February 21, 2016

Robocop v. Robocop, and Deadpool's Boldest Statement

Deadpool, as you just might have heard somewhere along the way, is an R-rated super hero film.  This is supposed to be the legendary Kiss of Death for those stories, as the assumption was that an audience of kids was a necessary ingredient for success.

That suspicion has to some degree proven itself to be true: when such movies take on 'adult' themes, and use adult material, the results are mixed at best.  Watchmen was big and expensive, but also messy and uneven.  Darkman was very good (despite the trailer), but made little impact at the box office.

So we end up with dark or adult themes while retaining a bloodlessness that lets them keep that magical ($!) PG rating: Batman and Wolverine are two that stand out as characters that should have R ratings.  Those two have characters with troubled backgrounds; move in thematically dark worlds (literally in Batman's case, I suppose); and use violence to a ridiculous degree to achieve their goals.

But probably the best example of the inherent weirdness of the PG vs. R rating is Robocop.

The original, with fountains of blood and deaths happening every few pages, is rated R.  Paul Verhoeven had to recut and resubmit the film 12 times before he got to an R rating, down from the X that the MPAA wanted to give it.  The remake from 2014, with deaths happening every few pages but no blood at all, is rated PG-13.  I'm not here to comment on whether one was better than the other (the first one was), but to note that the remake box office more than doubled the budget - not an easy thing for a $100 million movie.  Not as statistically impressive as the quadrupling the original did, the first had a budget of only $13 million(ish).

But which was more successful?

A nebulous term, I realize: but I don't hear people talk about the remake as being influential or inspiring in any way.  It broke no new ground, sparked few imaginations.  I think it was a good movie, but it won't change anything.  I feel like in another ten years, the only time I'll hear it mentioned will be after the question "Didn't they do a remake?"

So why the heck was it made?  They got the nostalgia kick, and it was a success financially, but there was no guarantee that would have happened (see also: Dredd).  Still, to better their chances the powers that be decided to get rid of the blood and target the PG rating, making the violence sanitized for whole families to enjoy.  To compare: the original Robocop had 32 deaths; the remake has over 50.  Killings aren't a moral problem for the MPAA, so long as there is no immediate, visual consequence to them.

Back to Deadpool.

Deadpool without the blood would be ridiculous, but possible.  Most of it was animated in the 'during' shots any way, and could have simply not been added in post-production.  Don't show him sawing frantically (and comically) through an arm and avoid showing the bloody stump on camera, and Hey, Presto! you have yourself a PG-13 film.  Well, except for one thing:

Swearing.  And sex.  Swearing and sex.  Okay, two things, fine!

The swearing would be easy enough to eliminate as well - he's speaking with a full face mask 90% of the time any way, so redubbing would be a piece of cake.  It could even be incorporated into the 4th-wall breaking humour in a "Monkey fighting, Monday to Friday" way.  They certainly do enough lampshading to make that part of the script.

The sex, on the other hand...

The sex scenes are varied, lively, and fun, and they work as an excellent shorthand for audiences to see how their relationship progresses over time.  Announcing the holidays as they go was inspired time leaping.  They missed Black History Month, which would have been interesting; but I suppose that's not technically a holiday.  Then again, I'm certain there's no way they kept Lent - that 40 days of going without!  Yerk!

But there's a detail or two that I haven't heard mentioned much that I think should be.  First, he shows no mercy to her as a newbie to the game of skeeball.  Yes, he's massively attracted to Vanessa; but his priority is to win a Voltron the Defender ring, not to get laid, dang it!  (She does win what I'm sure is a lovely pencil eraser.)

The detail I liked most, though?  Vanessa - the girl of his dreams and the woman he falls madly in love with - is a prostitute.  She gladly takes his money for their first meeting, and he happily gives it to her.  It's not even an issue.  If they hadn't become a couple, he would have been just as happy to hand over the cash in exchange for her company without a single moral qualm raised.

Her past isn't flung in her face; she's never shamed for it; he doesn't regard her as less of a human being because of it.  The movie never mentions it again, and in fact has her later working in a strip club and he's wondering if he's good enough for her.

Neat, huh?

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posted by Erin Butler at 3:47 pm 0 comments

February 17, 2016

Jeb! Gets it Right?

I'm sure you've seen it, so I'm not going to bother putting the image here, but when Jeb! tweeted out a picture of his new gun (with his name engraved on it) and the word "America", there were three things that stood out for me:

1) the safety was off;
2) it was engraved for "Gov. Jeb Bush" - perhaps not the most optimistic choice;
3) he had never owned a gun before, but succumbed to peer pressure to get one.

So, yeah.  That "America" tag looks more and more accurate the longer you look at it, and not for the better.

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posted by Erin Butler at 12:10 pm 0 comments

February 11, 2016

Yeah, We Know.

I like politics.
I like what it is, how it makes people act, the performance art that it creates and the flop-sweat and emptiness it often leaves in its wake. I like seeing action inspired by motivation, the maneuvers and manipulations (successful and failed) of people vying for power, and how hard they'll fight for how much effect. It's _fun_ for me.
Possibly my favourite part is when people try to justify what is clearly evil done for evil motivations, all in public. There's no one out there who actually thinks, for instance, that the Voter ID laws established in a handful of states were actually put into place to prevent voter fraud - a crime that doesn't actually happen to any degree that influences election results. Even the Heritage Foundation had to go back to examples from (seriously) 1844 and 1948 to try defending the proposed laws.
In 2013 the Supreme Court of the US decided, in possibly their worst decision since money = free speech, (you know a law's bad when one of the biggest beneficiaries says it's a bad law; granted, he wants to make it worse, but still) that individual states shouldn't have to get the federal government's permission to change voting laws. That law was originally put into place specifically so pro-segregation states would not be able to put up road blocks against blacks voting. Any guesses which states were the among first to start changing voting laws the instant this decision went through? (In case you're wondering, the full name of the federal version is the "Help America Vote Act of 2002: Because We've Never Heard Of Orwell" edition.)

It's not that voter fraud doesn't happen at all; but the laws do exactly nothing to stop absentee voting fraud, which is by far the largest type - though still not enough to affect any elections. Unless you think 40 votes out of the 197,000,000 cast would have been enough to change the 2012 US election, that is.
You could see the laws' defenders throwing up handfulls of glitter in the hopes that no one would notice that the buckets they were pulling it from started life under big, blue cabinets... It was incredibly obvious to anyone who bothered looking that the laws were proposed and enacted to make it more difficult for poor people to vote.
You know, those same places where polling stations have been eliminated, shrunk, and had 'unusual' wait times. Neat how those are the same places that tend to vote Democrat, huh? Can you guess who tends to champion the Voter ID laws?
However, not enough time has passed (elections taken place) to determine the actual effect of the new voter laws - until now. The TL/DR version is this: yep, minorities and the poor have a more difficult time voting, to the tunes of hundreds of thousands of people being disenfranchised. Surprise!
So now what? Will the media respond at all? Will the Democrats challenge the laws, or leave that to advocate groups in their patented Someone Else Do It For Us technique?
Most interesting to me: will establishment Republicans (and their backers) challenge the laws themselves in an act of short term self-sabotage if either Trump or Cruz actually manage to steal the nomination from their picks? Such a move could possibly gain them some good PR, especially among minorities, and reduce the odds of success for their recalcitrant rebels. Most likely they'll do nothing other than their usual bellows of outrage and fear-mongering about Those Dark People Coming To Steal Your Votes And Probably Kill You In Your Sleep I Dunno Just Sayin'. Whatever they decide to do about it (if anything), I'm keeping popcorn at hand!

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posted by Erin Butler at 3:13 pm 0 comments

February 03, 2016

Secret Rape Legalization Meetings Aren't Real

First: publicly announced secret meetings aren't a thing.  That's kind of the point of secret meetings - especially ones with code words that are also publicly announced.  Just so we have that clear.

So if somebody is announcing secret meetings around the world for proponents of legalizing rape (with only "real hetrosexual men allowed") it's not actually what he wants.

So what would someone who does that want?  I'm sure you've already guessed: publicity.

What "Roosh V" wants is a lot of very angry people to appear, looking to kick _someone's_ ass, and then have video of it show up on the nightly news. Oh, you don't think an industry that thrives on conflict and easy outrage WON'T be there to record it..?  Allow me to introduce you to Sniffy the Rat.

Look: this idiot is a colostomy bag filled with hot air and misogyny, who has found enough fans online to make money off it.  What would be his most favourite thing ever would be a bunch of self-styled vigilantes looking to beat people up on random street corners.  That not only gets him attention (and earns him money), but lets him do two other things:

1) proclaim that he's the actual victim; and
2) tell people that the people who oppose him are the REAL violent psychopaths.

Easy outrage is something to be very wary of.  If you find your buttons are being pushed, think of who's pushing them.  If you find yourself getting angry about him, or people like him, We Hunted the Mammoth is an excellent place to turn that anger into laughter.


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posted by Erin Butler at 10:39 am 0 comments