Tag Archives: The Godfather

How Marvel Ruined The Movies

Over the past decade, we’ve been witness to something unprecedented in the history of film: the rise of the cinematic universe.

Pioneered by Marvel with their ever-expanding Avengers universe, this innovative and impressive model has been swiftly copied by others, and we’re already seeing attempts at DC’s Justice League universe, an expanded Star Wars, and even Harry Potter. While the success has certainly been varied, it would seem the standard is here to stay.

And here’re the reasons why that sucks.

Bigger Audiences Don’t Mean Better Movies

And while that goes without saying, the issue becomes especially apparent when movies become global phenomena in the way the MCU has become.

In his posts about the whitewashing of Doctor Strange, Evan brought up the case of film-critic-turned-writer C. Robert Cargill. In a podcast, Cargill discussed the whitewashing of “The Ancient One” and how the character of an old man from the Himalayas got turned into middle-aged woman from Scotland.

“The Ancient One… comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion [Chinese] people who think that that’s bullshit…”

-C. Robert Cargill, Double Toasted Podcast

While my co-author pointed out that the character of The Ancient One was set in Nepal, not Tibet, and while Cargill swiftly clarified that these were his thoughts, not Marvel’s, I do think he’s got a point. China has become a major consumer of western films, and the effects of that are already apparent.

2014’s Transformers 4: Age of Extinction surpassed Jame’s Cameron’s Avatar in Chinese theaters, and presently stands as the 4th highest-grossing film in the nation.

“The long and the short of it: Bay made a movie set and filmed in China, starring Chinese actors, using Chinese resources and pushing Chinese products, and in exchange, the movie gets a timely premiere across the country’s 18,000-plus movie screens.”

Nash Jenkins, TIME Magazine, 2014

The remake of Red Dawn, originally based on the idea of a Chinese invasion of the US, was hastily changed to cast North Korea as the principal villain for fear of offending Chinese viewers. Because the US getting conquered by a country smaller than the state of Louisiana is somehow believable.

tewaame

Now that’s not to say that Red Dawn would’ve been a good movie otherwise (it wouldn’t have)- just that it was made even more stupid in a greedy effort to rake in more cash. While we certainly didn’t lose a cinema classic in catering to political correctness, it does set a disturbing precedent for the future. Will films purposefully cut reference to Tibet, Taiwan, or the Uighurs? Will China’s despicable record on human rights and the environment be glossed over for box office sales?

And they’re not the only problem. Continue reading

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Is It Time To Stop Reading Shakespeare?

I never really liked Shakespeare.

Never hated the guy, mind you- downright enjoyed a few of his plays (The Tempest, Coriolanus, Hamlet). Still, I never really could bring myself to relish the bard’s works with the same zealous enthusiasm of the drama geeks and English majors.

With that in mind, you might spare me perhaps a little of the horrified gasping when I ask:

Is it time to stop reading Shakespeare?

And I ask that with all sincerity. I’ve made no secret about my general dislike of the theater and the culture surrounding it, but I’m not here to talk about those guys.

You know the type. Melodramatic airheads who’ll actually only refer to this as “the Scottish play”…

I’m talking about the actual works of William Shakespeare here.

Why still read ’em?

After all, with every passing year, we drift further and further away from those stories. In spite the film industry churning out one or two adaptations or modernizations of Shakespeare’s plays, there’s only so many ways to re-imagine Romeo and Juliet.

Continue reading

Beyond Good and Evil

Act 2, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet has the titular character declare that “there is no good or evil, but thinking makes it so.” Years later, this same sentiment would be echoed by Milton’s Lucifer in Paradise Lost, vowing “The mind is its own place, and itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Moral ambiguity, in case you haven’t caught the drift, is the subject of today’s post. Our culture is becoming increasingly saturated with concepts and figures embodying this general rejection of our traditional measures of what right and wrong is. Jump back twenty years, and the definition of a bad guy would be fairly straightforward. A bad guy breaks the law. A bad guy hurts people. A bad guy lies. A bad guy uses people.

Today, all those things would describe five minutes of screen time with Breaking Bad’s Walter White…

Or Sin City’s John Hartigan…

Or The Walking Dead‘s Rick Grimes…

Or even any of these guys…

And lest anyone think that women are excluded from this mentality…

Now this isn’t the first time we’ve had a run of morally questionable heroes/antiheroes dominating popular culture. If I were to describe tough, unflappable, characters struggling against each other for their own ends and agendas, often in contradiction of the law- you’d probably assume I was talking about characters from some film noir piece.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Throw a mass of people in an economic depression with no end in sight, mix in distrust of the powers that be, add cynicism in regards to any progress or change, and when else can you expect but a tacit respect for the handful of people who do manage to carve themselves out a living. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, “right and wrong” doesn’t quite seem so relevant as “effective or not.” When you feel helpless and voiceless, chances are anyone whose managed to be independent and powerful is going to be attractive- be he/she a suave criminal, a cunning businessman, a shrewd politician (à la Game of Thrones), or even just an all-around tough guy (see Sons of Anarchy).

And we’re not just talking about TV shows here.

Who are the good guys and bad guys in Inception?

Think about it- exactly which characters were representing the side of justice, truth, and freedom? Or Killing Them Softly? The Godfather SeriesThe Big Lebowski?

Our heroes today aren’t crusaders, they’re survivors. They’re those who manage to carve out a slice for themselves in spite of law, society, and conventional morality. “Good and evil” simply aren’t relevant.

And y’know what? I’m not hear to pass judgement on any of that.

There’s strong arguments to be made on all sides for whether or not this is a good or a bad thing or, to put it into morally ambiguous terms, a productive or a destructive thing. There’s even a strong case to be made for the “morally ambiguous” characters on TV and in the movies still never straying too far from anything truly socially unacceptable. Alternatively, you could (and I would) potentially argue that the moral system we had before all this wasn’t actually all that moral to begin with.

And what about the issue of cultural plurality in our ever-shrinking world? When what is right according to my moral code wrong according to yours, how do we proceed? Do we try to find some sort of umbrella system to keep us from fighting each other? Maybe we should declare moral anarchy and simply duke it all out based on the strength of our convictions. Certainly Nietzsche would approve of that.

All that’s to say that the issue’s complicated.

I don’t know, Michael Cera gif, I don’t know…

Speaking for myself, it is nice to see some kind of conviction, even if I don’t agree with the cause at hand. There’s a case to be made for apathy being the pinnacle of all evil. In a world where the greatest battles the average person (or rather, Westerner) faces are over such petty, empty things as getting a dinner order right or having to wait in line, seeing any kind of drive makes for a nice change. As with so much in this past year, it might not be great, but it’s a start.

A Brief Argument Against Anti-Piracy

Over the past couple years, the issue of regulating the internet has repeatedly arisen, and while there have been many issues contributing to this, there is perhaps none more well known than the contention over copyright infringement and piracy.

Now for  a brief disclaimer.

I am a Marxist. I do not believe in “property” as the word would be recognized today. Every written work, every film, every piece of art belongs to every human being living. The Godfather series is just as much a part of our legacy and inheritance as the Mona Lisa, and as such, access to it should be enjoyed by all.

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This is all to say that I don’t view “copyright infringement” as constituting any true offense. On the contrary, it’s simply the people taking back what was rightfully meant for them to begin with- but I’m not here to talk about that.

No, I’m here to talk about how the music and film industries’ witchhunt for media pirates is doing them (and everyone else) far more harm than good. Let me break it down for you.

I. Some People Will Never Buy

It’s a strange statement, but a true one. There may be a slim minority of people who pirates actually are keeping from the major industries through their cheaper/free service, however it ought to be fairly safe to say that there are plenty of people out there who would not otherwise listen to certain artists or watch certain shows. We’re living in tough times, and with your average movie ticket running at about twenty bucks (to say nothing of the gas getting to the theater and back), for many of us piracy is the only way we’ll see new movies and shows. Assuming there’s a segment of the population who will never, ever pay to see The Godfather, stamping out free avenues- namely piracy- doesn’t save the industry any cash. On the contrary, it just means that those people who don’t get to see the movie because they won’t pay for it aren’t talking about it, and generating buzz that might well attract people who will pay to see the movie. And speaking of them…

II. Some People Will Always Buy

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Just as some people simply can not or will not pay (such outrageous prices) for entertainment, you will find people who will spare no expense when it comes to it. There are plenty of people who want to see movies on the big screen. There are plenty of people who want to see their band live in concert.The Mona Lisa is a perfect example of this.

No ownership claimed...

You can see pictures of Mona Lisa anywhere; it’s one the most widely recognized images in human history. Because it’s available for free most anywhere, no one will actually go see it, right? After all, it’s been “pirated” to death. Yet that room in the Louvre is packed wall to wall with people who want to see the thing for themselves. Why? Because it’s the original. Doesn’t matter that it’s roped off, or behind glass, or barely visible, or that the guards usher you along after thirty seconds- it’s still wildly popular. The same is true of all media. Some people- plenty of people- will part with their cash to see Avatar in 3D, rather than watching some grainy, laggy version taken on a hand-held video camera in Thailand.

III. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Audience

You may not have experienced this in the states, but there was once a time when DVDs were listed by region codes, and could only be played on players that recognized that region. In other words, a DVD from America couldn’t be played on a DVD player from Europe and vice versa. You were granted a limited number of “switches,” but seeing as how you typically only got seven, it just put off the problem, rather than solving it. The goal (one of ’em, at least) was to prevent international piracy of DVDs through cracking down on how far away they came from, but all that just came down to it being a huge hassle for everyone, regardless whether or not their purchase was legitimate. Imagine all the time, money, and manpower that was invested in that venture that wound up solving nothing and quite possibly leading the industries involved to lose more money over that debacle than they would’ve lost to actual piracy. The same could be said for those hyperbolic ad campaigns comparing piracy to car theft

IV. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Industry

And while we’re talking about the industry shooting itself in the foot, let’s not forget the fact that preventing access to one film will very often lead to prevention of access to another. Quite simply, a person who doesn’t see The Godfather is not likely to go see the sequel, whereas someone who has seen The Godfather has a far better probability of winding up trying to see the sequel, either legitimately or through piracy. Is it a guarantee? No, but it’s still a better chance for the industry to make some cash than by preventing the person from seeing the first film at all.

V. Anti-Piracy Hurts the Environment

Lastly, I have to point out that we have free access to most films, music, and TV shows anyways- down at the local library. Only problem with that is when I drive to the library, I’m spending gas money, creating traffic, and spitting out exhaust fumes. Now I can get most anything down there for absolutely free, and no one complains. But imagine instead that I save on gas money, I keep the streets clear, and I reduce my carbon footprint by staying inside and watching the same movie I would’ve gotten free at the library. Suddenly, I’m a soulless criminal. Does that make sense to you?

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What’s to be gained from all of this? Despite the doom-and-gloom prophecies of the industries, piracy continues on its merry path and yet we haven’t seen a decrease in the quality or production values of our movies.

Though "quality" is such a tricky word...We have more music artists now than we did a decade ago (at least, more access to them), in spite of piracy, and two of the most popular genres of our generation, techno and dub-step (I will never stop being ashamed of that) is heavily based on remixing and sampling other people’s work, i.e., piracy.

Look- I’m not asking the media giants to be happy about piracy, but at the same time, I have to question whether it’s really even worth it. All that cash being poured into anti-piracy gambits isn’t workingif it doesn’t already outweigh the revenue lost, wouldn’t all that time and effort be better spent elsewhere? Wouldn’t it be more profitable elsewhere?

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Just sayin’.