Al Gore Wins Oscar for Best ‘Documentary’

Al Gore won the Best Documentary Oscar last night for his global warming polemic “An Inconvenient Truth.” Crooks and Liars has the video of Gore’s acceptance speech.

Gore joins a growing line of liberal political activists to win major awards in recent years: The Dixie Chicks, Michael Moore, and Hillary Clinton come readily to mind in the “arts.” Then there’s Jimmy Carter and virtually every other recent winner of the Nobel Peace prize.

One wonders how long these awards will retain their credibility? It’s bad enough that actors and directors often win awards for mediocre late-career performances as a make-up for being snubbed for more deserving work over the years. But to so overtly use these awards to send a political message can’t sit that well with the majority of the country to whom that message is being sent.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Al Gore’s Oscar may end up being unique among Best Documentary Academy Awards. Ten years from now, if he’s right and global warming is just exactly what he says it is, he’ll be a prophet. On the other hand, if global warming doesn’t turn out to be the threat he’s predicting, it will be science fantasy.

  2. Steph says:

    I’m going to make a documentary just of people saying Bush Sucks and I’ll win next year.

    And then a song where it’s just Bush sucks for 3 minutes and I’ll win Best Song Grammy.

    When they made a documentary on Ron Santo’s life which everyone with an IQ above 3 thought should have won a couple of years ago I say he would have won if at the end he would have announced “I’m gay and Bush caused my diabetes”

  3. ken says:

    One wonders how long these awards will retain their credibility?

    Perhaps you should worry more about your own credibility than that of a society that awards members through secret balloting.

    And the Nobel Peace prize is an award for making some significant contribution towards peace. No no one expects you to understand or to do anything other than denigrate it. That is what conservatives have always done. It is part of the role you choose to play in life.

  4. Jim Henley says:

    What I don’t get are the scare-quotes around “documentary.” I mean, it is one. It may be good, bad or indifferent, but that’s its genre.

  5. Mark says:

    And the Nobel Peace prize is an award for making some significant contribution towards peace.

    Then maybe you can tell us what did Yasser Arafat did to promote “peace?”

  6. LaurenceB says:

    “An Inconvenient Truth” happens to be a very good documentary. Whether or not it was the best documentary of the year is hard to say – but it was easily one of the best, and the most popular with audiences. Complaints from the right on this count are generally bogus I think.

    However I agree with Dr. Joyner and just about everyone on the right that the Grammy award for the Dixie Chicks was largely politically motivated. That’s too bad, and yes it does cheapen the award.

  7. Bithead says:

    It’s something of a measurement of what the Oscars have become when Al Gore’s political movement, pushing the global warming fantasy, gets an award, and Peter O’Toole, a real actor, after 8 times being nominated, does not.

  8. LaurenceB says:

    Generally speaking I agree with the Academy that Gore’s movie was an excellent documentary. Clearly however, there are some like “bithead” or Dr. Joyner who think differently.

    So… Here’s a contructive suggestion:

    Perhaps they could enlighten us by telling us which of the other nominated documentaries was more deserving, and explain to us why that particular documentary is more deserving than Gore’s?

  9. Mark says:

    Al Gore’s political movement, pushing the global warming fantasy, gets an award, and Peter O’Toole, a real actor, after 8 times being nominated, does not.

    This is a bad comparison – ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and Peter O’Toole are not in the same category.

    If you would like to make a comparison between ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and other 2006 documentaries, that would be an interesting contribution to the discussion.

  10. Alex Knapp says:

    I haven’t seen An Inconvenient Truth, but I have seen the Powerpoint presentation and some of the other information that I understand is presented in it. Based on that, I’d say that An Inconvenient Truth is probably a pretty solid documentary. Granted, I think that Gore’s presentation does present some rather long-shot scenarios as being more probable than they actually are, but that’s understandable given the real severity of the threat of global climate change.

  11. Billy says:

    This creates a false dichotomy – the Dixie Chicks did something overtly political, while Al Gore did not, unless you’re one of the dead-enders who still thinks that global warming is a fiction designed to… Wait, why would you make it up again?

    Seriously – what’s the motivation? I have NEVER heard any explanation that didn’t invoke tinfoil hats…

  12. James Joyner says:

    What I don’t get are the scare-quotes around “documentary.” I mean, it is one. It may be good, bad or indifferent, but that’s its genre.

    and

    Based on that, I’d say that An Inconvenient Truth is probably a pretty solid documentary. Granted, I think that Gore’s presentation does present some rather long-shot scenarios as being more probable than they actually are, but that’s understandable given the real severity of the threat of global climate change.

    and

    unless you’re one of the dead-enders who still thinks that global warming is a fiction

    I tend to think of documentaries as being purely journalistic rather than propagandistic. The PBS “Frontline” series or the old Jacques Cousteau specials, for example. That may be an outmoded or narrow definition. At any rate, that’s why the scare quotes.

    I haven’t watched the piece all the way through; nor, for that matter, did I do so for “Fahrenheit 9/11.” I gather that Gore’s movie was more honest than Moore’s but consider them of a piece as propagandistic.

    Unlike many on the Right, I’m not a global warming rejectionist. I would likely differ with Gore in most respects on how to deal with the problem from a regulatory standpoint and am probably more optimistic than he is of technological solutions, but think he’s closer to right on the issue than, say, Rush Limbaugh.

  13. Dr X. says:

    It is difficult to ignore the overlapping agendas in play. I believe that Al Gore’s beliefs about global warming are sincerely motivated, and all but the most stubbornly oppositional can’t acknowledge at least the possibility that global warming may be a real and possibly gravely problematic phenomenon. That said, the sense of heavy-handed political scripting also pervaded the program last night.

    I even found myself wondering whether the Geffen-Hollywood spanking of Hillary last week wasn’t timed to make Gore look all the more attractively high-minded in contrast to Hillary who was left looking ruthless, petty and calculating.

    Whether or not it was intentional, I think it worked for Gore, although I found the adulation over the top, playing into the hands of the right’s portrayals of Hollywood as a mindless monolithic liberal force. It certainly did appear that way last night.

  14. William d'Inger says:

    I don’t know whether An Inconvenient Truth has its facts straight or not. But that’s irrelevant. I don’t know whether it was the best documentary or not. But that’s immaterial.

    The facts are: 1.) the picture was a political propaganda project from the start, and 2.) the Oscars are a favorite stop on the liberal political correctness circuit. Therefore, the award is meaningless to any person not enamored by hard code liberal philosophy. It’s no more a surprise than, say, the Fruit of Islam awarding Louis Farrakhan a Preacher of the Year certificate.

    In other words, the award changed nothing. The PC crowd just patted their collective selves on the back. They gained no converts from the event. At best it’ll go down as an historical footnote along with, say, the invention of suspenders.

  15. Billy says:

    the picture was a political propaganda project from the start

    Really? If Al Gore told you your house was on fire and that it happened to be caused by a lit cigarrette, would this be political propaganda (that damn anti-smoking lobby)? If an Inconvenient Truth had been created and narrated by Stephen Hawking, would this be political propaganda?

    By this definition, is there anything that Al Gore could do that ISN’T a “political propaganda project?”

  16. William d'Inger says:

    Were Al Gore a movie maker by trade, I would consider An Inconvenient Truth to be a documentary, but he’s not. He’s a politician, and an embittered loser to boot. That, by Occam’s Razor, makes it a political propaganda piece.

  17. LaurenceB says:

    Sixteen comments on “An Inconvenient Truth” and as of yet the dialogue is completely content-free! Not one word that provides any evidence that the movie was any better than any other documentary, and not one word that gives us any reason to believe it was not the best documentary of the year.

    More than one commenter admits to never having seen it. Yet several commenters (including Dr. Joyner, who hasn’t seen it “all the way through”) feel qualified to state that it didn’t deserve an award.

    Wow. Aren’t blogs grand?

  18. Jim Henley says:

    I don’t know whether An Inconvenient Truth has its facts straight or not. But that’s irrelevant. I don’t know whether it was the best documentary or not. But that’s immaterial.

    Of course it is. It’s immaterial whether the movie awarded the best documentary Oscar was the best documentary. Any fool can see that.

    Anent LaurenceB’s comments, who in the thread can NAME any other documentaries that were nominated without a quick internet search? Who has seen ANY of the nominated documentaries, let alone AIC?

    I haven’t seen any of them. I have no opinion on whether it should have won. Clearly it made a bigger IMPACT than any of the other documentaries on the list, since it’s the only one most people have heard of. But that doesn’t mean it’s the “best.”

    But I’m pretty darn sure that “it’s immaterial” whether it was the best documentary of the year for people like William “the Dinger” d’Inger,” who would say it was an award for “political correctness” no matter what. Why, it’s no more surprising that he should say that than if the Fruit of Islam gave Louis Farrakhan the award for “preacher of the year” . . .

  19. jeff b says:

    So far, everyone is wrong, including the original blog post. An Inconvenient Truth is not a movie by Al Gore, and Al Gore did not win any Academy Award. Davis Guggenheim, who made the film, won the award for Best Documentary Feature.

    Perhaps you will all attempt to inform yourselves before launching on any further discourse.

  20. James Joyner says:

    I haven’t seen any of them. I have no opinion on whether it should have won. Clearly it made a bigger IMPACT than any of the other documentaries on the list, since it’s the only one most people have heard of.

    Nor do I have an opinion about the relative merits of the nominated films. The problem is the appearance that these shows are about honoring political viewpoints rather than artistic excellence.

  21. James Joyner says:

    An Inconvenient Truth is not a movie by Al Gore, and Al Gore did not win any Academy Award.

    Why was he holding an Oscar and thanking the Academy, then?

  22. William d'Inger says:

    I have searched and searched and have not found a single news article devoted to the technical merits of the movie. Every article is devoted solely to Al Gore’s involvement in the project (usually with speculation about his future political prospects). I take that as proof the award was for political correctness. How could anyone think otherwise? What evidence do you have to the contrary?

  23. jeff b says:

    Why was he holding an Oscar and thanking the Academy, then?

    Because Davis Guggenheim invited him up on stage and handed the statue to him. Do I assume that you have seen neither the film nor the awards ceremony? If you are so ill-informed, what could possibly have moved you to write a blog post on the subject?

  24. kevin polk says:

    Come on people, cut the good doctor some slack.

    This is one of the few blogs where right wing propaganda and rational thought can simultaneously exist.

    I mean, for heaven sakes, he hasn’t said that the movie should have lost because God told him so, or because it fails to support our troops, or because an Academy Award for it means that Al Qaeda wins or any of the other drivel that these days passes itself off as conservative thought.

    If anything Dr. Joyner’s position on this reminds me of a (southern) friend of mine whose objections to Ken Burns civil war documentary centered largely around his personal dissatisfaction with the ending.

    The title of this entry should have been “How come liberals win all the really cool awards?”

  25. ken says:

    If you are so ill-informed, what could possibly have moved you to write a blog post on the subject?

    That is what is done on conservative blogs. Reality is not something they let get in the way of making a political point, ever.

  26. Bithead says:

    Why was he holding an Oscar and thanking the Academy, then?

    Because he was taking credit for it. Rather like he was taking credit for inventing the Internet.

  27. carpeicthus says:

    I think a lot of people here have no idea what the word “documentary” means.

  28. anjin-san says:

    >Bithead:Because he was taking credit for it. Rather like he was taking credit for inventing the Internet.

    Bit, have you ever read Gore’s actual remarks on the subject?

    BLITZER: I want to get to some of the substance of domestic and international issues in a minute, but let’s just wrap up a little bit of the politics right now.

    Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn’t necessarily bring to this process?

    GORE: Well, I will be offering — I’ll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.

    But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I’ve traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

    For those who are interested in the real story of what Gore actually claimed to have done and the role he did play in helping the internet along there is a fine article on the subject at:

    http://dir.salon.com/story/tech/col/rose/2000/10/05/gore_internet/index.html

    As for Bit, I am sure he is sticking with “I only know what Rush and Captain Ed have told me”.

    Now I will grant that Gore’s use of language in this case was a bit clunky, a lot of “initiaves”, but it is clear to anyone who reads this with anything resembling an open mind that Gore never claimed credit for inventing or creating the internet, or “internets” as Mr. Bush would say.

    It it pretty clear that Gore got the potential and improtance of the internet early on, and worked to help provide a government policy that would expidite its growth and help prevent a regulatory climate that might hinder its growth.

    I am not a huge Gore fan, though he has risen a notch or 2 in my book since his poor election/post election performance in 2000.

    It is pretty clear that partially thru Gore’s efforts, someone like Bithead is able to share his vast supply of utter drivel with the world online.

  29. jerry says:

    If anything Dr. Joyner’s position on this reminds me of a (southern) friend of mine whose objections to Ken Burns civil war documentary centered largely around his personal dissatisfaction with the ending.

    Kevin Polk FTW.

  30. Andrew says:

    Well, I’ve seen three of the five contenders and I would venture to suggest that ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ has the least to do with politics. Two of the others are about Iraq (‘My Country, My Country’ and ‘Iraq in Fragments’) and the remaining two are about crazy Christians (‘Jesus Camp’ and ‘Deliver Us From Evil’).

    I don’t think Joyner would’ve been happy with any of those and would still be whining about the liberal conspiracy in Hollywood.

    If only there was a Mockumentary category then we could’ve congratulated the team behind ‘The Path to 9/11’ for their sterling work.

  31. jd says:

    2006 Nobel Peace Prize – The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.

    2005 Nobel Peace Prize – The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2005 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.

    2004 Nobel Peace Prize – The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004 to Wangari Maathai for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

    Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.

    Maathai stood up courageously against the former oppressive regime in Kenya. Her unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression – nationally and internationally. She has served as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights and has especially encouraged women to better their situation.

    2003 Nobel Peace Prize – The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2003 to Shirin Ebadi for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children.

    As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders. She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety.

    Her principal arena is the struggle for basic human rights, and no society deserves to be labelled civilized unless the rights of women and children are respected. In an era of violence, she has consistently supported non-violence. It is fundamental to her view that the supreme political power in a community must be built on democratic elections. She favours enlightenment and dialogue as the best path to changing attitudes and resolving conflict.

    2002 Nobel Peace Prize – The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Jimmy Carter, for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.

    During his presidency (1977-1981), Carter’s mediation was a vital contribution to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, in itself a great enough achievement to qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize. At a time when the cold war between East and West was still predominant, he placed renewed emphasis on the place of human rights in international politics.

    Through his Carter Center, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2002, Carter has since his presidency undertaken very extensive and persevering conflict resolution on several continents. He has shown outstanding commitment to human rights, and has served as an observer at countless elections all over the world. He has worked hard on many fronts to fight tropical diseases and to bring about growth and progress in developing countries. Carter has thus been active in several of the problem areas that have figured prominently in the over one hundred years of Peace Prize history.

    2001 Nobel Peace Prize – The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2001, in two equal portions, to the United Nations (U.N.) and to its Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.

    For one hundred years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to strengthen organized cooperation between states. The end of the cold war has at last made it possible for the U.N. to perform more fully the part it was originally intended to play. Today the organization is at the forefront of efforts to achieve peace and security in the world, and of the international mobilization aimed at meeting the world’s economic, social and environmental challenges.

    2000 Nobel Peace Prize – The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2000 to Kim Dae-jung for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular.

    In the course of South Korea’s decades of authoritarian rule, despite repeated threats on his life and long periods in exile, Kim Dae-jung gradually emerged as his country’s leading spokesman for democracy. His election in 1997 as the republic’s president marked South Korea’s definitive entry among the world’s democracies. As president, Kim Dae-jung has sought to consolidate democratic government and to promote internal reconciliation within South Korea.

    1999 Nobel Peace Prize – The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 1999 to Médecins Sans Frontières in recognition of the organization’s pioneering humanitarian work on several continents.

    Since its foundation in the early 1970s, Médecins Sans Frontières has adhered to the fundamental principle that all disaster victims, whether the disaster is natural or human in origin, have a right to professional assistance, given as quickly and efficiently as possible. National boundaries and political circumstances or sympathies must have no influence on who is to receive humanitarian help. By maintaining a high degree of independence, the organization has succeeded in living up to these ideals.