Having watched Wall Street again recently, I’m reminded of Gordon Gekko’s line about American wealth:
The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It’s bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it.
The real problem I see is Comcast being an ISP and content creator. It’s a clear conflict of interests. Providing internet service needs to be reclassified as a utility and the internet backbone needs to be opened up to competitors. The FCC’s incompetence at upholding Net Neutrality and Netflix’s acquiescence to pay off ISPs for better access to their customers is a big step backwards for consumers and creators alike. We deserve better.
Travis is absolutely correct. In fact, his stance has precedence: see the United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. case in 1948. In this landmark decision, the US Supreme Court said that studios could not own their own theaters and exclusivity show their own content.
There are some distinct differences here, but a telecom has been broken up before (AT&T) and it could happen again if Comcast purchases Time Warner and continues to produce and favor certain content.
Oh and yes, the internet needs to be legislated as a utility in the United States. It is as essential to modern life as electricity and gas.
I encourage everyone to watch this heartbreaking documentary about the dissolution of the accomplished and lauded visual effects studio Rhythm & Hues (where some friends of mine worked), yet another high-profile casualty of the collapsing VFX industry due the turbulent, ill-structured quagmire that is the movie business. My old buddy Scott Leberecht did a wonderful job directing and editing this story. Definitely worth 30 minutes of your time, particularly if you make your living where art and commerce overlap.
Life After Pi - Documentary
(Orginally featured as a film review in the UWM Post.)
If home is where the heart is, then prepare for some aches.
As with A Separation the film opens on an estranged couple, Marie and Ahmad (Bérénice Bejo and Ali Mosaffa, respectively). Ahmad has returned to the Paris suburbs at the request of Marie to file for a divorce. While Ahmad is hesitant about making a final call, multiple petty arguments and passive-agressive taunts with Marie hasten his decision. Before returning to Iran with his remaining possessions Marie asks Ahmad to help find out why her oldest daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), has completely closed herself off from her family. Once again Ahmad begrudgingly agrees, but as he helps Lucie confront her troubles he finds himself unraveling the twisted secrets that surround them all—the least of which being Marie’s emotionless boyfriend, Samir (Tahar Rahim), and his bothersome son, Foaud (Elyes Aguis). Not a smile is broken over the following days, as the family becomes increasingly unstable and everyone’s certainty is shaken to its core.
Farhadi is a director who can elevate trivial matter beyond the realms of melodrama. He tells stories which on the outside appear to be simple tales of familial dysfunction yet constructs them in such a way that they feel more akin to mystery thrillers. Just when it seems that the plot can’t become any thicker Farhadi adds yet on another layer on top, unfolding the film in an incredibly slow and deliberate manner. While The Past may not have as compelling a story as his previous piece, there are plenty of intense moments in which it is impossible to turn one’s attention away.
The story is not the biggest concern, though, because at its heart (or lack thereof) the film is a character piece. The slow pace and two-hour-plus length give the actors plenty of time to nurture their roles and develop characters that are both well-rounded and terribly complex. Bejo and Mosaffa deliver Oscar-snubbed performances as the jaded ex-lovers; Bejo’s Marie garners our sympathy as she is forced to contend with both her problematic lovers and children, but she also generates our disgust in her selfish motives; Mosaffa’s Ahmad kindly offers advice to all but is simultaneously impatient and hostile towards others.
Even the supporting roles are fantastic, particularly the breakout child performances from Burlet and Aguis. Burlet brings Lucie’s suffering out of the realm of teenage angst to portray a truly distraught and conflicted young adult, while Aguis shows surprising depth as Foaud, a boy with a solemn outlook on life who’s caught between two feuding families.
With terrific acting and skillful execution of a script that has more thrills than it deserves, The Past further proves that Farhadi is not just a brilliant director but a master of human drama.