What happened to the film “Zero Dark Thirty” between conception and execution? The strange story of a film that was originally expected to puff President Obama as “The Man Who Shot Osama Bin Laden” but wound up hated and despised by all the proper Leftists, is as mysterious as the special warfare and intelligence communities it depicts. It also demonstrates how quickly the tides of totalitarian opinion can change within the vast clockwork fruitcake that is the entertainment Left, and marks an unusually firm relationship being established between politicians and show-biz types both on the occasion of the film’s inception, and in response to its recent release. WOOF wishes to make it clear that this is not a review of the movie per se, as none of us here in the secret cave have actually gone out and seen it. No, this is a discussion of how curiously the film appears to have transformed itself from an object of hope and praise on the left, into a widely denounced “celebration of torture” that decent humans everywhere are advised to avoid at all costs.
Let’s us first explain for the unenlightened that the film in question portrays the hunt for, and the eventual discovery and killing of, Osama Bin Laden. WOOF has not had much to say about Bin Laden since we published an ALERT in 2008 in which we made the case that Osama Bin Laden was actually his own sister. Needless to say, our revelation met with a predictable wall of silence from the establishment, but we should in no respect be here construed as backing away from our original claim which we continue to consider founded on reliable evidence. We have also not said anything about movies since we advised readers to see “The Incredibles,” which we were pleased to see did quite well, subsequent to our endorsement. But in the case of “Zero Dark Thirty” we are fascinated by the way in which the film was initially defended and ballyhooed by the vast left-wing totalitarian socialist conspiracy that governs us, only to wind up in the hurt locker—if you know what we mean.
Back in 2011 when the film was first underway, Conservative congressman Peter King (R-NY) had a fit over it, calling it blatant leftwing propaganda aimed at ensuring the re-election of President Obama. The film, at least as originally conceived by the Beloved Helmsman’s supporters in tinsel town, was going to show a commanding, hard-as-nails Commander in Chief taking charge of the situation and hunting the villainous Bin Laden to ground where all others had failed. It was speculated that the movie version of events would have the President hovering in a command chopper, or perhaps making a HALO jump into the compound to motion in his Presidential SEAL Team. King angrily charged that the White House was providing unprecedented special access to intelligence secrets and mission protocols to the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow and her script writer, Mark Boal. As if shilling for Representative King, which is impossible to believe in the circumstances, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd –famously the most humorless human being on earth—gloated that “the moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history,” and made the case that the film’s intended release date of Oct. 12, 2012, was “perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost” to the Obama campaign. This incensed John Hayward at Human Events who wrote that “The killing of bin Laden is a worthy story to tell, but not if it’s an eleventh-hour cinematic love letter from Hollywood to a failed president.” Opinionists on the right began to refer to Kathryn Bigelow as the new Leni Riefenstahl, (Hitler’s brilliant but misguidedly-alacritous filmmaker) who is best known for her pro-Nazi documentary, “Triumph of the Will.”
The conservative Judicial Watch charged that screen writer Boal was far too chummy with the Obama administration and made a similar charge regarding Bigelow. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met on occasion with Boal and was therefore grilled regarding the suspected release of classified and potentially damaging intelligence to the filmmakers. Panetta promised Rep.King’s committee that, “No unauthorized disclosures were provided to movie producers or anybody else,” which is, once appropriately parsed, merely saying the filmmakers weren’t handed anything Obama didn’t say to give them, which was King’s point to begin with—that Obama was giving away the candy store to Hollywood in hopes of portraying himself as Dick Marcincko. For a few anxious weeks, America’s conservatives braced themselves for the arrival of a film that would propel Barack Obama (whom nobody intelligently believed could otherwise be re-elected) back into the Oval Office. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what would be on display—a kind of redo of The Missiles of October as our gallant young president rose to the occasion, stiffening the spines of his less courageous minions, barking necessary corrections to his loyal but tactically obtuse military leaders, and essentially masterminding the culmination of a hunt that no one in the theater would be left to doubt began in earnest only after his election in 2008. It all seemed as unavoidable as it would be asinine—but a strange thing happened on the way to Pakistan.
The first signs of difficulty arose when it turned out the movie just wouldn’t arrive on time—in fact, it was delayed until December, meaning it would not be available in time to propagandize the brain dead into marching determinedly to the polls to re-elect Barack “Old Blood and Guts” Obama. But the unthinkable occurred anyhow, and Our Beloved Helmsman was retained in office despite fewer people voting for him than voted for John McCain in the previous election (effecting an election result that WOOF is unsure whether to attribute to voter fraud, or, perhaps, to the allegedly stupefying effects of ‘chem trails’). So in the event, the urgency of a pre-election release was lost in the media-wide celebration of the Return of the King, runaway spending, higher taxes, and universal health rationing…but then, once things had calmed down to a dull afterglow, came the Bigelow film’s pre-release publicity campaign. Like diviners scowling at the innards of a sacrificial goat, critics and conservative pundits began to consult the images for portent. Almost playfully, the early trailers showed a character staring off-screen and exclaiming, “Oh my God, is that I what I think it is?!” But it was difficult to determine, from the teasers, whether the film was or as not what everybody thought it was…a two hour Obama campaign ad. And then, in due course, came the debut of “Zero Dark Thirty”.
And then, dear readers, a remarkable phenomenon manifested. Rather like in a debating class when the teams, having competed, are suddenly asked by the crafty professor to switch positions and debate again, all the accusations and complaints remained, but the advocates of those positions swapped roles. To begin with, outrage of outrages, the film’s anticipated hero did not even show up on screen! Yes, reader, although WOOF has not seen this picture, we are assured by Hollywood insiders (who went to the movie) that Barack Obama is never depicted, let alone lionized, in the story line. As screenwriter Boals had predicted earlier in Entertainment Weekly, “A lot of people are going to be surprised when they see the film. For example, the President is not depicted in the movie. He’s just not in the movie.” Not in the movie? So what is depicted in the film? The hard work of a CIA analyst who suffices as a sort of intelligence-community Everywoman, the courage and ingenuity of America’s special operations forces, and, most offensively to the Left, the evident value of torture as a means of extracting vital information from homicidal barbarians who will not offer information voluntarily. Holy Jack Bauer, Batman!
After witnessing Obama staging victory lap after victory lap in the wake of the Bin Laden slaying, while Vice President Biden gushed about the event at every conceivable opportunity as though Barack had choppered in and delivered the fatal shot personally, the Left in Hollywood and on the East Coast was suddenly faced with a film in which the President didn’t even merit a single scene. A Hollywood Left that had previously been atwitter with discussion of whether the Great Helmsman should play himself in his hagiography (after all who else could play him? Denzel Washington? Will Smith? Forest Whitaker? ) was suddenly confronted with a film in which their star was …”just not in the movie.” Where the vision had once been of Kathryn Bigelow as a kind of female Virgil, singing of arms and the man—there was now no man, only some hardworking CIA chick, and the righteous deployment of American arms. And there is nothing more offensive to Hollywood than a film about America’s intelligence services and military that doesn’t vilify our intelligence services and military. So tempers flared.
The liberal cultural cabal, while not authentically capable of subtlety, often attempts it. In this instance it would not do to rail against Bigelow and Boals for failing to deliver the expected paean to Field Marshall Barack; no, that would plainly reek of sour grapes, and besides, the only moral high ground from which liberalism ever functions plausibly is that of sanctimony, and so a cause for righteous indignation had to be found, however ancillary to the actual grievance. That was no problem in the case of “Zero Dark Thirty”, because “Zero Dark Thirty” shows torture, folks—and worse than that, it shows torture paying off with the kind of info that led to pinpointing Bin Laden’s location. Thus, while Bigelow continued to be depicted as a contemporary version of Hitler’s pet cinematographer Leni Riefenstahl, the comparison now emanated from Naomi Wolf (herself a failed director having unsuccessfully endeavored to coach Al Gore to play the part of an alpha male in the 2000 election). Wolf pretended to address Bigelow directly, huffing that “like Riefenstahl you are a great artist, But now you will be remembered forever as torture’s handmaiden.” Yipes! But this was only an opening burst. Frank Bruni at the subversive New York Times declared the film’s theme to be “No waterboarding, no Bin Laden.” Emily Bazelon guessed that “the filmmakers didn’t start out to be Bush-Cheney apologists” but made it plain they had stumbled into that apparently abhorrent mindset and were not even contrite, because “perhaps they’re in denial…” while Michael Wolff at the Guardian (which we would call subversive except it’s British and they can’t help it, really) ranted that the film was “a nasty piece of pulp and propaganda” and deemed director Bigelow “a fetishist and sadist.” In fact, many of the film reviews contained longsome disputations of the efficacy of torture as a means of interrogation, which to our knowledge has never previously been a criterion by which cinema was evaluated. Poor Kathryn Bigelow, gone from the Left’s great brunette hope in the battle to retain the Obama presidency, to the SM-obsessed dungeon mistress from Hell.
With her film opening today in a wide splay of theaters after a cautious limited release during which it fared well despite the opprobrium from the Left, Bigelow seems not to have aroused massive support from the right—you know, the pro-torture right. But to be certain of this, WOOF decided to examine the views of all the best known conservative film critics, and of course that would be Michael Medved. Medved sorely disappointed WOOF by reviewing the film as a film, faulting it for a lack of depth in its characterizations and for moving slowly for the first ninety minutes. He gave “Zero Dark Thirty” three stars and called it “expertly crafted but maddeningly flawed.” Like, what kind of a stupid review is that? Apparently lost in some sanctum of the cloistered conservative right, Medved seems to have lost sight of the need to opine on whether the film is bad because it shows torture leading us to Bin Laden, or pretty good even though it is flawed by showing that torture led us to Bin Laden; and then to say whether torture did or did not in reality lead us to bin Laden—but his review is inexcusably devoid of anything other than cinematic evaluations. Oh well.
And as if Medved’s Pilate act weren’t enough of a shunning, out came the Oscar nominations for this year, which WOOF would typically disdain to mention, except that “Zero Dark Thirty” received a namby pamby five nominations including best picture, best lead actress (Jessica Chastain as the CIA chick) and best original screenplay for Mark Boal. That’s chicken feed compared to what Hollywood bestowed on Spielberg’s Lincoln, which picked up 12 nominations, and consider this: Kathryn Bigelow was NOT nominated as best director. Now, that’s a snub, fellow patriots, and it must leave Miss Bigelow wondering, in wistful moments, how she went from heroine to heel so quickly in an industry that awarded her the Oscar for best director in 2010 for The Hurt Locker (which WOOF never went to see—but we hear it was okay.)
And as if all this weren’t enough obloquy and disdain for the slenderly attractive film director to bear on her shoulders, we now have the United States Senate involved in the act, with a little presentation WOOF likes to call “A Gal, A Git, and a Gob.” Yes, dear readers, if you don’t think the White House is unhappy with how the Obama war epic turned out, or the fact that Secretary of Defense Panetta (before the muzzle was clapped on firmly) freely circulated his concurrence that water boarding got us to Bin Laden—just consider the appearance, as if by magic, of Capital Hill’s newest cinema critics, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and, of course, shambling along behind these two pixilated liberals like some obedient-though-witless tulpa comes John McCain (R-Ariz) as the Maverick. These legislative heavy weights were able to wrest themselves away from the onerous demands of a disintegrating economy and a massively disfigured social fabric long enough to waddle up to some microphones and jointly denounced “Zero Dark Thirty’s'” depiction of successful enhanced interrogation methods. They lectured the film’s producer about his “social and moral obligation to get the facts straight.” John McCain said that the film made him sick, which was certainly a more concise version of what the Left had been trying to communicate about its own collective reaction. And if you doubt that these Congressional conservators of the public aesthetic were dancing to the Administration’s fiddle, ask yourself this: If John McCain is so offended by the depiction of torture as a successful method of interrogation, why did he sit silently through eight seasons of “24” which was seen by far more Americans than are ever likely to see Bigelow’s opus? And if you think it’s rather odd that United States Senators are holding press conferences to review movies—comes now the CIA!
Yes, next on the agenda we have another, even more noteworthy first—a first-ever film review from the Central Intelligence Agency. Yes, Michael Morrell, unmitigated Obama flak, has been acting (emphasis ours) director of the CIA since that bizarre moment when it evidently occurred to Director Petraeus that having a mistress was immoral, whereupon he hastily resigned his post, apparently lest the CIA be tainted by any hint of impropriety. And that left Michael Morrell in charge , who just sent a letter to every single one of the Agency’s employees, which letter he also made public, stating that “Zero Dark Thirty” “creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were key to finding Bin Laden. That impression is false.”
It is mildly amusing that nobody, from Hollywood to the Senate to the CIA has bothered to say at any point during the Dark-Thirty brouhaha exactly what techniques not involving torture did lead us to Bin Laden—possibly the Agency is loathe to reveal that its actual tips on such matters come from the deft manipulation of divining rods and Ouija boards. But one thing is for sure, with enemies like these, “Zero Dark Thirty” needs friends—so WOOF is here for you, Kathryn Bigelow! We are definitely beginning to admire your independent nature and the fact that you long ago divorced that pinko James Cameron. We are also now convinced unalterably that enhanced interrogation got us the information necessary to track Bin Laden to his lair. Why else would so many egregious gobshites be insisting on the contrary proposition? And we bet that “Zero Dark Thirty” is a really good movie. So good, in fact, that we may even go out and see it at some point. But, really…we’ll probably just wait ‘till it’s on Netflix.