Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 29, 2013

The man who brought us the Hunger Game films

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 5:05 pm

Frank Giustra, the CEO of Lionsgate

Lions Gate ‘Hunger Games’ Sequel Collects $158.1 Million

* * * *

Mining News
Tommy Humphreys | June 28, 2013

Stop taking yourself so seriously, says tycoon Frank Giustra

frank guistra

Yesterday I had another opportunity to hear Frank Giustra speak — this time at BCBusiness Magazine‘s Top 100 event at Hotel Vancouver. In front of a crowd of 1,200, he was interviewed on stage by BCBusiness chairman Peter Legge.

Frank Giustra became a millionaire in his early 20s financing small mining and energy companies. As Chairman and CEO, he went on to build Yorkton Securities into an industry dominator. But at the height of the mid-90s gold bull market, Giustra quit, only to quickly re-emerge as the founder of Lionsgate Entertainment, which is the world’s largest independent film studio today. In 2001, Giustra returned to the commodities world– this time as Chairman of Endeavour Financial. From here, he launched countless resource companies, including what is now Goldcorp, Silver Wheaton, Uranium One, Pacific Rubiales Energy, and others. In 2010, he got into the food sector with Domenica Fiore, now recognized as the world’s best medium blend olive oil.

A stand-out moment of the interview described Giustra detailing how humbled he became as the new CEO of Lionsgate Entertainment; several times in the late 90s, the film company nearly went bankrupt. One winter’s day in Toronto, Guistra explained, he accidentally dropped a stack of Lionsgate brochures into the snow. Looking down, he was suddenly struck by a “Holy shit, what the hell am I doing with my life?” moment. He had been a somebody at Yorkton — people would come to him to get their business plans financed. But here he was, digging a stack of brochures for a fledgling company out of a pile of dirty snow. But Giustra eventually managed to secure the management team that helped grow the company to what it is today. “I couldn’t let it go bust,” Giustra said, betraying to his own pride in the endeavour. Since then, his determination has paid off for Lionsgate. It’s now worth approximately $4 billion.

* * * *

Frank Giustra, President Bill Clinton’s Close Colleague, Joins US Oil Sands Board

By Steve Horn

Frank Giustra – key power broker and close colleague of former President Bill Clinton – has taken a seat on the Board of Directors of U.S. Oil Sands, an Alberta-based company aiming to develop tar sands deposits in Utah’s Uintah Basin.

U.S. Oil Sands – in naming several new members to its Board – also announced it has received $80 million in “strategic financing” from Blue Pacific Investments Group Ltd., Anchorage Capital Group, L.L.C. and Spitfire Ventures, LLC.

The funding will help get the ball rolling on “tar sands south,” a miniature but increasingly controversial version of its big brother to the north, the Alberta tar sands. Giustra will likely help in opening the right doors for tar sands industry interests in the United States.

Giusta is best known for his work in the worlds of uranium mining and minerals mining, though he has dabbled in the Alberta tar sands finance world once before, lending upwards of $20 million in capital to Excelsior Energy. He serves as CEO and President of Fiore Financial Corporation.

full: http://desmogblog.com/2013/10/07/frank-giustra-bill-clinton-colleague-joins-us-oil-sands-board

* * * *

NY Times January 31, 2008
After Mining Deal, Financier Donated to Clinton
By JO BECKER and DON VAN NATTA Jr.

Late on Sept. 6, 2005, a private plane carrying the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra touched down in Almaty, a ruggedly picturesque city in southeast Kazakhstan. Several hundred miles to the west a fortune awaited: highly coveted deposits of uranium that could fuel nuclear reactors around the world. And Mr. Giustra was in hot pursuit of an exclusive deal to tap them.

Unlike more established competitors, Mr. Giustra was a newcomer to uranium mining in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. But what his fledgling company lacked in experience, it made up for in connections. Accompanying Mr. Giustra on his luxuriously appointed MD-87 jet that day was a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.

Upon landing on the first stop of a three-country philanthropic tour, the two men were whisked off to share a sumptuous midnight banquet with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, whose 19-year stranglehold on the country has all but quashed political dissent.

Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Within two days, corporate records show that Mr. Giustra also came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/us/politics/31donor.html

* * * *

Counterpunch Weekend Edition March 1-3, 2008
Friend of Bill, George and Dick Meet Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev

Meet Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

Herewith an introduction to Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan.

Mr. Nazarbayev was elected president of Kazakhstan by the Supreme Soviet on April 24, 1990. On December 1, 1991, Kazakhstan being on the verge of independence, he was elected by Kazakh citizens with 95 percent of the vote and most recently was elected in 2005 with 91 percent of the vote. The 2005 election was only slightly marred by the observation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an organization he now chairs, that there were “numerous and persistent examples of intimidation by the authorities” and an “overall media bias in favor of the incumbent.” One month before the election Zamanbek Nurkadilov, an opposition leader, was said by authorities to have committed suicide. He did it by shooting himself once in the head and twice in the chest. Two months after the election, Altynbek Sarsenbayev, one of the opposition leaders was killed, reportedly by state security officials.

In May 2007, satisfied with the way he’d been performing, President Nazarbayev signed a constitutional amendment that permits him (and only him) to seek re-election indefinitely beginning in 2012 when his current term expires.

Mr. Nazarbayev presides over what has been called one of the most corrupt regimes in central Asia. He has closed newspapers, banned or refused to register opposition parties and permitted harassment of advocacy groups. Mike Marschall, the regional director of Transparency International, an anti-corruption organization said of the president: “You don’t have free elections, and the press is pretty much controlled by his family and a significant portion of assets in Kazakhstan are directly or indirectly controlled by his family.” Although Mr. Marschall went on to say that the president was making some step-by-step reforms, on the Transparency International Scale of corrupt countries, Kazakhstan is ranked 2.6, 1 being the most corrupt and 10 being least corrupt.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/2008/03/01/meet-mr-nursultan-nazarbayev/

25 Comments »

  1. Louis,

    With all due respect, do you actually have a substantive critique of The Hunger Games (the books or the movies) to offer? Or will it just be guilt (and condemnation) by association?

    To be honest, I’m really shocked to see you up in arms about THG after your spirited defense of Avatar (with which I agreed). After all, what is the difference between THG and Avatar based on your preferred line of attack on the former?

    In the final analysis, THG can teach us a lot about the current structure of the capitalist world system…especially if we focus on the construction of commodity chains, cores and peripheries, etc. I would have thought you of all people would be sympathetic to that point of view. Instead I see you making lazy comparisons of THG with Harry Potter (in Facebook comments). For shame, sir…

    Comment by Dermokrat — November 30, 2013 @ 5:51 am

  2. In the final analysis, THG can teach us a lot about the current structure of the capitalist world system

    —-

    Really? I watched the first 15 minutes of the first installment in this series and found nothing at all “radical” about it. I have heard claims about this film, the most recent Batman movies, and a bunch of other Hollywood blockbusters. I have a different understanding of the word “radical”, I guess. For me, the Italian neorealist films are radical, Pontecorvo is radical, and so is Ousmane Sembene. Frank Giustra would never fund anything that was remotely radical. In terms of “Avatar”, I wrote that it is sympathetic to indigenous peoples but so is “Dances with Wolves”. But there was nothing “radical” about Avatar either. A truly radical film would have been about the tribal peoples in India’s forests and the Maoists who take up their cause. That’s nothing that would interest James Cameron although I hope to see this kind of film at the South Asian Film Festival that I will be writing about in a couple of days.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 30, 2013 @ 10:12 am

  3. Dermokrat’s questions remains open:
    “do you actually have a substantive critique of The Hunger Games (the books or the movies) to offer? Or will it just be guilt (and condemnation) by association?”

    Dermokrat the majority of LP’s attacks on EVERYONE are almost always ad hominem or guilt by association. This is a visceral blog. Not a rational one.

    Comment by CB — November 30, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

  4. “I watched the first 15 minutes of the first installment in this series and found nothing at all “radical” about it.”

    This is a joke, right? A series of novels read by millions* that builds to *a working class, anti-imperialist revolution*, converted excellently to the screen (itself a bit of a miracle) so that millions more can see a story about *a working class, anti-imperialist revolution*, and you’ve made up your mind after watching 15 minutes of the first movie?

    Oh wait–some pig of a capitalist is going to make millions off a Hollywood blockbuster. I am shocked, shocked. Goddam kids, if they really had some political consciousness, they would wait until “The Battle of Algiers” plays at the MFA and see that instead, goddammit.

    I’m worried that the Hollywood suits are going to figure out that they’ve got a radical story on their hands, and will turn the complex revolutionary conflicts of the third book into a cheap “God that failed” narrative, and will forefront young love, shooting bad guys, and how “it’s all about family” in the upcoming films. At least that’s what I would do if I was a capitalist pig with some consciousness of the actual content of my product.

    *like my 11-year-old, who told me I just had to read these books–thank you

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — November 30, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

  5. Fox News’ Eric Bolling Raves About The Hunger Games And Its Conservative Message
    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/fox-news-eric-bolling-raves-about-the-hunger-games-and-its-conservative-message/

    Comment by louisproyect — November 30, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

  6. “Fox News’ Eric Bolling Raves About The Hunger Games And Its Conservative Message”

    “It hits on all the emotional topics; love, war, greed, fear, class warfare, corruption, cronyism all up there on the screen.” Because, y’know, conservatives always celebrate depictions of class war where it’s clear that the workers are the heroes.

    Ferfucksake, of course the right will try to appropriate popular left-wing narratives as their own. That’s because they’re lying right-wing propagandists who are always trying to say how they “really” speak for workers. Just like left intellectuals can always be counted on to attack left narratives that resonate with millions, because somehow somewhere a right-wing narrative can always be constructed from it.

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — November 30, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

  7. Ferfucksake, of course the right will try to appropriate popular left-wing narratives as their own.

    Odd. They never found a way to appropriate Ousmane Sembene, Gillo Pontecorvo, or Vittorio De Sica. But then again the kinds of films they made would never be made by Lion’s Gate.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 30, 2013 @ 9:37 pm

  8. So the response to the fact that your disparaging the film with guilt by association, is to double down on the fallacy!?

    Dude, take a logic 101 course.

    Comment by CB — November 30, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

  9. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind the film so much if it was interesting. John Ford’s “Searchers” is a totally reactionary film but it is a classic. I couldn’t waste another 100 minutes on Hunger Names but if I had I am sure I would have agreed with this assessment:

    http://www.salon.com/2012/03/20/the_hunger_games_a_lightweight_twi_pocalypse/

    It’s easy to be seduced by something that’s both as clever and as successful as “The Hunger Games,” and to conclude that it must have something to say about violence and the media and changing ideas of femininity and other hot-button topics it appears to address. But as becomes even clearer in the movie version, it really doesn’t. It’s a cannily crafted entertainment that refers to ideas without actually possessing any, beyond an all-purpose populism that could appeal just as easily to a Tea Partyer as to a left-winger. If not more so — the true villain of “The Hunger Games” is the all-powerful state, and the population of Panem’s capital city (in Ross’ movie, and to some extent in the book too) is a decadent, affected and polysexual media elite, whose outrageous peacock fashions suggest the court of Marie Antoinette appearing in a Duran Duran video.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 30, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

  10. “John Ford’s “Searchers” is a totally reactionary film but it is a classic.”

    “Totally reactionary”? Got it, you don’t understand “The Searchers,” either.

    This excerpt from Wikipedia conforms to my interpretation, and I thought the generally understood one: “A major theme remains the examination of the issues of racism and genocide towards Native Americans. Ford’s was not the first film to attempt this, but it was startling (particularly for later generations) in the harshness of its approach toward that racism. Ford’s examination of racism starts with Edwards and his openly virulent hatred of Native Americans…”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Searchers_%28film%29

    If you want an example of a totally reactionary classic, you should choose “Birth of a Nation.”

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — November 30, 2013 @ 11:07 pm

  11. I don’t quite know how to tell you this, but I know a lot more about Comanche history than the people who wrote the Wikipedia article. If you ever find yourself in a university library with access to JSTOR, check my article in “Capitalism, Nature and Society” on “The Political Economy of Comanche Violence”. “The Searchers” is based on a real life incident in which a young white girl was kidnapped and raised as a Comanche. In the movie she willingly returns to white society in the arms of John Wayne. In real life she kept running away from her white family and died of a broken heart.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 30, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

  12. “It’s easy to be seduced by something that’s both as clever and as successful as “The Hunger Games,” and to conclude that it must have something to say about violence and the media and changing ideas of femininity and other hot-button topics it appears to address…”

    Yep, that’s what happened. I read the novels, then saw the films, and interpreted them through a political lens, but that’s because I’m an idiot who is “seduced” with cheap cleverness, writes the guy who admits to neither reading the books nor seeing the films.

    For the record, my sum total of pre-Hunger Games hype consisted of my daughter telling me I should read the books. I expected some exploitative “young adult” marketing package. I instead got treated to literature whose treatment of politics was more sophisticated than that of any recent adult-marketed novel I’ve come across.

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — November 30, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

  13. ” If you ever find yourself in a university library with access to JSTOR, check my article in “Capitalism, Nature and Society” on “The Political Economy of Comanche Violence”.”

    Your article sucks.

    No, I didn’t read it. But why should that stop me from trashing it, huh? 😉

    As luck would have it, my public library has JSTOR access (though probably not for long, if their recent book non-purchases are any indication).

    And guess what? Your article is not there. Nor is “Capitalism, Nature and Society.”

    And I’m not shelling out $37 for it.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10455752.2013.814696

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — December 1, 2013 @ 12:27 am

  14. “But then again the kinds of films they [Sembene, Pontecorvo, De Sica] made would never be made by Lion’s Gate.”

    Quick quiz: Before “The Hunger Games,” what was the highest-grossing film from Lion’s Gate? Remember, it can’t be anything even “remotely radical” or Giustra wouldn’t fund it.

    This is not a defense of Giustra, who I’m sure is as horrible as you’ve shown. I have a problem with a reductionism that logically precludes even the possibility (I’ll concede “improbability”) of radical left narratives emerging through the Hollywood system (is that your limiting area?), which apparently has something or other to do with the lack of purity of film’s production under capitalism. Or something. Or maybe you’re just being reflexively cranky, it’s hard to tell.

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — December 1, 2013 @ 10:39 am

  15. So 89% of the hunger games reviews are positive, and you just arbitrarily pick one of the 11%, with “confidence” that you would agree with it!?
    So let’s get this straight. You’ve rejected the movie twice using the fallacy of guilt by association. You then informed a poster that despite having NO IDEA who wrote that wikipedia article, you’re for sure smarter than them, and then you confidently step forward as presenting the review that most shares your correct sentiments on something you’ve never read or watched. For someone who executes so many fallacies, you MAY – just MAY – want to exercise more humility when boasting to people about how intelligent you are, and what a keen sense of omnipotence you posses!

    Comment by CB — December 1, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

  16. > “But then again the kinds of films they [Sembene, Pontecorvo, De
    > Sica] made would never be made by Lion’s Gate.”
    >
    > Quick quiz: Before “The Hunger Games,” what was the highest-grossing
    > film from Lion’s Gate? Remember, it can’t be anything even “remotely
    > radical” or Giustra wouldn’t fund it.

    1 The Hunger Games LGF $408,010,692 4,137 $152,535,747 4,137 3/23/12

    2 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 LG/S $292,324,737 4,070 $141,067,634 4,070 11/16/12

    3 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire LGF $253,206,000 4,163 $158,074,28 4,163 11/22/13

    4 Fahrenheit 9/11 Lions $119,194,771 2,011 $23,920,637 868 6/23/04

    I take it you are referring to Fahrenheit 9/11, the documentary by Barack Obama’s biggest fan. Yes, I would describe it as “remotely radical.” You do have a point there.

    >
    > This is not a defense of Giustra, who I’m sure is as horrible as
    > you’ve shown. I have a problem with a reductionism that logically
    > precludes even the possibility (I’ll concede “improbability”) of
    > radical left narratives emerging through the Hollywood system (is
    > that your limiting area?), which apparently has something or other to
    > do with the lack of purity of film’s production under capitalism. Or
    > something. Or maybe you’re just being reflexively cranky, it’s hard
    > to tell.

    Left “narratives”? Been dipping into the postmodernist canon, my lad?

    Comment by louisproyect — December 1, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

  17. > Comment: So 89% of the hunger games reviews are positive, and you
    > just arbitrarily pick one of the 11%, with “confidence” that you
    > would agree with it!? So let’s get this straight. You’ve rejected the
    > movie twice using the fallacy of guilt by association. You then
    > informed a poster that despite having NO IDEA who wrote that
    > wikipedia article, you’re for sure smarter than them, and then you
    > confidently step forward as presenting the review that most shares
    > your correct sentiments on something you’ve never read or watched.
    > For someone who executes so many fallacies, you MAY – just MAY – want
    > to exercise more humility when boasting to people about how
    > intelligent you are, and what a keen sense of omnipotence you
    > posses!

    Oh, that changes everything. 89 percent “fresh” for “Hunger Games”. I guess I might as well dump my pro-Trotsky views as well since he is supported by .00001 percent of Americans.

    As far as the “Searchers” is concerned, there was no need for the Wiki author to bring up the fact that it had an ending at odds with the historical incident it is based on. The article is about the film as a work of art, not a work of history. Le May’s novel treated the Comanches as murderers, and little else. The same thing with the film.

    As an analogy, “Zero Dark Thirty” lies about what took place and is also a shitty film.

    I hope that helps.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 1, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  18. I recognize that appeals to authority are usually a fallacy, but it’s almost always a fallacy if and only if the person speaking knows something on the subject, and shouldn’t be appealing in the first place. Thus the layman is often not in a position to choose between two competing views in quantum mechanics, given no serious background in the subject, and must rely on authority. You do know about Trotsky, you’ve researched it well, and your opinion is more learned than those you compete with. But when it comes to a series you never read, nor saw, then yes in fact you are arbitrarily picking a divergent view in a completely fallacious manner.

    Comment by CB — December 1, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

  19. I don’t need more than 15 minutes to figure out that the “Hunger Games” movie was crap. After having written 700 film reviews for Rotten Tomatoes, I get a pretty good idea of how to distinguish shit from shinola. By the same token, that’s how editors at places like Random House work with blind submissions. They say that if you can get them to read past the first page, it is like getting your foot in the door. And if they read the entire first chapter, there is a 90 percent chance of being published. Life is too short for me to sit through 2 hours of “Hunger Games” or the sequel. Or “Dark Knight Rising”. Or “Her”, the Spike Jonze movie that has gotten 100 percent “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes. Unlike my colleagues in NY Film Critics Online who do this for a living, I am under no obligation to sit through an entire film. Nor am I under any obligation to not express an opinion because I have not sat through the bitter end. I have never read an entire book by Zizek, but the articles I have read are enough to allow me to conclude that he is a buffoon. If that is unacceptable to you, my suggestion is to stop reading and commenting here, Chris. I have a number of blogs bookmarked that I visit every day. All of them are places that I get something out of. One of them, Crooked Timber, I read for the same reason I read the NY Times or Chronicle of Higher Education. It is an important expression of mainstream opinion. If all you are interested in is getting into pissing contests with me, you are selling yourself short.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 1, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  20. I think the general consensus here is not to get in a pissing contest but to get you to POSSIBLY reconsider this one film(s)/book(s). That’s it.

    Comment by CB — December 1, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

  21. Chris, you wrote: “This is a visceral blog. Not a rational one.” If it is not a “rational” one, then you are wasting your time and more importantly, my own. Maybe you should find some other blog to pester.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 1, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

  22. “Left “narratives”? Been dipping into the postmodernist canon, my lad?”

    No, I’m acknowledging that “The Hunger Games” is fiction.

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — December 1, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

  23. “I don’t need more than 15 minutes to figure out that the “Hunger Games” movie was crap. After having written 700 film reviews for Rotten Tomatoes, I get a pretty good idea of how to distinguish shit from shinola. By the same token, that’s how editors at places like Random House work with blind submissions….” etc. etc.

    Oh come on. No one’s saying you’re making choices about publishing a book/producing a film. No one’s even saying you have to review “The Hunger Games.” The point is you went out of your way to trash it without even seeing it. You fit it into a category based on other Hollywood movies, which probably–hell, usually–works, but doesn’t here. You might acknowledge this possibility based on comments by people who go out of their way to read you, but who have actually seen the movie you’ve trashed without seeing. You don’t want to watch it, fine. But why do you keep on ignorantly (literal meaning here) trashing it?

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — December 1, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

  24. I’m sorry I ever responded about “The Searchers.” I’d summarize it as a reactionary movie, too. Boiled down, I was reacting to an adverb, “totally.” I read it as a word that changes the logic of the sentence, like “always” or “never.” Maybe you use it as a modifier, as in “like, totally awesome.” But the scene where the Wayne character goes from “rescuer” to near-killer of his niece is a viscerally powerful depiction of racism (and patriarchal violence–but is that getting too post-modernish for you?), and it’s depicted as morally wrong–that’s the bit I took away years ago: Hey, John Wayne’s the bad guy!. I saw this as a kid, never knowing it was a “classic,” just a John Wayne movie, and that’s the one scene I could always remember about it without a summary. Others viewers seem to have reacted similarly over the years.

    Comment by socialismorbarbarism — December 1, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

  25. Have we stopped? Thank God. Grown men wasting words on this pap. I saw The Hunger Games, 2008, with two preteens. It was excruciating. The poor kids had to see it because of the usual advertising-induced peer pressure. I had to grit my false teeth each time a string was pulled to exploit the vulnerability of the kids in the multiplex. The apologetic parents told me afterwards the novel was “supposed to be” much better. How could it not be.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — December 2, 2013 @ 11:26 am


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