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Andrew

Moviegoing During a Pandemic

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As a physician, I was deeply distressed by the content of yesterday's Variety article about AMC's plans to reopen on July 15.  In response, I put together an entire column analyzing AMC's supposed safety plans.  

Here's the concluding paragraph: "As a consequence of this choice, until the science tells me it’s safe to return to theaters, you won’t see reviews for movies here until they’re available on streaming services.  Does it bum me out that I’ll have to wait longer to see Tenet, and that my website traffic might take a hit?  Absolutely.  But knowing that film reviews are free movie publicity, I ethically cannot contribute to AMC’s, Christopher Nolan’s, and Warner Brothers’ revenue streams.  Even in a small way, I won’t be complicit in their decisions to place profit over public safety."

I'd love to hear others' response to this, but just as much, I hope other critics will join me in my choice.

Here's my full article:  https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/2020/06/sorry-folks-but-moviegoing-during-a-pandemic-is-unsafe-and-irresponsible/


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I'll give this a bump.  I've just asked the President of the Southeast Film Critics Association if he'd consider an organized action where we'd refuse to cover films receiving a theater-only release.  This was inspired by his writing an article of his own in a similar vein to mine:  https://collider.com/movie-theaters-reopening-why-you-shouldnt-go/?fbclid=IwAR10oF34zxluH2RCGQsK-Cw21KYNzxgnf-rcGR9Gf9mgymcCOFXMvedJsvM

Ken, how about something similar for the North Carolina Film Critics Association?  North Carolina is one of five southern states that just saw their highest 7-day bump in new COVID cases, while Tennessee just had its largest single-day increase yesterday.

Edited by Andrew

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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4 hours ago, Andrew said:

Ken, how about something similar for the North Carolina Film Critics Association?  North Carolina is one of five southern states that just saw their highest 7-day bump in new COVID cases, while Tennessee just had its largest single-day increase yesterday.

Short answer is not at this time, but things change pretty fast in this landscape. Couple of reservations:
1) In film social media, this sentiment appears to have been prompted by AMC, but there is a difference between boycotting a particular theater chain and not covering any movie. The target appears to shift from trying to mandate the theater chain to be more responsible to trying to pressure the studio to not release the film or release via streaming. 

2) NCFCA (and other organizations) are made up of members in different situations. If someone was close to a local independent theater (like Alamo or that bar in Phoenix that was renting out theaters for groups of 10+, or the drive-in theaters that are being revitalized) the lines don't seem as black and white between safe/unsafe. 

3) Most critics are freelancers (at least in NCFCA), but if someone has a job, the consequences of "refusing" to cover might be different for them than others. 

4) Critics routinely cover films (such as as festivals) that aren't available to all/most people. I am skeptical of the notion that a critic reviewing a film somehow frees people to go or validates it. 

5) For the NCFCA to "make this an "organization action" (as opposed to a recommendation) begs the "or what question." And any punitive action seems unenforceable. I mean, I guess the answer for the "or what" question would be "or you'll be dropped from membership roster" but I'm not sure I want to get in the business of auditing members or telling them what they can and can't review. 

 

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My thoughts on each of these bullet points:

1) As I wrote in my article, I don't think there's a single entity that bears the guilt alone here.  I see that theaters and film companies together are putting profit over people in making this choice. 

2) The public health experts (like the epidemiologists I cite from the NYT article) contend that all of those options are unsafe, just at different levels of risk.

3) This one I can't argue with; folks have to put bread on their table.  But a statement like the one I'm proposing could give leverage for critics in such a situation to say I'm not going to put my body, my family, and my community in harm's way to go to a cinema.

4) But festivals are not the workaday norm for a film critic.  And we do give free publicity by virtue of publishing reviews.  I think a statement that "attending cinemas is unethical in a pandemic, so we're not gonna play your game" would carry some weight.

5) I'm not interested in going punitive, not in the slightest.  I would hope any statement from an organization would be arrived at by a democratic process, only published if there was near-unanimity.  If there's not a consensus, then individuals in favor of it could say, "well, we tried, and here's why I'm making this choice anyway, independent of my professional organization."  


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Andrew, I don't really want to have this conversation and certainly not here, but you directed a specific question about a specific action to me, so I felt I needed to respond. I am not going to get into what seems to me a very unlikely to be fruitful back and forth about the nuts and bolts of dozens of different hypotheticals. (It seems to me that you've already shifted from a call for some sort of unified action to a call for some sort of non-binding resolution. )

So this will be my last word in this thread. You are, of course, welcome to continue asking for other responses.

Quote

 

The public health experts (like the epidemiologists I cite from the NYT article) contend that all of those options are unsafe, just at different levels of risk ...

 I think a statement that "attending cinemas is unethical in a pandemic...."

 

Given the first sentence, I think the second is overly broad, and thus not one that I would feel comfortable endorsing and certainly not mandating to a membership (which was the form of the question posed to me).

Don't get me wrong, some (incalculable number of) people will die because they choose to go see Mulan. Just as some will die because they chose to get a haircut or go back to colleges with face to face classes. Worse, some people (like that pastor in Arkansas whose church became a local epicenter) will indirectly kill other people, perhaps knowingly, perhaps unknowingly, to go see Tenet. There is, however, a fairly large spectrum between least possible risk (everyone shelter at home by law until there is a vaccine that everyone is mandated to take and in the meantime the government pays a living wage to everyone out of work and hazard pay to essential workers who determined by.....) and greatest possible risk (ignoring common sense and proceeding as normal). Given the number of variables and the constantly amassing amount of data, as well as the social and political climate, I see more upside to informing the public than trying to manipulate their choices. No matter what is proposed, it seems evident to me that no proposal will be without any risk and that there will always be some who propose we could do something else that had even less risk. 

I don't know yet under what circumstances, if any, I would attend a screening. But the day I have to decide, while not far off, isn't here yet. And I'm not willing at this time to commit to saying I won't review "x," (or cover it in any way) if I can do so with the amount of risk that is commensurate to other non-essential activities. 

EDIT: Given what I've seen already in response to AMC and the mask thing, changes in decisions will be more likely based on people saying they won't attend or actually not attending than critics saying they won't review. I am having a hard time envisaging the sliver of the population that says, "this is unsafe, and normally I woudn't go, but Ken reviewed it, so I'm gonna chance it..."

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No worries, Ken.  I perceive that I've peeved you with this line of discussion, so I won't press any further.  (And FWIW, I mulled asking you privately about this, but thought it could be an interesting public conversation.  I probably judged wrong there.)  Regardless, I'm more blustery and in favor of direct action, while you're more prone to quieter statements, so I'm not surprised at the outcome here.  (And as someone who spends a fair bit of time with my nose in medical literature, and whose wife is a full-time hospital worker, the trend of COVID numbers scares the shit out of me and prompts me to respond in character.)  Peace, be well, etc.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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