Archive for the ‘Movie Nation’ Category

Mike White on movie violence

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

The blogosphere's fuming over Mike White's op-ed piece in yesterday's Times, in which the writer/co-star of "Chuck and Buck" and "School of Rock" basically says: "Yeah, I got off on crappy horror movies when I was young, but that doesn't make me the Virginia Tech killer, but maybe if I'd been wired differently it would have, so we in Hollywood should feel guilty about that and maybe pause for a brief moment of moral introspection before squirting more fake blood on the actress's breast."

In other words, this is a very muddled op-ed that wants to scold the entertainment industry (White's word choice, not mine) but is too timid to. At least the filmmaker acknowledges what everyone knows but no one in Hollywood dare admit: that movies influence behavior and that violent movies influence violent behavior. Anyone with children knows this to be true. (I know it to be true: When I was seven years old, I watched a "Leave it to Beaver" episode where the Beav backs his parents' car into the street, turned off the TV, went outside, and did the exact same thing. Which wasn't really violent behavior, but, uh, it could have been.)

Feebly calling for filmmakers to think twice isn't going to change things. Nor is government censorship. A ratings system better than the gutless wonder the late Jack Valenti spent his lifetime noisily defending would probably help. So would parents who actually pay attention to what their children watch, and maybe even talk to them about it. (White admits his folks had no idea he was watching crud-classics like "Terror Train".)

The bottom line (which is all the film industry respects and understands anyway) is this: Take away the demand and you'll take away the supply. But that requires individual solutions -- meaning you and me -- not mass ones.

Oh, and there still isn't any real proof that Seung-Hui Cho saw "Oldboy." Which makes the whole discussion moot.

Orson Welles eargasm

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007


Oh my lord. I've just stumbled across a website, "The Mercury Theatre on the Air" that posts sound files for all of the extant radio plays done by Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre in the late 1930s. Yes, they've got "War of the Worlds,"the 1938 broadcast that panicked a nation too impatient to listen to the station breaks. The shows star Welles, Agnes Moorhead, Everett Sloane, and everyone else who followed the boy wonder to "Citizen Kane."

The broadcasts are available via streaming MP3, RealPlayer, or you can get the whole kit and caboodle through BitTorrent. (Guess which one I'm going for.) Trust me, on that next long car trip, forget about putting "Ice Age 2" on the minivan DVD player. Instead, pop in Welles' version of "Dracula" and blow your kids' minds.

Will Ferrell meets his landlady

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

I know, I know, half the world has already seen this, the latest viral-video hit. For the other half, here you go: Will Ferrell meets his landlady, from the reasonably amusing FunnyOrDie site.

Oh, don't feel bad for her, it's his daughter. This is just the beginning.

Get your Ken Burns on

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007


The man with the Moe haircut and a knack for epic documentaries will be at the Coolidge tonight, showing selections from "The War," his new 14-hour film on World War II as experienced by four U.S. towns. Tickets are first come, first served and go on sale at 5 p.m. Grizzled WGBH supporters have had their tents set up outside the box office all week.

2007 IFFB Awards

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007


The just-ended Independent Film Festival of Boston has announced their 2007 award winners:
The Grand Jury Prizes went to Julia Loktev's "Day Night Day Night" (Narrative Feature) -- probably the best-regarded film in the entire festival -- Seth Gordon's "The King of Kong" (Documentary Feature), and Moon Molson's "Pop Foul" (Short Film).

Special Jury Prizes (i.e., second place) went to Reg Harkema's "Monkey Warfare" (Narrative Feature), David Redmon and Ashley Sabin's "Kamp Katrina" (Documentary Feature), and John Thompson's "Songbird" (Short Film).

If the jury prizes tend to reward filmmaking rigor, the audience awards generally favor pleasing experiences. This year's Audience Awards went to David Kaplan's "Year of the Fish" (Narrative Feature), Logan Smalley's "Darius Goes West" (Documentary Feature), and Cynthia Wade's "Freeheld" (Short Film).
Special prizes: The Apple Programmer's Choice Award (presumably selected by the festival programmers) went to Steve Collins' "Gretchen." The Dewars Collective Choice Award (voted on by scotch drinkers everywhere?) went to "Year of the Fish." The Best Marketing award was given to Naomi Greenfield and Sara Taksler's "Twisted: A Balloonamentary".

See you next year, everybody.

Will you have fries with your anti-obesity campaign?

Monday, April 30th, 2007


In early February, President Bush kicked off a heightened campaign to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity at a White House conference. The campaign, from the Department of Health and Human Services, tagged DreamWorks' computer animated character Shrek as the spokes-ogre to bring the message to America's kids.

Which I guess is like signing Robert Downey Jr. up for a few "Just Say No" public service spots. The kiddie section of the HHS nutrition website has the big green fella all over the page, just in time for the May 18 release of "Shrek the Third," coincidentally. The "Shrek Says" part of the site urges kids to get off their computer-surfing duffs and play for an hour a day. There are tie-in TV spots, too, which promote healthy eating habits while conveniently promoting the hell out of the movie.

The campaign does everything except teach kids how to spell "hypocrisy," because DreamWorks is at the same time using Shrek to shill for Snickers, Cheetos, McDonald's Happy Meals, and E.L. Fudge Double-Stuffed Cookies, among others. As pointed out by the non-profit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, there are 17 different "Shrek the Third" food promotions pushing 70 different junk foods to children.

Can you say "partially hydrogenated trans-fat," kids?

The CCFC wants you to kick up a ruckus, which after reading the full list of marketing deals the green guy is attached to, you may be inclined to do. At the very least, hiring an overweight troll to stump for healthier lifestyles is a bit of a head-scratcher. Did Mumbles from "Happy Feet" not return HHS's phone calls? At least he could have talked up the benefits of fish.