Someone on another forum related the story to me this way:
Do you know it has a place in Oscar scandal history? The director, upon receiving his Oscar, read a congratulatory telegram from the Viet Cong delegation at the peace talks. Backstage, an outraged Bob Hope demanded that the Academy make some sort of apology. Shirley Maclaine was also backstage, and got into a screaming match with Hope. Eventually, Frank Sinatra read a disclaimer on air that views of the winners didn't necessarily match those of the Academy.
I agree that speech might have made for a very interesting DVD extra!
Aren't many of the clips in Hearts and Minds actually lifted from Year of the Pig?
Came across this unusual review of Hearts and Minds
, written by Emile de Antonio for University Review in 1974:
excerpt from "Visions of Vietnam" by Emile de Antonio, University Review, 1974
Network television and Hollywood have always been uncomfortable with the documentary. The networks used to spew them and give out awards, like National 4-H Clubs, to one another; long white papers, etc. They take their place in Trotsky's dustbin, so objective that life is bleached out. Objective enough to be mindless, no sponsor or his grandchild should be offended. Hollywood's discomfort is more practical; it avoids them, finding Godfathers, Airports, Poseidons, and a kind of ritual cinematic cloning of the works of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Zane Grey more profitable.
Hearts and Minds is the Godfather of documentaries. My guess is that there is one big difference: it will never find an audience.
Hearts and Minds is also a miracle. A political film without politics. The style betrays the political emptiness: no style at all, amorphous sequences strung together. Most art has something to do with structure(s).
I found it both heartless and mindless. Heartless because of an inability to understand either the United States or Vietnam. Heartless because it sneers with a japing, middle-class, liberal superiority when it should be doing something quite different. Patronizing attitudes include: a returned POW pilot is welcomed home to Linden, New Jersey. He is still gung ho as police wave the flag, as he talks before the flaccid city fathers, as he talks to the mothers of Linden, as he talks to a grammar-school class. The distance between the more hip parts of Beverly Hills and Linden, New Jersey, is vast, and those who made Hearts and Minds don't understand it. They laugh. Example: head shot, black veteran, smiling, tells of getting his pants blown off, running around with his thing hanging out. A real chuckle of a figure. "Shit, man," and all that. Camera pulls back and he is missing an arm and a leg. Neither the camera nor the director makes one feel that humanity is involved in any way. Example: football locker room, coach pep talk, rough language, coach slaps around the players, go and kill 'em. They go out, they get hurt. It's a sour metaphor, it's not even a good one, and it hangs in the middle like something interesting they didn't understand.
Mindlessness is worse. I'm not asking that Das Kapital be made into a film, but it's so much more coherent. How can you make a film about Vietnam and leave out their revolution? How can you leave out the dissent here that cost LBJ the presidency and forced Nixon into lies and Vietnamization? (Ninety seconds of "Give Peace a Chance" won't do.) How can you suppress all evidence that the war is still going on? Where did the war come from? Where is the system that produced it? And the Christmas bombing? The voices that seem to speak for the makers of the film, like the makers of the film, found out about the war too late. Clark Clifford? A plushy Washington lawyer, a behind-the-scenes figure in many administrations (he was blamed by Joe McCarthy for starting the Army-McCarthy hearings), he discovers something is wrong in 1968 when he was secretary of defense. Where was he in 1964? Daniel Ellsberg? He weeps about Robert Kennedy, but I'm more interested in what motivated him into being part of the Rand/CIA/Marine deal so long; and his version of our involvement is cut down to the skeleton of a field mouse. A Vietnamese Catholic priest talks about defending his native land, but Dien Bien Phu and the Tet Offensive were about more than that.
A little semiexplicit sex in a Saigon whorehouse. A brilliant sequence of a Saigon banker who rushed home at the first whiff of "peace" to make deals with U.S. companies. It ends as it began, trailing off to nowhere, carrying the logo of Columbia Pictures. Rumors are that Columbia won't distribute it. After all, it takes $8,ooo,ooo at the box office to get back $1,200,000.
Ouch! Sour grapes? It doesn't lessen my liking of Hearts and Minds
, but it is an interesting perspective I think. Now I really have to see The Year of the Pig
and see how it stacks up.