"Everything is as it should be."

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American Factory: A Review and Commentary

****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR MOVIE INFORMATION/SPOILERS!! CONSIDER THIS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT!!****

My Rating: 3 out 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. See it just to see the depressing and fast-approaching future for all American workers…and to see the consequences of America’s pro-corporate/globalist policies over the last forty years.

American Factory directed by Steven Bognar and Julie Reichert, is a documentary that chronicles the trials and tribulations of a Chinese company, Fuyao, opening a factory in Dayton, Ohio. The film is the first to be distributed by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, and is currently streaming on Netflix.

American Factory is an infuriating film that will surely get your nativist hackles up and leave you red…white and blue with anger…I know it did with me. It is nearly impossible to watch this film and not walk away loathing the American working class for their self-sabotaging stupidity, the American ruling class for their avarice and corruption, and China and Chinese nationals for their arrogance, condescension and all-around disgusting deception.

The film starts with the closing of a GM plant outside of Dayton in 2008, allegedly due to the economic collapse. My biggest problem with this film is revealed in that simple assertion of blame because it is supposed to give context but is actually entirely, and deceptively, devoid of context. You cannot tell the story of American Factory and Fuyao’s move into Dayton without explaining the fertile ground upon which that story takes root. That fertile ground is the blood-soaked soil of post-organized labor America, and it began to take shape during the Reagan presidency when blue collar union workers voted for the flag-waving Republican former B-movie actor en-masse in 1980, and then Reagan swiftly turned around meticulously went about destroying organized labor in America.

The ground was further fertilized when Democrat Bill Clinton came to office in the 90’s and proceeded to do to America’s manufacturing base what Reagan did to organized labor…destroy it. Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement which was a boon for the investor class and ruling elites but was like a nuclear bomb dropped on blue collar workers and the working class in America. Manufacturing jobs fled the U.S. and in their wake left former bustling cities and towns looking like Hiroshima and Nagasaki after World War II. The American worker has never recovered from the back to back Reagan-Clinton double devastation.

To add insult to injury Americans followed up the disaster of Clinton by deciding they had to suffer through the even more pro-globalist, pro-business, pro-investor class, pro-ruling elite administration of George W. Bush. The Bush regime’s tenure was such an economic holocaust that it not only left the working class and blue collar workers in a pile of steaming rubble, but obliterated the middle-class and once prosperous middle-class neighborhoods with the housing bubble and subsequent collapse, followed by prodigious corporate bail outs.

The final bit of context is that this film is distributed by Barrack Obama’s new production company Higher Ground…and he has some nerve attaching himself to this movie as it is the equivalent of O.J. Simpson’s production company Good Husband distributing the Oscar winning documentary O.J.: Made in America. Obama is just as responsible for the cataclysm that American workers face today as his despicable predecessors Reagan, Clinton and Bush II. It is astonishing that Obama is getting praise for distributing this documentary highlighting the plight of working class Americans, when…you know…he could’ve done something to actually help them during the eight years he was President of the United States but chose to side with Wall Street instead.

When Obama came into office the economy was in ruins and he had the greatest opportunity of any president since FDR to make significant and lasting structural changes…but instead he chose to double down on business as usual and backed the Bush TARP plan and appointed to his administration or took on as his advisors globalist, neo-liberal, free trade, deregulating Wall Street whores like Little Timmy Geithner, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin and his acolytes, the same pricks who were responsible for the economic collapse in the first place. Obama chose to bail out corporations and shareholders and as a result they got richer, and everyone else got a whole lot poorer, and he also chose not to go after the Wall Street criminals who created the whole mess (or the Bush war criminals…but that is a story for another day).

Obama proved with his handling of the economic crisis and healthcare that he is a really disgusting charlatan who ran on “hope and change” but ruled on “fuck the working people”, just like his predecessors. Liberals and Democrats desperately need to disabuse themselves of the notion that Obama is a “good guy” and was a good president. A good way to do that is to watch the Flint, Michigan section of Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 11/9, and to educate yourself on Obama’s pro-corporate/globalist economics and then watch American Factory.

Once you have the genuine context for American Factory in place, then you can understand and become enraged by the same man, Obama, who along with his fellow establishment errands boys Reagan, Clinton and Bush, caused this catastrophe, having the temerity to comment on the horror of it.

American Factory shows America being colonized by not only foreign money, but foreign workers and foreign work culture. The globalist/NAFTA induced exodus of American manufacturing jobs in the 90’s to the cheap labor havens in China and elsewhere, hollowed out America and now foreign investors are coming in like carrion to pick away at the corpse. The systematic de-unionization of the American worker is now being exploited by billionaires, in this case a Chinese one, who come to our country and openly and blatantly shit on American workers, American culture and America…and we not only let them, we give them titanic tax breaks to thank them for it.

The American workers at the Fuyao plant in Toledo reveal themselves to be just as cowardly as the men in government who put them in this situation. The Chinese nationals treat these American workers with such disrespect and disdain that it is both shocking and repugnant. The Chinese nationals do the same to American laws as they routinely ignore environmental and work place safety laws, putting American employees at great risk. And if someone gets hurt on the job? Fuck them…they are fired.

The workers are so scared, so frightened and so weak after forty years of Reagan/Clinton/Bush/Obama, that they are totally devoid of any backbone. These workers should be ashamed of themselves for rolling over like dogs to these repugnant and despicable Chinese invaders. The shots of American workers groveling as they shake hands with the piggish billionaire owner of Fuyao, the grotesque Cao Dewang, who fancies himself a modern-day capitalist version of Chairman Mao, is revolting. One of Dewang’s most illuminating moments of assholery comes when American workers ever so gently resist against his authoritarian rule and he blames it on their anti-Chinese racism…classic. How does no one take a wrench to this vile asshole’s head and crack it wide open? How do none of the American workers show their Chinese overlords what a good old American beating looks like? Yes, they would lose their jobs and maybe go to jail, but at least they’d send a message to their enemies that Americans still have some self-respect, dignity and balls…for as the saying goes, “it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”

The most infuriating thing about this film is watching the American workers expose themselves for their staggering stupidity and weakness. How can anyone do anything so dumb as to trust any company, nevermind a Chinese one, to do the right and treat their employees well? How can anyone be so stupid…so mind-numbingly stupid, as to vote away their only chance at leverage and give away their only weapon?

I hate to say this but it needs to be said…if you are that stupid and that weak that you cannot stand up to your oppressors, cannot think strategically and tactically, not only don’t vote to empower yourself but vote to disarm and neuter yourself, and are so gullible as to put your trust into a corporation after watching corporations rape working people over the last forty years, then you deserve the shit sandwich you are being force-fed.

American Factory does a lot to reinforce negative stereotypes of both the Chinese and Americans, it does this by only giving viewers a shallow glimpse into the people living out this culture clash.

The Chinese workers are shown to be slavishly dedicated to their country and company over family, single-mindedly disciplined, and diabolically deceptive. The Chinese nationals are shown as two-faced rats, conspiring to destroy their American counterparts. The Chinese nationals are proud to take advantage of American hospitality by befriending American workers for the sole purpose of gaining disparaging information on them in order to ultimately fire them.

American workers fair no better in the film. The American workers who go to China do everything they can to reinforce the stereotype of the fat, lazy American, which the Chinese already whole-heartedly believe. For instance, when the American workers go to a corporate meeting in China they waddle in wearing sports and concert t-shirts and looking overall like a disheveled collection of complete and total unprofessional shlubs.

The American worker’s time in China is like a bad SNL skit come to life life. It is astounding that these embarrassments lack the intelligence and social grace to understand that maybe they should put their best foot forward and at least wear a button down shirt and try to carry themselves with some remote semblance of dignity.

Nothing is so cringe worthy as the fat, weepy American who gets emotional watching a bizarre group wedding during an event at corporate headquarters. This blubbering jackass ends up being consoled by a bunch of incredulous Chinese workers who look at him like he is some comic American mascot, like the Philly Fanatic or something, that has gone insane.

American Factory shows that America’s demise is undeniable. The workers in this film are symbolic of America, they prove themselves to be worthless and weak. God help us if we ever get into a shooting war with China because they will absolutely kick our fat, stupid asses. That is the thing that becomes crystal clear while watching American Factory, that we actually are at war with China right now, but only China seems to know and acknowledge this. The Chinese workers in America are soldiers on the front line for China, and they have knives sharpened and ready to plunge into American’s backs at the first chance they get, but the Americans are oblivious and have been softened by relentless conditioning to do nothing but repeat soft platitudes about how “ we are all one”.

I actually have great respect for these Chinese workers and their patriotism and devotion to China, as well as China’s commitment to its long term strategy to dismantle American economic and global hegemony, I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of my country. I also wish that the U.S. had the same level of dedication, discipline and forethought that China does, and instead of fighting against its working people, fought for them.

The most insidious of the Chinese nationals highlighted in American Factory is the new president of the Toledo operation, Jeff Liu, who has lived more than half of his life in America (and may actually be a citizen, it is unclear) but absolutely despises America and Americans. To be clear, Liu is an enemy of the American people in every way, shape and form, and deserves to be dragged out of his office and beaten senseless by an angry mob of Ohioans. Liu is a walking advertisement to severely restrict immigration, even legal immigration, into America. Our top colleges and universities are overflowing with students from China who come here to get an education only to then turn around and use it as a weapon for China to undermine this country. American Factory exposes this deadly deception and charade, it is like the Lenin maxim that “the capitalist will sell you the rope with which you intend to hang him” brought to life in Technicolor.

It isn’t just the Chinese nationals who are revealed to be duplicitous, as there are numerous American traitors in Fuyao management who sell their soul and side with the Chinese in their struggle against American workers. I would also be willing to bet that American elites and those on Wall Street and in the management/investor class will watch this movie and deeply empathize with Cao Dewang and his struggles to run a business and not with their fellow Americans and their desperate struggle simply to survive.

The war waged on American workers isn’t only being waged by the Chinese but across the board by all in management, the investor class and the ruling elite. As the end of the film shows, all workers are under siege and the race to make them obsolete and entirely expendable is well under way. The dream of management and the elite is to make the American worker an extinct species, and with the unions a perilously endangered species, extinction for all American workers is becoming more and more inevitable. The dream of the ruling class will be a nightmare for the rest of us.

In terms of the actual filmmaking on display, American Factory is a good…but not great, film. The film is nicely paced and does a good job of not interfering with the subject it is documenting, but the failure to adequately give proper context to the struggle playing out on screen undermines the film’s credibility and impact. The film also gives us glimpses into different peoples, both American and Chinese, and their lives around the factory, but these glimpses are much too short and shallow to give us any insight beyond caricature, and thus we are left with stereotypes and not insight.

In conclusion, this film is unintentionally an indictment of the establishment and the globalist, pro-business, pro-free trade, anti-union politicians and media elite who are responsible for the carnage that has devastated the American worker. I can’t imagine that anyone with half a brain in their head and a functioning heart in their chests could watch this film and not, at least once, throw something at their television screen. If you want to see the not-so-distant future of all America and the present day reality for blue collar workers and how Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama used free trade, unfettered immigration, both legal and illegal, and deregulation to turn first world America into a third world country…go watch American Factory (and the Flint section of Fahrenheit 11/9)…and remember the person who is distributing this film is complicit in the calamity documented within it.

©2019

Movie Subscription Services and Box Office Booms and Busts

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 02 seconds


There has been a lot of consternation out here in La La Land about the state of the movie industry in 2019. I thought I would take this opportunity to address the situation in an attempt to either allay concerns or ring the alarm bell.

The biggest reason that the money-hungry corporate overlords of Hollywood are so concerned is that the box office is down 10% from last year. There have been a lot of think pieces that speculate as to why the industry is supposedly in a gully. The most common refrain in these articles from the entertainment media is that the box office dip is due to plague of low quality, unoriginal movies and “franchise fatigue”.

These theories, on their surface, appear to be somewhat accurate, as the vast majority of movies are pretty awful and you seemingly can’t walk ten feet in Hollywood without tripping over yet another franchise film or reboot. While those two things are true, they don’t necessarily explain why the box office is down 10% this year in particular as last year Hollywood churned out a plethora of terrible movies and a cornucopia of franchise films.

Last year and this year at the movie theatre are strikingly similar in a myriad of ways…2018 had some massive blockbusters in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, while 2019 boasts box office smashes Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. In addition, 2018 had an animated hit with Incredibles 2 and 2019 has Toy Story 4, 2018 had big box office results from secondary superhero movies, like Aquaman and Deadpool 2, while 2019 has Shazam and the soon to be released Spider Man: Far From Home. Even the sort of middle brow dramas are similar, with both years showcasing bio-pics of 1970’s rock icons, Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) and Elton John in Rocketman (2019), as are the horror/thriller films, where 2018 had A Quiet Place and 2019 has Us.

The sad reality is that, just from a quality perspective, movies from last year are just as bad as last year. The year before last, 2017, had a cavalcade of great movies, like Dunkirk, Phantom Thread and even quality big budget films like War for the Planet of the Apes. But last year and this year have both been pretty terrible for cinema. The lack of quality is certainly a big reason why the movie industry is in a creative “gully” so to speak, but it doesn’t explain why there is such a precipitous drop off in box office from last year to this.

“Franchise fatigue” is certainly something that exists…hell, I suffer from it…but that doesn’t mean it adequately explains the drop off in box office. If you look at the box office numbers, it would seem to indicate that the opposite is true. Both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame did record breaking business this year and they are franchise films…and Black Panther and Infinity War did great last year as well. In my opinion there are most definitely storm clouds on the horizon for Marvel/Disney, but it ain’t raining yet and the sun shone upon Mickey Mouse and his Marvel compatriots brightly the last two years.

So if the studio executives and the entertainment media are wrong with their theories about the box office decline in 2019…then what is really going on with the movie industry and why? The problem with these Hollywood elites is that they don’t spend time on the ground in the battle for box office dollars. As someone who spends his time either on the ground or under it, I have some insights as to what is causing the trouble with 2019’s box office deflation.

To start, I contend that while the box office is down this year, it is a result of a few factors, one of the most glaring is that the box office from last year was artificially inflated, thus skewing the intensity of this year’s decline. Yes, there is a decline this year compared to last, but last year was not as financially robust as it appeared to be, in fact it was a bit of a bubble.

I also contend that there is a direct correlation between last year’s box office spike and this year’s box office deflation and the rise (2018) and fall (2019) of movie subscription services like MoviePass and Sinemia. In January of 2018 there were approximately 3 million subscribers to either MoviePass, Sinemia or both. Those subscription services charged a flat fee to customers, in MoviePass’s case $9.99 for unlimited films a month, and in Sinemia’s case $14.99 for 3 films a month, and then would pay full price to theaters/studios when their customers bought tickets. The business model was obviously flawed, but the psychology of it is similar to a gym membership, as these companies were hoping people would sign up but not actually use the service. That approach failed as both services went under in various forms this year because they went deeply into debt paying the movie studios full price for the tickets their members bought.

I had both a MoviePass and Sinemia membership in 2018 and used them constantly. For me, paying $25 total per month for both services meant that if I went to just two films a month I was actually saving money, as tickets in Los Angeles can run as high $16 per movie. Considering I suffer from a medical condition called Cousin Michael-itis where I have abnormally short arms and extraordinarily deep pockets, it should be no surprise that I took advantage of these services.

In 2018 I averaged between four and five movies a month, which was a significant spike in my movie going from the previous year when I had no subscription service memberships. Through these subscription services the price of a movie ticket for me essentially dropped to around $5 per film, which made going to the movies a much more palatable option.

For me, MoviePass and Sinemia allowed me to go see movies I would never have gone to see if I had to pay full price. For example, one of my favorite films from last year was A Quiet Place, which is a horror/thriller movie, a genre I usually entirely ignore. I took a chance on A Quiet Place because I wasn’t paying $16 to see it…so why not? I ended up loving the movie and saw it TWICE using MoviePass and Sinemia, and I got other people to go see it too through passionate word of mouth and my glowing review. Hereditary was another horror film I would normally never see but took a chance on in 2018 because of MoviePass.

It wasn’t just horror movies either, by my count there are in total 26 movies in 2018, from big budget blockbusters to indy art house films, that I went to see in theatres which I never would have seen if it weren’t for MoviePass and Sinemia. Movies such as American Animals, Jurassic World, Ready Player One, Red Sparrow, First Reformed, Hearts Beat Loud, Leave No Trace, Mission Impossible, Eighth Grade, The Wife, We the Animals, A Star is Born and on and on and on.

Now if all 3 million of these movie service’s former subscribers were like me then that means that 2018’s box office was inflated by at least 3 million full priced tickets sold on 25 films over the course of the year. (Considering the plethora of movies made last year and the subscription service's main customers being similar to me, big movie fans, it seems plausible that those extra tickets purchased could be spread over a large swath of different types of movies.) With the elimination of those extra 3 million tickets paid for by the subscription services, that would mean about a $1.125 billion difference in domestic box office gross from 2018 to 2019, and that doesn’t include peripheral gains from word of mouth marketing by subscription members (nor does it include the concessions bought by these customers at the theater which greatly enhanced theater owner profits).

The domestic box office from last year was $11.6 billion and is projected to drop 10% this year. 10% of 11.6 billion is….1.16 billion. If MoviePass and Sinemia subscribers used the service like I did in 2018, seeing an additional 25 movies that they otherwise would not have seen, that would account for an additional $1.125 billion in gross at the box office (3 million extra tickets bought for 25 films at $15 per ticket). Granted, this theory is based upon my anecdotal use of subscription services and projecting that use onto other members, but since MoviePass and Sinemia have not released the data on their users usage rates, all I can do is speculate. That said, my thesis does seem to line up pretty well with the known box office data.

The elimination of these subscription services and the billion dollars they injected into the movie industry which resulted in them basically subsidizing movie studios, seems to me to be an obvious reason for the drop in box office, yet the studios and the entertainment press, like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter (or the New York Times for that matter), never mention it as a factor, nevermind the main factor...why is that? The reason for Hollywood’s and the media’s ignorance on this issue is that while both studio executives and entertainment media consume a great deal of movies, hence their explanation being “franchise fatigue or low quality…they don’t have to pay to consume them, so ticket prices are overlooked.

Studio execs and entertainment media either get screeners (free dvd’s from studios) or they go to free screenings. Paying to see a movie is something they rarely if ever do, and considering how much money they make, they do not ever have to consider the cost of tickets into the equation of whether they’ll see a film. If, God forbid, these people ever had to pay for a movie ticket, the difference between $5 and $15 is negligible to them in the big picture, whereas for me, and most “regular” working people, that $10 is a big deal, especially over the course of a month/year if you see multiple films. The Hollywood and media elite are immune to issues like ticket prices, but here on the ground in the battle for customers, it is a major issue. This is why studios and entertainment media are totally ignorant to the impact of MoviePass and SInemia crumbling…they suffer from what I call “Cinema Privilege”. I define Cinema Privilege as being immune to cost when it comes to consuming movies.

When I had MoviePass and Sinemia I had Cinema Privilege too…but now that I don’t have them and I have to pay full price to see a movie it greatly alters my viewing habits and the frequency of my trips to the theatre. I do not make studio executive or even Hollywood Reporter money, I run my own business and margins are thin so I do not have the cash to spend to pay full price to roll the dice on a movie that may or may not be any good (especially if odds are it isn’t very good). I think I am not alone…and thus the current cratering of box office income, and conversely, the inflating of box office last year when there were 3 million extra consumers with Cinema Privilege.

There are three movies that are often brought up when referring to the box office drought of 2019 and they are Long Shot starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan, Late Night starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson and Booksmart, a coming of age story directed by actress Olivia Wilde. These films are held up as examples of film’s that dramatically under-performed at the box office regardless of their glowing reviews. I have not seen any of these movies as they don’t greatly interest me, but I guarantee you that I would have seen them all if I had MoviePass and Sinemia. My interest in these films is best described as mild, which is not powerful enough to get me to pay $16 to see them, but it is strong enough to get me to pay $4 or $5 to see them.

There are other reasons for the overall decline in movie going, which include but are not limited to, a dramatic diminishing of the theatre-going experience due to the epidemic of narcissism and rudeness in our culture (in 2019 alone I have had to ask people to put away their cell phones during movies four times…they have all complied…but I shouldn’t have to ask them!), as well as the increase of the home viewing experience through studios like Netflix and Amazon as well as the improvement of tv technology. But both of these reasons are more compelling in explaining the bigger picture trend of movie theatre going decline rather than just the box office drop from last year to this.

In conclusion, I think that the collapse of movie subscription services is the main reason why the box office is down 10% in 2019. I also believe that this story is under-reported because the Hollywood studios and the entertainment media are so detached from “regular” people’s movie going experience and how the exorbitant price of tickets is turning away business. If Hollywood doesn’t wake up, this disconnect between Tinseltown and their regular customers is going to lead to a very nasty reckoning that will leave the movie industry a shadow of its former self, sort of like what happened to the music industry. Hollywood is going to learn that sooner or later, when you take your customers for granted, the bill always comes due…and MoviePass and Sinemia are no longer around to subsidize their shitty product.

©2019