Never mind that Steven Spielberg is as likely to make an anti-Semitic movie as Fox News is to embrace Marxism.
Still, we get the now-predictable outrage from folks with an agenda, however well-meaning, who too often judge movies they have not seen (or books they have not read).
In this case, the accusation is that Spielberg does not sufficiently deplore the terrorists of "Munich," the director's take on the aftermath of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, one of sports history's most horrific events.
The film follows a clandestine Israeli hit squad assigned to track down and kill the Palestinians suspected of having planned the Munich massacre. It also is said to examine the quandaries faced by the man (played by Eric Bana) who led the mission: justice, retribution or revenge ? call it what you will.
Apparently, Spielberg's crime is to have gone swimming in murky moral seas. Some reviewers have praised his willingness to set ideology aside and consider unsettling aspects of the story, while others (a "minority report" to date) have disparaged him for failing to take a stance. None are charging him with launching a diatribe. Though "Munich" got an unexpected salute last week from the widows of two of the slain athletes, Spielberg and his film have drawn the ire of some American Jews and Israelis who believe the movie not only distorts the truth, but actually paints the terrorists as sympathetic. Also taking some heat is screenwriter Tony Kushner ("Angels in America").
Not yet having seen the film, which opens here Jan. 6, we must give both Spielberg and his naysayers the benefit of the doubt.
Co-starring with Bana (the worst thing in "Hulk," the best thing in "Troy") are, fittingly, the new James Bond-to-be, Daniel Craig ("Layer Cake"), the always reliable Geoffrey Rush ("Shine") and Mathieu Kassovitz.
From the technical end, it's the 10th collaboration between Spielberg and his personal cinematographer, the incomparable Janusz Kaminski, the best of them being "Saving Private Ryan" and "Schindler's List." Whatever its merits or missteps, you know it will be a film well shot.
Those wanting an unvarnished account of the operation may wish to turn to "Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response" by Aaron J. Klein (Random House), a just-released account of the terrorist killings, the response of Mossad (the Israeli secret service) and the degree to which it targeted nonaffiliated Black September terrorists. Klein is Jerusalem Bureau chief for Time magazine.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is something of a closed shop, its membership a bit of a mystery. For years, its annual Golden Globe Awards also were something of a joke, dismissed for their, um, eccentric choices of whom to honor. But then they got serious, sort of, and became a "predictor" of the Oscar nominations.
This year's Globes will be presented at a ceremony Jan. 16 to be broadcast on NBC. Like the Oscars largely have become, they are first and foremost a promotional tool for the entertainment industry in an ocean of awards that have diluted the meaning of almost all of them.
According to The New York Times, studio execs suddenly are complaining about the nonprofit group's hold on what has become big business. While execs wine and dine organization members, the Foreign Press Association reportedly earned $5.7 million in 2003 from the Globes, usually ranked as the third most-watched awards program each year, after the Oscars and the Grammys.
That said, it's interesting to note that the TV viewing audience for last year's show plunged 40 percent to 16.7 million viewers from the year before.
Pardon our cough. Apparently, smoking in films is cool again.
Not since 1950, according to a study released by the journal Pediatrics and compiled from 40 individual studies, have there been so many images of smoking on celluloid. The report found that smoking or tobacco-related activities appeared 10.9 times per hour in motion pictures in 2002, the most recent year cited, more than double the number in 1982, the lowest point. The study also indicates that youth-rated films, PG-13 and below, now have more tobacco impressions than R-rated movies. The question is, what impact does this have on the estimated 390,000 young people take up smoking every year? Is it because of the movies, peer pressure, both or neither?
Despite having been approached to place warnings on its theatrical films and home videos, don't expect the Hollywood studios to attach voluntary, much less mandatory, public service announcement about the dangers of tobacco to their opening credits.
Ever notice how music stars can't help but think they can conquer the movies as well?
Over the years, some were right. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Doris Day and a trio of singing cowboys ? Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter ? didn't do too badly. Nor have Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Cher and, more recently, country-Western star Dwight Yoakam, rapper Will Smith and rocker Jon Bon Jovi.
But for every one of these, there are five felonious fools, such as Madonna, Britney Spears, Usher and Mariah Carey. Next, we get to see Justin Timberlake try his hand in a trio of movies: "Alpha Dog," "Edison" and "Black Snake Moan." Please, don't quit your day job, people.
Bits and pieces
In "Cache," a French TV talk-show host's marriage starts to crumble when he starts receiving increasingly intimate videotapes from an anonymous sender. Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche star for writer-director Michael Haneke. ... Despite mixed reviews, some observers contend that the fourth Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," finally gets it right, or, as one put it, "successfully re-creates the sense of stirring magical adventure and engaged, edge-of-your-seat excitement that has made the books such an international phenomenon. Its success is due to the presence of veteran Mike Newell, eager, in his own words, 'to break out of this goody-two-shoes feel.' " By contrast, how's this for a critical zinger aimed at Rob Marshall's disappointing "Memoirs of a Geisha": "The script by Robin Swicord waves aside historical accuracy in favor of telling a familiar story, in which Gong Li plays the evil step-evil geisha, Michelle Yeoh is the good fairy god-geisha and Ziyi Zhang is Cindergeisha."?