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2005.04.29

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Flickhead

No American political leader has divided his people as much as Dubya. Of course, by doing so he's playing right into the hands of his and the country's enemies. He apparently never ventured into the ramifications of "divide and conquer." He was probably out doing coke during history class that day.

Since I can't believe he's as stupid as he appears and sounds (re: "nuke-ular"), I can only assume it's a ruse to distract us from the dozens of illegal acts he and Dick (and I emphasize "Dick") Cheney are using against the betterment and security of the American people.

Dubya's own limp-wristed Weapon of Mass Destruction (if he can't find them, by god he'll create them), this FECAL matter proposes an extension of the same kind of bullshit that the Hays (and later Breen) Office were enforcing from the '30s through the '60s. And back then, they either edited or simply destroyed pre-Code films.

The issue of "final cut" becomes a slippery slope for filmmakers. The bottom line being the bottom line, if a distributor finances a picture and is in charge of all costs and returns, they do in effect "own" that film.

The lawsuits mentioned in your excellent report will probably accomplish nothing to save whatever individual films they address.

What this means for the future of filmmaking is the same thing it meant in the mid-1930's: scripts will need to broach touchy subjects tactfully or through insinuation. Josef von Sternberg made some highly charged eroticism in that decade, films that defied censors via his geefully subversive creativity.

Flickhead

PS: You've wounded my lust for Phoebe Cates, by the way!

la depressionada

ok i read the bill -- not too closely as i admit the study of the law always makes me a little nauseous. the salient language which i think the lawmakers think protects the bill from violation of intellectual property rights is this:

"if no fixed copy of the altered version of the motion picture is created by such computer program or other technology"

of course the counterargument is that intellectual property is inherently ephemeral and the property right isn't in the memorialization right? this speaks to the core issue of intellectual property rights: how do you solve a problem like maria? ie how do hold a moonbeam in your hand?

i'm going to read the briefs. it seems to me there is now a first amendment issue at hand, oth the christian right will argue that editing is their first amendment right, right? loop de loop. makes me miss jack valenti for chrissakes.

la depressionada

pc has an immutable spot in the greatest tits in movie history, closely following nastassja kinski and dominque sanda. (actually sanda is no. 1 -- garden of the finzi-continis & the conformist: i sweat just thinking about them).

Ulrike B

What a strange concept to want to edit movies so. We have read here in Germany about the decision in America to begin possible censorship on television channels that people choose to pay for. This is absurd, the people can always elect not to choose this channel.

Do these companies believe they can offer such protection to children for their entire lives? Sanitizing films does not sanitize the world they live in.

Truly people must have better things to worry about than a homosexual cartoon sea creature.

Flickhead

A friend of mine who doesn't post on blogs wrote this in an e-mail. I'll keep it anonymous:

"Nothing like a little FECA matter to start the day.

This'll go to the Supreme Court. Lord knows how that bunch'll vote but it's hard to imagine them allowing companies to alter at whim works copyrighted by other companies. For an individual to do it in the home is one thing - anyone can edit a video to show their kids, even if it's just clicking out commercials. But for a company to be allowed to do it and distribute a copyrighted work - especially for money - would mean completely overturning the nation's copyright laws, something even these bozos in robes would be loath to do.

It would open up a huge - I mean HUGE - legal can of worms that would go way beyond re-editing films. First, it's intellectual property, something the U.S. is battling to protect internationally. If we slash the throat of our copyright laws we're giving carte blanche to other countries to go ahead and steal our material. We're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars lost. Second, it's corporate property. Republicans worship at the alter of Corporate America 5 days a week; they only go to church 1 day a week.

Then there are the other areas it would mess with. If you can edit movies at whim you can edit books at whim. That gets real dicey. Lawyers and judges take books more seriously than films. Imagine taking out select material from a Supreme Court judge's memoir. Why did they vote to overturn a controversial piece of legislation? Remove the explanatory paragraph and it just sounds like they're bigoted. But if you claimed you found their explanation offensive it would be perfectly legal. AND you could re-sell a newly-printed version of the book yourself to like-minded "readers."

I doubt they'll go along with it. But then, who knows? They're nuts too."

John

Look, folks, it's not censorship if it's elective. And it's not a distortion of the artist's vision if consumers aren't interested in that vision anyway.

How many people do you think are interested in basing serious film discussions on family-friendly edits of movies? You might as well discuss the composition of a pan-and-scan hack job -- incidentally, a bottom line-driven development that's been altering filmmakers' artistic visions for years without this kind of ruckus from the left.

Let the families do what they want with movies they buy. No one's stopping film buffs from seeing the movies the way they were meant to be seen. In fact, you could look at this as the latest development in niche marketing: As film fans are increasingly treated to director's cuts and restored versions, kids who just want to watch movies get edits that are suitable for them.

And isn't that who this is all about, anyway: the kids? Feel free to disagree, but I'd contend it's a lot better to let kids be exposed to edited -- think of them as abridged -- versions of the classics when they're young than not to let them watch great movies at all. When they're older, maybe a youth spent watching cut-up Scorsese instead of the trash that passes for kids' entertainment these days will help refine their tastes as director's cut-watching adults.

phyrephox

That NWA link is brilliant.

Filmbrain

Thanks for the interesting comments, and for the legal analysis LaD. (Not to mention the appreciation for the bosoms of Cates, Kinski, and Sanda).

There have been a slew of articles in the last few months about how studios are looking into creating more faith- and values-based works. (Haven't there already been a number of religious-themed mini-series on TV?)

Back in the 70s, people laughed at the efforts of the "moral majority". Now they seem to be ones pulling the strings.

Ulrike -- yes, there are investigations into the salty language and nudity on certain HBO programs, and yes, it is insane to regulate a channel that you can not receive unless you consciously choose to have it.

msic

Hate to fall back on the ol' slippery-slope argument, John, but (presuming we're operating under capitalism, which always places the profit motive above artists' moral rights) if CleanFlicks and all these companies are allowed to proceed, and if even HALF of the 51% of the US electorate that voted for Bush begins patronizing these services, isn't it very likely that the studios themselves will consider this some kind of sea-change in American morality, and begin enforcing censorship from the very start of the production process? I heard some of the executives from these editing services speaking at the National Press Club on C-SPAN, and they're pretty frank about this. They eventually want to use the profit motive to drive Hollywood rightward. This is all fine and good if you don't mind living in a capitalist theocracy. The rest of us do have some cause for alarm.

Filmbrain

John -

I agree with you that it's not censorship. However, the interest level (or lack thereof) by consumers has nothing to do with the fact that it is a distortion.

You are right about pan-and-scan being a distortion. However, unlike FECA there's nothing official on the books about it. As more and more television programs are broadcast in letterbox format (not to mention that most DVDs are letterbox only), pan and scan will gradually disappear. Though there's been no ruckus from the left, as you say, there has been plenty of ruckus from film aficionados about this issue for years now.

If an individual chooses to skip over a scene, that's his/her choice. However, a DVD from ClearPlay does not give you the opportunity to watch it unedited. All you get is an edited version.

I'm not saying that I think firms like ClearPlay should be outlawed, but I'd rather see it settled in court, rather than by Bush signing a bill that gives them freedom to go ahead and do it. There are very complex issues as stake here, and all sides of the argument should be heard.

I strongly disagree with your last point -- there is no reason to edit any movie. If there's something in there you don't want your child to see, keep it from them. Wait until they are old enough. Or, watch it with them, unedited, and discuss the issues you might be concerned about. What is the argument for editing out racial epithets? To hide the fact from your kids that some policeman are racist? Is that doing them a service? Hardly.

la depressionada

fb, i think john has a point about exposure. i think it's a good way to plant revolutionary thoughts into young brains -- because even if you cut out the overtly "offensive" there will some subtextual seepage -- not to mention the actual interest the forbidden fruit will cultivate.

of course, i agree with you about cutting, but his point made me think.

Quack Corleone

"The only reason I was videotaping the movie in the theatre was so that I could cut out the yucky parts before I showed my children. I swear!"

Filmbrain

But LaD -- do you really think parents who use the service are going to show them edited versions of, say, Taxi Driver? No. They are going to be watered down versions of films that are already well within the 'safe' world of boxoffice hits. What kind of revolutionary thoughts could ever possibly arise? If the kids don't know what's being cut, how can their curiosity ever be piqued?

I agree about the forbidden fruit thing, but I'm afraid it has negative consequences. Take a teenage boy, in full-on puberty. He wants nothing more than to see a nice pair of breasts. But every movie mom and dad bring home seem to cut away just at the moment of the reveal. Kid gets crazy. Kid is unable to establish a normal relationship with girls cause he's a giant raging hormone. Kid can't express himself. Girls don't like him. Kid becomes date rapist and/or shoots up school with uzi. Ok, maybe that's a bit extreme.

blooperreel

The most ironic part about their "clean" Schindler edit is that they remove references to Schindler's adultery but NOT to his membership in the Nazi party! Apparently the former sin trumps the latter!

Of course the right wingers have been at this for quite some time, and Hollywood has been more or less cooperating. Anyone who tried to rent an NC-17 movie from Blockbuster must be familiar with the notorious R-rated re-edits of films. In some cases, Blockbuster has refused to rent certain R-rated films unless they were re-cut to meet Blockbuster's own standards. And don't ever expect to find "Last Temptation of Christ" in a Blockbuster.

I guess I find it hard to get too worked up over this issue. It's not exactly censorship. And I like the way that this would open the door for the kind of fair use that appeals to my aesthetic and political interests (whether it be "Phantom Edit" or the works of Craig Baldwin.)


Wilson

I for one think this is a great idea.

I'm sick of actually having to have these "open dialogues" with my children. I'd much rather coddle them with unrealistic tripe their entire lives, it's a much better way of preparing them for the real world, in my opinion.

But why is this technology only available for films? I'd like to see something similar developed for the classroom. Lord knows I don't want my children learning about any historical events unless I (or George W. Bush) decide that they are salient. Holocaust? Slavery? Not on my watch buster! As far as I'm concerned, my children don't need to hear about that stuff.
Oh and the so called "theory" of evolution - is there any way that they could just hear Kenny G music whenever this gets brought up by a teacher?

Come to think of it, why stop at a classroom? Perhaps they could develop some kind of goggle/earpiece device that automatically filters out anything in the real world that I (or George W. Bush) find offensive. For instance, in the place of an abortion clinic, the children would see a nice petting zoo, a mosque would become a McDonalds, etc. You get the picture.

We can only pray (to our saviour, George W. Bush) that one day this dream will be a reality.

God Bless America.

IA

FECA? More like FECAL.

James Russell

it's not a distortion of the artist's vision if consumers aren't interested in that vision anyway

I take it you also believe that trees falling in the forest make no sound if there's no one there to hear them?
The audience is irrelevant. If someone's producing alterat

James Russell

As I was saying before Typepad so rudely cut me off, if someone's producing alterations to a person's work that aren't authorised by that person, it's a distortion irrespective of who does or doesn't see it.

la depressionada

wilson cracks me up. listen guy, full on theocracies are really stable. i mean look at byzantium.

but fb. i take issue with a few things.

first of all, i don't necessarily think we can limit what might ultimately be subversive to the things we know are overtly so like Taxi Driver. i can't think of an example just now (O BUT I WILL!), but i can imagine movies in which there are characters/situations which are kind of throw aways, a fleeting glimpse of a homosexual or interracial couple for example, that might be sufficient. and while, like you, i prefer my movies overtly daring, violent and sexual, i think there are movies that look like one thing but really are another.

i take a lot of heat for this, but i am kind of a big fan of "pay it forward." yes, it features probably 3 of the most uncharismatic actors in hollywood, the direction was puerile and the plot unfocused, but the themes of redistribution of wealth, the redemptive value of charity and even, dare i say it?, elements of liberation theology were pretty revolutionary. i can see this movie being shown in families with "christian values." take a young mind (and it's concommitant raging hormones* and unbridled idealism)and this movie and you have the makings of a pretty potent combo.

look at artists from formerly communist countries and/or totalitarian governments. there's seepage there. i could even make the argument that repression encourages subversion and creativity -- in a nutshell: ROMAN POLANSKI. what better example. ha!

*i really take issue with: take a teenage boy he wants nothing more than to see a pair of female breasts. that's kind of reductive no? i mean, for example, you could replace teenage boy with middle aged woman no? but, seriously, if teenagers went crazy because of lack of sex we'd all be charles whitman. otoh, the absolute weirdness that is Roman Polanski DOES cut in favor of your argument. BUT on the other other hand, we should all be so lucky. (see everything does come back to Nastassja Kinski's tits.)

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