Saturday, February 25, 2012


Just yesterday I was reading Mark Cousins' introductory essay "The Point of Criticism" in his collection of essays Widescreen: Watching. Real. People. Elsewhere. (2008, Wall Flower Press, London & New York) wherein he declared: "I follow in J.K. Galbraith's footsteps in believing that in capitalist societies, products have a built-in obsolescence. I want a new phone or new trainers not because my previous ones are done, but because their latest versions are slightly more up to date, more me. Writer Benjamin Barber thinks of this as infantilizing taste. ...[Mainstream cinema] inflames desire by repetition—of genre, star image, sequels, remakes, formulaic storytelling, marketing techniques, poster design, CD tie-ins, and so forth....

"...This bothers me a lot. It has turned me into a dissident from the movie world, the sort of dissident who borrows from John Stuart Mill again: I believe that liberty isn't only a matter of people being free from state oppression or interference; their creative impulses should also be free from what Mill called the 'depotism of custom.' I am also, therefore, against the odious unfairness of the movie playing field. In Edinburgh, where I live, the sides of buses, bill boards around town, bus shelters, burger bars, the advertising and editorial pages of newspapers, the banners of local websites and the façades and lobbies of the multiplexes are at the moment plastered with advertising for
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. At my local Cineworld multiplex it is playing on three screens today, at 11:00, 11:40, 12:20, 13:00, 14:20, 15:00, 15:40, 16:20, 17:00, 18:20, 19:00, 19:40, 20:20 and 21:00hrs. At the Odeons in town it is playing a further 15 times today. At the Vue cinemas in the city, it is showing 23 times today. At the independent Dominion cinema it is showing twice more. A fair proportion of the advertising space in this city at the moment is exhorting me to see a film that is showing 54 times today. And the film has already been showing for two weeks. And Edinburgh is a small place. This push to maximize awareness and minimize choice smells like bullying and an unfair playing field to me....

"...How could someone who cares about cinema not be angry about this? How could such a person not pack their bags from the mainstream, move out of town and become a dissident, hollering treasonable ideas about innovation, meritocracy, variety, inspiration, imagination, honesty, relevance and curiosity from outside?" (
Supra, pp. 5-6).

Written several years before the advance of the Occupy Movement in the United States, Cousins' complaint could easily serve as a rallying cry to support an effort organized by film critic Anthony Kaufmann to occupy cinemas on Friday, March 2, 2012. Quoting from Kaufmann:

Why This Is Important

Are you ready to make a statement about the movies you want?

Are you ready to take a stand and tell the powers that be that you want a free Internet and more fair copyright provisions?

Are you ready to join the Occupy Movement and "reclaim our voices and challenge our society's obsession with profit and greed by shutting down the corporations"?

Inspired by Occupy Portland's February 29 "Shut Down the Corporations" Day of Action, we call on people to Occupy the Cinemas on Friday, March 2nd, and show Hollywood and the Motion Picture Association of America that you are AGAINST its lobbying for draconian anti-Piracy legislation (
i.e., SOPA); its restrictive, secretive and double-standard Ratings system; its monopolization of world movie markets and suppression of independent cinemas; and its massive, manipulative advertising machine that forces movies down our throats:

On Friday, March 2nd, boycott Hollywood "product" and support a non-corporate film instead.

By supporting Hollywood films, we are feeding the conglomerates that are trying to restrict our freedoms; by consuming their entertainments, we are paying the bills of the lawyers who trying to limit the freedoms of the Internet and fair use. Let's not follow along like lemmings. Let's fight back.

Think of the difference we can make if we all band together, if we mobilize our friends, parents, grandparents, kids, uncles, aunts, babysitters, teachers, waiters, bartenders, baristas to avoid the March 2nd new Hollywood releases
The Lorax and Project X and see any number of non-corporate films that will be out in theaters that Friday: Jafar Panahi's This Is Not A Film, Taika Waititi's Boy, Bruno Romy's The Fairy, Lise Birk Pedersen's Putin's Kiss, Joshua Marston's The Forgiveness of Blood, Oren Moverman's Rampart, and Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse, among others. We can tell the massive conglomerates that we, the consumers, are in control and we don't agree with their efforts to restrict what sorts of films we want to see and where we want to see them.

On March 2nd, we want to see tens of thousands of people flooding into art-houses and independent movie theaters across the country, abandoning cineplexes, supporting their local communities, and saying no to corporate entertainment. Love live a more democratic cinema!

* * *

As a gesture of non-violent protest and solidarity with the Occupy Movement, nothing could be easier—or, perhaps, even more relevant—than to participate in Kaufmann's Occupy the Cinemas, especially in the Bay Area where Elliot Lavine opens his pre-Code series "Hollywood Before the Code: Nasty-Ass Films For a Nasty-Ass World!", on Friday, March 2, at the Roxie Theater with a double-bill of Ann Dvorak and Paul Muni in Scarface (1932) and Joan Blondell, Dvorak and Bette Davis in Three On A Match (1932). Hell, extend the occupation through the run of the series! I know I am.

But don't let me tell you what to see. If pre-Code doesn't catch your eye, please suggest alternate cinema experiences you will be participating in come Friday, March 2!

1 comment:

Sachin said...

Thanks Michael for posting this. I was not aware of this but such movements are essential. Otherwise, one day all alternative/art-house cinema would give way for such a bleak future: