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Tuesday, Dec 13, 2011

When Bruce Ratner announced the Atlantic Yards development project in Brooklyn in 2003, he brought along noteworthy supporters, from architect Frank Gehry to New Jersey Nets minority owner Jay-Z to Mayor Mike Bloomberg. They all touted the arena as a way to create jobs, to improve the local economy, to bring new life. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, as documented in Battle for Brooklyn.


Troubles began when some residents of “the footprint” resisted being moved. Their resistance led to the corporation bringing in the state government, who cited “eminent domain” as a rubric for claiming the land, that is, the expropriation of private property for the public good. And oh yes, primary “public” beneficiary was to be Forest City Ratner Companies. Local resistance galvanized ROUND EXACTLY THAT APPARENT OVERSIGHT. Screening on 13 December as part of Stranger Than Fiction’s Pre-Winter Season Special—and followed by a Q&A with directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky—the film follows one resident in particular, Daniel Goldstein, a graphic designer who can’t imagine how his life will be changed by his commitment to the project. Goldstein and other residents resent the implication that they matter so little as to be considered “practically from scratch.” To be sure, not all residents feel this way: some believe the promises made by Ratner, Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz, Mayor Bloomberg, and Senator Chuck Schumer, that the development will bring employment opportunities to Brooklyn and improve material and economic conditions going forward. (Senator Schumer’s misspeaking during a press conference may or may not be telling: “Basketball is great, but you know what enervates me about this? 10,000 jobs!”) As the Atlantic Yards project divides the community, it inspires a range of responses, from placards in residential and commercial windows and street protests to local organizing and full-on media campaigns.


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Thursday, Mar 24, 2011
Part political investigation and part cultural critique, Alex Gibney's brilliant documentary is also a series of intricate performance pieces.

Part political investigation and part cultural critique, Alex Gibney’s brilliant documentary is also a series of intricate performance pieces. As Eliot Spitzer and others describe the trajectory of his New York career, all do their best to shape the story, and also to make their versions seem honest and insightful. As AG and as governor, Spitzer pursued Wall Street corruption, inspiring the enmity of some very powerful usual suspects. While the movie doesn’t defend Spitzer’s deception of his wife and family, or excuse his ridiculous choice to patronize the Emperor’s Club VIP, it does situate that bad behavior in multiple broader contexts, all in flux by definition. Spitzer is not deviant or even exceptional. He is, instead, a participant in a game that is at once mundane and creepy, one that no one seems inclined to challenge, but only to play as brutally as possible, and above all, to play well.


Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer is screening as part of Maysles Cinema’s “True Crime” series. The 24 March show will be followed by a Q&A with Alex Gibney.


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Wednesday, Mar 23, 2011
It may be that Inside Job's greatest effect is that, as the interviewees reveal themselves, they become less central to the story.

“The reason that they’re not going to jail is not that they didn’t commit crimes,” Charles Ferguson tells Nell Minow. “It’s because there’s been no effort to enforce the law, an even more disturbing phenomenon.”

This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, Inside Job traces the intertwined histories of deregulation, credit default swaps, subprime mortgages, and ideological Kool-Aid drinking. Interviewer and director Ferguson encourages his subjects to tell their stories. Some of these are convincing, others are cringeworthy, as lobbyists, bankers, and academics spin themselves into deep holes. It may be that Inside Job‘s greatest effect is that, as the interviewees reveal themselves, they become less central to the story. Increasingly, the film lays bare a culture based on greed and short-sightedness, one that produces a mindless focus on profits, whether ideological, political, or financial.


Part of Maysles Cinema’s “True Crime” series, the screening of Inside Job on 3/23 will be followed by an audience-led discussion with Gale and Ben Armstead, humanitarians, and long-time Harlem residents. On Friday, 3/25, the screening will be followed by a Q&A with Carl Dix.


See PopMattersreview.



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Monday, Feb 28, 2011
MySpace Music loses Courtney Holt and Warner Music Group runs for the door.

How much changes in just a few short years. It was just announced that Courtney Holt is leaving his current position as president of MySpace Music. You might remember that this was preceded by a layoff of MySpace staff totaling around 50% last month. Or how about that big re-design MySpace promised? Many have found it to be even more confusing than the original layout of the site.


On the other side of the house, Edgar Bronfman and Warner Music Group are racing to beat out EMI to be the first item on the shelf for potential buyers. It wasn’t too long ago that these two titans were heralding a new partnership that would topple and beat out another company known as Facebook, as well as demonstrate to us all how to succeed with 360 deals.


Take a look at this meeting/interview of Former MySpace CEO Chris Dewolfe and current WMG CEO Edgar Bronfman from the 2008 Web 2.0 conference, announcing their new venture. It’s hard not to wince now when Dewolfe declares the MySpace dominance of Facebook or the joint confidence they had in yielding the biggest music community in the world. It’s a stark reminder of the speed at which the music industry is changing and being re-invented as tech companies grapple with how to survive in this new era.



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