Friday, May 21, 2010

Not So “Just Wright” (Because It Is after All “Not So Just”)

Rudyard Kipling authored a famous series of “Just So Stories” that were fables about the origins of various animal characteristics like “How the Leopard Got His Spots.” Well, with the promotion of the new Prokhorov/Ratner basketball arena, we are going to have to get used to being subjected to another series of equally fabulous (as in made up and imagined) stories to put a more pleasing face on the that mega-monopoly land grab. It’s a sort a “we can convince you the leopard has different spots” kind of operation.

The thing about these stories is that they are not only just not so, they are also covering up something that is ever so emphatically not so just.

We just realized that the one of the new fables being spun is the new film “Just Wright,” a giant promo for the (still New Jersey) Nets that is apparently quite consciously directed at the urban black minority population. The two leads are rappers, Queen Latifah and Common (Scott McKnight). Common plays a Nets star player and Queen Latifah plays a Nets fan.

Common has the background PR of supporting certain activist causes, none per se on point, that we can find in terms of anti-development activity or opposition to the abuse of the poor by plutocrat/oligarchs like Prokhorov, Ratner or Bloomberg. Queen Latifah doesn't seem to be much of an activist except for her opposition to racism. Unfortunately, it sounds like they made a pretty OK movie- At the Movies made it the #1 pick to see last week.

As for the product placement we picked up this from NPR’s “Tell Me More”:
Kudos to the companies that supported the production of this film. According to Variety, the film had initially been set up seven years ago, with Latifah slated to star but Disney couldn't get the budget together. Executive producer Debra Martin Chase worked with the New Jersey Nets and companies like Cover Girl, the National Basketball Association, Izod, Nike, Under Armour, Tom Ford and Apple to get Fox Searchlight's Just Wright on screen.

There was a time when I would have criticized such blatant product placement and crass commercialism but there's just not enough financial support for smaller motion pictures in the marketplace — particularly, if they're African American oriented.
(See: 'Just Wright' And The Rhythm Of Romance, by Mia Mask, May 17, 2010.)

Here is Noticing New York’s response to the “Tell Me More” assessment. We are in favor of financial support for smaller motion pictures that are African American oriented but the cynicism here in our opinion renders this a rather sad abuse. This above others, is the perfect instance in which to criticizes “blatant product placement and crass commercialism” as something worse, cynical manipulation.

Quirky Addendum (The Film’s Promotion Becomes Illegal!): We don’t think that Atlantic Yards Report, No Land Grab or Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn has picked up on this story yet but we see that No Land Grab’s Eric McClure is on the case since his is the first comment up about the illegal billboard for the film that NYC Buildings department isn't getting taking down despite the multiple 311 calls it is getting about it. (See link below.) The billboard is up at Fulton Street and Vanderbilt Avenue one block from the Atlantic yards footprint. We observe that the Times in its coverage of the illegal billboard didn't note its conflict of interest with Ratner!

(See: FG/CH NewsMay 10, 2010, “Just Wright” Billboard Might Be All Wrong, by Chris Prentice – Cuny J-school.)

(Picture of the illegal Billboard below from the New York Times coverage.)

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