By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
While Others Run For Shelter From The Storm, NYT Pisses On Film Biz From On High
I’ve been tweeting about this ridiculous and not-unexpected turd of a piece by the NYT’s Michael Cieply on how terrible the theatrical film business is.
For a change, the headline—”Movies Try to Escape Cultural Irrelevance”—is stupid, but not offensive. It’s a conversation that reasonable people can have. That doesn’t mean that “I’m old now and you kids are fucked” pieces like David Denby‘s are worth the bandwidth on which they travel, but sure… have the conversation.
But what the piece by Cieply tries to do is to use facts about business to try to answer the question. And the first problem with that is that it’s not a legitimate question. How many people saw The Master versus how many people saw, well, Taken 2, much less a free TV show like The Walking Dead is a STUPID question. By Cieply’s standards used in this piece, Kim Kardashian is the most culturally relevant media event of the last five years. And if that doesn’t make you want to jump off of her ass into the abyss, this idiocy is extended like a campaign rally in Florida by citing A Man for All Seasons, 8 ½, The Searchers, Gone With the Wind and The Godfather as the key movie touchstones… the most recent of which was released FORTY years ago.
(Note: It seems a minor point to mention that, “After the shock of last year’s decline in domestic movie ticket sales, to $1.28 billion, the lowest since 1995 (and attendance is only a little better this year)…” puts a $ figure in front of an estimated attendance figure, adding inaccuracy to stupidity. Domestic theatrical revenue alone last years was over $10 billion. And international was over $22 billion, making last year the highest grossing year in history where it matters… in the bank vault.)
According to Cieply, “the weakness in movies has multiple roots.”
1. Television is free… once you’ve paid your cable bill. Uh… duh. Another 50-year-old reality.
2. DVD died. But what does that have to do with people who cannot open movies doing TV for decent money? Nothing. It has changed the economics of the industry, but “movie stars like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Laura Linney, Claire Danes and Sigourney Weaver” do not open movies. Only a couple of them ever did. Gorillas In The Mist is great… and grossed $25m domestic. Do you still want to mock Ben Affleck’s numbers, asshole?
3. There is some convoluted bit about genre pieces doing well and superheroes doing well overseas. How is this a creator of weakness in movies? Cieply must know that no one greenlights a movie of over $30m these days (with the exception of a few heavily-domestic comedians) without expecting a significant percentage of the revenue to come from overseas, right? Is that bad? Avengers doing $1.5 billion makes it less culturally significant?
Again, I am fine with a conversation about why Avengers feels a lot less sticky than Batman or Spider-Man or Indiana Jones. But I don’t see how massive success at home and abroad is a weakness for movies… at all.
4. “But the number of films released by specialty divisions of the major studios, which have backed Oscar winners like Slumdog Millionaire, from Fox Searchlight, fell to just 37 pictures last year, down 55 percent from 82 in 2002, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.”
Do you mean to lie to people, Cieply. You know full well that Warner Indie, Miramax, and Vantage are all out of business since 2002, right? So 3 of the 6 Dependents are gone and instead of analyzing why, you claim it as proof of something bad being afoot? That is cynical and lazy and simply embarrassing. The New York Times means something to me. This work is contemptible.
Moving on, Cieply cites Denby, whose “get off of my lawn” drivel about the end of movie culture has been gunned down by everyone with a brain… and “Henry Schafer, an executive vice-president at the Q Scores Company” (you know, the people who told you how hot Erik Estrada was), and Daniel Tosh… oy… are you kidding me? You quote a joke about Tosh hating McFarlane, which is a slap at the TV show first and foremost and has nothing to do with any of this.
Also, Bob Gazale and George Stevens Jr…. who are very nice, intelligent men, but whose AFI has done everything it can to whore out its school’s credibility for some more celebrity profile and fundraising.
And don’t forget Colorado State University’s “Allison Sylte, a student journalist,” whose great insight is that The Academy going with King’s Speech over Social Network pushed kids away. And by the way… King’s Speech outgrossed Social Net by 40% domestically. But let’s not bother with editorial consistency.
I hate the personal-belief-based journalism that this kind of thoughtless, lazy piece represents. I am guessing that whoever sent over Sharon Waxman to attack the movie industry by any stats necessary – creating this stupid obsession with tickets sold—is still putting Cieply and Brooks “Huh?” Barnes through their attack paces.
And what I fear is that if a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes perceived as truth.
I expect that from TMZ. I don’t expect it from the New York Times.