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As Oscar Show Nears: Three New Hits vs. 'Zero Dark Thirty' | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

As Oscar Show Nears: Three New Hits vs. 'Zero Dark Thirty'

I suppose you could call it kicking-a-dead-horserace, but the very welcome criticism of Zero Dark Thirty is continuing right up to the weekend of the annual Academy Awards broacast.  The film is even drawing heat now from the family of a notable 9/11 victim. And Nate Silver in his Oscar predictions now gives the film little chance of winning the Best Picture prize.

The New York Times has posted, early, a few pieces from its Sunday Review section, including two related to Zero Dark Thirty.

Regular contributor Tim Egan says the film does not deserve to win because it tried to have things “both ways.” He loved the film when he first saw it, then changed his mind on a second viewing (seemingly after reading the likes of Jane Mayer), and now writes: “It’s obvious, now, why the C.I.A. was cooperative with the filmmakers: they couldn’t have asked for better product placement….the C.I.A. has shown just how adept it is at spinning Hollywood.”

But the key piece is an op-ed by Ali Soufan, the well-known former FBI special agent who interrogated suspected Al Qaeda operatives. He says simply: “As a movie, I enjoyed it. As history, it’s bunk.” The headline on his piece outlines it this way: “Torture, Lies and Hollywood.” Just one point:

Portraying torture as effective risks misleading the next generation of Americans that one of our government’s greatest successes came about because of the efficacy of torture. It’s a disservice both to our history and our national security.

While filmmakers have the right to say what they want, government officials don’t have the right to covertly provide filmmakers with false information to promote their own interests. Providing selective information about a classified program means there is no free market of ideas, but a controlled market subject to manipulation. That’s an abuse of power.

And now, more criticism—this time from the family of an (uncredited) heroic stewardess on a 9/11 flight whose voice is used at the start of the film. The family members raise several issues and demands—including one that is torture-related.

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