BIRDMAN – A Mini Movie Review

Welcome Back, Everyone!

I trust that you all enjoyed a nice Christmas, and a Happy New Year,

As I am currently dealing with publicity for my Cinema City Extreme All-Nighter Horrorthon, this is only going to be a short update for you all. Although the film in question is neither a horror film, nor an “extreme” film, it’s certainly a jaw-dropping piece of cinema that you should all seek-out immediately.

Michael Keaton, famous for his role in Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989) and BATMAN RETURNS (1992) stars as Riggan Thomson, in the superb BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (2014, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), and considering this film came out on New Year’s Day here in the UK, this is almost certain to be my favourite film of 2015.

Thomson is a middle-aged wreck of an out-of-work Hollywood actor, having starred in the titular Birdman franchise. Sick of starring in blockbusting drivel, and having been cast aside by the very industry that made him a household name, he decides to take on Broadway, and cast and direct a (genuine) Raymond Carver short story, called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love“.

Determined to restore his career to its former glories, he finds his psyche is hellbent on destroying him, from within, as the titular Birdman refuses to let him go – constantly provocating and harassing him, like a demented alter-ego.

Struggling to get the Carver play up-and-running, he reluctantly but deliberately sets another lead cast member up for a fall, and when they are forced out of the play, Thomson brings in fugacious Hollywood A-Lister Mike, played by Edward Norton, in one of his most charismatic and interesting roles ever. Mike delivers an amazing performance for Riggan, and Riggan reluctantly hires him, after ticket sales double overnight, due to Mike’s “status”. But Mike is not what he seems, and nor is Riggan, and as the Birdman gradually erodes Riggan’s psyche, strange, wonderful and horrific things began to occur – some of which are distinctly out-of-this-world in more ways than one.

BIRDMAN is one of the most wonderful, wondrous, jaw-dropping and incredible pieces of film I’ve ever enjoyed. It not only works as a great film on its own, but it’s a spectacular piece of meta-cinema – that is film that talks about itself and its own creation. Whilst you can easily look at the parallels between Keaton and Riggan, this is not where the film excels. Where it excels best, is as a scathing critique of Hollywood, of big-name, big-value actors who star in brain-mushing, patronising, blockbuster films where millions of dollars are spent on the CGI, but almost nothing is spent on the script. Keaton and Norton are mere cyphers through which Inaritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Armando Bo, and Alexander Dinelaris create one of the cinematically literate pieces of movie-making for the intelligentsia. This is a thinking-person’s film, and it doesn’t give you a single second to digest much of the electric, daring, provocative and often hilariously profane dialogue, that turns this film into a real whip-crack piece of near-documentary-like cinema.

When Riggan (as Birdman) exclaims: “People: they love blood! They love action! Not this talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit.” part of you realises, he’s not actually kidding. You only need to look at the number of mind-numbingly dumb blockbusters that frequently make it into your local multiplex to see that this is as prophetic as you can get. Does Michael Bay need to make a TRANSFORMERS 4, when the first one was already dumb-enough for the masses? Clearly, Bay thinks he does. The fact that TRANSFORMERS 5 will almost certainly be made within the next couple of years, just saddens me even more!

As we watch Riggan’s own seeming self-destruction, we also – simultaneously – marvel at his own rebirth. Seeing him levitate and discard objects, with the flick of an angelic hand, as if he has become both Birdman and at one with Birdman, is mesmerising. You are never sure whether Riggan is controlling Birdman, or Birdman is controlling him, and thus constantly changing fluidity is ultimately what makes this film work so amazingly well.

Alongside Keaton and Norton, we have Emma Stone as Riggan’s teenage daughter Sam, who Norton exclaims has “a nice ass” early-on in the film, puts in one of her best performances, and demonstrates she can truly act when given the right material to get her teeth into. Her co-stars include Zach Galifianikis as Jake, Riggan’s lawyer and best-friend struggling to deal with Riggan’s mental breakdown; Naomi Watts as Lesley, one of the other cast member’s in the play Riggan is staging, and one of Mike’s ex-flames; Andrea Riseborough as Laura, another actress from the play, (and Riggan’s current beau), and Lindsay Duncan as Tabitha Dickinson, a deliciously vicious New York theatre critic, who is determined to see Riggan laughed off of Broadway, and permanently exiled as an actor, forever!

The cast universally put in some of their best work ever, and Norton is certainly one of the film’s revelations for me personally. He has an early revelation, when he and Sam enter the theatre’s changing room, and Mike proceeds to view himself in the mirror. It really is a great performance, and a very funny moment, in a film full of laugh-out-loud and stand-out moments! Emma Stone, as Sam, has some of the zingiest dialogue, including one of the finest put-downs I’ve ever heard, when she scorches her father for not being “hip”! (I’ll leave you to find out what that is, when you go see the film.)

On top of all of this, there is the editing! Wow! What we have here is a film so meticulously staged and edited, that the entire two-hour film feels like one, uninterrupted and continuous shot! If you look hard, you will see where the edits are, but it’s still an incredible piece to witness on the big-screen, alongside all the other amazing moments that Inarritu and the cast deliver for us. It’s almost meticulous in the way it has been set-up, to the point that the entire film had to be filmed in order – something that isn’t the norm for many films or TV shows these days – with cast and crew having to run-into or hide-out of shots, as and when they were needed.

And how can I neglect to mention the heavy and intense Percussion Score from Antonio Sanchez? A vast, throbbing constant driving beat, that pounds itself into every fibre of your being, as the film flows from one moment to the next. This is riveting and fervent stuff! Admittedly, when listened to as a separate entity, it doesn’t quite work. But within the context of the movie, it’s an astounding and binding force, that will keep you hooked and your brain on fire! Mr Sanchez also cameos, a few times, which makes for much merriment!

This really is an absolute knockout film! Considering we’re barely a week into 2015, I have to say that my money is on this being the film that will be the surprise hit at most film awards ceremonies around the globe. If Keaton doesn’t win at least one award for Best Actor In A Leading Role; and if Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione don’t win for editing, AND if Inarittu doesn’t win a Best Director or Best Script, then there will genuinely be no justice in this world.

See BIRDMAN, and be prepared to see one of the finest pieces of cinema, ever committed to celluloid! The film is showing worldwide, so go see it! And remember: “Shave off that pathetic goatee. Get some surgery. Sixty’s the new Thirty, motherfucker“!

ADDENDUM: The film is now out on US Blu-Ray, but should you wish to purchase it, you’ll be pleased to hear it is Region Free or A-B-C encoded, meaning it will play on any Blu-Ray player, regardless of the code-locking on your Blu-Ray player! I’d heartily recommend it, as it comes with a great 30 minute documentary, a 15-minute interview with Michael Keaton and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and a nice gate-fold packaging too, as shown in the image below.

     
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BIRDMAN – A Mini Movie Review

Cinema City Extreme All-Nighter Horrorthon 2015!

** THIS EVENT HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED! PLEASE CLICK ON…

This Link Here

… FOR THE REVISED DETAILS!**

Welcome Back,

Apologies for things being so quiet on my blog since November, but I’ve been busily working on a secret project, and now, all of my hard work, has finally paid off! If you live in (or can get too) the UK, then please pay special attention!

On Saturday 24th January 2015, I am proud to present, in connection with  OurScreen  and  Cinema City / Picturehouse Norwich

CINEMA CITY EXTREME
ALL-NIGHTER HORRORTHON!


Yes, for the first time ever in Cinema City’s 36-year-long history, I am very proud to establish this all-night-long horror film marathon, for people living in and around Norwich, in Norfolk – a delightful, Medieval city in East Anglia in England…

… and I will be your host!

 

Starting at 11pm, and running through the night until around 8:30am the next morning, we will be showing five, delightfully sick-and-nasty films from all over the globe, on the Big Screen, where all horror is meant to be seen! In this modern, plush, 185-seater venue, you can come and share the grisly delights of the following films:

SLEEP TIGHT (2011, Jaume Balaguero)
MARTYRS (2009, Pascal Laugier)
EXCISION (2012, Richard Band, Jnr.)
ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS (aka ZOMBIE, aka ZOMBI 2) (1979, Lucio Fulci)

We will also be premiering a  BONUS FIFTH FILM,  but which will be revealed on the night itself! A film so shocking, it’s not seen the inside of a cinema, since its original release, and a film so controversial, we can’t even say the name of it here!


All films will be shown completely uncut and uncensored, in their original languages, with English Subtitles where applicable, with the exception of ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS which will be shown in a Dubbed English version, as this is the one most people know of.
  • This wonderful event is for over-18’s only, for legal reasons pertaining to UK cinema laws.
  • Tickets cost £32.50p (approximately 40 Euros or $50 US Dollars) for the whole night, and we need an absolute minimum of 100 people to attend this event, if it’s going to go ahead.
  • Tickets will reserve you a place, but actual seats are allocated on a strict first-come, first-served basis on the night of the event itself. So, you need to turn-up nice and early, if you want to get yourself a decent seat!
  • Proof Of Age may also be needed on the night too, so attendees are politely requested to bring some kind of photographic ID too, please, just in case.

All tickets can be purchased from this link here… 


…though money will NOT be taken from your debit or credit card, unless 100 people have booked!

This is the first kind of event of its type, here in Norfolk, and as such, I would very much like as many of my readers to attend this night, as is humanly possible! There are reasonably-priced hotels close to the venue, and plenty of places to eat/drink at too, if you fancy doing so, before you arrive.

Alcohol and snacks, (including popcorn and fizzy drinks), can also be bought at reasonable prices on the night, from the cinema’s kiosk and bar facilities, and alcohol can be consumed in the auditoria itself, as long as those doing so, all behave themselves!

So please, pass on the link above to anyone and everyone, and I hope to see you there! And as this will be my last update before the holidays, may I wish you all Seasons Greetings!

See you soon!
Cinema City Extreme All-Nighter Horrorthon 2015!

A Very Short Update

Hello Everyone,

Apologies for the lack of updates. I’ve simply been very busy working on a secret pet-project of mine, and very shortly, I will finally be able to explain everything.

Check back shortly, and all will be revealed! I think you’ll find it very interesting, especially if you are in the UK!

See you soon…

A Very Short Update

Everyone’s A Critic! What Is The Value Of Real Film Criticism? (Part 1)

Hello Again,

Today, we examine the issue of “film criticism”, and ask “What is the point”? I hope you enjoy this article.

I’m sure you’ve all seen a movie poster, like the one above. And I don’t mean that literally. I mean, a poster for any major, forthcoming film, whereby the title, the cast/crew, and even the main image all takes a distinct second place to the star-ratings from every rent-a-quote journo working for any one of a hundred magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, and even online blogs! The kind of poster, that says, nigh screams at 100,000 decibels “See me, or die“!

Have you ever studied those quotes? I don’t mean simply reading them, and casually ignoring them, like most cinemagoers would, I mean well-and-truly taken time out of your day, to read what the ratings scream, who screamed them, and for what media outlet that quote has been screamed from?

Take the example above, from the UK release of LOCKE – a film I’ve not actually seen, so I am by no means critiquing it, merely the concept of the star-ratings and quotes. There are the big-hitters, such as BBC Radio 5 Live (a national UK radio station), Time Out (a London-based listings guide, that also happens to be published in many other countries also, such as New York, Mexico and many others), and The Hollywood Reporter, (a well-known film trade journal).

Then you get, the lesser-known, lesser-read publications, such as Loaded magazine (a UK “lads” magazine, that recently went into Administration, just a matter of months after a costly relaunch, and which has changed hands three times, in as many years). And then, you get the real rent-a-quotes, from companies or publications most of us haven’t heard of, let alone know who or what they are, such as the stellar Grolsch Film Works, who say:

Since 1615, The Dutch beer brand Grolsch has been driven by creativity, innovation and great ideas. [snip] It is these same qualities, fundamental to independent film, that have inspired Grolsch Film Works.

Or perhaps Heyuguys, a site that makes the lofty claim of:

Based in London, UK, HeyUGuys want to bring you the most interesting film news and reviews, keep an active eye on the latest developments behind the scenes and celebrate the freshest new voices in cinema.

They have just over 20,000 Facebook fans, and even 38,000 Twitter followers. With that many people, their ratings on posters must count for something, surely?

Well, actually, no! And that’s kind of my point. It’s one thing getting a rating from the likes of Mark Kermode (who reviews films for the BBC and The Guardian newspaper) or Geoff Andrew (who works at the British Film Institute) in the UK, or Leonard Maltin (film reviewer who publishes an annual Movie Guide book), or Janet Maslin (film reviewer for The New York Times) in the USA. These are people of kudos and standing! These are people who have been in the film-reviewing business, for 25 years or more! They have lived and  breathed cinema, for longer than some of you may have even been alive! These people are what I would call proper film critics. They know the difference between a rotten film, a bad film, one that’s passable, a good film, and a great one. They have talent that makes what they say, worth listening too.

Something that cannot be said, in my view, of some company like Grolsch Film Works! I mean, can a beer brewing company really claim to have any knowledge, standing or value in the realm of film reviewing, let alone film criticism, by giving a film any rating whatsoever, be that one star or five? What worth does knowing that they think Tom Hardy in LOCKE (2013, Steven Knight) is “fantastic“? What next? Having McDonalds tell me whether or not to choose a particular mortgage from my bank, or perhaps we can pick a random child who attends the local kindergarten, and get them to give us all their pearls of wisdom on  the world of Stocks and Shares?
Of course we wouldn’t. That would be ludicrous, as well as utterly irrelevant. Their viewpoint would be of no help whatsoever, except as the most cursory of guidance.
So why do film distributors, think that plastering a film poster with similar names of worthlessness and irrelevance mean we should take anything said in that quote as being anything more useful than what your Great Uncle Jimmy thinks, or that semi-related, distant cousin of yours, you only see on big, family occasions, once in every blue-moon? Do they take us all for idiots?
We can argue that these quotes are merely an extension of advertisements. The quotes, on the posters – which are also advertising tools – are simply trying to get us to buy tickets, and separate us from all of our hard-earned cash. And, like advertising, we are free to listen too, or completely ignore such attention-seeking actions. The more savvy we as film-fans become, the more discriminating we become. We start to be far choosier, about what films to see in cinemas, on that Opening Weekend, which we will rent, and which we will wait until it turns-up one night, on Cable TV, when we’re channel-hopping, half-pissed out of our heads.
Advertisers don’t like us being clued-up. That’s why so many adverts treat us all like simpletons, with IQ’s barely bigger than the number of digits we have on one hand. They think, that if we go for the lowest, common denominator, that we will fall for their “spell”. We will become seduced! The merest hint of a “tease”, and suddenly, we’re all slobbering morons, happy to give over all of our cash, at the earliest opportunity.
Unfortunately, a lot of the world’s population are simpletons! You only need to look at some of the junk that fills our world up! How many moronic reality TV shows fill-up our TV schedules each night? Want to see yet another remake of a horror film, that wasn’t particularly good in the first place? Need to know how to boil an egg, and make toast? There’s an app for that too! We really are a dumb species! But, and there is a big but here, amongst the cretins, the numpties, the gobshites, the idiots and the losers, there is an ever-growing band of smart, sensible, mature intelligent people. They are of all ages, they come from all corners of the globe, and they are media-savvy! They know the way the world really works! They know that watching Fox News, is akin to reading a tabloid newspaper. They know that Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS 4 is yet another three-hour, snooze-fest with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and is the cinematic equivalent of slitting your wrists, albeit marginally less fun! They know that most politicians are lying, scheming bastards, out to scam as much as they can, in any way fathomable, and that there is no such thing as luck, or God, or karma!
These people, are the ones that can bring a country to its knees, during political upheaval. They are the people who start revolutions in tech, in countries, in the world as we know it! They are the chosen few; the bookworm; the shy, reclusive guy no one ever talked too; the brainiac! They know that knowledge is power, but not just learning facts and figures by rote. No, any fool can learn something in parrot-fashion. No, I’m talking about the thinkers, the outside-of-the-box’ers! I’m talking about You!
I can safely say that, because you follow a blog, that is predominantly made-up of text. Lots and lots and lots of text! You don’t care too much that there’s no video clips to see all the latest trailers. You aren’t fussed that my site isn’t full of the latest Flash and HTML code, so you do lots of wonderful, spiffy things, and be awed by a flash-looking website, with lots of bells and whistles. You aren’t even fussed by the fact that this blog is only updated a few times a year – not necessarily even once a month in some cases!
None of that matters, because what you care about is discerning commentary. You want to be involved in hearing about someone who is happy to communicate his message, through the most basic of mediums – the written word. I may be using a blog to pass my message out to all of you, but my blog is predominantly made of letters, and words, and text, and practically nothing else, because for you folks, it’s the message that matters. What I say, is more important than how I say it.
Any halfwit can “review” a film, or TV show, or a pop concert! Just look at Amazon, or eBay, or Gumtree, or any number of other sites, that let people “review” things on, and just read what some of these people write! It’s utter crap, written by uneducated imbeciles, who could barely tie their shoe-laces, let alone string a whole sentence of value together. How often have you seen on Amazon, someone write something like “I love this film. 5-Stars”. How often on eBay, has someone left you feedback, along the lines of “AAAAA++++ eBayer”?! I mean, for fuck’s sake, that’s not reviewing anything. That’s kindergarten stuff. Even a dungbeetle could “rate” something better than that!
And here we go back to what is at the heart of what I call “proper film criticism”: the ability to intelligently and maturely turn your thoughts into wonderful, meaningful sequences of prose that give the reader a fragmentary moment of orgasmic joy. It doesn’t matter whether you love or hate a film, it’s how you arrive at that conclusion that matters. Most great film critics, don’t use (or at least don’t like to use) star-ratings or grades to classify films. From reading their work, you will know how they felt about it. A grading system, is only really useful to help you grade one things comparably against another. But films can’t be graded in that manner, because a film’s merits are subjective, not quantifiable.
You can grade or value, a bottle of wine for example, in terms of how much wine you physically get in the bottle, versus the actual tangible monetary cost. Thus, if Wine A is a 1.5 litre bottle, at £10, and Wine B is a 1 litre bottle at £12, you might choose – initially at least – Wine A, because you get more liquid, for less cash. The hard part comes – and this is where subjectivity comes in – when you have to rate Wine A over Wine B, and pinpoint why one is better than the other. And this is the point where you judge it, based on whether you’ve drunk similar wines before. Or whether you like a certain type of wine, over another. You’ll then compare the vintage, the brand, and many other things, before you make your final decision.
Films are the same. You can’t rate Film A, that runs to 2 hours, against another film, Film B, that also runs to 2 hours, for the simple reason that if you compare like with like, as in this example, it gives you no usable answer that you can assign any worth too, based purely on the duration. You can’t rate one Jodie Foster film, against a Martin Scorsese film, because, they aren’t the same, and any answer you arrive it, will depend on a whole host of other factors, such as whether Jodie Foster is your favourite actress, or whether Martin Scorsese gets you aroused at the simple announcement of him directing a new film!
So, ultimately, judging a film on ratings alone, e.g. a 3-Star film against another 3-Star film, doesn’t really offer up a valid solution. What DOES make the difference, is everything else – the subjective part of the decision. And this, for me, is why I loathe it when advertisers plaster films with Star-Ratings. Not only are a lot of the ratings nowadays from people or organisations I’ve neither heard of, nor care about, but they are just opinions. Who cares if Harry Knowles loves a film? If you love him, you’ll be more akin to watching something he likes? If you don’t, you’ll ignore him.
If a film catches you on a good day, you may rate it higher, than if it catches you on a lousy one. But many people won’t watch a film more than once. So their subjective reasoning becomes horribly flawed, and thus, they fall back on the safety-net of the Star-Rating system to gauge whether X film will be worth seeing over Y or Z films.
I know why ratings are used, because people are lazy. With the rise of social media, and the likes of Twitter, where everything is reduced to 140 characters or less, or the use of Txt Spk is encouraged, it’s no wonder people need to have everything reduced to the simplest, most banal factor possible. Why bother to sit through a 2-hour film that might interest, when you can watch a film that almost certainly will interest you, because you’ve given yourself no willingness to try something out, that hasn’t been tried-out beforehand for you?!

It’s this inclination to have all the hard work done for you, rather than making a semblance of an effort yourself, that results in film posters, like that for LOCKE, being riddled with rent-a-quote ratings from everyone-and-their-cat! Film studios think, if you can be so easily convinced to go see there film, purely on the basis of a loaf o 5-Star ratings, then you, Mr and Mrs Gullible Schmuck, can happily pay your £8 / $12 or 10 Euros for a seat at the local multiplex, and the cinema will happily remove that cash from your pocket, thank you very much! Now that they’ve got your cash, they don’t give a monkey’s whether you like the film or not. They don’t care if you even liked one single second of it! No! All they care about, is your hard-earned!

Don’t let them do this to you! People, please start thinking for yourselves. Empower your own inner film-critic! By all means, read around and do research, but don’t stick to what you know you will love, or what you think you will love. As ABBA once sort-of said, take a chance (on me)! Give yourself some credibility, and risk seeing stuff you may not usually try. Have an occasional gamble, and see if you can enjoy something you wouldn’t normally pay to see! Risk is a two-way streak: it requires you to risk your money and time, whilst the studio gambles on trying something different, something niche, something off-the-beaten-path, that they wouldn’t necessarily promote or releases.

There’s nothing more rewarding, than an occasional gamble, and experiencing something new. Some of my favourite films, are titles I took a risk with, either in cinemas or on DVD and/or Blu-Ray. Ninety-Five per-cent of the time, the gamble has gone my way. Yes, I’ve seen a few stinkers – some you’ve read reviews on on this very blog – but that’s a small price to pay, for the chance to widen your cinematic repertoire!

Try it this week! Dip your toes into something strange, weird, new, and see what happens! Not only will you extend your own range of films, but you’ll also be giving yourself a chance to experience life on the edge! It’s a fantastic feeling! And on top of that, you can then sell that film to others, and get them to try it too! Sharing is half the fun! The other half, is having that gamble pay-off, and leaving a warm, tingly glow in the pit of your stomach, because you dared to risk a little bit of you. Without risk, there’s little reward!

Go on! You know you want too!

I’ll be back soon, with Part 2 of this article, where I examine in more detail professional film criticism.

Everyone’s A Critic! What Is The Value Of Real Film Criticism? (Part 1)

And The (S)Hits Keep On Coming! It’s Yet Another Arrow Screw-Up!

Oh Dear,

Another month, and yet another in a long, long, LONG line of Arrow fuck-up’s, and once-more, Arrow are doing their best to blame everyone else, except themselves.

David Cronenberg’s SHIVERS has just come out on Arrow Blu-Ray (and Steelbook too), and it’s a heavily-censored print. I don’t have all of the details, but it seems there are four long cuts, and a couple of smaller ones, mostly to scenes of violence and gore.

According to Arrow’s Facebook page, around late-afternoon on Monday 13th October, they posted the following  here  which said:

We are currently looking into this issue and hope to have an update very soon. Just to clarify, our release of Shivers contains a new restoration personally supervised and approved by Director David Cronenberg and which was produced by Tiff Cinematheque Quebec at Technicolor in 2013.

We are unsure as to the reasons why part of Shivers appears to have been shortened except that it doesn’t appear to be the results of any conscious act of censorship, as many similar scenes would have been removed as well if that were the case. It may have been Cronenberg’s decision to excise this material due to damage to the original materials used, but at this point that’s only speculation on our part.

Unlike Zombie Flesh Eaters, this isn’t the result of an authoring or encoding error, as there is nothing technically wrong with our disc. Unlike many of our releases, we weren’t in any way involved with the restoration of this film, so we’re having to direct our questions to those who oversaw it. Just to reiterate, we are making enquiries to all the parties involved and hope to have a definitive answer to this very soon.

It seems that the version of the film they used was signed-off by Cronenberg himself, and in the following video clip, he clearly states something rather shocking…

On the one hand, Cronenberg states that he “hasn’t seen the entire print“, but then later on, says “none of it would I change“. (Presumably the last comment really means he wouldn’t alter the uncut version of the film we all know and love, either for censorship, or because he wants to create an alternate, or Director’s Cut of the film.)

Michael Brooke, who helped Arrow restore their recent boxed-set release of Walerian Borowczyk films, then wrote:

But what complicates matters here is that David Cronenberg himself signed off on this restoration – and by all accounts was very actively involved with its creation, at least according to the publicity leading up to the big-screen premiere of said restoration last year. At present, we simply don’t know whether he was unaware of the changes, or whether they were made at his instigation in the first place.

What then followed, was another set of Arrow Fanboys labelling me a “troll”, defending Arrow to the hilt, and stating that Arrow is not to blame here, and two or three of us – myself included – saying that Arrow needed to actually accept some responsibility in all of this. It’s all incredibly laughable! After all, they took Cronenberg’s “signing-off” of the print, without checking the print first, and then duly sent it off to be mastered, encoded and duplicated for us, the viewing public, to purchase and view.

Look, I don’t enjoy beating-up on any company! I honestly don’t! I’m not a sadist, even if it might seem like it. I am simply a horror film fan demanding that film companies – any of them, all of them – start being a little bit more mature, in the way they deal with things. The only reason I take these shots at Arrow, is becase, as a Brit, they are one of the biggest cult film labels specialising in horror and cult horror titles. Thus, I end-up buying a fair amount of their products. I’d do exactly the same to any other label who were so cavalier, no matter who they were, or how long they had been running!

The simple fact is this: Arrow accepted the print as-is, because Cronenberg had “signed-off” on it. They wrongly assumed that because the director was cool with the print, that that meant the print was uncut, correctly remastered, and exactly how he wanted it. The problems were two-fold:

1) Cronenberg has admitted he hasn’t seen the print in full, and

2) He signed-off on it, based on his own faulty memory of what he thought the film should look like, and should be like!

Unfortunately, Arrow then just accepted his “signing-off”, without checking things out. This is a truly dumb thing to do! You should never, ever just accept things as how you think they are, simply because someone else says they are so! If you don’t check things out for yourself, then you are likely to get your fingers burned. And so it is, yet again, with Arrow, who now have another release out there, that isn’t as good as they claim; isn’t uncut; and has resulted in fans who have pre-ordered the title from online companies, now awaiting delivery, and then having to return it at their own time,effort and expense, because Arrow has dropped the ball once again!

And in typical Arrow style, they’ve now banned me from their Facebook page, because I want them to take some responsibility for their error, and it is their error, because they didn’t bother to check the print directly.

How many more titles, are Arrow going to release, in which we the customer have to pay the price for?

How much longer are Arow going to keep blaming everyone else for their problems, whilst trying to deny that there is a problem in the first place?

And, more importantly than all of that, with Arrow now trying to expand into the USA market – see this link   here  for all the information – you have to wonder, if their track-record has been so awful, why they think that expanding and releasing more titles, that are Region A and B compatible on Blu-Ray, or Region 1 and 2 compatible on DVD, is going to help matters! If they can’t even get releases right in their own country, how in God’s name are they going to do it right, in another?!

As we have come to expect here, Arrow has said they are going to “investigate” the problem, but I honestly think that they may as well just give-up the ghost now! It’s becoming a guessing-game as to whether one of their releases, will:

1) Get released when they claim it will, and
2) Be the version they say it is, that you’ve just paid your hard-earned money for!

No label, be that in films, clothing, or food deserves to continue operating, when it comes to this type of shoddy business practice! Bear in mind, Arrow have been in operation since 2009 – that’s over 5 years now – and they still don’t seem to have learnt the lessons from their shameful past!

All of this, just as I was starting to buy their titles once more, (the Bava stuff, for example), and starting to think that maybe the old Arrow had finally bitten the dust, the old corpse rears its ugly head once more, and takes a hulking great bite out of my patience!

Please Arrow, just give-up now! Cease trading, examine what you are trying to do, find ways of making sure errors like this can’t keep happening, time-and-time-and-time-again, and once you’ve got that sorted, then relaunch yourself! Sadly, I can’t see this happening, and as such, it is you, dear-reader, and I, and every other one of their customers who will continue to bear the brunt of their shambolic operation!

“Arrow: We don’t care, so you shouldn’t either!”

Thank You for reading this post. I will be back soon, with a lengthy topic that is wholly relevant to this blog! More on that, shortly! For now, be seeing you!

ADDENDUM: Since posting this blog-entry, Arrow’s STRAY CAT ROCK Blu-Ray Collection set has been released to some customers, even though the official release date isn’t until 3rd November, and copies of this set are also faulty. Reports have been made on Arrow’s Facebook page, with some customers citing incorrectly labelled discs, and/or the set coming wrongly-labelled with the wrong certificates on it (a 15 rather than the 18 it should have), and/or the fact that there are no booklets included, despite the fact that they should be. Arrow is “investigating”, and the set is being recalled from all suppliers, until this issue is corrected!

And The (S)Hits Keep On Coming! It’s Yet Another Arrow Screw-Up!

Mini Film Reviews: DOGTOOTH and MISS VIOLENCE

Welcome Back, Everyone,

For a change, I want to do a mini-review, of two Greek films that were made five years apart, but cover almost identical themes.

In 2009, a shocker called DOGTOOTH (Yorgos Lanthimos) came out, which caused a few ripples around the film festival circuit. It follows the explicit and disturbing tale of a modern Greek family, who are kept hidden from the world-at-large, by a domineering father, who controls every aspect of his family’s life. Not only in what they eat or drink. but even to the extent of making them fear the outside world, by deliberately misinforming them of what will happen if they do not abide by his wishes.

Earlier this year, Alexandros Avranas directed MISS VIOLENCE, a similarly-themed tale, following the death of an 11 year old girl, and the investigation from the police and authorities of what led this child to commit suicide, which soon uncovers some very murky history, in particular from the parents who control everything the children (the 11 year old, and her siblings), see and do, with threats of abuse and violence if they do not acquiesce to the father’s demands. What follows, is a horrific tale of sexual abuse, paedophilia, and rape! (The title has a dual-meaning: referring initially to the young girl as a Miss, and the Violence that she suffers, whilst the second meaning, refers to the fact that everone deliberately ignores the violence and abuse that she and the family endure, under their patriarchal leader.)

Both films have caused controversy, for their content. In the former, it is a scene of hardcore, pornographic sex that baited the censors, and in the latter, it was the explicit and harrowing depiction of abuse against a minor. In both cases, however, each film was passed uncut with an 18 certificate, here in the UK at least.

Greece is well-known for its offbeat cinema. However, Modern Greek cinema has dealt with a lot of tough subject matter, partly in relation to its current standing in the European Union, and the economic crises that are affecting its citizens. Some of that upset, anxiety and anger is now making itself known, via its filmic output. The two films under discussion here, are the two most well-known titles, in recent times.

It should be stated, that neither film is pleasant to watch. In fact, you may find the content highly distressing at times. This is not family-friendly-cinema, by any means! Likewise, many have criticised the films for being too distressing and uncomforting to view, whilst in other reviews I’ve read, some were uncomfortable at the subject matter even being used as a basis for a fictional movie. These two works are definitely not for everyone. They may not even be for the few. I would probably argue, that these films are more interesting if you already enjoy World Cinema, or European Arthouse works, rather than the grubbier and more unsavoury end of the horror film-making spectrum. But with that said, these are not films for the beer-and-snacks crowd. These are true skin-crawlers, that expect and require a lot from the viewer. You need to stick with them, until the bitter end, and even if you get that far, you may still feel like these films are not “great” works of cinema, because there’s no satisfying conclusion awaiting you.

In fact, both films have very open-ended conclusions, which has annoyed a lot of viewers, who like things with finale’s, or at least reasonably wrapped-up in some manner or other. So, if you are wanting to view these to test your limits, then neither of these two works will be what you are looking for, and may end-up testing your patience more than anything else. However, as examples of Extreme Cinema, they are certainly of pertinence, if you like a more cerebral experience! Sometimes, we need to be challenged by unpalatable subject matter!

What makes these titles so powerful for me, personally, is their setting is so ordinary, so mundane, so average. It’s the whole ethos of what goes on behind closed doors, that shocks you. To outsiders, the families in both films, all seem very normal. The father works. The mother is a homemaker. The children are all polite, well-mannered siblings, cleaned and groomed to look respectable. Yet it is behind that veneer of respectability, that lies the true horror.

With DOGTOOTH, the children are deliberately taught lies by the father. For instance, they are told that the “sea” is a large armchair. “Zombies” are tiny, golden-coloured flowers, and that “Licking a keyboard” is not – as you might expect – a sexual-euphemism! In each case, the misinformation is deliberately spread by the father, as a means of psychologically, physically, emotionally and mentally controlling the children – who range from their pre-teens upto their twenties. This “torture” they endure, is not as we would recognise it. In its simplest form, it isn’t any kind of recognisable “torture” at all. It’s just lies, and fairly unspectacular lies. But the lies aren’t the “torture”. The torture is that the lies are a way of intimidating and controlling the children. They are a means in which they are indoctrinated. It is at this stage, that you have to concur that what is happening to them, is nothing more than torture. There’s simply no other word to use! The daily indoctrination of misinformation, deception and half-truths, fed to them from birth until they finally “escape” (and I don’t mean that literally) is the kind of stuff you’d expect to read in a newspaper report about detainees at Guantanamo Bay!

At first, the misinformation is extremely minor. Grass is blue. The sky is green. Water is dangerous to drink, but less dangerous than milk! Essentially nothing more than little white lies. The kind that every parents tells a young child. (The tooth fairy, Santa Claus, etc!) (These aren’t actual examples from the film. I just want to give you a flavour of the style that the misinformation starts at.) However, the misinformation soon spirals horrifically out-of-control, to the stage where a domestic pet cat  is the equivalent of a plague-carrier, and family cassette tapes of Frank Sinatra songs are being explained away as poetic, coded messages from a distant relative, the children have never met! On top of this, the most minor of infractions results in the loss of food, restrictions of movement, to more intense punishments of physical violence. All of this, is meted out to the family, whilst the Father (Christos Stergioglou) continues his work in a local office, casually fending-off visits from co-workers at his home, due to illnees of other family members, or simply being too busy with other events.

Compounding this abuse, the father pays a young female co-worker in her twenties, to have sex with his son, as a way of teaching the son sex-education (location of the hymen, etc). He procures her, like a common whore, and pays her just as such. Whilst his wife and the children’s mother knows only too well, of the bullshit that the father is indoctrinating them with, she is equally complicit in the “torture”, through simply condoning his teaching methods, and fearing that if she doesn’t comply, she too may become a casualty-of-war. Whether this is because she fears abuse of her own wellbeing, is never entirely certain.

Compared this, to what happens in MISS VIOLENCE, where the children go to school, but the Father takes them too, and then picks them up from school, every day. Their mother, is hapy to comply with their father’s “illusionary world”, because she too holds some very twisted secrets, that would tear the family apart, if they ever found out. They are not allowed to see friends outside of school time. TV and newspapers are forbidden, lest they pollute the children’s mental wellbeing. Similar indoctrination, but here, the indoctrination really is abuse – quite literally. Here, the family is always under the threat of a beating, games involving the rest of the family being allowed to mete-out punishments on you, or in the worst cases, extreme physical and bloody violence.

To escape this torment, 11 year old Angeliki (Chloe Bolota) decides that she will not end-up being tortured like her siblings, and on the day of her 11th Birthday, walks on to the ledge of her family’s apartment balcony, climbs over the edge, smiles, then plummets to her death! For her, death is the better option, than to endure whatever Daddy Dearest wishes to educate them in. And it’s not long before we see why she chooses death. Here, the torture is extreme! Inter-family incest is a regular, day-to-day occurance. I won’t go further, because to say more will damage a major plotline, but imagine that everyone is having sex with everyone else, and then children are being born out of those “relationships”, and you have some idea of just how fucked-up this family’s dynamics are. But this is not the worst case!

Not by a long shot!

There is one element, we learn, that is so staggeringly shocking, it pales into comparison! The youngest daughter, is pimped-out to neighbours, relatives, and other assorted ne’er-do-wells on an alarmingly-regular basis, for money to cover the household’s bills! The sickening scenes of what these people do to the young girl, comes late-on in the film, but by God it will turn most viewer’s stomachs long before you see what is done to her, by whom, and how often! If you ever needed to know why paedophiles are such a danger, when they hide-in-plain-sight, this film reveals all!

As I said right at the start, neither of these two films are easy viewing. In many aspects, there’s almost a dark vein of comedy in them. It’s as if the director’s are willing you to laugh, at the twisted nature, because you aren’t really sure of how else to react. But you know, deep down, that laughing is wrong. So very, very wrong! And the laughter leaves you, and the twisted, nightmarish creation the film peddles, slowly takes hold, and then you realise just what you are involved in, is so repugnant, you almost can’t fathom facing it.

The nearest experience, I can link it too, is Takashi Miike’s AUDITION. The first hour is very gentle, and then abruptly, you are shoved kicking-and-screaming into the most mentally-scarring (yet legal) experience you’ve ever had to cope with.

Whilst I cannot recommend these films as great pieces of cinema, they are great in their own messed-up manners! You will not, and should not go into either of these films, thinking you will enjoy them, because they are as far removed from “entertainment” as you can get. They are more documentary in tone, than pieces of fiction. The realism and simplistic camerawork, belies what you are watching. But their stories are necessary! Their messages, of how adults can erode everything that is humane and healthy in a child, is so powerful, and necessary to experience, that more people need to view one or both of these films. Both are message movies, and even though the message is highly unpalatable, it’s a necessary one that more of us, as a society, need to be aware of, and take steps to combat. And after so many recent events around the globe involving the mistreatment of minors, the rapes and sexual assaults that take place, and the general abuse of fellow human beings, every day in every nation, we cannot let such actions continue.

The horror really does come from within, and that horror needs to stop. Full stop!

For those of you wishing to take a walk on the wild side of cinema, DOGTOOTH is out on UK DVD and Blu-Ray, in an Anamorphic 2.35:1 print, with English Subtitles, as a bare-bones release. MISS VIOLENCE is out on DVD only, also in an Anamorphic 2.35:1 print, and again, with English Subtitles and no extras. Both are readily availble from Amazon UK. Just be really prepared to be taken down a very dark garden path indeed!

Mini Film Reviews: DOGTOOTH and MISS VIOLENCE

Being Gay At The MPAA Is Still Not Okay!

** THIS ARTICLE HAS HAD AN AMMENDMENT MADE TO IT SINCE ITS ORIGINAL PUBLICATION! **

Hi,

With Thanks to the Melon-Farmers site, for linking to the original article  here  on which mine is based.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while now, know that different censorship standards apply depending on the country you live in. The two most notable Film Classification Bodies relevant to my blog, are the BBFC in Britain, and the MPAA in the USA.

Despite what many people think, the MPAA aren’t always the “open” Classification Body they would like you to think they are. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth. They would much prefer you know as little about them, and the way they run their organisation, as humanly possible. In effect, they operate as clandestinely as they can.

This has been best demonstrated, in the excellent documentary from US film-maker Kirby Dick, in the brilliant film THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, from 2006 – a documentary I’ve recommended many times in the past! In it, Dick and various private investigators try to discover just who the MPAA actually are, and why they operate in the way that they do. What they discover is more shocking than you could ever imagine.

Unlike the BBFC, who publish a list of most of the main staff as seen  here  the MPAA are extremely cloak-and-dagger. Other than the current CEO, former US Senator Mr Chris Dodd, it’s almost impossible to find out who works for them. Even their own website  here  only mentions Mr Dodd, and the film distributors who make-up and run the MPAA. Note that the MPAA only lists companies, not personnel, as the MPAA is owned and run by the major film studios, namely:

– Walt Disney Studios,
– Paramount Pictures Corporation,
– Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.,
– Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation,
– Universal City Studios L.L.C., and,
– Warner Bros Entertainment Inc

Even on the “Contact Us” page, only three other people are named – Kate Bedingfield and Howard Gantman for the MPAA’s Media Inquiries department, and Ana Soellner for any Programming Inquiries. So trying to get in touch with the people, team(s) or personnel who actually classify the films submitted to them is almost impossible.

One of the main discussions in Dick’s documentary, was it’s unfair treatment of homosexual subject matter, or homosexuality-themed material. In the UK, the BBFC makes no difference in its treatment of sexual material. So, it matters not one jot if the characters are straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender. It only matters on the “strength” of the material depicted. Thus, a film like BLACK SWAN (2010, Darren Aronofsky) which famously features a sex scene between two women, was classified uncut at 15, but in the USA, was given an R rating for “strong sexual content“.

The MPAA’s mission statement is: “advancing the business and art of filmmaking, protecting the creative and artistic freedoms of filmmakers, and ensuring the satisfaction of our audiences worldwide“. However, many gay and queer film-makers and stars question this, because the classification process is run by six major studios and whom it is in their interests to restrict and damage films released by minor and independent studios and film-makers. And as many minor and independent studios and film-makers have discovered, trying to appeal an “R” rating from the MPAA is a financially-impossible struggle, with no rational appeals process.

You see, unlike the BBFC, when classifying a film, the MPAA will only tell you if a film is  “too strong” for a certain rating, or “is unlikely to be acceptable at ___ rating, in its current form“. So, if you ask them, “What do I need to remove, to get the ___ rating“, they won’t tell you. Thus, as a film-maker, you have to keep editing, submitting, and re-editing and resubmitting, until you get the MPAA’s final seal-of-approval.

With the BBFC, they’ll tell you exactly what the problem is, what to cut, and will do their best to help you out. They’ll give you lists of specific cuts, and what the results will be if you agree to make the cuts, or not. In many ways, they are one of the most open classification boards anywhere in the world. They actually make a film-maker’s life easy, and don’t treat you any differently, whether you’re a big major studio churning out blockbusters since the dawn of time, or a first-timer submitting your very first film to them, on a shoestring budget. It’s a very even playing field. All they care about is, how “adult” is your film, and is it suitable for its intended audience. Nothing else matters.If anything, if you are a newcomer to them, they will bend over backwards to accommodate and help you out, at every step of the classification process.

In the UK and USA, there have been numerous gay-themed films and films aimed at a gay audience. From DESERT HEARTS (1985, Donna Deitch), GO FISH (1994, Rose Troche), through to TAXI ZUM KLO (1981, Frank Ripploh), QUERELLE (1982, Rainer Werner Fassbinder), SEBASTIANE (1976, Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress) and BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR (aka LA VIE D’ADELE – CHAPITRES 1 ET 2) (2013, Abdellatif Kechiche). Some have been crossover hits to the mainstream, others have resolutely stayed true to their arthouse homes. But none were treated more harshly, than their heterosexual brothers and sisters… …in the UK.

In the USA, the merest hint of homosexuality, and the MPAA will slam it with an instant R rating, irrespective of its theme, treatment or suitability! And thus, we arrive to their latest classification, for a low-budget comedy/drama called LOVE IS STRANGE (2014, Ira Sachs) which stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, who are a happily-married, middle-aged gay couple, who are facing being made homeless, when one of them loses their job.

Here in the UK, the film has been classified as a 15, purely for the strong language. If it weren’t for the language, it would have received a 12A, meaning that – in theory at least – parents of under-12’s could take their children to see this film, should they have wished to do so.

So why does the MPAA seemingly hate gay people and gay movies?

Well, as shocking as it might seem, American sensibilities on gay sexuality in 2014, is still very much in the dark ages, in terms of the media portrayal of gay people and gay-life! Yes, HBO has shows such as GIRLS, LOOKING and TELL ME YOU LOVE ME, but these are limited to Cable-only receivers, not mainstream Network TV. In fact, there’s almost no gay or gay-themed shows on any of the main networks, such as CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC Universal. It’s still a verboten subject. Of course, we had comedy shows such as WILL AND GRACE, and FRIENDS, that included gay characters, but they were – for the most part – hardly the best presentation of what being gay in the USA is like, and were very much treated as a joke, at the expense of the characters themselves. In effect, being gay was just a bit of a parody! Something to deride, laugh at, and poke fun at! Hardly modern and culturally sensitive!

Even the 1993 PBS mini-series TALES OF THE CITY based on Armistead Maupin’s classic San Franciscan novels, was met with a ripple rather than a wave of shock in the USA. Only ABC’s ELLEN (aka THESE FRIENDS OF MINE) which ran from 1994-98, tried to make the portrayal of gay life seem normal, acceptable, and benign, rather than something to be shocked by. Unfortunately, once Ellen DeGeneres came-out for real, in Season 3’s “The Puppy Episode”, the fall-out and controversy was too much, and the show was promptly axed just over a year later, with ABC even adding a “Parental Advisory” notice to the start of all future episodes, lest sensitive American families be morally-affronted by the concept of a gay woman appearing in a sitcom! Being Gay really was a problem for modern America, and was still something that should only be spoken of in hushed terms, lest it corrupt audiences.

On Cable, you had QUEER AS FOLK USA (2000-2005), the acclaimed mini-series drama ANGELS IN AMERICA (Mike Nicholls, 2003), and the rather iffy 2004 series QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY, a reality show, in which gay men would try and help straight men/women, with their fashion choices!

It took until 2004, before US Cable network Showtime allowed a full-on portrayal of what being gay meant, to appear on screens, and treated gays and lesbians as equals. THE L-WORD, revolved around the lives of a group of lesbian women in Los Angeles, where the sexual orientation wasn’t the sole reason for the characters or the plots! But even that show, imploded by its final season, when one of the lead characters is murdered by one of the other main ladies, and the show limped along until its derisory conclusion. What started-out as being a refreshing, frank, and ultimately generally forward-thinking show, portraying gay women (and men too) as being normal people, with jobs, families, friends, took a wrong-turn and outsmarted itself.

Today, ABC’s MODERN FAMILY has done a lot to move the portrayal of gay life in America, forward and in a positive manner, but that show is very much the exception, not the norm. Cable TV shows are really the only major venues for modern gay audiences, either as main characters or in supporting roles where they are treated with dignity and respect, and their sexuality is not the be-all and end-all of their appearance.

But if TV can at least make some attempt to move forward, even if that movement is at a snail’s pace, why cannot the MPAA do the same with cinema?

What is so wrong with the fact that two men or two women may fall in love with each other, and want to have a relationship?! Why is being gay, seen as immoral? Why is being sexually and physically attracted to someone of the same sex as you, seen as an abomination in some countries, and a practice worthy of such people being stoned to death?!

In 1993, Jonathan Demme directed the acclaimed Tom Hanks movie PHILADELPHIA, about a gay lawyer removed from his firm, allegedly on the grounds of being unsuited to the job. He then hires a rival, but extremely homophobic lawyer, to file a civil suit against the company.

For its time, the film was groundbreaking. Not afraid to show gay people as being just like everyone else; as normal, well-balanced, committed, hard-working and prosperous individuals, just trying to get on in life, doing the best they can. Although the MPAA rated it a PG-13, for some graphic language and thematic material. Was the language really “graphic” in the truest sense of the word? No, not really. Maybe to very closed-minded people it would have been, but for the rest of us, the language was refreshingly honest, rather than tip-toeing around the issue. So, yes, words like “faggot” and “queer” (in the pejorative manner) were occasionally used. But the overarching theme of the movie, was about tolerance, not intolerance! Thus, the “offending” language was justified, by the context of the movie.

When recently rewatching the film, it does have its problems. The film does try to paint Hanks character as a little too perfect at times, and the ending is both brilliantly emotional, but also horribly mawkish at the same time.Many reviewers pointed-out that Denzel Washington wasn’t just chosen because he was a great actor, but also because he was a great African American actor. Thus, his legal fight with him and Opposing Counsel (Mary Steenburgen) could also be seen as a Black Vs White and Man Vs Woman triumph too. All lovingly balanced, to the point of almost keeling over itself! I can see that point, and whilst I’m sure Demme never intended that viewpoint to be taken, there are points in the film that raise some rather difficult questions. Why, for example, is Beckett (Hanks) shamefully admits in open-court that he once had an anonymous sexual encounter in an Adult Theatre, but only once, is the implication that that encounter was wrong? Are we meant to judge Beckett for this tryst? More to the point, if he’d had 10, or 50 encounters, should that give us permission for us to judge/condemn him for such encounters? Does it make his win over his ex-employers ultimately any less worthy, legal or moral for that matter?

Demme pulled the same tactic, in THE ACCUSED in 1987, which deals with Jodie Foster as a provocatively-dressed woman who is gang-raped in a bar, and seeks justice, but the Defence claims that what she wore, and how she acted, played a part in the rape, and thus mitigated it. Whilst in that film, Demme was being far more progressive, as his “opinion” was actually based on many genuine rape trials that had collapsed or failed, based on what the victim had been doing, and thus, they were partly to blame. So, in that instance, he was actually making the point that this is not just his view, but one that the higher echelon’s of society also hold, and because of that, there are people being failed by the US Justice System. Thus, his point has far more impact.

At times, PHILADELPHIA almost seems to tolerate the very prejudice it tries so hard to condemn. The joke about the hot yogurt being thrown on someone’s back, seems almost philistinal, nigh schoolboyishly-naive! It’s as if Demme is saying “You can laugh at the joke, but don’t laugh too much, because that would be offensive”! I can see why the director includes it, because he wants the audience to condemn the lawyers at Wyatt, Wheeler, Hellerman, Tetlow and Brown, where Beckett worked. It implies there was an atmosphere that was hostile, and that it was prevalent amongst the top-brass! So, I get it. I just can’t see past the crassness. It feels shoe-horned in. If the joke, had been less in-your-face, then we’d still have gotten the point, but it would have come across as being far more subtle and thus, far more culturally disturbing.

Still it seems that the MPAA sorts to restrict movies that have gay themes, or feature/depict homosexuality. Darren Stein’s G.B.F (2013) was given an R rating, for “sexual references”, despite featuring no bad language, no overt sex, and no sight of anything more than two people of the same gender kissing/touching one another. BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER (1999, Jamie Babit) was given an NC-17 rating, before the MPAA had an appeal submitted to them, and reduced the rating to an R. And this is a film in which the only offending moment, is a fully clothed lesbian sex scene and a female character, similarly fully clothed, masturbating. THE CELLULOID CLOSET, a 1995 documentary about gay cinema, and gay actors, also obtained an R, for some graphic footage of sexuality and violence, and for language“.


In each of those three instances, the BBFC gave the film a 15, meaning that young teenagers could see them, without parental accompaniment!PHILADELPHIA was given a 12, though the current UK Blu-Ray is a 15, due to the extras being rated at a higher classification than the main feature itself. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR gained an NC-17, which means you pretty much can’t advertise it anywhere, you can’t show trailers for it, most newspapers won’t let you even have it listed as showing at a cinema, and most US cinemas won’t even book it. That said, some US cinemas felt that it should be shown without its official rating, and several did so, because they felt the film was ideal for older teenagers to see. (In the UK, the film was given an 18, purely because of the two main sex scenes being quite extended and a little too explicit for the lower 15 rating, and that there might be concern if such content was passed at the lower classification.)

So why does the MPAA have a problem? I suspect it’s because of the large number of politically-motivated, Christian organisations that play their part in the USA, who utilise some pretty overt techniques to keep America a distinctly white, and very heterosexual country! Organisations like Forever 21, a budget clothing company with stores all over the USA. There plastic carrier bags come marked with “John 3:16” printed on them, referring to the Bible passage that reads:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

In-N-Out Burgers, also surreptitiously print Biblical book/chapter headings on their food and drinks packaging. Alaskan Airlines will serve you breakfast on your flights, complete with specially-chosen Old Testament Biblical passage to “enlighten” you. Marriott Hotels stock Bibles in their rooms, for the “enjoyment and education of all of our customers“. Hobby Lobby, the Wal-Mart of the arts and crafts industry, is run on the basis of “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles“! Religious proselytisers broadcast 24/7 across various TV and radio networks in the USA, assuring their respective audiences, that a belief in God and Jesus, is a straight road to Heaven. The list goes on and on! Religion is big business in the USA! And some of that money and proselytising finds its way into the people who work and run the MPAA.

Now, I’m sure you’re all asking me “But where’s your proof”? And that’s the main point here. I can’t provide any evidence because the MPAA do not want you to know who classifies your films, and works behind the scenes. They deliberately avoid telling you who works there, so that their organisation can remain as cloak-and-dagger as possible, so that they never have to explain themselves. As such, for all we know, you could have a board of film classifiers, who are all heavily religious, who are deliberately restricting any content they don’t personally agree with, irrespective of whether that content is legally or morally acceptable.

I should probably state, here and now, that I am absolutely not anti-Christian. So, even though the predominant religion in the USA, is Christianity, with 83 per cent describing themselves as holding a belief in Jesus Christ- see this article  here  for the details – I don’t have any issues with anyone holding religious beliefs of any persuasion! It’s your choice to believe in whatever you wish too.

The problem I do have, is when those beliefs start to impinge on your work, and thus, are then used as justifications for doing or not doing something, that affects other people. Thus, if most of the MPAA were Buddhists, and cracked down on any portrayal of violence, then I’d also have a problem. Ditto, if many of the MPAA’s classifiers were devout Muslims, who were happy to forbid anything they felt should not be seen, because of what it says in The Quran.

As there is no “proof” per se, we then have to look at trends, and on that issue, we can prove something. We can factually demonstrate, that under the MPAA’s roof, films depicting a gay lifestyle, or anything to do with homosexuality, are almost certainly going to be rated harder, and with more restrictive ratings, than their heterosexual equivalents. Does the MPAA believe that if it’s not seen by the masses, that homosexuality will just disappear? I sure as hell hope not, because that would be a ludicrous reason to try and remove any material of a gay or queer lifestyle.

Change happens. Societies morph, and grow, and evolve. The MPAA stemming material depicting the lives of a one section of their audience, will do them no favours. And in 2014, I find it abominable, that any organisation thinks it has the right to remove material pertaining to one audience demographic just because it takes a material dislike to it. Worse still, when that same organisation is happy to pass more and more violent material at a PG-13 rating, to pre-teens, with larger and more substantial body-counts, and implying that violence is okay, but any depiction of two men or two women kissing one another, is an atrocity! The old adage that if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind, is blown completely out of the water.

One day, we will treat everyone as an equal, irrespective of who or what they are. We’ve moved a long way in the past 40 or 50 years, both in societal-terms and cinematically. Now, if only the MPAA could be persuaded to move alongside us, rather than trying to swim against us, maybe they can be dragged into the 21st Century too. It’s okay to be gay. It’s equally okay not to be gay. But it’s not okay to try and segregate people based on their sexuality. Has America learned nothing from its past?

The MPAA and America has more pressing issues it needs to deal with, than quarantining cinematic depictions of homosexuality from anyone under 17 years of age. It’s insulting that their priorities are still so skewed!

America: The Land Of The Free, The Home Of The Brave, And The School of The Ostracised!

Addendum: Since I originally published this article, the MPAA has demonstrated once more, that gay-themed movies are not welcome through their doors, as the British hit comedy film PRIDE (Matthew Warchus, 2014) has been given a heavily restrictive R-rating for “language and brief sexual content”. Here in the UK, it was given a 15 for “strong language, and sex references”. As far as the MPAA are concerned PRIDE is as controversial and provocative as any of the SAW franchise, as the HOSTEL series, and in the same leagues as the original THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE! Make of that what you will!

Being Gay At The MPAA Is Still Not Okay!