Roger L. Simon on What’s Missing in Movies Today (Even ‘Oppenheimer’)

Oscar-nominated screenwriter breaks down disconnect between fans, films

Screenwriter and author Roger L. Simon gets the same Oscar-screening links as his fellow Hollywood artists.

And he often asks himself one simple question after reading the one-line descriptions.

Why? Why was this made? It’s a question that speaks to his growing apathy toward modern films and concerns over the “woke”-ification of Hollywood.

The scribe behind “Bustin’ Loose,” “Scenes from a Mall” and his Oscar-nominated “Enemies: A Love Story” told the Hollywood in Toto Podcast what he thinks of the year’s biggest hits;

  • Barbie” – “Cute, but too long”
  • Oppenheimer” – “A very impressive piece of work … but what was it, really?”

The film that grabbed him more than any other last year? “It Ain’t Over,” the heartfelt documentary on Yankees legend Yogi Berra, executive produced by the slugger’s granddaughter, Lindsay Berra.

IT AIN'T OVER | Official Trailer (2023)

What “Oppenheimer” lacked, says Simon, is something too many movies today don’t have.

It’s the “Why.

The Berra documentary? That’s a different story.

“I remember this man as one of the icons of my youth,” Simon said. “But I didn’t realize what a stupendous person he was. And this documentary that was made by his granddaughter, this had emotional heft, because it was made by a young woman who loved and adored her grandfather and wished us to get that.”

Simon remains one of the rare, openly conservative storytellers in the entertainment field. His resume packs a punch, starting with his Hollywood credits and expanding through his Moses Wine detective series. He also co-founded PJ Media (formerly Pajamas Media) and served on the faculties for The Sundance Institute and the American Film Institute. 

His writings have appeared in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and, now, The Epoch Times. The latter is producing documentaries on subjects Hollywood won’t touch, like “The Real Story of Jan. 6.”

He’d like to see the company expand into fiction, but the resources aren’t available yet. The goals must be different, too, he contends.

Documentaries can be political, but a good fictional story shouldn’t be brimming with propaganda.

“There’s something we want in a movie, that is not the same [as a documentary]… You don’t want propaganda. You want the human spirit,” he said.

The Daily Wire vowed to deliver just that with movies like “Terror on the Prairie” and “Shut In.” The company’s most recent film, the comedic “Lady Ballers,” is a salvo in the ongoing culture wars, but it’s not technically political.

How would Simon advise a company like The Daily Wire or The Blaze as they steer resources into original stories?

“It’s all about the script. It’s always all about the script. And that’s the sad truth,” he said. “One of the old moguls said, ‘If it’s not on the page it ain’t on the stage.’”

Hear more from Roger L. Simon, including his feud with late media mogul Andrew Breitbart and the behind-the-scenes wrangling that led to Woody Allen’s “Scenes from a Mall” on the full Hollywood in Toto Podcast episode.


  1. After reading this article, I asked myself “why?” What was the point of this article? You gave only two very vague examples of what is wrong with movies today. It’s not all due to woke DEI propaganda. Even non-woke movies are dull and boring.

    Could it be that in an age where people are never bored just no longer have an imagination? How can you have an imagination when you are constantly being bombarded with entertainment right at the tip of your fingers. At least for me, imagination comes from boredom.

    Could it be that corporations own the movie studios now and have strangled any resemblance of art out of all movies in order to try to reach the masses in order to make as much money as possible.

    Could it be anyone associated with Hollywood is corrupt and has sold their soul for money and fame. All these new movies reflect the people making them, soulless with no heart.

    Maybe our society has been so dumbed down that they don’t want art anymore. The movie Idiocracy was more prophecy then we know. People just want to see John Wick types of movies, no plot just people getting killed in awesome fashion.

  2. Why would he think “Oppenheimer” lacked the “why”? as if he never saw it. The movie not only vindicated the scientist, it explained the nuclear program effectively for layman like all of us. However, most movies don’t need a why because then it verges onto message movies where it becomes political propaganda. That’s today’s Woke movies with DEI narratives. You can never think movies makes a difference. It’s merely for entertainment. Increasingly, audiences are no longer willing to be subjected to political messaging. The medium reached its limits on influence. People are tuning out.

    1. “Oppenheimer” did an excellent job of supporting whatever point of view the viewer had before seeing it. I describe it as a film about a brilliant but seriously flawed man, whose recklessness regarding the security of his playing-with-matches project resulted in our arch-enemy (and one of the instigators of WWII) getting The Bomb, courtesy of US government support. The movie vindicates Lew Strauss and paints him as a tragic hero, and leaves the viewer wondering how much different the world would be today if E.O. Lawrence had run the Manhattan project instead of Oppie.

    2. I suggest you look at Frank Vspra’s movies… Movies are entertainment with a message on how to behave in society, and how misbehaving usually does not pay. These are not political standards of behavior, but societal

      I haven’t seen Openheimer, and probably won’t. If I want to learn about him, I’ll read. As you read, your imagination is not limited by a budget, the story is not slanted, and the message is just the facts.

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