A moment from the 2020 thriller “The Boy Behind the Door” speaks volumes about today’s Hollywood.
The story involves a kidnapped boy and his best buddy’s plot to rescue him. The kidnapper briefly leaves his lair, driving off in a car adorned with a bumper sticker that reads, “Make America Great Again.”
It’s not enough that this monster kidnaps children. He’s also a Mega MAGA Republican.
Modern storytellers just can’t help themselves, and that tendency may be tripping up their Oscar aspirations.
Several new films suffer from similar moments, clunky asides that show the screenwriters’ obsession with their political enemies. It often goes back to the real estate mogul-turned-Commander-in-Chief.
Their Trump derangement may come back to haunt them.
Writer/director James Gray’s “Armageddon Time” is a deeply personal look back at his childhood in New York City. The “Ad Astra” director attended a school owned by the Trump family, and that connection plays a pivotal role in the plot.
Banks Repeta plays a middle school student who befriends a black classmate in their public school. Repeta’s character switches to a private school, one run by Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump (John Diehl). And, of course, the school’s “institutional racism” rears its ugly head. Two different Trumps appear on screen, neither cameo being flattering.
The film also takes two out-of-left-field swipes at President Ronald Reagan, moments that add nothing to the film save savagely partisan asides. Gray didn’t let his anti-GOP sentiments remain on screen. The auteur compared Donald Trump to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels in the press:
I don’t care that Donald Trump doesn’t like it. That man is a vile, destructive force in the country and in the world. And if he hates it or if his acolytes hate it, if Ron DeSantis, Mr. F***ing-Education-Destroying DeSantis wants to hate on my movie, that’s fine with me too.
Turns out they weren’t the only ones eager to “hate on” “Armageddon Time.” Most movie goers stayed home rather than give Gray’s vision a chance. The film has earned a pathetic $1.8 million at the U.S. box office despite gaining 1,000+ theaters in its second week of release.
Fellow Oscar hopeful “She Said” recalls the work of two New York Times reporters who chased down every lead possible to expose serial predator Harvey Weinstein. The film opens with the reporters (Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan) digging into allegations against President Donald Trump prior to the 2016 elections before segueing into their Weinstein assignment.
We also learn of people, presumably Trump fans, leaving vile messages to the reporters in question.
Were those early scenes necessary? Perhaps. What’s clearly clunky is how the film leans, hard, into its Patriarchy bashing. It should be more than enough to expose Weinstein, which let the world know many other predators deserved to be outed, too.
“She Said” includes several awkward scenes showing wicked white male characters behaving badly. One sequence, set in a bar, finds a man hitting on Mulligan’s character while she’s having an in-depth conversation.
The sequence is meant to show toxic masculinity in action. Instead, it only showcases how woke storytelling is often unnecessary at best.
The film also had a weak opening weekend from November 18 to November 20, generating a paltry $2,877,000 in worldwide box office receipts.
One of the year’s biggest flops let its third act become a de facto attack on Trump. The star-studded “Amsterdam” (Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Robert De Niro and more) decorate a tale set initially after World War I. The incoherent saga winds up with De Niro’s character, a respected general, getting pressed to give a speech that might ignite a fascistic movement in America to match the one gaining steam in Germany circa 1933.
It’s very, very loosely based on real events, and the whiplash-inducing third act doesn’t mention Trump by name. Still, letting a notorious Trump hater like De Niro play the general knowing Hollywood’s faux obsession with “far-right” fascism doesn’t take a political scientist to suss out.
Even the liberal Esquire called out the obvious Trump comparison.
Clearly, [director] David O. Russell is another creative who saw Trump become the President, lost his mind, and then gathered as many celebrities as he could to defend one of the most agreeable stances in the history of the world: that hate is bad and kindness is good… It was just the closest thing in American history that David O. Russell could find that mimicked the January 6 insurrection. “You don’t get here without things starting a long time ago,” Bale’s Dr. Burt says.
“Amsterdam” earned a major theatrical rollout, generating an anemic $14.9 million stateside along with a sour 33% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Reports suggest the film will cost its studio nearly $100 million along with any early Oscar buzz.
The upcoming “Empire of Light” from “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes offers a loving ode to the theatrical experience. Mendes’ film, set in England during the 1980s, offers a sizable subplot about the era’s racism. You’d think it was 1950s America, or even earlier, based on the story in play.
Olivia Colman stars as a theater manager who falls for another employee, who is black (Micheal Ward).
Naturally the film takes a bald, unfair swipe at Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and alternately rages against sexism and racism. Both are worthy subjects. Neither is treated with nuance or context, leading to an early, dismal 45% “rotten” roundup at RottenTomatoes.com.
Did the overt political messaging of these films hurt their box office fortunes? It’s hard to say, although audiences can often sense woke storytelling without actually seeing the films in question.
The clunky messaging clearly didn’t curry favor with liberal film critics, though. That, combined with their anemic box office tallies, spells trouble for any Oscar aspirations.
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.