Saturday, 24 March 2012

That Hunger Games Thing - That Blog Thing - Movie Reviews, Film Reviews, Film Entertainment, TV Reviews, Television Reviews, The Hunger Games, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Movies

I just got back from checking out the new film The Hunger Games, and I thought I would voice my opinion.

Before I get started, I just want to establish that I've never read the books, so I'm coming at this completely new. I went to see it because I'd heard the hype from my friends, the reviews I'd heard said that the movie lives up to the hype, and I'd heard that the cast is a mile long of high profile, really great actors. Just to name a few, you've got Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland.

These are major actors in the industry and they don't have to get involved in any old movie for the paycheck if they don't want to. I'm sure they do, but generally when you see a list of actors this good in one place, there's something special about the movie. So naturally, I was curious, and this is before we get into the fanbase and the hype that goes with the movie.

I've seen movies with built-in fanbases and hype before without checking out the source material, and in some cases have been sorely let down. So in order to talk about this movie while avoiding spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen it, I'm going to talk about it in the context of two other movies with built-in fanbases and hype, Battle Royale and Twilight.

Battle Royale because of the similarities in the stories, and Twilight because I've heard some people refer to The Hunger Games as a "Twilight killer" movie. Again, these are both movies with built-in fanbases and loads of hype behind them, much like The Hunger Games.

I went to a screening of Battle Royale recently, invited by a friend, having no real personal knowledge of the film. When I'd told people I was going to see it, a few of them voiced opinions on the film, mostly with favorable things to say about it.

Personally I'm not one for Asian cinema, and I have serious issues with subtitled films. Going to movies, I believe in immersing myself in the reality that's being created in it. I like to have my two major senses, sight and sound fully stimulated in the experience without being over stimulated. Subtitles in films tends to walk the line between fully and over stimulated as a movie going experience for me. Some people like them, I'm not partial to them. There are some films with subtitles that I have enjoyed, but traditionally if I know there's going to be subtitles in a film, I will avoid it in favor of something in English.

That being said, I actually enjoyed Battle Royale for what it was. It had the right mix of character, plot and action to keep me interested for the majority of its runtime. If I had to say one thing that bothered me about the film is that it pandered to a specific type of audience, and perhaps my failing is that I don't fall into that audience.

Which is not to say that I don't have films that when I go see them, I know I'm being pandered to and I enjoy it. Traditionally, there are three types of movies that I go see knowing I'm being pandered to and enjoy none the less, superhero movies, tragic love story movies, and movies by Joss Whedon. I go into those three types of movies knowing what I'm getting into and love every minute of them.

But there's good pandering, and there's bad pandering. All three of these movies pander to a specific audience in some form or another, but some of them do it well and some don't. Battle Royale panders to its audience pretty well, because buried within the character flashbacks and action is a fundamental message about the world that on some level challenges the audience to be better than the characters it's presenting to them. That to me says that the filmmakers behind it had a deliberate connection to the material and it shows in the film itself.

Twilight, on the other hand, panders to its audience while promoting an idealised version of people that just doesn't ring true. There are so many things wrong with the film, from the acting, to the plot and character development, that I cringe through most of the film. It took me three attempts on DVD to get through the third film in the Twilight series and I have yet to see the fourth installment for fear of the consequences.

The Hunger Games however, has the best of both worlds and even brings in a third for the tri-fecta of what I consider a great film. It panders to its audience very well, challenging its audience with a great message through social commentary, and manages to have a love story that doesn't feel forced or take away from the other two great elements.

What separates The Hunger Games from a film like Battle Royale though, in my opinion, is that Battle Royale had a bit of a depressing message in it. Fundamentally it seems to be showing its audience the brutality of violence and ultimate pointlessness of violence but stops short of saying there's a better way of living. It's the kind of thing that you see in a lot of Quentin Tarantino movies that are done really well. The Hunger Games goes the extra mile to say that despite all the brutality and pointlessness of violence, hope is still possible. To use a possibly paraphrased quote from the film...

"Hope, it's the one thing that's stronger than fear."

Recent films targeted to the tween/teen/younger generation have left me with a great deal of fear for the messages being portrayed in them. Having seen The Hunger Games though, much like the film itself, I'm left with a great sense of hope. And to that I say...

"May the odds be ever in my favor."

Monday, 19 March 2012

That Movement Thing

Hi all,

So it's the six month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement and I thought I should reflect on the how it all came about. I have done my best to follow all the details of the movement over the progress.

Truthfully, I believe in the idea of the movement, no matter what problems it might have from a philosophical perspective. It's about the focus of power in society and where it should lie. Sure, it's got a good slogan.

"We are the 99%."

And that's about how the majority wants to be treated by the 1% in power. They feel their voices aren't being heard and this is how they are expressing that frustration. Feelings aren't something that are easy to get rid of. Particularly feelings of anger, frustration and pain. Everyone knows this, but they're also the most confused by these same feelings. When these feelings mix with power, they can be even harder to sort out.

But the truth of the matter is that power has always been disproportionate. It's the nature of power. In order to have a power structure at all, it can't always rest in a group. Someone has to be in charge, and for that to happen you have to trust a small group with the power to make decisions for a larger group. That doesn't mean that they will always make the right decision. In fact, it's often the case that not everyone will be happy with all the decisions being made. To paraphrase a quote by Abraham Lincoln...

"You can please some of the people most of the time, and most of the people some of the time, but you can't please everyone all the time."

As a group, decisions have to be made and on universal issues it's appropriate to get a group consensus.

How do we want to be treated by the government? How do we want to be treated by the police? Doctors? Other people? What do we want done when we aren't treated the way we want?

Usually the answer is, we want to be treated with respect and dignity. The major problem is, what constitutes respect and dignity?  When those universal questions get answered, then the question becomes how do we implement those answers? And that's when it's important to have people in charge with power. Someone has to make decisions about where the line is drawn between respect and dignity, and the violation of that respect and dignity.

It's when that violation occurs that problems arise, and when it happens too much, that's when things like Occupy Wall Street happen.

And maybe that seems like an obvious thing to say, but I thought I should establish the way I view the world as a way to establish why I think things like Occupy Wall Street movement are important and should happen. I wish they didn't have to happen, but they do.

Because democracy is built on an expression of feelings. Sometimes expressing those feelings isn't nice or progress building, but it's important. Bottling things up can be as problematic.

People need to express those feelings, whether it's through the Occupy movement, or the Tea Party movement. Both of those movements are expressions of feelings of frustration and pain. They may be on different sides of the political spectrum, and I don't always agree with those political views but I make it a point to at least understand where they are coming from.

It's important to know that about me. I believe in seeing all sides of an issue even if I don't agree with all sides. That way, I don't feel like I'm just railing against people who don't agree with me. In fact, it makes having conversations with people all the more interesting because I can usually take opposing opinions in a conversation.

It can be a lot of fun, but also cause a lot of problems when it comes to relating to people.

But I think that's the thing that opponents of the Occupy and Tea Party movement don't do. They attack their position, saying that all they are doing is yelling and screaming about injustice without really knowing what the issues are. Although I'm sure that there are those in the movements that don't really understand the issue, but there wouldn't be any movements if there wasn't a problem worth addressing and there weren't those that understand and feel strongly about the issue to start a movement in the first place.

And that's something that is worth understanding.

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Sunday, 18 March 2012

That Kony 2012 Thing

Hi all,

After starting this blog, a few people asked to blog about my opinion of the whole Kony2012 thing. My thoughts are somewhat varied so I will do my best to put them into perspective in a rational and thought provoking way.

First of all, I want to be clear that I don't see the world in black and white, and that my opinion is my opinion and not absolute. The world is a difficult place, and international politics are probably the most difficult of all. But this isn't really about politics. Not really.

It's about humanity.

What is humanity? And more than that, what is human decency? Where does one draw the line between good and bad? Right and wrong? It's not black and white either. Everyone has their own version of right and wrong. Some people think that rape and murder is wrong, and other people commit rape and murder. It's an unfortunate reality of life. But on the whole, there are some things that everyone agrees on.

Most people by and large don't want to be raped or murdered. Most people believe in treating others with respect. And most people understand that children are innocent.

Children should keep their innocence. I don't know that anyone would disagree with that. I also don't think that anyone would disagree that people who steal or destroy that innocence are bad people. At least I would hope that most people would agree with that. From everything that I understand, Joseph Kony is such a person.

Now that doesn't mean that he isn't someone who can do good things. He can build hospitals for sick people and help fight poverty and homelessness. But that doesn't nullify the creation of child soldiers and having them to commit murder. That's a bad thing and despite the backlash that has come from the Stop Kony campaign video, the attention to the issue is a good thing.

Stopping the creation of child soldiers is a good thing. Whether it's people working for Joseph Kony or the Ugandan government.

People often critique the Kony2012 video for suggesting that helping the Ugandan government means supporting the idea of child soldiers. That of course would suggest hypocrisy.

And while on some level it is hypocritical, that doesn't mean that there is no benefit to doing it that way.

The Ugandan government may be terrible, it may be just as bad as Joseph Kony's forces. But if one wipes out the other, that's a good thing. From a simple perspective, it's math. Two minus one is one. The Ugandan government and Joseph Kony, minus Joseph Kony, is one less terrible group in the world. One less terrible person in the world.

Now, there are those that object to the idea of US intervention in foreign affairs, and I do understand that. In many circumstances, I take issue with international intervention, but only in certain circumstances. I have a problem with intervention for the purposes of colonialism, or philosophical or racial differences. Many people claim that recent wars have been for those purposes, but I don't believe that. The reasons may have been misleading or dishonest, but fundamentally they are for good reasons.

Those are the kind of interventions that I am okay with. It appears, at least from everything that I have seen, read or heard about intervening in the case of Joseph Kony, they are doing so for good reasons. Whether or not that is going to have a positive result isn't really the point. Yes, I would like it if this campaign had a positive result, (i.e. the capture and trial of Joseph Kony, or in the more brutal sense, his death) but there are no guarantees in life.

As to the point some people make about the video making money on YouTube, it was also set up on vimeo which does not give money for ad revenue. Any who objects to the idea of Invisible Children making money from YouTube can use the vimeo link. Any that want to support Invisible Children financially can use the YouTube link.

Not to mention, any money that is given to them can go towards supporting the rehabilitation of those children who are already child soldiers.

I have recently heard that the man in charge of creating the video was arrested. I don't really know what the details are, but I think it's important to remember that the cause is bigger than one person and their beliefs.

It has to be about the greater good. The good that comes from one less person in the world who would use children as soldiers. Osama Bin Laden was just one person, and his death didn't stop Al Queda, it didn't stop terrorism, but there's one less person in the world who is organizing terrorist attacks against people. Saddam Hussein's death didn't end the war in Iraq. It didn't stop the people fighting back. But there's one less person in the world who is using chemical and biological weapons against their own people.

Stopping Joseph Kony might not stop people from using child soldiers. It might not stop the Ugandan government from doing terrible things. But there will be one less person in the world who is willing to use children as soldiers.

And that is why I support the Stop Kony movement.

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Saturday, 17 March 2012

That Beginning Thing

Hello all,

So I've decided to try out this whole blog thing that people do from time to time. I know, more content by me right? Who needs that? But hey, so far it's interesting. Not that I necessarily have much to talk about for the current moment, but maybe now I have a place to talk if and when I have something to talk about in the future.

So that's good right?

Anyway, I thought I should say something since I just signed up for it. This is me, saying something.

Looking forward to expressing my opinion soon.

See ya then,