In early 2003, at a moment when the death penalty was in the news because DNA tests were proving so many death-row inmates were actually innocent of the crimes for which they were scheduled to die, I reviewed a forgettable film called The Life of David Gale, which was about the death penalty.
I wrote something to the effect that the film couldn't have been timelier if it had been about a president rushing us into an unjustified war -- even as we were days away from the disaster that was Shock and Awe.
I was working for a Gannett newspaper at the time, which was already beginning to feel the first tremors of what would be the sinkhole that print journalism has become. When my review ran, I received a couple of phone calls from angry readers, who wanted to know why I was inserting my political views into a movie review. A couple of readers also called the editor -- who reacted as if the calls were a tidal wave of subscription cancellations. (Those, of course, would come later, when the newspaper stopped giving its readers a reason to buy the newspaper.) I got called into a meeting, at which it was made clear to me that I was supposed to be writing about movies, not current events.
I thought of those calls a few weeks ago, when a line near the end of my review of Jason Reitman's Up in the Air seemed to rub some readers the wrong way. Specifically, they took offense when I wrote, "The firing scenes are alternately wrenching and funny -- but humorous in a painful way, for what they say about what so many people are facing in the aftermath of the Bush debacle."
Oops, hot-button time. Despite the fact that the economy melted down even as Bush was getting ready to abscond after eight years, there are still plenty of folks who are in denial.
Commented one reader, "Why do you feel the need to take a political shot at Bush? Why the need to interject your political bent into a movie review? Isn't it time to move on? Wipe the tears from your eyes and get some counciling (sic) for whatever it is that precludes you from getting past the Bush era."