This sentence was put on the front page of The Washington Post on Sunday: “Will ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ be Swift-boated out of an Oscar?” Later, the writer added “negative campaigning has threatened to approach Lee Atwater proportions.”
Post film critic Ann Hornaday was the writer, and the Post slapped the words “Critic’s Notebook” above it. She did find “old-fashioned sexism” in “Zero Dark Thirty” director Kathryn Bigelow’s snub in the Best Director category:
It’s not at all clear that politics kept Bigelow from receiving her second Oscar nomination for best director. The shocking snub more likely had to do with the vagaries of electronic voting, the fact that nine best picture directors won’t go into five best director slots — plus old-fashioned sexism.
Her last paragraph also contained presidential-campaign metaphors:
And remember: Four years may be a lifetime in politics, but it’s also how long it can take to bring a film from script to screen. With an Oscar already in hand and considerable box office capital in her war chest, Kathryn Bigelow is less like John Kerry after 2004 than Hillary Clinton after 2008: defeated in the short term, perhaps, but supremely well positioned for her next run.
But even she didn’t believe her own hype. After all, she noted “On Saturday, newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry even tweeted good luck to ‘Argo’ on Oscar night.” Hornaday also fails to explain if "sexism" is haunting her feminist favorite, why was Ben Affleck snubbed for a Best Director nod for "Argo," when so many Oscar pickers expect it to win.
This is how Hornaday disparaged the “swift-boating” at work, apparently even put into play by the Human Rights Watch “anti-torture” types:
With the political class weighing in on this year’s nominees, negative campaigning has threatened to approach Lee Atwater proportions, no doubt because of a media universe in which the thinnest shred of speculation is amplified by Oscar bloggers, then multiplied via Twitter, Facebook and beyond. Both “Lincoln” and “Argo” have suffered their unfair share of abuse in recent days. But no other film has been mangled by the Washington spin machine as much as “Zero Dark Thirty.”
But even before its release, the film endured its share of mud-slinging, when Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) fulminated against what he predicted would be a Hollywood-backed hagiography of President Obama.
Once “Zero Dark Thirty” arrived on-screen, it was clear that Bigelow and screenwriter Boal never intended their film to be a political tract. But no sooner had they dodged King’s fusillade than they ran straight into another, this time in the form of criticism that “Zero Dark Thirty” suggested that torture was justified and maybe even essential in the intelligence hunt for bin Laden.
Almost immediately, the Washington press corps started to weigh in, joined soon thereafter by politicians, pundits and anti-torture activists who saw a prime opportunity for “earned media” by attacking the movie, even if in some cases they hadn’t seen it. The 24-7 news cycle — bereft of fodder after the presidential election — pivoted gratefully to another horse race. And “Zero Dark Thirty” embarked on the long, strange metamorphosis from movie to convenient news peg that stakeholders could exploit for any number of agendas.
Hornaday failed to acknowledge in this piece that Bigelow and Boal were granted significant access to top White House officials, including current CIA director nominee John Brennan and current White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. That omission is old-fashioned liberal bias.