#oscars

Salma Hayek’s curves are an unfair advantage in a world striving for equality

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She has a point, but not why you think. It’s a bit confusing though. Did Salma talk to Benedict? Do the Hollywood set want women to get pay rises or men to get pay cuts? Will the sisterhood be annoyed that she’s undone Cumberbatch’s gesture to bump them higher? Or should actors be paid a flat unionized rate by the hour, including a one hour lunch break? Equal pay for equal work, right?

The laughable aspect is that Hollywood actors/actresses know full well that track record at the box office acts as a swing factor for pay determination. Kate Winslet was little known before Titanic but immediately after the phone didn’t stop ringing for her to star in new roles. The pay most certainly jumped significantly as she was well within her rights to command top dollar.

Let’s not forget that the movie star agents (mostly male) get paid on commission so it is absolutely in their best interests to get the best deals for female and male stars. In an industry dominated by sycophants it is highly doubtful they’re low balling to spite those striving for gender equality. Or should directors just cast women and save on production costs?

Yet it points back to the real world. Did you bust a gut to finish top of your 1st class honours degree in law to settle for the same pay as someone who didn’t? Surely you did so to get an advantage in life. Do Olympians train for 4 years in the hope of finishing outside the medals? Or should we dispense with medals entirely? Imagine how many records won’t get broken because there is no incentive to see the fastest, strongest or fittest. More and more schools have this “everyone’s a winner at St Barnabus’” mentality on sports days because the fat kid needs reassurance that he is just as worthy of winning a 100m dash as the 50lb stick insect is in the shot put. Differences are a part of life and we should embrace them rather than push to guarantee everyone gets the same outcome regardless of individual effort.

Isn’t the point of buying a nicer house in a nicer suburb all about an individual desire to achieve? Or will you be happy for the state to allot you a Soviet style 2 bedroom apartment in a crappy neighborhood?

No, let’s just listen to champagne socialists go out of their way conducting self promotion activities. Although in hindsight Salma Hayek may have a point on cutting back on male actor salaries as the total revenue performance of the US box office has dwindled back to 1993 levels.  Just like music has gone the way of Spotify, making a date in the diary to see a movie doesn’t cut it anymore. Video on demand is increasingly what matters.

But Salma, please, please, please! If you get roles that pay you more than your male costars based on your talents then all power to you. You won’t hear a peep here. In fact congratulations for being able to maximize the appeal of such genres to audiences that will shell out for them. Maybe you should beat up on the script writers more often for not writing stories that play up to the male dominating sultry voluptuous vixens you play so well! Be careful though, you may get complaints from the less well endowed actresses for having an unfair advantage but surely you’ve never used those differences or your beauty to get ahead in your career?

#SpareMe & #ThankYou

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They say pictures speak a thousand words. One wonders whether there are a thousand threads in these pictures at the Cannes Film Festival. For all of the sanctimony we hear from celebrities about how important the #MeToo movement is, what better opportunity to let down the side than to minimize cloth to skin ratios. These ladies know they are walking billboards, overtly flaunting their assets to gain attention in the hope they are short listed on the next blockbuster given the likelihood of widespread media coverage. Why else would they wear the equivalent of postage stamps held together by dental floss? Who can blame them? Where are the male actors strutting in sequin g-strings? Hardly fair that only women get to show off the flesh!

By all means, these ladies who graze on lentils and alfalfa while completing grueling gym sessions 6 hours a day, have every right to dress as they please given they work so hard cultivating those figures. Isn’t objectification the intention? Appreciating beauty is certainly not a crime and it does not border on harassment. Should red-blooded males be shamed for seeing protruding nipples and exposed cleavage fall into their peripheral vision? Can we honestly say hand on heart that some in the Hollywood set didn’t/don’t willingly trade flesh for a $5mn role? It is not to condone the behavior rather to say that if in the end a budding actor/actress is willing to ‘pay in kind’ to nail a big role that is still consensual. Jokes about Weinstein’s sexual antics were made for years at award ceremonies before he was finally outed. If he is convicted of sexual assault/harassment then may the full extent of the law deal with the crime. However #SpareMe the sanctimony about how none of them knew. Staying on the lucrative gravy train and buying more global property was more way addictive than doing the right thing by standing up for the true victims.

It is surprising that the feminists haven’t been up in arms about Cannes. They managed to take down the F-1 grid girls effectively enough. Isn’t it ironic that the people most upset by the ban were the grid girls themselves. They liked what they did, got paid handsomely to flaunt figures they no doubt work so hard to maintain and welcomed the attention. Now they are out of a job! Yet it’s is we who must get in step with the times. Perhaps the F-1 teams could have been asked to pay a grid-girl tax and donate the funds to promote charitable causes that the girls themselves felt passionately about. It will be interesting to see whether the MotoGP franchise owners, Dorna, go the same route as F-1 which will be pretty hypocritical given the web pages dedicated to the brolley dollies at each round.

Maybe the bigger laugh was the Israeli 2018 Eurovision song winner, Netti Barzilai. She said that in the auditioning process that she overheard whispers about whether they could field someone prettier or skinnier. So sex appeal was preferable to ability? When was the last time we truly heard a properly decent song that didn’t have some singer surrounded by scantily clad women twerking?

Still the virtue signaling continues. Cate Blanchett was on the stairs at Cannes demanding equal pay, when she herself is one of the higher paid actresses in town. Her mate Benedict Cumberbatch is refusing to star in movies unless there is equal pay.  Such actions are nothing but self-indulgent attempts to create free publicity. Say he is offered $25mn for a role and his never seen before female sidekick is not granted the same? Will he protest, divide his own pot or star anyway? One wonders.

Here is an idea for celebrities. CM thinks that Hollywood should be run by a government agency which will ensure equality in all outcomes. Movie roles will be distributed evenly. Each movie will have exactly the same budget. It will have equal numbers of men, women, LGBT, races, religious representation and sexual orientation regardless of how factually incorrect a true story may seem. Movie directors will have no say in who is cast for each part. Box office revenues will be evenly distributed at the end of each calendar year to ensure that flops will get subsidized by the hits. The actors who star in blockbusters will receive exactly the same outcome as those whose films end up almost immediately on Netflix.

All actors and actresses will be required to work exactly the same hours, have the same contract terms and be required to attend the awards ceremony in exactly the same garb. No makeup will be permissible, no eyebrow stylists flown around the world at last minute and no speech longer than 10 seconds. As there is to be equality at all costs, there will no longer be gender based awards at the Oscars. Or alternatively Best Actor – male, female and the 63 other gender categories. “The winner of the Best Actor in the hermaphrodite category is….”

So Benedict and Cate, will you join a union which levels the playing field and calls for equality or do you still prefer that your acting skills determine how the free market sets your prices? If you choose the former, just don’t speak to Jack Nicholson. He is still collecting royalties from Batman. Just what I thought.

These are the Oscar stats. A 40% decline over 5 years. Is this a sign of a format that is no longer sustainable? Is the disintermediation/disruption caused by video on demand such that making a ‘date’ to go to the cinema is no longer a priority? Cinema attendance in the domestic US market is back at 1993 levels. In the 1990s Hollywood made 400-500 films annually. It now pumps out more than 700. The average revenue per film continues to head south. The strategy seems to throw more at audiences and hope it sticks. Are the movies the industry rates itself on actually reflected in the box office? Out of touch with the audience? It would seem so. 9 films in the last 13 have failed to breach $75mn. So instead of Hollywood being so preoccupied with espousing politics, perhaps it should look to the audience it ‘preaches’ to and starts ‘reaching’ them instead otherwise many of them will be staring at massive pay cuts. Or will that mean it is every man and woman for themselves again!?

Denial

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These are the Oscar stats. A 40% decline over 5 years. Is this a sign of a format that is no longer sustainable? Is the disintermediation/disruption caused by video on demand such that making a ‘date’ to go to the cinema is no longer a priority? Cinema attendance in the domestic US market is back at 1993 levels. In the 1990s Hollywood made 400-500 films annually. It now pumps out more than 700. The average revenue per film continues to head south. The strategy seems to throw more at audiences and hope it sticks. Are the movies the industry rates itself on actually reflected in the box office? Out of touch with the audience? It would seem so. See for yourself.

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It should appear to Hollywood that movies about real life stories are the ones that seem to resonate most with audiences – Titanic, The King’s Speech, Argo and A Beautiful Mind. These 4 films grossed $1.04 billion at the box office. It has been 10 years since Hollywood has had a fictional film it chose for itself beat the worst of the 4 movies based off real stories in ticket sales. It has been 15 years since having a proper blockbuster like Lord of the Rings which is arguably pure fantasy and extends to child audiences.

Films are of course subjective. One film one person may enjoy, others may not share the same view. It is interesting though that $100m box offices were a cert for an Oscar Best Picture award til 2004 after which it has been hit and miss since. 9 films in the last 13 have failed to breach $75mn. So instead of Hollywood being so preoccupied with espousing politics, perhaps it should look to the audience it ‘preaches’ to and starts ‘reaching’ them instead.

If the status quo is so good why would we vote out the incumbents?

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Almost everywhere we look, we’re told by the political class how good our lot is. Our blessed Aussie PM told us, “It has never been a better time to be an Australian.” Boosted asset prices, low unemployment and tepid inflation gives the illusion of real wealth for everyone. As an electorate, if all of that were true, why wouldn’t we be going out of our way to make sure the status quo gets voted back in with similar if not greater majorities? As it stands, more and more incumbent parties are hanging on by their finger nails, being forced to create alliances to stay in power rather than stick to the principles their parties were founded on. The irony is that these grand coalitions are formed on the tenets of ignorant ‘un-populism.’

The latest election cycle shows us that a growing number of people aren’t buying mediocrity. They’re sick of incumbent politicians ignoring them. The current crop of leaders seem to think that being less worse than the opposition is a virtue to be proud of. Yet poverty levels continue to rise and wealth is not trickling down to the masses. Even rising state entitlements have a finite life and the electorate knows it. Being married to the government is not seen as a desirable strategy long term. Deficits keep rising and look increasingly hard to pay down.

Searching through the St Louis Fed database, civilian employment under Obama managed to grow 2.5% on pre-crash levels. So the US loaded up on $9 trillion in short term debt to create 4 million net new jobs. That works out at $2.25 million per worker. Hardly an achievement. Yet despite that economic growth has dithered at the lowest post recession rates ever. As much as we might want to celebrate record low unemployment these are not proud statistics. The quality of jobs keeps going down. $8.4 trillion of this federal debt load needs to be refinanced inside 4 years. $12.3 trillion inside 10 years. While politicians can call the average voter stupid, the daily struggles of the average punter shows how out of touch the law makers are. This was the grand mistake made by Clinton. While she hung out with her elite mates at $1,000 plate dinners in Democrat strongholds in LA, NY and Chicago expecting a coronation, Trump hit the little people and had crowds flocking to see him.

While Trump’s trade tariffs seem daft on the face of it, it was done for the forgotten people who voted for him. He is not concerned about the consequences. That’s the point. So much of his platform appears abhorrent but he is the only politician in danger of being raked over coals for keeping his promises. That’s why he was elected. The status quo had failed to deliver over decades. 80% of the population didn’t benefit from the asset bubble post GFC. The 1% took 42% of those gains. The average Joe and Joanne see this. While they might not fully comprehend it they know enough to see their situation is not much better.

Take a look at Trudeau’s India debacle. Apart from the embarrassing wardrobe saga, the bigger problems came when he blamed the Indians for letting a known terrorist attend a state dinner. The Indians, unsurprisingly, were most unhappy at the accusation. Many look to Trudeau as the posterchild of the left, pushing peoplekind. Telling Canadians that he will convert returning ISIS fighters with haiku poetry, podcasts and comparing them to Italian migrants at the end of WW2 is utterly preposterous to his constituents. Telling his veterans they’re asking for too much flies in the face of love of one’s country. No wonder his popularity continues to dive. His speech to the UN – where he rattled off how Canada was ticking all the UN diversity boxes – was only a quarter full. Not even his own liberal mates rallied to show unity in numbers. It was telling that virtue signalling is all about appearing to do good rather than doing it.  Yet the day before Trudeau presented, Trump spoke of America First and the audience was packed. They might have hated every word that dripped from his tongue but they didn’t miss it for the world. It is hard talk. Not carefully prepared politically correct nonsense.

Take the recent European elections. Germany gave Merkel the worst ever performance of the CDU post WW2. The SPD was even worse. The anti-immigrant AfD stormed to 16%. Is it any wonder that when Merkel’s misguided altruism  showed up on Election Day even she finally conceded we have a problem with “no go zones”. Some may wish to look at the Merkel miracle of growth and low unemployment but the public service in Germany has exploded from 9% pre 2008 crash to 16% today. Not private sector growth but public sector.

The Italian election showed over 60% of the vote went to eurosceptic parties. While volatility has always been a feature of Italian politics, this results showed the discontent underbelly of Italy which has seen poverty jump 50% to one third of the population since Lehman collapsed. While M5S said it wouldn’t form a coalition, all bets are off if it tied up with League. There are plenty of overlaps on the party platforms but the M5S would have to insist on the PM role. The EU would go into a tailspin on such news.

Austria voted in a wunderkind who put the right wing anti immigrant FPO in charge of immigration. Holland saw Wilders claw more seats. Nationalist Marine LePen in France doubled the number of seats ever attained by the Front National. Even Macron is changing his spots looking to introduce national service and take a harder line against migrant crime.

Whether the real statistics of migrant crime are wholly accurate or not is beside the point. It is increasingly seen as an election issue and more EU countries have had enough. They feel their lot is getting worse and view forking out billions in aid for people to settle here is pennies out of their pocket. If the stats are as the government sugar coats them to be in terms of the prevailing prosperity surely the citizens would overwhelmingly back them. Sadly the opposite is true meaning politicians aren’t selling their “compassion” effectively. Too many examples of gagging the police and muzzling the press have surfaced.

That is the thing. If the economy was rosy and bullish and more people felt secure there is a likelihood they would look at the immigration debate in a more positive light. All they see now is millions flocking to Europe as poverty is on the rise and the economy is on the back foot at ground zero. European EU-28 GDP hasn’t grown since Q4 2015. Despite a quadrupling of ECB assets net jobs created post GFC numbers 4 million, labour force participation remains below the peak. However we should not forget that Romania and Bulgaria joined in Jan 2007 and Croatia in 2013 which would add (at a 50% employment ratio) c.20mn meaning that employment in the EU on a like for like basis as a whole is down 16mn jobs ceteris paribus. Even if only Croatia was included then net jobs creation in EU-28 would be a paltry 2mn, or a smidgen above 1%. Anemic.

Yet the political class still doesn’t seem to be learning, especially the EU. Poland and Hungary have formed a pact to reject proposed quotas on migrants. The EU has failed to address the most important question. The wishes of the migrants themselves. It is one thing for the EU to appeal to voters as saving asylum seekers from war torn lands (when 80% are economic migrants by the EU’s own numbers), it is another to forcibly send them to countries that flat out don’t want them. Ask for a show of hands of asylum seekers looking to stay in Germany or head off to Hungary to settle and the likelihood is 100:0. Trying to make Hungarians or Poles feel guilty for being incompassionate is a price they’re clearly willing to pay with losing EU membership. Would we take kindly to a neighbor telling us how to arrange our furniture in the living room or sign a petition to prevent us building extensions even though it is not even in their way? Of course not. Still wagging fingers in disapproval is only likely to steel their resolve.

Flip to the Southern Hemisphere and Australian politics is also exposing the sordid state of the swamp. 5 PMs in 10 years. Now the Deputy PM has had to resign to the back bench and in a last ditched effort to claim some sort of moral high ground with the staffer he was having an affair with. He claimed he would still look after her even though a paternity test might show the kid wasn’t his. What a grub and a slap in the face for his partner to imply she may have been promiscuous. Once again the popularity of the incumbent parties in Australia continues to sink to all time lows. The Labor Party looks to have the next election in the bag but even then the popularity of the opposition leader is woefully tiny.

While the world seems to be in this state of blissful tranquility on the outside, we needn’t probe too deep before seeing how bad things continue to be on the inside. The little people may not have any financial fire power but at the ballot box they have an equal opportunity to stuff those that aren’t listening. Once again Italy shows us it wants change. Call it populism if you must but it is truly a reflection of just how bad things really are and how little ammunition to deal with any future crises remains. The little people are raising their voices. Best heed their words. It is the same reason why as zero chance as Trump looks in 2020, don’t bet against another 4 years in the White House. If the Dems hope that celebrities that talk of #METOO and gun control (all the while they attend Oscars semi-naked and collect their millions doing action films full of explosions and automatic weapons fire) will sway them to a return to the swamp they’re sorely mistaken.