Exciting SNOWPIERCER Film Club Updates!

Have you gotten a chance to watch Snowpiercer yet, the best movie ever made about a post-apocalyptic #AmtrakResidency? If not, you have a little more time: we’re going to chat about what it has to say about money and class on Friday, July 25th, instead of the 24th, so that — huzzah! — ‘Folder Anne Helen Petersen can join us. She has Feelings about this movie, guys. Feelings she’s excited to share.

According to IndieWire, producer Harvey Weinstein calls Snowpiercer “a smart movie for a smarter audience.” Like, as opposed to a dum-dum movie for everybody. That’s the reason that he experimented with releasing the film to viewers via Video On Demand, iTunes, Amazon, and other outlets after it had only been in theaters for a couple of weeks, as we mentioned. He didn’t think an uncut version would please a broad audience, interested less in the politics and more in the axe fighting. The gamble seems to have paid off:

The theatrical marketing–a fraction closer to $5 million than $25 million–provided the launchpad for VOD. “We’ve devised a multi-platform model,” says RADiUS’s Quinn. “We’re here to crack that no man’s land between a boutique movie and a blockbuster where there’s no middle ground.”  “RADiUS did it perfectly for a giant financial success,” boasts Weinstein. “We’ve done $2 million in a week on VOD. We’ve never done that much, it’s our biggest weekly number. I think we wind up grossing $4-5 million theatrical beyond VOD, which makes for us all with ancillaries like TV very profitable. That’s the reason I brought in Tom and Jason to TWC, to do an amazing job. I’m not just an old theater guy, I want to be innovative and make movies work.”

More information about how to rent the film from the comfort of your own couch here, or go see it in a theater if you can and show Harvey Weinstein that smart people go to multiplexes too. But, um, you might not want to watch it alone. It’s like Wall-E meets Brazil, okay? It’s dark. You need a hand to hold / arm to grab, or at least I did.

Which is Objectively Worse, Burger King or McDonalds, Sbarro or Pizza Hut?

The most familiar names in fast food are also the worst. Turns out no one actually likes McDonalds hamburgers, Taco Bell burritos, or Subway subs. According to a new Consumer Reports survey:

many of the biggest names earned significantly lower scores for the foods that made them famous, notably McDonald’s. The chain, which serves flash-frozen patties made with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef, touts them as free from  “preservatives, fillers, extenders, and so-called pink slime.” Such a pledge might be comforting, but it’s hardly a rousing endorsement. McDonald’s own customers ranked its burgers significantly worse than those of 20 competitors, including Hardee’s, White Castle, and Carl’s Jr. No other house specialty scored as low.

Taco Bell’s burritos were also voted least luscious. And the subs from Subway, the world’s largest restaurant chain with more than 40,000 units in 106 countries, are near the bottom of the list.

Also at the bottom of the list with Congress and Comcast are nationwide chains Panda Express, Burger King, KFC, and pretty much anyplace that attempts to pass off crust-with-sauce-and-cheese as pizza: Little Caesar’s, Cici’s, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s are all in the bottom 10. Poor Domino’s! They’ve been trying so hard. The most worthless of all though is Sbarro, which makes perfect sense to everyone who ever had to gag down a slice there while waiting for their mom to come pick them up from the mall.

If no one can stand these places, why do they do such vigorous business?

Link Round-Up: Index Funds; Women-Oriented Companies Run By Men Because #Patriarchy

+ Someone in a comment asked for an overview of Index Funds. Here’s a very good, straightforward, and simple one: Why Does Everyone Preach About Index Funds? What They Are And Why They’re Good – From The Very Beginning.

The natural state for a business is to increase in value, and thus for its stock to go up. Now, let’s say you have the money to invest in the stock of one company. A lot of people invest this way by choosing individual stocks to invest in. That one company might be a really good one and skyrocket. It might also just be an average company and just do average. It might also be another Enron and just completely fall apart. Obviously, you want that high-riser, but what you really want is to avoid that Enron. If the stock you happened to buy is another Enron, your money is gone. This is a very big risk with individual stock investing – if you buy a lemon, your money goes poof. …

An index fund is exactly what I described above: they define some rule or set of rules, then just buy the stocks that follow that rule. Because it’s so easy to do this, the companies that run index funds generally don’t charge very much in fees for doing this for you. It’s popular because it’s very easy and it works.

For further / deeper reading, there’s some interesting info here in Q&A form (“Will the popularity of index funds cause a pricing bubble in the stocks that make up an index?”) on Stack Exchange. 

+ Men might not buy tampons, but they sure will sell them.

Trust Fund Babies: They’re Just Like Us?

The last wishes of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman have leaked to the public and there are some interesting details in his will about what he wanted done with his money:

Philip Seymour Hoffman rejected his accountant’s suggestion he set aside money for his three children because he didn’t want them to be ‘trust fund’ kids, according to new court documents. In a July 18 filing in Manhattan Surrogate Court, the actor’s accountant David Friedman recalled conversations with Hoffman where the topic of a trust for his children was raised. He said Hoffman wanted his estimated $35 million fortune to go his longtime partner and the children’s mother, Mimi O’Donnell.

It’s a kind of unusual choice. My dad always inveighed against “trust fund kids” when we were growing up; his hostility toward them in the abstract was a main reason he sent my brothers and me to religious school instead of one of the DC-area’s numerous posh private schools. Did a six-year-old in a Harvard sweatshirt kick sand in his face one time, or did some bouncy-haired, Varsity-jacketed schmuck driving his father’s convertible steal my dad’s high school girlfriend?

I had no idea, and I never asked why he was so sure ready money ruined children. I just knew if I wanted to get a rise out of him I could joke about making friends with someone who had a yacht. 

Weird Al Becomes Wired Al And Everyone Wins

Weird Al Yankovic is profiled in BusinessWeek and that’s not a sentence I expected to write. But, to be fair, his is not a profile they expected to write either. Who could have predicted Weird Al?

The Internet should have made Weird Al Yankovic irrelevant years ago. In fact, it has done the opposite. … The video for Lynwood‘s lead single, White & Nerdy, for example, had almost nothing to do with Chamillionaire’s original Ridin’. But it did something even better: Offer a critique of white suburbanites who co-opt hip-hop culture while simultaneously becoming a nerd anthem. (This group, coincidentally, makes up a sizable portion of Weird Al’s fanbase.) The video for White & Nerdy became so popular that it propelled the song to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Also on that album was Don’t Download This Song, about music piracy and the Recording Industry Association of America’s copyright infringement cases. Weird Al offered it up for free on his website a year before Radiohead would test its pay-what-you-want model with In RainbowsStraight Outta Lynwood went on to sell 563,000 albums, according to Nielsen Soundscan, making it Yankovic’s best-selling album of the past two decades.

Unexpected Internet success is one of my favorite kinds of success! And who can begrudge the 54-year-old Weird Al? He’s one of a handful of people in the entertainment world spotlight who doesn’t care if he’s cool or if you know he works hard. Also, he just seems like a nice guy:

AP: Unlike other parodies, you’ve never gone the mean-spirited route.

Yankovic: I’m a fan like everybody else. When I do my parodies it’s not meant to mock these people. It’s not meant to belittle them or make them look bad. It’s an homage. … I don’t think you need to be hurtful to be funny.

Is your favorite the Billfold-friendly “Mission Statement,” satirizing corporate speak? Here’s one ranking of his new parody songs. Here’s another. Agree / disagree? Or do you not get the appeal altogether?

Image via ROFLRazzi

Tear Down This Paywall: The New Yorker Opens Its Archives

Yesterday, in addition to launching a redesign of the New Yorker “Web site” — that’s how they say website in exalted magazine-speak – the famed, august, taste-making institution also threw open the gates to its archives. Well, sort of, and for a limited time:

the New Yorker announced plans to massively overhaul its website and to significantly alter its digital model, at a time when the Guardian and the New York Times are also implementing changes to their online presence. The prestige magazine, owned by Condé Nast, will move to a metered paywall system. It is is also making all of its articles since 2007* available for free for a three-month period, in a bid to entice new subscribers. After that, a limited number of articles will be available for free, before readers are required to subscribe. The current print circulation for the magazine is about 1 million, with 12 million unique visitors to its website.

In a “letter to readers” introducing the new website, the New Yorker joked that “editorial and tech teams have been sardined into a boiler room, subsisting only on stale cheese sandwiches and a rationed supply of tap water” in a bid to get the new site up and running.

Gather your rosebuds while ye may! This profile of Janet Yellen from the most recent issue is available in full for free. So are lots of features by two of my favorite contributors, Elif Batuman and Burkhard Bilger, as well as others. Before you know it, the new metered paywall will descend and we’ll all have to figure out whether or how to pay for our fix. My method, as I’ve mentioned, is to subscribe to public radio at the $120/year level and get a subscription as my thank you gift. But everyone has their ways.

The article originally said the archives went back to 1997, but that was a mistake on their part, and we have both now corrected it. 

Image via the New Yorker and Beyond The Times

On Underwear, Feminism, and Underwear-Feminism

The highbrow magazine The Baffler made its Internets redesign debut today with — among other things, including an out-of-nowhere slam of “This American Life” – a thoughtful blog entry about feminist underwear. As you may have discovered if you have looked for ethical alternatives to Hanes, prestige panties are expensive. And what do you really get for your money? A misguided sense of righteousness?

The problem with symbolic acts is rarely with the acts themselves, which range from mildly laudable to mostly harmless. Rather, the problem lies with an inability or refusal to move past the symbols to address the system. It mimics the shortsightedness people show when they congratulate themselves for buying an organic apple grown halfway around the world. Our well-intentioned discontent with globalization has never been resolved through more shopping, or even better shopping. … “feminist underwear” and other products like it are ultimately not so much game changers as they are status indicators.

I’m surprised that the author didn’t mention THINX, “underwear with built-in technology just for that time of the month.” At around $20-$40 a pair, “smart” underwear isn’t cheap, but it is more than usually functional: it’s anti-microbial, stain-resistant, leak-proof and absorbent. Also their business model is reminiscent of Toms, where the company rewards each purchase with investment in the developing world.

It might not be a total game changer, but it’s a partial one. I’m moved/convinced, I think! (“I can’t promise to try, but I’ll try to try.” –Bart Simpson.) What about you? Can shopping be a solution, or are products like this, however useful and even however philanthropic, just distractions from the Real And Ongoing Struggle?

Soon We Will All Enter Through The Poor Door

Separate but equal, right? What could possibly go wrong? According to the Daily Mail, NYC has given a thumbs up to the Poor Door:

Extell’s proposal allows them to force affordable housing tenants to walk through an entrance located in a back alley behind the building to enter, leaving the more prominent front entrance for tenants paying for nicer apartments. … some developers dismiss the outcry over the ‘poor door’ concept.

‘No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,’ David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers, another developer specializing in luxury residencies, told The Real Deal in 2013. ‘So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.’

The great David Von Spreckelsen has spoken. Gross trash-people living in affordable housing should be grateful they get a door at all and don’t have to shimmy in through air vents or come in on their knees, flagellating themselves for not working harder in elementary school to prepare themselves for the marketplace. Count your blessings, human rats! If you can count, which we doubt.

Related: Have you watched Snowpiercer yet? Anne Helen Petersen says: “Snowpiercer is the first film I’ve seen since District 9 that takes the tropes of the blockbuster and transforms them into something so compelling that days after seeing it, you stop can’t thinking about it. It turns moviegoers into proselytizers: Once you’ve seen it, you can’t shut the fuck up.”

The Last (Profane but Awesome) Word on Weddings

Samantha at Bitches Gotta Eat decided to answer every wedding etiquette question you can imagine, and she does it with aplomb, if by “aplomb” you mean “caustic honesty, jokes, and lots of cuss words.” For example, if you are invited to someone’s destination wedding, do you still bring/send a present and, if so, a present that represents the same amount of money you would spend on the couple if you weren’t also shelling out for airfare, hotel, etc? Samantha’s answer:

if i were you i would: 1 buy a first class ticket, for sure; 2 invest in a good quality jersey dress because ironing in a hotel is the lamest, you should be drunk; 3 fuck every dude you make eye contact with over that cocktail you’re sipping out of a coconut, and 4 get those assholes a giftcard in the checkout line at the grocer. congratulations, guys! please enjoy your dinner at ruby tuesday!

My (deep down secret) thoughts exactly. She also answers the even pricklier question of Plus Ones.

should we put “and guest” on the invitations addressed to our single friends?

man, fuck you and fuck this. YOU CHEAP BASTARDS. of course you should. the only thing worse than being a smug single person at some asshole’s stupid wedding is being a smug single person at some asshole’s stupid wedding with no one awesome to talk shit about it to. as much as i don’t want to burden you with that extra $75 lukewarm chicken breast spent on some dude i found on craigslist, just think of it as an insurance policy that i won’t fuck your reception all the way up with my drunk crying and vomit-flavored hiccups.

Do yourself a favor and scroll through the full list. Can’t guarantee agreement; can guarantee catharsis.

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $110,000

If you paid $1.1 million for something that didn’t have a waterfall, you’re a chump.

“Money Can’t Buy Happiness; It is Happiness”: A State-By-State Analysis

As Jack Donaghy summarized for us a couple of years ago, “Money can’t buy happiness; it is happiness!” But the amount of money that equals happiness — the salary point at which happiness plateaus, and earning more no longer makes you proportionally more satisfied or excited — varies from state to state. The Huffington Post has helpfully eaten this information, digested it, and excreted it in colorful map form, and also as a chart. You’re welcome!

Not surprisingly, in New York, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, an income of $75,000 won’t cut it. You don’t reach a happiness plateau in Hawaii until you make a whopping $122,000 a year. Isolation is expensive, I guess. DC comes in second at $104,000, meaning there are lots of grasping, unhappy strivers in the nation’s capital. I guess we knew that already. It’s not entirely a fair comparison, though, since DC is all city; if you judged California, New York, Illinois, Georgia, or even Texas entirely by their cities, their numbers would go way up too. Still, good to know if you’re thinking of working in government.

A mere $65,000 will buy you happiness in Mississippi, where plateaus come cheapest. Presumably though such a sum is harder to earn. (There’s the rub. There is always the rub.) New Mexico, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and Louisiana all essentially tie, coming in at $70,000, so if you have to choose among those vastly different states, just roll a five-sided dice! Or figure out which state offers the most well-paying jobs.

Some surprises: Oregon is in the top 10, above Massachusetts. What’s up, Portlandia? How do you all get by slinging coffee, pickling things, and growing beards if you’re secretly such malcontents that your happiness doesn’t plateau until $91,000? By comparison, Washington State is a bargain at $76,900. If you’re choosing between Portland and Seattle, well, go Seahawks! And in Alaska happiness plateaus come very dear. Jeez. Who even makes $98,800 a year up there?

Do 1 Thing Baby Just Do 1 Thing

Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing.

My one thing is to cook! Which we haven’t done in so long that I’m kind of embarrassed about it. The cooking itself will be about as low impact as I can make it. Fresh Direct delivered the ingredients for a gussied up version of tuna noodle casserole, and while taking care of my active and witchy toddler I managed to do the chop-chop prep work. All I need to do now is grate some cheese, probably while watching old episodes of 30 Rock, cook some pasta, mix, and bake. I can do that, right? Right.

My 1 Thing will be good for me in the long-term because Omega-3s are apparently proven stress-reducers, along with leafy greens, eggs, and dark chocolate. I need that fortification, because after going through the entire process of applying for health insurance on the Marketplace, this is the notification we received:

Sigh.