Archive for the ‘Soapbox’ Category

**Spoiler alert**

Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp and Ian McShane in a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesThere are basically two reasons we flock to theatres by the thousands each time a new Pirates of the Caribbean is released: Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow and the entertaining action sequences (choreographed to that now unmistakable theme music). The first Pirates film set up these expectations and spawned a successful franchise; however, if the fourth film — a reboot — was the first, I don’t think they would have made another. The fact that we can expect at least two more pictures from this cash cow ($90 million at the opening weekend box office for film #4) only leaves me to hope they learn from the many errors committed in the most recent instalment and deliver an improved chapter next round. (more…)

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Ghostface from the Scream series**Spoiler alert**

Genres, like many other systems, experience cycles: first is the primitive stage, which is the most basic form of the genre; second is the classical stage, which tends to last the longest as it performs on the established conventions and formulas; third is the revisionist stage, in which the recognized standards are questioned or reversed; and the final stage is parody, in which conventions are satirized. The first Scream exists in the third phase (nearing the fourth) as it was pretty original and incredibly self-referential. It earned our affections by turning the genre on its head, laying out and rejecting the conventions and formula horror fans had embraced for decades. It also opened the door for the Scary Movie franchise (stage four), but that’s a whole other conversation. (more…)

In honour of my blog’s first Halloween, I’ve decided to tackle the ultimate question around this time of year: “What is my favourite horror movie?” (more…)

Tales from the Darkside: The MovieThough I am a huge horror movie buff now, I must confess I didn’t watch my first true scary movie until I was 13 (save for a terrifying viewing of Stephen King’s It that resulted in irreversible and paralysing-to-this-day coulrophobia, but that’s a story for another time). While my cousin of the same age was watching Child’s Play and Halloween, I was watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, I was able to watch a number of horror anthologies without waking up in the middle of the night startled by some disturbing nightmare (mostly). They remain one of my favourite horror subgenres because you get several chilling tales in one neat little package. So below is a list of films that presented at least one story that stuck with me through the years. (more…)


When did violence against women become a defendable offence in mainstream entertainment?

WWE has always toed a fine line between comical and offensive. But maybe this time they really have gone too far. A couple of weeks ago, WWE Superstar Randy Orton “RKO’d” WWE princess Stephanie McMahon. The story line would force a confrontation between Orton and her husband, rival WWE Superstar Triple H. However, I was appalled when during one of Orton’s many addresses to the audience, he said Stephanie deserved it. Her standing behind him while he was consumed with rage justified his actions. And if that wasn’t enough, his diagnosed anger issues excused it.

A show with ”millions and millions” of viewers, comprised primarily of males 13 to 45, sanctioned violence against women. Boys emulate these men. And the fact that Orton is not currently a likeable character is not going to let them off the hook this time.

A couple of weeks later, Last House on the Left is released in hundreds of theatres across North America. The key moment is an explicit rape of a virginal teenage girl shown in extended close-up. The rape occurs in a hostile context and the act is in no way condoned. The problem this time is the film’s rating.

In Canada, the film is rated 18A and in the U.S., rated R. In both cases, this rating permits teens under 18 to see the film if they are accompanied by an adult. The ratings board gives other films grief over consensual sex and bodily functions – Kevin Smith had to jump through hoops to get an R-rating over a sex scene and faux excrement in Zack and Miri Make a Porno – while explicit rape sequences are slipping through the cracks. Apparently, rape does not warrant a firmer rating. It’s preposterous that teens who have yet to develop the faculties to understand the levels of violence being presented will be able to see the film.

The real-life incident between teen ”role models” Rihanna and Chris Brown has brought the issue of physical abuse to the forefront, with their plight gaining international attention. Shouldn’t authoritative bodies and influential entertainers be working to prevent incidents like this, rather than plastering them across screens all over the country?

Post-‘Bomb It’ ruminations

Posted: July 13, 2008 in Soapbox
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I recently attended a screening of music video director Jon Reiss’ new feature, Bomb It!: The Global Graffiti Documentary. And even though I left the theatre feeling enlightened, informed and impressed, I also exited with some very strong views on the act of “bombing.”

Firstly, there are taggers. They go around the city writing their names in marker or spray paint in lettering only legible to other writers. You see it on walls, buses, subways, washroom stalls, phone booths, etc. To the average eye, it does not look like much, even though they have made considerable effort to develop their style. However, their tags do not contribute anything to the city they are marking. It is an act of narcissism, to be recognized simply because they exist.

Next on the list are the writers. They also tag their cities but their names appear bigger and with more style. They are often colourful and far more imaginative than the above-mentioned tag. While their motivations may still be the same (to be recognized), at least they are creating something that gives reason to recognize them and can be appreciated by more than just other writers – and considering that includes the majority of the city, it is less a blot on the landscape.

Finally, there are the graffiti artists. Their work is the most artistic and widely favourable. They claim public space to display their talent and share their creations with the greatest number of people possible. Their work ranges from political commentary to social critique to art for art’s sake. They are admired by passersby and coveted by various corporations.

Graffiti raises the question of public space – who does it belong to? If the answer is everyone, should bombers not be accountable to the rest of the public (not the authorities) by at least contributing (by statement or art) to the neighbourhoods they bomb?

Censorship is offensive

Posted: March 3, 2008 in Soapbox
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CensorshipWhat is this country coming to when censorship, however closeted, is about to become a part of the Canadian landscape? In case the Heritage and Justice Ministers have not been told, this is the year 2008.

Bill C-10 is at its third reading in the Senate and on the brink of becoming a law. It includes a tax amendment that will allow the government to deny tax credits to television and film products deemed offensive or contrary to public policy – even if government agencies have already invested in them.

Denial of certification would effectively kill productions and leave producers on the hook to repay investors, including agencies like Telefilm Canada that only invest in Canadian-certified productions.

But who are “they” to decide what is offensive? The definition of offensive is something contrary to one’s moral sense. This is a highly objective criterion and I am quite sure I do not share a moral sense with Stockwell Day or Rob Nicholson.

Evangelical crusader and president of the Canada Family Action Coalition Charles McVety has claimed credit for the amendment. He said his lobbying, which included discussions with key government officials, has proven successful. McVety believes films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not be funded. Nonetheless, officials say they do not recall discussing the issue with McVety.

Conservative MP Dave Batters recently urged the new president of Telefilm Canada, Michel Roy, to block federal funding for objectionable films: “In my mind, sir, and in the minds of many of my colleagues and many, many Canadians,” said Mr. Batters during a Jan. 31 meeting of the Canadian Heritage committee, “the purpose of Telefilm is to help facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society – films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families in living rooms across this great country.”

Since when are mainstream and family-friendly one and the same?

The Canadian film and television industry’s products are scarcely seen in our own country; nevertheless, films gaining global attention and critical acclaim have often featured controversial subject matter. But post-Bill C-10, films such as Lynne Stopkewich’s necrophilia film Kissed, Atom Egoyan’s Where the Truth Lies, and Martin Gero’s Young People Fucking would almost definitely lose the right to a tax credit.

Arts groups vow to fight the change, calling it a violation of the Charter of Rights and an affront to freedom of expression. Director David Cronenberg has been very vocal on the issue, stating “The platform they’re suggesting is akin to a Communist Chinese panel of unknown people, who, behind closed doors, will make a second ruling after bodies like Telefilm Canada have already invested.” He added, “The irony is that it is the Canadian films that have given us an international reputation [that] would be most at risk because they are the edgy, relatively low-budget films made by people like me and others that will be targeted by this panel.”

Between 1930 and 1968, filmmaking in the United States was governed by a set of guidelines known as the Production Code. It was an industry censorship that restricted film content to morally acceptable subject matter. The code was eventually deemed outdated and abandoned. Forty years later, Canadian bureaucrats want to reintroduce similar controls.

Government officials claim what they propose is not censorship because films that do not pass their discretion can still be made, just not with government funds. However, funding options in Canada are already limited and rely heavily on government assistance. If qualification for tax credits will not be known until after a film’s completion, filmmakers may consider self-censorship to ensure approval. Furthermore, agencies like Telefilm may begin to re-evaluate the types of films in which they choose to invest.

There are unaffordable uncertain times ahead for the Canadian film and television industry.