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Monday, May 17, 2010

Moral And Righteous Indignation Over A Film

Conservatives don’t understand film.

This has become all the more evident over the last 10 years or so. From mocumentaries about President Bush being assassinated, to films about actual events happening in Iraq, on down to absurdist, exploitational fare, conservatives just don't get it. The later is the focus of much conservative ire and outrage – Robert Rodriguez’s latest “grindhouse” feature “Machete”.

Machete: Coming in September, it’s sure to be the best anti-Arizona immigration law movie — and anti-law movie for that matter — that your tax dollars can subsidize.

The MOST anti-law ever? Really? What about something like the Godfather films? They were about gangsters that broke the law and killed people on a daily basis? It’s easy to fall into the trap of “the most _____ ever” meme when you really don’t have much of a cogent point to make to begin with. It plays into the fringe’s most base instincts. And, in that regard, it works well in these situations.

The part that really bothers me when conservatives try to read messages into films is that they often don’t see the film itself, rely on other people’s reporting, or look at the trailer as the entirety of the film itself. While the later is done far too often by people of all stripes, and can be somewhat of a fair signifier of what is to come when the picture is actually released, it’s the former avenues of approach that show pure laziness and an inability to be intellectually honest when approaching any material.

I will offer this aside when discussing a film purely on the merits of the trailer – too often those are farmed out to alternate studios to make a film look bigger, flashier, and more intriguing than the finished product. This isn’t to say that Machete is the exception or the rule, as the final cut hasn’t been screened yet. So for conservatives to make such bold accusations regarding the film, I say they should stop prejudging a product they haven’t consumed yet.

But, some may ask, what of the fact that the script was leaked? This is not surprising in the least, as many scripts from many genre films end up being available online due to some production hand stealing a copy ( or what they think is a real copy ) of the source material. But who’s to say it all made the final cut? Certainly not the one stealing intellectual property and most certainly not the one’s reporting it.

Another aspect of the film ( it’s production more specifically ) that conservatives are highlight ( since it’s all about taxpayer money now that Democrats are in power ) is that a portion of the production costs were funded by the Texas Film Commission. To those not familiar with how films are produced around the country, this would more than likely outrage the average conservative. However, since just about every state in the US has a film commission that is designed to help bring in productions, this should come as no surprise. The fact that people are only citing the TFC as a player in this films production is not only dishonest but completely predictable.

Worst of all, Robert Rodriguez’ incendiary race film ‘Machete’ was made, in part, with help from tax incentives and location access provided by the Texas Film Commission, a division of Governor Rick Perry’s Office. A spokesperson from the organization confirmed that Rodriguez had indeed applied for funding.

That information came from lunatic-fringe conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and was highlighted as a portion of the article on Malkin’s website. Odd that someone on Malkin’s site would link to Alex Jones, considering their troubled history. But hey, it’s all about being as inflammatory and as possible these days – right?

And while Jones and Malkin's fill-in Powers are far too quick to castigate the TFC, it should be pointed out that most states have film commissions and they bring in a large amount of revenue for each location used. The rate of return on taxpayers modest contribution to each commission has been shown to be upwards of 1000 fold. Of course, this is dependant upon the feature being shot, but I think it's safe to assume that when people in Texas know that Robert Rodriguez is shooting a new film that there's going to be a nice amount of money flowing into the area.

But let's be clear about something - this film was based off a spoof trailer that appeared before the Grindhouse feature "Planet Terror" from 2007. Also, Machete was in production before the Arizona law was even proposed, so to claim that this feature film is a direct response to that is completely preposterous.

However, while some will claim that Danny Trejo's comments at the head of the trailer invalidate any claims that this film was expressly produced in order to protest Arizona's draconian law, I would offer this response - he has a right to his freedom of speech.

But let's look at some of the aspects of how this film is being released. After all, not all films that are made get put out in theatres. Guess who the distributor for Machete is? Newscorps film division 20th Century Fox. Why is it important to reveal this? One would think that the company that also owns Fox"News" wouldn't touch this material. After all Fox"News" went after Marc Cuban, the distributor of Brian De Palma's film Redatected. Are we going to see the same standard applied here? You're fooling yourself if you say yes.

But Fox didn't just make an offer to Troublemaker Studios and then Rodriguez accept. There was an all out bidding war for this feature. Fox likely knew what they were getting, so Rupert Murdock is to be held responsible for seeing that this movie was released. And when one thinks about it, as this will most assuredly be a hot topic of discussion on Fox"News", Rupert Murdoch will actually be funding both sides of the debate on this. It's a win/win for him regardless.

Here's the trailer conservatives are all twitching about, complete with Trejo's message to Arizona.

Let's look at Trejo's statement ( and likely Rodriguez's endorsement of it ) from a marketing standpoint. You have to admit, it's a pretty good idea, as now more people will be drawn to the theatre to see it, buy merchandise, and by the DVD later on. Not only that, but if conservatives decided to exercise a little integrity and go out and see the film rather than wildly speculate on it's intended meaning, I'm sure that there will be more than a few disappointed souls out there that will have the feeling they should admit they were wrong about the film - just don't expect to hear it directly from them. After all, part of being a conservative is never admitting you were wrong, just jumping to the next conclusion.

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