Inside Politics Weekend: ‘W’ doldrums

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‘W’ doldrums

Maintaining national morale in troubling times was once a fairly simple affair. At the height of the Depression and during World War II, Americans could count on Hollywood to produce uplifting fare and straightforward messages of reassurance and optimism — delivered by major stars of the day and often punctuated by splendid dance numbers.

Now we have “W.”

The odd, vitriolic film about President Bush opened 48 hours ago to a pitter-patter of applause; an attendant online survey of more than 5,000 moviegoers conducted by MovieTickets.com revealed that 63 percent of them did not plan to see the movie.

Most telling is the unapologetic attitude of director Oliver Stone, who went so far as to invite Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the recent red-carpet premiere for “W” in Beverly Hills. The Republican candidates declined.

“I don’t think Sarah would understand the picture. It has a lot of complicated dialogue. George Bush is an intellectual compared to her,” Mr. Stone said, insisting that his movie is “malice” free, fair and based on facts.

Yes, of course. Uh-huh.

As an exercise in civility, let’s reserve judgment on “W” until preliminary film revenue figures are released in the aftermath. But in the meantime, Mr. Stone should have tucked a few dance numbers into his film. Carmen Miranda footage would help. Or maybe some Elvis.

The country still needs some uplifting.

Hollywood, Part 2

Indeed, “W” mocks a sitting president. But there’s some other high jinks afoot. Warner Bros. has temporarily blocked the DVD release of “Hanoi Hilton,” a 1987 film about the heroics of American prisoners of war during the Vietnam era, until Nov. 11. The film features an interview with Sen. John McCain about his own experiences as a POW at the infamous aforementioned prison.

“It’s just us trying to be cautious and not affect the election one way or the other,” a Warner Bros. spokesman told the New York Times, in explanation.

Lionel Chetwynd, the film’s writer and director, doubted Warner’s virtuous intent.

“Finding someone in Hollywood who says they don’t want to affect the election is like finding a virgin in a brothel,” he observed.

Yes, well. Consider that Barry Meyer, Warner Bros. chairman and chief executive, recently attended a fundraising dinner for Sen. Barack Obama. Mr. Meyer perhaps is no Jack and Harry Warner, the studio founders who ruled the roost back in the day, producing such patriotic classics as “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Sergeant Yorke” and “Hollywood Canteen” without fear that - horrors - they would sully American voters.

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