Register Saturday | December 7 | 2019

Even Playing Field of Dreams

The last few days of my cold put me out of commission, but gave me a chance to watch a couple movies: “Coffee and Cigarettes” and “Supersize Me.” I like Jarmusch’s films; even when they don’t totally work, they have unique characters and special moments. But this movie was disappointing. The black and white was beautiful, but I found myself getting bored during some of the vignettes. Maybe that was the point. Or maybe I was missing the deeper meanings, but for some reason it didn’t work for me. Of course, there were a few really good pieces, particularly the Alfred Molina/Steve Coogan piece and the Cate Blanchett scene, which were both about celebrity and Hollywood (which maybe says something about me). But overall the film’s disjointed nature (which worked for some of his other films, like “Night on Earth”) didn’t work this time for me. Maybe because I don’t drink coffee and I don’t smoke.

The other film, “Supersize Me,” the surprise documentary hit, was surprisingly fascinating. I had figured the film was just a gimmick, but Morgan Spurlock managed to bring a Michael Moore-esque approach to the fast food industry, chronicling the decline of his health while exploring the obesity epidemic in straightforward and compelling ways. It made me never want to eat at McDonald’s again, so I guess Spurlock succeeded with me (and many others, judging by the film’s success and McDonald’s sudden interest in healthier foods). It’s nice to see that documentaries are catching on and even changing people’s attitudes. I have a feeling most of these issue-driven films already preach to the converted, unfortunately, but you have to hope there are a few fat kids out there who might think about changing their diets. The movie should really be shown at schools and get a prime time slot on a network, but we all know that will never happen. (The downside of our capitalist ways, I suppose).

I’ve been thinking about the media a lot lately. Probably because of the election. I can’t help but feel like the news media did a terrible disservice to the nation in the way it covered the candidates and their views. What made news and what didn’t was highly suspicious, I must say. Swift Boat Veterans? Those fools should not have even made the news, period. But what is more interesting to me is the money that went into television advertising for the campaigns. The candidates had to raise over a billion dollars in order to fund their ads, and the loopholes in the campaign finance reform laws only made the situation worse. So now there is MORE money being spent, which effectively means MORE BRIBES (aka “soft money”).

The dumb thing about this situation is this: politicians, who are “public servants” must spend months raising money and then have to spend it at TV stations in order to air their views. But the TV stations get their airwaves from the government, virtually for FREE! That makes absolutely no sense. That’s like if I checked out a library book and sold it but never had to pay back the library. So the solution is pretty simple: candidates shouldn’t have to pay to be on TV when the TV stations owe their entire existence to the FCC! Would it be so hard for each of the major candidates to be granted an allotment of “TV minutes” that they could spend on airtime? Of course, you could put rules into the mix, much like a cellphone. They have a certain amount of night and weekend minutes and peak hours cost more minutes. And they couldn’t just spend all their minutes in one place, but would have to spend them throughout the airwaves, on networks and cable. Would that be so bad? It would give the candidates what they deserve: AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD. WITHOUT ANY MONEY INVOLVED. It would certainly make them think twice about wasting everyone’s time and would likely relieve those “battleground states” from being bombarded with constant advertising. But most important, it would make campaigning more about messages and less about money, the cause of so much corruption in the political process.

So Hillary, Barack, George, John, Nancy, Dennis, and the rest of you in D.C., that’s my idea. (I have no doubt they read this blog). Take it and make it happen. I’d do it myself but I’m just a filmmaker, not a politician. Stop letting the television channels get a very profitable free ride when it comes to elections. Make them go back to their original intention of SERVING THE PUBLIC. At least a little.

Now that I've solved American politics, I need to figure out how to get the movie theaters to stop showing those stupid commercials before the movie. More on that later.