • we should all be mourning about The Master, not ZDT

    I am, I am.
    Just no fun to moan alone. So I moan more audibly when there’s a chorus where we can harmonize.

  • Glenn UK

    Hopefully the American public will send a big “fuck you” back to AMPAS when ZDT soars past $100m !!!!!!!

  • Derek 8-Track

    Ryan, Right, I’m just setting acclaim aside to make sense of why she wasn’t nominated. ZD30 is too good a movie for her not to get the nod. The only reasoning I can think of is that, like Hooper, she just won. I have to include Hooper because based on APMPAS history we know they, on occasion, also lean towards crappy work. I can see them digging Les Mis even with its low acclaim. with that thinking not giving him a nod reads more like “he just won” more so than “we didn’t like Les Mis.”

    your thought that she was #6/7 does make me feel a heck of a lot better though. I was just devastated, in a first world problems way, not seeing her name in the list.

  • Bob Burns

    A man would definitely have been charges of becoming a CIA dupe. The people who have given vast amounts of time to establishing the truth about the effectiveness of torture in this case don’t care that much about movie awards….. and to the degree they do care would tend to like Biglow despite her terrible mistake.

    There has been a long and difficult argument about this – one side won and the other lost because they were lying and bullshitting. She depicted the lies and BS as if they were true….real world true.

    Lots of great people get duped by right wing factions within or using the CIA…. that’s how we got into Iraq. She joins a distinguished list.

    But there is right and wrong here. Truth and lies. This isn’t a case of two interpretations of the same events where “journalists” get to present both sides and be neutral.

    The people who have actual real-world credibility on this subject are horrified by what she did and will continue to be long after the Oscars. It’s gonna take years to clean this up. If you guys think this is about some rival Oscar contender’s PR flack stirring up trouble you really don’t get it.

  • Linc4Jess

    “It was being discussed in the movie-writer twitter circle last night how much we all dislike the word “snub”.

    The way I look at this is “there are only so many slots and when you have a very competitive field someone is going to be left out”. You can’t nominate everyone no matter the argument for each of them. I feel everyone nominated were just as good as the ones not nominated. When it comes to film awards its all a matter of personal opinion and where objective reasoning is hardly found. If it had being someone else being left out I am sure we all be talking about how these artists were snubbed as well.

  • Bebe

    As if the Academy pays attention to what people in Washington think.

    Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck’s snub means they “really, really liked” other films more. The fact that there are more BP noms, and both Argo and ZDT are there, AND in screenplay, which offers more choices, pretty much does away with the fact that these films were snubbed intentionally as some kind of reaction to Washington.

    That’s just silly.

  • Jade Fox

    Having finally seen Zero Dark Thirty, I’m left scratching my head about the torture debate. IMO the movie is hardly a ringing endorsement for torture. In fact, the way people talked I was expecting some type of a “AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!” movie, not the somber, weary, picture that I actually saw. As Bigelow herself said at the New York Film Critic awards a few nights ago, depiction is not an endorsement. If that was the case then no filmmaker can ever touch on any subject that might ruffle feathers.

    Maya had a tunnel vision focus which I find admirable and scary as well. At the end I couldn’t help but wonder what is she going to do now that her decade long mission was complete. It’s a difficult task for an actor to be understated when needed, given all the large hams in the industry but Jessica Chastain was perfect. I find myself very intrigued by Maya and her mentality. It’s not often you see a female character like her onscreen and it’s nice to try and pick her apart.

    But there is something that I think people are missing when talking about this movie and that is the fact that it was attacked from day one. First by conservatives who accused it of being a glorified campaign ad for Obama and now by liberals(and John McCain) as some pro torture right wing fantasy. Neither is true IMO. The movie’s far more ambiguous than it’s getting credit for but it seems like people were just itching to attack the movie for something, anything. And let’s face it when given the opportunity to go bold or pick something safer the Academy usually does the latter. I can’t speak for the other movies nominated since I haven’t seen them yet, but 0D30 was clearly the provocative movie this season.

  • SeattleMoviegoer

    i saw ZERO DARK THIRTY last night and was very impressed. Riveting, engrossing, intelligent, etc. all the standard rave quote words apply. Bigelow was robbed. but she has finally (in her 60s!) gained the traction and acclaim and momentum in her career to keep doing great films. good for her! and us! now, with all this Oscar talk, why was Jennifer Ehle not a possible supp actress mention? she’s been doing some great work lately on film (Contagion, King’s Speech) and she’s a Tony winner, etc. and she was very good in ZERO.

  • steve50

    “Spielberg can make a turd and he’ll get nominated.”

    That’s not nice. Besides, how would John Willliams compose a score? Wait, maybe something like that blast at the beginning of Close Encounters? Yeah, that would work.

  • Linc4Jess

    Maybe it is a good thing Ben Affleck didn’t get nominated. What an embarrassment last night at the Critic Choice Awards when he was at the podium or on stage receiving his award. He seem drunk, waving his hands about this way and that way as he talked, hardly coherent, and dressed like someone who just came out of the rest room and forget to tuck in his white shirt. I think he was dazed out of his mind when he name was called out. He was genuinely surprise. This said, at least he had the last hurrah with a Director and Best Picture win which I know one of the wins will not translate into an OSCAR win.

  • Linc4Jess

    I am also a little ticked off at who wins the supporting actors awards. I mean this category doesn’t mean a damn thing anymore other than a bone thrown to films that were somehow just not strong enough to make the cut or the win on OSCAR night. You take this year supporting actress category. Anne Hathaway seems to be the lock on favorite to win the supporting actress category and why is she…I mean she has a brief appearance in the film but supposedly is receiving the award because people like the way she sang that one number from the film. Give me a break. Is this all it takes to win a supporting award. Just appear for five minutes and your off to the stage to receive an OSCAR. Wasn’t that Beatrice Staight who received one for NETWORK and she was on screen for less than five minutes. Someone somewhere at the Academy should be ashamed at what they are doing or allowing to happen. But then this is just me…someone with an opinion but NO VOTE.

  • CB

    Maybe they snubbed her because they didn’t see anything stylistically interesting, innovative, or unique in ZDT? I just saw Amour last night, and I can say confidently that Haneke, Russell, and Lee’s direction was all much more interesting, nuanced, and special than Bigelow’s. (And remember, I’m not at all a fan of Life of Pi). Spielberg directed a boring episode of the West Wing, but just because I see nothing distinguished in his work in Lincoln doesn’t mean I think Bigelow did such a great job.

    I mean, seriously – can anyone here tell me what Bigelow did directorally that couldn’t have been done by almost any other competent director?

    Besides, I’m just pissed Boal was nominated for his slapdash, fact-messing, pro-torture screenplay.

  • MoviePooch

    Spielberg can make a turd and he’ll get nominated.”

    You obviously don’t know Spielberg’s history with the Academy. He was in fact snubbed for a Best Director nod for one of his best and most iconic films, “Jaws,” besides it being nominated for Best Picture. He was also snubbed for a Best Director nod for The Color Purple, besides the film receiving 11 other nominations and Spielberg winning the DGA and Golden Globe that year for directing it. He was also nominated but lost for “Close Encounters,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “E.T.”. People were starting to wonder whether he would ever win, until it finally happened for Schindler’s List.

  • Gutted with the Bigelow and Boal snub this year. In my opinion, of a Oscar fan since the mid 80’s, one of the most accomplished pieces of work out there on the war on terrorism. A masterpiece, dare I say it.
    Booo, Academy, booooo


  • Aragorn

    Two interesting pieces of news from CNN.

    – Some actors, including Martin Sheen, are asking Academy members not to vote for Zero Dark Thirty. sad:(

    – Iranians are making their own version of the story in Argo. They will tell what really happened with those diplomats. funny:)

  • AD

    I just saw ZDT this afternoon and I was blown away by it. Chastain is incredible and so is the rest of the cast. So sorry that she isn’t getting recognition for directing (: but I hope that the box office success will raise its status again (btw the theater was full and it was a friday 12pm matinee).

  • Ryan Adams

    “Iranians are making their own version of the story in Argo.”

    Stand back. I’ve got this one.


  • Mattoc

    ^ damn it. I didn’t think of that but wish I had.

    “ishtargo, Khodeto Bokun”

  • Aragorn

    Not entirely, but at least partly people like him are responsible for Bigelow not getting the nomination.

    “However, I was delighted to learn that Bigelow had not been nominated for best director. …but I was very glad that the Academy members who voted for Best Director were informed enough to realize that Bigelow was ultimately responsible for the three enormous, destructive lies ZD30 asserts”

    I must be some heartless,senseless bastard (!) since I didnt get the same feeling about this movie. Yes they were a bit too long for my taste but didnt think that the director should lose nomination, otherwise she would have totally deserved, just because of those torture scenes.

    Here is the link for full article:


  • Dennis Bee

    In those few years when there is a bumper crop of great films–1989 and 1999 are two–the Academy has famously made a mess of things. 1999, the year of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, FIGHT CLUB, THE MATRIX, EYES WIDE SHUT, MAGNOLIA, TOPSY TURVY, among others, treacle like THE GREEN WALL and Harvey-trumpeted, now-forgotten “quality films” like CIDER HOUSE RULES, and inflated message movies like THE INSIDER. Yesterday, two very good movies were dropped by the directors’ branch in favor of two other very good movies.

    We should also be very happy about the expansion of the Best Picture nominees. If we still had five, I have a feeling we would be seeing LES MIZ as a BP nominee, based simply on advance publicity, and ARGO or ZDT shut out. Is it possible that ZDT’s December release date hurt it, not only at Director, but farther down in the branches? AMOUR, on the other hand, has been around since it won Cannes; BEASTS has had five months and a DVD release to get seen and build momentum.

    The political controversy might have hurt in that criticism comes from both sides and involves torture. If John McCain and Dianne Feinstein (who carries weight in her state of California, I’m assuming) both come down against a film, that might have a confusing, chilling effect. It’s not like the Hollywood community rallying around Oliver Stone and JFK 21 years ago. This confusion might have been enough to bump the film out of the top five, although there was clearly very strong support for SLP and AMOUR. I myself predicted Haneke (not Russell) for BD, but not the film for Picture. That’s a lot of love. And we were asking when BEASTS was going to win something major. We got our answer. As for Affleck, perhaps he’s caught in the Ron Howard syndrome, even though he’s a better director than Howard ever was. That hyped up airport runway chase coda might have hurt him, and the fact that Clooney, Pitt, or Del Toro would have been better as Tony Mendez (a point that Dana Stevens made in SLATE). But far, far more dubious directorial decisions haven’t failed to get directors nominated in the past. Again, there were going to be casualties this year.

    Finally, Haneke is one of the world’s most accomplished directors. Doesn’t he merit his first Oscar nomination? Definitely, Benh Zeitlin “needs” an Oscar nomination more than Kathryn Bigelow, who won for her last movie, and Ben Affleck, who has already moved into the A-list of directors with ARGO. Should these films have been recognized? Yes. But so should THE MASTER, MOONRISE KINGDOM, and others.

  • K. Bowen

    All the Prez’s Men and Zodiac have strong directorial signatures. For too much of ZD30, that isn’t the case, IMO.

    The real snubs are the Andersons, PT and Wes.

  • Akumax

    In a year like this one Miss Bigelow should have won. I like Moonrise kingdom but no way Wes Anderson deserved a place in the top 5 achievements in directing.

    PTA made a good movie The Master but in my opinion it is not balanced. The beginning is great and then it loses its way.

  • Antoinette

    When I realized that Bigelow had been snubbed I was shocked. I’d had no idea she was part black.


    No I was so flabbergasted by the Affleck thing I didn’t realize it until I read other people’s reactions. Then I just figured the Academy did what they wanted to do as usual and that the precursors don’t mean anything. I know it. But I always let myself believe buzz comes from people who are in Hollywood and know loads of Academy members and not people who just read the same crap that we do. But all along I had questioned whether she and Hooper wouldn’t suffer from their recent wins. Now this is before I’d seen LM as well. It was just that I thought their films would have to be undeniable for them to get in again so soon. Same with PJ if the Hobbit had been better received. I’ll see ZDT in the next few days probably. I chose to go with GANGSTER SQUAD today, because I love that cast and gangster movies. (I think it worked out well for them that they were forced to sit 2012 out, but I enjoyed it.) When I see ZDT I’ll be able to judge whether it was a real snub or not. For now it seems like a “too soon” thing to me.

    And I watch Letterman most days, he was insane over the film. In case some of you think he probably did that for every movie when a star came on, he didn’t. A while ago, he said to the camera that if ZDT was playing anywhere in your state and you were sitting home watching his show instead, that there was something wrong with you.

  • Mattoc

    With ZDT and Bigelow, there is three things that may have happened in terms of Oscar nominations.

    1. It wasn’t in their collective top five – possible
    2. The initial support got it into the mix early but the controversy slowed it down – possible
    3. They really like the movie but don’t like Bigelow – unlikely

    So I don’t think it was directed at Bigelow and therefore think ZDT has zero chance at winning the BIG ONE.

    For the record I did not like ZDT very much. Not sure why I didn’t? I was very disinterested throughout the entire film. Jason Clarke was interesting though and so was Chastain, at the beginning…then i just went zzzzzzzz

    I liked Sirianna a lot. Different film, but it made me yearn for it.

  • Mohammed

    @Ryan: Close Encounter ( kicking out another little sci-fi) , War Horse ( the year of A Separation- most acclaimed movie of that year) , Munich ( one of the worst reviewed movies with Crash of those nominated) . The mere fact that Spielberg has more directing Oscars than Scorsese should also tell you something.

    People also complain about directors like Affleck having no style. But can one say that Spielerg has a style ? I’ve yet to see it. I’ve also yet to come out of a Spielberg film and honestly say that it made me think.

    There is no denying that he has technical skills to make a good movie, but I can tell someone is dishonest with me if they come out of a Spielberg film and say that it was a challenging film. Even Lincoln. Compare him with one of the nominees this year- Haneke. On can say that the man doesn’t make GREAT films in strings. But not many can deny that he will challenge you.

    Spielberg is what I would call the Grisham of american filmmaking. He’s good at what he does, but you don’t go to him for challenging themes. You CAN however count him on churning out digestable films that you feel okay about having spent money on.

  • Linc4Jess

    I am thinking anyone at anytime will grab on to something or anything and try to fit it into their agenda whether positive or negative. Such is the case for “Zero Dark Thirty” which I just saw this afternoon and was very impressed with the effort put out by all involved in the film. For the love of films I can’t see anything in this film that is controversial. Quite the opposite. I think Bigelow did a marvelous job of making a film that is not political and or controversial. All she has done is put together an excellent film detailing what took place and has taken place over ten years up to the killing of Bin Laden. As for the supposed torture issue the film depicts which did take place and that is the government putting some terrorists through some gruesome interrogation. Although I don’t agree with the method used it did take place and I am sure good and bad info was attained by it. IMHO, Whether this method of interrogation is useful or unneeded, right or wrong, is up to each individual to decide but to try an punish a filmmaker for presenting the method and process is such idiotic folly and I am not saying this is why Bigelow was omitted. Oh, well, “ZDT” gets my vote as one of the top five films of the year. “Lincoln”, “Argo”, “ZDT”, “Django Unchained” and “Life of Pi”. Let the voting begin.

  • Andre

    haven’t seen ZD30 so I can’t talk about it, and I hope this comment isn’t taken the wrong way here. even though I haven’t seen the film, I can’t seem to believe that it simply depicts torture, instead of praising it. some people confuse the two. most people think movies encourage its protagonists’ behaviour, but that is not the case most of the time. this seems to be such a case. I could go on more, but LEGS!!!!

    (just trying to add some levity, sorry if it seemed sexist)

  • Andre

    I am stupid. what I meant was that I DO believe the film simply DEPICTS torture instead of praising it. I’m a moron. sorry for whatever offence I might have caused.

  • Andre — I just crossed out the word can’t in your previous comment, ok?

  • Raf

    I wasn’t a big fan of Hurt Locker. I would have picked Avatar for the win that year. Given that, I saw Zero Dark 30 today and have to say that it is a complete travesty that Bigelow was not nominated. In fact, the way the Academy works, if Hurt Locker did not exist, they would have rewarded Bigelow this year. Of all the movies I’ve seen this year, and I’ve seen all the nominees thus far aside from Amour, Bigelow would easily be my choice for Best Director. And for her nomination to succumb for whatever reason (torture controversy or being recently awarded) is definitely one that will leave a mark this year for the Oscars. The DGA, like always, got it right. This movie was a visual, technical and lyrical treat, and a movie at over 2 and a half hours that never gets boring.

    This is exactly the sort of BS that have made the Oscars less significant than they use to be.

  • Andre

    wait, Ryan… did you cross it because you STILL know I have a british accent, after all this time??? because if you did, the sheer fact of your memory turns this into a completeley different film =) I’m just happy people took my comments farcically, as they were intended to be taken. and extremely glad that the big man himself is handling my posts for once =P

  • Andre

    in all seriousness, thank you so much for clearing my point, Ryan. =D

  • Stephen

    Dennis Bee, that last response of yours is very nicely articulated.

  • mecid

    Mohammed, you are really ignorant in this discussion. Spielberg has 2 BD noms since 1998. For his genius creations “A.I”, Minority Report, CMIYC (for MR and CMIYC he won BFCA but not nominated for Oscar just like Affleck but at least Affleck’s film got BP nom while Spielberg’s not) he was snubbed. Not to mention Jaws, The Color Purple (DGA winner). Plus Attenborough also said Spielberg deserved more for E.T than him. So if you count Spielberg’s real chances he should already has 4 BD wins for E.T, The Color Purple, Schindler’s List and SPR.

    So despite his wins he is right up there with most snubbed directors.

  • Unlikely hood

    Jade Fox
    You’re wrong.
    Depiction does mean endorsement, unless the film clarifies otherwise. If two men are kissing in a film, with no other narrative points, the film is endorsing homosexuality. If six more men beat the crap out of those two, and the film is edited like “Taken” and we’re supposed to enjoy it, and the film ends, then the film has depicted – and endorsed – vile violence against gays. Does the filmmaker get to say “well this happened I don’t want to whitewash it”?

    More relevant to ZDT, imagine a film about the 40-year Tuskegee syphilis experiments on rural blacks. Our focus is on the relatively “innocent” scientists – never does the film imply that they did anything bad. At the end of the film, the scientists celebrate (and even high five) because they’ve learned something new
    about syphilis. YAY!!!!

    Really? And you’d defend such a film? “it’s just showing history without bias” you’d say? Really?

    You’re wrong.

  • Kane

    Unlikely Hood,

    (Spoiler Alert)

    Consider There Will Be Blood. Does Paul Thomas Anderson endorse murder because of that final scene where Day-Lewis kills Dano? It just ends after that. Or for that matter does he endorse fanaticism? Depiction is not endorsement. If its in a story then it’s in a story. Or say that, beyond a shadow of a doubt and it’s been proven, torture did happen when interrogating prisoners about the whereabouts of Bin Laden. Are Bigelow and Boal endorsing torture even though Boal’s supposed sources say it happened? Maybe torture scenes are in 0D30 because they may actually believe it happened over their, not because they think its the right thing to do. By your logic you can make a case that anything seen in any film is an endorsement by the filmmakers.

    I know this may come across aggressive but please don’t take it that way. I’ve only had 2 cups of coffee this morning.

  • By your logic you can make a case that anything seen in any film is an endorsement by the filmmakers.

    It’s always troubled me how movies endorse fucking Billy Bob Thornton.

  • “More relevant to ZDT, imagine a film…”

    Yes, let’s imagine a scene even more directly relevant. The Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter. Are there any shots of the Vietcong tormentors that depict doubt clouding their faces, wondering if they’re behaving immorally?

    Or do you just figure that out on your own?

    We’re shown something awful happening. We make up our own minds how to feel about.

    I know 50 people are ready to furiously type — but it’s OBVIOUS WHO THE HERO IS in the DEERHUNTER!

    Good for you! congrats for your astute conscience telling you whose side to be in such a blunt hammering scene. Great, you sympathize with the big American movie star. Wow, what a senstive moral compass you have.

    Now if only you had a little sympathy for the guy being interrogated in Zero Dark Thirty, maybe you could fine-tune your insight to more subtle cues.

    Anyone who doesn’t feel bad for the detainee in Zero Dark Thirty has their own conscience to answer to. If you feel he’s being treated horribly treated, then the movie has done its job making you see that waterboarding is horrible experience.

    Some people watching Zero Dark Thirty are not going to mind seeing those scenes. Other people are going to be outraged.

    If you don’t find that range of reactions fascinating, then I think you’re missing the whole point.

    You can feel bad for the detainee if you want to. The movie enables and condones those feelings. Or you can choose not to give a shit about him. The movie isn’t going to judge you.

    It’s on you. It’s ON YOU.

    Some people will watch Zero Dark Thirty and be ok with what it depicts. A lot of other people will watch it and be infuriated by what it depicts. What kind of person are you? The movie provides the test.

    To me, that’s part of its genius.

    by the way, I missed the part at the end of Pearl Harbor where all the American airmen returning home were wracked with guilt about what they did to the children and babies of Hiroshima that day. Are those scenes on the director’s cut?

  • Nic V

    Yesterday Jason Clarke was on a talk show discussing Zero with a few women I won’t even mention by name. A very articulate man and I deliberately watched that segment because of the controversey. Mr. Clarke sitting there told the audience that he decided he wanted to experience “waterboarding” so that he had some type of connection to the scene in the film and understood what the “detainee” was experiencing. Mr. Clarke then proceeded to explain that he was “waterboarded”. Mr. Clarke also then qualified his commentary by explaining to the audience that when the experience became too much for him he would give a thumbs up and they hoist him from the water and end his so called experience. I swim. I love the water but I gotta tell you that I go underwater and start to get water in my lungs I’m heading for the surface as quickly as I can. I doubt very seriously that interrogators would remove a detainee from the experience just because they gave a thumbs up. Those are the kind statements that should never be made. Any individual who decides they want to experience something someone else has been through and then qualifies their experience with a gesture that takes them out of the situation is truly not experiencing what is happening. I mean that’s like saying you went into Bergen Belsen and entered the chamber and you made a deal with the guard that you’d stay in the chamber just long enough so you could get a feeling of how the gas was going to affect you. I’m sure Mr. Clarke meant well but he couldn’t possibly realize how stupid he sounded at the same time.

    Films and politics always raise controversy. I think getting into a debate about the controversey is the mistake. You made a film, it dealt with a very sensitive issue. Acknowledge the issue and then move on. Don’t throw anymore wood on the fire than you have too.

  • jgalt312

    Bigelow is a fine director and ZDT is a great film, but:
    It has been only 3 years since the hurt locker and a significant part of the academy hates Cameron (because he can be an ass and is successful), so they effed him over with his exwife, that was good publicity for everyone involved. No Cameron film this year, so Bigelow desn’t make the cut

  • Joe Clinton

    All 5 best director nominees were from best picture nominess, so what’s the problem? My favorite was nominated, some other people’s were not. Oh well.

  • Unlikely hood

    There Will Be Blood and The Deer Hunter are good examples. You make solid points. I would argue, however, that 1) those aren’t true stories (with title cards telling us so), and 2) the morality in those films is pretty clear. I could name scenes, but I think you know. Yes ZDT lets you figure it out. And I agree that’s mostly a strength. It’s a great movie in many ways. But they had to know that this particular “objective” version of events dovetails exactly with Dick Cheney’s version of these events. To have the characters torture and continuously (at least three times) lament that they don’t get to torture more – come on. If this was about Mengele torturing gays during WW2, and if the film was that one sided, something tells me you wouldn’t be this sanguine.

    Pearl Harbor might have been a better example – but I missed the Hiroshima scene. I saw Arec Barwin (sorry I always call him by his Team America name) leading the charge into Midway, film over. Some revenge justified, but souls unsettled everywhere. Also should we really be using Michael Bay as a moral barometer? Anyway, YEAH, when films
    approach the A-bomb, there’s hand-wringing. Watch Fat Man and Little Boy. Or Hiroshima Mon Amour. Great actress there, Emmanuelle Riva. Superb job. Wonder whatever happened to her?

  • If this was about Mengele torturing gays during WW2, and if the film was that one sided something tells me you wouldn’t be this sanguine.

    Important to point out that gays in WW2 were not giving assistance to gay terrorist masterminds bent on the destruction of Germany. (ATTN: Tarantino)

    Seems a pretty obvious thing to disregard, so let’s please try not to lose sight of any concept of guilt, innocence or complicity of the persons being subjected to ill-treatment.

    All the examples we can come up with have similar faulty equivalence, including my own examples.

  • Unlikely hood

    Here’s a question I haven’t asked yet – mostly cause I know no one will answer:

    Let’s say for the sake of argument that Bigelow and Boal know, hands down 100% sure, that one of the ways that KSM was tortured (or someone like him) was to present a baby to him, and then slowly flay the baby’s skin for every non-answer. Ripping the baby apart like a Saw movie. (I am looking at my own 8-month-old child as I type this.) Would Bigelow have been “right” to show that, and then go on Letterman and say “look, depiction is not endorsement, I wish it didn’t happen, but if filmmakers can’t address a topic honestly…” etc?

    Because all the arguments I’m hearing add up to a big YES to my question.

    Sasha gets it. On her Facebook page she linked to an article that quotes a Stanford prof as saying that Americans are more pro-torture than they were 15 years ago, which she attributes to “media influence” (read: 24 and ilk). Sasha says that for her dad, ZDT will stand as what really happened.

    I’m not even saying that’s not what really happened. Never have I said that. I’m not Dianne Feinstein and I have no idea. But if it is what happened, we are owed an “objective” vision of it that attempts to reckon with its moral costs – as did There Will Be Blood and The Deer Hunter.

  • Kane

    Unlikely Hood,

    No I don’t believe Bigelow would be wrong in showing that. That’s a very horrific example but I get what you’re getting at. If its based on truth then yeah, why not show it? It’ll get an NR-17 rating and for those who can stomach it, okay. Did Innaritu endorse dog fighting when he filmed Amores Perros? I don’t believe Bigelow endorsed torture in 0D30. Whether or not she believes in it is her own business, not ours. But there’s no message on screen saying she’s okay with it. She very much makes a case against it more than for it. Maya had a little trouble viewing it initially and she even told the guy to tell the truth. We also saw how much pain the guy was in, we felt it. It’s almost ANTI-torture. If Maya and Dan were standing outside and Dan’s like, “I’ll get the answer” and walks inside and we (as the audience) don’t go in as well then we’ll be spared of all the horrors that go along with torture. If Dan comes out and was like, “I beat him up and got what we needed, and I’d do it again because he’s scum” then a case can be made that the filmmakers endorse it all. But I truly believe artists have a right to our on film whatever they want. And torture did serve the story. I won’t say that it was the reason they got the information, SPOILER, actually I believe it was because Dan tricked the guy, but witnessing what she did only hardened Maya and made her more focused.

  • Mattoc

    Ripping a baby apart in front of a detainee and water boarding, in a hypothetical sense would be treated differently.

    I believe the depiction of water boarding was shown because a lot of people (like me) did not understand what it actually was. People don’t need a visualization of a baby being skinned alive.

  • Unlikely hood

    Kane, Mattoc: thanks.

    Amores Perros isn’t a true story. Neither is Reservoir Dogs, which some stuck-in-the-middle people find a little too nihilist on the torture issue.

    I phrased my question badly. It’s less would they show it? and more: if they made it clear that baby-flaying happened, and at some point Obama said “no more baby flaying,” and our heroes looked at each other like Oh Great now WTF are we supposed to do? and the film asked you to sympathize with them – would you still defend it this way?

    Kane I really appreciate what you’re saying – thank you for citing scenes. I realize it’s possible that the film presented “both sides” and I was too thick to get it. Maybe I’m asking for too much spoon-feeding. Somehow, though, when another female director tackling a true story – working with a food-stamp budget – Boys Don’t Cry – showed something reprehensible (rape) I didn’t feel spoon-fed nor did I doubt the worldview of the film. Kim Peirce doesnt leave anyone wondering if she’s justifying rape. Am I supposed to believe that Bigelow is just better at “being objective”? Just putting out the facts and letting us decide for ourselves, like Ryan said?

    I’m saying it depends on the facts. And if the facts were baby-flaying, or Arabs torturing Americans in a color-timed reversal, I think opinions around here would change.

    Having said that, if Martin Sheen and Ed Asner are calling for boycotts, they can piss off.

  • Kane

    Hood, I’d have to believe it was tough for Bigelow and company to make something as non-biased as that is. Every filmmaker likes to throw in their opinion but I guess brutality speaks for itself, like you said “spoon-fed.” We should all take pointers from David Lynch, who doesn’t like to do commentaries because “films should speak for themselves.” And yes yes…that was imdb.

  • steve50

    I’m just coming in from seeing Zero Dark Thirty in a state that’s a frantic combination of awe and anger, so forgive any rambling/typos.

    First the awe – Bigelow has given us an unflinching and diamond-hard work of genius that has no time for froth, sentimentality or….politics. She, along with Boal, her cast and technical masters have made one of the bravest depictions of revenge ever put on film – the relentless focus it requires, the costs to all concerned, depicted with surgical precision that passes no judgement as is vaults us to the conclusion. It is a remarkable feat of filmmaking.

    Now, the anger, not at the film, but at the manufactured storm surrounding it. In a word, Zero Dark Thirty does not endorse torture. It skillfully depicts events in a compressed format that took place in a time in history when torture was one of the tools used to achieve a goal. Like it or not, that is a fact.

    To suggest that the film endorses torture is madness, at least the film I saw. When I hear that Martin Sheen is bullhorning the boycott of the film forces me to rethink my admiration for Apocalypse Now and Badlands. If he’s correct that depiction equals endorsement, then I guess those suckers, depicting war atrocities and murder, belong in the garbage bin. David Clennon and Mr Grant have protrayed all kinds of unsavory bastards in their careers and all the time, I thought they were acting, not endorsing. What a fool I am.

    Perhaps it is inaccurate to suggest that torture made a small contribution to the eventual killing of Bin Laden, but Hollywood (and its fans) are extremely forgiving of far worse. This year’s AFI citation for Lincoln references DW Griffith as a compliment, but Birth of a Nation is one of the most racist films ever made. From the insulting portrayal of slavery in Gone with the Wind to the grievous inaccuracies of The Alamo, How the West was Won and The Green Berets, Hollywood has bent and whitewashed history since the beginning. And not only American history – no, they go round the world. Just a couple off the top of my head would be the ridiculous misrepresentation of the Boxer Rebellion in 55 Days in Peking, the one-sidedness of the so-called mau mau uprising in Kenya in Something of Value, and the outright slanderous portrayal of Turkey in Midnight Express. Where was the enlightened mob for those films, not one of them very good.

    The crazy quilt of protesters boycotting includes some real jaw-droppers. Holier-than-thou politicians who insist on taking a magic eraser to something that happened on their watch, with their blessing. Delusional messiahs from Mother Jones to Al Jazeera (yes, I read Al Jazeera) cry out that you should not see this film because it endorses torture, yet often the posted tomes begin with, “I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty yet, but….”

    I have to ask them – where was your outrage when these events were actually happening? Why is a hellhole like Gitmo still in operation? How can you condemn a powerfully ambiguous representation of something we know occurred, yet issue not the slightest tear for the thousands on both sides who died, and continue to die, in two illegal invasions that were probably unnecessary? And how did all those inaccurate Hollywood films of the past slip by your obviously discerning eyes?

    When they can answer any of those to satisfaction, I’ll surrender that your position is valid and we can all blame Katherine Bigelow for our pain. Until then, however, only she and Mark Boal have had the guts to offer up anything of value and we should thank them for doing such a great job to make us face some hard truths.

    Zero Dark Thirty enters my “best” list in second place, right behind Life of Pi.

  • yay, steve50!
    Podcasting now. Back later.

    Thanks for a terrific contribution to the discussion. A+ for having thoughts similar to my own.

  • unlikely hood

    I have thought the same thing – where were people at the actual outrages? Where were they on other films? Yes.

    But that doesn’t excuse everything.

    I don’t know if you are talking to me but I’m not asking for surrender nor blaming Bigelow for our pain. As I’ve said many times, I loved ZDT. I am talking about one thing I don’t like about it. One error that I think could have and should have been corrected. But since I’m the only one (outside Mohammed, and he’s nutty, and Sasha, who obviously can’t be asked) to represent that view here, of course I sound more extreme on it than I am.

    Putting it in a realm beyond politics is like putting something in a realm beyond ideology. But everything has ideology – even, say, Gerald Butler’s Playing For Keeps. Yes, I’m not gonna raise as much of a stink about ongoing dumbing-down of America, and maybe I should. But that doesn’t change the fact that this film

    1) confirms everything Cheney ever said,
    2) refutes everything his detractors ever said and
    3) Bigelow and Boal were old enough and smart enough to know that

    When you can answer any of THAT to satisfaction, then I’ll surrender.

  • steve50

    NO, unlikely hood – not directing at you whatsoever. I understand your point and maybe I just didn’t see the error, or see it as an error, as you did.

    My issue is with those who haven’t seen, or feel some need to use the boycotting of the film, as some sort of catharsis to relieve the guilt of their own impotence for the past 10 years. The arguments against Zero Dark Thirty can be laid at the steps of almost every “fact-based” Hollywood film since The Great Train Robbery. I just don’t get the outrage that appears all of a sudden.

    I don’t know that the film outright confirms everything that Cheney said, at least in a manner that comes off as approval, but it is a depiction from within the sub-society given the job that was to be done and the boundaries, or lack of, within which they were expected to work.

    Bigelow and Boal ARE old enough to know that. They could have slipped in a little sugar to make the medicine go down a little easier, but they didn’t, and I have to applaud them for that. They may have pissed off everyone from one extreme to the other, but they very effective;y rubbed our noses in the mess we made, and I applaud them for it.

    I haven’t see such arguments that shattered the ideologies of the right and left since A Clockwork Orange – wish you had been around for that one.

    Playing for Keeps has an ideology?

  • steve50

    Ryan, just got caught up and saw your long Deer Hunter post from earlier.

    Back at ya!

    I was going to use it, Sheen was a much tastier target.

  • unlikely hood

    I get what you mean about sugar and medicine. I *do* think it’s possible to depict an entire sub-culture without mercy or spoon-feeding – for me, “KIds” is an example of that. It’s never overtly “hey this is fucked up” but you sense it, even before the last shot (“what happened?”). My main issue with the absolutely excellent ZDT is that, depicting an ostensibly true story, our heroes kept singing the praises of torture and the film in no way suggests that that’s a problem (or that they’re “anti-heroes” in 1970s parlance). To say as Ryan began to say “well you can’t blame them for not making the film you want” – that’s silly, we do that for every film we don’t like. Don’t make me link to Ryan’s reviews of War Horse.

    Perhaps I just missed the film you guys saw. I saw a film that was everything the torture-justifiers could possibly have asked for. Damn, “Munich” gave more credence to the Palestinians who SLAUGHTERED Israeli athletes in cold blood (in that staircase scene). If Spielberg can be even-handed with Arafat, damn, I think Bigelow could have given Ali Soufan a tiny word (google him). And yes, it’s a little immoral not to.

    Are you guys sure you want to keep going with the Deer Hunter? Cause if this is right:


    …then that’s what I’m talking about. The difference is that Cimino didn’t have 100 episodes of a hit suicide TV show before him. Bigelow knew about “24” and its chilling effect on our country and its government officials (according to Peter Bergen, who would know, torturers used it as justification; I’m assuming she spoke to some of them). ZDT basically says, “do this after the next 9/11. At most some woman will cry at the end.” Not good.

  • rufussondheim

    I get annoyed when people say this film endorses torture or say that torture works.

    When the truth is that giving a prisoner tasty fruit is what actually worked.

    It takes some good critical thinking skills to realize this movie doesn’t say torture works. For all we know, the torture at the beginning of the film might have prolonged the effort to elicit any information he had. Maybe if they had given him a TiVo and some fruit on day one and then taken it away on day two, he may have talked on day three if they gave him more fruit and a TiVo. We don’t know. There is no cause and effect shown, any conclusion one makes that torture does work is pure supposition.

  • steve50

    Precisely, rufus. The POV is from the inside. It’s military-based, eye-on-the-pie. One doesn’t question. Moralization leads to PTSD and hesitation can result in death. That’s the atmosphere and training, and, from personal experience, I thought that mentality was perfectly depicted.

    We don’t need to know cause and effect because we’re in the moment. The audience can draw its own conclusions – later.

  • rufussondheim

    So you really think Life of Pi is better?

    I am so in love with Zero Dark Thirty I can’t see strait.

  • steve50

    Yeah, by a hair or two. I love them both, but I guess, like most people, I would vote with my heart this year. Zero Dark Thirty was a mesmerizing experience and I loved every frame; Pi “got” me.

  • rufussondheim

    What gets me most about the film is the final moments. Watching Chastain ID the body then move along to the plane. She’s left with nothing. And it’s so utterly heartbreaking that it’s painful for me to even think about it.

    To put it another way. Osama bin Laden is her Richard Parker.

  • steve50

    OR, once she has gotten Bin Laden, her Richard Parker “leaves” her and she realizes what she has done.

  • rufussondheim

    Either way, both films are great and I am eager to see both again.

  • steve50

    Yes, they both about coming to terms with things that are difficult. On one hand, you’re a hero; on the other hand, it eats you up inside. Both are great pieces of work and we’re lucky to have the opportunity to choose and change at will.

  • Kane

    Wow…Osama bin Landen…Richard Parker…I just had a cathartic moment. Thanks for the jaw dropper haha

  • Wow…Osama bin Landen…Richard Parker…I just had a cathartic moment. Thanks for the jaw dropper haha

    rufussondheim, I had to put that in a tweet so the web can wrap its worldwide head around it. (I like it).

  • rufussondheim

    It’s not the perfect analogy, but Pi says that without Richard Parker he could not have survived. Of course this is literal survival. But for Maya, her existence is more or less defined by her pursuit of bin Laden.

    And when Richard Parker walks off into the woods, Pi is empty and alone. And once bin Laden is killed, Maya is in the same situation. Both Pi and Maya, if asked, would probably define themselves in terms of their rivals, as they are all-consuming.

    Theme and variation. If one were in a film studies class, you could probably come up with a great compare/contrast paper if that were the assigment.

  • unlikely hood


    I teach 3 of those film studies classes. Generally, I don’t let the students come up with the paper topics. But that’s not bad.

    As for the giving prisoner tasty fruit, that canard was addressed by Sasha numerous times, including on the mainpage. I’m not as articulate as she is, nor do I feel like going back to link, but basically she said that snack business doesn’t reduce the film’s insistence that torture worked – it’s just good-copping preceded by the very necessary bad-copping.

    Zero Dark Thirty is a tremendous, amazing film. It’s better than The Artist, Hugo, The Help, Midnight in Paris, War Horse, The Descendants…maybe not Tree of Life…anyway it would have deserved last year’s Oscar. But it’s a film with a fatal flaw. It’s kinda like Return of the Jedi that way.

    Pushing torture = Ewoks

    Guaranteed NOT to be re-tweeted by Ryan

  • Kane

    Still struggling with that cathartic moment. Reason? I grew to love Richard Parker. That’s what separates the two…plus a bullet to the head :coughhollacough:

  • Mattoc

    Good god. I seriously have no idea what people see in this film. I wish I did. Is it an American thing?
    I am the exact opposite of unlikely hood. Not a problem with the depiction of torture and thought the movie was…well, nothing to me.
    I have only seen it once on advance, but plan on seeing it again when it opens proper.
    Good god.

  • rufussondheim

    Well, Sasha is wrong, plain and simple.

    First off, I’ve still not seen any discussion of “enhanced interrogation techniques” or Geneva Conventions or any discussion of what constitutes torture and what does not. Just because it’s “bad cop” does not make it torture.

    And, again, we have no way of knowing if the guy would have confessed or not without the waterboarding. Absolutely no way. Just because it was part of the “bad cop” sequence does not mean it was effective. As I’ve said before, it might have been entirely counterproductive.

    Additionally, in discussing the issue outside of the film. Even if there is one time torture worked and the agent got the info out of the suspect, that’s still no evidence torture works. Because there could be 100 other instances where torture failed. Maybe if there was never torture involved, they would have been successful five out of the 101 times and gotten even better information.

    There really is no way, scientifically speaking, to know whether torture works or not, as it’s impossible to duplicate the situation in a controlled, verifiable situation.

    Anyone who claims to know that torture works (or doesn’t work) based on what’s presented in this film is clearly bonkers in the intellectual department.

  • steve50

    I’m with you, rufus, but there are clearly a lot of well-respected minds out there (and some who are not) who have made that leap, that the film does make a claim. I don’t think it did.

    Maybe Bigelow/Boal could have adding something that questioned the effectiveness of torture, but I’m sure how she could have done that without breaking her stride from the point of view from which she was telling the story.

  • rufussondheim

    I’d love to see some of those “well-respected” minds actually engage me on the issue so I can tear them apart intellectually. But they don’t. Hmm.

  • steve50

    Well, I don’t want to become one who fans the fire, but here’s a link from a post by Steve Coll.

    It’s long and thorough, (still I’m not buying it) but itself makes a leap at the end that I don’t agree with.


  • Unlikely hood

    Rufus – don’t “hmmm.” you want to be intellectually challenged? Go ahead and refute all the points I’ve made on this thread. There are plenty of them. How ZDT is basically history with more amorality than Harmony Korine. About the baby flaying. About not reaching Deer Hunter standards. Etc. You don’t? Hmmm.

    Tell you what, intellectual superstar. Start by showing me another true-story film where depiction was not endorsement – where the filmmakers just put it out there, let us decide, didn’t show their own moral values. Can’t think of one? “hmmm.”

  • Unlikely hood

    Perhaps you’re saying “ZDT doesn’t prove torture works” because we haven’t defined torture? But we did. Waterboarding is in the Geneva convention, it’s part of how we prosecuted Japan in the 1940s. Clearly the film shows that, then insists we wouldn’t have found UBL otherwise.

    Or are you saying the film leaves open the possibility that we might have found him later anyway? Technically that’s true but extremely flimsy. Would you watch all the presidents men and say that doesn’t prove that they needed deep throat to nail nixon? Come on.

    Or are you saying that ZDT is only saying torture worked in this case, not generally? That discounts the representational power of cinema. Of course people are going to read it that way if they already read made-up Jack Bauer the same way! And I mean the people doing the interrogations.

    Hmmmm, indeed.

  • rufussondheim

    Since I work 10 to 12 hours on Thursdays through Sundays I don’t have the time to go through the thread.

    As for what’s in the post I don’t see how relating or comparing this film to any other film brings any light into the issue. Just because something happened in the Deer Hunter doesn’t reflect on what happens in Zero Dark Thirty.

    And here I thought the discussion was on whether Zero Dark Thirty is an endorsement of torture. You appear to want to argue something else entirely. Right now, I have six minutes before I have to hop into the shower. Maybe if you can explain how the other stuff you I might get to it. I might not. The GGs are tonight and I will want to watch them.

    I’m not trying to be dismissive, just pointing out I don’t have time and that I don’t understand your arguement or how it is relevant.

  • rufussondheim

    insists? really? I must have missed that section.

  • Kane

    Hood, I’m trying to think of a few examples….the Saw franchise shows excessive (sort-of) torture and brutal killings. Does that endorse violence? Or how about Glory when Denzel is getting whipped. Nobody stops the whipping even when he cries. Surely Glory can’t endorse beating slaves. By showing what the victim is feeling we’re meant to sympathize with them. Se7en and that ending? Is it saying revenge is the right answer? Think anout it, I mean leave Saw aside, but if Glory and Se7en didn’t have those two scenes then the movies would be INFINITELY different. They’re meant to make us feel something; outrage, sympathy, sorrow. The reason this film is talked about so much is because it’s up for Oscars and it deals with Middle East relations, people feel like they HAVE to pick a side and not let a movie play on its own. The fact that the rest of the movie is being overlooked is criminal. If horrific acts of violence and psychological torment serves a story then by all means, let it serve a story. I’m looking at my DVD shelf of hundreds and hundreds of films, I bet I can pick out many where I can make a case of “endorsement”. Come to think of it, Syriana has both torture AND an act of terror from a character that we learn to somewhat sympathize with. I never heard anybody saying Syriana endorses torture, acts of terrorism, big oil and the CIA doing horrible things.

  • unlikely hood

    Kane: good examples. There is a whole industry that came down on Saw for advocating torture – Joss Whedon talked about it as part of why he made “Cabin in the Woods.” But as you say, forget Saw. I even think we need to throw out Syriana, Seven, and Tarantino films – let’s stick to “true stories” because steve and rufus are getting their “it’s just holding a mirror up to history” argument from the idea that it’s a true story (and certainly, the film says it is). In Glory, a truish story, it’s 100% clear that we’re not meant to sympathize with Denzel’s whippers. The film has dozens of discussions of blacks’ place in the army, of the hypocrisy of even Northern whites, etc.

    Rufus (feel free to wait til you’re off work) –

    If precedent doesn’t matter, then why the FUCK have you brought up Steve McQueen’s Hunger on every third thread on this website? I mean you reach for that film when it’s entirely inappropriate – and I’ve never dinged you for it. Why? Because you’re right, precedent matters. And the fact that you can’t come up with a precedent for an amoral, take-it-or-leave-it “true story” like ZDT also matters. Because other filmmakers who thought to emulate Battle of Algiers
    knew that it’s irresponsible to just present events “as they happened” without some kind of moral lens.

    Let me quote Sasha from one of her comments on one of her own facebook updates. I agree with her here – note the use of metaphor LIKE WHEN YOU QUOTE “HUNGER”:

    The movie doesn’t “advocate torture.” That’s a misread of why it’s controversial. It tells one side of a disputed event. It’s like telling the story of getting into the war in Iraq and showing that there were weapons of mass destruction and those led us there. Telling it straight, without showing that there was some dispute over those events. Zero Dark Thirty tells the story that we tortured and torture led (eventually) to Bin Laden.

    Your argument about the fruit confession is both lawyerly and something that wouldn’t hold up in court. Technically, causality is not PROVED – sure, anything could have led to anything. If Bruce Willis hadn’t killed the first terrorist with feet smaller than his sister, he still might have killed the other 11 in Die Hard. Sure. But every film turns into representation. You may as well say “Uh, Norma Rae only proves that unionizing worked there, not that it would work anywhere else.” That’s a gross misunderstanding of how it was and is read. And at the very very least, ZDT presents absolutely no challenge to the Cheney-ites who say that torture worked. They can screen the film at the next Heritage Foundation meeting and every neo-con can smile with satisfaction. AND the next wave of interrogators have their justification. And Bigelow, knowing about “24,” knew that. That’s irresponsible – that’s why no filmmaker did that before. That’s why Peter Bergen, telling the same story in the book Manhunt, gives a far more equivocal account.

  • Mattoc

    Unlikely hood,

    You seem to like the film, so I want to help get you over the hump. I didn’t and it has nothing to do with the controversy so I’m beyond help.

    So… hypothetically, if Bigelow and Boal had come out and publicly stated that the intent of the film was the show conclusively that the torture of detainees led them to find and kill Bin Laden – would you say they achieved their goal?

    Or, If they had publicly stated that the intent was to show that torture is justified – would you say they archived their goal?

    You could also flip both those statements around and still come up with the same answer. No, not conclusively.

    It’s not conclusive because that wasn’t the intent. They gave all their characters, on both sides the benefit of doubt.

  • unlikely hood

    Mattoc – Again, we could split hairs about causality. If Dirty Harry shoots someone in a film, does that prove he had to use a gun to kill him? No, not really. Harry could have used a knife. But if you met someone who owned a gun and said “I want to be like Dirty Harry”, would you say, “Dude, you’re an idiot, Dirty Harry could have used a knife”?

    In the meeting with Leon Panetta, Maya says that they got the information on the courier from one of the old black-site interrogations. We never saw anyone interrogated that wasn’t tortured. Thus we have to assume that torture was both necessary and sufficient to get us to Bin Laden. Now, if this was any previous fact-based docudrama about doing something immoral – say, rape, murder, child porn, whatever – we might see some hint of remorse from our heroine Maya in this scene. If the torture had involved flaying babies, I bet we would have seen her flinch a little. But we don’t – instead she says “I’m the motherfucker that found him” (which I actually loved). She’s jockeying for position in a man’s world – I get that. But basically, Maya is saying that the waterboarding was justified. That’s pretty hard to separate from the film’s message.

  • Mattoc

    That’s crazy talk ‘hood. Dirty Harry would never shoot someone with a knife.

    I understand what you’re saying. I really do ( channeling Sally Field), but you and everyone else are arguing points that the film, frankly, doesn’t make. Well it’s not the intent anyway. The way they chose to tell and film this story has more people flummoxed that a David Lynch movie.

    I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment of the movie, but that ” I’m the motherfucker…” line was as bad as the “suck my dick” line in G.I Joe

  • Dimon

    I was tortured for almost 3 years by the FBI and their friends only because 85 years old man, Roland Sibens(chicago) convinced them that I am a terrorist. I was tortured for working on my prosthetic legs in the basement. I done absolutely nothing illegal or wrong. They thought that in theory it is possible to hide bomb in them. They saw an opportunity to get famous, so they were trying to torture me till I sign their insane story. They tortured me using more than 100 different torturing methods and trust to me waterboarding is not how they torture nowadays.

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