We Could Have Had This Conversation Yesterday

This morning, the country woke up to the tragic news that a gunman had opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, and killed 12 people.  The number of injured was initially reported at 38, but new reports have put it at 59.  I want to say it’s “shocking”, but it’s not.  It feels inevitable.

But today, social networks are in an uproar about gun control and gun violence.  It’s the roar that comes every 6-12 months because it rarely takes longer than a year for another one of these massacres to occur.  And then the uproar dies down, and we move on to the latest news story.  It’s also a little strange that gun violence only seems to rouse people to action when it’s in a cluster.  Massacres make headlines, but I don’t hear an outcry on Twitter on a daily basis.   There were 12,632 gun-related homicides in 2007.  What makes those gun deaths less notable than those that happened at the Aurora Century 16 theater?

The question we’ve become forced to ask ourselves is not “Why does this happen?” but “Why doesn’t this happen more often?”

There’s no political will to make it stop.  If Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords getting shot in the head doesn’t spur congress to action on tougher gun control laws, then a bunch of Batman fans at a midnight screening isn’t going to register.  Just like a bunch of college kids at Virginia Tech didn’t register.  Just like the birthday party killings in Texas didn’t register (I didn’t even remember the one until The New Yorker mentioned it).  Taking on guns is a political loser because it means wasting a lot of money fighting the NRA, and stronger gun control doesn’t get candidates elected.  Americans don’t like being told what we can’t do and what we can’t have.

This post isn’t a call to ban guns, or a call for stricter gun laws.  This isn’t a call for anything.  It’s just an observation about how we could have had today’s discussion about guns yesterday, and we’ll probably be having this conversation a year from now.  The problem of gun violence in America never dies.

Friday, July 20th, 2012 culture, politics, stupid No Comments

I’m Positive I’m Not Negative

I’m going to put this to bed once and for all:

I’m not a negative person.

That seems to have become my reputation.  I know part of that comes from what I say about upcoming movies and my comments on trailers, posters, and other aspects of a marketing campaign.  My coverage of movie news is part-mockery and part-criticism.  I can’t go back through every single news story I wrote in 2011, but people get defensive over minor things.  The trailer for The Dark Knight Rises didn’t change my life and I made fun of the collapsing football field because it’s funny.  I don’t think the movie will be bad.  It’s a criticism of a trailer that shows a football player who doesn’t realize that everyone behind him has fallen into a pit and died.  Also, the quake ended when he scored a touchdown, so it worked out well.

But I also get excited by good trailers.  I do a Top 10 list at the end of the year to prove it.  And most importantly, I don’t let any piece of marketing lock in my opinion.  Marketing on major movies is a non-stop assault, and I can’t avoid it, but I can try to stay objective before being subjective.

However, I can go back through my reviews and try to empirically prove that I’m not negative.  I’ve come to the point where I almost want to stop using a letter grade.  The reason I keep using them is because hopefully it will serve as a hook.  Readers will scroll down to the bottom, see the letter grade, and then read the review to see why I gave that grade.  Sadly, the rating tends to dominates the content.  We’re in the Rotten Tomatoes age where people want to see a percentage and take that as the final word on the film’s quality.  Keep in mind that RT works on a binary-system.  A film is either “fresh” or “rotten”, so a B- has the same weight as an A+.  Even as a shorthand, Rotten Tomatoes is imprecise.

But since people are so fixated on grades, and then they want to turn around and say that I’m negative, I’ve provided the following chart, which breaks down how many As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs I gave out in 2011:

ratings-pie-chart

As you can see, the highest percentage of my reviews were either a B+, B, or B- (the exact number was 56).  “B” means “good”.  “A” means excellent.  I have seen enough movies to understand the difference.  Hollywood and even indie films don’t hit a grand slam every time they go to bat.  “A” is a high standard and when a movie meets that high standard, it should mean something.

The next highest percentage was “C”, which means “mediocre”.  I hate to say it, but there’s plenty of mediocrity in the world.  Not everyone is a superstar and a lot of movies just get by.  They’re forgettable or they’re a wasted opportunity.  I don’t hate these movies.  I just don’t get much out of them.

Perhaps this disconnect is that my critics want my film criticism to be “one higher”.  Cs should Bs, and Bs should be As.  But I demand more from my movies.  I see the flaws not because I’m “negative” but because criticism is my business and it’s my job to break down movies and see how they work and how they don’t.  I don’t “turn off my brain” nor would I want to.  It seems ungrateful considering it got me to where I am today.  I don’t like subjecting it to Sucker Punch, but we’re in it together.

There’s no agenda for me.  There are movies I look forward to and movies I dread, but I give them all a fair shake.  And if you don’t think I do, then look past the letter grade and read the actual review.

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 criticism, movies, personal No Comments

Reviews: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D and CONTRABAND

Beauty and the Beast 3D (Rating: A+)

Contraband (Rating: B-)

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 criticism, movies No Comments

Hometeam

Falcons-Logo1Another Falcons season, another crushing disappointment.  This is how they’ll write the book on Atlanta sports teams.  It almost makes me envy hopeless teams like the Browns or the Cubs.  They don’t make it anywhere close to the playoffs but their die-hard fans love them all the same.  But when it comes to the Falcons, the Braves, and the Hawks, they’re nothing but (and forgive the following crudeness) cock-teases who give their fans blue-balls.  Eventually those fans get frustrated and find a team that might actually fuck them.

But I’m a sucker for punishment.  I’m already looking ahead to next season for the Falcons even though my team got butt-fucked on national TV less than an hour ago.  What changes will we make?  Who gets drafted?  Who gets traded?  Who on the coaching staff has to commit ritual suicide and can I watch?  And will the Falcons front office even figure it out?  Last season, we got trounced by the 6th-seeded Packers even though we were the first seed off a 13-3 record and playing at home.  The snap action from the front office: “explosive” plays.  It was a meaningless buzzword, but they did get an “explosive” player with Julio Jones and in his rookie season he’s shown he’s the real deal.

And yet that’s irrelevant.  We had a worse record this season, we played sloppy football where we either put ourselves in a hole or blew gigantic leads, and toyed with my fragile emotions. Something’s rotten in the state of Georgia.  If the players are talented (and the offense is, and there are some great guys on the defense although the secondary is garbage) then how come we’re so inconsistent?  I’d rather have solid, consistent victory over “explosive” any day.  (This is also my approach to bowel movements.)

This year, I started using a phrase that I’m sure irritated everyone I used it around: “Hometeam”.  Hometeam, by my definition, meant sticking with your team even when your team was making you cry.  You could criticize the hell out of them, but you never wrote them off.  You didn’t look at the score at the half and say “They’re going to lose.”  You held out hope for as long as possible and if you lost, you looked ahead to the next game and stayed positive.

Every passing season that gets harder.  For Atlanta sports fans, it becomes excruciating because our teams pretend like they have a chance.  They dangle their potential in front of us, give us a winning season or at least a wild card berth, and then they get demolished in the playoffs.  They don’t lose; they lose horribly.  It’s almost as if they’re trying to embarrass their fans.  They’re Lucy, we’re Charlie Brown, and the football is a championship.

I’m hometeam so I try to keep the optimism alive.  I’ll be a blockhead and hope that Arthur Blank and the Falcons organization see this kind of loss and will not only make adjustments, but adjustments that would actually improve the team on a fundamental level rather than building off some meaningless buzzword.

So yeah, I’m the idiot who’s forgetting the nationally televised shit-bucket of a game the Falcons played this afternoon.  I’m the sucker who’s dreaming of next season.  I’m hometeam.

Sunday, January 8th, 2012 sports No Comments

Funny Photos

Yeah, this blog can do that.  It shouldn’t, but it can, AND IT WILL:

Art by Chris Furniss via Super Punch.

 Via Uberhumor via Brother.

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 humor, videogames No Comments

Final 2011 Reviews and Year-End Lists

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Rating: B-)

Young Adult (Rating: A-)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Rating: B)

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Rating: A)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Rating: C+)

The Adventures of Tintin (Rating: C)

We Bought a Zoo (Rating: C)

War Horse (Rating: C-)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Rating: B)

Top 10 Posters of 2011

Top 10 Trailers of 2011

Best Performances, Directing, and other Miscellany of 2011

Worst 5 of 2011

Top 10 of 2011

Sunday, January 1st, 2012 criticism, movies No Comments

Reviews: SHAME and SLEEPING BEAUTY

These are reprints of my reviews from Toronto:

Shame (Rating: B+)

Sleeping Beauty (Rating: C+)

Friday, December 2nd, 2011 criticism, movies No Comments

Occupy Research

I want to support the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I really do.  I agree with the majority consensus on major issues (get money out of politics, banking reform, stop congressmen and women from passing legislation affecting companies where the senator or representative is an investor) and I’m terrified that this latest nationwide crackdown is trying to snuff out the movement.*

However, I’m also terrified of well-intentioned-yet-ignorant.  Here’s a statement released by Occupy Atlanta regarding Black Friday protests:

Black Friday gets its name because it is traditionally the day that retailers, big banks, and major corporations move from “in the red” to “in the black” where they start to turn a profit. While the 1% are doing better than ever, every day ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet. In a world of foreclosures, unemployment, and high cost of living,
Americans are seemingly always “in the red.”

Big corporations and the media try to use this day to tell us that the economy is doing fine. We know that is a lie. More and more people are falling into poverty. 50 million Americans now have to rely on food stamps. Homes are being foreclosed on at an astonishing rate every day. In Atlanta alone, 1% of the population controls almost 70% of our resources. We say the economy is not doing fine.

Occupy Atlanta is using the massive crowds of everyday people gathering on Black Friday as an opportunity to raise awareness of immoral corporate practices and income inequality. We will be reaching out to the community through symbolic actions of civil disobedience. This field guide was created not just for people from Occupy Atlanta or the rest of the city to take action, but to encourage those in the rest of the state and country to have a little fun, and raise some awareness this holiday season.

In addition we will also be holding a really, really free market at 3pm at Troy Davis Park(formerly Woodruff Park) featuring free food, clothing, and other items.

First off, not all corporations are evil.  Some absolutely are, but you can’t paint all of them with the same brush.  But more importantly, shopping is good for the economy.  Yes, small businesses deserve love too, but take a company like Best Buy:

Best Buy is not a perfect company because no perfect company exists.  Their return policies can be nightmarish and their “Geek Squad” should be avoided at all costs.  However, Best Buy employs thousands of workers.  The company is not only staffed by the blue-shirts you see on the floor.  There’s a corporate infrastructure at work and all those people need jobs.  If you cut off Best Buy, then there will be layoffs.  Furthermore, there’s a ripple effect.  The company can’t afford as much merchandise so that hurts everyone behind those products.  Most importantly, spending is how money goes back into the economy.

That’s why stimulus is so important.  It’s not just for repairing roads and bridges (although that’s also important).  It’s to put money in the pockets of Americans so they can go spend it.  Occupy Atlanta doesn’t understand this.  I appreciate that they took the day to try and raise awareness of the movement, but it’s a muddled message and people don’t like being chastised for shopping.

One final note: Woodruff Park is not “Troy Davis Park”.  You can’t rename places just because you want to.  Furthermore, the wrongful execution of a man has nothing to do with the economy unless everything falls under the umbrella of “injustice”.  Finally, this renaming damages the use of Twitter to spread the word and gather people.  If you tweet “Meet up at Troy Davis Park”, some people may not know what you’re talking about unless they’re already involved in the movement and were probably going to show up anyway.  If you tweet “Meet up at Troy Davis Park (formerly Woodruff Park)” you’ve burned off a lot of characters.  And if you just do the sensible thing and tweet “Meet up at Woodruff Park”, then there was really no point in renaming anyway.

I don’t know how Occupy is working in other cities, but here in Atlanta it needs to be smarter and better understand what it’s protesting.  No one cares if Occupy Atlanta is standing in solidarity with the Egyptian people.  The movement can’t be a catch-all, especially if it doesn’t understand what it’s catching.

*As a side note, I don’t recall this kind of force being brought against Tea Party protestors.

Monday, November 28th, 2011 politics, stupid No Comments

Thanks!

Thanksgiving is the day to give thanks even though we should give thanks on a regular basis.  Of course, that can be a little exhausting so it’s good we have one day where we can just pencil in: Tell people what’s you’re thankful for.  And that’s what I’m going to do:

I am thankful for…

1) My family and friends.  Yeah, it’s super-sappy, but it’s true.  I’m so lucky to have a family where we’re actually not so dysfunctional.  It doesn’t make for humorous stories and other wacky cliches, but I wouldn’t trade my family for the world.  Seriously, if someone came to me and said “Save your family or the world,” I would reply, “Sorry, World.  It’s been fun.”  And as for my friends, I take friendship seriously.  I don’t care how many Facebook friends I have.  I care that the word “friend” actually means something and isn’t being mistaken for “acquaintance” or “person I met at a party one time and will never speak to again.”  If you’re on my “Friends” list on Facebook, I think you’re awesome.  End of story.

2) My job.  This year I was accepted into the Southeastern Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society.  I also attended the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time. All these major steps in 2011 reminded me that I’ve been a professional film critic for five years.  It’s a little funny when I remember that I was ostracized from the Oberlin Film Society because I had the audacity to point out that maybe showing movies with only one projector so that there were breaks in between reels was not the ideal viewing experience. (The response I got was, “I think people like having the little intermissions.”)  But it’s still bizarre that I get to roll out of bed, go to my computer, and start writing about movies every day, and that I’ll get to see movies early and for free.  To quote Cypress Hill, “It’s a fun job but it’s still a job,” and I won’t lie and say I like everything about my work.  But in this economy, I’m grateful to have a job and I’m even more grateful that it’s a job that allows me to have fun, write about my passion, and engender the hatred of people I’ve never met because we disagree about a movie.

3) My life.  When I take a step back, I can see that the good in my life far outweighs the bad.  Things could always be better and I strive to make them so, but it’s still an amazing time if we recognize the difference between a hassle and a tragedy.  It’s a hassle when my phone can’t get service, but my phone is magic.  It’s the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the palm of my hand.  Any screenwriter will tell you that’s it’s a Deus ex Machina and it’s a pain to write around them (what will happen when all phones get great service from anywhere?)  At the current rate of technological development (i.e. Moore’s Law), think about where we’ll be in ten years (provided the machines don’t become sentient; assuming they do, let’s hope for an Iron Giant/Short Circuit co-existence).  I was very lucky to be born into this country and live during this time and while there’s plenty wrong with the world, today I’d like to appreciate what I have rather than look at everything I don’t.

4) Anyone who read all of this without groaning or rolling their eyes.

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 personal No Comments

Reviews: ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, THE ARTIST, HUGO, and THE MUPPETS

Arthur Christmas (Rating: B+)

The Artist (Rating: A-)

Hugo (Rating: B-)

The Muppets (Rating: A-)

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 criticism, movies No Comments
 
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