Blogs

Hollywood's Lost Its Shine

| Mon Mar. 5, 2007 1:14 PM EST

JLM-stars-Hollywood%20sign.jpg

Okay, it's official now. The Los Angeles Times has announced that movies have lost their magic. A recent Zogby survey confirms what has been evident for a long time, that people are going to see fewer movies and plan to see even fewer movies in the future, because tickets cost too much and there are better alternatives. The LA Times says that, surprise, Hollywood no longer captures the nerve center of American Life and that movies don't elicit "firestorms" as they once did, because they've got a lot more competition. Online opportunities to date, role-play, network, gossip, blog, and post and watch video and audio make it increasingly unnecessary to spend money on a movie theater ticket, whether you get stadium seating or not.

Blogger Bill Damon suggests that movie theaters try offering better food, reserved seating, and returning 3-D films to the big screen. Blog site "the kid's alright" suggests that when a newcomer like Jennifer Hudson wins an Oscar, maybe it's a sign that people are hungry for new inspiration in film. With this, I agree.

Is it crazy to think Hollywood can simplify and make cheaper films with smaller crews and smaller casts, and stop paying top stars millions of dollars per picture? The fact that actors like Brad Pitt agree to do Babel for lower fare is one small piece of evidence that even the biggest stars can be lured into meaningful projects. There's no good reason why a film like Mission Impossible III needs to cost $150 million to produce, is there? $150 million will operate Kansas City Southern's entire international railroad company this year and the President's budget proposes that we spend $150 million on biomass research in hte coming year.

Filmmakers aren't totally asleep at the wheel, though. Unique and original stories (Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, Brokeback Mountain, Crash, The Constant Gardener, Hustle and Flow, The Squid and the Whale) that challenge audiences have the capacity to ignite some new firestorms.A nd when I say firestorms, I don't mean gore-fest storms of hellfire. I have no quantitative data to back my theory, but I swear there are more horror flicks being produced post-9/11 than before. Every time I go to the theater or rent a DVD there is always at least one preview for another screamer about saws, tourists, a dreaded video tape or my new favorite – a ventriloquist. Why are filmmakers obsessed with fear, panic, death, pain, suffering and torture? Let's move on to greener, better-scripted, more efficiently-funded motion picture pastures and get excited about the movies again.

–Gary Moskowitz



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In the Red: Bono's AIDS Ad Campaign Tanks

| Mon Mar. 5, 2007 12:26 PM EST
redpanties.gif

Bad news for Red, the Bono-inspired, star-studded ad campaign to sell Gap t-shirts, and—oh, yes—raise some money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Despite all the hype, its total contribution to the Fund so far has been a paltry $18 million. A Global Fund spokesman explains to Ad Age that this was to be expected: "Red has done as much as we could have hoped for in the short time it has been up and running.... The launch cost of this kind of campaign is going to be hugely frontloaded." Translation: Most of the money raised has been blown on ad budgets by Gap, Motorola, Armani, Apple, and other companies that are taking a cut from selling Red stuff. To give you a sense of just how big the corporate cut is, for every special edition Red iPod nano sold, Apple donates just $10.

This isn't the first time an altruistic corporate campaign has been revealed to be too good to be true—we collected some other examples in our November issue. But there's an easy way to not get snooke(red)—cut out the middleman and give directly to the Global Fund. Visit buylesscrap.org to find out how.

In the Red: Bono's AIDS Ad Campaign Tanks

| Mon Mar. 5, 2007 12:25 PM EST
redpanties.gif

Bad news for Red, the Bono-inspired, star-studded ad campaign to sell Gap t-shirts, and—oh, yes—raise some money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Despite all the hype, its total contribution to the Fund so far has been a paltry $18 million. A Global Fund spokesman explains to Ad Age that this was to be expected: "Red has done as much as we could have hoped for in the short time it has been up and running.... The launch cost of this kind of campaign is going to be hugely frontloaded." Translation: Most of the money raised has been blown on ad budgets by Gap, Motorola, Armani, Apple, and other companies that are taking a cut from selling Red stuff. To give you a sense of just how big the corporate cut is, for every special edition Red iPod nano sold, Apple donates just $10.

This isn't the first time an altruistic corporate campaign has been revealed to be too good to be true—we collected some other examples in our November issue. But there's an easy way to not get snooke(red)—cut out the middleman and give directly to the Global Fund. Visit buylesscrap.org to find out how.

Ann Coulter, on a Roll

| Sat Mar. 3, 2007 3:19 PM EST

ann_coulter.jpg At the annual American Conservative Union meeting—attended by the V.P. and all the 2008 Republican candidates but McCain—Ann Coulter gave her latest gaydar reading. John Edwards, like Bill Clinton and Al Gore before him, is a "faggot."

Age-Old Tradition Felled by Climate Change

| Sat Mar. 3, 2007 2:42 PM EST

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Today's New York Times reports that sugar makers in Vermont—maple syrup farmers, that is—can no longer rely on generations-old traditions to tell them when to tap the trees. Maple season has moved up at least a month and become shorter, sugar makers say. The U.S. used to make 80 percent of the world's maple syrup and Canada, 20. Their roles have now reversed as the maples thrive in the northernmost reaches of their traditional range.

Maple trees not only produce the sweet, delicious sap; they also provide the most exquisite of fall foliage.

What the Bush Administration is Doing About It (Climate Change)

| Sat Mar. 3, 2007 2:41 PM EST

Short answer: Nothing. Actually, that's not fair: Less than nothing. The Department of Energy predicts that, if nothing were done to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. would produce just under 9 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2020. The Administration claims that if nothing were done, emissions in that year would be closer to 10 billion tons. With Bush's all-voluntary restrictions, emissions will be exactly what the DOE says they would be, anyway. Addressing Bush's plan, David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the New York Times, "If you set the hurdle one inch above the ground, you can't fail to clear it." But the better metaphor is digging a one inch trench then setting the hurdle an inch above the ground.

The estimates come from the draft of the United States Climate Action Report, a final version of which was promised for the summer of 2005. Explaining the delay, officials blamed "the recent departures of several senior staff members running the administration's climate research program." (Don't you wonder why they'd quit?) The officials also said "no replacements had been named." Survival of the species on the line and the Bush administration is too busy firing nonpartisan U.S. attorneys to staff the climate research program.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Age-Old Tradition Felled by Climate Change

| Sat Mar. 3, 2007 2:38 PM EST

maple_tree.jpg

Today's New York Times reports that sugar makers in Vermont—maple syrup farmers, that is—can no longer rely on generations-old traditions to tell them when to tap the trees. Maple season has moved up at least a month and become shorter, sugar makers say. The U.S. used to make 80 percent of the world's maple syrup and Canada, 20. Their roles have now reversed as the maples thrive in the northernmost reaches of their traditional range.

Maple trees not only produce the sweet, delicious sap; they also provide the most exquisite of fall foliage.

What the Bush Administration is Doing About It (Climate Change)

| Sat Mar. 3, 2007 2:31 PM EST

Short answer: Nothing. Actually, that's not fair: Less than nothing. The Department of Energy predicts that, if nothing were done to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. would produce just under 9 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2020. The Administration claims that if nothing were done, emissions in that year would be closer to 10 billion tons. With Bush's all-voluntary restrictions, emissions will be exactly what the DOE says they would be, anyway. Addressing Bush's plan, David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the New York Times, "If you set the hurdle one inch above the ground, you can't fail to clear it." But the better metaphor is digging a one inch trench then setting the hurdle an inch above the ground.

The estimates come from the draft of the United States Climate Action Report, a final version of which was promised for the summer of 2005. Explaining the delay, officials blamed "the recent departures of several senior staff members running the administration's climate research program." (Don't you wonder why they'd quit?) The officials also said "no replacements had been named." Survival of the species on the line and the Bush administration is too busy firing nonpartisan U.S. attorneys to staff the climate research program.

Portion Of Ryan White Act Could Remove $60 Million From Prevention Budget

| Sat Mar. 3, 2007 12:32 PM EST

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, according to his offiicial biography, is dedicated to "improving health care access and affordability, protecting the sanctity of all human life...." Not quite, if you consider his hat trick that could wipe $60 million of the HIV/AIDS prevention program. Coburn added a provision to the recently renewed Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Act that will divert $60 million from the Centers for Disease Control's HIV/AIDS prevention budget over the next three years into a fund for which no state qualifies.

The HIV Early Diagnosis Grant initiative mandates that $30 million of the CDC's prevention budget be set aside each year for states that meet a particular set of guidelines for HIV testing. The problem is that not one state meets these specific guidelines. However, the $30 million will be taken out of the CDC's budget, regardless.

Under the Early Diagnosis Grant program, states could receive money if they provide voluntary HIV testing of pregnant women and universal testing of newborns, and voluntary HIV testing at sexually transmitted infections clinics and at substance abuse treatment centers.

In anticipation of a loss of funds, the CDC has requested an additional $30 million in its 2008 budget. George W. Bush has already cut state and local prevention grants by $21 million since 2003. Laura Hanen, Director of Government Relations for the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, reports that HIV/AIDS advocates had asked Coburn for a compromise that would allow any unused portion of the $30 million to return to the CDC's prevention budget each year, but he will not budge.

Diana Bruce of the AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families defends Coburn as "a senator who cares a lot about HIV/AIDS" issues, but says that his initiative is misguided. "There already is a massive effort to prevent mother to child transmission ...the CDC has its own prenatal transmission programs," Bruce said.

Diminished Sense of Moral Outrage Key to Maintaining View That World Is Fair and Just

| Fri Mar. 2, 2007 8:38 PM EST

Researchers from New York University's Department of Psychology report findings in the journal Psychological Science, that people who see the world as essentially fair maintain this perception through a diminished sense of moral outrage.

Psychologists have long studied system-justification theory, which posits that people adopt belief systems that justify existing political, economic, and social situations or inequities in order to make themselves feel better about the status quo. Moreover, in order to maintain their perceptions of the world as just, people resist changes that would increase the overall amount of fairness and equality in the system. Instead, they often engage in cognitive adjustments that preserve a distorted image of reality in which existing institutions are seen as more equitable and just than they are.

Who needs cocktails when you can create blindfolded bliss in your own brain? The researchers constructed a two-part experiment designed to unlock the secrets of pathological optimism.

In the first part of the study--an experiment involving a series of questions and scenarios--the researchers found that the more people endorsed anti-egalitarian beliefs, the less guilt and moral outrage they felt. The reduction in moral outrage (but not guilt) led them to show decreased support for helping the disadvantaged and redistributing resources.

The second part of the experiment was a kind of control. Half the subjects were presented with Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches stories, implicitly endorsing system-justification beliefs. The other half got stories describing the plight of innocent victims, underscoring the unfairness of the system.

The results showed that subjects exposed to the rags-to-riches stories reported less negative affect and less moral outrage than subjects exposed to the innocent-victim essays. As with the first study, moral outrage mediated the effect of system justification on support for redistribution, but general negative affect did not.

Okay, in real speak, it seems that people who can escape reality are good at pretending bad news is the victims' fault. So, can big pharma come up with a cure for Republicanism? Let's dose those tudes with reality.