Saturday 27 December 2014
Friday 26 December 2014
In the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, several commentators have less than glowing things to say about Michael Winner. He is accused of including rape "just to get his rocks off" as well as being a "pathologically brutal, strange, sadistic, insecure, egotistical character". Death Wish 2 evinces the point, but not (only) because of its appalling sexual politics. Winner makes a habit of placing the camera behind objects: desks, plants, picture frames, anything to needlessly obscure the audience's view of the characters. Consequently, the camera lurks, voyeuristically spying on the events. I suspect the technique was meant to be unsettling, as if "someone is always watching, ready to pounce" (i.e. mug or take revenge on the populace). Instead, it feels more like the viewing position is that of a creepy little man who chuckles with glee while people are harmed. Death Wish 2's tone is thoroughly seedy as a result, thus corroborating Winner's reputation. Nevertheless, his strange directorial choice is certainly the most interesting aspect of a film that somehow manages to be dull and offensive simultaneously.Thus, Death Wish 2 laid the groundwork for Death Wish 3's onslaught of class and race-based intolerance. It also mysteriously concretized Bronson's standing as an action star, despite being entirely unsuited to and ill-equipped for the role. Perhaps Death Wish 2's real legacy is the acceptability of aging action stars in mainstream Hollywood today.
Wednesday 24 December 2014
According to Vice.com, during the trial of Luka Magnotta, prosecutor Louis Bouthillier tried to have Basic Instinct admitted into evidence (to be played in full for the jury) to support his theory that Magnotta took influence from the film. Thankfully his request was denied, since it could have easily spun into a "media effects" argument (yawn). While rejecting the request, Judge Cournoyer gave an impromptu review of Basic Instinct:
"to be plain, frank and honest, I fell asleep last night trying to watch it. This is not a movie which has withstood the test of time very nicely. It's such a bore."
Sunday 21 December 2014
Even in pre-production, this was a tough sell. See No Evil was so mediocre that it did not merit a sequel. Still, there was hope that the Soska Twins might bring some fun to the franchise. Moreover, a mediocre original means that there is no legacy to destroy, and no tedious origin story to set-up (the first film did not have much of a backstory, but it was still plenty). Unfortunately, See No Evil 2 barely rises above its predecessor. The plot is threadbare. That would not have mattered if the movie had delivered scares, but sadly the blood is as thin on the ground as the character development here. Limited-environment slashers only work if the deaths are creative and the killer is menacing. Here, the kills are disappointing and Kane fails to convince: he is massive, but he is not very threatening. Unsurprisingly veteran Danielle Harris is the highlight, although there are spots in which the directors could have pushed both Harris and Katharine Isabelle further: a few of the emotionally heightened sequences are a little flat, and both actors are capable of more. I am still waiting for the Soska sisters to deliver on the promise of Dead Hooker in a Trunk. See No Evil 2 just does not cut it, but I live in hope. One request: I want to see no See No Evil 3... unless Noboru Iguchi willing to direct, Then we are talking.
Wednesday 17 December 2014
Wow, what a great idea. Playing older consoles on TVs now is a pain because few TVs have co-ax inputs. There are solutions, but this one is particularly elegant for those of us who have a stash of old NES and SNES cartridges.
The system operates by reading the game cartridge then coding that content through an emulator. That does not really matter inasmuch as the hardware is not original either, but there is something philosophically interesting about the step-removal between the original cartridge and the emulation produced: it is not like playing the original game because one is not playing the original game. This is no more authentic than using any other emulator, despite using original cartridges. Still, copyright holders and cartridge hoarders rejoice: the ghost of Christmas past has arrived!
Friday 12 December 2014
Wow, pre-debunked rumours about Demi Moore's ass - and this is the insightful documentary that fans have been waiting for?
Thursday 11 December 2014
The porn industry has been floundering for a while now, but if anyone is in any doubt about how bad things are looking for mainstream US porn producers, check out this article on Playboy:
In the article, Playboy CEO Scott Flanders discusses his strategies for sustaining the brand, which include making the content increasingly SFW:
'“You could argue that nudity is a distraction for us and actually shrinks our audience rather than expands it,” says Flanders. “At the time when Hef founded the company [in 1953], nudity was provocative, it was attention-grabbing, it was unique and today it’s not. It’s passé.”'
According to the article headline, the implications are that "Nudity Could Completely Vanish From the Brand": am iconic porn brand without any nudity. Playboy may be attempting to distance itself from the stigma associated with "porn", but this is also an indication that the meanings of the term "porn" itself are shifting.
Wednesday 10 December 2014
In March 2014, a UK branch of the supermarket chain Tesco took it upon themselves to remove The Hospital from sale after receiving a customer complaint (see here). Surprisingly, the film - which the BBFC classified as only being suitable for viewers over the age of 18 - was 'too graphic and violent for a family store' according to the article linked above. Aside from anyone who a) read the DVD box, b) understands the certification system, or c) can read plainly printed consumer advice, who could have anticipated that The Hospital was not wholesome family fun?
Flippancy aside, now that I have seen the film, I share the view that sales of The Hospital should be severely restricted. The content is "extreme"... as in extremely tedious. This life-draining atrocity ought to be restricted to bargain bins where it can remain hidden under the hundreds of other cheap horror films that one could spend time watching instead. The filmmakers have tried to tap into numerous trends in contemporary horror, but the resultant plot is a confused mess of found-footage motifs, supernatural events, torture porn elements, and hints of snuff. Imagine Death Tunnel with some offscreen rape, DeathTube with ghosts, or 7th Hunt featuring an Oliver Hardy impersonator who plays the role of "sex-criminal janitor". Now lower your expectations: rather than watching this unholy chimera, imagine that the plot is being vaguely relayed to you by an amnesiac who has Ben Stein's voice and Ed Milliband's charisma. That is how it feels trying to sit through The Hospital. The plot-based "rap" that accompanies the title sequence is easily the best part of the film, but only insofar as it is bad enough to be funny (unlike the rest of the movie).
If any of this sounds appealing or remotely entertaining, it is not. Consider yourself warned. Given a choice between being admitted to a real hospital or enduring The Hospital again, I'd pick the former: it is a "no-brainer", just like the film itself.
Tuesday 9 December 2014
Edited Book: Pornographies: Critical Positions
DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTS: 12 January 2015
Pornography has long been a controversial topic in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, though recently scholars and activists from a variety of disciplinary and experiential backgrounds have begun to move beyond divisive ‘for and against’ arguments to focus closely on pornography’s many instantiations, its problems and potentials, and its relationships with established and new theoretical and methodological approaches. As such, the multiplicity of perspectives in the emerging interdisciplinary field of Porn Studies is rivalled only by the diversity, proliferation, mutability and mainstreaming of pornographies themselves. This edited, peer-reviewed volume will constitute a snapshot of current academic thought in relation to pornographies in order to reflect and put into dialogue the many innovative approaches that seek to understand porn cultures, histories, social relations and political economies.
We particularly welcome proposals for chapters from new voices in the study of pornography and envisage that these will sit alongside, challenge and complement work from more established writers in the field.
Topics may include but are not restricted to:
• Alternative pornographies
• Amateur pornographies
• Close reading of specific pornographic texts in relation to constructions of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and/or social class
• Consumption and/or production of pornographies
• Critical perspectives on gender, postfeminism and discourses of empowerment
• Disability, bodies and pornography
• LGBT pornographies and pornographic subcultures
• ‘Mummy porn’ (50 Shades of Grey, etc.) and literary pornographies
• Political pornographies
• Porn histories and genres
• ‘Pornification’ and the mainstreaming of pornography in mass culture
• Self-pornification via social media
• Sex-positive feminist perspectives on pornography and critiques of this
• ‘Dirty’ food marketing
• Fetishized porn and categories of ‘other’
• Sex workers and the porn industry
• Porn for women
The volume will be part of the University of Chester’s Issues in the Social Sciences
(Series Editor: Katherine Harrison) and will be published by University of Chester Press (further information about the Press can be viewed here ; details of a recent publication in the series can be viewed here ). Finished chapters will be 6,500 words in length and written in accessible style for a diverse readership.
If you are interested in contributing a chapter to this volume please send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short biographical note detailing institutional affiliation (where applicable) to both Katherine Harrison (email@example.com) and Cassie Ogden (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 12 January 2015.
Contributors will be informed of acceptance by 30 January 2015. Final drafts of chapters will be expected in April 2015 with publication scheduled for summer 2016. All contributions will be reviewed by the editors and, additionally, blind peer reviewed by an expert reader.
Dr Katherine Harrison
Senior Lecturer in Sociology
CBB119 Best Building
Department of Social and Political Science
University of Chester
Chester CH1 4BJ
Tel. +44 (0)1244512032
Series Editor: Issues in the Social Sciences
Making Feminism Project Blog
Sunday 7 December 2014
A motion to annul Ed Vaizey's Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 (S.I., 2014, No. 2916) - which pertains to the censorship and certification of online video and came into force on 1st December 2014 - has been put forward by Julian Huppert
Thursday 4 December 2014
The new legislation against online porn rushed through parliament by the UK government bans depictions of female ejaculation: resultantly, many have called out this law as being fundamentally sexist. Other groups are concerned that the law is squarely aimed at the BDSM community. Both sets of complaints strike me as being entirely on point. Regardless of how one personally feels about any of the practices involved, if you are offended by the implications, consider signing this petition:
Remove Regulations for Video On Demand Pornography (AMSR 2014).
Sexist, archaic and damaging. This amendment to the communications act (2003) was rushed through parliament to take away the rights British people have on the internet.
Since 1/12/14, The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2014 requires that video-on-demand (VoD) online porn now adhere to the same guidelines laid out for DVD sex shop-type porn by the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC).
This includes the likes of: Spanking, Caning, Penetration by any object "associated with violence" , Physical or verbal abuse (regardless of if consensual), Watersports, Female ejaculation, Facesitting, Fisting.
The regulations make NO distinction between consensual and non-consensual acts.
They treat female ejaculation as a myth (and more unsafe/disgusting than male ejaculation).
This is one further attempt to censor the internet, as with David Cameron's plan to force ISPs to filter pornography.
They will damage smaller, independent film makers and producers, where as huge pornography companies will be left comparatively unscathed, causing a loss of British jobs as independent film makers are forced overseas.
Uneccesary censorship, patriarchal behaviour is all too often the path our government takes. We have 50 shades of grey out in the CINEMA in february, yet we're not allowed to watch a real equivalent made by British people. The government have no right to dictate what a responsible adult does for work, or what they look at on the internet.
We call for a complete removal of this amendment, underhandedly rushed through parliament in only ONE MONTH, which is inherently sexist, insulting and damaging to many British people.
Wednesday 3 December 2014
The Babadook treads similar thematic ground to other motherhood horror films, including First Born, Baby Blues, and even We Need to Talk about Kevin. I class the latter as a horror film on the grounds that the content is patently horrific and dwells on emotional distress, even if it does not conform to the genre's usual tropes. The Babadook plays the opposite trick: We Need to Talk about Kevin is a horror film dressed up like a drama, whereas The Babadook is a drama dressed up as a horror film. Sadly, the filmmakers' commitment to that genre-base does the most damage to the movie: the third act plays out like a supercut of horror cliches, meaning the climax provides the film's least compelling moments. That slip perhaps suggests a lack of confidence on the director's or the production company's part. Either way, it tarnishes an otherwise bold (if not wholly original) movie. The "descent into madness" theme has been done to death in recent years, but this is a good example of how to prevent that madness from spiraling into narrative incoherence. I am not convinced that the eponymous spirit is destined to become a classic horror boogeyperson, but The Babadook is a solid effort on all fronts, boasting good effects, convincing performances (especially from the central pairing), and an atmospheric but unobtrusive score. In sum, this is a well paced, creepy little story that has enough thematic meat on its bones to satisfy most viewers.
Tuesday 2 December 2014
Found is a difficult film to write about, but not for the reasons the hype surround Found might suggest. Having been severely cut in Australia, Found has gained a reputation as being a "shocker". However, anyone who has seen A Serbian Film, let alone any other "extreme" horror films will probably consider Found to be really rather tame even in its unrated form (the pre-cut BBFC certified version excises the most controversial material, and so is even lighter). So why is the movie difficult to write about? Because it is so mediocre. The acting and effects are (for the most part) passable, but little more. The story is fine, but ultimately hollow. The filmmakers should have spent more time fleshing out the characters and the psychological drama, or amplifying the "shock" factor... or perhaps both. Unfortunately, Found is forgettable and so the aforementioned hype is likely to damage its reputation in the long-term.
Monday 1 December 2014
Since it is a time-loop narrative, I was predisposed to like Repeaters. Bias aside, the film is nevertheless one of the smarter efforts in that micro-genre; it much stronger than its tepid reviews suggest [pro-tip: if anyone mentions Groundhog Day in a review for a time-loop film - as reviewers (ironically) seem to ad infinitum - stop reading... umm, except in this case]. Most explicitly, Repeaters is based on a moral thought-experiment: as the tagline has it 'what would you do' if there were no consequences for your actions? The three protagonists explore different answers to that question, resulting in degrees of self-destruction, (attempts) to forgive others, and outright criminality. These responses are augmented by a combination of the time-loop structure and the diegetic context; this imbricated thematic core is Repeaters' secret weapon. The opening depicts the three protagonists conversing about their damaged relationships in a rehab therapy session. Thus, the film grounds its moral thought-experiment in concerns regarding a) the damage drug-fueled hedonism has on one's social ties - which is paralleled by their initial reactions to the time-loop - b) cycles of addiction, including the propensity to downplay consequences in favor of short-term fulfillment and descent into unsatisfying compulsion in the long-term, and c) the cyclic nature of therapy, which provides a rigid structure that forces individuals to dwell on their actions: the goal is to affect change, but therapy can feel closer to stasis because it necessitates revisiting the past. These latter themes are astutely captured by the loop-framework. This rich, multilayered approach to form and theme results in a film that far transcends its modest budget.