Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hollywood

Hollywood Plays “Let’s Make a Deal” with Chinese Communist Censors

In 2007, Cracked devoted one of its beloved lists to “The 7 Least-Faithful Comic Book Movies.” Given the proliferation of comic book adaptations to the big screen, and the famously high standards of the fans of each graphic novel, competition was no doubt fierce. The piece opens: “Look, Hollywood, we understand that film is a different medium than comic books. We realize that changes must be made, storylines streamlined, art design massaged.”

“But,” the author adds, “there are some films that we cannot forgive.” Indeed, high standards for authenticity are one thing, the understandable desire of fans to see a film that shares more than a title with its namesake is quite another. And so some artistic alterations in one version of the new Iron Man film are sure to raise eyebrows among viewers. Even more notable, however, is why those changes were made. The Washington Post reports:

Read More

In 2007, Cracked devoted one of its beloved lists to “The 7 Least-Faithful Comic Book Movies.” Given the proliferation of comic book adaptations to the big screen, and the famously high standards of the fans of each graphic novel, competition was no doubt fierce. The piece opens: “Look, Hollywood, we understand that film is a different medium than comic books. We realize that changes must be made, storylines streamlined, art design massaged.”

“But,” the author adds, “there are some films that we cannot forgive.” Indeed, high standards for authenticity are one thing, the understandable desire of fans to see a film that shares more than a title with its namesake is quite another. And so some artistic alterations in one version of the new Iron Man film are sure to raise eyebrows among viewers. Even more notable, however, is why those changes were made. The Washington Post reports:

Even the nerdiest comic-book fan would be surprised to learn what cutting-edge technology secretly fuels “Iron Man’s” action-packed heroics: a milk-grain drink called Gu Li Duo from China’s Inner Mongolia.

That’s according to the Chinese version of the new blockbuster, which was released here complete with other surprising (read: odd and, at times outright nonsensical) footage inserted by producers to win the favor of Chinese officials.

If aesthetically jarring, the gambit has paid off handsomely. “Iron Man 3” raked in more than $64 million in its first five days and broke Chinese records with its May 1 opening-day haul of $21 million.

It’s a sign of how eager Hollywood has become to court China’s Communist Party leaders, who maintain an iron fist over the country’s booming movie market.

No fan of the film industry will be overjoyed at Hollywood selling its soul to the Communists for some imperialist-capitalist cash, but if it’s just Iron Man drinking some Mongolian milk, where’s the harm, right? Well, the Post continues:

This is how an invading swarm of Chinese soldiers in last year’s “Red Dawn” suddenly became North Koreans. And how Bruce Willis’s character mysteriously came to spend much more time in Shanghai than Paris in last year’s “Looper.” And why the outbreak sparking the zombie apocalypse in Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” this summer has been rewritten to originate from Moscow instead of China.

U.S. producers often spin such tweaks as an attempt to appeal to Chinese viewers. But experts say their more crucial target is the Chinese government’s 37-member censorship board, which each year approves just 34 foreign films for Chinese screens and reviews all their content. With China becoming the world’s second-largest box office market last year, failing to make that list can mean the loss of tens of millions of dollars.

U.S. film executives have described a process that involves heavy negotiation and wooing as they try to win approval. To please the authorities, studios have been willing to add Chinese actors, locations and elements to their cast, adjust release dates and tweak plot points to flatter or at least avoid offending Chinese officials.

So it’s not just a few minor changes for a few bucks. It’s an all-out garage sale of souls for gobs and gobs of money. “Tweak plot points to … avoid offending Chinese officials” is a pretty mellow way of saying “change the whole point of the movie because the Chinese Communists are offering us so much money that we honestly forgot American audiences even existed and c’mon what would you do and don’t be so naïve.” Which is the real message from studio execs.

And in fact it draws attention to something about the entertainment industry that has been impossible not to notice lately: purely in terms of entertainment value, movies are being not just outrun by television, but lapped and left in the dust. And one aspect of this may have something to do with it: television series, especially on cable and certainly on premium channels, treats their viewers like adults. I don’t mean with sex and violence, or the creepy objectification of teenagers that unfortunately shows no signs of abating. But in terms of intellectual engagement, these days films treat viewers like they’re idiots while television shows treat viewers like they already understand the world.

Long before Red Dawn’s Chinese invaders morphed into North Koreans, the Arab terrorists in the original Sum of All Fears–released in 2002–were dropped in favor of neo-Nazis after objections from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Yet over on network TV, before Sum of All Fears was released Americans were already watching 24, which depicted Islamic terrorists as Islamic terrorists–a fact which CAIR was none-too-happy about either. Accusations of “Islamophobia” were lobbed at the current Showtime hit Homeland, which also portrays Islamic terrorists as Islamic terrorists, and doesn’t blame America for everything that happens. As such, it’s infuriated some on the left. But the show rolls along.

Of course the obvious difference here is money. Film studios have much to gain from appeasing Communist censors, whereas television shows just don’t have the same market. How ironic that in pursuit of the almighty dollar, Hollywood and the Communists embrace censorship, and each other.

Read Less

Obama’s Hollywood Double Standard

Republicans aren’t the only ones furious at the Obama administration for giving a group of Hollywood filmmakers access to potentially classified information on the Osama bin Laden raid. Government transparency advocates and press freedom groups say the incident highlights a double standard, in which filmmakers are favored for access over professional journalists:

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, called the special treatment given to the filmmakers “outrageous.”

“If these filmmakers got access that trained national security and military reporters did not, then it’s telling the public: ‘We are not going to allow trained journalists to tell this story. If you want to know what happened, go buy a ticket to a movie,’” she told The Daily Beast in an interview.

Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists said, “The whole interaction with the filmmakers appears to be self-serving and self-aggrandizing [attempts] in an election year to glorify the administration.”

Did the filmmakers access classified information? The White House is denying it, but government emails and transcripts obtained by Judicial Watch under a Freedom of Information Act request this week show that the filmmakers went to classified facilities and met with officials whose names had to be redacted — a sign they were given treatment that journalists typically aren’t.

Read More

Republicans aren’t the only ones furious at the Obama administration for giving a group of Hollywood filmmakers access to potentially classified information on the Osama bin Laden raid. Government transparency advocates and press freedom groups say the incident highlights a double standard, in which filmmakers are favored for access over professional journalists:

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, called the special treatment given to the filmmakers “outrageous.”

“If these filmmakers got access that trained national security and military reporters did not, then it’s telling the public: ‘We are not going to allow trained journalists to tell this story. If you want to know what happened, go buy a ticket to a movie,’” she told The Daily Beast in an interview.

Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists said, “The whole interaction with the filmmakers appears to be self-serving and self-aggrandizing [attempts] in an election year to glorify the administration.”

Did the filmmakers access classified information? The White House is denying it, but government emails and transcripts obtained by Judicial Watch under a Freedom of Information Act request this week show that the filmmakers went to classified facilities and met with officials whose names had to be redacted — a sign they were given treatment that journalists typically aren’t.

There are several risks involved with giving filmmakers access to classified information, including the fact that they’re not bound by the same ethics as journalists – off the record, on the record, protecting anonymous source identity, etc. A filmmaker may feel he can speak about this information with impunity, because he does not have to worry about burning sources of information that he needs to work with down the line or damaging his professional reputation.

There’s also the fact that this information is being used for entertainment, not news value, which is Glenn Greenwald’s criticism. The administration has been very tight-lipped regarding the bin Laden raid. If they’ve decided to share some information, then it should be going to journalists serving the public interest – not to filmmakers serving the administration’s interest.

Read Less

Will Gay Marriage Endorsement Help Obama in Hollywood?

Michael Hastings reports on President Obama’s waning support in Tinseltown:

Over the past week, I’d spoken to more than a dozen Hollywood players, and all had a litany of criticisms. “I’ll write the check,” one top producer, whose films have made over a billion at the box office, told me. “But I’m not going to bother voting for him.” Another studio exec—in a land where the hard driven deal is cultural requirement —wondered if the president’s penchant for compromise meant he had, in the parlance of our times, “no balls.”

A number of other actors and producers lamented how they’d gone so far as to donate and volunteer for Obama in 2008—and now, disgusted, they were planning on doing neither this time around. They had bought what Obama was selling for four years—about the wars, about Gitmo, about changing things in Washington, about the hope and the change—and Obama had let them down. Even Matt Damon—one of the president’s most stalwart celebrity supporters—famously said last year he was disappointed.

Read More

Michael Hastings reports on President Obama’s waning support in Tinseltown:

Over the past week, I’d spoken to more than a dozen Hollywood players, and all had a litany of criticisms. “I’ll write the check,” one top producer, whose films have made over a billion at the box office, told me. “But I’m not going to bother voting for him.” Another studio exec—in a land where the hard driven deal is cultural requirement —wondered if the president’s penchant for compromise meant he had, in the parlance of our times, “no balls.”

A number of other actors and producers lamented how they’d gone so far as to donate and volunteer for Obama in 2008—and now, disgusted, they were planning on doing neither this time around. They had bought what Obama was selling for four years—about the wars, about Gitmo, about changing things in Washington, about the hope and the change—and Obama had let them down. Even Matt Damon—one of the president’s most stalwart celebrity supporters—famously said last year he was disappointed.

Obviously, the Obama campaign is hoping the early gay marriage endorsement will help energize big Democratic donors who were still sitting on the sidelines, particularly Hollywood liberals. And the timing couldn’t be better. Obama has a much-publicized fundraiser tonight at George Clooney’s house, and early next week he attends a fundraiser with Ricky Martin that’s reportedly aimed at donors in the gay community.

The question is, will his announcement be enough to coax out the checkbooks? Obama’s gay marriage endorsement has no real practical effect, and his policies haven’t changed. He still maintains it’s a state-by-state issue. And as others have noted, he only announced his position publicly after days of political pressure. Fortunately for Obama, Hollywood doesn’t tend to be well-informed on these issues. And that will definitely work to his advantage as he tries to woo back these donors.

Read Less

Democrats Select Tony Rezko’s Banker for Illinois Senate

You almost wonder whether Karl Rove has infiltrated the Democratic Party. How else to explain how the Democrats could nominate to replace Roland Burris, the senator from Blagojevich, the banker for Tony Rezko? As the Chicago Tribune explained, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias beat back a feisty challenger who made hay out of Giannoulias’s “handling of the state’s college loan program, which lost $150 million; and of loans Giannoulias gave to controversial recipients while working as vice-president of his family’s now-struggling Broadway Bank.” Those controversial recipients include Rezko and some figures of organized crime. The Chicago Sun Times explained:

Among the loans Giannoulias has gotten heat for:

* More than $10 million from 2001 to 2005 to alleged Father & Son Russian mobster team Lev and Boris Stratievsky. Father Lev has passed away. Son Boris is in jail facing money-laundering charges. Broadway funded development projects some on the South Side — that tenants and city attorneys complained were roach motels. Broadway has been unable to collect on the loans.

* About $12.9 million to convicted bookmaker Michael Giorango for a Miami Beach hotel and a Hollywood, Fla., restaurant, among other ventures, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Broadway has sued Giorango and his partner, Demitri Stavropoulos, convicted of running a betting operation in Chicago, seeking to get the money back. Giannoulias initially downplayed his relationship with Giorango, noting the loans to him started before he joined the bank. Later he said he went to Miami to meet Giorango and inspect the property, and that another $3 million loan to Giorango was for a South Carolina casino.

It’s hard to believe this is the candidate whom the Democrats wanted as their nominee. As Ben Smith dryly noted, Giannoulias “is about as un-changey as you get.” The Republicans are obviously delighted to have such a target-rich opponent. I suspect this will be another seat added to the political gurus’ “leans Republican” lists.

And if all that weren’t enough to worry the Democrats, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling notes:

Based on the current numbers 885,268 voters were cast in the Democratic primary for Senate compared to 736,137 on the Republican side. Those numbers are awfully close to each other for a state that’s overwhelmingly Democratic.

For sake of comparison the last time there were competitive Senate primaries on both sides in Illinois, in 2004 when Barack Obama was nominated, there were nearly twice as many votes cast in the Democratic primary as the Republican one. 1,242,996 voted in the Democratic race to 661, 804 for the Republicans. Last night’s turnout is yet another data point on the enthusiasm gap, showing that Republicans are much more excited about this year’s elections than Democrats, even in a deep blue state.

It’s a long way to November, but Republicans will soon seize on this as a highly gettable seat with symbolic value. Had it not been for Massachusetts, one could say that the flip in the Illinois seat previously held by the president would be a political tsunami. But it seems as though in this election season, it might simply be par for the course.

You almost wonder whether Karl Rove has infiltrated the Democratic Party. How else to explain how the Democrats could nominate to replace Roland Burris, the senator from Blagojevich, the banker for Tony Rezko? As the Chicago Tribune explained, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias beat back a feisty challenger who made hay out of Giannoulias’s “handling of the state’s college loan program, which lost $150 million; and of loans Giannoulias gave to controversial recipients while working as vice-president of his family’s now-struggling Broadway Bank.” Those controversial recipients include Rezko and some figures of organized crime. The Chicago Sun Times explained:

Among the loans Giannoulias has gotten heat for:

* More than $10 million from 2001 to 2005 to alleged Father & Son Russian mobster team Lev and Boris Stratievsky. Father Lev has passed away. Son Boris is in jail facing money-laundering charges. Broadway funded development projects some on the South Side — that tenants and city attorneys complained were roach motels. Broadway has been unable to collect on the loans.

* About $12.9 million to convicted bookmaker Michael Giorango for a Miami Beach hotel and a Hollywood, Fla., restaurant, among other ventures, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Broadway has sued Giorango and his partner, Demitri Stavropoulos, convicted of running a betting operation in Chicago, seeking to get the money back. Giannoulias initially downplayed his relationship with Giorango, noting the loans to him started before he joined the bank. Later he said he went to Miami to meet Giorango and inspect the property, and that another $3 million loan to Giorango was for a South Carolina casino.

It’s hard to believe this is the candidate whom the Democrats wanted as their nominee. As Ben Smith dryly noted, Giannoulias “is about as un-changey as you get.” The Republicans are obviously delighted to have such a target-rich opponent. I suspect this will be another seat added to the political gurus’ “leans Republican” lists.

And if all that weren’t enough to worry the Democrats, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling notes:

Based on the current numbers 885,268 voters were cast in the Democratic primary for Senate compared to 736,137 on the Republican side. Those numbers are awfully close to each other for a state that’s overwhelmingly Democratic.

For sake of comparison the last time there were competitive Senate primaries on both sides in Illinois, in 2004 when Barack Obama was nominated, there were nearly twice as many votes cast in the Democratic primary as the Republican one. 1,242,996 voted in the Democratic race to 661, 804 for the Republicans. Last night’s turnout is yet another data point on the enthusiasm gap, showing that Republicans are much more excited about this year’s elections than Democrats, even in a deep blue state.

It’s a long way to November, but Republicans will soon seize on this as a highly gettable seat with symbolic value. Had it not been for Massachusetts, one could say that the flip in the Illinois seat previously held by the president would be a political tsunami. But it seems as though in this election season, it might simply be par for the course.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.