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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Jean-Luc Godard and his honorary Oscar: Does it matter if he's an anti-Semite?

Jean-luc-godard Jean-Luc Godard, who's getting an honorary Oscar on Nov. 13, is suddenly back in the news, although not with the sort of media attention likely to burnish his image. Last month, the Jewish Journal put Godard on its cover, asking the provocative question: "Is Jean-Luc Godard an Anti-Semite?" And now, Tuesday's New York Times has a front page story examining the controversial honorary Oscar, describing what it calls "a simmering debate over whether Mr. Godard, an avowed anti-Zionist and advocate for Palestinian rights, is also anti-Jewish."

For me, the most fascinating part of the Times story, penned by Michael Cieply, was what wasn't in it. For all the supposed hubbub, there wasn't a complaint about the award from anyone in Hollywood. Even producer Mike Medavoy, who took issue with Godard's "narrow mind" toward Jews, said he was "fine with" Godard getting an award. The only person taking issue with the award was an executive at B'nai B'rith International, who argued that Hollywood had established standards for art but not for decency or morality.

It seemed even odder that Tom Sherak, the academy's president, wasn't quoted at all, while Sid Ganis, who is producing the ceremony, didn't defend the choice either, only being quoted about the selection of film clips in a tribute reel. Curious, I called Sherak to ask if he'd tried to dodge the bullet. Not at all, he said. So, I asked him: Do you have any misgivings about giving Godard an honorary Oscar?   

"I support the Board of Governors," he said. "They decided to give an honorary Oscar to Godard for his contributions to film during the early years of the French New Wave era. The academy has traditionally separated the art form from the honoree's personal life." I asked Sherak if he could be more specific. "We've given awards in the past to people like Roman Polanski and Elia Kazan whose personal lives were often far from perfect. They did objectionable things and we've been criticized for giving them awards. But that's not what's at issue here. We've always felt the art form outweighs the personal transgressions."  

Although I've been a frequent critic of the academy in other matters, I have to say that I've got no beef with their stand here. Artists aren't always especially admirable people in their personal lives, and if we started shunning every actor or filmmaker for misdeeds and bigotry, we'd find ourselves running out of potential award recipients. The Jewish Journal has gotten a lot of mileage out of Hollywood anti-Semitism scares, having run a cover story last February that examined the Oscar-nominated films "A Serious Man" and An Education," using the headline "Realism or Anti-Semitism?"

In fact, the Journal's Danielle Berrin, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Hollywood Jew, found herself pondering this recently, in the wake of the flap over Mel Gibson getting hired -- and then unhired -- from "The Hangover 2." Noting that a Journal archive search for "Mel Gibson" turned up 204 results, she admitted to having reached a breaking point in her obsession with "his strange psychotic behavior." She added: "No matter how much communal schadenfreude we can muster, it won’t change him; he is already a sad parody of himself. What I fear is that it’s changing us, and every time we talk about him, we give him new life."

Now it's Godard who has a new life, not only thanks to the Journal, of course, but the academy, which started the ball rolling with an honorary Oscar. Godard deserves the Oscar, but he also deserves to be criticized for some of his more outlandish statements. It's OK to do both. I wish all of our most gifted artists had hearts of pure gold, like the gleaming Oscar statuettes, but we don't live in a world of pristine good and evil. Many of our idols have feet of clay.  

Photo: Jean-Luc Godard, pictured in 1981, during an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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This is really tired. Being anti-Zionist is not anti-Semitic. End of story.

Kazan in the same sentence as Polanski? Sherak is another brain dead leftist. More people were slaughtered in the name of communism then Hitler and the Nazi's.

Point is Kazan's "issues" are just political hatred by Hollywood leftists, he was right and all of the communist supporters were wrong.

Jean-Luc Godard is not an anti-semite.

could we get a sampling of his outlandish statements so that the reader can judge whether or not this is a political disagreement or rather a true issue of bigotry?

I don't know anything about this Goddard guy. If he's anti-Jewish, I say he doesn't deserve to be honored, but repudiated.
If he was anti-Zionist, that's a political question, based on statehood. If he intersected the two ideas, then I say he disqualified himself.
Noam Chomsky is anti-Zionist, and he's a Jew.

Is being "anti-Republican" the same as being anti-American?

Well [as noted] Polanski won an Oscar or two for the Pianist so by that standard Godard being vociferously anti-Israel [which I don't consider the same as anti-Semitic] is hardly worth making hay over. But, sure, he does have some opinions that occasionally raise the eyebrows. Still he's an undeniably important filmmaker. And that is what the Oscars should be about.

Why is he an anti-Semite? Because he advocates for Palestinians?

And how exactly is it objectionable to be pro-Palestinian? And what do Mideast politics have to do with Hollywood. This blog is sophistic.

Thanks David, But Goddard claims he was anti-semitic way before he was aso-called anti-zionist. Not that they are different. Why should it matter? I always suggest that readers put 'African-American' in place of 'Jew' in these types of stories and see if there is a difference.

I agree with David Bradvica, anti-Zionist does not mean you're an anti-Semite, although although the ADL and AIPAC and their PR minions would have you think otherwise!

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