Why (Most) Movies Suck

The market totalitarians who call themselves “conservatives” are messing their drawers over the very idea of adding $50 million to the laughably puny $145-million annual budget of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Conservatives,” you see, say they think the NEA is a boondoggle.

Contrast this sense of where boondoggles come from with the excellent recent reportage of New Yorker critic Tad Friend on the workings of the corporate capitalist movie studios — where $50 million, by the way, is less than half of what gets spent there on a single movie, a.k.a. “property,” according to Friend.

As Friend reports:

“Studios now are pimples on the ass of giant conglomerates,” one studio’s president of production says. “So at green-light meetings it’s a bunch of marketing and sales guys giving you educated guesses about what a property might gross.

This, of course, means that:

Marketing considerations shape not only the kind of films studios make but who’s in them—gone are lavish adult dramas with no stars, like the 1982 “Gandhi.”

Even within this situation, which is well-known to industry insiders, if not the general public, there is no doubt what corporate capitalist movies are:

Marketers and filmmakers are often quietly at war. “The most common comment you hear from filmmakers after we’ve done our work is ‘This is not my movie,’ ” Terry Press, a consultant who used to run marketing at Dreamworks SKG, says. “I’d always say, ‘You’re right—this is the movie America wants to see.’ ”

Friend finds the resulting imperatives “unexpected,” but nonetheless does a great job listing them.

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You Are Inventory

Microsoft, the private oligopoly founded on purchased, publicly-nurtured ideas and pure luck, has just purchased Navic Networks, the proprietor of software surreptitiously embedded in 35 million “set-top” cable TV boxes in the United States.

Ever heard of Navic?  Know what it does?  Find any mention of it in your cable contract?

Didn’t think so, because it’s 100-percent something nobody would ever permit into their home, if they knew it existed.  Nonetheless, 35 million households have it.  I’d wager less than 1,000 know they do.

What is it that Navic has going?  It’s nothing that has to do with making your cable TV work.  Instead, it has to do with making your cable TV serve its primary purpose: extending corporate spying on behalf of big business marketers.

Navic’s main product, the great jewel coveted by Microsoft, is Admira, which Navic describes as follows:

Admira is a media placement service that optimizes television advertising by utilizing settop box measurement data to increase the value of inventory. Efficiently matching advertisers’ desired target audience criteria with media owners’ inventory.

In plain English, Admira is secret spying software that, without your knowledge or consent, constantly tracks everything you watch on TV, down to the minutest detail, and also cross-correlates it:

based on behavioral characteristics, real-time viewership data, program content, and geography.

And you pay money to the very same criminals who sneak this past you, and who are also doing this:

Project Canoe:

The addressable [i.e., household identifiable] advertising market has had major momentum in recent months in the wake of Project Canoe, a consortium of the country’s top cable operators whose mission is to create universal metrics for video on-demand ad opportunities to national advertisers. Part of Canoe’s initiative will be to introduce its own addressable and interactive ad products to the marketplace, with an additional data-and-analytics product to help advertisers assess the effectiveness of Canoe’s ad-serving technology. Just last week, the venture officially appointed its new CEO, David Verklin, former CEO of Aegis Media Group.

This is market totalitarianism. Rarely, if ever, has such a central and cancerous social process gotten so far without even being perceived, let alone debated.

We are in very big trouble…