science bastards

4 December, 2011

The Insider

Filed under: Journalistic Decline, Unqualified Film Reviews, Whatever — sciencebastards @ 7:08 pm

First off, I just have to declare that watching a movie in sixteen parts on two websites is kind of a drag.  My Netflix money should be going toward steaming more stuff.  I am spoiled.  I also have seen the film before, years ago though.  I also remember when it was a big deal in the news so I have some familiarity with the story.  I am also completely unsurprised by the implications of what goes on in the film.  To put it simply, media outlets like CBS are corporations, and corporations are about their bottom line first and foremost.  The most startling thing about the whole movie’s story is that it took place before the media deregulation of the late 90s.  If anything, larger and more powerful entities are in control of the different levers of media now.  In all likelihood, CBS would be loath to even entertain the notion of investigating a story like that of Jeffrey Wigand today.

It speaks really poorly of the concept of media conglomeration though.  Irrespective of the issues surrounding a nexus of corporations and news organizations is just the corporatization of news in general.  The news has become a monetized commodity, this has cheapened the business almost as much as any other factor.  In fact, I would argue that monetization has all but destroyed the music industry, television, radio, books, etc, etc.  When the lowest common denominator is what is aimed at, you end up getting reality tv, cheap human interest news, Justin Bieber and almost any other ill of modern media you could devise.

When you figure this into the cozy relationship enjoyed by media outlets the terrible situation we’re now in seems to have been an inevitability rather than an accident of time and circumstance.  I don’t know the connections that CBS has but I do know that NBC is owned by GE which is pretty deep into defense contracting.  It seems a little doubtful that NBC would have too many stories that criticize war or militarism.  This is just an example.  The connections run deeper and deeper as media slides toward conglomeration and corporate ownership.

In a way, The Insider is a lot like All the President’s Men.  Both films start with a seemingly innocuous event that eventually unravels into a pretty big deal.  That is just a similarity of plot structure though.  The deeper connection, as I see it, are that these are both instances where journalists scored a coup of sorts.  However, instead of real change happening, it seems as if the powerful vested interests that were affected probably just got better at hiding things rather than cleaning up their acts.  I am not an optimist here.

The other things I noticed in the film were stylistic touches, they were sort of glaring actually.  Russell Crowe pulls a lighter out to demonstrate in class, they pass a cemetery with tons of graves on the way to the deposition, the fog that looks like smoke after he gives his deposition and the mural in his hotel room of someone running away when he was at his lowest were all interesting touches.  It was a pretty decent watch, even the second time, this is high praise from a person who generally hates almost everything.

2 October, 2011

Pump Up the Volume

Filed under: Teenage Tomfoolery, Unqualified Film Reviews — sciencebastards @ 3:19 pm

When I was in high school (in a slightly earlier time than this film) there were two instances of teenage metalheads entering into suicide pacts and actually succeeding.  New Jersey is such a dense state that despite the fact that these kids came from semi-nearby towns, we didn’t know them at all and weren’t really emotionally affected.  The administration of the school responded with a really ham-fisted campaign of suicide awareness that seemed far more concerned with covering their own butts than with the mental well-being of the students.  Being insensitive teenagers, we thought it funny to make extensive lists titled “Suicide Pact” in bold letters.  The list included all the top, most straight-laced kids as well as much of the school staff, including the principal and vice principal.  We left the lists in conspicuous places around school.  Now, before you condemn my fifteen-year-old self (yes, I know it was jerky) consider that we were making fun of the adults in school rather than the fact that these teenagers did something terrible and desperate.  Their understanding of us was so comically off center that I suppose we responded with something just as ridiculous.

What this has to do with the film is that it goes after this pre Nirvana-era teenage angst.  Adults not only don’t understand kids, they have no interest in understanding them.  In this sense, the movie actually rings pretty true.  I have no clue as to whether my school was typical or not but  the administrators in my school were such jerks that I felt it was my duty to mess with them as much as I was able to.  My low GPA likely says a lot about the wisdom of this course of action though.

It is worth noting that I can’t resist pointing out that a movie set in the early 80s has Chevy Caprices from the 90s in it (see “Basquiat”).  This means that I am also unable to resist pointing out the fact that the equipment required to produce any signal that you can listen to on your radio would maybe be larger than what you can cover up with dirty laundry when your parents walk in the room.  I know, I know, suspension of disbelief, yes.  Backyard teenage nudity is also hard to swallow, but it’s not the point.

I do find it somewhat depressing that if you were to violate FCC regulations like this in today’s America, you’d be in Guantanamo tout suite with your local folk hero status quickly revoked.  The aforementioned stunt got me no more than some grimaces from the vice principal, and he hated my guts.  In today’s world you get suspended for doing something as innocuous as this.  It’s possible we are moving backwards.

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