Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign film is "Paradise Now,'' a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is "Munich,'' a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday's fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism.
    
But until you see "Syriana,'' nominated for best screenplay (and George Clooney, for best supporting actor) you have no idea how self-flagellation and self-loathing pass for complexity and moral seriousness in Hollywood.

"Syriana's'' script has, of course, the classic liberal tropes such as this stage direction: "The Deputy National Security Advisor, MARILYN RICHARDS, 40's, sculpted hair, with the soul of a seventy year-old white, Republican male, is in charge'' (Page 21). Or this piece of over-the-top, Gordon Gekko Republican-speak, placed in the mouth of a Texas oilman:  "Corruption is our protection. Corruption is what keeps us safe and warm. ... Corruption ... is how we win'' (Page 93).

But that's run-of-the-mill Hollywood. The true distinction of "Syriana's'' script is the near-incomprehensible plot -- a muddled mix of story lines about a corrupt Kazakhstan oil deal, a succession struggle in an oil-rich Arab kingdom and a giant Texas oil company that pulls the strings at the CIA and, naturally, everywhere else -- amid which, only two things are absolutely clear and coherent: the movie's one political hero and one pure soul.

The political hero is the Arab prince who wants to end corruption, inequality and oppression in his country. As he tells his tribal elders, he intends to modernize his country by bringing the rule of law, market efficiency, women's rights and democracy.

What do you think happens to him? He, his beautiful wife and beautiful children are murdered, incinerated, by a remote-controlled missile, fired from CIA headquarters in Langley, no less -- at the very moment that (this passes for subtle cross-cutting film editing) his evil younger brother, the corrupt rival to the throne and puppet of the oil company, is being hailed at a suitably garish ``oilman of the year'' celebration populated by fat and ugly Americans.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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