Saturday Coffee Links

Just a quick note to say that the Wordherders’ server has been down for most of the last several days. I’m hoping that the problem is resolved, but we’ll see how things go. For now, a couple of pointers to articles I don’t want to lose.

First, a Washington Post article by William Booth on The Market, the business side of Cannes Film Festival. Booth explains that Hollywood studios now make the majority of their profits outside the United States and that many big Hollywood films, whose budgets now average $100, are made with international audeinces in mind. He points out, in particular that films that bombed in the US box office, Master and Commander and The Island, actually made big bucks oversaes (Booth attributes the success of The Island in South Korea to the real-life genetic engineer who notoriously faked his research data). While I was well aware of the fact that most Hollywood films make major profits overseas, Booth also lists what kinds of films tend to do well in what countries, with horror playing well in Spain, comedy in Australia, and raunchy sex comedies (such as American Pie) in Germany. The number one movie in France right now? Robin Williams’ RV. Mon dieu!

Also worth noting, Jamison Foser’s Media Matters essay arguing that “the defining issue of our time is the media.” For the most part, Foser revisits many of the claims already established in Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? and similar texts that dispute the notion of a liberal media. But I mention Foser’s essay because he addresses what he describes as a “pattern” of depicting progressives (Al Gore, Hillary Clinton) as stiff or insincere and conservatives (Bush, McCain, Giuliani–more on him later) as real or authentic, including this Jacob Weisberg article in which he faults Hillary for being politically calculated in reporting the contents of her iPod playlist wile giving Bush a pass for a similarly narrow list of “baby boomer” rock and praising classical pianist Condi Rice for including a mix of classical (Brahms) and pop on her iPod. Foser tears apart Weisberg’s artcile with far more enrgy than I have, but his essay is worth pointing out because a similar tactic is once again being deployed to discredit Al Gore and, by extension, his new documentary An Inconvenient Truth, in this case by Jonah Goldberg, who attempts to use apparent discrepancies in Gore’s records and his public recollections to foster the illusion that Gore is aloof or that everyting he says is politically calculated. I think the one issue I have with the Foser article, however, is that it doesn’t explain why these narratives work so well. I think te assumption is that news audiences are passive dupes who accept the storylines they are fed by the media, but I don’t think that’s an adequate description of what is happening, and I’m less convinced that there is a media conspiracy against liberalism (even if prominent media owners such as Rupert Murdoch are conservative). I don’t have time to work through this question in further detail right now, but I think it’s worth pointing out the ways in which members of the media are framing the reception of Gore’s film (and his rumored candidacy in the 2008 presidential election).

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