(AP Photo/Focus Features, Scott Green)
These weeks were meant to be oh so different for Hollywood movie stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski.
Their anti-fracking movie "Promised Land" has just launched and it had all the right qualifications to be a sleeper hit. And it was just the right time, with the right people behind it, to sweep up Oscar nominations.
"Promised Land" ticked all the boxes to make some money and get a lot of awards. It is about a current issue that has many on the the left and right very very excited.
"Promised Land" is an anti-fracking film that portrays gas companies as evil soulless corporations that will stop at nothing to make a profit. And these evil gas companies are clever too. In the movie John Krasinski (nice guy Jim from NBC's The Office) plays an environmentalist who almost defeats the gas company until Matt Damon's character discovers he is a charlatan and fraud. This exposure persuades the townspeople to reject the environmentalist and embrace Fracking.
Then in an unexpected and quite ludicrous twist it is revealed the John Krasinski's character is actually a double agent for gas company. It was all part of an evil plot by the corporation. They planted him in the community and then engineered that he be exposed as a complete fraud at a time which would mean the town would swing in their favor.
"Promised Land" ends with Matt Damon's character having a crisis of conscience and deciding to reveal his company's shenanigans. He sacrifices his corporate career for the truth and the love of a good woman.
The movie certainly checked all the boxes but the crowds and the awards have stayed away. Despite the A-List cast – the film has lost a lot of money..But the bigger surprise is that it received absolutely no Oscar nominations. It was the major snub of the season. Damon and Krasinski wrote, produced and starred in film. The Oscars are supposed to a be a bit of a popularity contest, and there are very few as popular or connected as these two. Beyond Krasinski and Damon, "Promised Land" had France McDormand as a supporting actress – she is married to one of the Coen brothers – who are among the most popular directors in Hollywood.
"Promised Land" itself was directed by Gus Van Sant – an A-list director who has connections throughout the industry. And everyone loves Hal Holbrooke who has a major supporting role in the film.
So why did "Promised Land" fail both at the box office and the Oscars? The highly organised environmental left failed to turn out in the theaters. Now the environmental movement is not the massive grassroots movement that its supporters claim it to be. It is mostly a concern of the urban elite, but even they failed to show. And the Hollywood liberal left, of which there are many, also failed to show up when it mattered.
So is this a sign that the environmental movement and Hollywood are finally coming to terms with reality? That even they are learning the truth about how fracking has never been found to pollute water anywhere and that it has been going on in America for fifty years?
Unfortunately I don't think this is what happened with "Promised Land." The only drama about fracking is the prosperity it is bringing to rural America, and the way it is gong to ensure cheap reliable energy for future generations. I don't think sense and science are what led to the rejection of the movie by audiences and the Academy.
The rejection was caused by the dishonesty of the filmmakers. Not the dishonesty of the plot – the environmental and Hollywood left are all too willing to believe that fracking pollutes water, even though Lisa Jackson, the former head of the EPA and no friend of the gas industry, said that in fracking's 60 year history there has never been one single case of the process having polluted drinking water.
The problem with "Promised Land" is that Matt Damon and John Krasinski did a massive publicity tour in the run up to the Oscar nominations and spent interview after interview telling their potential audience that the movie was not anti-fracking. They claimed, in rather vague terms that the movie was about “American identity” and choices. Their publicity campaign was long and it was wide. They were on TV from morning to night. It often seemed that Damon and Krasinski must have been bumping into each other in the corridors of various TV stations. NBC's Today had Damon on last Monday and Krasinski on Tuesday telling the same stories about the shoot and spinning the same dishonest tales about the movie's themes.
And that was where they failed. Americans appreciate honesty. They love passion. And if Damon and Krasinski had told the truth and said this was their passion project, that fracking was something they wanted banned, it would have been appreciated by audiences and the Academy.
And make no mistake, Matt Damon despises fracking. He has written an antifracking movie but long before that he had recorded an election video for the Working Families Party which contained an attack on fracking. He tried to hide his beliefs when talking about "Promised Land" and audiences saw his lack of passion and probably figured that if the guy who wrote, directed and starred in "Promised Land" cannot get passionate about the film, why should they go and see it? This vagueness alienated his friends in Hollywood and the environmental left. They like bombastic movies with a message and they want their stars to be reading from the same political script. Damon's reluctance to stand up for his convictions and publicly attack fracking left his progressive friends disillusioned.
There is a lesson for those in Hollywood who want to make next year's big breakout “issue movie.” Hollywood and the environmental left don't mind if your movie has lies and half-truths. They expect that. What they really want is for you to get out there and push the message. Its not enough that you should lie, you must own and promote those lies as well. Otherwise you'll never eat organic arugala in this town again.
Phelim McAleer is the director of FrackNation a documentary that follows his journey as he encounters bogus lawsuits, cops and gun threats in order to find the truth about fracking. FrackNation premieres on Mark Cuban's AXS tv on Tuesday Jan 22 at 9pm eastern. It will be shown on AXS tv continually after that date. Check FrackNation.com for details