Feb 14, 2009

Radicals Use Cash

You know - I've get to thinking every time I have to stand behind someone charging a $5 footlong at Subway's and we wait for the authorization to go through. Every time we charge something, the banks get a service fee. Every. Single. Time. So what are we doing if we talk about radically changing our financial system, but we're basically shoveling money down the throats of some of the biggest perpetrators of global economic inequity?

Of course I don't pay their bleeding predatory interest rates, but they had me hook line and sinker with their little rewards perks and all of that, but no more. I usually didn't charge things that were less than $15, but I think I'm getting to the point where I just want to use cash.

Fuck the banks, fuck their convenience, and fuck this system.

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Feb 9, 2009

Slumdog, Briefly

So much for writing more this year. It is what it is. The hoopla and excitement surrounding Slumdog Millionaire's Oscar hope has made conversations about the film more interesting, and more frustrating. I have held that it's just a film, and it's average: there are some fun moments, but what's the big deal about this film, particularly in the midst of such a good year in just American and British film?

I think one of my issues is that there is hardly any artistic rhyme or reason to the non-American or British films that make it to the regular film categories in the Oscars. Frankly, the Oscars are a marketing tool to get more people to buy the DVD (or for smaller films, to see them in wider release once the nominations come out). That's all this is about: it's a scheme by the producers and distributors. The choice of "Lagaan" as the first Indian directed movie to make the big leagues for best picture was smart: this is all about the distribution rights, not who makes the film (i.e. it's somewhat irrelevant (and not on other levels) that Danny Boyle is the director of "Slumdog"). It's all about the money, and this blatant exploitation just to get the dollars really bitters me to the whole possibility of cinema to be transformative. It's like "Crash" all over again.

I think my issues stem from the fact that the film opens up a number of social issues: poverty, the abuse of orphaned children, prostitution, corruption, Hindu-Muslim violence, but it uses most of these things as a backdrop to a love story. It's the typical Bollywood set-up, really (think "Dil Se" or any million other films). And it's not that they raise these issues, but that the movie kind of glosses over them. It's just another hook to hang the "feel good" sentiment on: commodifying people, hardship, and things that are not so easily resolved in real life. People argue "it's just a film!" but I guess I don't feel like we can just absolve the film and its creators of responsibility when it feels like they are using these elements to show how it's somehow different from the thousand other films made in India and around the world. If the film is to be an escape, so be it: but then make the love story more believable, and stop using people's suffering as your prop: then I won't care so much. But the reason this film shot up is because it kind of absolves middle class/rich, and/or white people of their guilt for fostering some of the problems that the film uses as backdrop. When you have "Milk" and "Che" out this year, what is "Slumdog" but proof that this system is nothing but jacked up.

I guess it's like when people get upset about progressive political messages getting into mainstream radio. "Keep it separated!" they yell (and really, how much of it gets through anymore?). It's not a selling point nowadays to be socially conscious and/or radical in our mass culture of escapism, but if it were, maybe those songs would be on the radio more (ala 60s?).

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