YOU DON'T KNOW JACK, VALENTI!

THE HISTORY OF THE EX-MPAA CHIEF/LORD OF DARKNESS
-BY ERIC BRADNER

Iconic ex-chief of the Motion Picture Association of America Jack Valenti may be an attack dog in thrall to his corporate copyright overlords, but at least he’s an entertaining one, always ready with a down-home Texan figure of speech. And who else do you know that was a fighter pilot in World War II, was in JFK’s motorcade when he was assassinated, tried to ban the VCR, gave Fahrenheit 9/11 an R rating, and led the fight to bust college students file-sharing? Corporate whore Jack Valenti, that’s who. He may have been forced out of his role as the head of the MPAA to former Kansas congressional check-bouncer Dan Glickman, but don’t you worry about Jack, his history demonstrates that he always lands on his feet. 84-year-old Jack is apparently going strong, still under contract with the MPAA, and in demand as a business luncheon speaker and Republican-in-disguise talking head for cable TV news talk shows. His salary in 2004 was reported to be $1.35 million, which made him the 7th-highest-paid lobbyist in Washington, D.C., according to The National Journal. But the perks have got to easily exceed that, what with the hotels and airfare, not to mention the free movies, and all the popcorn he can eat!

1. Introduce protagonist, create conflict
According to his official bio on the MPAA’s website (which I have no reason to doubt), Jack Joseph Valenti was born September 5, 1921 in Houston, Texas, and at 15, overachieving Jack was the youngest high-school graduate in the whole city. At 16, he began work as an office boy in the offices of the Humble Oil Company (later to become Exxon.) As a young Army pilot in World War II, Lieutenant Valenti flew 51 combat missions as the highly decorated pilot-commander of a B-25 attack bomber with the 12th Air Force in Italy. He’s said never to talk about the war, but when receiving an award from the Department of Defense in 2004, said, “No matter how cruel the anti-aircraft fire, guns manned by Nazi assassins who fired at us almost point-blank, so low did we fly. Nor did we turn back because of the ferocity of the German fighter pilots in their Me-109s, so deadly and so bloody tenacious. We did what we were instructed to do though we were frightened beyond all comprehension.”

Jack received his B.A. from the University of Houston, doing all his studying at night, and working during the day. Yes, I know it sounds like a movie, but it’s in his bio, so it’s gotta be true. And not only was he involved in drama and the school paper, but he was president of 5 different campus associations! He got his M.B.A. from Harvard in 1948, and in 1952 co-founded the advertising/political consulting agency Weekley and Valenti. In 1955 he met the man he claims would have the most impact on his life, the then Majority Leader of the Senate, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Valenti’s agency was in charge of the press during the ill-fated visit of President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson to Dallas on November 22, 1963. Valenti was six cars back in the motorcade when the President was assassinated. “ I didn’t hear the shots,” Jack said, “But all of a sudden the cars went from 6 mph to 60.” “A senseless act of mindless malice,” Jack has said of the assassination. But he doesn’t believe in a conspiracy. “I personally knew every member of the Warren Commission from Earl Warren on down. They were men of extraordinary integrity and no one in the world can convince me otherwise.” Sounds like the man’s got his mind made up.

Within hours of the murder, Jack was onboard Air Force One, flying back to Washington, D.C., the first newly hired assistant to the new President. Describing Jackie, he said, “She was in a catatonic trance. Her eyes were open and they were quite opaque, but they weren’t seeing anything.” You can see Jack in the upper left-hand corner of the photo of LBJ’s swearing-in ceremony on the airplane, Jackie still in her brain & bloodstained suit. With nowhere to stay, Jack ended up being only the second (and the last) presidential aide to actually live at the White House, at least until he got his own place. That first night, Johnson lay out on his large bed with his aides and informally went over his plans, later to become his blueprint for social reform known as the Great Society. Jack was assigned to “handle” certain congressmen and senators for the president, that is, to get their support for Johnson’s legislation. Johnson passed the Civil Rights bill, student aid and Medicare, but couldn’t find a way to extricate the U.S. from the Vietnam conflict.

Jack says Nixon’s men were telling the South Vietnamese not to negotiate with Johnson, that they’d get a better deal with Nixon in office. Said Jack, “The Presidency became a burden that each day became more difficult to bear. The furrows in the face were deeper. The eyes were sadder. And it was almost visibly apparent that this war was breaking this extraordinary, formidable man who had never been broken before.” In 1965, Jack gave one of his more famous quotes about his boss, “Each night I sleep a little better, a little more confidently, because Lyndon Johnson is my president.” But by the next year, Jack had apparently had enough.

On June 1, 1966, Jack resigned his White House post to become only the 3rd man in MPAA history to be its leader. He provoked LBJ’s rancor when he quit. Said Jack, “A Benedict Arnold was the nicest thing he said of me.” Notorious mobbed-up MCA chieftain Lew Wasserman (friend of both Jimmy Hoffa and LBJ) handpicked Valenti to handle the film industry’s troublesome guilds and unions. He joined an MPAA in crisis. The “Hays Code”, named after the organization’s first chief, Will Hays, regulated what activities could (or more importantly, couldn’t) be portrayed onscreen. It was so restrictive that characters couldn’t even mention the word "abortion", let alone deal with the subject matter.

Gradually emboldened by the freedom seen in foreign films and the changing moral climate, by the early 1960s, filmmakers increasingly ignored the outdated Code. Films had been gently nudging the envelope of acceptability for some years, including more mature themes and language, and some conservative folks, especially in the Bible Belt, were making a stink and threatening boycotts. Jack had to intervene weeks after getting the appointment, to soothe local exhibitors who were quite afraid of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, a portrait of a foul-mouthed, bickering couple that ended up winning five Oscars. The MPAA removed the word “screw” and somehow made the film releasable, but its’ several blatant violations of the 40-plus-year-old Code belied the need for a new method of regulation.


A STUDIO PHOTO FROM ANTONIONI'S BLOW-UP

Later that year, MGM released Antonioni’s Blow-Up through a subsidiary in order to sidestep rules that participating studios (like MGM) would not release films without the Hays Code seal of approval. It was clear that the system was breaking down. Remember that in recent memory, studios had been forced to divest themselves of their theatres as a belated result of the anti-trust rulings of 1948, had let go of their contract players and that TV had taken much of their business. The industry needed to provide content that TV couldn’t in order to compete. Poor MGM had to auction off Dorothy’s slippers to pay the electric bills. And finally, in 1968, the Supreme Court upheld the right of cities and states to restrict children’s access to books and films deemed inappropriate by local standards. This presented the MPAA with the unwelcome prospect of dealing with several dozen censorship boards, each potentially wanting their own edited version of a film! Instead, Jack created the MPAA’s rating system, which would continue to evolve over the years. During his long career with the MPAA, he’s lobbied for various studio concerns, such as keeping film production in California, forcing other countries to accept a higher quota of American movies, and, of course, copyright law; anything that kept costs down and profits high. But the ratings system was his first challenge in the MPAA.

2. Rated XXX By An All-White Jury!
The MPAA’s infamously arbitrary and ridiculous standards have left many with the feeling that the board is biased in favor of major studio product. Well, guess what? The MPAA is a commission formed by, surprise!- the major studios, to pre-empt the hand of state-run censor boards, much like its’ early 30s predecessor, the Hays Office. (“Hays’ motto was “good taste is good business.”) The studios didn’t want their profits affected, so in 1968 the voluntary ratings system debuted. The “voluntary” ratings were in fact mandatory if the film was to be promoted, distributed and profited from. The reasons for a film’s MPAA rating are often unclear. A filmmaker will submit his film to the Ratings Board, and instead of a straightforward “You need to edit THIS out and THAT out in order to in order to get an R”, the filmmakers will have to often guess exactly what are the most offensive parts of a movie that needs to get “fixed” before the board will give a suitable rating.

Often filmmakers will re-submit films (and pay the fee) many times before they figure out what the notoriously unhelpful board wants excised. Some filmmakers have learned to distract the board by purposely leaving in a particularly objectionable scene to divert them from other scenes that they really want to keep in the film. Often times films with mature or controversial subject matter (but little sex and violence) may get an R or NC-17 rating, while a gore fest may slip through with an R rating, like the recent The Devil’s Rejects or Land of the Dead (does that mean that Glickman’s leading a kindler, gentler MPAA, at least in terms of giving more leeway for violence and content?) Midnight Cowboy was initially released with an X rating, but after it won the 1970 Oscar for best picture, the MPAA re-assigned it an R rating. The X rating (which the MPAA didn’t trademark as they did their other ratings) soon became associated with porn, though, and commercial filmmakers were forced to edit for an R.

Meanwhile, the G rating grew to be linked with bland children’s movies, which resulted in filmmakers adding profanity or potty humor to their films in order to NOT get a G rating. The PG-13 rating was instituted in 1984, because of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for Paramount and Gremlins for Warner Brothers. Everybody, even the producer of both films, one Steven Spielberg, thought that there was too much violence for a PG rating, but not enough for an R. Nowadays, a PG-13 rating is the most desirable rating for a film, in order for the studio to milk that free-spending teen demographic, and maximize the profit off their product.

The controversial NC-17 rating was instituted in 1990 for Henry and June, a film about the complicated sex life of bohemian writer Henry Miller. Initially meant to signify a provocative non-porn film that goes beyond what is allowed in an R rating, it soon became a dreaded missile that would sink a film. Most of the U.S.’s “family” newspapers and TV stations refuse to carry advertising for NC-17 films, and the larger video chains won’t carry the films, creating a built-in censorship where writers and directors don’t even bother with erotic or controversial material. That’s one reason why you don’t see many mature American movies about sex and relationships. In 1996, the television industry was forced by re-election seeking legislators to come up with some sort of TV ratings system.

Jack failed in his attempt to convince congress to adopt his own MPAA ratings system. Jack likes movies. Jack doesn’t like ALL movies. Valenti absolutely detested Oliver Stone’s JFK. He compared it to Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, and was outraged at his good buddy Johnson being called an accomplice to Kennedy’s murder. Valenti claimed Stone was too French for his own good. The French “believe everything is a conspiracy.” In a widely criticized move that backfired on them, the MPAA gave anti-Bush film Fahrenheit 9/11 an R rating, attempting to substantially limit its commercial appeal, by excluding the audience that needed to see it most, 16 and 17 year olds who would soon be of age to join the military.

The MPAA also forced the distributors to change the quote on the film’s advertisement, a quote from critic Richard Roeper saying, “Everyone should see this movie.” The brain trust at the MPAA reckoned that since they themselves had given it an R rating, it was inappropriate to use that quote, since not everybody COULD see the movie, unless a parent or guardian accompanies them. The frustrated distributors shortened the quote to “See this movie.” Clerks originally received an NC-17 rating, without any sex or violence. It was changed on appeal to an R. Other bothersome films the MPAA tried to cripple with NC-17 ratings included Kids, Happiness, Requiem For A Dream, Showgirls, Orgazmo, Spun and The Evil Dead. American Psycho received a PG-13after a bare-butt shot of Christian Bale was removed, but scenes involving gore and torture were allowed to stay in.

3. Cuddly Copyright Concierge
As Internet chat boards’ Lord of Darkness, Jack “If you cannot protect what you own, then you don’t own anything” Valenti has lobbied for the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, which lets Disney add another 20 years of squeezing royalties out of adaptations of other people’s 80-year-old stories, like Winnie-The-Pooh.) Historians and increasingly cash-strapped libraries and schools can scarcely afford such a corporate handout. Mary Bono suggested going with Valenti’s suggestion on copyright, “Forever plus one day.” On behalf of the litigious MPAA and RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America, the powerful music biz lobby) Jack was able to lobby the Grokster case before the ultimate ratings board-the U.S. Supreme Court! He lobbied the Senate to pass the 2004 Pirate Act, which made taping a movie in a theater punishable by a 3-year sentence. Damn, you might just as well kill somebody and take their copy of "The Dukes of Hazzard", you wouldn’t get much more time that way. Just a thought.

Jack lobbied hard for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which makes it illegal to build your own DVD player, or to thwart anti-copying programs; and the FCC’s Broadcast Flag, which will stop your TV recording from being distributed on the Internet. In the old days, if you wanted to make a “fair use” mix tape of favorite moments of films, or compilation of clips to illustrate points in a sermon or business presentation, it was fairly easy, you’d just pop in a tape and press record. Doing the same with DVDs requires the user to become an active criminal in order to bypass the digital encryption code. I’m not a tech-head, and I’m not the only one to get confused by all the techspeak. And that’s what the RIAA and the MPAA are counting on, that you will lose interest and allow them to continue to pass restrictive legislation. They cut the public out of the discussion, and want to control what you do with your own toys, making criminal of hobbyists. They want to you to continue to pay them royalties perpetually, in this outdated business model they still grasp onto.

Some dedicated hackers will always have the time to break a disc’s DRM code (digital rights management, although digital restrictions management would be more accurate.) The P2P genie is not going back into the bottle, and no matter how bad the industry’s file-sharing paranoia is, the MPAA and RIAA need to adapt to it as another driver in a rapidly fragmenting marketplace, not to merely sue students and try to muzzle the next generation’s hardware. Jack himself has said that “a lot” of the file-sharing going on when he would log into Kazaa was porn movies, which the MPAA has taken great pains to distance themselves from. So what’s the real problem here? The vast majority of intellectual property, such as a clip of the President speaking, used to be in the public domain. Now most is available only by permission (read: for a fee.)

To take the copyright argument to the extreme, we may see a day when Sony wants to charge us for looking at our own home movies, because they were shot on their digital product, use of which implies ownership. The power brokers want to control the future of ideas, and the presentation of our past. And they want us to pay again and again and again for each new “format”, no matter how old the content is. In June 2005, some classical music labels were upset at the BBC for offerings free downloads of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies. Fair use of our own culture is being sold to the corporations that can afford to lobby congress. And guess who their lobbyist is?

4. “When Is That Old Bastard Going To Leave?” (Meet The New Boss)
His bio claims him to be one of the few public figures that actually writes his own speeches. And as consistent as his trademark mixed metaphors and dumbed-down rhetoric are, how can anyone doubt it? Jack is quoted as saying that “We’re fighting our own terrorist war” against people who would pirate movies online. Whoa, they still can’t find Osama Bin Laden, but we can find and prosecute college students who downloaded The Matrix! I feel safer already!

In 2004, Jack put his foot in his mouth, in what most insiders consider to be the reason why he was “retired” from the MPAA. Presumably in response to its’ “top priority” on piracy, on September 30, 2003, Jack announced that the five major film studios had agreed with the MPAA in a ban on sending out video screeners. Jack himself admitted that the screeners only account for 1.5 % of piracy, so what was the real problem? The screeners are often the only way for independent film companies, whose films are not as widely distributed, to get their films seen by the eligible Oscar voters. But then, they didn’t pay for Jack’s houses; the major studios did. “In the past, some of those screeners – I don’t know how many – they got pirated.” He said at the press conference. “And I’ve got to close that loophole.” It was a public relations disaster for the MPAA; a full-page ad condemning the practice ran in Variety, backed by 142 big players like Ridley Scott, Martin Scorcese and Ron Howard. Legendary agent Ed Limato of ICM resigned the MPAA in protest. Soon, watermarked VHS tape screeners were sent to voting members on the condition that voters sign an extensive contract agreeing not to distribute their copy. Lots of hurt feelings abounded, from studio employees to indie studios to other award shows, all feeling as if the MPAA was accusing them of piracy. And of course the MPAA didn’t trust them.

Calls were made for Valenti’s ouster, and then he “retired” as chief. Of course, as it’s most recognizable figurehead, Jack still does some work for the MPAA, like lobbying to make the next generation of computers and discs to include “responsive circuitry”-making them uncopyable, or only copyable once or twice, or perhaps attempting an unauthorized copying would bring up a big picture of ol’ Jack waving his finger and saying “tsk, tsk” at you. Said Jack of his “retirement”, “I dreaded the thought of four years from now, three years, five years, somebody saying, “When is that old bastard going to leave?” Valenti said. “I think it’s good to leave at the height of the party. When people want you to stay, that’s the time to go.” So he left.

The MPAA’s new DC headquarters building was named after Jack. It would be wrong to be lulled into complacency by his “old bastard” remarks. Don’t forget, he has access to the best Hollywood doctors and personal trainers and even plastic surgeons, if he wants. At 84, he still might be in better shape than you, punk. On February 2004, upset at allegations against his former boss Johnson in a JFK assassination documentary on The History Channel, Jack gathered a few of his ancient Johnson Administration cronies and stormed their offices, demanding a retraction. Undoubtedly afraid of a long and draining lawsuit, the cable channel appointed a panel of historians to examine the documentary, who of course found the film’s charges “unfounded.” The History Channel apologized for the program. On April 1, 2001, Jack was nice enough to stop on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to sign something for a staffer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights protection group often at odds with his corporate masters. The item he signed? A home-taped Betamax tape. The same thing he told this very court twenty years ago would kill the film industry. I wonder if he got the irony.

Jack LOVED Mel Gibson’s torture epic The Passion of the Christ. “I thought Passion was a superior recounting of “the greatest story ever told’, the last days of Jesus. There is in the film the gravity and seriousness it deserves. There are moments so heart-rending, the tears come easily. I cannot but believe that people of all religions will find this truly an impressive (and respectful) piece of art and realism, emerging from the New Testament. As a cinema artist, you have just reason to be proud of what you have done.” No reports exist showing if he sent a similarly gushy letter of congratulations to Martin Scorcese after seeing his 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ. By comparison, the best quote I could come up with for Valenti successor Dan Glickman is the out-of-touch groaner “America is always rewarding people for their creative spirit.”

So I say to you, sir, I know Jack Valenti (through media quotes) and you, sir, are no Jack Valenti!” Valenti has written four books, three of which are non-fiction, and numerous essays and Op-Ed rants. Jackie Kennedy Onassis was even the editor of his political thriller, Protect and Defend! A review in The Library Journal stated, “It’s impossible to give a synopsis of the plot because there isn’t one.” Jack received the famous French Legion of Honor medal. He and his wife, Mary Margaret, live in Washington, D.C., but spend much time in Los Angeles. They have three grown children. A camouflaged conservative, he often shows up on cable talk shows as the straw man for the “liberal” viewpoint, giving an illogical and distracting argument that can be swiftly dismissed. He also usually contributes the limit to candidates from BOTH parties, in one period from July 2004 to June 2005 giving $ 17,600 to Republican causes, and only $10,000 to Democratic ones, according to figures from the Federal Election Commission. Jack and his wife both made contributions to the 2004 campaigns for Edwards, Kerry and G.W. Bush. (And his Daddy, too, back in the dizay!) If asked, Jack says, “I give to good people.” Or to old cronies, some have suggested, or anybody that sits on a committee that might influence the fate of the film industry. These actions have caused some wags to label Jack a DINO (Democrat In Name Only).

In 2004, he donated $2000 to five-term Republican Senator Orrin Hatch’s congressional campaign, as he has done for years, since Hatch first ran in 1977 on a term-limits platform. Hatch said in 2004 Senate hearings that he wanted to destroy the computers of file-sharing copyright scofflaws. Jack has also repeatedly contributed to the Republican campaigns of Arlen “Magic Bullet” Specter, Bill ”I am not a money launderer” Frist, and James “I shut down the House Committee on Assassinations” Quillen. From 1991 to 1994 the Valenti family contributed more than $140, 000 to various congressional campaigns. Jack and his wife, daughters Courtenay and Alexandra and his son John Lyndon have all made campaign contributions. In a story that somehow slipped through the cracks of the Enron and Worldcom scandals, Jack was on the board of directors (and the compensation committee) of long-time friend Robert Allbritton’s troubled Riggs National Corporation, whose Riggs Bank division was investigated by a Senate Subcommittee in 2004. Valenti was also reportedly involved in one of Allbritton’s early Texas savings-and-loan deals in 1950s Houston.

The Bush Family-connected Riggs Bank was convicted in 2004 of allowing numerous highly irregular transactions with: The Saudi Royal Family and some suspicious money orders funneled to friends of Al-Qaeda operatives; Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (while he was under house arrest in the UK they helped hide and move his money around while Spanish authorities were attempting to freeze his assets); and the brutal dictatorial Obiang family of Equatorial Guinea, which Riggs helped hide and move hundreds of millions of dollars of profit from oil money and official corruption, occasionally brought into the bank in a suitcase full of money. The E.G. president’s brother was infamous for torturing prisoners with stinging ants. Also involved in Equatorial Guinea were profits from questionable land leases by Jack’s former company, now called ExxonMobil. The board claimed it didn’t realize that any illegalities were taking place, which is seem by some as disingenuous, considering that the Equatorial Guinea account was Riggs’ main client, with aggregate accounts of $400 million to $700 million at a time. How could they NOT know what was going on with their main client?

A Senate subcommittee released a blistering report on Riggs Bank’s sloppy and arrogant violations of AML (anti-money laundering) rules, and a federal judge later questioned whether a $16 Million fine agreed upon by prosecutors was more than a mere business expense for Riggs. Perhaps the bank’s longtime CIA connections have something to do with the slap on the wrist and mainstream press blackout… Jack got his star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 2004, shortly after he retired (or according to some rumors, was forced out) on July 1, 2004, after 38 years of being the head director and president of the MPAA. His successor, Former Kansas congressman, Clinton Agriculture Secretary and Jeffrey Tambor doppelganger Dan Glickman immediately went to work, promising more crackdowns on piracy. Funny thing, though: Jack’s announced retirement date was September 1st, not July 1st.

Although Jack’s recent remarks had made it obvious that his tenure was ending soon, and replacement Glickman had apparently been selected months ago to succeed Valenti, Glickman seemed surprised when contacted by Reuters after the announcement. “I have nothing to announce”, he said, and added, “I have not signed any agreements”. The MPAA was criticized for appointing a Democrat in a highly partisan Republican-controlled congress, and many saw the stripping of $ 1 billion in studio tax credits as payback. Glickman has been applauded for holding regular board meetings, which apparently Jack didn’t do in his last five years in the position. One anonymous studio exec said, “Jack was a great ambassador, but he wasn’t the most organized guy.” On a funny side note, Glickman’s son Jonathan is a producer of brain cell-sapping entertainment like Mr. 300 and The Pacifier.

5. “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” (from Cool Hand Luke)

On July 12, 2005, he seemed to echo Republican talking points again, when he questioned why the Karl Rove leak of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame was such a big deal. “The fact is that all administrations leak”, he callously remarked. And as recently as July 19, 2005, Jack was quoted as saying he would advise Bush to announce a nominee for the Supreme Court that week to “wipe the Karl Rove story off the front page.” Guess what Dubya did the very next day? That’s right, he took fellow Texan Jack’s advice, and it worked for a while, too. In 2002, he somehow saw fit to give Bush a B plus in his oratory skills!

Dubya had “improved mightily” since his days as governor, said Valenti, managing to maintain a straight face. Jack does love to talk, and his colorful Texan metaphors are so ridiculously slanted towards big business and draped in misplaced patriotism that he comes off as a cranky old coot telling kids to stay off his lawn. Perhaps that’s why his apocalyptic forecasts are so entertaining at the same time that they are intimidating, since he is almost invariably ill-informed and on the wrong side of the issue, and with “willful blindness” loudly proclaims grim predictions with his reckless and ridiculously dumbed-down hyperbole. To fight and explain the truth would take a bunch of tech talk that would bore and alienate the non-tech masses, and above all Jack exploits this fact to his advantage. Hey, this is show business, right? An interesting thing happens when Jack talks. Suddenly we are talking about Jack and how melodramatic his elaborate folksy metaphors are, and - bang! - he has successfully subverted the dialogue from one concerning the issues to one concerning HIM and his delivery.

 

He is a master of skills that disinformation agents might tend to use. You gotta love a character that has said ALL of the following “un-fucking-believable” quotes:

On the embryonic cable industry, 1974 “(Cable will become) a huge parasite in the marketplace, feeding and fattening itself off of local television stations and copyright owners of copyrighted material. We do not like it because we think it wrong and unfair.”

On copyright, 1982 “It is very easy, Mr. Chairman, to convince people that it is in their best interest to give away somebody else’s property for nothing, but even the most guileless among us know that this is a cave of illusion where commonsense is lured and then quietly strangled.”

On the VCR, 1983
“We are facing a very new and a very troubling assault…and we are facing it from a thing called the video cassette recorder and its necessary companion called the blank tape. We are going to bleed and bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects one industry…whose total future depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine.”

“(Some say) that the VCR is the greatest friend that the American film producer ever had. I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone.”

On media concentration, 1984 “Will a democratic society allow just three corporate entities to wield unprecedented domain over television, the most decisive voice in the land? There are now only three national networks…There will never be more than three national networks.”

On film ratings, 1985 “I don’t know any other business that tells you not to go in and buy their product.”

On changing the X rating, 1987 “I don’t care if you call it AO or Adults Only, or Chopped Liver or Father Goose. Your movie will still have the stigma of being in a category that’s going to be inhabited by the very worst of pictures.”

On the public domain, 1995 “A public domain work is an orphan. No one is responsible for its life. But everyone exploits its use, until that time certain when it becomes soiled and haggard, barren of its previous virtues. How does the consumer benefit from the steady decline of a film’s quality?”

On the increasing cost of filmmaking, 1998 “A great shaggy beast prowling the movie forest, a fiscal Godzilla slouching toward our future.”

On re-election-seeking politicians criticizing Hollywood product, 2000 “I know that when you trash the entertainment business, your polling numbers go up.”

On making pro-war propaganda, 2001 “I will tell you that I heartily endorse Hollywood getting involved to help out in any way we can in this war.”

On an internet fan version of The Phantom Menace “correcting” universally despised Jar Jar Binks character, 2001 “It’s like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.”

On piracy, 2002 “Your cultures are like etchings drawn on this wracked and weary planet with a First Amendment in the very entrails of our democratic process, which is the prime reason why this republic has endured and prospered for so long.”

On the complexities of the marketplace, 2002 “If you make a TV show or a film that a lot of people want to watch, you will do very well. If you make a TV program or a film that few people want to watch, you will not do very well.”

In response to protests of anti-piracy commercials being shown in theatres, 2003 “’Taking something that doesn’t belong to you is wrong.’ I agree. Those five minutes before the movie previews start do not belong to anyone but me.”

On The Passion of the Christ, 2003 “I don’t see what the controversy is all about…This is a compelling piece of art. I just called Kirk Douglas and told him that this the movie to beat.”

On the appeal of American movies, 2003 “Yemeni students were out burning the American flag, chanting “kill the Americans.” As soon as the theaters opened at 7 p.m., bingo, they were all in there.”

On lobbying, 2003 “I think lobbying is really an honest profession. Lobbying means trying to persuade Congress to accept your point of view. Sometimes you can give them a lot of facts they didn’t have before.”

On anti-piracy commercials featuring rich Hollywood types, 2003
“I found the most convincing part to be the working stiffs, the guys who have a modest home and kids who go to public schools. They make $75,000 to $100,000 a year. That’s not much to live on, I don’t have to tell you that.”

On escapist entertainment, 2003 “We offer these families a couple of hours of emotional transport to an island of storytelling. Those few moments of detachment from daily anxieties are quite valuable and, perhaps, quite necessary, particularly in these scrambling and unquiet times.”

On fair use, 2004 “Now, fair use is not in the law. People are taking fair use and changing it to unfair use and claiming that it’s fair use.”

On the magic of digital copies, 2002 – “In the digital world, we don’t need back-ups, because a digital copy never wears out. It is timeless.” 2003 – “If you buy a DVD you have a copy. If you want a backup copy you buy another one.” 2004 – “When you go to your department store and you buy 10 cognac glasses and two weeks later you break two of them, the store doesn’t give you two backup copies. Where did this backup copy thing come from? A digital thing lasts forever.”

On anti-piracy technology, 2004 “I really do believe that we can stuff enough algorithms in a movie that only the dedicated hackers can spend the time and effort to try to plumb through those 1,000 algorithms to try to find a way to beat it.”

On rising film production costs, 2004
Like a “tapeworm nibbling and chewing at the fiscal molecules of our business.”

On his legacy, 2004 “I hope people will say I never had a hidden agenda, and I never played it fast around the turns, and that my integrity stayed intact.”

-Eric Bradner
eric@retrocrush.com

 

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