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2016 May Bring Good Things

2016 May Bring Good Things

This is the first post from new Legal Insurrection contributor Joel Engel


Early today, Professor Jacobson posted again about the movie 2016: Obama’s America, vis-à-vis producer Dinesh D’Souza’s response to reader criticisms, and concluded:

There’s something to that film which has touched a nerve, and not in a way liberals think.

When Dinesh D’Souza is stopped by passersby for a photograph in Greenwich Village, the skies are not as clear as they seem for Obama.

Exactly.  With a box-office take rapidly approaching $30 million, 2016 is already the second highest-grossing feature-length documentary ever.  In mainstream Hollywood, its success was totally unexpected—a word that carries the same irony Glenn Reynolds has imbued it with since Obama took office because it comes at the same time that Hollywood’s overall numbers are tanking.

It’s not just that, as the BBC reports, the overall box-office take this past weekend was the lowest for more than a decade.  It’s that, in general, fewer people are paying to see movies.

The most obvious—and cited—reason for Hollywood’s decline is that it rarely produces films for adult audiences uninterested in comic-book characters, animation, fairy tales, talking bears, or dystopian fantasies—categories that fit 20 of the top 25 highest-grossing films so far this year.

But I’m absolutely certain there’s a more important factor—actually, two factors, inseparably intertwined.  The first is that mainstream Americans—the kind who used to go with some regularity to the movies, whether they lived on the coasts or in “flyover country”—no longer see mainstream America represented on screen.

The second is that Hollywood’s elite have chosen nearly en masse to exercise their First Amendment right to make sure that they’re not mistaken for mainstream Americans.  This has been a suicidal mistake.

In ye olde days of the studio moguls, stars were kept under wraps so that they never said anything publicly that might alienate a portion of the paying audience.  Political comments, above all, were immediately squelched because the moguls understood the compact between actor and audience: An actor makes believe that he’s a character the audience cares about, and the audience suspends disbelief in order to care about the character.  Whatever gets in the way of the audience’s ability to empathize with or root for that actor’s character will reflect at the box office.

Today, these famous faces who, for a living, repeat words written by others, have no compunction—indeed, they seem to have a compulsion—about flaunting their political views that they know, but can’t quite believe, aren’t shared by everyone.

Hollywood has become such an echo chamber for left-wing political causes that conservatives there think of themselves as Christians in pre-Constantine Rome; they complain of being attacked verbally for being “stupid,” and, irony of ironies, even blacklisted.

It’s a chicken-and-egg debate whether studios and producers know that they can’t get any A-list stars for a traditional, America-loving movie and so don’t even try, or whether these projects don’t exist because Hollywood doesn’t even think that way anymore.

In any event, this public violation of the compact between star and audience has had an insidious, trickle-down effect even on films that steer clear of politics.  (See, for example: Julia Roberts’ career and paycheck in the decade since she said Republican falls in the dictionary between reptile and repugnant.) So when a movie like 2016 comes along—a documentary, no less—and expresses a message antithetical to mainstream Hollywood but is beautiful music to mainstream America, mainstream Hollywood has to come up with an explanation that preserves its moral vanity.  And it does: racism.

Thus, Hollywood will continue committing suicide by a thousand cuts…and independent producers who manage to raise the money, as D’Souza did, for movies that appeal to the great unwashed may very well find it vastly easier to sign deals with distributors and exhibitors who are in business, after all, to make money.

Andrew Breitbart used to hammer home how important it was for conservatives to take back the culture.  2016 may yet prove to be a good start.


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2016 was a good film that it was NOT a blaring rabid attack but rather focused on issues that have not seen the light of day and did so objectively.

It should be required viewing for every registered voter but of course I just dreaming, eh?

Nevertheless, maybe there are signs of an American reawakening…

    problem is access to it. is only in ONE place in Maine and thats 75-80 miles one way. being disabled its not an option.
    waiting on the dvd.

    Spiny Norman in reply to GrumpyOne. | September 12, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Exactly. If it was the “blaring rabid attack” its leftist critics claim, only the conservative “true believers” would be seeing it, and it wouldn’t have sold $30 million worth of tickets.

I suspect a separate movie-making center will need to build up, separate from Hollywood – once a culture is set, it’s almost impossible for it to change. That’s just corporate training in management – you’re more likely to be successful starting a new team with outsiders, than to try to fix a broken culture.

The good news is, with the cost of equipment and new sales channels, creating a new movie making/distribution infrastructure is dramatically cheaper and faster, and you can cut out the traditional distribution systems completely.

    An independent film maker has been in operation for about two years. Bill Whittle is involved in this endeavor. Go to the link below to learn how YOU can become a citizen producer to bring to market films which represent YOUR values. Declaration Entertainment is close to rolling out its first film.

    Become a Member

    Enroll as a Citizen Producer to gain access to behind the scenes looks at your movies as they are being made. Participate in live video chat with actors, writers, and directors. View behind-the-scenes videos of casting sessions, location shoots, special effects creation, editing and scoring. Win chances to appear in the movies and attend opening night red carpet premieres.

NC Mountain Girl | September 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Two conservative films came out on DVD yesterday- October Baby and For Greater Glory. Both were hammered by the critics for their message.

We can take back the culture if we switch off most cable programming. Ohterwise forget it. Hollywood has moved to cable and has taken its trash along with it.

Welcome aboard, Joel.

As for corporate Hollywood, leftist politics will at some point take a back seat to profits and the pendulum will swing back towards better marketing.

Due primarily to production cost concerns, film-making is increasingly outsourced to locales where there are no unions, like Canada and even my state of North Carolina. That is evidence of politics taking a back seat to politics and I expect we’ll see more of it. In keeping with the leftist platform of inherent hypocrisy, these outsourced non-union films will nonetheless carry leftist themes where possible, but if it continues to hurt box office, that too will change.

I haven’t been in a movie theater in twenty years or more. Ticket prices too high, movie quality too low, price-gouging on popcorn and cola, nasty floors, rude co-viewers, cell phone use during movies, refusal to police said rudeness, and the advent of Netflix Instant have all conspired to keep me away.

“That is evidence of politics taking a back seat to politics..”

Henry, you freakin’ moron, did you mean to say ‘politics taking a back seat to PROFITS’..?

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Henry Hawkins. | September 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Yes, I did, and thank you for fixing it. But take it easy with the ‘moron’ talk, OK?

    Uh, oh. The man having a running blog . . . with himself. Could it be time for a pick-me-up?

    Are you tired? Are you run down? Do you poop out at parties? Maybe, what you need is a spoonful of Vita-Meata-Vegamin. Why, it’s good for you. And, it’s tasty, too!

      Henry Hawkins in reply to ALman. | September 12, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      Hey, think a mile with my brain and you’ll understand. It’s spooky in here….

      ALman in reply to ALman. | September 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      Think a mile in your brain? I have a difficult enough of a time in my own. Just when it seems as though I’m about to have a thought approaching a rational one, I encounter a crevice which says “Oh, no you don’t. Now! Back to the realm of irrationality!”

Joel Engel: Remember when Disney’s Secretariat came out a couple of years ago? It was a wonderful film with Diane Lane and John Malkovich depicting a major event/time period in American history and it got trashed by the Hollywood elite and media elite because it didn’t trash America or Conservatives.

    richard40 in reply to SGLawrence. | September 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I agree. Secretariat was a great movie, with a good old fashioned story. And it was even pro woman in that it had a strong willed woman, standing up against adversity for what she thought was right. I have no idea why any leftist critics would ever object to it. Perhaps they portrayed the family reaction to the leftist daughters objectively, instead of uncritically hailing their anti war activism. And perhaps they should have been portrayed as rich plutocrats, instead of as a deadicated horsewoman who was almost ruined when the fed gov nailed them with the excessive inheritance taxes that were routine in those days.

When a smug supporter told Adlai Stevenson that “all” thinking people supported him, Stevenson replied, “Yes, but I need to win a majority.”

As Michael Barone said, “It is inconceivable that FDR would have said, or even thought, such a thing. Stevenson was the first leading Democrat politician to become a critic, rather than a celebrator of middle-class American culture—the prototype of the liberal Democrat who would judge ordinary Americans by an abstract standard and find them wanting.”

Maybe Hollywood is discovering, like Stevenson and his supporters, that it doesn’t pay to be too gosh-darned insultingly smart-assed by half.

LukeHandCool (who is sure Joel is distressed at what Hollywood has become, and, just like any good American, administers the Heimlich with sadistic gusto to the obese Tinseltown slobs at the next table choking on their cud. And who notes that Joel on a bad day is worth more that 1,000 Roger Eberts on their best day).

Hollywood is a cesspool of degenerates. I haven’t lived/worked there for a long time, but my friends who are still there tell me that it’s even worse than it was just a few years back.

Hollywood won’t learn, Professor. They’d rather go broke than admit that their work is crap. Men without morals cannot produce tales of morality, because they would come face to face with their own sin.

The producers who actually want to make a profit are shooting their films in non-union States like New Mexico, Arizona, North Carolina, etc. Oh, and producers have been shooting in Canada since the ’80’s.

I hope D’Souza’s movie inspires more film makers to step outside the Hollywood plantation and produce films that speak the truth.
What are you conservative capitalist film makers waiting for? America needs you. And we’re willing to buy the tickets.

…independent producers who manage to raise the money, as D’Souza did, for movies that appeal to the great unwashed may very well find it vastly easier to sign deals with distributors and exhibitors who are in business, after all, to make money.

Presumably advancing technology will continue to lower the independents’ costs of entry.

I think much of what happens in Hollywood has to do with the pursuit of an interesting story line. Hollywood and the entertainment industry generally has spent several decades mining the notion of the anti-hero and the anti-villian, because the stories with real good guys and bad guys on the sides you’d expect are — well told, already.

I consider it a symptom of mediocre creativity.

    richard40 in reply to Valerie. | September 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    The real irony is that there are so few movies with traditional heroes and villians, that now they would be considered the unusual and creative movies. Imagine what a shock it would be if you saw a movie where the general, the rich businessman, the conservative politician, and the christian preacher were good guys, and the leftists were the bad guys. Now days that would be considered a shocking and innovative plot twist.

You know that Hollywood’s formulaic anti-Americanism is on the verge of becoming its own branch of chemistry when my Japanese wife, whose comprehension of spoken English isn’t that great, just a few minutes into a film can discern which bogeyman (oil company/U.S. military/big business/conservative Christian) will emerge as the film’s bad guy.

The last movie I saw in a theatre was The Blind Side; I had already read the story, and want to see it on film (only after I had read the film didn’t trash the story or the people in it), because it’s a good, uplifting story, but also because I wanted to financially support good films. (It didn’t hurt that I was visiting friends for the holiday and they wanted to see it too.)

Before that, the last film I had seen in a theater was either Armageddon or Saving Private Ryan, whichever came out last. Some movies need to be seen on the big screen, at least the first time.

Quite frankly, I don’t watch movies at home either, whether rented or on cable. I just don’t have the time to sit and stare at the boob-tube; I need to be doing something else as well (which I can do when I watch shows on cable such as “How It’s Made” – I like to learn something for my time). I suppose I could get into the habit again if there were movies worth watching.

Hollyweird has made its choice – films trashing America do better overseas than here, and have the added fun of being what the Hollywood denizens think of America anyway. Since they hate us so much, they should all leave this terrible place and go live in one of the paradises they claim they love – like Cuba or Venezuela. >:-(

[…] THE MOVIE INDUSTRY IS DYING: “Hollywood’s elite have chosen nearly en masse to exercise their First Amendment right to ma… Oikophobia kills […]

once you have seen 10 years of hollywood product, you have seen everything they will ever produce. Now they have graduated to not even remaking it, they just let it sit on the shelf and re-release the same movie as “remastered” or a new media format, or even just to celebrate the anniversary of the original release, how special…

The writing of most films is poor because they appear to worry about being PC. PC makes it hard to tell a real story that has human interest. Most movies are predictable.

The other night I was watching one of the first episodes of “24.” (Yes, I am 10 years behind the times.)

Anyway, my wife walked in and asked me if the character on the screen — soon-to-be-President Palmer — was a good guy or a bad guy?

I explained that he was an African American running for President in a TV show. What did she think? My liberal wife understood right away that he would have unimpeachable character.

What other U.S. industry openly dislikes a major portion of its customer base? Constantly produces a product that mocks its customer base? Whose members look down on people who buy their products?
Hollywood needs to be taken down a peg or two for purposely trying to trash the culture.

This reminds me a lot of the rise of Fox News. For years the left-leaning press insisted that there were no right-leaning commenters or talking heads who were smart enough or interesting enough to justify being on TV. Then, along came Fox News and blew all that BS to heck and back.

There have been signs that Hollywood is more ideological that profit-driven for years. Anyone remember The Passion of the Christ? It made Mel Gibson a bazillionaire, and yet nobody– absolutely nobody– in Hollywood wanted a piece of that pie. They can remake Planet of the friggin’ Apes 50 times, but nobody can think of making another movie that reaches out to Christian audiences.

Can you cite the second highest grossing thing? I looked it up and it looked like it might be the 21st? Let me know. Thanks!

    Spiny Norman in reply to StotheM. | September 12, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    It’s the second-highest grossing feature-length political documentary after Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

      The article doesn’t say “political documentary,” it says that “2016 is already the second highest-grossing feature-length documentary ever.” I don’t think that’s correct. Not trying to nitpick, I actually enjoyed the film.

Thank God there are many Americans who will vote with their wallets and deny Hollywood our dollars. May their movies tank until the studios and actors wither and blow away.
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Repeal the 17th, enforce the 10th and may God Bless America!

Hi, Joel!! Excellent post, and I agree. The suspension of disbelief has become simply disbelief at some of the things that Hollywood revers. I can not watch some of these actor’s work without thinking of things they have said. It ruins my experience, regardless of the quality of the movie. I won’t pay to watch them. I can’t watch them for free.