The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Is anyone unhappy about the Oscars' snub of Michael Moore?

November 19, 2009 |  4:43 pm
Michael Moore

Let's be honest. Is there really anyone who is up in arms over Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" being left off the Academy's 15-title short list for the best feature documentary? In fact, I would argue that when it comes to a snub of a much-ballyhooed film, the Academy has never managed to make more people happier. Let me count the ways: 

Conservatives are positively dancing in the street, with the New York Post's Lou Lumenick leading the way, gloating over the fact that Moore's "paen to socialism" missed the cut. Next to seeing Barack Obama's health care bill fail, it's hard to imagine any other event making everyone's day on the right, which has been hammering away at Moore for years, always looking for a new chink in his armor.

Liberals aren't all that sad either. For many on the left, Moore has been something of a quiet embarassment for years, coming off more like a carny barker than a serious filmmaker as he has made the media rounds, shilling for his latest Big Event documentary. Liberals like filmmakers who fall into the self-effacing category. When it comes to obnoxious self-promotion, Moore is just as shrill as Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck or anyone on the right.

The Academy itself is way too coy to ever take sides on something like this, but I'm betting the vast majority of its membership is pretty delighted by the Moore snub as well. Remember, his breakthrough film, "Roger and Me," wasn't nominated by the Academy either, largely because Academy insiders have always been wary of Moore's overtly personal "the filmmaker as star" style of documentary filmmaking. Lord knows, the Academy has no problem with Moore's politics. But its purists prefer giving the Oscar's seal of approval to more obscure progressive films, as is evidenced by the short-list nods to socially relevant films like "The Cove," "Food, Inc." and "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers."

And last but not least, America's ever-dwindling array of movie critics are positively ecstatic. On Metacritic, "Capitalism" earned a 61 score, which is pretty dreary considering that even a mainstream studio programmer like "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" scored five points higher. If you read the reviews, you'll see that many critics view Moore as being far more talented at marketing than at movie making, especially with "Capitalism," which meandered all over the global landscape in search of a common thread for its story.

So, finally, the Academy has gotten something right. They've found just the right filmmaker to snub without ticking anyone off in the process.


Photo of Michael Moore by Sean Kilpatrick / Associated Press