As we noted a couple days ago, one of the truisms of the extreme right and its corporate backers is that they are incapable of making films that anyone wants to watch. Here’s another truism that I forgot to mention. They also like to critique films without having seen them. They just imagine what's in a film with which they think they disagree, and then attack. Happens all the time. (See a reviewer’s note on Fahrenheit 9/11’s DVD Extra’s: “The most amusing part of this featurette is to hear people condemn the film without seeing it.”)
So it goes with this sorry attempt to slam the documentary film, Hot Coffee, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week. It’s a sign of what may become a dirty corporate disinformation campaign against this well-received movie. Let’s hope not.
The corporate lawyer who wrote it admits he has not seen the film, and then does something that’s just so sad – he trys to re-argue the case that McDonald’s lost. (He follows up with a more comprehensive presentation. ) Bottom line: he and his buddies keep trying to re-try a case that the jury didn’t believe, a case that the judge and jury both rejected, and which led the judge, in refusing to grant a new trial in the case, to call McDonald's behavior “callous.” It’s over guys. You tried. You lost. That’s why we have courts. Stop whining. Move on.
Meanwhile, here is what responsible reviewers who actually made it out to Park City and watched the film, have said so far:
Focusing on another issue entirely, Oregon lawyer and first-time filmmaker Susan Saladoff made a stunning debut with the lively, lucid "Hot Coffee," about the spin behind such notions as tort reform, frivolous lawsuits and "jackpot justice." With its energetic pacing, bold visuals and the kind of narrative that sends audiences out of the theater thinking in a brand-new way about something they thought they understood, "Hot Coffee" deserves the kind of release enjoyed by "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Food, Inc."
Hot Coffee is strong brew, a scalding documentary on tort reform that should stir up your blood pressure faster than a triple espresso. The Sundance audience rendered a favorable verdict on this impressive film debut of filmmaker Susan Saladoff. Like many excellent documentaries, Hot Coffee is more a visual editorial rather than an all-encompassing and comprehensive distillation of a subject matter, in this case, our tort system. Essentially, it will play to standing ovations with the Trial Lawyers Assn., but be deplored by corporations and such entities as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Such is the direct force of its message. No matter whether your politics leans left or right, Hot Coffee is a potent and provocative documentary. In this heady presentation, Saladoff presents a compelling case on how corporate America has utilized sensationalized lawsuit settlements to curry public opinion against “frivolous” lawsuits. Most jarringly, she focuses on the infamous McDonald's case where a woman was awarded millions for spilling hot McDonald's coffee on herself. Lending perspective, Saladoff also includes numerous man-in-the-street interviews, which clearly indicate that the general public's uninformed view of the case was that it was outrageous for someone to sue over hot coffee.…
Next I caught "Hot Coffee," a documentary by Ashland attorney (and first-time filmmaker) Susan Saladoff concerning the war on Americans' rights to sue corporations for damages. It begins by recounting the actual facts around the famed McDonald's hot coffee case (the woman who sued the company was in her 70s, got third degree burns all over her lap and legs, and proved that McDonald's had more than 700 such complaints previously and done nothing about serving coffee at 180 degrees, FYI). The film explains how publicity campaigns, judicial elections, caps on injury awards and contracts that force binding arbitration on consumers are all whittling away at our constitutional rights. This is a potentially dry topic, but there's humor and pathos and clarity in the film. Very well done.