Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hittin' the Links

Today we reintroduce the “links” articles. In these articles, I’ll talk about one of Scott’s links in detail and then Scott will provide brief blurbs on some others. Sadly for Scott, I’m going to do something with the link he gave me that he did not expect: I’m getting political. :( The link in question (LINK) is an interview of Pixar’s Brad Bird, and I want to talk about what the Republicans can learn from Bird.

Worshiping The Past or Intimidated By The Past?: Bird describes Disney as “a classic Cadillac Phaeton that had been left out in the rain. It was this amazing machine that was beautiful but old and getting a little decrepit. . . [their] movies were still well executed, if uninspired.” He then ads that the problem with Disney was that:
The company’s thought process was not, “We have all this amazing machinery—how do we use it to make exciting things? We could go to Mars in this rocket ship!” It was, “We don’t understand Walt Disney at all. We don’t understand what he did. Let’s not screw it up. Let’s just preserve this rocket ship; going somewhere new in it might damage it.”
Substitute “Ronald Reagan” and tell me that doesn’t describe conservatives perfectly. Conservatives live in Reagan’s shadow, afraid to do anything he didn’t. We need to break free of this mindset and step out of his shadow.

Beating Complacency: One of the biggest flaws in conservatism today is this head-in-the-sand mindset by which conservatives assure themselves that everything will get better if they just keep doing what they’ve always done. Bird said it was the repudiation of this attitude which attracted him to Pixar:
[I was told], “The only thing we’re afraid of is complacency—feeling like we have it all figured out. We want you to come shake things up. ... For a company that has had nothing but success to invite a guy who had just come off a failure and say, “Go ahead, mess with our heads, shake it up”...
Even in good times, companies or political parties need to constantly fight against complacency. They need to be constantly evolving and looking for ways to improve, to make things better. This has been the biggest failing of conservatism for two decades now. . . it’s stagnated.

How To Fix Things: The Republican Party is famous for picking silverbacks as leaders. It always looks to its most senior members to set the agenda. That’s a horrible idea, especially when the current plan isn’t working. We act like GM in a Pixar world. Said Bird of how he shook things up when making The Incredibles:
I said, “Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody’s listening to.”
Almost every dying company that has ever turned itself around (and most of the best companies who stay on top) do this. They look for the people who have the ideas that the establishment thinks can’t be done. Conservatives need to learn to accept this and to stop hoping the establishment (Rush and Hannity and Boehner and Heritage Foundation) will stumble upon the next great idea. . . they are too comfortable to think like that. In fact, consider this from Bird as well: “The best leaders are somewhat subversive, because they see something a different way.” Who would you say are our subversive leaders?

Teambuilding: Finally, to make a successful film, Bird says you need teamwork with everyone’s “creativity [working together] in a harmonious way. ... Otherwise, it’s like you have an orchestra where everybody’s playing their own music. Each individual piece might be beautiful, but together they’re crazy.” This describes conservatism. Look at how none of the radio talkers work together and how Breitbart and Daily Caller compete rather than coordinate. Conservatism needs to learn the art of teamwork. Dozens of individuals suffering from groupthink is not teamwork.

In that regard, we need to learn to build up our people. Bird notes that Disney in its heyday and Pixar both have “Universities” to encourage their employees to “learn outside of their areas, which makes them more complete.” Most of the best companies do this do. Unfortunately, conservatives rarely do this. There should be policy shops in each area of expertise, public speaking programs, marketing/communications programs, etc. There is no excuse for any party member (Tea or Republicans) not to be fully trained in these things. Bird also notes that they designed the building specifically to force people to keep running into each other. Once again, the message is to come together as a team. It’s time conservatives became a village rather than a series of forts.


Now here are more links you might want to check out, courtesy of Scott:

The price of foreign funding

The teen romp 21 and Over is nowhere near my radar but, apparently, it was partly financed by Chinese money and the filmmakers were required to cut an alternate version of the film specifically for Chinese audiences... I hope I'm not the only one who has a problem with this! While the American version is a simple tale of youthful rebellion (with the requisite T&A), the Chinese version is a more wholesome story about the west's hedonistic ways. The filmmakers even had to shoot new material in China specifically for this version. While show business is above all a "business," this doesn't bode well for anyone: filmmaker or audience member.

The two stages of Hollywood soul crushing

Meet Daniel Wilson, author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising and Robopocalypse, both of which were going to be turned into movies at one point. Several years later and it still hasn't happened yet. Wilson details the high highs and the low lows and the long process involved in simply getting the chance to maybe make a movie one day. Truthfully, it's a miracle any movie gets made, let alone a good one!

A radical idea for the new Star Wars trilogy

The author is this article suggests that Disney remake the prequels. Of course they won't, but it's a pretty interesting idea nevertheless. I don't agree with all the ideas suggested here but no other movies have been analyzed to death as much as the prequel trilogy and the raw material is there - all it takes is someone who knows what to do with them.

15 thrillers from the 70s you may not know

In the midst of Vietnam, Watergate, ad infinitum, Hollywood managed to crank out some great thrillers, which reflected then-current fears and anxieties about our country and the people running it. Of the ones mentioned in this article, I can say the following: Black Sunday is badass, Executive Action would NEVER get made today, Twilight's Last Gleaming is good but not as incendiary as I expected, The Anderson Tapes is okay, and The China Syndrome is, for better or worse, a classic. The rest I need to see.

A look back at the penultimate Marx Brothers movie

1946's A Night in Casablanca is not a great movie but it's not bad. Not bad at all. It's really not a parody of Casablanca, despite Warner Brothers' concerns and Groucho's caustic letters to the WB brass. Once again, Groucho plays a hotel manager, Harpo is a valet for a sadistic bully (played by veteran Marx Brothers villain Sig Ruman), and there's a love story, a couple of songs, the usual. Not a classic but still worth watching. There's one exchange I love when Groucho's date tells him she wants champagne and when the waiter shows up, Groucho says, "Get this lady a cheese sandwich. Charge it to her!"


AndrewPrice said...

Scott, On the China thing, I think that's actually the future -- alternate versions of films for different countries.

The 1970s had some great thrillers.

K said...

Andrew: WRT your political comments, I recommend this lecture at AEI by Jonah Goldberg who addresses much the same thing. It's about an hour but you can skip the first 7 minutes or so.


I can't find a link for the vid itself so you may have to scan down to find it.

K said...

Scott: RE:A radical idea for the new Star Wars trilogy.

I just got back from a day at Disneyland which featured maquettes of Storm Trooper Donald Duck and Darth Mall Goofy. Let's just say I have a bad feeling about this.

Anonymous said...

K -

My bad feeling is that they (Disney and JJ Abrams) ultimately turn Star Wars into a generic sci-fi/fantasy blockbuster when it should be much more than that, just like how a James Bond movie shouldn't be just another spy flick.

But we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Forget the future - it appears to be the near-present!

BTW, it looks like I'm gonna be out of the house for a while but I will try to respond to everyone later. :-)

And no, it doesn't bother me that you went political with the article - not at all! Anything to stir up a discussion! :-)

Anonymous said...

The article about a possible (but not probable) Star Wars prequel remake. The story the writer came up with would make much better movies then the ones we got stuck with.

If I have kids, they will only ever know of 3 Star Wars movies and they will wish that someone makes some prequels.


rlaWTX said...

Warning: Recycled comment (from C'politics: "Entitlement") -
"It's really too bad (as I've said before) that there isn't actually some GOP-controlling spider sitting in the midst of a roving web so that all GOPers could get on the same dang page... "

Tennessee Jed said...

as a veteran of some 30 plus years in Fortune 500 corporate America, I am amazed Republicans don't see this more clearly. That model worked in America until roughly the mid-70's. But the pace of change has accelerated, and the future began to belong to smaller, faster more innovative entrepreneurs. Look no further than the American car industry or IBM to see how the world has changed. Campaign 2012 tended to follow the old safe model. Many of his methods have been used by savy corporations for years.

I saw virtually every one of the 70's thrillers.

While I appreciate Groucho's sense of humor, I must confess, I was never a huge fan of the Marx brothers films. Duck Soup was about it, although I liked the old Groucho You Bet Your Life show.

As for foreign funding, and Hollywood being a business ... well there is your answer. That is the age old question with the arts, though isn't it. Do you make a product to be valued artistically or commercially? I am reminded of a great little film by Stanley Tucci titled "Big Night" about two Italian immigrant brothers who started a high quality authentic Italian restaurant in Atlantic City. They were put out of business by some ass clown who essentially was serving Chef Boyardee to the masses. Sadly, I think the film suffered a similar fate.

Tennessee Jed said...

BTW, love the picture of Auric with his caddy "Oddjob." That was the best part of the film, and an incredible part of the book. I know Commentarians are not known for their interest in golf, but the match takes place at "Royal St. Mark's" a thinly disguised version of Royal Saint Georges, one of the permanent fixtures of the "Open Championship" rota.

In actuality, for the movie, a very nice Harry Colt designed course, Stoke Poges over in Buckinghamshire was used for filming. In fact the 7th at Stoke Poges was the inspiration for Allistair Makenzie's 12th hole, "Golden Bell" at Augusta National. I have never had the opportunity to play Royal Saint Georges. Maybe one of these times.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Goldberg is a smart man with some solid insights. There is a lot the GOP/conservatives can learn from the business world and I think what Bird says highlights a lot of it.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, If Hollywood is indeed starting, they are only just barely scratching the surface. I would look for versions that really bare no relationship to each other to be coming out soon.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, LOL! You can't shield your kids from the horror of the prequels forever! ;)

I've always thought the Harry Potter story could actually be made into an excellent set of prequels for Vader.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, LOL! That's quality recycling!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think the Republicans are handicapped by having a fundamentally wrong view of politics. They view politics as a unique activity and they cringe at the idea that you can run a political party like a business, that you market your brand, or that you need to sell your ideas. The result is that they resist learning from the business world. Hopefully, the newer generations are smarter about this.

I've seen almost all of the thrillers. There are a couple I missed.

Hollywood is a business and, as you say, that is that.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I know very little about golf, but I do like that scene and the club he's at a lot. :)

djskit said...

The link to 15 Thrillers from the 70's is gold! This list will keep me busy for some time. Executive Action looks fantastic!

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, That is truly a goldmine of cool movies. I've seen a lot of those and really enjoyed most of them. I've never heard of some of them though and I want to find them now. :)

tryanmax said...

Bird Brain: Brad does give some very good lessons and advice; definitely the sort of stuff that virtually any organization could glean from. It's certainly illustrative that the signs of complacency can so readily be applied to the GOP. That said, I used to work for one of those "black sheep" who started his own company. He often spoke about what he was trying to build in contrasting terms to his last employer while he simultaneously emulated the very things he claimed to have run away from! I bring that up b/c I think the GOP suffers from that problem as well in the way of certain personalities who co-opted the Tea Party as a slingshot for their political fortunes.

Little Trouble in Big China: My overwhelming sense is that one cannot employ a thing in order to suppress that very thing. In this case, the thing in question is capitalism. Yes, the Chinese funding comes partially from the Chinese government, but on the principle of "he who pays, says." This strikes me primarily as an act of desperation by a government who senses its own grasp weakening.

Crushed by a Robot: I realize we live in a world where a board game for which gameplay consists of calling out letters and numbers and responding by placing tiny pegs in little plastic boats gets adapted into a big-budget blockbuster, but having read Daniel Wilson, despite the titles, it's not the most movie-friendly fare. Perhaps I am the sympathy wall--I don't mean to be, and I wholeheartedly recommend his books--but it just doesn't surprise me that these projects have withered on the vine. Still, I would like to see Robopacalypse brought to the big screen, even if I can't expect fidelity to the source material.

Return of the Revenge of the Attack of the New Phantom Clone Strikes Back: Or Disney could just do what they did with The Lion King 1½...and do that thing with the "1½" bit.

More than I can shake a stick at: Wow! Delving into obscure territory. I haven't even heard of most of these. I think I've seen Odessa. That's all I've got.

Insert "Marxism" Joke Here: I'm pretty sure I've seen this, though I'm incapable of discussing it. Horsefeathers!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Yep. I think that's another problem the GOP faces is that too often the outsiders/black sheep really are just offering the same thing only with different people in charge.

I've seen most of the 1970s flicks, but not all. They are of a varying quality, but I generally enjoy them.

T-Rav said...

Hmph. Why did they feel the need to avoid an anti-hedonism message in the U.S. version of 21 and Over? Would have been fine with me.

As for the prequel thing, I think those movies should just never be touched by anyone ever again (especially George Lucas).

Anonymous said...

Anon/Scott -

I have to agree with Andrew here - you can't hide the prequels forever! It seems parents now have to face that question. Forget the birds and the bees, it's now "How and when should I show the kids the prequels?" :-)

(I am exaggerating, slightly.)

Anonymous said...

Jed -

Some of the Marx Brothers films are better than others but they're all worth watching. Then again, I never got into Abbot & Costello so I'm in no position to judge someone else's taste in classic comedy!

As for art vs. commerce, I suppose the best filmmakers are the ones who can balance the two. But as long as you stick within your budget (and your film was budgeted wisely), then there shouldn't be any problem.

Of course, "Hollywood accounting" usually means no film turns a profit.

Anonymous said...

djskit -

Yeah, it's a good list! Executive Action almost makes a good companion piece to JFK, at least the part about Oswald being a patsy - imagine that as its own movie and you have Executive Action.

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

Bird Brain - I've mentioned this to Andrew many times and you hit on it again: the idea that you can be a newcomer with great ideas but what's to stop you from being "assimilated" by the system?

China - Let us hope. The Chinese government, I've read, also has some arbitrary rules about what they like and don't like and it's that aspect of it that bothers me. That a perfectly good film might need to change something - harmless to us but bad for them - to appeal to a foreign government.

Robot - Never read his books, though I did give How to Survive… to a co-worker once as a gift. She enjoyed it.

Prequels - "1 1/2" might not be a bad idea, similar to how Shadows of the Empire took place in between movies but with mostly different characters. There is interesting material to be found there.

70s - I've never seen Odessa but it's been in my Netflix queue forever.

Marx - To quote a character from their 1938 film Room Service, "Jumping butterballs!" :-)

Anonymous said...

T-Rav -

You'll have to ask the Chinese government about that. :-)

As for the prequels, I don't see anyone touching them anytime soon, except for fans in an effort to improve them and I wish them luck!

Anonymous said...


I suppose you are right, so I'll avoid the issue by not having kids so I don't have to deal with the whole 'prequel' issue.


Anonymous said...

Scott/Anon -

Ha! I wouldn't go that far. The key is education so as long as the kids know why the prequels turned out the way they did and are prepared for them, the trauma can be kept to a minimum. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

ScottAU, OR... you could have thousands of kids, enough to form an army, and then you could send them out to rid the world of this evil! :)

Alex said...

I have to agree with Andrew, only to the extent that it's the mainstream GOP that sucks, not conservatism in general. The mainstream, country-club Republican types want to be liked by liberals--who essentially run the social circles in D.C.--that they are, essentially, Democrat-lite, and they hate conservatives. These old-guard GOP dinosaurs absolutely loathe the Tea Party, libertarians, and anyone in favor of small government.

I disagree with you, Andrew, because these people are not "worshiping" Reagan. If only! These GOP losers have gotten so far from Reagan, the Republican party is unrecognizable from that of the Gipper. They've absolutely stepped out from his shadow. Remember: Reagan was the Tea Party of his day. The country club GOP establishment hated him then. They were embarrassed by him. They thought he was a rube. Why, big government was the direction the country was going in, after all: even Nixon was a big-government Republican. Who did this actor think he was, anyway?

No, the problem is not conservatives or conservatism, it's the entrenched Beltway-class Republicans. As a side-note, I'd hardly call Rush, Hannity, or the Heritage Foundation the GOP "establishment," though Boehner fits that bill perfectly. There is no new grand idea the Republican party needs. It needs conservatism. It's an old idea, but it's one that works. It got us independence and gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the freest, richest, most humane society ever conceived in the entire history of human civilization.

The mistake these same GOP losers are making is trying to move leftward. As if being all for amnesty is all of a sudden going to make Hispanics vote for Republicans en masse! Please. That's just one example, but the premise is that, when Democrats lose, they double-down on their philosophy: it was the messaging, not their politics. They dig in. They fight. They rally around those who lost elections and get them back in the ring. They act like an opposition party. When Republicans lose, they start blaming conservatism. They start ostracizing those who lost elections. They blame their voting base. They blame their core principals, and abandon them one by one. They go along with the Democrats because, hey, they won. They gave away the store. Thank God for Rand Paul and Mike Lee and Ted Cruze and the few small-government, classical liberal conservatives we have in there now. That's what the Republican party needs more of, and, since that's what the McCains and Grahams of the world hate, that is why the Republican party is well on its way to becoming a rump party.

Alex said...

I am aware that the above has nothing to do with movies, so to keep it on-point, some comments:

Brad Bird is both very creative and a very astute businessman. An interesting combination.

I do not like this idea of recutting or rewriting films for foreign markets. Talk about compromising artistic integrity! I was similarly steamed when I learned that the Red Dawn remake substituted North Korea for China. Weak.

Remaking the prequels would be fantastic. It would show balls, something I feel Hollywood doesn't show too often. In real-life, I mean. They show a lot of, literal, balls in their movies.

Anonymous said...

Alex -

Brad Bird seems to be that rare combination of creative and business-savvy. That's not to say other filmmakers are only one or the other but Bird also make great movies, which is even rarer!

I also don't like the idea of re-cutting. It seems to be a necessary evil in today's world but I suppose it's better to edit a bastardized version for other countries (21 and Over) vs. releasing the bastardized version here (Red Dawn).

At this point, people are probably ready to move on. Better to do new stories than re-do older ones - leave that to the enterprising fans and their re-edits. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Alex, I don't want to get too deep into this argument, but the evil RINO GOP establishment holding back conservatives is a myth. It WAS true in the 1980s and Reagan fought against them. But starting in the 1990s, those people vanished and the party was taken over by a combination of neocons and Religious Right. That's why the GOP platform is awash in talk about gays and abortion. That's why every one of the party leaders signs all the pro-life and anti-gay pledges, and why they all sign Norquist's anti-tax pledges. The idea that there are secret RINOs holding conservatives back is a PR point used by conservative politicians to build a victim mentality to milk their supporters.

As for Rush and the other talkers, they are very much "the establishment." They are honored guests and speakers at most conservative events. They get shows on networks like Fox. They wine and dine with GOP leaders and presidential candidates. They haven't been rebels since the GW Bush Sr. years.

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