The Ultimate Relationship Test: Renting a DVD

Posted on April 8, 2008 at 10:31 am

Traveling together. Buying a house. Handling finances. Dealing with in-laws. Raising children. Sex. These are often listed as the primary argument topics for couples — and the arguments most revelatory of underlying relationship issues and problems. It’s time to add debates about DVD rentals to the list, both discussions during the actual rental experience and conversations afterward about the merits of the item selected. A perceptive article in The Movie Blog provides some wise advice, clearly based on experience, to help couples through this minefield. Now, perhaps they can come up with a solution to the “when do you ask for directions” conundrum.
Thanks to Cinematical for bringing my attention to this piece.

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Commentary Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Parents fret over appropriateness of movies for kids (Appleton Post-Crescent)

Posted on March 31, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Cheryl Sherry’s column in the Appleton Post-Crescent discusses a new survey showing that PG movies with strong language sell fewer tickets than those with other kinds of parental concerns like violence or sex.

“The reality is that profanity, within PG, is the big demarcation between box office winner and box office loser,” research and marketing director Dan O’Toole told attendees at ShoWest, a conference where studios unveil upcoming movie lineups. “Parents are choosing PG films for their kids that have very, very low levels of profanity. We’re talking one-third the level of the average PG film,” he said.

Sherry called me for comment, and her column describes my background and approach and some of my thoughts on the rating system:

Minow, who has testified before the Federal Trade Commission on the MPAA’s rating system, said “overwhelmingly its biggest failing is they will give material a pass in a comedy they’d give a much higher rating to in a drama. So you have these movies like the Austin Powers movies getting a PG-13 rating, which have really, really raunchy humor. … Just because the MPAA is ratcheting down it’s system, doesn’t mean I have to follow suit.”

PG-13 has become the no-man’s land of the rating system, added. “Many parents will shrug their shoulders and say, my 10-year-old is bright and can handle a PG-13. … But you do not know what you are getting. There can be PG-13s that are almost PG and there can be PG-13s that should be Rs.”

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Media Appearances Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Miss Bimbo: As Bad as it Sounds and Then Some

Posted on March 30, 2008 at 8:00 am

“Miss Bimbo” is an online site popular with little girls in England, France, and Japan that bills itself as the “first virtual fashion game.” It encourages them to “Become the most famous and beautiful bimbo in the world.” They can accomplish this by having their personal “bimbo” diet (until recent protests, this included the “purchase” of diet pills) and get cosmetic surgery or a wealthy boyfriend. This game makes Barbie and the Bratz look like Hillary Clinton. Parents should exercise caution to make sure that Webkins-savvy children do not wander over into this site.

Many thanks to the Jezebel site for bringing this to my attention.

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Commentary Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Believer’s annual Film Issue

Posted on March 25, 2008 at 4:58 pm

My very favorite magazine, The Believer, has an annual issue on one of my very favorite topics: Movies. And this one is their best, yet, with Chuck Klosterman’s essay on what I always say is the single most popular theme in film: the journey, or road movie. It often seems to me that at least 20-30 percent of films have as their theme two or more people who don’t know each other or who know each other and don’t like each other having to accomplish something together, usually involving a trip of some kind. That includes everything from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Toy Story,” “The African Queen,” “Midnight Run,” “North by Northwest,” “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” “Two for the Road,” “Easy Rider,” and even “College Road Trip.” Rolf Potts writes about the way that international marketing of movies affects their content, dialog, and humor. Two of the most fascinating directors, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, have a conversation. And the issue includes Part I of the provocatively titled “Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema,” which is not what you think — it is a kaleidoscopic illustrated lecture by Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek, talking about films and what they mean. His passion for his theories and for the films he describes are so intense that he literally enters into them through meticulously re-created sets that place him in Norman Bates’ cellar, Neo’s chair opposite Morpheus, and the hotel bathroom from Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation.” This issue, the DVD included, is bracingly engaged and engaging and a real treat for any cinephile.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Books Into Movies

Posted on October 3, 2007 at 10:14 pm

I’ve seen four movies based on books in the past week and all made me think about the perils of adapting novels to the screen. I once heard Peter Hedges speak about the difference between plays, novels, and movies. His novel, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, was adapted into a fine movie by Lasse Hallström, and he described the experience as a master class in understanding the difference between print and film. He said that novels are about what people think and feel, plays are about what they say, and movies are about showing what the characters think and feel, most often without saying anything.
I did not think much of the book The Jane Austen Book Club. If any other author’s name was in the title, it would not have been a best-seller. The movie version is far better, genuinely enjoyable. Feast of Love and O Jerusalem did not live up to their source material. The Dark is Rising, The book that inspired “The Seeker” was so diluted in the final script that it had the same relaitonship to the source material that a homeopathic remedy has to its active ingredient. And the result was less efficacious.
It is not just about the acting. “The Jane Austen Book Club” has first class actors who bring more subtlety and complexity and life to the characters than the author ever did, but “Feast of Love” has Morgan Freeman, Jane Alexander, and Greg Kinnear, who all do the best they can but never make the relationships on screen feel immediate or alive. It just has to do with showing, not telling, and “The Jane Austen Book Club” manages that act of alchemy where the others fail.

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Commentary Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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