Friday, July 28, 2006

the ant bully: a movie review, castrated

Over the past year or so, the Washington Post, no doubt to save a nickel, has gone from having different writers review new movies for the Style section and the Weekend section to instead printing shortened versions of the Style reviews in Weekend. I don't usually bother to read the Weekend ones, but today a travesty of editing caught my eye.

Stephen Hunter, whose reviews I usually enjoy very much, reviewed "The Ant Bully" today. And the Weekend version has a completely different tone that the longer Style version.

The Style review and the shorter Weekend version praised the movie's technique and animation. Obviously, Hunter thought the movie is technically well done. Both articles also pointed to the ant colony being a paradise, except when the bully boy poured water on them.

The Weekend review concludes, "The movie is an epic adventure with a rigorously moral point of view." So you'd think that Hunter enjoyed the movie, right?

Wrong. If you look at the Style review -- three times longer than the hacked-back Weekend one -- you see what Hunter admits is a "rant" about the movie. First off, Hunter can't stand the "psychotic anthropomorphism" (I haven't seen the flick, but I suspect I would agree with him). And he doesn't like
"promiscuous empathy." We identify with anything: birds, bees, flowers, trees. We weep for all. We make a fetish of our compassion and treat our feelings as if they're ideas. This contagion holds that there is no us and them in the world, that we are all one big us. The fact that the world then makes no sense is of no matter to those who hold this point of view; far more important is how happy it makes them feel, how moral, how superior. All they are saying is give peace a chance.
None of that is included in the Weekend review.

And Hunter sees the above as a not-so-subtle allegory.
You'd have to be an idiot to miss the Middle Eastern allegory in all this. More foreign policy advice from the savants of Hollywood: We Americans, we're the ant bullies, with our huge technical might, and we blunder into the Third Worlds of this world, huffing and puffing, only to be humiliated by the determination and resilience of the indigenous forces.
The Weekend review concludes, "The movie is an epic adventure with a rigorously moral point of view." The full Style version ends, "The whole thing is a lie, from start to finish. Other than that, I liked it a lot."

Wow. Could the butchers who edit the Weekend section have gotten it any more completely wrong? I haven't seen the movie, probably won't, and I'm not sure whether I would agree with Hunter or not. But Hunter's rant (his word) about Hollywood foreign policy advice and "promiscuous empathy" clearly reflects his strongly-held view. And not only is that completely ABSENT in the Weekend version, they managed to turn the review on its head to make it look like Hunter overall LIKED the movie.

The Weekend edited snippet was "a lie, from start to finish," completely perverting Hunter's review.

I'd say those editor/butchers are just about ready for a job on the editorial pages. And if I were Stephen Hunter, I'd be livid.