WWTW Interview: Big Hollywood’s Editor John Nolte – Part 2

WWTW Interview: Big Hollywood’s Editor John Nolte – Part 2

Here’s the second installment of WWTW’s interview with Big Hollywood Editor in Chief John Nolte, the driving force behind the biggest conservative movie site on the web:

WWTW: Do you find it difficult juggling deeply held political beliefs with movies that run counter to them when formulating a review? Has this become easier … or harder with time?

JN: I’ve always felt that this burden was not my responsibility, but the filmmaker’s. If I notice the politics, you’re doing something wrong.

Most movie goers have deeply held beliefs, political or otherwise, and any filmmaker’s primary responsibility involves casting a strong enough storytelling spell so that audiences forget every preconception they walked in with. Recently, I wrote a review of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and opened it with m shock over not realizing – until someone told me – that it was a very liberal film. This was a filmmaker who did his job.

People forget that Hollywood was just as liberal and on a crusade to change the world back during the post-”Easy Rider” era that lasted straight through to the late 1970s. And that was a second Golden Age. Many of those films hold up remarkably well today because they’re so expertly crafted you don’t notice the agenda.

Today’s agenda-driven filmmakers just don’t have the artistic maturity and self-confidence to do that and instead build their messaging on straight, thudding, two by four across the head politics. There’s no one working anymore who seems anywhere near capable of crafting a “China Syndrome,” “Norma Rae,” “Coming Home,” “Silkwood” or “M*A*S*H.” The last truly great politically liberal film was Tim Robbins’ “Dead Man Walking” in 1995, the last universally appealing one was John Travolta’s “A Civil Action” in 1998 and the last effective one was “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005.

WWTW: We often hear “the professional movie critic” is an endangered species. Does that concern you? Can web-based critics fill the gap completely?

JN: I’ve been paid to watch and write about movies for over four years now, and if it all ended tomorrow I’d always appreciate just how lucky I was to have even had those four years.

The Web will most certainly fill the gap, and the best of what you call “professional critics” have moved online and taken their audience with them. The web is also delivering new film writers who might never have become known if print media still dominated. And this is why web-based critics will produce better and more comprehensive film writing than print media ever could.

The beauty of the Internet is that it’s democracy at its finest – the ultimate meritocracy where who you know and which J-school you attended means next to nothing. The Web is the death of monopolistic media elitism, where your ability to hold on to your influence is due to a vertical monopoly caused by the burdensome price to publish or broadcast yourself. Today, anyone can broadcast and publish, and to the whole world, for next to no money.

So many choices, so many voices. That can never be a bad thing.

WWTW: Do web-based critics wield clout? Can they “open” a movie or help bring attention to a project that otherwise might get ignored?

JN: ThoughI personally loved “Snakes on a Plane,” no web frenzy could make a hit out of it or even open the movie any more than the old media’s months long secular crusade against “The Passion of the Christ” could dent that film’s box office. The web is frequently credited for making successes out of “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity,” but being as they were released nearly a decade apart I would say they qualify as the exceptions proving the rule. The fact that they’re both very good films had more to do with their success than any kind of viral marketing.

Where critics, including web-based critics, do wield enormous clout is with filmmakers.

Critics aren’t dumb, they know the public doesn’t much care which way their thumbs point. But critics do know that bsed on their opinions and reviews they can enjoy an influence over what kind of films get made. And that’s not a small amount of power. Culture is upstream from politics, after all.

If you have 95 percent of critics savaging a faithful retelling of the Gospels as anti-Semitic, no matter how successful “The Passion” is, no one’s going to go near that subject matter again. And that’s the goal. Same with anything that comes close to patriotism or conservatism. Such cinematic rarities are frequently labeled “jingoistic, fascist or simple minded.” This is all done consciously and for a desired effect.

The most recent example of this is Will Ferrell’s “The Other Guys.” The film is ridiculously cheap-looking and only mildly amusing until it completely falls off a cliff in the third act thanks to confusing and unfunny left-wing economic preaching. And yet it earns critical approval. Take the EXACT same movie but lean the politics to the right, and you’re looking at a 28 percent Rottentomatoes.com rating instead of 70 percent.

WWTW: What are the most common mistakes today’s movie critics make, in your opinion?

JN: You have to understand that when I look at the critical community I only see it for what it really is: a journolista cabal of left wingers deeply engaged in a cultural and ideological war, deeply committed to shaping the powerful messaging of sound and fury that emanate from our pop culture masters. Obviously, there are exceptions, but for the most part those who write film reviews (or any kind of reviews) are no different that the rest of the left-wing media. True, I’m also a cultural and ideological warrior. I just don’t pretend that I’m not.

What’s needed are more film critics from the right, but those folks must love the art form of motion pictures – love it enough that one fo their pleasures in life is rediscovering the classics going all the way back to the silent era. Anyone with a right-of-center world view and a love and knowledge of a particular art form should jump in. That field is now wide open for anyone enterprising enough to make it their own.

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Related posts:

  1. WWTW Interview: Big Hollywood Editor John Nolte – Part 1
  2. WWTW Interview – ‘Media Malpractice’ director John Ziegler
  3. WWTW Interview: John Crowley, the inspiration behind ‘Extraordinary Measures’
  4. WWTW Interview: ‘Not Quite Hollywood’ director Mark Hartley
  5. WWTW Interview: Film critic Roger Moore

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

jicNo Gravatar August 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm

The fact that they’re both very good films had more to do with their success than any kind of viral marketing.

Even more than that, they were both very cheap films whose combined budgets likely wouldn’t reach the $100k mark. They were perfect cases for the ‘viral marketing’ model, which is really only a technologically-enhanced version of ‘word of mouth’. If those movies had budgets in the tens of millions range but had the same box office returns, they would have been considered minor successes at best, and likely would have been considered flops. That’s what happened with movies like Snakes on a Plane, Serenity, and Watchmen, all of which flopped after massive internet fanboy hype.

Scott "Kubryk" SawitzNo Gravatar August 14, 2010 at 4:40 pm


They both had brilliant marketing too, not just word of mouth … it was one of those once in a lifetime kind of things where it was a perfect storm of great marketing and buzz translating into dollars.

Blair Witch was poised as “real” and generated hits on the web (and butts in seats) before anyone thought of the web in that way as a marketing tool. I was in college at the time and remembered seeing flyers poising the film as the work of three people who disappeared, etc. It had a crazy buzz to it because of it.

Paranormal Activity only showed for midnight screenings in select places based on interest for a long time, giving it a buzz before it expanded.

James FrazierNo Gravatar August 14, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I remember back when “Che” was about to be released and Nolte was fully prepared to hate it (for totally legit reasons that I myself shared). Instead, he wound up very impressed and ranked it as one of his top films that year. I really respect that about him; he’s willing to admit it when things don’t turn out like he expected. An ideal trait for any critic.

Jack MarinoNo Gravatar August 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

John Nolte is a very fair and honest movie reviewer. I first met John in 2005 and he was one of the first conservative reviewer to review my film FORGOTTEN HEROES. He was honest then as he is now.

“Apocalypse Now has the big movie stars. Platoon has the budget. Full Metal Jacket has Kubrick. But Forgotten Heroes has the truth. And when history does what history always does best and shakes itself loose of the blistering lies told of and about America’s involvement in Vietnam, it will be Jack Marino’s Forgotten Heroes that’s first acquitted.

Watching the history of Vietnam through the eyes of mainstream Hollywood you’d never know our goal was to help a people retain their self-determination. You’d never know that what the critics wrist-flicked as a civil war was in fact a national act of fratricide; one brother trying to oppress and butcher another. You’d never know the consequence of our leaving — our breaking our promise to our allies — our caving to the anti-war left — was a holocaust of millions. And you’d never know that our men and women over there were honorable, self-sacrificing, heroes. You’d never know this because in order to present its twisted view of the war mainstream Hollywood must demonize our troops. It must lie.

In Forgotten Heroes we finally see an honest portrayal of these good and decent men who left their homes and risked their lives for something bigger than themselves. Marino’s film reminds us how that once meant something. Marino’s film also reminds us that when those men are forgotten by a government unwilling to finish what it started, the price they pay doesn’t end with the war.

Using relatively unknown actors and a meager budget, Marino expertly mixes themes larger than politics with a briskly paced emotional story and action scenes that defy that meager budget. And watching Forgotten Heroes is a reminder of just how far Hollywood has fallen.

There was a time Hollywood believed in spreading liberty and stopping tyranny. There was a time it marshalled every force at its disposal because it believed everyone, regardless of skin color or religion, deserved freedom. That belief died sometime in the late 1960’s. And from it sprang an ideology of anti-Americanism and pro-Communism that has infested our films for forty years and lives on today in the form of Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, and all the others who find the tyrants Castro and Saddam more tolerable than our own President.

But that’s just politics. We can disagree on politics. But what about the men? Why must the heroes of Vietnam be slandered in film after film to support the misguided political agendas of the Hollywood left? Can’t we draw a line of decency somewhere?

Well, Marino has drawn a line. He put his money and talent and reputation on the line to tell the truth about these men. And for over fifteen years he’s shown this film to anyone willing to listen. Anyone with enough of an open mind to consider that there are still stories left untold in Vietnam. Stories of heroism and sacrifice. In other words: The Truth.

Every viewing of Forgotten Heroes makes these heroes less forgotten. Every viewing jabs a finger in the eye of a Hollywood that lies about them. The forgotten heroes of Vietnam have a friend in Jack Marino. And so do maverick filmmakers everywhere with a dream. With a love of country. With a love of freedom. With a love of truth… ”

John Nolte – August 10, 2005

This review is one of my best, John saw exactly what I was trying to say in FORGOTTEN HEROES.

sharpshinyNo Gravatar August 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm

“…when I look at the critical community I only see it for what it really is: a journolista cabal of left wingers deeply engaged in a cultural and ideological war.”

I love John Nolte.

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