WASHINGTON — He's the true dark Joker, and I don't mean Joaquin Phoenix. The actor can't hold a candle to the president, a character whose lethal whims we fear in the new year.
Has Hollywood gone Washington, or has Washington gone Hollywood? That is the question.
The Academy Award nominations bestowed the biggest kiss on "Joker," a supervillain's blood-chilling, cartoonish story. Tied for second: "1917," "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" and "The Irishman."
The news reveals a tale of two cities locked in a reckless pas de deux. Beautiful Hollywood acts as if it's much better than us, while we in Washington sink in the political mud.
But these poor choices, dear Academy, show President Donald Trump has come to your town and tainted its tinsel, too. All the pretty gowns and teary speeches can't hide an unbecoming truth. You're honoring Trump in disguises. Very nice.
On the world stage, Trump all but played Joker with a deadly drone strike on Iran's top military commander. It came shooting out of a midnight sky in another country, where we're meant to end a long war. Now Iraq wants us gone, which means a lost war.
Just like Joker acting alone, terrorizing streets of Gotham, Trump is the lone disturber of world peace. Anxious allies and members of Congress don't know what mayhem he'll do next.
Let's take "1917" now. It's fun for Sam Mendes, the British director, to release a World War I epic at year's end and pick up 10 Oscar nominations two weeks later. Few outside of New York and Los Angeles screenings have seen it, but we're told it's "visually dazzling" by critics.
The Great War, as it's called over there, was catastrophic and wiped out a generation of young men in Europe. They met mass death in gas masks and trenches. The endgame, the Treaty of Versailles, punished Germany so harshly it only led to more world war 20 years later.
Hollywood often lavishes love on bloodshed and male violence, but this year on a truly Trumpian scale. Mendes, an Academy darling, was nominated for best director. Greta Gerwig, director of "Little Women," with visually enchanting New England scenes of sisterhood, was shut out.
Gerwig's homage to female virtues on the Civil War homefront — centering on wise, kind Marmee and four March girls — is based on an American literary masterpiece that only girls and women read. Pity men miss out. The story is a refreshing counterpoint of peace next to world war and the other blockbusters.
Beloved "Little Women" made the running for best picture, pleasing women across America. But if it wins the night's grandest award, we'll be amazed, Hollywood.
That brings us to narcissism, a signature Trump trait that director Quentin Tarantino, 56, apparently shares with Academy voters this violent season.
His "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" is a fond look at the industry town during a vicious patch — the Charles Manson murders — in 1969. The brutal deaths of actress Sharon Tate and others in their home, however, is no burlesque matter. Not even Brad Pitt redeems Hollywood's obsession with its own "golden age."
Tarantino's storytelling as an aggressive "man's man" or "bad boy" director is a pattern that works well in Hollywood. Yet you could get a permanent neck injury as an actress working for him, as Uma Thurman did. He's the favored nominee for best director — "the director to watch here," so says The Washington Post.
Director Martin Scorsese made a dewy-eyed mob movie called "The Irishman," starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Like I care, really? Again, it's a movie made by men for men — and white men at that — celebrating a life of crime. We get to see that show every day in Washington; it looks like the Trump Cabinet.
Why see a movie about an aging gangster when we have one in the Oval from central casting?
Movies about truly inspiring characters of the past — Mr. Rogers and abolitionist-freedom fighter Harriet Tubman — got polite nods, Academy acting nominations for Tom Hanks and Cynthia Erivo. But it's not that kind of year in popular culture.
Trump took Hollywood by storm. That's no joke.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit the website creators.com
Photo credit: PhotoMIX-Company at Pixabay