Thursday, March 23, 2017

Brett Ratner v RottenTomatoBot: Dawn of Consensus

I always feel a little better about myself when I learn that a rich and powerful bigshot (especially a Hollywood bigshot) shares my opinion on an important topic. So I’m delighted to see that Brett Ratner loathes the pestilential Rotten Tomatoes film criticism aggregation site, perhaps even more than I do. In a speech at a film festival, Ratner said that Rotten Tomatoes was “the worst thing we have in today’s movie culture.”

When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s sad, because the Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on Batman v Superman I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful.”

Okay hold on a second. I thought I was agreeing with Ratner. Wait. I am agreeing with him, about some of this.

I should point out that Ratner is idealizing the past here, somewhat. Film criticism, like everything, is 90% crap. And always has been. Kael stands out in our memory because she was so exceptional. You can add Peter Bogdanovich, Andrew Sarris, Rex Reed, John Simon and Armond White to that list—people with uncompromising vision and critical skills, and the talent to express their insights in an entertaining, thought-provoking way.

Film criticism might be worse lately, but at least part of the reason for that is that it’s so ubiquitous. Today there are hundreds, thousands of internet-based outlets where multiple movie reviewers, whose main influences run the gamut from Owen Gleiberman to A.O. Scott, offering bandwagon-jumping opinions in dull prose. Many of those reviewers contribute to the Rotten Tomatoes aggregate number.

The tomatometer is by definition faulty. Because art can’t be quantified. There are too many variables that go into the creation of art, including all the experiences and expertise and agendas of those involved in its creation, to allow for the possibility of assigning it a “score.” Then there are all the variables at play in the reaction to that art, including all the experiences and expertise and agendas of those assessing it. Saying the reaction to a movie is X% positive is useless. Except to promote groupthink.

That is the true purpose of Rotten Tomatoes—at least among its adherents.

The tomatometer is like a sort of magical talisman to the RottenTomatoBots. Look at their reactions to film critic Armond White’s negative reviews of “Up” and, more recently, “Get Out.” The RottenTomatoBots say that he “ruined” the scores for those movies. As if those movies, because a majority of the surveyed film critics liked them, somehow deserves a high tomatometer score.

The tomatometer gets even more corrupt when you examine just how corrupt and mediocre the mainstream film criticism culture has become. Film critics go to press junkets and agree to “review embargoes” and do interviews and press conferences with those whose work they’re supposed to examine. How can the critic do the work of placing art in its cultural context if they’re working as the promotional arm of the megacorporation that’s producing that art?

Speaking of which, Ratner also says “People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like [Batman V Superman].” He’s right about that. When massively valuable Intellectual Property is involved, there are sometimes dozens of people from various studio departments and “strategic partners” who are adding their opinions and insisting that this or that concept or piece of IP also be included. The fact that Batman V Superman was even made at all, and ended up being at least semi-coherent is a minor miracle. But I’m not sure that consumers of art should take that into account. And certainly film critics shouldn’t.

It’s difficult for me, as someone who has disliked every Marvel Studios movie with the exception of The Incredible Hulk, to understand how the critical response to the DC movies could be worse than that of the Marvel movies. But that’s my opinion. It’s no more right or wrong than that of someone who loves the Marvel Studios movies and hates the DC movies. Unfortunately the RottenTomatoBots don’t feel that way. They use the tomatometer as a bludgeon to attack—sometimes in the most vitriolic and personal ways—those who disagree with the consensus.

Rather also can’t help himself, taking a gratuitous swipe at that horrifying, confusing swatch of dullards that constitute “Middle America”:

In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct.

“Middle America” isn’t the only place where the tomatometer is consulted. It’s also used by the ultra-sophisticated, urbane, liberal people in urban areas.

So, yes, Ratner is right that Rotten Tomatoes is terrible. He's right that it's destroying film culture. But it’s at least partly the fault of movie producers and marketers, and the venal film critics they've co-opted.

Oh and by the way, not that it means anything, but get a load of this: Rotten Tomatoes is owned by NBCUniversal and Warner Bros.  It's almost as if Rotten Tomatoes is just another corporate media promotional arm. If Ratner's so troubled by the negative effects of Rotten Tomatoes on the film industry and film criticism, maybe he should make his concerns known to his corporate co-workers?

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Inducing panic" is a crime? Maybe it's time to lock up Rachel Maddow

An engaged couple in Ohio created a #FakeCrimeScene by splashing some ketchup around the bathtub, posing the fiancée as if she were dead, then texting the photos to family members.

The reason, as if you really need a reason for such an endeavor, was that the fiance’s sister owed him money, and they were trying to induce her to come over. To pay him the money, I guess.
Risner had texted his sister a picture that appeared to show Schlette, lying dead and covered in blood in a bathtub, saying he had no memory of what happened but that they had been arguing, then he had woken up covered in blood.
Okay, it sounds unreasonable to me, but who am I to judge? Maybe this kind of good-natured ribbing is common in this particular family. These shenanigans wouldn’t go over well in MY family, but come-see, come-saw, amirite?

What I find particularly interesting about the story is the fact that the couple in question was actually charged with a crime, which both the Daily Mail and the AP call “inducing panic.”

Apparently the police did receive some “panicked” calls from family members who saw the photos. But can they really be charged with a crime for a tasteless practical joke?

And if “inducing panic” is a crime, then what would you do to a #FakeNews organization that reports innuendo and slander about “Russian hacking” and “fascism” as if it were fact? What if there were multiple TV stations and newspapers encouraging violent riots against people who speak out against leftist ideology?

This #FakeCrimeScene story happened to appear concurrently with a story in the New York Times entitled For Solace and Solidarity in the Trump Age, Liberals Turn the TV Back On. It’s a hilarious and sad look at how the #FakeNews of outlets like CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, and so on is perpetuating itself, and giving leftists warm feelz by validating their worldview and giving them a narrative they can tolerate.

“When Obama was in office, I felt like things were going O.K.,” Jerry Brumleve, 58, a retiree from Louisville, Ky., said last week as he stood in line for a “Daily Show” taping in Manhattan.

These days, he is a newfound devotee of Rachel Maddow of MSNBC — “She’s always talking about the Russians!” his wife, Yvonne, chimed in — and believes Mr. Stewart’s successor, Trevor Noah, has finally “hit his stride.”

“With Trump in office, I really feel the need to stay more informed,” Mr. Brumleve added. “You just don’t know what the hell this guy is going to do.”

Those last two sentences read like satire, but they’re not. This Brumleve genuinely feels this way—that by watching The Daily Show and Rachel Maddow (who, according to his own wife, is constantly feeding them bizarre nonsensical and totally proof-free conspiracy theories about TEH RUSSHUNSSSSS!!!!) he’s staying more informed.

No, he’s not staying informed—he’s being fed propaganda. Obama was destroying the Middle East, lying about spying on everyone, about the drone program, about his “health care plan,” about the Iran nuclear deal, selling guns to Mexican drug dealers and on and on, and Brumleve “felt like things were going O.K.”

Now #FakeNews about TEH RUSSSHUNSSSSSS!!! has sent him to the vast wasteland to tell him that he wasn’t wrong. He and his fellows don’t have to re-evaluate their worldview. They don’t have to change their tactics. They don’t have engage with people with whom they disagree. Because TEH RUSSSSSHUNSSSSSS!!!!! got Trump elected and all his voters are NAZIZ anyways and it’s okay to PUNCH NATZEEZ!

I’ve been saying that I think that leftism is a cult for a while now. People like Rachel Maddow, Samantha Bee, and Stephen Colbert are at the top of the hierarchy, ministering to their anxious flock in ever increasing numbers. Now Andrew Sullivan is suggesting pretty much the same thing, under the title “Is Intersectionality a Religion?

Sullivan defines “intersectionality” pretty well (it’s roughly what I think of as “leftism,” but with the PUNCH NATZEEZ justification thrown in):

“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly.

If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably.

The whole thing is worth reading, as it articulates the dangers and hypocrisy presented by this fast-rising religion (spoiler alert: intersectionality IS a religion!).

If that Ohio couple that staged a #FakeCrimeScene can be charged with inducing panic, what do we do with the college students and professors, the Rachel Maddows and Samantha Bees, who are inducing panic on a mass scale, among hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people? Are they criminals as well?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

#FakeSatire and joking about a cancer survivor

The host of an alleged “comedy” (sneer quotes!) program called “Full Frontal,” Samantha Bee is one of the foremost purveyors of #FakeSatire. Her formula is to take #FakeNews from sources like Vox, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Salon, and other leftist propaganda outfits, and fashion the innuendo and lies contained therein into “comedy” (more sneer quotes!) bits for the delectation of the clapping dullards that make up her audience.

She is driven not by a desire to reach deeper truths through comedy the way, say, Doug Stanhope does, or Richard Pryor or Moms Mabley or Mort Sahl or Lenny Bruce did. She is driven by an irrational hatred for anyone who dares to disagree with her leftist worldview. Because she’s not interested in understanding people who are different from her—in fact, she thinks they’re evil and stupid and therefore she’s under no obligation to understand them—she feels perfectly justified in smearing and demeaning them.

This lack of curiosity about people who are different from her was on full display this week, when her show ran a segment about the conservative gathering CPAC. In her estimation that gathering was full of Nazis because, well, Nazis are everywhere as far as leftists are concerned. (They’re hiding under your bed! They’re in your closet! They molested you when you were a child and you repressed the memory! They abducted you and probed you! They live in Loch Ness! They're almost as bad as Russians!)

The problem was that one of the participants, who they didn’t bother to even attempt to get to know, had cancer. And they made fun of his hair. Ha, ha.

Making fun of the hair of someone with cancer is pretty bad. But we also need highlight what this segment says about leftists. Bee’s lack of intellectual curiosity is on full display throughout. She’s downright proud of her closed-minded bigotry. She makes an “amusing” “joke” out of it at the beginning of the segment.

She used to think that "conservative" (can't escape the sneer quotes; I guess it's just that kind of post) meant WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY (and she references him and Gore Vidal, to flatter her audience—they probably watched some of that documentary on Netflix, too!) but now she doesn’t know WHAT conservative means. So she sent someone to CPAC to “find out.”

Actually, no she didn’t. She sent someone to CPAC to get footage to mock those who are different from her and her audience. To other-ize them. And in her desire to drive a wedge between people she swept up a young man with cancer.

She and the producer responsible for the segment have apologized to the specific individual. (Actually, her tweet says "We deeply apologize," which sounds impressive but makes no sense. Were they at the bottom of a well when they "apologized"?)

They have yet to apologize for spreading propaganda under the guise of “humor.”

Speaking of spreading propaganda, former satirist turned propagandist Stephen Colbert had former CIA director (under George W Bush!) Michael Hayden (who is now one of the war-on-terror profiteers at the Chertoff Group) on his talk show to, well, spread propaganda while yucking it up about the horrifying abuses that have been exposed by WikiLeaks:

The CIA would never abuse its power. It’s illegal to do it—and we’d never do anything illegal. Trust us, rubes!

Even if that were true, if the CIA would never abuse the power they have, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks suggests that the CIA has now "lost control" of its cyber weapons arsenal and, of course, covered it up. But, hey, don't let a little detail like that get in the way of your narrative.

(By the way, this most recent dump from WikiLeaks is apparently a mere 1% of what they actually have on the CIA. So is Colbert going to keep having his Chertoff Group consultant back to explain away each disturbing revelation?)

And of course Colbert’s audience ate it with a spoon.

This is depressing. We need a robust satirical industry. But it’s infected by leftist propagandists, who see it as their job to protect the powerful establishment while mocking the weak. Samantha Bee and Stephen Colbert are wealthy and famous. They have their own TV shows. The world, as far as they can see, is perfectly fine. Or it was before Trump got elected. They don't understand why anyone wouldn't share the "enlightened" (sorry, last sneer quotes for today I promise) vision that they and every single one of their friends and associates share. And their refusal to even attempt to understand those who are different is fueling divisions within the country. It's going to get Trump re-elected, and it's going to make that wall ten feet higher.

This video from 1791L explains some of the problem:

At least there’s Remy. Here’s some #RealSatire to close this out: