Secret Mojo Dumbs It Down for You

July 9, 2006

“Elizabethtown” won’t make you gay

Filed under: movies — secretmojo @ 11:53 am

Elizabethtown is what I call a Chick Flick with a Dick. It’s treacle enough in parts to make you grow a vagina, but smart and cool enough to keep your dick in reserve. If need be.

Cameron Crowe wrote it (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire), so I obviously wasn’t taking any risks watching the movie. Besides, Kirsten Dunst is in it, and frankly I would watch her scoop gunk out of her ear for two hours just to see her move.

The story is your pretty typical romantic fare: smart, rich, but schleppy guy (Orlando Bloom) hates himself, hates the world. Committed a billion-dollar failure at his ultra-white job. Has a suddenly dead dad, and so forth; life sucks for him from uniquely crappy angles. If only some humble stewardess chick with a fix-him fetish (Kirsten Dunst) would invasively intervene in his life, he wouldn’t kill himself with a knife attached to an exercise bike because of a goofy-looking shoe he designed.

Okay, that’s why this movie passes. There are so many clever tricks, reversals, and details stuck in whilst obeying a hackneyed structure that I don’t mind at all. Alec Baldwin performs a short scene beautifully in the beginning, riding the good guy/bad guy razor’s edge, and sets the quirky humorous tone for the rest of the movie. And Susan Sarandon plays Orlando’s flaked-out mom who acquires acute hyperactivity after her husband’s death (yes, she’s pretty funny). The dialogue was snappy but not contrived, and Elizabethtown is full of more interesting and funny characters than 10 of Tom Cruise’s movies. So I don’t mind the ambling, idealistic romance (Will she love him? Will he love her? But she can’t, because she’s not sure of herself… blah blah) one bit.

Except all that stupid crap on the phone. It was done well, of course. And Dunst cranks up the “innocently comfy” bit to about eleven and damn, that’s sexy. But Christ, I see enough people yakking on the phone all day. I was waiting for Bloom to accidentally call Dunst “Scully.” To watch a (long) telephone conversation made the characters feel sort of—pathetic. But maybe chicks get a charge talking on the phone, and can understand the deep “psychological sex” of an all-night phone chat better than I.

Anyway, despite my copious laughter and my furious effort to resist an ambushing tear-jerk moment, this movie does get long at the end, because just after all the questions of the story are pretty much decided, Orlando Bloom spends a good chunk of movie time driving a car alone. Again, this seems pathetic to me. Perhaps because a car is too common. But I’ll respect Crowe if he was trying to say something here, presumably about Americana (which didn’t seem to show up too forcefully earlier in the film); I might just be too dumb to get it.

I’d give it about 6.5–7 stars on IMDB. Above average, and certainly worth risking the vagina for. Beats out most romantic comedies in wit and intelligence alone. Not one actor sucked; even the small supporting rolls are handled ingeniously. Many scenes are simply masterful strokes of humanness, but there may not be enough of them to stop me from thinking how lame that phone vignette was.

God, that phone scene was buttmunch.

CleanFlicks, and the proud tradition of elective ignorance

Filed under: movies,navel gazing — secretmojo @ 10:26 am

Yesterday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that CleanFlicks, a company specializing in censoring films and redelivering them to its customers, was breaking the law. This issue has been simmering (and boiling) for quite some time—since 1998!—and more thorough information is available at The Director’s Guild of America site, and some video is available at AMC.

Here’s the lowdown: CleanFlicks, a Utah company, started in 1998, providing a DVD modification service to more prudent customers that would silence curse words and skip past outré scenes in order to keep their southern sensibilities in tact, so to speak. This is conceptually no different than TNT overhauling Sex in the City for basic cable consumption.

But the trouble was, CleanFlicks sought no advice from the studios or directors producing these films; they simply made the executive decision to create modified versions for customers who bought DVD players capable of reading the “censor track” as it were. Note: as far as I can tell, customers renting these DVD’s knew what they were getting. I don’t think the censoring could work without the player bought by the customer.

Now, here’s the issue. Legally, this is a copyright violation, because CleanFlicks was, erm, “adding value” to a movie by changing it, and making a buck off of it, without telling the creator. The court ruled as much.

Morally, it’s clear that if a company wishes to sell dumbed-down versions of movies to willful customers, they can do it, as long as they don’t defraud their customers, and as long as the studio agrees to it.

Politically, however, is where this case shines. CleanFlicks didn’t just operate out of Utah; it sent its edited videos all over the country, including California, Michigan, and other states.

Furthermore, CleanFlicks was audacious enough to be the first to file suit against the directors. On what grounds? To determine if what CleanFlicks was doing was legal.

In other words, it was a publicity stunt. They could have continued on for years (and in fact they did, since 1998), negotiated some kind of editing scheme with the studios, but instead chose to make a political point about it (this had some effect upon Dubya, who signed the Family Movie Act which legalized their technology), and as reward saw their business come crashing down. Today they frame it as a “David and Goliath” story.

Except in this case, David goaded Goliath into a fight, then David lost. Also: no rocks were thrown, no flesh-eating threats were made, and David beheaded no one, because CleanFlicks “sanitized” all those icky parts out.

But all of this brings me, finally, to elective ignorance.

I myself engage in much elective ignorance; I will not watch television unless by mistake, or forced to, for example. I do not know any of the American Idol contestants’ names. I no longer read right-wing blogs, because vomiting every two minutes has taken a bit of a toll on my stomach.

But how much elective ignorance is too much? If I do not want to see someone’s head get chopped off in a movie, and go so far as to hire a company to remove the yuck for me, is this me “denying reality”, or “sheltering myself”? Do I have to watch the whole torture scene (including the fingernail stubbornly sticking to the guy’s cuticle) to keep my street cred? Do I really have to read The Drudge Report? (Please say no, Please say no…)

What if I elect to be ignorant of politics altogether? The chumps are out to get you anyway; why get red in the face about it? Why know the 3 branches of government, when as far as I can see it, they’re Screwy, Patooey, and Chimp?

Or what if I elect not to know what my friend is doing behind my back, because I am afraid of betrayal and shame?

Is there, in fact, a proper line? I can imagine remaining fully ignorant of everything on Earth, and touting this as “purity of mind.” I’d be a stupid knob, but if I tweaked it properly, could feel like an anti-genius genius. I know some people who attempt to keep themselves “purely American” this way. Ick.

Sufficed to say, if it makes you dysfunctional, then that must be where the line is. If you ignore your lover’s obvious affair to the point of helping him/her select lingerie to wear while you’re gone “just for kicks,” well that’s darn dysfunctional, and you needs some schoolin’. So perhaps the rule is: if you need the knowledge to be a better person, but chose to walk past it, then this is bad.

Non-elective ignorance is another story. What a person doesn’t tell me counts as non-elective ignorance. For example, I remained ignorant of the President’s cocaine use for quite some time, until one day through a particularly circuitous route, I stumbled upon a book review that mentioned it. But there’s a grey area, isn’t there? What if I do not read encyclopedias, or tend to browse only one section of the bookstore (or the web) any given day? Clearly, I am acting in such away that I increase my ignorance of the aisles I don’t go down, but it can’t quite be said that this is elective (besides, I’m gaining deeper knowledge down my well-treaded aisles, aren’t I?). Furthermore, there are only so many hours in a day; does this mean that if I spend it hanging at the beach instead of seeking out new things, that my ignorance quotient increases?

I don’t have an answer for that. I’m just sayin.

If someone calls you ignorant, this is an insult. But we are all ignorant of something. I had no idea that déjà vu had sub-categories until just a few days ago. Boy, was I ignorant back then.

It’s a matter of degree, and who you hang out with, I guess. In some circles (I won’t mention them: electively keeping you ignorant) I am the smart guy. In others, I’m a dumb fucking rock. I can tolerate the former, because it strokes my ego, yet also the latter, because I’m getting a free class. But it is frustrating on both sides, because I have ideas too big to impart on the one, and too juvenile to explain to the others.

Ideally, I’d rather not be ignorant of anything. Except historical dates. I hate those things. But like I said, there’s only 24 in a day. So I’m starting to (unintentionally) build myself a themed groove based on my interests. Particularly around politics, but also in — oh, hell. I wont tell you about that stuff til later. I should be shaking myself up a bit: reading a little “how to garden” or “seduction for dummies”, or merely driving off to a place I haven’t been before and introducing myself to a random person. But I can’t bring myself to it: my elective ignorance blanket is just too comfortable, too familiar. And I suppose I’m a little afraid of what I’d see on the other side of the wall.

Seems like that’s where the line should be drawn regarding elective ignorance. If you’re afraid of new topics, or feel bothered by the mental effort they require, then you are becoming an ignoramus.

Holy shit, I’m an ignoramus.

Man I was so ignorant two seconds ago.

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