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James Cameron vs. Glenn Beck: Is the director making a bid for a cable-news show?

March 24, 2010 |  6:30 am

James Cameron is starting to sound more and more like Jon Stewart every day. Heck, he's starting to sound more and more like Keith Olbermann every day.

It's rare enough that the director of a hugely successful action movie thrusts himself into the political discussion as much as Cameron has (especially as the filmmakers behind a more overtly political film, "The Hurt Locker," took such pains to shy away from politics). But it's even more anomalous for a director to engage with the rabble of cable news as directly as Cameron has.

According to a story in the Hollywood Reporter, what might have been a very unremarkable DVD-release party for "Avatar" on Tuesday night turned into a very sharp barrage of words from Cameron, in which he spared little quarter for Glenn Beck.

One comment contained an unprintable epithet. Some of the other comments on the Fox News host: "He's dangerous because his ideas are poisonous. I couldn't believe when he was on CNN. I thought, what happened to CNN? Who is this guy? Who is this madman? And then of course he wound up on Fox News, which is where he belongs, I guess." Cameron also challenged Beck to a debate (not a duel, but close).

Camer And he said that "Anybody that is a global-warming denier at this point in time has got their head so deeply up their ... I'm not sure they could hear me."

Wait, is this the same guy who directed "True Lies" and faced criticism by the left for his portrayal of Muslims (and was heralded by some on the right for his patriotism)? Or did some kind of John Connor time-travel thing happen and change everything?

Either way, as someone sympathetic to Cameron's politics (commenters, bring on the backlash) -- and unsympathetic to Beck's brand of, um, journalism -- I'm not sure how to feel about Cameron's outspokenness. On the one hand, it's easy to cringe at Cameron as poster child for populism of any kind; this is a wealthy director who spends a lot of time cocooned in his editing suite and/or Southern California mansion. (Of course Glenn Beck does the same in a TV studio and Connecticut mansion, but no matter.) Every time Cameron speaks out about public policy, it hands another easy point-scoring opportunity to those who paint the Obama administration and its many supporters in Hollywood as out of touch. It's Hanoi Jane all over again.

On the other hand, Cameron has not only earned the right to speak -- but he's also shown that people will listen. This isn't some obscure auteur writing an op-ed column; it's a guy who's proved again and again he can correctly gauge the tastes of the American public (probably better than most politicians, actually).

And besides, after two days of spin and fear-mongering from Republican leaders and their cable-news water carriers on healthcare, it's nice to see someone from the other side firing back, even if it's on a different issue. Democrats may soon start getting out there and selling the healthcare package. But as a plan to minimize the fallout is developed by people who lead the party, it's encouraging in the meantime to hear some candid words from a person who leads the box office.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photos, from top: Glenn Beck. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press. James Cameron. Credit: Mustafa Quraishi / Associated Press


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Comments () | Archives (31)

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I got one word for ya: "Smurfs in Space". If he's the left's newfound "Voice", you guys are in trouble.

James can't make a MOVIE with a logical PLOT.

We're supposed to somehow respect his ability to logically analyse the state of the world?

I am even LESS interested in his opinion of Glenn Beck, global warming, the California legislature or health care issues than I was in seeing his blue-people movie.

And I didn't see the blue people movie.

You know, when THIS is the kind of stuff The Times prints as news, it becomes very, very clear why you're going bankrupt over there!

Who cares what some director who filmed The story of John Smith and before that, Kate Winslets over played boobs, has to say about anything except directing?

I love it when people in hollywood get their egos mixed up on the reasons they are relevent. You're a director, stick with it.

Actually, in the ten years between movie releases, Cameron spent quite a lot of time on the bottom of the ocean, hanging out with legitimate scientists. I doubt Beck's frequent visits to fast food joiunt can match that in terms of awareness for the state of this planet.

Avatar is your basic story of the little guy coming out ahead, and if Beck wants to make that story line political, then we know he supported the miner's bid to destroy another civilization. It's a simple story line and even easier to determine who Cameron's critics are rooting for.

Okay JC, you've dealt in fables up to now. Why don't you show us how smart you really are and ...write some editorials...or go on some shows and tell us what you think the real world is about.

Hanoi Jane? I don't think so. There is absolutely nothing wrong or controversial about Cameron's stance on Global Warming. In fact, he just did us all a favor by "educating" millions of people on the environment through the story in "Avatar." The majority of these people would never read or watch a news show about environmental issues, but they'll surely remember the message from "Avatar."

I think it high time people such as James Cameron speak out. For too long, those with the financial means, the position, and the point of view to positively impact society have abrogated that responsibility, instead leaving us with the likes of Rush, Hannity, Beck and O'Reilly, whom I liken to Holocaust deniers when it comes to global warming, etc. If James Cameron, Oprah, et.al. would use their considerable influence to not just talk about the problems, but to actually lead by their individual and collective actions, they could unite this global zeitgeist and create tangible results with lasting impact.

James Cameron: Flies around in a private jet, sails on a private yacht, lives on hundreds of acres in the Hollister area north of Santa Barbara (which restricts access to the coast to the Little People called citizens) but at least - probably - drives a Toyota Prius.

He then goes out screaming about the evils of consumerism and Big Business so that all the Little People will love him and pay $10 to go watch his movies...the same ones that are literally the biggest produced movies in a very Big Business called the film industry.

Hypocrites and charlatans have not earned the right to speak...this right is given and protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution - the same one that crazy guys like Beck are trying to stop others from degrading and altering.

Just how far do you have to have your head in the dirt to give a rat's rear what James Cameron thinks? What is the logic behind it? Beck, at the very least, spends his time studying politics and researching politics. Cameron spends his days discussing the cup size on a Na'avi female. Both men have "earned" the right to speak by virtue of the first amendment, but Cameron definitely hasn't earned the right to be listened to, at least not on any subject besides movie making.

He may be a wealthy Hollywood movie type that stays cocooned in his Southern California mansion, but at least Mr. Cameron isn't afraid to call out some of these bile spewing "real Americans" (it's funny...if you don't espouse to their beliefs and values, you aren't a real American) and challenge them on their views. Mr. Shrek can challenge the President to a debate, but he won't respond to a debate from someone who doesn't hold office. Yeah, I'm really gonna think that he walks the walk. What does Mr. Shrek do with his wealth I wonder? We know what Mr. Cameron does with his. He tries to entertain us, and, what might come as a surprise to many, he tries to educate our children, as he, along with his wife have started an elementary school, MUSE Elementary, an alternative learning school in a wonderful environment, which teaches children how to think, not what to think. What does Mr. Shrek do with his money besides rabble rouse?

"The Hurt Locker" is in no way "more overtly political" than "Avatar."

Smurfsinspace: Any mouth piece the left has is better than the idiots on the right that are scared of their own shawdows. Watch it! The sky is falling and the socialist are TAKING OVER.

Hey Smurf....just who are "you guys"?

Whatever it takes to EXPOSE that farce that is Glen Beck. I don't care who or where it comes from but Beck, this dangerous, lying, festering boil needs to be shown for the FRUAD he is.

Beck is an entertainer who gets ratings for saying things are that outrageous. Remember, if you're a Christian and you think that it's Christian to help feed and cloth the poor, then you are (according to Beck) a Communist Sympathizer and a danger to America.

Beck is a tool of the Republican noise machine and echo chamber. His job is to increase the level of Fear and Hatred, to Distort and Distract in order to further the Right Wing anti-government ideology. A Divided America prevents the government from functioning.

Sooner or later, he'll no longer be useful to them and he'll be discarded. Let's hope it's sooner

There's nothing political about The Hurt Locker. It takes no position on the core issue of war, pollution and desolation of other people's cultures. That's one of the reasons it's really not all that worth seeing, other than for its acting and editing. Basically, it's a cowardly, misguided little piece of work.

Same goes for Glenn Beck.

I would disagree with one of your opening statements. I would say that Cameron's film was more overtly political than 'Hurt Locker'

Can anyone speak or write without branding themselves "left, "right," "american," etc.? Try it and maybe you might pay attention more to content instead of idiotic stereotyping.

Cameron has "earned" his right to speak? Really? We ALL have a RIGHT to speak, based on the First Amendment! Cameron and other Hollywood types certainly have a gift for make believe and entertaining people, but they have absolutely no gift or knowledge whatsoever about global warming or climate change or whatever you media types want to call it. The "science" has been shown to be flawed and fabricated in many instances. The "peer-review" process has been shown to be rigged. I would love to see Beck debate Cameron and show him to be the fool that he is. Cameron needs to stick to making entertaining movies and leave political discourse alone. As for your last paragraph, it is a prime example of why I canceled my Times subscription and only read bits and pieces for free online. You can't seem to separate news from your liberal opinion. Maybe the Democrats should have tried "selling" their massive overhaul of our health care system BEFORE they voted on it!

You liberals are unbelievable!


If box office receipts are what qualifies someone to speak for the American people then I think it's high time that the world's pornographers were sent to Washington to run the country. They can't possibly do a worse job than the thieves that are running things now and the pornographers' bottom-line is ten times larger than Hollywood's.
I'd like to say I'm amazed that someone with a college education is touting Obama's great healthcare plan when it hasn't even been implmented yet but sadly I'm no longer surprised by the idiocy of the left.

OK, it's pretty simple: Don't like Glenn Beck? Don't listen to him. Don't like Cameron's film? Don't go see it.
While my views are far more in Cameron's corner than Mr. Baby Huey Buzz Cut's, this kind of catfight is exactly what Beck thrives on, and continues to bring him ratings.
Ignore him.

Anybody who criticizes Glenn Beck and FOX News is OK by me. That network is an anomaly in the history of broadcast television. It has an overt bias to its news, which is mostly pundits disguised as news anchors. That wouldn't be so bad if the venom that was being spewed by the like of Glenn Beck was inciting an already ignorant audience. While Keith Olbermann may be an admitted liberal, he doesn't walk away from his common sense or his intellect in the process of expressing his opinions. Until six months into Obama's presidency, I never watched MSNBC and got most of my news from CNN. Then I began to see that CNN was starting to pander to the FOX News audience in order to build its ratings. Instead of providing real news and helpful information, it retreated to its old "Crossfire" style of battling political pundits, which only ensures that the audience learns nothing. So I went to MSNBC and have been surprised at how unbiased that network has been. Just because you call a right-wing lunatic a right-wing lunatic doesn't necessarily mean that you're a left-wing socialist out to destroy America.

Free speech for the left not for right. HMMM? When I was growing I remember hearing people say "I don't agree with what you say but I support your right to say it" Now that the right is outspoken they (the left)use words like "dangerous" when referring to FREE speech from the right. Instead of McCarthyism we now have Cameronism.

Another left loon. If you look at all the leftist newspaper publications (LA and NY Times), radio shows (Air America), and tv shows (MSNBC), all these are going down the drain because of their ideology. Let Cameron come. He won't last any longer.

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