“I was wondering (really hoping) that we would get an essay on how you think the election of Trump to the Presidency would affect the Race this year.
Do you think the Academy, the critics groups and the rest will use their awards and ceremonies as an opportunity to rebuke the Trump agenda? Does it create greater consideration for films like Loving, Moonlight and Hell or High Water?”
The first thing to know is that it’s hard to imagine anything worse for our country or the world than the election of Donald Trump. In some ways, Trump is really just a dancing monkey who will keep the people distracted and entertained while the Republicans in Congress trash everything President Obama tried to achieve, with nobody in the White House to stop them. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence, and perhaps Newt Gingrich will be the men in charge of governing. Other characters joining the monkey dance, putting on the show, shining a light on Trump, will be those in his ridiculous cabinet, which will include regulars from Breitbart, Fox News pundits, and a bunch of stupid toadies and has-beens who have no idea how to govern. They will keep the monkey dancing, and the people will gawk, and the media will profit off the spectacle.
Democrats end their race as they began it: cripplingly divided. Divided Democrats do not win elections unless they can find a way to unite. Democrats almost never elect successors after another Democrat leaves office (except for Democratic presidents who died in office, you have to go back to the 1800s to find the last time one Democrat followed another). Despite what anyone tells you, the Democrats picked the best candidate, the woman who was polling way, way, way ahead of any of her competitors. Hillary Clinton had spent her entire career devoting her life to liberal ideals, and contributing to the Democrat party. She has paid her dues and then some. And yet, because this generation does not know its history, the decades of unfounded partisan attacks against Hillary Clinton became fact for the newly woke progressive liberals.
In terms of historic precedent, Democrats were already primed for a loss. After two terms with one party, even with favorability scores as high as President Obama’s, voters always look for change, not continuity. But no one figured the change would yank us back to the other end of the spectrum. Nobody could foresee a white supremacist uprising. No one factored in the phenomenon of Americans raised on reality television since 1999, or thought the mindless facade of the Donald Trump they saw on TV could transition unscripted to the campaign trail. But a candidate with charisma has a much better shot at winning than the candidate who doesn’t have the same charisma. Even when that charisma drips from a personality so abhorrent, it’s hard for jaundiced media and jaded viewers to turn away.
There is no fixing Stupid America any time soon. Stupid on both sides of the stupid coin. They’re stupid on the left where people like Viggo Mortensen can’t be bothered to support Democrats, or Susan Sarandon who could not stop crowing about her vagina. (Trust me, she should have let her vagina vote — it couldn’t possibly have ended any worse). They couldn’t even do it to preserve the legacy of President Obama, a man who spent eight years trying to execute a progressive agenda that progressive voters provided no assistance to attain — because they didn’t vote in the mid-terms to give him a Congress willing to work together.
It seemed at least half the Democrats were roiling around in white man “fix it” rage, and their blame game took aim squarely, and stupidly, and predictably on Hillary Clinton. Many of these were the most hardcore bitter Bernie supporters whose virulent hatred for Hillary during the primaries segued into spiteful resentment and revenge when their man failed to get enough votes to win the nomination. Others who refused to help beat us Trump were just plain suspicious old men who swallowed the lies of the media, never got what Hillary was all about and never tried to, convinced that she was a “weak” candidate, blah blah blah.
The other half of Democratic voters are the better half — the loyal half, the determined half, the more pragmatic half. These are the people who were willing to roll up their sleeves, put all hands on deck, and try to win the election. Not only for Hillary Clinton, but for the Supreme Court and our planet’s survival. With Pence whispering Bible stories in Trump’s ear, we are now set to get a conservative religious court that will make all of your heads spin. And forget your futile pipelines protests, your efforts to prevent glacial ice melt, your hopes for alternative energy or — gasp — your plans to end fracking. THAT SHIT IS OVER. It’s done.
And let’s not even talk about one of the most important things we lost: the power of the free press. They’re done too, only they don’t seem to know it. Every reputable newspaper in the country endorsed Hillary Clinton and sounded a five-alarm fire for Trump. But at some point it became clear, with maybe the 500th story at the New York Times about Hillary’s email server, that something had gone very very wrong with how this election was being covered. Click-bait draws eyeballs but it doesn’t tell any kind of useful truth. It Facebooks the legitimate press by luring in the most eyeballs with stories they know will do the trick: slippery misleading headlines for the fastest mass hysteria. And the worst part, when Julianne Assange pulled out his reedy ineffectual dick, the American press corps got down on its knees and opened wide. They didn’t even question the authenticity. Leak leak, drip drip. The media played along, viewers played right along with them, and now the reputation of our news organizations are finished too. Trump taught the entire electorate not to trust the “dishonest” media, so now we don’t. There’s nothing more we can believe
We’re headed for catastrophic environmental consequences that will end the world as we know it, and if you ask me, it’s a pity that demise won’t come fast enough to shrug our species off the face of the earth. Equal rights? Ha. LGBT family rights (already threatened, will be immediately undermined), racial equality and respect (Black Lives Matter protesters have been called thugs by Trump; and our potential Homeland Security Director, Cowboy Clark, said today he suspects BLM is in cahoots with ISIS), undocumented workers and Dreamers (adios, that dream just became a nightmare). You name it, it’s over. It’s done. It’s all gone. We’re about to lose everything we’ve struggled decades to gain, all because a handful of stupid fucking selfish morons couldn’t be bothered to help the Democrats defeat this arrogant ignorant gargoyle. This has been the single most painful election I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. And it isn’t the Republicans I blame. No, the blame sits squarely on the shoulders of Democrats, those puny giants who couldn’t be bothered to help.
And so when you hear people say stupid shit like, “She was the wrong candidate,” you know they’re not facing the truth about how this race went down. They’re in denial about the extent of their own blame. There was never any choice who the Democratic candidate was going to be. Never. Anyone who thought there was does not know America and does not know its history. Trust me, any Democrat would have had a hard row to hoe in times like these, but especially any starry-eyed idealist who promised to raise taxes to pay for “free college” and “free healthcare.” Even the dumbest voter — and boy do we have millions of those — isn’t dumb enough to believe in the instant utopia promised by the far left. People who haven’t been able to afford a new car in 1o years want to hear how to get back on their feet, not about free goodies for everybody. Now thanks to the vague idiocy of the Green Party and Jill Stein’s vanity pageant, we are now thrust into an Ayn Rand nightmare, in which Paul Ryan’s boner to privatize America’s social programs for profiteers and his horrifying budget contortions has Trump to ready perform a reach-around with a rubber stamp.
No, the 2016 race for the White House would be decided on two things: the economy (jobs and taxes) and terrorism (Isis and immigrant boogeymen). Problem is, real solutions are complicated, and lazy journalists were too busy squealing about emails every day to take time to help voters understand that. So the shallow candidate who talked in tweet-length outbursts got his message splattered on TV, while the deeper candidate who spoke in full-length coherent paragraphs was too smart for too many people to focus on and listen to.
So that’s the shit we’re in. But you wanted to know how Trump’s rise might impact the Oscar race. Here are a few films I think might seem especially valuable and relevant right now:
Loving – If there is one film that really does echo legitimate cries of the two Americas, it’s this one. We’re a divided country and have been since the Civil War. Even 150 years ago, it wasn’t just the horror of slavery itself — it was about the country’s dependence on the slave economy. From America’s inception we were a nation with the nerve to declare all men are created equal, at the same time the men who wrote those words enslaved black people as their property. Our economy then was not a lot different from our economy now: the rich get richer, and the poor struggle to stay alive. If you know anything at all about homophobe Mike Pence, then you understand transgender rights will be immediately restricted, rolled back 50 years, and LGBT families could be subject to all sorts of humiliations, including federal “religious freedom” laws. Now that the GOP controls three branches of government they can do as they please. Loving is a film about the fight against that sort of oppression, free to life your life with whomever you loved. I suspect it will be very important this year, even more than it would had Hillary won.
Fences – This great, great film is actually one that might even appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike. (Surreal sidebar: Be prepared, Dancing Monkey-in-Chief will live tweet the Oscars). It’s a movie that rises above ideology because this is universal storytelling about the tragic ways older generations hold future generations down. This message will hit home with many millennials who were idealistic that Bernie Sanders was their Great White Jew Hope who would get them through college at no charge and gift them with free healthcare paid for by something-something-wallstreet!-something. Pretty much right away. Then came mean old Hillary who had to break the news: “Sorry, but no. Grand plans like that take longer than Spring Semester, and will require more than Bernie’s magical finger-wagging.” Older adults understood that this made sense. Kids might not like to hear it, but parents do what they do for their own good. There is no easy way to convey the hardest of life’s lessons. We each have to learn these things on our own. Fences shows how this learning curve works, even when the slope is stern and daunting.
Hacksaw Ridge – I have no idea which way this will fall, but I suspect that its noble message against violence and war could have some impact on a country that is about to watch Donald Trump close the borders, round up millions of brown families and put ’em on a plane to Tijuana, ban a billion Muslims, persecute the ones already here, and “bomb the shit out of” Isis. Dancing monkeys like to dance; but they also like to sling their poop at people. Boom go the dancing monkey’s big explosions (“Nukes? What else have got them for?”) Scorch the earth so his minions can “bomb the oil and take the oil,” however the hell that’s supposed to work. At any rate, forgiving or not forgiving Mel Gibson for yelling on the phone seems to pale in comparison to a temper tantrum fit-thrower with access to nuclear codes. Don’t it though.
13th – Ava DuVernay’s film will have significant impact on the doc race and might even beat the OJ entry, come to that. It really nails Donald Trump and no other film this year does. I am guessing that Black Lives Matter will continue to protest, and murders of innocent civilians by cops will continue, if not get much, much worse. Gone is the only presidential candidate who could have reformed our prison system — the Dancing Monkey-in-Chief likes to lock people up. Just like his pal Putin! I would bet DuVernay’s film will get a slightly stronger spotlight than other docs because of Trump’s ascension. I could be wrong. Just a guess.
Hell or High Water – This movie’s acidic Robin Hoodlum crime-spree speeds down the backroads of Texas like a mating of NRA and Bernie bro whose hell-raising off-spring spit bullets for fun and economic karma. It’s part tribute to the “good guy with a gun,” but it’s also about payback for the big banks. Screw the man who screws over the little guy. I don’t know why it seems like it will have more resonance right now but it does. This year just feels like a turning point in American history when “live and let live” has been repealed and replaced by “screw and get screwed.”
The other things to watch for will be women and how esteem for them onscreen will shrink or grow. The “million woman march” will be happening in D.C. smack in the middle of awards season, right after Oscar nominations are announced, simultaneously with the inauguration. Won’t it be funny if the Oscar race is all male filmmakers and all male writers? Hmm. Hilarious. Yeah, that would be an apt punch-line to this year’s sick political joke, but it may very well go down that way. So be prepared for the pussy-grabbers. But if any backlash empathy to this shit show does arise, then these movies might get special consideration:
Miss Sloane – If there’s any film with a woman in the lead that feels like a nice swift kick to the balls of Trump’s NRA-fueled America, it’s this one. Can Chastain eke out a nomination given that? It’s definitely possible, though her path won’t be easy in an extremely competitive year.
Arrival – Here’s the other film in the race with a smart woman at the center, and lo and behold, it’s a flat-out masterpiece. If Oscar voters care about this kind of progress for actresses, if they’re serious about efforts toward diversity, then Arrival could get a boost. But if Trump’s win makes white men feel they’re finally back in the driver’s seat, then the industry could revert to business as usual, and the film will be ignored.
20th Century Women – This film carries with it a foreboding sense of the future, especially with a nod to Jimmy Carter and that fateful speech as his presidency took a nosedive. I think it’s possible that “boomer nostalgia” for the days when hippies mattered might cause some voters to feel more passionately about this movie than they ordinarily otherwise might have.
A few other random thoughts:
Jackie – To remind us of what a great First Lady used to be like.
Silence – Potentially brooding think piece about mankind’s tragic pursuit of spirituality when it collides with culture-clash brutality.
Sausage Party – Oh please let this get nominated just to offend as many uptight people as possible.
Live by Night – Might it be noir enough to echo the depression crime saga recreations of the ’70s?
The Oscar ceremony will be replete with speeches and jokes around Trump — and I hope they are scathing. I also hope they go easy on Hillary. There have been two presidents who each held two terms during the years I have been running my site. George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Night and day. Darkness and light. The Bush administration, in particular, really did have an impact on the race, but that’s because his war was such a disaster. Michael Moore did some of his best work under Bush, with the brilliant Fahrenheit 9/11. Then of course, there was his speech when he won the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine:
Nobody hit Bush harder in terms of Hollywood than Michael Moore. I think he will be a major pain in Trump’s side too. I hope so.
Moore got booed off the stage by voters in 2013, but I can promise you no such booing will be heard if Trump is confronted on Oscar Night. The attack on 9/11 has had a far-reaching and seemingly never-ending impact on our culture overall, and in many ways the election of 2016 can be seen as yet another direct response to that awful day. The aftershocks are still being felt, the sonic booms still shaking us, long after that distant blinding fireball changed everything forever.
As for whether I personally believe 11/9 will impact our Oscar frontrunners like 9/11 once did, I have to say I don’t. It still feels like La La Land, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight have a degree of baked-in esteem that will be hard to overcome. No matter who won the election, I think films as outstanding as these would have done well either way. Will La La Land feel “too light” for voters who have been traumatized by this election? I just don’t know. Maybe the Oscars will reach for it as a fleeting chance to feel good for a couple of hours, as a way to forget that we all just helped elect a monster wearing a dancing monkey suit.