MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

I Hate You… But I Love Your Work

Earlier this week, I was reading a quote by Natalie Portman in Elle in which she endorsed Hillary Clinton. It read in part as follows:

“A lot of the stuff people say about her, I hear it and my stomach falls because it’s so sexist. You ask people why they don’t like her and it’s because her husband cheated on her! That was obviously not her choice.”

Now, this is an election year and clearly there will be a merging of politics and entertainment that will continue onward until the election. With the internet a stronger source of news and quotes than ever, we can expect to see a lot more of this. Celebrities whose political views you never thought about before will suddenly be out to publicly endorse Clinton, Obama, or McCain (although I would guess there will be considerably less support in Hollywood for McCain). This is part of our country’s electoral process now and I’m resigned to accept that. So why do I bring this quote to your attention?

Portman’s quote was striking to me because I absolutely adore her as an actress and I utterly abhor her comments and it has nothing to do with who she is endorsing. Granted, I’m taking this quote out of icontext and I still believe Portman is a remarkably intelligent young woman. But I find it ridiculously short-sighted of her to think that there isn’t possibly another reason or two why people might not like a certain politician. I’m sure that she has better reasons than that, but it’s tough to be in her position where you’re being asked all the time about your opinions on everything from underwear to the Iraq War. But I have to wonder what a response to those questions will accomplish.

Chances are if you’ve come to Movie City News, you didn’t come to read the political leanings of one of its columnists, so I won’t subject you to that. I bring up this quote to talk about a question that should plague the thoughts of any filmmaker who decides to open their mouth about anything political: what am I doing to my career?

Hollywood is a liberal place and, chances are, you aren’t going to lose that starring role in a big budget action film just because you support this candidate or that one. But I wonder if the fans of Natalie Portman, for example, who might also be Obama or McCain endorsers could be a wee bit disappointed that one of their favorite actresses supports Clinton. Isn’t there a small chance that Portman’s comments might affect how her fans see her where she’s on the big screen? Will they dislike her turn as Anne Boleyn slightly less if they are Obama fans?

I have always had the ability to separate what I dislike about a person’s public persona and what they accomplish on the screen. I think this is an important characteristic to have if you’re going to devote your life to studying and appreciating film; there is the real world and the celluloid world and you can’t allow those worlds to collide or you will never enjoy another film. It’s becoming more difficult in this information age, however, to avoid that consequence.

A long time ago, I made a pledge to myself that I would never allow what an actor or director says off-screen affect how I view their work onscreen. That means that while I might findWoody Allen’s behavior with (his now-wife) Soon-Yi inappropriate, it won’t make me waver from my belief that he is a cinematic genius. Truth be told, I wish I didn’t know this about Woody, but now that I do, what am I supposed to do with it? All I can do is compartmentalize and just try to enjoy the beautiful pictures he puts on the screen and appreciate his ability to move me. It also helps that he’s a die-hard Knicks fan.

Speaking of Knicks fans…Spike Lee is someone I find to be grating off-screen. He can be small-minded at times and downright angry at others. But as a filmmaker, he is remarkably compassionate. No matter what he does away from the world of film, I will forever be moved byDo the Right Thing, Jungle Fever and 25th Hour and the humanity contained within the frames of those films. He might think that Mookie did the right thing when he threw the garbage can through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria, but from the moment I watched it I was convinced that Spike intended for the title to be ironic; I was convinced that Spike was pointing out that Mookie doesn’t do the right thing. I may never forgive him for heckling Reggie Millerinto scoring 25 points in the fourth quarter in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, but I’ll always remember the goosebumps up and down my arms when I was watching the ending ofJungle Fever. When I see that, all my memories of that terrible night at Madison Square Garden disappear.

After her win for Best Actress, Marion Cotillard was revealed, in an old interview, to be a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. Does this make me appreciate her turn as Edith Piaf any less? Of course not, it just makes me think she’s another misinformed actress, no different than others. I’ve accepted the fact that most people who work in this industry are insane, but it doesn’t make me love their work any less. But are there people out there who will hold a grudge against her for making this comments? Of course there are.

The long and short of is this: I don’t care what you do in your personal life as long as you continue to make art of a certain quality. However, there are definitely folks out there who will hold any statement you make against you.

I’m as guilty as anyone of being curious about which celebrities are informed or not; it’s one of the reasons why I watch Bill Maher’s show every week. But while might enjoy watching Ben Affleck and smile at how similar our political points of view are, I’m similarly cringing when I hear Mos Def talk about conspiracy theories. While these points of view don’t make me respect Affleck more as an actor or Mos Def less, you can bet there are people in this vast country of ours who are doing just that.

Which brings me back to the original question: as the election approaches, what good are filmmakers doing by going public with their political beliefs? I think when they do the usual “Rock the Vote” or “Vote or Die” or “Vote or I’ll Kill You” that they are actually doing a lot of good by being non-partisan and raising awareness for the importance of being active. But when an actor or actress publicly endorses a candidate, I wonder if they are actually influencing voters. I find it hard to believe that there is someone out there that was on the fence about the Democratic primary and decided on Hillary Clinton after reading Natalie Portman’s point of view.

As I said earlier, it will not influence how I see Natalie Portman’s films in the future. I still think she is destined to win an Oscar won day and I think she is doing incredible humanitarian work with FINCA (Foundation for International Community Assistance), but I’m guessing she probably turned off more fans than she gained with that quote.

Back in 2003, during the ramp-up to the Iraq War, USA Today asked Daniel Day-Lewis what his thoughts on the war were and he responded with this: “”The media is sick and tired of people in my position giving their opinions, yet you ask for my opinion. And then when I give it, you’re going to say ‘Why doesn’t he shut up?'”

I think I speak for a lot of folks when I say to the filmmakers who are thinking of publicly endorsing one candidate or another this election season, “why don’t you shut up?”

– Noah Forrest
March 11, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 24 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon