Death to Christmas, Hollywood, and Free Speech

549b79e88d470aea988645a74f2d8ed836ea0b59This week, Kim Jong-un cancelled Christmas.

Not only that, he has eliminated America’s most cherished value: Free Speech.

It may have not been the North Korean government that hacked Sony and threatened to unleash a 9/11-style attack on theaters screening The Interview. However, the US government and its good friend, Hollywood, are treating this like it’s the case. It’s lead to a holiday season spectacle that’s finally worth watching: the entertainment industry wailing and keening over the deaths of all that’s good, decent, and American in the world.

George Clooney said that “North Korea dictate[s] content” now. Sean Penn, who seems like he got tired of pretending to be a leftist sometime last year, says that this has sent an invitation to ISIS. And then there’s everyone else in Hollywood, with variations of the hackers/terrorists/Hitlers have won (thanks to Variety for the laughs):

LOL

LOL

LOL

As is often the case with invoking Free Speech, people aren’t responding to government censorship but invoking an American totem like a fetish object. It’s one of those unfortunate situations that reveals the discomforting truth about capitalism. It’s chieftains have no silly, impoverishing devotion to any nation, just to their bottom line. In reality, Sony probably saw a mid-budget misfire that they could quietly shuffle off their schedule until an embarrassing hacking scandal died down. Especially once theaters started scurrying away from controversy, as profit-driven institutions are wont to do. As a hilarious illustration of the true amoral opportunism that makes someone an oligarch, the right-wing billionaire who owns Regal cinemas and was the first exhibitor to abandon the film was named “America’s greediest executive” by Forbes in 2002. Anyone who expects a corporation to uphold values or act on principle is asking them to be something else–something out of a socialist worker’s paradise. Continue reading

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“Terminator: Genisys” will be a blistering satire of the modern blockbuster

The new trailer for Terminator: Genisys (the fourth sequel of the series) has dropped, and it promises several things. It promises that Arnold is back in the role that made him an institution. It promises fan-service in the form of familiar catchphrases, now in their fifth iterations. It promises big, loud action.

Most importantly, it promises to be a blistering satire of the modern blockbuster, a subversive meta-commentary on the endless cycles of sequels plaguing multiplexes.

An IMDB list of sequels, prequels, remakes, and spinoffs currently in development numbers over 330 entries. An infographic on Short of the Week breaks down how much non-original works have come to dominate the box office. The Terminator franchise is a perfect example of the culture industry’s relentless mining of the same vein to diminishing creative returns.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 9.37.19 PMJames Cameron’s 1984 tech-noir sci-fi thriller The Terminator was an independent film. A film that was, according to Cameron’s self-mythologizing, born from a fever-dream of a metal skeleton rising from a fire gave birth to a whole constellation of action figures, comics, video games, and ancillary products. It spawned one widely beloved sequel in 1992, at which point anyone who didn’t own the rights to the franchise considered the story told. There followed, to diminishing results and box office, two sequels and a TV show that were widely considered to be retreads of the first two films.

The trailer for Terminator: Genisys (alternately 5 from here on out, for brevity and sanity’s sake) reboots the series chronology. Future-soldier Kyle Reese goes back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but this time everything is different. This could be read as merely another cynical attempt to wring more money out of a franchise that’s running dry, albeit with a J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek-esque “continuity no longer matters!” twist. However, the idea of revisiting the first film from the perspective of a cynical blockbuster cash-grab makes ample space for Terminator 5’s blistering commentary on Hollywood. Continue reading