Discover more from Pirate Wires
Congressman George Santos' Oscar Picks
in addition to his deep understanding of drag race lore, santos has a lot of opinions on hollywood, the future of entertainment, and who deserves best actress at the oscars on sunday
It happened slowly, then all at once: a mature internet, in which a majority of Americans lived in some significant part online, reshaped our country in accordance with the malleable laws of the digital world. Some call this the “attention economy.” I call it the Clown World. In the context of democracy, the game is fundamentally changed, and the men and women who understand this — regardless of your personal feeling for them — are the most formidable voices in politics. Such figures include Donald Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (with, to a lesser degree, the rest of the Squad), and now George Santos, the most scandalous politician America also just can’t seem to quit.
Last week, River Page profiled Congressman Santos in a great piece you should read in full if you haven’t already (The Indomitable Charm of George Santos). Today, Matthew Foldi guests with one of the most coveted things in politics and media: an exclusive interview with this near mythological public figure. The topic? His Oscar picks. But also: Hollywood, China, and a profile in contemporary populism.
The entire tech ecosystem may be burning down, but it's Oscar Sunday. Take a break and enjoy this surrealist work of art, which is also now reality (I did).
The Oscars are this Sunday night, and hundreds of Americans will be watching — but Congressman George Santos won’t be among them. I caught up with him to get his thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards (he’d give Best Picture to The Conjuring), Chinese influence in Hollywood (it’s bad, but he understands why studios cave to the CCP), and more.
Despite Santos’ deep understanding of Drag Race lore, he told me that “a lot of people think I’m tuned into pop culture, but I’m not.” Even so, he had no shortage of opinions on Hollywood. As with much of what he does and says, Santos caused quite a stir when he told me last month that The Hobbit movie trilogy is “fantastic,” and that The Battle of the Five Armies is “my favorite fucking movie.” His takes that follow are bound to inflame, but also entertain.
We started with The Slap — Santos is firmly on team Chris Rock. “Quite frankly, it was fucking stupid. Chris Rock is a genius.” Besides, Rock’s G.I. Jane joke was funny, he told me.
But Santos isn’t actually going to watch the Oscars this weekend. “I think the reason I stopped watching them is that they won’t really put box sellers there,” Santos said. “They'll put the circlejerk of the who's who — Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, blah blah blah, all these fancy people, these elitists.” He prefers less pretentious entertainment — comedy and horror above all else.
“Let's be honest, Saw was a fucking great horror movie. But the Oscars don’t have a horror category. Resident Evil, great cinematics. Milla Jovovich is arguably one of my favorite actresses of all time. It's her, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, and Gerard Butler.”
Angela Bassett was nominated to win Best Supporting Actress for her role in the new Black Panther movie, but Santos thinks she should go home with Best Actress. “I’m not trying to be racist, but she's Meryl Streep, the black version. She’s just as good. She’s fantastic.” Between Bassett and Morgan Freeman, he said, “If I see anything with them, dude, I lose my mind because I just like their style.”
As Santos surveyed modern cinema, he told me that a common thread that runs through excellent movies is that they have Leonardo DiCaprio in them. “I think the last great masterpieces to come out of Hollywood were movies like Titanic and The Revenant.” DiCaprio had famously been snubbed by the Oscars for decades, which Santos said was unfair. “DiCaprio deserved an Oscar in The Aviator and then they just had to come up with a reason to give him an Oscar. I think he earned an Oscar in Titanic, and in The Man with the Iron Mask, he acted really well.”
Santos also likes actors he sees as “genuine.” “I have my favorite actors. And then I have the actors I think are charismatic. JLo, The Rock. Melissa McCarthy. They're genuine.”
But one actor he doesn’t have time for is Tom Cruise. Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick is one of the only movies with mass appeal to win a nomination for Best Picture in years, but Santos hasn’t seen it, or the first one. “Tom Cruise isn't somebody that inspires me to go run to the movie theater. Had Morgan Freeman been in Top Gun: Maverick, I would have watched it.”
Why does Santos hate Tom Cruise so much? Politics. “Tom Cruise has given me enough evidence of what he thinks of America to make me not like him,” the congressman said. Perhaps the evidence Santos is referring to is how Cruise berated the Mission Impossible staff for flouting COVID protocols before he himself was infected.
Santos also doesn’t like Jane Fonda, who he says went woke.
“I used to love Jane Fonda. My childhood was riddled with Jane Fonda movies. And then the woman went nuts.” For years, Fonda has been an outspoken activist, most memorably during the Vietnam War. However, her anti-Vietnam War activism was “different” for Santos, because, he told me, he would have been right there with her. But over time, she “just decided to make her entire life political. She prides herself on getting arrested for loitering or whatever.” (Fonda does seem desperate to prove Santos right; she recently said that pro-life Americans should be “murdered.”)
In contrast with actors and activists like Cruise and Fonda, Santos praised actors whose views he doesn’t know. “I don't know Mel Gibson's political beliefs.” (We do know his views on Jews, however, and they are not favorable.) “I don't know Denzel Washington's political beliefs. I don't know Morgan Freeman’s. I don't know Angela Basset’s. But you know why? Because they don't share them. And you know why that is? Because we look to them for entertainment. I appreciate these people so much because they're not activists.”
And what does Santos think about the future of movies?
“Action movies are dead,” Santos declared. “Steven Seagal was one of the greatest, but I think after Steven Seagal’s exit from those hyper-action police movies, who replaces him? Now, instead of giving the police a platform, we just want to defund them and burn them to the ground.”
It’s not just the action genre that Santos thinks is over. He doesn’t think comedy is going to survive, either. “You're not going to see another Adam Sandler, or Vince Vaughn, or Chris Rock, or Kevin Hart. Well, Kevin Hart survives because — I guess he gets a pass because he's a little black guy. People aren't gonna want to make his life miserable.”
Santos’s frustration with Hollywood boils down to his disdain for its elitism, as well as the ways that it’s increasingly caving to both a censorship regime pushed by the Chinese Communist Party on one hand, and a woke agenda on the other.
But while Santos disagrees with caving to Chinese censors, he said he understands it. “I'm looking from a business perspective. I'm a businessman, so I'm just gonna talk from that perspective. When you're ostracizing a billion people, as a good old capitalist, I don't blame them. I don't agree with them — but I don't blame them — because the moment you don't put something in China, you take it off the eyes of a billion people.”
But he seemed amused as he told me about what he sees as a coming battle between the warring aspects of wokism and Chinese Communists. “Woke wants everything gay, and pro-China-beholden-Hollywood can’t have that. To me, it becomes a cannibalistic event that I would actually enjoy watching. That's a movie I would watch. Woke Hollywood takes on Chinese-influenced Hollywood.”
Regardless of the issues he has with Hollywood, he hasn’t kept out of movie theaters entirely. He recently watched The Menu in theaters. His take? “What a cheeseburger!”
Speaking of cheeseburgers, even though Santos told me “what Hollywood is serving, I'm not eating,” if there were a hypothetical gun to his head, and he had to pick Oscar winners, he does have his favorites. But most haven’t been eligible for awards in years.
“A movie that I think should have been Best Picture is The Conjuring. Hollywood didn't give two flying fucks about it because it was was it was, as they call it, bad acting.” For Best Actor, it was easy: Morgan Freeman.
For Best Actress, he turned to Harry Potter, like a true millennial. He gave the award to both Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) because she “turns into a cat, like that's talent.”
For Best Director: “Even I will concede to the elitists — I think it's going to be between James Cameron or Quentin Tarantino.” He added that he’d consider Steven Spielberg for it too, but also that he’s not a big fan of any of them any more. “These are three masterpiece guys. But they’ve fallen to the woke. That's my problem.”
Toward the end of our interview, Santos turned reflective. “I'm very, very close-minded about actors these days. Because the more I learn about your non-performative career, the less interested I am in you.”
By the way we’re hiring. Check out available positions here.
Write for us. Have a piece in mind you’d like to pitch? Email Brandon[at]piratewires[dot]com with the title, thesis, and a couple lines supporting the idea. Also link us to a sample of your writing.
Follow us: Pirate Wires main on Twitter.