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Analysis: Golden Globes' celebration of 'Vice' collides with Bush funeral's celebration of virtue

Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood figuratively crashed the funeral Thursday.

Even as President George H.W. Bush was being laid to rest in Houston following a final service and several days of heartfelt eulogies, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association celebrated the movie "Vice," a scathing biopic that blames former Vice President Dick Cheney -- and the man who empowered him, George W. Bush -- for much of the modern world's problems.

Although it has yet to be released, or even reviewed, "Vice" led all movies with six Golden Globes nominations -- best picture comedy, nods for Adam McKay's direction and screenplay and acting recognition for Christian Bale, who plays Cheney; Amy Adams who plays his wife, Lynne; and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush.

The timing of the nominations wasn't intended to send a message, or at least not a message to directly compete with the days of eulogies preceding the burial. The HFPA -- composed of 88 active members representing 55 countries -- voted before Bush died last Friday.

Nonetheless, the group's praise for "Vice," a film that vilifies the Bush-Cheney administration for the Iraq war, the use of torture, the no-bid government contracts to Cheney's former employer, Halliburton, and a host of other ills, comes at an odd moment of synchronicity.

"I really think the movie in some ways mirrors the times that we live in, and half the time I can't decide if we're living in an absurdist comedy or a Greek tragedy," McKay told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview. "And that's kind of the way the movie is, there are parts that are very tragic and dark and there are parts that are very absurd."

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Since Bush's death, the former president has been lauded for his tenure as a Navy pilot in World War II and his dedication to family and country, with former President Barack Obama calling Bush's life a "testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling."

Cheney, who served as Bush's Defense secretary, added his voice to the admirers, appearing on Fox News and "Meet the Press" in recent days to extol the way Bush "masterfully handled" the end of the Cold War.

Asked to name the best attributes the elder Bush passed to his president son, Cheney answered: "Well, he hired me, for one thing."

Cheney's response was (probably) a joke, but it also underscored how the passage of time often softens the public's view of even the most disliked politicians. At the time of his death, one-term President Bush enjoyed a 64 percent approval rating, according to a recent Gallup poll -- nearly double the number he scored during his final year as president.

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