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Archive for January, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty Under Attack

Posted by prof e on January 14, 2013

zero-dark-thirty1The Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden, is being criticized by some in the Hollywood film community because of its portrayal of “enhanced interrogation”, a euphemism for torture. According to Hollywood veterans, and liberal activists, Ed Asner and Martin Sheen (you may know him as the father of Charlie Sheen), Zero Dark Thirty is not worthy of accolades and honors because it suggests that torture played a role in the elimination of bin Laden.

First a little background. The film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow who also directed The Hurt Locker, winner of six Academy Awards. Controversy arose early on when the film’s producers and writers were accused of receiving access to classified documents. Opponents of President Obama suspected that the film would be released just before the 2012 elections, with the goal of boosting the President’s reelection efforts. However, the film was not finished in time for the elections and went into wide release this past weekend to critical acclaim. The film has received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and five Golden Globe nominations resulting in a Best Actress win for Jessica Chastain. It also topped the weekend box office taking in approximately $24 million.

In defense of the film’s portrayal of torture, Sony pictures issued a statement saying, “To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate.” However, this movie is a fictional account based on real events…not a documentary. I’m not sure that responsibility and accuracy were as essential as Sony would like us to believe.

In criticizing the film, one Hollywood insider said, “You can’t separate artistry from morality.” While that statement is open to debate, it is interesting to note that moral objections to content found in Hollywood movies has been a battle waged since the turn of the previous century. For most of that time Hollywood’s collective response has been, “we’re artists…don’t impose your values on our creation.” “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” And the always-predictable argument, “It’s only a movie…people can distinguish between reality and what they see on the screen.” Now that Hollywood activists don’t care for the tone of the objectionable content the shoe appears to be on the other foot. They’ll need to tread lightly, lest they appear overly hypocritical as they press their case for moral superiority.


Posted in 1st amendment, film, journalism, politics | 7 Comments »

Al Gore Sells Out?

Posted by prof e on January 6, 2013

gore_currentIn what is reported to be a $500 million deal, Current TV is being sold to Al Jazeera Media Network. With headquarter located in Qatar, Al Jazeera is a global news network with an Arab point-of-view and funding from the government of Qatar. Since its debut in the mid 1990s, the network has been controversial and that controversy only increased after 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Frequently giving a voice to “terrorist”  organizations (as defined by the US government), Al Jazeera continued to expand and launched an English-language channel in 2006.

By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera gains access to approximately 40 million cable households…greatly expanding their reach in the US market. Current TV has struggled for viewers so 40 million potential TVHHs may not be as impressive as it first sounds. And ratings history suggests that global news (from any perspective) is a difficult product to sell to an American audience. If the new network will be able to gain any traction it will likely be at the expense of left-leaning TV news networks such as MSNBC and CNN and other international news channels such as BBC World News.

One of the founders of Current TV is former VP Al Gore. Also known for his award-winning environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Gore stands to gain about $100 million from the sale of Current TV. Gore will remain on the board of the new network, tentatively titled Al Jazeera America, and will have a role in shaping its identity. Considering that Al Jazeera is financed largely by petroleum revenue, and that Al Gore is known for his outspoken views on global climate change, some have criticized Gore’s profiting from an industry that is accused of being the greatest contributor to CO2 emissions. Current TV is reported to have rebuffed an offer to buy from conservative pundit Glenn Beck on ideological grounds. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Glenn Beck’s The Blaze approached Current about buying the channel last year, but was told that ‘the legacy of who the network goes to is important to us and we are sensitive to networks not aligned with our point of view,’ according to a person familiar with the negotiations.”  But legacy was not enough of an issue, apparently, to turn down Al Jazeera’s money. As Al Gore himself once said, quoting Upton Sinclair, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Posted in global media, journalism, politics, tv | 2 Comments »