- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2004

‘Media behemoths’

“Special effects such as those in ‘The Matrix’ are so impressive that human capabilities are underwhelming. That hardly anyone who saw ‘The Matrix’ can explain what it’s about says a lot about a marketplace where even technological wonders, like pictures of Mars taken by a robot, cannot compete with hip-hop sex videos.

“Virtually all of this exciting communication is mere commerce for the corporate culture and the preserve of a half-dozen vertically integrated media behemoths. Special effects of ‘The Matrix’ and news images of Mars are brought to you by the same group of people. …

“The media giant Viacom, for instance, owns CBS, which broadcast the Super Bowl, and MTV, the producer of the game’s half-time show. No one at either company took responsibility for the Janet Jackson fiasco. … And no one was even asked to take the blame for the sleazy commercials — because the one characteristic of the global corporation is the compulsion to close the sale, whether the product is pure gold, equity, or smut.”



James Squires and Jane Smiley, writing on “Fear Factor,” in the American Prospect this month

Oscar in Aramaic

“Will ‘The Passion of the Christ’ rise again come Oscar time? Since its release Feb. 25, Mel Gibson’s film has touched off the most polarizing cultural debate in recent memory and grossed $300 million in domestic box office alone. … With its epic scale, weighty performances, and moody cinematography by four-time nominee Caleb Deschanel, ‘The Passion’ could easily factor into next year’s Oscar race — with some careful strategizing. …

“Controversy aside, there is precedent for an early release exhibiting long legs. ‘Fargo,’ ‘Erin Brockovich,’ and ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ were able to sustain their momentum thanks to heavy trade-ad spending, special awards-group screenings, or well-timed DVD releases. … [I]t’s worth noting that a high-profile Christmastime re-release of the film would coincide quite conveniently with the Oscar balloting process.”

Dave Karger, writing on “Best Picture: ‘The Passion’?” in Entertainment Weekly today

‘Simple truth’

“Time [magazine reporter] Strobe Talbott decreed in 1982 that it was ‘wishful thinking to predict that international Communism some day will either self-destruct or so exhaust itself in internecine conflict that other nations will no longer be threatened.’ A Wall Street analyst who misjudged a stock so badly would find himself living under a bridge, if not sharing a cell with Martha Stewart. But Talbott instead became Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, where he could apply his perspicacious geopolitical perceptual powers to Osama bin Laden. …

“During the final days of the 1990 election in Nicaragua, ABC News released the results of a poll showing the ruling Sandinista Party ahead by 16 percentage points. ‘For the Bush administration and the Reagan administration before it, the poll hints at a simple truth: After years of trying to get rid of the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts,’ Peter Jennings gravely informed his viewers. But a few days later, the Sandinistas lost — by 14 percentage points. The ‘simple truth’ was really that the poll, like so much of what ABC and other American news media outlets had been reporting from Nicaragua for the previous decade, was utterly, dumbfoundingly, whoppingly wrong.”

Glen Garvin, writing on “Fools for Communism,” in Reason this month

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