Disclaimer - The following article is an opinion piece and is not meant to be taken as legal or medical advice. Marijuana laws vary depending on your location. Those who chose to consume cannabis do so at their own risk. Youchew is not liable for your actions.
The majority of the Youtube Poop community has probably never seen Brian De Palma’s 1987 crime epic “The Untouchables” simply by virtue of its age. In my opinion however, this is not only a movie that people should see, it’s a movie that deserves induction into the Library of Congress for its cultural relevancy. Some people have seen this movie simply because they were fans of Brian De Palma, or because of the all star cast featuring Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, and Sean Connery. But rather than delving into the virtues of its writing, cast, or cinematography, consider the film for its historical aspects. “The Untouchables” is based on a 1957 novel written by the lead character Eliot Ness. The story is an autobiographical account of his work as a federal agent during the Prohibition era. For those who aren’t yet familiar with Prohibition, suffice it to say it’s a period in US history that most would consider “a mistake”. From 1920 to 1933, the sale of alcohol was illegal thanks to the “Volstead Act” (despite being vetoed by President Wilson). Ness was charged with enforcing a law that the majority of the country did not support. Though he was technically the “good guy”, he was more like the hall monitor in high school telling guys not to make out with their girlfriends between classes. To make things more difficult, he had to deal with the organized crime element led by Al Capone who made sure everyone who wanted to drink could, and where there’s organized crime, police corruption is sure to follow. Lots of money was spent fighting the production of alcohol, and the costs were heavy on both sides. Prohibition continued to lose supporters as time went by, and eventually alcohol production was legalized again in 1933.
Why am I opening an article about marijuana by discussing alcohol? Because those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it, and as you may have guessed, history is repeating itself. Alcohol may be free of prohibition, but the mistakes of the past are being repeated via marijuana prohibition, and people are paying the price for it in all sorts of ways. Now more than ever, our country needs a serious, nationwide reform of cannabis laws. There are so many potential benefits that could translate into huge windfalls for the government if we could just get over the stigma that continues to plague everyone’s favorite plant. So on this April 20th, sit back, relax, smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em, and lets talk pot.
Don’t be Afraid of the Ganja!
If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be writing an editorial in favor of marijuana legalization one day, I would have laughed in your face and told my mom on you. I remember taking a vow to be “drug free” in first grade, and thinking “I’ll just say no, and never do drugs”. The Regan era which I grew up in was waging the “War on Drugs” and programs like D.A.R.E. were scaring kids straight all across the country (me included). Let us fast forward to the first time I got high smoking weed. I wasn’t thinking about how I was breaking the law. I wasn’t thinking about how disappointed my parents would be if they could see. I wasn’t thinking about how I had broken a promise to myself never to do any drugs. What was I thinking? “Why the hell is this illegal?” All my life I was taught to fear marijuana. It was supposed to be this awful substance that would surely ruin all aspects of my life, but it didn’t feel awful at all. For the most part I felt happy and relaxed. I think I was also really impressed by how the room suddenly seemed bigger too. Then I ripped into a bag of Gummi Savers.
In my opinion, marijuana is one of the most vilified and misunderstood substances on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely dangers that can come from smoking, but most of the “dangers” get blown way out of proportion. Some of the rumors perpetuated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy hold very little real truth and deserve some examination.
Myth – Marijuana is a gateway drug
People love to scapegoat. For those in favor of prohibition, this is usually the “go to” reason used to keep the plant illegal. The idea that marijuana use will lead to harder drug use is older than dirt, and it’s easy to see how it caught on because so many people who do harder drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.) have used marijuana before. It should come as no surprise that most people who have done harder drugs have also smoked cigarettes or consumed alcohol in their lives, yet these substances rarely ever get the “gateway drug” label applied to them. Using the same logic, we could even brand “McDonalds” a gateway drug since probably every obese person on the planet has had the golden arches once in their lives.
But as we learned in math class, correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation. The numbers alone disprove the gateway theory when you consider that in a 2009 survey, almost 60% of people surveyed admitted to trying marijuana within the last year, but the combined total of people who tried heroin and cocaine for the first time was less than 1% of those surveyed. In addition, there are more and more reputable studies coming out each year that disprove the gateway theory. Most instead favor the explanation that a person’s environment or individual circumstances are much better predictors of who is likely to try harder drugs. For example, a person living in the slums of Chicago, Illinois and has divorced parents is much more likely to try harder drugs than someone who lives in a three story house in Greenwich, Connecticut and is on the honor roll.
To really understand where the gateway theory comes from, it is important to consider why the numbers of people who have tried pot are so high compared to other drugs. Many articles on this topic mention teenagers who say it is easier for them to get a hold of pot than it is to get alcohol or cigarettes. I believe that (ironically) marijuana is easier for a teen to get because IT IS illegal. Consider this - If someone wants to get into the business of selling alcohol or tobacco, there are endless hoops to jump through and regulations to follow, and of course taxes to pay. In turn, this legalization and regulation not only make it harder for minors to get tobacco and alcohol, it also makes these substances less appealing to would be “dealers” because the potential profit margin of selling to minors will never outweigh the risk. I mean seriously, how often do you hear of a drug dealer who sells alcohol and cigarettes? So for a 16 year old, I hypothesize that it’s far easier to find a friend who has some weed for sale than to bribe someone they don’t know into selling them some alcohol (or buying it for them).
There are many other possible explanations for the high numbers, but they do suggest marijuana use is far more accepted/tolerated than it was fifty years ago, and the more it is studied the less legitimacy the “gateway theory” holds.
Myth - Marijuana Has No Medicinal Value
Before I delve into this myth, a little background on how the US government classifies controlled substances like marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has five “schedules” numbered I-V which they use to classify drugs/controlled substances based on potential for abuse/dependence, currently accepted medical uses, and overall safety/health risks of the drug. Schedule I substances are generally considered the most dangerous and usually have the harshest penalties for offenders, whereas schedule V substances could be considered the “least dangerous” of the bunch. Commonly abused recreational drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine appear in schedule I while Schedule II has many drugs that are commonly prescribed for pain such as morphine, opium, and oxycodone. Schedules III-V are mostly drugs that the average person has never heard of. The guidelines for classifying a drug are vague and open to interpretation of those making the laws, but the main distinction between schedules I and II is that schedule II substances have accepted medical uses.
So where does marijuana fit into the DEA schedules? It’s in schedule I. That’s right. Despite the fact marijuana that is legal for medical use in nineteen states and has been used in treatment for a variety of conditions (including glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, opioid dependence, and chronic pain to name a few), in the mind of the US government it has no medical value. Am I the only one that sees a hole in this argument? Now I’m not saying that weed can cure any of the above conditions, but there is concrete evidence to support the idea that marijuana can be used for medical purposes, and the list of possible uses grows as we continue to study it.
Cannabis was first classified as schedule I in 1970 at the recommendation of Roger O Egeberg who at the time was the “Assistant Secretary of Health”. In his recommendation he basically said that not enough was known about marijuana at the time to make a truly informed decision about its scheduling, so it should provisionally be classified as a schedule I substance. Forty two years later, and every attempt to reschedule marijuana (including attempts as recent as 2012) has been blocked, vetoed, or otherwise ignored by the government. The reasons will vary depending on who you ask, but it does make you wonder why people with no medical background (politicians) are passing judgment on the medicinal value of cannabis.
On a side note… anyone wanna guess what schedule cocaine falls under? Well because of its limited medical use, cocaine is a schedule II substance, and in the minds of some people this classification sends the message that cocaine is somehow less dangerous than marijuana. Some of you might even be asking yourselves “what classification(s) do alcohol and tobacco fall under?” Well these two substances, which are generally considered more harmful with a higher risk for dependence than marijuana, aren’t even a part of the controlled substances act. They’re exempt. I personally find this particularly disturbing when you consider how many diseases can be linked to tobacco smoke. Not to mention, alcohol addiction can be so extreme that there are documented cases of addicts dying from withdrawal effects. If the government gives adults the choice to consume potentially deadly products such as these as much as they want, it presents a huge, glaring hypocrisy for them to continuously ignore the growing evidence which supports medical marijuana uses. Our society trusts people to be responsible about their tobacco and alcohol use. Why could we not extend that same trust to adult cannabis smokers?
Prohibition is the problem, not the solution.
It seems like a logical solution - if something is a problem, just ban it and tell people that it’s bad for them. But when your mom brought home a bag of Chips Ahoy and told you to wait until after dinner to have one, did you always listen to her? There are legitimate reasons for the prohibition of many drugs, and you’ll never find me writing an essay in support of meth or heroin legalization. But when a small minority of elected officials prohibit something that the majority of the population wants legalized, problems are inevitably going to arise.
This is where my reference to “The Untouchables” comes back into play. When Alcohol was made illegal, the demand didn’t just disappear. New problems arose when people who didn’t know anything about making liquor started brewing their own. Organized crime elements moved in to meet the demand. Law enforcement had to create new teams to enforce the laws. Each new problem brings in its own subset of problems while the original intent of the law gets lost in the flood. Prohibition didn’t reduce the number of people who drank, just as prohibiting marijuana has done nothing to reduce consumption. And just as it was in the twenties, the same problems that plagued the prohibition era have returned.
During the prohibition era, when people couldn’t buy liquor, some would resort to making their own liquor in whatever ways they had learned. As you can imagine, with no regulation, people could put basically anything they wanted in the alcohol, and there were documented cases of people developing blindness or paralysis as a result of drinking various incarnations of “moonshine”. These days, the production of any kind of alcohol is heavily regulated to ensure purity and safety and people don’t have to fear the possibility of adulterants in their beers or whiskey and this is thanks to government regulation.
Similarly, if you’ve visited a smoke shop any time in the last three to five years, you’ve probably seen a variety of products that have been dubbed “spice” or “herbal incense”. These products are to cannabis what bathtub gin was to alcohol. They appear on the market as a “legal” alternative to weed, and they exploit loopholes in the law in order to stay on the shelves and avert prosecution. As you can imagine they have been the source of much controversy. Each bag/container is labeled with a disclaimer that says “not for human consumption”. Likewise, if you were to ask a store clerk what they are for, you’ll most likely get a very vague explanation of what they are. You might be told to “burn it”, while avoiding terms like “smoking”. Because these products are “not meant for human consumption”, they do not have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so they are technically “legal”. The illegality comes when a person tries to smoke it, because they’re using it for other than its intended purpose. Bags are filled with various legal smoking blends that have been sprayed with synthetic chemicals that are intended to mimic the effects of marijuana. Unfortunately, unless you’re a chemist with a gas chromatograph, you probably have no idea what you’re smoking. Bags typically have no information about where they come from or what chemicals they have been sprayed with. Over the last several years the DEA has been banning countless chemical compounds in an effort to curtail the sales of spice. But every time they ban five substances, ten more pop up to take their places. The irony of the whole situation is that if weed were legalized, the demand for these products would almost certainly disappear, just like the demand for moonshine disappeared after prohibition. Government regulation of marijuana could be a potentially great thing for pot smokers because they’re in a position to ensure the quality and safety of what is sold. Smokers would have assurance that someone who knows what they’re doing has grown it and hasn’t adulterated it.
Now on the subject of cannabis law enforcement. The Texas Democratic Party recently published some statistics on marijuana arrests. According to them, the War on Drugs (as it relates to marijuana enforcement) costs the US twelve billion dollars annually, and 85% of marijuana related arrests are for possession only. Although penalties for possession are starting to soften and people aren’t being incarcerated as much, the country still has to pay the costs of processing these offenses, including court costs for lawyers and judges, and the salaries of police officers and DEA agents whose time might be better served going after meth labs instead of raiding medicinal marijuana dispensaries that are operating within the laws of their respective states.
A segment from the film "Super High Me" documenting a DEA raid on a medical marijuana dispensary in California. Watching this will give you an idea of why the "War on Drugs" is costing the US So much money.
Prohibition doesn’t just cost the government and the tax payers. It costs the end user. If cannabis were legalized and regulated, it would hugely cut into the profits of the drug cartels that are the only ones benefiting from prohibition. Anyone who has ever bought some decent sensimilla (high grade seedless marijuana, sometimes called “dro”) can expect to pay around $60 for an eighth of an ounce (which translates to around $7600 a pound). A large part of this inflated cost comes from the dangers of selling and transporting marijuana. To what degree this affects the cost is open to speculation, but some sources say that if cannabis were legal the price for a pound of sensimilla could be as low as twenty dollars. This leaves plenty of room for the government to tax the hell out of it, and there will be no shortage of people willing to buy weed on the shelves of a legitimate dispensary rather than someone who may or may not be a from a gang or involved in cartels like a dealer.
And last certainly not least, lets not forget that magic “T” word I’ve been using. That’s right, Taxes. It’s no secret that the US is in recovery from the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. Taxation of cannabis has the potential to make a serious improvement in our economy, because if there is one thing that history has shown us with alcohol and tobacco, it’s that people are willing to pay taxes on items that are in demand. Since cannabis hasn’t ever had an economy in this country, there is obviously speculation about how much tax revenue could be raised from weed, but a realistic figure after all is said and done would be somewhere around 25% of the end cost which is close to what Americans are taxed for alcohol.
Also, legalization could create a significant amount of new jobs in the field of agriculture and in the form of dispensaries and processing plants. Oregon and Colorado (the first two states to legalize marijuana for personal recreational use) are in a unique position to affect future legislation on the plant as they begin to implement new infrastructure to grow it commercially and regulate it. If they can show that marijuana can be grown legally and regulated efficiently, more states are sure to follow. And the sooner that happens, the sooner the federal government is likely to repeal federal laws about marijuana so each state can have the freedom to choose how they will handle marijuana legalization.
Screen capture of a map from Norml.org. Icons show which states have medical marijuana laws and which states have legalized/decriminalized it.
Even though the US has finally breached the landmark first states to legalize cannabis, we are still many years away from legalization. But thanks to the growing level of literature and studies on cannabis, people are now more informed about it than ever and public opinion continues to grow in favor of weed reform. It “high time” we started getting honest and up front about the plant and stop trying to ignore this real issue. If you’d like to learn more about marijuana laws in your state, visit the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml.Org).
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This was a day that I knew I would come some time in my life. It was a day that I figured would mean great change for Venezuela and that it would pave the way towards progress. Now that it's here, that glimmer seems to have faded away along with the fervency of my hatred I had for the ex-president. It has been a weird 17 years slowly understanding how exactly to shape my opinion on this man. I've chirped here and there about how I don't favor him, but I've always seemed to talk about him in a light that has been more passionate and emotional. It's no surprise that this would happen though as it certainly is something that greatly impacts me as a person. Just because I no longer live there doesn't mean that I don't worry about what happens to close friends and family members. At the same time, I have learned more about what exactly it is that the man has done, and while I can't lean towards neutrality let alone like him, I can at least understand why others would. So, I'd like to tell you from all that I've read about, endured and understood, the impact that Chavez has had in his years.
Chavez was born in 1954 and joined the Military Academy in 1971. He participated in the 1992 coup d'état to overthrow Carlos Andrés Pérez. While it did not succeed and he did end up being in prison for his involvement in the coup, he had gotten vast amounts of attention for the act. Eventually, he was released and then managed to enter into the 1998 elections. As fate would have it, Chavez won. For the next 14 or so years, Chavez did much to not only stir the nation that he ruled over, but also the world itself. The man was not a quiet creature, when he made speeches, he made them loud. They were filled with intensity and ardor, drawing many people into what he had to say. Not only that, but he always spoke about a revolution that would come by and swoop them off their feet. That's what probably what made him so appealing to the poor.
Due to the spiritualism in the nation, he's been glorified to nearly a god. Not necessarily because of his speeches, but he has somehow managed to decrease the poverty of the nation substantially from 60% in 1998 to less that 30% in 2008. This has allowed the poor to afford the bare necessities that they require, and as such, has strengthened the bond between the people and the president. Naturally, this bond that he had with the most common of folk allowed him to have more control over the country itself. It basically was the pivotal reason as to why he lasted for so long. He was a powerful televangelist, giving people enough of what they needed and barking better than his bite. This would become very apparent once he finally stood on the world stage.
In 2006, Chavez stood in front of the UN and vehemently preached about how we must avoid American imperialism. He was a devout critic of George W. Bush, calling him the devil. Some saw him as showing himself as the true revolutionary that he was, standing up to his enemies. Others figured that he was merely a pompous, arrogant hypocrite. As time went on, it became clear that he wanted to establish himself as someone who greatly opposed the ideologies and policies that were being established in the US. He constantly shook hands with America's rivals such as Castro, Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad, strengthening the ties between their countries. Many people seemed to adore Chavez for being vocal against Bush, and various people such as Barbara Walters, Oliver Stone and Sean Penn have gone to subvert this idea that Chavez is not this nasty caricature that is portrayed in the media. I can't be so certain if it was because Chavez had made a great first impression on them or if they simply enjoy someone with an equally adamant dislike for a president that everyone and their mothers wasn't pleased with. Either way, this truly did have an impact on how others viewed Chavez. It wasn't the proper view that one should have, in my opinion, but in some fairness America still had both sides. I will say that it still is weird that I could say that I might have agreed with the right concerning the subject.
One thing that is for certain is that he has made an effort to eliminate opposing voices. Due to the 2002 coup d'état that failed to completely overthrow Chavez, he cracked down powerfully to remove any of this opposition on him. As such, he has gotten a stronger control of the judicial system so that it favors his wishes and has arrested a deal of people in political positions which he has deemed "traitors". The most prominent of his efforts to remove the other side was stopping RCTV from broadcasting. RCTV was a television channel that had been very critical of Chavez, with the occasional mockery here and there done for the sake of political satire. It had also supported the coup, mainly because they believed it was leading towards a more democratic Venezuela. Because of this, Chavez considered them fascists and had made efforts to remove them and put in their place something more appealing to his presidency. As such, on May 28th, 2007, RCTV no longer became a lingering threat, dealing a critical blow to the opposition. That in turn, doesn't signify that liberty of free speech. Without that liberty, it could be safe to say that it was turning into a dictatorship.
While Venezuela's poverty has managed to lower, the crime rate has continued to soar, with Caracas being one of the most dangerous cities to go to. Even though I've lived there and have not had close encounters with gangs, I do recall hearing gunfire one night outside of my house and an object being hurled at one of my classrooms from afar (most likely a bullet). Not only that, but when passing through the slums in the core of the capital, one could faintly hear the sound of guns flaring off. This has shown how incompetent, corrupt and/or overwhelmed the police are, which does not shine so well to the man who has shown to be a grand change in the nation. Power outages have also reared their ugly heads, making matters even worse to strengthen his case. Perhaps the most peculiar of the problems that Venezuela does face is that the economy has not shown significant improvement with inflation nearing 30%.
It's sad to say that some of these larger economic problems are not completely at the fault of Chavez. The country's economy is heavily petroleum-centric, as very little else is exported from such. Thus, the price of oil is what controls the economy for the most part. So when the 70s brought the price up due to a siege of OPEC ministers, prosperity arose. With all the money came in, Venezuelans managed to live the good life, being able to buy various objects of desire with veritable ease. The government was equally as frivolous with the money, spreading the wealth to the nation, but not in a way that would benefit it in the future. Arturo Uslar Pietri, a Venezuelan intellect, stated that we should "sembrar el petroleo" which basically meant that the money that we gained from petroleum should be used in investments to break from our oil dependency. Needless to say that did not happen and when the 80s brought the price down, so went Venezuela, which ultimately led to riots. Chavez could at least reference the leaders of before to make himself better suited when compared, yet his more "socialist" policies have not helped lure outside investors that could turn the economy for the better.
To this day, I still did not like seeing the change that has come about from Chavez's reign. He may have had the key to rouse people to follow his ideas, done some effort to aid those who are struggling in the slums and shown signs of a revolution that would turn the world around, but his faults do enough to outweigh the hope that he seemed to have promised so much. At the same time, the rage that he had brought me from his decisions has cooled down, now knowing that even before him, issues such as corruption and a failing economy were evident. I do not hold that much hope that the elections will bring forth the president that will at least make a decent effort to fix the glaring problems that face the nation, but I can only wait and see what will happen. Chavez has done a great deal to divide not only the nation that he ruled over, but those outside of Venezuela, which has served nothing more than an annoyance to have to cope with. The only word that I can think of that describes everything the president has done is "polarizing". I bid you farewell, Hugo Chavez, so that a new chapter can begin in Venezuelan politics.
Once upon a time (2010 to be exact), in a land far far away, there were these four producers (one played by Leonardo DiCaprio) that decided it would be a good idea to make a darker version of Little Red Riding Hood. It wasn't a good movie in terms of content, but it sure as hell made them rich. In fact, they made more than double their original budget. Soon others figured, why not make other fairy tales into a grittier story? If they could get such success, why couldn't they? And thus, we have begun our adventure into 2013, where gritty fairy tales seem to be popping up a little more. They were going to pop up in 2012, but due to some studio problems, we're now faced to gulping them down in a new year that's supposed to bring us hope that perhaps Hollywood isn't so tapped out of ideas. Then again, let's not be so cynical, as it is a small amount of films that seem to follow this trend. Still, let's delve a little more into this sudden concept of making these more "twisted" takes on classic stories (that oddly were kind of twisted on their own).
Based on what I can gather so far, we have about 4 gritty fairy tale movies (Red Riding Hood, Snow White and The Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Jack The Giant Slayer) that have come about the start of this decade. Perhaps a few more, if we really want to dig deeper (honestly, I was going to say 5, but it's debatable to say if The Wizard of Oz is a fairy tale). Now, usually something that trends can't simply be counted on with your two hands, let alone one. They happen to a more exaggerated scale that ends up suffocating you with its ridiculousness. Perhaps it is quick to say that we're jumping on to the idea that this is becoming a fad. On the other hand, Hollywood has seemed to make a great deal of unorthodox concepts play themselves straight, such as making Abraham Lincoln a vampire hunter. Even though it's evident that this leaves the general consensus mixed to negative on the films, it sells. If it sells, they'll keep it going, no matter how awful it is. That's just how the business world works.
I suppose it doesn't become too much of a surprise that they would now decide to use fairy tales as the vehicle of this trend, since it is common for Hollywood to recycle concepts and package them in a new light. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing, a lot of the greatest works out there rely on reusing old concepts and adding on to them. Plus, fairy tales can strike a cord with the audience because they're familiar with how these tales went when they were a kid. Seeing them as an adult in a more mature light serves not only to bring them back to the past but also shed light on a theme that can impact them stronger due to them being older, wiser and more experienced. Not only that, but when one looks back at the actual stories that Disney had toned down for them when they were a child, they see that there was much less dancing and singing that took place. If anything, this darkening of the stories can serve to show the audience that they're ready to face a serious take on the tale. The only issue? That's not what's happening.
When I say that these films are gritty, they're not "brooding, cynical, depressing, disturbing" gritty, they're "dark colors, deep voice, strange imagery, maybe-action-like" gritty. That's not to say that the former and the latter are two completely different entities, there's a great deal of works out there can be both, and pull it off well. The graphic novel Watchmen, for example, manages to use the latter to accentuate the themes that revolve around the former. These movies aren't Watchmen though, they're not even close to it, they're more safe in their approach. Yes, you see these dainty, innocent characters become stone-cold killers or brave adventurers or passionate romantics, but the films don't seem to succeed in pulling that off well. One could easily blame this on performers phoning in the performance and portraying them as if all they're expecting out of this is a paycheck, but then what can be said about those who do put forth the effort and come out looking out of place? The only other aspect you could blame is the way it's presented in terms of it's aesthetics and writing for not being able to take proper advantage of the concept.
That, to me, is the biggest problem that faces these films, based on what I've seen so far. It looks edgier, but if you took away that it was a re-imagining of a fairy tale, it might as well be another mediocre fantasy epic that's trying too hard to be epic. You can see in the way that they cut everything fast, rev up the mysterious element that's vaguely there and toning the light down so it feels as though it's going to be intense. Simply giving something a coat of black paint and splattering blood all over the place doesn't immediately cause someone to feel as though what they're watching is more intriguing and risky. Not even raising the stakes to great levels can do that, because it has no substance to it. One could implement any device into a story and give the illusion that it's more that what it appears to be, but if there's no rhyme or reason it, it's basically a waste. The films don't serve to do more with the idea other than make it appear as though it's this cool, new, hip stuff that all the young kids are looking forward to. That, in the end, feels as though it's insulting the younger demographic by fooling them into thinking this is something cooler and it insults the older demographic because they see how absurd it is. There are only three ways I see this upcoming "genre" becoming something wonderful. They either focus on the darker elements of the tale (or attempt to properly add a darker tint to it), not take themselves too seriously and deliver on a better fantasy epic or make it into a dark comedy.
Like I mentioned before, some of the stories that we've heard of before are much less kid-friendly than what we have been given. The Little Mermaid doesn't end with her getting the prince and living happily ever after. It ends on her refusing to kill the prince (who ended up marrying the Sea Witch) to become a mermaid again, throwing herself to the sea, which in turn causes her to turn into foam. Add in that the potion not only made her mute, but also made her feel that every step she made was as if she was getting stabbed with sharp swords and that the prince loved seeing her dance, and you get something that's far too intense and brutal for a little kid to comprehend it's horrible magnitude, let alone read. If one were to make a more mature rendition of this tale, they would take closer note of the harsher aspects of it and be willing to sew them into the narrative properly. Now if the original fairy tale isn't that somber such as Rapunzel, then they shouldn't alter too much other than the tone. That will affect the characters, the setting, some of the progression of the story and perhaps the theme itself, but it should not alter it to a drastic degree. Rather it should stay somewhat rooted to how the story usually moves but let it move with a more desensitized and distorted fashion that usual. That allows not only for the familiarity of the story to be taken into account, but can also leave the viewer interested in how one could view it in a jaded, bitter tone.
That's easier said than done since you can't just snap your fingers and magically make sugar-plums and pixies look like something that come from the lowest levels of Hell. That requires more attention to detail, precision and careful construction. It's not impossible though, but I imagine that's not what they're looking to achieve. They want more of a grand journey sort of romp. In which case, what I recommend is simply...don't take yourself so seriously. It is well-known that no matter how bizarre a concept is, one must play it off to some level of seriousness to give credibility to the world or to become more engrossed in the film. At the same time, if someone wears a giant foam cheese hat on their head and does nothing more than pout, it will either come across as annoying or incredibly silly. One must find a certain balance of knowing how far they can take themselves seriously with the role. They also need to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation, not necessarily by winking to the audience and saying "Yeah, I know it's weird that I want to fuck a wolfman, but you know what they say about guys with furry feet", but by attempting to play on the ridiculousness from time to time and enjoying themselves. In turn, this makes the audience feel as though that even though what they're watching is ludicrous, they're willing to take it in stride and enjoy themselves.
Finally, we have the idea of just making it into a dark comedy. This is perhaps a very effective way of darkening a fairy tale because it not only allows for someone to take in the both types of gritty I mentioned before and use them both to their advantage but also creates a good semblance of what sort of tone a recreation of this sort needs. Although it's not necessarily hilarious nor conventional in its approach (hell, I'm not sure if that's what the author intended), an example that comes to me as a good way to explain how this should be pulled off is the Alice is Dead series. For those of you who don't know, it's a flash game series that turns the well-known characters from Wonderland into mercenaries. At first, it sounds very idiotic, but it's aware that it's not something that one can just simply take seriously, so it makes a lot of references to how the characters are in the story whilst also filling it in with a disturbing tone. The comedy doesn't come so much from how the characters act (well, not intentionally), but rather of the setting and how the characters come to be what they are. It manages to be serious not so much because of the mercenary aspect but rather due to it's odd approach of the tale while also weaving in this world of fantasy that we're familiar with with the world of the mercenary that we're also aware of. The two end up playing off each other as the bits of humor bring you back to a comfort zone that is then slapped away when the grimness settles in. At the end, you find yourself laughing at it slightly, but you also feel weird about laughing about it and seek to look into it more. Whilst one can play a more "make this disturbing scenario more silly" form of dark comedy, giving it a warped, surrealistic tint to the humor allows for that laughter to get them thinking about the gravity of what it occurring, making them more engaged.
It's still hard to say where this movement is going to keep marching through and whether or not it will lead anywhere good. From what I tell from the two latest ones, I'm still very mixed on the matter. Mainly because both present the two possibilities of how the concept could turn out awful. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters feels like it would fair much better if it wasn't attached with the story of Hansel and Gretel. The designs of the witches look phenomenal and the weapons have a certain badass feel to them based on their look, but they feel somewhat unfitting. This is simply due to the association of the story. We know that the basic elements of the tale are intertwined into another tale, but it doesn't mesh right. It comes off as incredibly laughable to turn these two kids who happened to let their sweet tooth get the better of them suddenly decide to go hunting witches. Not only that but the look is unsure if it wants to capture a fairy tale feel or a epic fantasy-adventure feel, so it's caught up in this unpleasant limbo.
Jack The Giant Slayer, on the other hand, isn't actually based on the Jack we usually think of. While the original tale that this film is based on is more complex than some kid who finds a bunch of beans and then climbs a beanstalk to steal from a giant, it decided that it should implement themes from it. My guess is that's it's trying to get the public to relate to it more clearly, but it comes off forced and it acts as a detriment to the whole film by stooping it to a lower level that what it wants to achieve. Excluding the fact that it shoehorns the more relatable Jack fairy tale into its story, the other problem arises in how it tries to be like other grand fantasy films. This might be more to it's advertising, but it feels like they had a checklist and they were making sure that it could properly hit those sweet spots as cliched as possible. Booming voice over? Check. Overview of landscapes as the hero traverses through them? Check. Slight comedy relief? Check. Badass retort? What do you think? Rather than become something more unique (which is what it should be), it clings to the old methods and takes the skin of better movies in the hopes that it may become what that skin represents instead of a disgusting mess. Both advertise themselves as these fantastic adventures, but all I see is a laughable time-waster. Trust me when I say that there are too many of those kinds of films these days.
In the end, if this does become a trend and more movies of this caliber do start to clog up cinemas everywhere, it would be nice to see if they could tap into its greater potential. A wise man once said that there aren't bad ideas when it comes to stories. There are only bad ways of conveying them. Even though their premises are ridiculous, with the right hands, someone could make it into a spectacular experience. By researching more into the original story, they could play up with references to it or give a more faithful rendition of it that amplifies its more macabre tones. It could also accept it's stupidity and make sure that it does enough to deliver this absurd adventure in a way that it is as insane as it it fun. Hell, if it goes that dark comedy route, it may end up as not only a good way to bring forth more avant-garde films into the scene but also provide a somewhat clever and thought-provoking experience. I don't want this to just become another quick-buck fad, nor do I want it to be just a series of misled half-assed projects. Rather, I'd like to see this bring forth tales that will live on as long as the stories they're based off on. That way, the audience can have a happily ever after instead of a "I'm going to write a long, detailed rant damning this film forever" after.
Come on, admit it. You’ve seen them. You’ve seen plenty of them. They played those eHarmony commercials all the time and they got your attention. Just admit it; you’ve se- wait, you haven’t seen them?
WELL HERE’S ONE NOW!
That happy couple with their pearly white teeth. That cheerful Natalie Cole music. That nice old man who wants you to visit his site. Yes, these commercials played all the time back then and eHarmony is still alive and growing today. The allure of having not only a successful relationship but a successful marriage…who doesn’t want it? Of course it’s not that easy. Falling in love is an extremely complicated task itself, but finding the right person is even harder. Billions of people in the world and one of them has to be that double, right? And maybe that double is out there looking for you too. But how do you find him or her? And more importantly, where do you start? That’s why eHarmony is so popular. Unlike most online dating sites, eHarmony is primed for starting a successful relationship and is not some hit-or-miss dating program – or so it says.
Recently the curiosity got the better of me and I had a crack at that website. The first thing I noticed right away was a large image of a couple matched by eHarmony. (As you can see this company isn’t very subtle about its success.) The signup page was right beside it and I began filling it out, starting with the simple stuff like what I was looking for, my sex, age, etc. And then, once that was all said and done, I commenced their highly-touted compatibility survey.
What makes this questionnaire so interesting, as advertised on numerous commercials and ads, is that it collects your deeply personal responses regarding 29 different areas of “compatibility.” This includes how you think, how you work, how you respond to everyday events, and even how you see yourself. The best way I can describe it is like taking a Myers-Briggs, a test that measures introversion and extroversion, with a pinch of family and cultural values questions. All that information is used to preselect potential matches for you; that's the gimmick behind this site. It takes away the painstaking process of leafing through profile after profile just to find someone who likes Motown. I spent no more than fifteen minutes each sign-in.
Now there are some who don’t make it out alive. This is a very long questionnaire (it took me an hour or two to complete) so patience and perseverance are required. Having filled out surveys before on reward sites this was a cinch for me, although I can’t speak for everyone else. However, these aren’t exactly pressing questions. The website values your initial response to its questions as the real answers, so it’s best to answer each question instinctively. Another downer is that you might not make it through because the system does not see you as fit for compatibility. This is understandable considering the number of fraudulent users that attempt to take advantage of the site, but for those who do take it seriously it’s a very big letdown. Can you imagine if a patented and constantly improving computer specialized in finding love labeled you as unfit for its matching system? Other dating sites have actually used this for attack ads.
This didn’t happen to me; I made it through successfully and with an account in good standing. All that was left for me to do was add a profile picture (anime pics don’t count), fill in personal preferences like favorite films and sporting events, and answer optional petty questions like, “Who's your favorite Kardashian?” (There are over a thousand of these. Questions, not Kardashians.)
No sooner did I finish my profile when I got the news I had my first matches. I scanned each profile, reading each person’s bio, hobbies, influences, and stuff they couldn’t live without. No one stood out at first but I wasn’t expecting gold on the first day, so after I was satisfied I went through the next few days looking at everyone, who in turn was possibly looking at me. The site sends you roughly seven people each day, but it all varies depending on how far you're willing to reach out distance wise and what your preferences are regarding health habits, ethnicity, and religion. Sometimes you get a nice nine and sometimes you get none at all!
Now remember, the system uses the results of the questionnaire to match people together; it completely ignores their written profiles. I noticed that many people I was matched with had very vague and flat out uninformative bios, pretty much wasted matches. It's like the lunch lady smacks a gob of mystery meat on your plate but it ends up being more fat than meat. I assume it’s against eHarmony’s rules to post other member’s pages so I’ll refrain from visual examples of these bios. Rather I’ll give you an idea of what the more interesting ones wrote:
The one thing I am most passionate about: video games
The most important thing I am looking for in a person: video games
The things I can’t live with out: video games, Max Payne 3
The one thing I am most passionate about: I am passionate aboufaofnafjangrjgndfskjlgdgfasdkjfndskfndsfsdrgdthsthhdggdgdggdfgsghdhbsdhjfssfhddfvg
The most important thing I am looking for in a person: fioafaownwfndwjfkffjkfnadkfndskfnaggsdggdghdghdththtgregsgfasfaewgfersgsthdrthsgdg
So as you can see, eHarmony cannot filter people with an addiction to gaming. Or type with their foot.
A free account profile looks exactly the same as a member’s account profile, but freebies have restrictions. You cannot see any photos of your matches. You cannot tell which of your matches have looked at your profile. You cannot even communicate with matches through messaging (and posting communication info on your profile is against the site’s policy). See, just having this account alone isn’t enough. That member’s status is crucial if you want any chance of success. Go figure; they’ve got to make their money somehow. So how much do these special benefits cost?
$60 – 1 month
$110 – 3 months
$170 – 6 months
$250 – 1 year
Yeesh. So sixty bucks…that can get me plenty of things. That new game that just came out, that looks pretty good. Or a dinner for two at Longhorn, yeaaahh, that’d be even better. Or better yet, two full tanks of gas! But a month of a dating site in which you may or may not find anyone in? And hey if you think that’s a stretch what about $250? That can get you the suit that earns you that job, or it could even go towards a car or house payment. Is it really worth risking that much?
So as you can see the costs are rather…inflated. Such is the price to pay for using eHarmony I suppose. Now granted there’s a lot that comes out of using this service. You’re getting the ability to see profile photos, communicate between matches, and seek more matches through an expanded search. So like I said: if you want any chance of success on eHarmony, you need that package. I was lucky to come across a limited time deal that offered an extra month for a 1 month price, so essentially two months for $60. “Hmmm” I thought as I stroked my naked chin. “Two months isn’t as bad, but should I take that chance?” Now I’m not financially challenged but I like being smart with my money and I prefer not to shower it over every smidgeon of a “deal” I see.
Regardless, I can’t help but admit I was allured by this eHarmony experience. To me it was a chance to meet people outside my rural setting and find someone that shared my interests. Maybe even someone I could have a future with. Wishful thinking I know, but low probability isn’t zero. So after staring at that computer screen for a good fifteen minutes I bit that silver bullet.
And bought the 2 month plan.
Phew! Well, now that that monkey was off my back I could safely call myself a member. I could communicate with people that interested me and call my profile fully complete. No sooner did I think that, however, when I read I had only completed 90% of my profile. “What huh?” What had I missed? My photos were up, every question had been answered, two whole months of service were paid for…what did I forget? Well you see, even though I was eligible to use eHarmony to my will, my profile wasn’t technically “complete”. There's optional stuff it takes into account, including a service that confirms your identity, a safe telephone communication service, an advisor that could help you write your profile, and a full analysis of your compatibility measurements. All of which needed to be paid for to access.
That’s right – eHarmony has DLC.
“Shouldn't some of this stuff be free?” you may be asking. I thought that too. At the very least the identity confirmation should’ve been free for subscribers seeing as it’s only six dollars per year; what harm would it have done to include that with my package? The site clearly states they don’t run background checks on its users after all. I paid two tanks of gas to this site; the least it can do is assure the people I'm talking to are real!
Well here’s the thing: there’s another package you can get. In addition to the premium service that I got, eHarmony also offers the “Premier” package, which offers all of the above plus the ability for your matches to communicate with you even if they aren’t paying customers. In addition, if you purchase a 12-month plan and aren’t satisfied, you can get an additional 12 months for free! Well now! I wonder how much this plan co-
$500 – 1 year
I’ll leave it at that. Anyways there is a huge curse to eHarmony being free, and it’s that since your matches can’t communicate with you unless they’re paying customers, many of the ones you reach out to can’t contact you back. That pretty much negates 95% of people I've messaged. It’s a bit understandable seeing as my matches are only ages 18-24 so that reluctance to pay for service lingers, but still! And there's another problem: a large portion of users don't check their profiles on a daily basis. Each member's profile lists how long the user has been inactive, and many of them exceed three weeks. It's annoying when you receive an inactive member, especially one you feel you might hold a connection with.
The site proposes that you get in touch with as many matches you feel have to potential to be your partner, and from there filter out the ones that connect best. It doesn’t sound right at first because you'd most likely be dating two or more people at once, but that’s not exactly what it is. The dating is part of the communicative breakthrough; you’re still filtering through potential matches like you are digitally on the website. It’s all part of the process. In the end I managed to get in touch with two people. One of them felt I wasn’t what she was looking for, the other I’m still communicating with. Let me tell you, when you see that someone has reached out or responded to you, you jump. Partly because of that chance that person could be what you’re looking for and partly because you want to take as much advantage of your subscription as possible. I interviewed my matches carefully and they interviewed me. I had fun sharing myself to these people and at the very least I was glad they got to know who I was. The thing about online dating in general, though, is that until you've met in real life it doesn't matter how much you've revealed about yourself; you're still an alien.
So...is eHarmony worth it? At this point I’m still not sure. The matches you talk to do harbor a less tentative attitude and are confident enough in the dating system to open up more, which is a positive for the most part. And while I could’ve probably talked to multiple people on a free dating website there’s something intriguing about being matched by a system made by someone who’s studied love for years. But even though I believe I've made a breakthrough there's no guaranteeing whether it will amount to any thing nor is there any guarantee everyone else who joins will actually talk to someone. One thing I can definitely say for sure, though, is that eHarmony not a casual dating website. The people there are looking for a future, so before you sign up consider this: Do you know what you want to do in life? Are you emotionally and financially stable? Are you willing to accept that payment plan should you come across someone you like? Keep in mind that your profile is being shown to people and if you’re reluctant to pay for premium service, you’re wasting other people’s time as much as your own.
Seeing as the majority of people close to my age are content with just a free profile, I say wait until you’ve reached your late 20s or higher to start using that site as you’re more likely to find people who are subscribed. On top of which, you’ll encounter more people who have a home and career. Being able to supply your own fridge is a big deal. Also, and this is important for dating in general, learn the dos and don'ts, proper educate and courtesy, and ways to read the signs men and women send. There is a very effective blog on eHarmony's website that can help you with that and you don't have to be a member to access it. Until then, you best think long and hard before you join eHarmony. If you feel you're ready then go for it, but don't take it for granted and don't expect to find that special someone within two months. You've been warned.
Welcome to the first annual YouChew E3 Awards ceremony! E3's over and done with, and all in all, it was a pretty bland and forgettable show. But that doesn't mean that there weren't some notable moments. Good or bad, we're here to honor them today by handing out our merits and demerits to those who have earned them. So we hope you enjoy the winners of the first annual YouChew E3 Awards; after all, you voted for them!
The "You Are the Controller" Award
For the most awkward placement of motion control into a pre-existing franchise
Now that motion controls have started to become more mainstream in gaming (that is to say, it's no longer the laughingstock it was before Nintendo got rich off of it), it seems like a lot of our favorite franchises are telling us to GET UP AND SHAKE IT! Every year we see more games we love succumb to "innovative" controls that, in the end, just make you want to go back to the good old classic controller. While there are certainly some exceptions, for the most part, new control schemes just do not mesh well with old game franchises. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
This year, there were many options to choose from, and the contestants quickly became neck-and-neck. The brief trailer for "Fable: The Journey" got many uncomfortable laughs when we watched the franchise devolve into a kid waving his hands at the screen and performing magical Kamehamehas. Xbox's SmartGlass, which will allow players to play Madden via their iPads, was also quite derided, but as stupid as SmartGlass looks, the only actual game functionality shown was playing Madden. But determined to outdo themselves, Microsoft clinched the award with Tom Calancy's Splinter Cell: Black
While this does provide the chance for you to feel more immersed in the game world, it also provides you with the chance of looking like a fucking tool yelling at your TV while people watch on in unease. It's kind of like when your dad shouts at Jeopardy, except here, the TV can actually hear you. But does this mean that unless you play your game perfectly silent, enemies will hear every noise you make? If you're trying to sneak around in an enemy base and you let out a massive fart, are you going to get gunned down? All in all, this raised more than a few eyebrows, and is the silliest example this year of cramming new control into an old game. With Splinter Cell: Blacklist, you ARE the controller. Whether you want to be or not.
The "Great Job, Jeremy!" Award
For the most patronized on-stage performer
This poor woman.
She looks to be around in her mid-30's. That means that she was graduating college in the peak of the Playstation 1 era. She saw smash hits like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and Final Fantasy VII, and wanted to be a part of the magic that was Sony. Do you think this is where she wanted to be in life? Do you think, at that naive young age, that she knew that in 15 years, she'd be on the largest stage in the business, sitting on the hard ground, waving a magic dildo around hoping that a book laying in her lap would do something?
We doubt it.
Who do we blame for the travesty that was Sony's Wonderbook? Sony? J.K. Rowling? The developers of this Harry Potter game? Whatever the case, this poor woman was probably told "Okay look, you're going to go on stage, you're going to play with this shit while not-John Williams farts in the background, and you're going to look like you're having fun with it".
It didn't help that the damn thing wasn't even working properly. As much as this woman was waving the Not-Wii Remote around at the TV, the book in her lap refused to operate. This was compounded by her jackoff boss telling her "YOU HAVE TO TILT THE BOOK UP, SWEETHEART".
Lady, we're sorry. This wasn't your fault; we're sure it wasn't. But like it or not, you were treated like a brain-dead child on-stage, and that's what this award is all about. "Great Job, Jeremy" are the immortal words spoken to another poor soul forced to demonstrate another gimmicky Sony Move game at E3 2011; it's only fitting that you are "rewarded" with the 2012 "Great Job, Jeremy!" award.
The "My Body Wasn't Ready" Award
For the biggest "Oh SNAP" moment of the show
E3 is all about surprises. In today's day and age, if Shigeru Miyamoto drops a pin, we'll hear about it in an hour. It's hard to keep things secret, but that's what makes E3 so magical. You can always just look up new trailers and demos for games that have already been announced, but the fun of E3 is being blown away, and having your wildest expectations exceeded. While this year was depressingly tame in that regard, there were a few minor surprises.
One such pleasant surprise was when Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America's CEO, came on stage to discuss Wii Fit U. As he talked about it, he alluded to Nintendo's 2007 conference, where he demonstrated the original Wii Fit on stage for the first time. And we all know what happened that year, but did Reggie? He must've, because to the surprise of all of us, he said, right on stage, "Yes, my body was ready".
This is like if Kaz Hirai came on stage and jokingly talked about Ridge Racer, or how the PS3 used to cost 599 US dollars. In a year where everyone was stone-faced and no-nonsense (aside from Trey Parker and Matt Stone's welcome jab at Microsoft's clusterfuck of Xbox utilities), it was wonderful to see someone not only accept a meme based around them, but to reference it live on the stage.
In 2007, Reggie announced "My body is ready", which has now been morphed into a term meaning that one is fully prepared in anticipation for something (almost to a sexual degree). It is only fitting that the first ever "My Body Wasn't Ready" award, for the most surprising moment of the show, goes to the man who started it all.
The "Rock Band 3, Fucking Finally" Award
For the biggest bait and switch
We just went over how E3 is all about surprises. Unfortunately, while we occasionally receive good surprises, we're sometimes presented with bad surprises instead. Sometimes we'll be expecting one thing, say, Rock Band 3, but then be given Dance Central. It's not fun to have our expectations turned against us.
While there weren't too many bait-and-switches this year, one that stood out was The Last of Us. The demo started in pure darkness and only the sounds of gunshots, which made people hopeful that they were finally going to bring out Metal Gear Solid 5. While that wasn't the case, at least The Last of Us looks to be a decent game. So while it wasn't what people were hoping for, it could've been a lot worse. It could've been Metal Gear Solid Boogie: Kinect Edition. Nonetheless, The Last of Us wins this year's award for the biggest bait-and-switch.
The "We Can Rule the Galaxy as Father and Son" Award
For the most unsettling corporate partnership
The video game industry is...well, and industry. We know that. We understand that people need to get paid, and that businesses need to make money. But that doesn't change the fact that sometimes corporate partnerships can feel a little...off.
There were plenty of good options to choose from this year, from Sony and J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter Wonderbook game, and Microsoft for every fucking thing they talked about. The final poll brought Book of Spells and Microsoft's partnership with Nike+ head to head, with the latter barely winning with just one vote pushing it over.
While it might not seem like much on its own, it is the tip of the iceberg that was Microsoft's press conference. They seem to see the Xbox as a means for other companies to channel their products through, and nowhere was that more apparent than Nike and Microsoft's team-up. This partnership isn't so much unsettling that it sends chills down our spines, but more that it worries us of the direction Microsoft is headed in. Microsoft, Nike, you two might join together, but you're not going to rule. Not by a long shot.
The "ESPN Experience" Award
For the announcement/presentation that had the least to do with video games at a conference about video games
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Where do we even begin with this one? We could just cheat and give the entire E3 2012 show this award, but we don't want to exaggerate. Too much.
...Okay, it wouldn't be an exaggeration at all. Those who read and posted in the '12 E3 thread have probably become very familiar with a video clip of Will Smith from the show "The Fresh Prince of Bel-air", in which he cries out to his family, "Where da vidya games? Where-WHERE ARE MY VIDYA-OH, OH, OH WHEEERE, AH, OH, I CAN'T BREATH". In fact, some users made it a responsibility upon themselves to post it every other page all throughout the Microsoft conference.
And it couldn't be more fitting.
Sports. Music. Movies. And best of all, TV on your TV, at long last! Holy shit! The Xbox truly can do anything! Except, uh, games. Remember those, guys? E3's a gaming expo, right? While some of the other companies were guilty of this too, such as Ubisoft with Usher and Flo Rida's dance numbers, Sony with their Wonderbook travesty and Nintendo with...uh, Wii Fit U, SiNG, and...okay, look, we're just trying to be fair and balanced at this point. We don't just want to come out and say that this year sucking was all Microsoft's fault.
Actually, yeah, we do. This year sucking was all Microsoft's fault.
Technically, Usher and Flo Rida's "performances" received the most votes individually, but when combining votes for Xbox Sports, Music, SmartGlass, and Internet Explorer (please stop laughing, we're trying to have a serious discussion here), those votes far outnumbered the competition. And Usher's dancing segment was during the Microsoft show too, chewing into even more time that could've been spent talking about anything else.
So you know what? Fuck it. We said that we weren't going to cheat on this one, but we feel that it's fitting. Instead of counting any individual presentation or announcement, we're lumping together Microsoft's entire conference and awarding it the "ESPN Experience" Award. Good job, guys; now either bring some games next year, or get the hell out of our E3.
The "Girl-Wooden Plaque"
For the worst excuse of a "Girl Gamer"
The gaming industry is rapidly becoming more diverse. Instead of just white males from the ages of 13 to 25, we're seeing gamers of every age, race, gender, sexuality, and everything else under the rainbow. And this is good; we want gaming to be this all-encompassing pastime that everyone can enjoy, both boys and girls.
But girls, do you have to be so goddamned annoying about it?
Okay, scratch that, we have nothing wrong with girl gamers. That is to say, genuine girl gamers, i.e., gamers who just happen to be girls, and girls who just happen to be gamers. What we have a problem with is when a girl comes out and says "Oh yeah, I love video games! Pac-men is the greatest! My gamer score is totally legit, dawg off the chain gurlfriend!"
"Phoney" would be the best word to describe this behavior, and that's how a lot of popular "girl gamers" seem to come across as, being supermodels who act like they love video games when in reality you could probably ask them what a Rare Candy is, and they'd tell you it's something sold in Europe.
This year, the most egregious example of this was seen with Ubisoft hostess Aisha Tyler, who spouted a stream of nonsense about how she was getting a "girl boner", and "girl wood", and fawning over women and stating that "we're all a little gay", and, uh...
...In retrospect, this is a lot more unsettling than it was at the time.
At any rate, her antics weren't appreciated, and she took the cause of women being taken seriously in the field of gaming another three steps back. With that in mind, we award her the "Girl-Wooden Plaque", in honor of "girl gamers" at their worst. We just hope that this award applies to "her", and "her", uh..."girl wood".
"Mr. Caffeine's Bronze Coffee Mug"
For the worst performer of the show
Do the words "Doodly doodly doodly doop" ring a bell? If you're fortunate enough to have missed Ubisoft's press conference last year, then they will probably make you think fondly of the Mike Myers film Wayne's World. If you were not so fortunate, then they will bring back painful memories or Mr. Caffeine, a physical manifestation of everything wrong with what the outside world perceives nerd culture, internet culture, and, most specifically, game culture as. From classy lines such as "Touch my joy wand" and "I'm not afraid to make a few dick jokes", to his extensive knowledge of Ubisoft's own best-selling franchise, Tom "Calancy"'s Ghost Recon, he truly was a marvel to behold. And by that, we mean it was a marvel that our IQs didn't drop 50 points just by watching him. And we're here to "honor" him today with this award, handed out to the absolute worst performer of the show.
From stilted acting to shameless plugs, E3 is no stranger to terrible performers. This year, though, the proverbial cake was easily taken by Toby Turner, who was at best a poor man's Mr. Caffeine and at worst a mindless, raving, autistic spaz. The joke is that he's stupid! Ha ha! Funny! What's that, viewers? You don't get that he's stupid? Well, here he is being stupid again! Oh Toby, you loveable oaf, ha ha ha! What's that? Games? Who needs that, when we have good old Toby getting fucked in the ass by Aisha's mighty girl wood?
In the same way that the "Great Job, Jeremy!" and "My Body Wasn't Ready" awards happened to be distributed to their founders, it's almost poetic that Ubisoft's Mr. Caffeine would have an unintentional successor, a "protege" if you will, with Toby Turner. While Aisha and Toby's "chemistry" were the greatest cause of annoyance with Ubisoft's show, it's most likely that without him, Aisha's girl wood remarks would only be slightly annoying, as opposed to Toby's "assistance" which made them profoundly annoying. With that in mind, we proudly bestow Ubisoft's Toby Turner with "Mr. Caffeine's Bronze Coffee Mug", a testament to his...crappiness. You have learned well, young grasshopper.
"The Concrete Donkey"
For the company that made the biggest ass out of themselves, in both presentation and content
Microsoft, do...do you just not get it? That's three years now that have been nothing but showcases for Kinect. You do understand this is a gaming expo, right? Do you just not care about your core audience anymore? You know, the people who bought your consoles in the first place?
We know Kinect has some cool possibilities. But for the love of god, does it really need to be the focus of attention? From Xbox Sports to Xbox Music to SmartGlass to TV and Movies, the Xbox can truly do anything! Except, you know, play games.
We understand that you want to make the Xbox a multimedia all-purpose system. We understand that you want to show off all of this tech to your investors. But for the love of god, it is a gaming system first and foremost. You want to put in all that stuff? That's cool; just take 5 minutes with each. "Xbox can play music. You can watch movies on it. You can finally watch TV on your TV". But in an hour and a half conference, about two thirds of that time was spent just talking about Kinect utilities. You only showcased a few games, and they were all either games we knew about (Halo 4), games you gave us little to no information about (the new Gears), or games we just don't care about (Black Ops 2). And do you see a running pattern with these games? Yeah, sequels, sequels, sequels. Not a single new IP from you guys. And while sequels are okay sometimes, for the love of god, Halo 4? Gears 4? Does "Finish the fight" just mean nothing to you?
Microsoft, you need to step it up. If you're not going to amaze us, then at least entertain us, like you did with the last two years of disaster. This year, it wasn't even funny; it was just a giant bore. And that is the worst crime of all: boring us at a show that's supposed to be about spectacle, wonder, awe, and surprises. That is why, for making the biggest asses out of yourselves on the biggest stage in the business, we "award" you with the illustrious "Concrete Donkey". Congratulations; you've earned it.
"Best in Show" (Game)
For the game that, through trailers, live demos, or other presentations, deserves the most praise and built the most hype
All in all, this was an incredibly lackluster year. Every conference showcased games we either knew about for days, weeks, or months in advance, games that rehashed old franchises that we're just sick and tired of, or games that we frankly didn't give two shits about. While there were a few things to write home about, the entire show was just a tired old bore.
There were very few major new IPs announced. Sony brought us Beyond: Two Souls, the new PS3 movie by the developers of the critically acclaimed film Heavy Rain. Nintendo brought us Nintendo Land, a collection of minigames that somehow warranted twice the discussion time of Pikmin Fucking 3. Microsoft brought us...absolutely nothing.
So it was up to Ubisoft to step it up. And they did, by surprising us all with Watch Dogs.
While it could easily pass as a mediocre Grand Theft Auto clone, what made this game look so interesting was not only the fantastic graphics, or the fact that someone actually came up with a new IP (imagine that, a new IP at E3), but also the capabilities you possess in the game. The ability to hack everything, from phones to traffic lights to bridge signals, brings up a lot of possibilities. And the 10 minute or so demo whetted our appetites and made us hungry for more.
At a better E3, this game might not have been as much of a big deal. But this year was dry on the content, and this game helped provide us with something sorely missing from E3: surprise. We were surprised by the new IP, surprised by the gameplay elements, and we were surprised that none of the "Big 3" could bother to even do that much.
And so it is with great pleasure that we wholeheartedly award Watch Dogs as the E3 2012 "Best in Show" game.
"Best in Show" (Company)
For the company that overall was of the highest quality and standard, in both presentation and content
This was a very...weird E3. Nintendo was supposed to come in and clean house with the Wii U, but instead we only got a handful of decent games, an array of old games ported over, and an entire section of the show dedicated to convincing us that Nintendo Land isn't just a Wii U tech demo (spoiler: it is). Sony had a few decent announcements with The Last of Us and Beyond, but the Vita continued to flounder and the shameless Smash Bros. knock-off left a terrible taste in our mouths when all was said and done, enchanting us only with its inclusion of the Big Daddy from BioShock (seriously, a fighting game where you can play as the Big Fucking Daddy; that alone can almost make us ignore the blatant and shameless thievery and creative bankruptcy at play. Almost). Microsoft fell flat on its fucking ass. And EA didn't even blip on the radar, aside from a hilarious package of DLC that they expect people to buy for $50, as opposed to spending that money on, you know, a full game.
But what did all of the above conferences (sans EA) have in common?
Ubisoft's hand was in all of them.
Assassin's Creed III. Just Dance 4. Splinter Cell. ZombiU. Rayman Legends. And of course that little game Watch Dogs mentioned above.
The fact that Ubisoft was able to invade every single one of the big three game conferences is both encouraging, and a little scary. In fact, we were almost considering placing them under the most unsettling corporate partnership award, but that would be impossible, since they're partnering with everyone. Kinect players get to break it with Just Dance. Sony fans not only get Assassin's Creed III, but a spin-off on the Vita as well. And let's not forget the company's whole-hog support for the Wii U, with a wide array of both multi-platform titles and console exclusives.
Yes, their conference was cheesy at times. Yes their announcers sucked. Yes the "pro gaming" segment was both awkward and uncalled for. And yes we are terrified that the French are going to take over the world. But in the end, Ubisoft delivered where it counts: the games. They've got a great line-up of games in store for the future, and most of them look good, or at the very least classy. Which is better than can be said for Plsystation All-Stars and Nintendo Land.
It is a strange, strange show indeed when the "winner" of E3 isn't even one of the main contestants. Nonetheless, for providing a multitude of content all throughout the show, we proudly award Ubisoft with the E3 2012 "Best in Show" company.
Just watch yourself, France. We've got our eyes on you.
That concludes the '12 YouChew E3 Awards. If you were around for all of the E3 madness, we hope you enjoyed this critique of the show. If you didn't watch the show, then we hope you at least got some informative entertainment out of this article. Until next time, see you at E3 2013!
Thanks a ton to Combuskenisawesome for the awesome award emblems; they are above and beyond what I ever could have hoped for.
Yet again, we stay acclimated to a popular mediocrity. Save for a few exceptions, most of Hollywood's soundtrack selections are either derived from modern-day top 40, a so-called "safe spot" for some of the more eccentric musicians, the really unimportant hits of the past, or those overplayed "motif" songs that make you wish that you were one-half Helen Keller. Besides the lowered quality of mainstream filmmaking and a lack of respectable "adult" animation, modern soundtrack selections are one of my pet peeves concerning Tinseltown. Some people might ask, "But Malk, weren't soundtrack selections always for the populace ever since the beginning of film?" However, I argue that most, if not all, films had their own selection of original music (save for films like It Happened One Night, with "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" being one of its more memorable songs) by means of a score for a typical drama or individual "emotional commentary" songs if the film was a musical. Back then, you had to keep the audience entertained - a lot of the studio moguls (and the employees of the studios, including actors, scriptwriters, and directors) were all very familiar with Broadway in one way or another, so there was a certain amount of quality control to compiling the songs for a film. In some cases, you had entire musical numbers cut out just because they didn't work in the picture - or didn't properly entertain the audience.
Nowadays, despite Hollywood allowing for much more individuality, there's been a decline in quality control concerning soundtrack selections. To me, they're not trying hard anymore - it's as if some of these directors have lost the passion for the art of filmmaking and decide to just make slop for the populace. No wonder why most good soundtracks are commonly found in left-of-the-dial movies - at least those directors aren't in it for the money.
One thing I hate about modern mainstream soundtracks is how they usually derive a song from top 40 radio. Now, there are good songs on the radio that pop up now and then, but in Hollywood, we're not talking about Cage the Elephant and Arcade Fire. Since Hollywood is run by a biased democracy of bored and mindless crowd who views film as pleasure and not another way to talk about life, I have to hear Justin Bieber and Ke$ha in every goddamn trailer that plays right before the latest movie I'm watching. Even in some hidden gems (i.e. The Hangover), you get some pretty horrible rap songs tacked onto the credits. From what I hear, these songs bring absolutely nothing to the table - I've heard sampling before and I've heard it in better ways. I've heard people rapping about people watching Scarface before - and I've heard it done much better than your average amateur lyricist with a hacked copy of the latest edition of FL Studio. I've heard uplifting songs of personal struggle - and again, I've heard it done way better than your soulless "Climb" or your "Never Say Never." What happened to picking the decent top 40 hits? Oh, wait. We've got to have...money.
Another thing that pisses me off about modern soundtracks is they usually take all the "safe" songs from the crazy artists and use them like they're the only songs you know by said artists. For example, you have Pink Floyd - for a while, they made some pretty trippy music with and without Syd Barrett. You had your 9-minute psychedelic jams and your classic acoustic ditties about said charismatic frontman - and every time I hear them in a movie, it's always something from Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall, usually "Money" and "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2." That's barely treading the water if you want to hear more Floyd - those two songs barely define the bulk of their catalog. But that's what the public remembers from them - no "Astronomy Domine" or "Echoes" or even "
And another thing: I hate hearing all of those really boring classic rock hits in modern day films. Remember Dazed and Confused and how it made classic rock cool again? Seems like Hollywood misconstrued the intent of said film's soundtrack and decided to eat up the rights to every Eddie Money and Bachman-Turner Overdrive song known to man. Well, the songs you remember by them - since the rest of their careers consisted of textbook bland rock. I want to ask Hollywood: what's so appealing about Frampton Comes Alive? I have the album - it's simply not as incredible or inventive as some of the other live albums I've heard, but I keep hearing "Show Me the Way," "Baby, I Love Your Way," and "Do You Feel Like We Do?" in every gross-out comedy I watch on HBO. And those songs aren't the best from 1976, much less that album. The talkbox solo is horribly pointless, the shorter songs are pop trite, and Frampton's just not charismatic enough to have a good solo career. And why am I always reminded of "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"? There's nothing good about an off-shoot of the Guess Who - again, it's borderline boring pop trite for its year. No invention at all. Those songs are simply not that memorable - their hooks don't work the way they're supposed to.
However, all those things don't infuriate me as much as this tired cliche I keep seeing in modern soundtracks: overused "motif" songs that attempt to form an homage to some classic film in the past. You know what I'm talking about - in comedy films, people love to slow down scenes of people running...while playing the theme to Chariots of Fire in the background. Not that Vangelis is a bad composer (in fact, he's one of the best), but hearing that theme over and over makes me think about the amount of individuality that's in Hollywood right now. Then again, it couldn't be so bad - at least Disaster Movie has its own original songs. But no - they're all re-writes of classic songs from Juno and late-night television. It was funny to hear "I'm fucking Matt Damon" on TV because you know that it was a snarky reference to Sarah Silverman's relationship with Jimmy Kimmel, but when Hellboy, Hannah Montana, Bruce fuckin' Banner, and Juno MacGuff sing it, it's lost its point. Also, why do you alter such a sweet song to be some hiiiiiiilarious take on abortion and celebrity adoption? Did you really want to poke fun at the scene where Bleeker and Juno play guitar that much? Geez, guys. Stop stealing ideas from John Hughes. At least he did it much more cleverly than you can with your "JUNEY WHY DON'T YOU HAVE AN ABORTION" bullshit.
...I need a break from this. Guys, here's an unrelated video:
Time: Sunday, March 5th, 2006. Place: Kodak Theater, Hollywood. The 78th Annual Academy Awards had gone the full course and were just about to wrap up. The acting awards went to mostly historical people, the technical awards went to a monkey and a Chinese woman, and everything else was split between two pictures: gay western Brokeback Mountain, and racial drama Crash. The critics favored Brokeback to win, seeing as it got much more hype than many other romantic dramas for its controversial theme; on the other hand, Crash was an independent feature that had sort of settled in the background.
Ang Lee had already received a statuette for Best Director, which he no doubt could have used to make Hulk 2. (Instead, he chose to make a shitty Woodstock film with barely any Woodstock in it – but hey, it had Demetri Martin! That’s got to count for something!) Anyway, as soon as an anemic-looking Jack Nicholson toddled onto the Kodak stage, most people were reciting the Best Picture of 2005 to themselves when they noticed something strange: Nicholson had no envelope. I guess he was hasty to end the program – not a good idea in hindsight: exactly one minute later, people were banging their fists against the TV screens and bemoaning their defeated expectations, because – surprise, surprise – the Academy had not decided that Brokeback Mountain was the best picture of 2005. Rather, they believed that the honor belonged to Crash.
I’m going to be honest: even though I hadn’t seen either movie on the night of the Awards ceremony, I was pretty upset along with the rest of my family. But apparently, this wasn’t just a matter of personal disagreement: commentators were quick to seize on the contrasts between the two contested films. Apparently, the theme of homosexuality in a mainstream movie was just too much for the Academy, which instead opted for a “safer” movie in Crash. Never mind that they had bestowed the award upon American Beauty and Million Dollar Baby, films with unhappy endings unusual for a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. Apparently, the Academy was an ultra-conservative league of snobs. (I use the word “apparently” because none of this is finite…or is it?)
But rather than castigate the AMPAS for their poor judgment in movie quality, people turned their hatred on Crash. From their point of view, this little simplistic movie simply couldn’t hold a candle to Brokeback Mountain, which was such a well-made film in its own right. Then there’s the debate of its message again: Crash’s themes of bigotry and alienation just seemed outdated and old-fashioned next to Brokeback’s earnest depiction of homosexuality, which arguably had not received a proper movie up to that point. From their point of view, Crash is the ultimate low point in the history of awards shows, where a film of such apparent low quality was chosen over Ang Lee’s shining achievement.
Now, you might wonder exactly where I’m going with all of this stuff. Well, I’m not here to evaluate the Academy’s decision-making process, or to make a grand statement about the Oscars over all time. I am, however, interested in the competition between these two films: both are independent features, both deal with sociopolitical issues, both were commercial and critical successes; and yet one has a reputation as a modern classic, and the other is compared unfavorably to Forrest Gump. And for me, the way these films are judged by a lot of people incur a reaction out of me. I have had this reaction for a very long time, ever since I sat down and watched each movie in full. I never felt like revealing this opinion before, seeing as it was unpopular in a place like YouChew. But I have to say, all the Academy Awards hype, post-ceremony ranting, and online discussion has obscured a very important point.
Brokeback Mountain is overrated.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love Brokeback Mountain, and it’s a superior film to Crash in many regards. For one, there’s the acting: Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are both fantastic in their roles. Ledger’s Ennis embodies the “strong silent” type, but with so much more emotion and feeling than many cowboy actors. He restrains his gay sexuality until he is opened up by another man. On that opposite end, Gyllenhaal’s Jack (that sounds like Jake, huh) proves a nice contrast, as a more energetic and open man, something which ultimately spells his fate. Ledger and Gyllenhaal actually make a convincing gay couple, and you really get emotionally invested in them, especially near the end; the scene with Jack’s shirt is particularly affecting. Anne Hathaway turns in a good performance as well, and Michelle Williams would be as good if she didn’t have so few scenes to appear in.
Crash has a good cast too – hell, it’s got like four times Brokeback’s cast. Some of them are big Hollywood names (Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, etc.), and some of them are names you’re not likely to see in many big movies (Ludacris, Michael Peña, Larenz Tate). Not one character is played by a bad actor – yes, not even Brendan Fraser’s DA; thankfully, they only give him a few scenes. However, is this expanded cast a good thing? Everyone’s good, but no one quite reaches the same level of emotion and depth reached by the people in Brokeback. There are standouts (Peña’s scenes are some of the best in the film, and Dillon is very good), but with so many people acting, the emotions tend to spread out across everyone rather than settle in two well-formed characters like Ennis and Jack.
The camerawork is an important facet as well. Ang Lee’s cinematography is gorgeous, capturing the full splendor of the titular Brokeback Mountain and casting a romantic lighting in almost every scene. It has a sort of classic western feel, which sits pretty well with the film’s overall tone. Crash is less pretty and more realistic in its camerawork, and thus, seems pretty workmanlike in its quality. There are quite a few good shots, but none of them match up with the shots of the mountain. Those are on par with the classic movies; you can’t blame them for wanting to shoot the money.
Some critics said the mountain was the best actor in the movie. Hm...
It’s useless to compare the plots, since both follow fairly standard story sequences. So, if Brokeback Mountain has better acting and cinematography than Crash, then what makes it “overrated”? Well, there is one major problem with the film I have, and that is pacing. A lot of the time, it seems that nothing is really happening: after the introductory sheepherding scenes, you see Ennis and Jack living their own lives, trying to cope with the world around them while struggling with their sexuality. That’s all well and good, but none of this is really important to the plot. Ennis makes love with his wife, Jack works at a rodeo, Ennis goes to a bar and dances with another woman, Jack goes to Mexico and shacks up with a rent boy, etc. etc. All of these scenes are well done, but that can’t hide their ultimate pointlessness. The plot picks up and progresses when Ennis and Jack go on “fishing” trips back to Brokeback, but these scenes are scant, and don't really lead to as much as they could. Maybe that was the point, to show how repressed they were by society, but it just didn’t work for me.
(Spoiler alert) There’s also the matter of Brokeback’s conclusion. Before they get the chance to be together again, Jack randomly dies; his wife claims it was a faulty tire, but Ennis knows that he was really killed by homophobic rednecks. Alright, I’m aware that this incident continues to happen in the US, so I can’t really call it “contrived,” but I really want to call it just that. You never see these killers before except for just one guy, and in that scene he and Jack seem to be on good terms. It seems like they were just lazily introduced near the very end to put an abrupt end to the relationship. It does result in a very emotional ending, but it would have helped if Jack’s death wasn’t so random and subjective.
That isn’t to say that Crash is totally without pointless scenes. I never cared for the Iranian shopkeeper; I thought that Shaun Toub was a bit of an over-actor, and I thought that there were many (too many) storylines in place already. His character got better as time went on, but there were others (like Cheadle’s girlfriend) that didn’t seem to have any place in the story. (Keith David and Tony Danza get spared because their cameos are awesome. Come to think of it, Randy Quaid was really good in Brokeback as well.) And I realize that you could call Crash very “contrived”: the film’s many characters seem to connect at complete random, as a mere product of chance. But hey, at least these encounters actually lead to something meaningful; it’s not like someone just pulls a gun on another and fires, there’s actually a long talk beforehand. Plus, you can actually see the bigots’ motives in Crash; you don’t agree with them, but you can understand why they would mistrust other people like they do. The guys in Brokeback killed Jack because, hey, God hates fags or some shit like that.
This actor deserves more recognition. Seriously.
And that’s another thing: for all the hype about Brokeback being the first significant gay film, the film seems curiously dispassionate about its main subject. They show us two men fall in love with each other, then you see them get separated by different marriages, then you see them get back together to continue their gay relationship, and finally one of them gets killed. But aside from showing us a homosexual couple, the film doesn’t really make any grand statements about homosexuality. Not every message film has to make grand statements, and the two leads are convincing as a couple, but the filmmakers just kinda lean back and let the theme write itself. I guess the biggest statement would be that gay people are repressed by society – which is mostly true, but that’s a pretty thin theme. And besides, how is this message of equality and acceptance so different from Crash’s dealings with xenophobia and isolation?
Brokeback isn’t even the first significant gay film. Rope, Boys in the Band, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Dog Day Afternoon, The Crying Game, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Fried Green Tomatoes are all serious films that meditate upon homosexuality in one way or another. Boys in the Band deserves special recognition for being the first successful gay film. Even Oscar-winning films before Brokeback, like Philadelphia and American Beauty, have touched upon the subject more than a few times. That’s not to say that it’s a more common subject than racism – there have been more films about racism than I care to count, and among the ones I know, many of them seem to have dated a great deal. (It’s hard to watch Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with a straight face.)
Still, I like to think that Crash puts a fresh viewpoint on racism that many people failed to recognize – even members of the Academy who voted for the movie might have been missing something. In a 2000s world, no one thinks about racism much. Most of us think that it’s been dealt with fully, that it’s one of those problems we needn’t worry about anymore. Crash tries and mostly succeeds to debunk this belief, showing how racism is still prevalent in today’s world – often in very subtle ways. With a bevy of storylines located around LA, the film allows you to see both sides of the issue through at least a few different viewpoints.
But the best thing about the film is that it never comes off as politically correct – in fact, it even attacks PC culture. For example: the DA has just been robbed by two black people, and his plan to remedy his image is promote a black officer. This kind of racial management happens so often today, but nobody wants to speak about it for fear of being called racist. Face it, you hear “racist” as an insult almost as much as “gay.” And the film even wants you to respect Muslims (the scenes with the shopkeeper), an almost completely absent message in the post-9/11 world. Since there are so many storylines, not all of them work to the fullest potential, but Crash really isn’t an “old-fashioned” film. You’d be surprised in how racism comes up in the world, often under different names.
Going back to Brokeback Mountain: when I look at the two films side-by-side, there seems to be another great difference. I have to say, when it comes to messages, Brokeback did something that was incredibly safe: they set the film in the past. Almost every message picture feels the need to put their films in a different time, when this problem was somewhat more of a problem. (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird was written in the 1960s at the height of the Civil Rights movement, but it was set in the 1930s. Of course, it’s still a great book.) Gay films seemed to be the exception, until now. Why does the story need to be set in the 1970s south? Couldn’t you have faced the issue straight on and comment on the treatment of gays in present-day America? Or would you rather take the safe route which just screams, “Hey, we’re bad now, but at least we’re not as bad as we were then!” This really detracts from the film’s impact.
Mike Huckabee disagrees with the above paragraph.
Crash is set in the present time – or at least the present time when it was being made, around 2004 and 2005. This shows you that Paul Haggis wasn’t going to take refuge in past, “more racist” times, and with this immediate time, he’s able to comment pretty accurately on bigotry in the world. Some might say that because it’s set in the present time, it has a greater likeliness of dating. This might be true, but hey – I’m not reviewing this film from 10 years later, I’m reviewing it now. This is just my opinion, but I think it holds up damn fine as a message picture.
Now don’t think that I’m totally slamming Brokeback Mountain but lavishing praise on Crash, because I’m not, or at least I don’t think I am. Brokeback is still a very good film. It has terrific performances and beautiful camerawork, and it does deal with an important subject. However, it’s simply not the insanely good masterpiece that it’s been trumped up to be; it’s not exempt from the trials of modern filmmaking, and yields to a pretty bland message. On the other hand, Crash, while no doubt a flawed movie, is still a well-made, eminently watchable feature which betrays its moral-movie stigma to go for a more realistic view of racism. It’s not a “Best Picture” film, but it doesn’t deserve the scouring that it’s gotten from so many people.
Honestly, it bothers me to see how people are so obsessed with the Academy Awards. I’ve seen several threads on iMDB on how Crash is supposedly the “worst Best Picture ever,” and even TV Tropes have latched on to complaining about it. If I remember correctly, one person criticized it because “real people don’t talk like that.” Well, what kind of fucking comment is that? People never or rarely talk like real people in movies; they’re reading off of scripts. I think this shows that several people hate on Crash for the sole purpose of hating on Crash. And for that matter, why does everyone care what a bunch of old men thinks about movies? Why don’t you formulate your own opinion? You don’t need the Academy to tell you what’s good, and for that matter, you really don’t need to endlessly complain about their choices either.
Forgive me if I’ve been a bit too plain in this aspect. I know that there are still a lot of people who enjoy Crash, and Brokeback has suffered its fair share of backlash. I’m also aware that I left out the other Best Picture nominees, but those don’t play as big a part in my tangent. I just think it’s a damn shame that something like the Academy Awards has the power to affect people’s judgment about movies. Brokeback Mountain and Crash, in my personal opinion, really aren’t that different in quality or general message, and yet people persist in lobbying one way over the other. I say: decide for yourself.
Thanks for hearing me out.
Part Two of a Four-Part Series
Anime girls in short skirts go around prattling about love and justice. Lesbians are really just cousins. Winged horses are perfectly fine candidates for soul mates. This is the world of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon. In America the show is known by its English dub, one that toned the show down considerably to aim it at children, or in other words completely butchered the original work and destroyed any credibility it may have had in the states. I was one of those target children, so why has it taken me this long to come to like the series? It's been history in Japan for thirteen years, and ten or nine in America. The answer is that much like my good friend RabbitSnore, I was too ashamed to admit that I was somehow intrigued by it. However many years later when two of my favorite online associates Thereisnospoon303 and Dillrod90 made watching Sailor Moon a public event, I wanted to take part, partially because I value their opinions, but more honestly because I had definitely reached a point where I thought attractive anime girls might not be such a bad thing. I was ready for Sailor Moon. I had no idea what I was signing up for, and it ended up being a complete surprise. Now, having seen all two hundred episodes of all five seasons and two of the three movies, I can say I have gotten myself quite deep into the franchise. I know what the Japanese names of all the girls mean, I can recite the lyrics of countless opening and ending themes by heart, and can draw the characters without missing a detail. There are a lot of reasons for a person like me to like Sailor Moon, but should something like this be obvious from the offset? I am in no way the target audience, being male, American at that, and supposedly too old to fall for sappy love stories, so this shouldn't be for me, am I right? What is it about this series that could make it so likable? What gives it this undeniable charm?
For me this series turned out to be a great find. It's a perfect example of how anime was produced in the 1990's - featuring beautiful backgrounds, lots of scenes involving school and ordinary everyday life and not to mention funky Jpop music mixed in with a beautiful orchestral score. It was tons of fun to see the enigmatic Tuxedo Kamen throw roses at giant tennis ball monsters and for Sailor Moon to defeat enemies with attacks such as "Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss." This kind of silliness is not for everyone however, and there's plenty of skepticism to be had for a series that sells its characters on the fact that they show a lot of leg, but it was not too difficult for me to look past that to get a clearer vision of what it's really about.
My friends Thereisnospoon303, RabbitSnore and Dillrod90 probably view the series from the point of view of the reserved and mature college boyfriend, Chiba Mamoru. As a high school student I didn't quite see it from that perspective, instead I see the plot from the point of view of the five girls. I can identify with them in a certain way; if it's goofing off one day then being serious about studies the next, believe it or not these girls cover a lot of the same ground that I do. The character I feel I connect to most is Rei, serious, jiving, and highly supportive of the naive and childish Usagi. Underneath the Shrine Maiden that greets people at the Hikawa Shrine, there is a young woman that harbors deep feelings of determination to fulfill her aspirations, having an "international life of success." Rei's character is written in such a way that tells me that it's fine to dream big, and the more open and determined one is the greater their likelihood to achieve their goals.
Points such as these are scattered all throughout the series, there to encourage young viewers as they grew up with the characters. I'm required to think about adolescent issues daily, and I deeply appreciate being able to bring my own life to the characters of this campy show. They all live in a bright world where adolescence is happy and innocent, and evil is repelled with the power of love and friendship. It isn't accurate, but it is inspirational. I'll take this over watching Michael Cera get wasted in SuperBad any day. It can be disappointing to see many types of questionable behavior advertised in entertainment to the teenage audience, so it is refreshing to see something so far on the other end of the spectrum for once. The world is by no means as peaceful or optimistic as Usagi-chan would make it out to be, but hell I believe in a world where one can go for their dreams, and maybe even have a miracle romance. It may be sappy; it may be unrealistic, but it's sweet, and it's something I can appreciate. It has proven to me that shoujo anime is not something that should simply be written off as substandard kiddy fare, and that it can in fact communicate important messages. There is much to say for how the writers decide to bring in these themes, and they rarely have anything to do with the skirts.
So what is the purpose of tackling a project as large as watching 200 episodes? It is to be entertained, to learn something new, and perhaps to achieve an unexpected result, such as learning something about yourself. If one looks hard enough they can discover a lot in this series, and whether it's to like it for its lighthearted and silly scenes or its more reflective and dark ones is entirely the preference of the viewer. I'm sure to most the fanbase seems onerous or averting as is often the case with anime fans, but it is important to remember that different people enjoy things for different reasons. I like Sailor Moon because it showed me an optimistic and enticing fantasy world that hits close to home, and perhaps it even gave me a better idea of how my miracle romance may turn out some day, all in the format of a campy action and romance '90s cartoon. Others may like it for simply the skirts alone, or for the bizarre humor. Whatever reason one may have, there's plenty to find and appreciate in this quirky yet strangely alluring tale.
That's what Sailor Moon says.
<img src="http://youchew.net/i...gi_mamoru3.gif" class="right" width="200" />At the time I am writing this, I have watched 120 episodes, which amounts to 48 continuous hours of time spent watching a Japanese cartoon about magical schoolgirls in the ‘90s. If in August you were to tell me that in three months I would have spent that much time watching a cartoon which as a child engendered embarrassment for me to even stand in the same room as a television playing it, I would have said you were crazy and should have a CAT scan performed to investigate the possibility that a brain tumor was perhaps pressing on the part of your brain which keeps you from being fucking stupid. But that would have been the socially awkward child in me speaking, the child who my therapist keeps telling me is sad, alone, and afraid to form interpersonal connections.
My therapist also tells me that dream I keep having means that I want to dig my teeth into the nipples of every woman I meet because of unresolved issues with my mother.
Yet here I am, able to tell you that <a href="http://en.wikipedia....or_Mercury">Ami Mizuno</a> is a Virgo and that <a href="http://en.wikipedia....r_Venus">Minako Aino’s</a> least favorite food is shitake mushrooms. Apart from attributing my unexpected appreciation of <em>Sailor Moon</em> to severe mental illness and repressed childhood trauma, it is difficult to account for this course of events.
<img src="http://youchew.net/i...12/ohusagi.png" class="left" width="200" />But perhaps it’s not so strange that I ended up liking <em>Sailor Moon</em> enough to watch over 120 episodes of it, put <a href="http://sailormusic.n...tracks.html">15 hours of soundtrack music</a> on my computer hard drive and MP3 player, and spend enough time to learn the rudiments of a musical instrument on watching it. Perhaps the series isn’t bereft of merit. Perhaps with an open mind, it is possible to discern the value of a ‘90s anime about schoolgirls and a college boy in a top hat who throws roses at formulaic monsters. Perhaps there really is some redeeming quality to this crap. Or maybe I could benefit from a hefty dosage of Thorazine after all – but I’m going to go with the thesis that there is a point to all this stuff, that there is a reason I love it, and as long as I <em>allow myself to love it</em>, it’s more fun than I would have ever guessed. There’s something about this show that keeps it from being buried irredeemably under its flaws and places it in one of the few warm places in the hollow chambers of my cold heart.
<img src="http://youchew.net/i..._professor.jpg" class="right" width="170" />There’s a charm about <em>Sailor Moon</em> I quietly detected as a child, even from the shitty English dub I was originally exposed to, and after watching the subtitled Japanese version, I can better understand what it is that gave it the staying power of over <a href="http://queenserenity.../media.php">200 TV episodes, several full-length movies, and several musical theatrical performances</a> and gave it the appeal to prompt me to watch so damn much of it. The series’ charm is the charm of having enough subtlety and enough unexpected twists to stay interesting, even while sticking to a <a href="http://en.wikipedia...._theory">fairly predictable formula</a>. There’s no surprise when the heroes save the day, and it’s uncommon for an episode to end unhappily. Nevertheless, I find myself watching the show to complete the formula, to see what exactly happens, even if I know how it will ultimately end. It’s like solving a mathematical equation that I know is balanced or watching a movie I’ve already seen: I feel the need to finish it even if I know, in some way, what will happen; I just need the details.
Let me be clear about this: I didn’t expect to enjoy the show. Despite my suspicion there was more to it than what I thought of it as a child, I approached the show with my usually high level of cynicism and skepticism. But I kept an open mind, and I was rewarded with an enjoyable experience. Being the brooding and introspective fellow that I am, I gave a great deal of thought to this unexpected turn of events, and I realized some key lessons that I learned about how to enjoy yourself when encountering new media, like a new show or film.
The following are what I have come to believe is the key to having a good time with new stuff. It’s how I fell in love with <em>Sailor Moon</em>, and maybe it can work for you!
<img src="http://youchew.net/i.../12/weight.png" class="left" width="200" /><strong># 1: Do not mistake your preferences for an objective measure of quality.</strong> Remember that what you like is not necessarily reflective of the media’s objective quality. In fact, I would argue that media does not have objective, quantifiable goodness or badness; there are merely opinions and responses. If some media appeals to one person or group and not to you, it can be difficult to understand what the hell they see in it…. I have this trouble with fans of the <em>Twilight</em> series all the time.... But if you accept the fact that people can feel differently about different things, you come to realize that nothing is good or bad in any real sense. This is not to say, however, that you should not allow yourself to get riled up about media. If you didn’t, things would get quite boring, now wouldn’t they?
<strong># 2: Remember that nothing is perfect, even if you love it.</strong> This is closely related to #1. It is great to love your favorite shows, books, movies, and music and go on rants about how heavenly they are, but never - <em>never</em> - let that love blind you from the flaws of the media. By flaws, I mean elements of the media which prevent it from fulfilling its intention: animation flubs, poor sound quality, crappy editing, lousy voice acting, and dialogue that sounds like it was written by a first grader with a blood clot in the frontal lobe of his brain. But it’s okay to love something that isn’t perfect in every way. In fact, things, again, would be rather boring if what you loved were perfect… and this brings us to #3….
<strong># 3: Love the good; laugh at the bad.</strong> While I think it’s great to be passionate about the things that work in your favorite media and also great to get riled about the flaws in media you don’t like, it’s important to be able to relax and remember that you’re probably not talking about something which will threaten the lives of millions or cause the AIDS epidemic in Africa to worsen… probably.
<img src="http://youchew.net/i...d_chibiusa.png" class="right" width="170" />At the end of the day, you should be able lay in bed and to feel good about the way that Mark Hamill played The Joker in <em>Batman: The Animated Series</em>, and you should be able to say to yourself, “My god, I hate <a href=" voice of Artemis in the English dub</a>, but dammit, I <em>will</em> be able to sleep tonight without having nightmares of a white cat saying, “Computer findings point to yes.” That is, when exposed to train wrecks such as <a href=" Catman in Lethal Track</em></a>, you ought to be able to laugh at how horrendous they are – and this goes for moments of gracelessness in your favorite media as well. When characters are off-model in your favorite animation or when <a href=" good actors deliver their lines as if they have suddenly lost several points of IQ</a>, admit that it’s bad and laugh at it. Letting yourself admit that things are not perhaps the way they should be is much healthier – and much funnier – than denying it and trying to make excuses for it. And this is why you should…
<strong># 4: Be willing to laugh at yourself.</strong> Leave behind your strict, canonical standards and live a little. Allowing yourself to like things that aren’t perfect is much more fun than being stuck up about it.
A good deal of the animation in <em>Sailor Moon</em> falls short of expectations, even by ‘90s standards, and it’s no secret that much of the dialogue can be stilted and formulaic. In spite of these flaws, I retain my appreciation for the show. I laugh at how many times the characters ask each other if they’re all right and how the same animation is recycled episode after episode whenever the characters transform. It has gotten to the point where I <em>enjoy</em> seeing the same old animation; it’s like being wrapped in a security blanket – only the security blanket is an underage schoolgirl wearing a sailor fuku.
<img src="http://youchew.net/i...xedo_kamen.jpg" class="left" width="200" />My point is that you should strike a balance between accepting the flaws of your favorite things and loving them madly; these things are not incompatible. Don’t take things too seriously, and you will do just fine. Love what you love, and don’t get too hung up on trying to defend it from all criticism. It is my suspicion that, at worst, not practicing the suggestions I’ve outlined here can lead to elitism and xenophobia, sometimes to the extent of the old “War on AIDS” debacle. At best, however, you can have a damn good time not taking things too seriously, lying back and enjoying the way Tuxedo Kamen always shows up just in the nick of time.
<em>Watch Sailor Moon on Youtube <a href="http://www.youtube.c...>here</a>.</em>
<em>Read a fan translation of the manga <a href="http://www.onemanga....>here</a>.</em>
<em>Torrent the complete series <a href="http://thepiratebay....>here</a>.</em>
<em>Discuss Sailor Moon on the forum <a href="http://www.youchewpo...start=0">here</a>.</em>
<em>Article by RabbitSnore.</em>
Poop, after all, seems a hell of a lot like impressionism at times, seems a lot like Dadaism at times, seems a lot like conventional filmmaking at times. For a well-intentioned and otherwise intelligent reviewer with some knowledge of critical media analysis, Poop is a tempting subject matter, and as editor-in-chief of the YouChew news page, a great deal of articles – well-written and not – have come across my desk making bold critical claims and throwing around some fairly sophisticated media and artistic terms. At least one or two of these have been published here on this news blog.
<img src="http://youchew.net/i...ali-enfgeo.jpg" class="right" width="170" />I once received part of a presentation by a graduate student hoping to present a critical review of the history of Poop. Not only did the author get details of factual events incorrect, but it completely failed to correctly interpret the attitudes of the people who make videos in the vague genre called Poop. A good while before that <a href="http://youchewpoop.c...-squidcancom">a media blog interviewed Conrad Slater</a> and posited that Poop was related to the Dadaist movement, or at least that it was highly similar.
The article included this lovely bit:
<quote></quote><em>“A core audience of poop makers and viewers are pretty young and have no concept or nihilism, irony, postmodernism, bricolage, situationalism, or even surrealism!” says Conrad, “A lot of people are running blind - there is a lot of chaos!”
But where there are social implications, there are often political implications as accompaniment. And while Conrad does not want the chaos of Poop to disseminate, he recognizes the hidden power that Poop holds. “I do think we need to reach an older crowd who use video and editing as a weapon against the media rather than because they think handling their favorite cartoons in this way is fun and cool,” he says.</em>
Let me preface my next remarks by saying that I still have a great deal of respect and admiration for Conrad Slater for being bold enough to consider Poop seriously and for creating the site that brought us together as a community.
That said, it seems to me that the general tendency in “sophisticated” reviews and analyses is to attribute a great deal of meaning and power and social, political, and artistic implications to the video genre, and to put it colloquially, this is <em>god damned silly</em>. It’s a sophistry. It’s a logical fallacy that seems perpetuated by its own internal consistency and superciliousness.
These analyses make a bold logical leap which results in conclusions that land incredibly far from reality. While it’s possible to construct a work of modern art consisting entirely of a slice of white bread on the tile floor of an empty room, throwing a slice of white bread on the kitchen floor because you think it’s silly and fun is not the same thing, regardless if they have the same result. The confusion between these two slices of bread is at the heart of problem that pervades most sophisticated reviews.
On its own, it’s not a bad argument to see Poop as an avant garde artistic movement, and the evidence of this is potentially infinite. Even I won’t deny that what Poopers do is, in some way, a spearhead of media evolution. As broadly defined or not defined as it is, Poop does indeed demonstrate the qualities of a media revolution. It’s the logical result of widespread access to media, much like modernism and post-modernism were the logical results of their historical contexts. But this isn’t an art and film class; I’ll spare you the history lesson and cut to the chase, to use a cliché.
What these sorts of analyses seem to ignore is not so much the origin of the techniques, which it is especially apt to describe, but the <em>origin of the attitude and social movement we understand as Poop</em>.
<img src="http://youchew.net/i...09/03/poop.jpg" class="left" width="170" />The techniques of Poop – the stutters, the peculiar restructuring of plot, juxtaposition of contrasting footage, et cetera – are things that sophisticated approaches seem rather good as characterizing. Some poops look a hell of a lot like Salvatore Dali paintings animated. Sentence splicing can resemble post-modern abstraction. The apparent artfulness of the videos is undeniable. These descriptions take the liberty of implying however that Poopers either intend these artistic effects for their literary quality, or if they don’t then they should. That is, we get the idea that something is meritorious because of what it <em>could or might</em> be doing and not because of what it does. Thus we get the attitude that this or that Pooper is an impressionist in disguise or that Poop has a “hidden power” or that Poopers should be using Poop as a “weapon against media.”
My point is this: If Poop has a hidden power and is a weapon against media, these things are happy by-products, but make no mistake that they are accidents. Is Poop an artistic movement? Yes, I do think so. Is it the logical result of its social and historical context? Yes, absolutely. Is it intended to be artful and political? Yes, <em>some</em> of the time, but very, very rarely, and we usually laugh at people who inject politics into their videos.
I recall when Thereisnospoon made a video called “o hai i kiled ur presidnet” featuring the JFK assassination set to Thomas the Tank Engine music, the video was praised as great art which challenged the way that we thought of cultural icons. To this, TINS replied that he mostly made the video to be funny the way an asshole is funny.
<img src="http://youchew.net/i...3/dadaism2.jpg" class="right" width="170" />Poop and the Poop Community are social phenomenon, to be sure, but sophisticated analysis tends to leave out the indifference of the movement’s “creator”, the fact those recognized as the “founding fathers” were making these videos to pass the time and to have some laughs together, the fact that even the geeks at the <a href="http://www.youchewpo...19&t=4”">Poop Tennis Café</a>, who have been known for their highly critical and long-winded reviewing and analyses, will never make the claim that something is more artful than it is. The vast majority of Poopers, as Conrad rightly pointed out in that interview, have no knowledge of such sophisticated artistic ideas; they make their videos for fun and for the social nature of talking about them.
Poop by its nature resists the highbrowed and the literary, though it does not resist creative innovation and sophisticated description. We’re artists, but we’re accidental artists, and the genre itself would collapse if we were to insert too much sophistication into it. A little bit of it is a natural and healthy part of the genre, but we can’t all be Conrad Slater in style and attitude. If we were, we would have much different videos, much different art, a much different genre, and a much different community.
Artists we are – but in the way that graffiti artists are artists. Impressionists, Dadaists, postmodernists we tend not to be – nor should we force ourselves to be. And we certainly should not be characterized as such.
<em>Article by RabbitSnore.</em>