Monday, January 31, 2011

KING'S SPEECH GAGGED?... Weinsteins Court Censorship While Proclaiming Artistic Integrity

It's a conflicting time to be THE KING'S SPEECH. The film has recently racked up major awards and buzz just when it seemed like everything was going to be swept by that Facebook movie. It should be a time of joy. But then, THE KING'S SPEECH is being distributed by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, a strange place to be in at any time. And how are the Weinsteins taking their new success - by cutting the wings off it's Golden Goose.

Last week, the Hollywood Reporter ran a story that announced the possibility of cutting some of the saucier words from THE KING'S SPEECH in order to cut the film down to a more consumer-friendly rating. The idea is that the Weinsteins would speak with the director Tom Hooper about cutting the film down a PG-13 or possibly even a PG-rating in the U.S.

Hooper has not supported cutting anything out of the film, but has mentioned that the Weinsteins were looking at possibly censoring the language in the film. Both Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush have been against any censorship in the film. No matter who they confer with, the final decision rests with the studio. If the Weinstein Company goes ahead with this, the film would not go into cinemas until after the Academy Awards.

Naturally, there is a lot here to comment on. In order to do this, and because I am incapable of keeping any of these articles simple, we must look at four things.


In the United Kingdom, THE KING'S SPEECH currently carries a rating of 12A, as voted on by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). That means that children under the age of 12 must be accompanied into the theatre by an adult. It is roughly the equivalent to the United States' PG-13 rating, only the age is one year lower. In the United States however, THE KING'S SPEECH has been given an R-rating. For our non-U.S. readers, that means no one under 17 is admitted without an adult.

THE KING'S SPEECH is actually not a very explicit film at all. The only reason it currently carries an R-rating is for several instances of cursing, all of which are important to the plot. In the film, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) tries to cure the speech impediment of the eventual King George VI (Colin Firth). One of the techniques he uses is for George to swear between his recitations of words, presumably so that the tongue has somewhere to go in places where it might normally stammer. It makes for a truly humorous sequence, and one that is important as the future king seeks to overcome his impairment.

Let's take a good look at the British rating system so that people can understand this further.

U - Suitable for all
PG - Parental Guidance. No age restriction, although some scenes may be inappropriate for young children.
12A/12 - Suitable for 12 years and over. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied to the cinema by an adult. Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to rent or purchase 12-rated DVDs or videos.
15 - Suitable for 15 years and over. No one under the age of 15 admitted to the cinema, with or without adult supervision. Children under 15 may not rent or purchase 15-rated DVDs or videos.
18 - Suitable for adults only. No one under the age of 18 admitted to the cinema, with or without adult supervision. Children under 18 may not rent or purchase 18-rated DVDs or videos.
R18 - Restricted. To be shown only in specially licensed cinemas, or supplied only in licensed sex shops, and to adults of not less than 18 years. (source: British Board of Film Classification website)

Now, of course the more familiar Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings system.

G - General Admission. No objectionable material.
PG - Parental Guidance. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.
PG-13 - Parents Strongly Cautioned. No one under the age of 13 admitted without an adult.
R - Restricted. No one under the age of 17 admitted without an adult.
NC-17 - No One 17 and Under Admitted.

On first glance, the MPAA looks to be a more tolerant if less complex system. The only age markers are ages 13 and 17. Likewise, the British board begins eliminating access completely to children at age 15 and then again at 18. In the United States, a film needs to be rated the ultra-rare NC-17 in order to be completely off limits to those younger than 17 years of age.

So, score one for the USA? Not quite. THE KING'S SPEECH still has the much lighter 12A rating. Why is that? There are many things to take into account.

One is that the story presented in the THE KING'S SPEECH is one of national heritage. There is a local culture to the story, and thus a bit more of an understanding. Think that's an unfair assumption? Let's turn the tables then. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is a film that strikes a cord with many people around the world. There is a deep, personal, even spiritual significance that comes with that film for many people. Hence, the film had no difficulty securing an R-rating in the United States, despite the fact that most of the running time is spent beating, whipping, kicking, torturing and finally crucifying the protagonist. The level of violence depicted in that film is something else. One of the only other types of films to compare it to is that of the horror film, particularly some of the more graphic films of recent years. Films like the SAW franchise have all had problems with the MPAA. The hopefully final installment in the series, SAW 3-D (retitled SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER for the rental market) had to be submitted then cut a whopping six times to avoid an NC-17 rating. No question, SAW 3-D is an astonishingly violent film. But THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST had no difficulty securing it's R-rating. What separates it from the SAW films, if not that feeling of historic or even spiritual iconography that some of the ratings board may have felt? America is not alone in this either. In other countries with more lax ratings laws, PASSION was released with an even less restrictive rating.

A second reason might seem at odds with the first - context. In the United States, some things are worthy of context while others are not. It is made plainly clear that the swearing in THE KING'S SPEECH is not only important to the plot, but harmless. The language is nothing more than a placeholder and is not meant to have any avarice, anger or abuse. This no doubt played an important role in securing THE KING'S SPEECH with a much lighter rating.

In the United States, context does not matter when it comes to language. If certain words are uttered more than once or twice than their R-rating is automatic. This might seem strange given the treatment of violence such as in the above example. Stranger still, check out Kirby Dick's documentary THIS FILM IS NOT RATED to see the shocking leniency heterosexual sex is treated over homosexual sex, or even the amount of wiggle room given to major studio productions over smaller independent films. There is a very large chasm, one too large to go into, even in an article as overblown as this.

I think we would all agree that cursing at someone and stabbing that person are two radically different things. And yet, there is a lot of leeway when it comes to film violence or sexuality. And yet, practically none when it comes to harsh language. Go figure.

If you want a real eye-opener, look at the back of a major Region 1 DVD. You won't see one rating there, you'll see three. The other ratings reflect the film's status in Canada, both in and out of Quebec. Take a movie like INCEPTION for instance. In the United States, it was given a PG-13 rating, which was expected. In most of Canada however, it was rated PG, without any age restriction. In Quebec, INCEPTION is rated G.


The Weinstein brothers are not new to this whole censorship game. Back when they ran Miramax, they cut various films to ribbons. If you ever followed by old articles on Horror Express from a few years back, you will see a pattern of growing frustration and rage as I read whatever they were up to next. They were constantly lightening the tone of certain film, even while they piled on as much gross-out humor as possible in the first two SCARY MOVIE films. One of the practices I was most frustrated with was their habit of buying up foreign films and recutting them. Sometimes, they recut them to dodge harsh MPAA ratings. Sometimes, they recut them to appeal to a wider audience, such as making a long movie much shorter and thus fitting in more showings per day. And sometimes, most confounding of all, they did it for no clear reason.

Look at Jaume Baloguero's DARKNESS, rendered completely incomprehensible in it's Weinstein cut. The Weinsteins had the film cut to reduce the film's violence but also to cut the film down to a shorter length. Hence, roughly fifteen minutes were cut out of what was already a pretty esoteric film. Moviegoers were confused and left the theatre angry. The uncut version was later released to DVD after the damage had already been done.

It wasn't just genre films either. For fear of receiving an NC-17 rating, the Weinstein's cut Giuseppe Tornatore's critically-acclaimed film MALENA. In it's native Italy, the film runs at least 17 minutes longer than it's U.S. counterpart. Most of what was cut involves sexual fantasies involving Monica Bellucci. And yet MALENA was one of the films that the Weinsteins proudly held up as one of their great artistic achievements that year. The uncut version has yet to be released to DVD within the United States.

They have tampered in other ways too. Remember LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL? When Miramax distributed the film in the U.S., it became one of the highest grossing foreign language films in American history. Not happy with the money the film had already brought in, the Weinsteins re-released the film in a dubbed version for moviegoers who had a paralyzing fear of subtitles. Unlike it's subtitled counterpart, the dubbed version of LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL was met with derision from filmgoers and bombed at the box office. Which leads us to....


Ever try to convince a bunch of younger people to go see a film about a speech therapist who helps a future world leader overcome his stammer? I have and the laughter sort of stung a little.

But that's the issue at hand. THE KING'S SPEECH may be a very fine film. But it's not a film that is aimed at the youth market. There are some under 17's out there who have the patience and desire to see a film like THE KING'S SPEECH. If the MPAA made any sense at all, the film would have a less restrictive rating and getting it to them should be no problem. But unfortunately, the kids who are going to be truly excited to see THE KING'S SPEECH are not in the majority. No matter what the rating of the film, THE KING'S SPEECH will most appeal to adult audiences.

I grew up in the 1980s and was a fan of film ever since I can remember. My family was pretty shocked when I begged and pleaded to go see THE RIGHT STUFF, a film about America's space race that ran over three hours in length. Not only did I stay awake through the entire film, I absolutely loved it. None of my other friends had any desire to see it, as soon as they figured there were no lasers or aliens. Was I so much more evolved than my peers? Not really. I was just really into space when I was a kid. Hence, I was predisposed to enjoy it. It would be a number of years before I got around to watching more mature prestige productions from the time. I enjoyed OUT OF AFRICA when I was 25, I don't know if I would have when I was 10.

While I'm sure we would love it if young people took an interest in a film like THE KING'S SPEECH, it's not going to happen. It at least will not happen to the effect of bringing in tens of millions of dollars in added revenue. It just does not appeal to them right now. Hopefully, it will one day. And there the film will be, waiting for them. You may call this pure pessimism. But I just don't see millions of kids upset that they aren't allowed to see THE KING'S SPEECH because their parents won't let them. Likewise, I don't see throngs of teenagers lining up around the block, screaming, "King George FTW, yo!"


Let's suppose for a moment that censoring THE KING'S SPEECH would result in as much as $10 million in added revenue, it just isn't worth it.

The Weinsteins have had this weird relationship with art all their lives. There is no question that were it not for their work, many of our most beloved modern filmmakers would have never gotten a break. But at the same time, even as they have presented themselves as artistic icons, they have behaved as shrewd businesspeople, who need to turn a profit. And of course there's nothing wrong with that, unless it's at the expense of the very art one pretends to hold as sacred.

It is ironic that this controversy surrounds a film that centers around one's inability to speak. Now, there is a question of stifling George VI once again. How do you continue in proclaiming artistic integrity when you do not respect the art enough to speak for itself? You can't have it both ways, people. The MPAA made a ridiculous decision in insisting upon an R-rating. But it would be equally as ridiculous and many times more damaging if you inserted bleeps or silent pauses within the film in order to reach a wider audience.

Art embraces freedom. Censorship embraces commerce. But at what cost?

Let me speak directly to the Weinsteins for a moment (They're reading this, right? Of course they are.). No one is asking you to take a loss here. THE KING'S SPEECH has grossed over $60 million in the U.S., before the Academy Awards have even aired. The film has made back four times it's budget and it's still climbing. Since going wide, it has kept people coming for more. Not bad for a film whose climax is a guy reading. Do you really think censoring this film which you worked so hard to bring to the masses will fare that much better in a censored version. And will it be worth sacrificing what you have accomplished to bring in that much more?

If it is then I'm afraid you have learned nothing. Your trigger-happy censors which helped sew animosity towards you in the film community are part of what led to your departure and the ultimate destruction of Miramax. And you still have not learned your lesson. Already, the knives are out. Critics, writers and people within the film community have expressed outrage at this decision, and remember you still need to work with these people.

And yet, I fear that by merely entertaining the notion of censoring this film, you have already shown your true colors. Your decision will likely be based more on greed than integrity.

Take a note from your own film, and let King George speak for himself.

Special thanks to Dark Horizons for helping bring this issue to my attention.

Friday, January 28, 2011

OSCAR NOMINATIONS...In Which I Find Enough to Complain About and I Still Don't Get That Facebook Movie

It's that time of year when our attentions once again shift to Oscar.

Sorry, not that Oscar. That really would be something.

Yes, it seems like just yesterday when I was mostly okay with the 2010 Oscars and here it is, time for me to be mostly okay with the 2011 Oscars. That is not to say that all my favorite films were nominated. Trust me, no one would stand for my awards show. Next week, I will be posting my Best Films of 2010 list. These will be my personal favorite films of 2010 and ABSOLUTELY NO ONE ELSE'S. You've been warned.

But of the crop that the Academy was likely to choose from, we had some pretty good contenders this year. The big surprise was that THE SOCIAL NETWORK, which has been running away with virtually every other major award this season, did not lead the pack in nominations. That honor goes to earlier favorite THE KING'S SPEECH with 12 nominations. This is followed by TRUE GRIT with 10 nominations. THE SOCIAL NETWORK ties for third with INCEPTION's eight nominations. While this might seem like a blow to that Facebook movie, let's not forget that 8 nominations quite an acheievement. Also, leading in nominations does not necessarily mean you will run away with the night. Just look at THE COLOR PURPLE and THE TURNING POINT, both of whom were nominated for 11 Oscars and won precisely zero.

So, let's take a look at the nominees. Please note that this is not my formal predictions. I think making predictions more than a couple weeks before the Oscars opens yourself up to failure. Even as the votes are cast, a lot can change in the public eye between now and then.


Nothing really too shocking here. Since they've moved to 10 nominations over the previous five, the Academy has all but assured no one will be too upset. I suppose now is as good a time as any to note that THE TOWN was surprisingly absent from this year's Oscars. Only Jeremy Renner was nominated for this film, in the Best Supporting Actor category. While not a bad film by any stretch, I don't think THE TOWN deserved to be nominated, but it seemed like a sure thing to be nominated early on. Blame Blake Lively, I know I'm going to.

It's also probably the time where I'm going to have to say something controversial. I just don't get all the love being heaped on THE SOCIAL NETWORK. That this film might win for Best Picture at least seems probable at this point. And yes, many people I talk to seem to really enjoy it. I personally don't get what the big deal is. Ivy League jerk comes up with a great idea and makes a fortune while stepping on everyone else getting there. Fine, but how is that different from every other Ivy League jerk who comes up with a brilliant idea and makes a fortune while stepping on everyone else getting there? The film never had me sympathizing with Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) or really understanding much beyond his surface arrogance and gullibility. The film is acted well (especially by Andrew Garfield, who was not nominated), looks crisp and the dialog is typically good in that Aaron Sorkin kind of way. I just didn't know why I should care.

Darren Aronofsky - BLACK SWAN
David O. Russell - THE FIGHTER
Joel and Ethan Coen - TRUE GRIT

Nothing really to see here. All of the nominees did a fine job. If I had my pick, I would love to see Aronofsky get it.

Javier Bardem - BIUTIFUL
Jeff Bridges - TRUE GRIT
Jesse Eisenberg - THE SOCIAL NETWORK
James Franco - 127 HOURS

Again, everyone here I'm assuming did a fine job (I have not yet seen BIUTIFUL). I will have to disagree with my Film Geek Central co-host who thought that Colin Firth's performance was rather average. I thought he was excellent.

And yes, add me to the list of people surprised to see Leonardo DiCaprio not get nominated for his fantastic turn in INCEPTION. However, I am more surprised to not see Marc Wahlberg get a mention for THE FIGHTER. For all the cheers proclaiming Christian Bale's performance, I much preferred Wahlberg's smoldering and subdued lead role as "Irish" Micky Ward.

Nicole Kidman - RABBIT HOLE
Jennifer Lawrence - WINTER'S BONE
Natalie Portman - BLACK SWAN
Michelle Williams - BLUE VALENTINE

Wow, I just realized I am really not qualified to comment on the Best Actress category. While I hope to see all of the films on the list eventually, I have currently only seen THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT and BLACK SWAN. Having said that, Portman's performance was an astonishing accomplishment in a career marked by exemplary performances... and also those lousy prequels. But seriously folks, Portman was incredible.

It looks as though I am alone in my surprise in not seeing Noomi Rapace nominated for her role in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Rapace was so perfect in her role that it has made most people question how she could ever me matched in the upcoming American remake. If I had my current pick of my favorite performance of the year, it would be Rapace but with Portman coming in a very close second.

Christian Bale - THE FIGHTER
John Hawkes - WINTER'S BONE
Jeremy Renner - THE TOWN
Geoffrey Rush - THE KING'S SPEECH

Christian Bale has got this in the bag and that's a problem for me. I am never going to argue that Bale is not one of our best living actors. However, I never truly felt comfortable with his peformance in THE FIGHTER until the second half of the film. Before that, there seemed to be way too much scenery chewing. I get it, Dicky Edlund, with his accomplishments as well as his fall from grace, overpowered everything in the family for a very long time. But he also threatens to drown out everything else in the film. It should be noted that during the second half of the film, after Edlund experiences a character arc, he is nothing short of outstanding.

Also, since THE SOCIAL NETWORK seemed to mop up a ton of other major noms, it's surprising that Andrew Garfield was not nominated for what I felt was the film's best performance.

Of the nominees I'm qualified to talk about (sorry, Hawkes), I personally prefer Geoffrey Rush in THE KING'S SPEECH.

Helena Bonham Carter - THE KING'S SPEECH
Melissa Leo - THE FIGHTER
Hailee Steinfeld - TRUE GRIT

Hailee Steinfeld did such an amazing job in TRUE GRIT that I would love to see her get it. That is the biggest difference between the Coens' TRUE GRIT compared with the Henry Hathaway original. While the original seemed mostly told from the point of view of Rooster Cogburn, the Coens' film tells the story from the point of view of Mattie Ross (Steinfeld). That's the case, and not even a correction from one of the film's producers can change that in my mind. It's the story of a young girl who has learned independence at a young age and who voluntarily throws herself in with the wolves in the wilderness in her search for justice. A great performance and an interesting young actress.

Of course, we all ask if she is such an integral part of the film, why is she not in the Best Actress category? Your guess is as good as mine.


The big surprise here is that the number of nominees in this category has shrunk from five to three, despite there being more quality animated films each year than ever before.

Although many people felt that TOY STORY 3 was a life-changing event, and yes I did get choked up at the end. Still, I'm rooting for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

Danny Boyle & Simon Beoufoy - 127 HOURS
Michael Arndt - TOY STORY 3
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen - TRUE GRIT
Debra Granik & Ann Rosselini - WINTER'S BONE

You have to hand it to both 127 HOURS and THE SOCIAL NETWORK for translating which on the surface seems like truly dry material into Oscar contenders. Personally, I felt that the writing, direction and acting all played an equal role in making 127 HOURS a great success.

Having said that, I would like to see the Coens get this one. Listen to the antiquated dialog in TRUE GRIT, with it's combination of frontier slang and eloquent rhetoric - the very collision of savagery and society that permeates through the film. It's not an easy thing to make that work and it deserves recognition for that accomplishment.

Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson - THE FIGHTER
Christopher Nolan - INCEPTION
Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg - THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
David Seidler - THE KING'S SPEECH

It's not easy making a smart science fiction film. It's even harder to make one that is continually fascinating, holds up to repeat viewings and somehow manages to be accessible while not sacrificing any of it's grandiose goals. For that reason, I feel that Christopher Nolan did an incredible job with INCEPTION.


Some good nominees here... and ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Am I really alone in thinking that was Tim Burton on cruise control? As far as the art direction, I was bored after the initial ten minutes in Wonderland.



I am no slave to fashion, folks. But even I see this as one of the biggest snubs. BLACK SWAN was not nominated in this category? Really? Amy Westcott's designs actually helped tell this amazing story and complimented the production beautifully.



Andrew Weisblum - BLACK SWAN
Pamela Martin - THE FIGHTER
Jon Harris - 127 HOURS
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter - THE SOCIAL NETWORK

127 HOURS please. Look at it this way. You have a film where for over an hour of the running time, a guy is pinned alone in a crevice. And yet, the film seems to move at a breakneck pace and be continually fascinating. A lot of that is done in post, folks.

Also, some special mention for Lee Smith with INCEPTION.



Hans Zimmer - INCEPTION
Alexandre Desplat - THE KING'S SPEECH
A.R. Rahman - 127 HOURS
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - THE SOCIAL NETWORK

As a man who owns every Nine Inch Nails album, I will not lie when I say it would be interesting to see Trent Reznor take the stage. However, my personal pick has to go to Hans Zimmer for INCEPTION. Just the most incredible score of the year in my opinion. Not only does it compliment the story perfectly, but there are hidden clues, motifs and themes within the score itself. That's revolutionary stuff there, folks.

Speaking of which, it was perhaps too much to hope for that the Academy would be hip enough to recognize Daft Punk for TRON: LEGACY. Still, it would have been nice.

"Coming Home" - COUNTRY STRONG
"I See the Light" - TANGLED
"If I Rise" - 127 HOURS
"We Belong Together" - TOY STORY 3

"If I Rise" is a pretty good song. Otherwise, the Academy has once again nominated some of the most boring music of the year. Don't be surprised. These are voted on by the most ballots they receive. Hence, this is like Top 40 radio for movies. Dull, dull, dull.


WISH 143


I would love to see TRON or INCEPTION take this one.


And now I show my ignorance. Some of us just don't get these categories. Anyone want to tell me what was so amazing about the sound mixing in THE KING'S SPEECH?


Oh, come on! Look, I know not everyone likes TRON: LEGACY, that's fine. But surely you can't deny that 2/3 of the film was an amazing feat of visual effects? At least moreso than HEREAFTER.

Nevertheless, the win for me would be INCEPTION, who managed to incorporate the special effects so seamlessly into the film, that it brought our dreams to life in a non-obtrusive manner.

Well, look at that. I guess there were enough surprises to comment on after all.

Of course, the greatest feat of this year's Academy Awards is that it makes the Golden Globes seem even more ridiculous. Sorry, folks. Even with pickings as slim as 2010's BURLESQUE does not deserve a single nomination in any category. Ditto THE TOURIST. The Academy saw fit to give TRUE GRIT ten nominations. And while it is perhaps not the greatest film in the Coen's canon, it was one of the best westerns in many years. And it got zero Golden Globe nominations. That's right, none. It sort of cements my opinion that the Globes are a red carpet ceremony with the awards as an afterthought.

But despite myself, I still get very excited for the Academy Awards. The final awards will be handed out on February 27th.

Monday, January 24, 2011

KEVIN SMITH SHAKES UP SUNDANCE... Celebrates Punk Distribution, Critics Worried About Being Called "the Man."

This week at the Sundance Film Festival, director Kevin Smith premiered his new film RED STATE, made an audacious move to self-distribute the film, defied studios to look at how they market films, created a huge controversy with internet reporters and announced his retirement from filmmaking. All this and it's only Monday. What did you do this week?

The whole thing started innocently enough, with Kevin Smith unveiling his latest film, RED STATE. The film is a huge departure from the comedies Smith has become known for. Reportedly not fitting neatly into any category, Smith recently told the Nerdist, "I've just been calling it a horror movie." If early word is any indicator, it might not be fair to lump it into one genre.

Years in the making, it was turned down by longtime Smith partners Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Smith had tried numerous avenues to get the low-budget film made, including soliciting fans for the means in which to complete the film. The film complete, Smith went to his immense SModcast network of podcasts to promote the film. There are seven podcasts on the network, all of whom are among the most listened to on the net. Smith himself takes part in most of them. He had been stoking the fires early for RED STATE, even offering a "class" and interview series leading up to the film's premiere called, Red State of the Union.

Then came the premiere and the sad announcement that it would be picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church. This is the subhuman group not opposed to picketing the funerals of murdered children, celebrating death and destruction as proof of God's divine wrath against a society tolerant of homosexuals. They also weren't above picketing a tiny little movie at an indie film festival. Face it, folks. The Westboro people are in it for the media attention. Smith had a war of words on Twitter with Phelps family members, and early word said that some of RED STATE's characters may be based on the group. Hilariously, a counter demonstration broke out which not only vastly outnumbered the WBC, but made them truly look like the fools they are.

Then came the big event. Kevin Smith unveiled RED STATE. Reviews were mixed, and from the sounds of things it might take some time for the public to see where Smith is going here. Still, there were plenty of interested parties. Smith announced that there would be an auction after the film. Studio reps showed up, since Smith said "I will pick the distributor in the room."

Then, the move that everybody is talking about. Just as things were getting started, Smith preempted everything and sold the movie for $20.... to himself. Smith then announced that he would self-distribute the film, taking it on a roadshow tour, complete with director Q & A sessions, bringing it right to his loyal audiences who would probably be the ones to run out and see it right away anyway.

That is just so punk.

Some people were furious and have been very vocal about it. In his scathing review of both the film and the event, Drew McWeeny said bluntly, "Kevin Smith, you are a liar." And then there are publications like Vanity Fair, which are wondering if this might just be the signal of something new in independent film. Internet chatter has been all over the place since Smith made his announcement. Surely he expected some reaction, but I'm not sure he expected it to explode like it has. Commentators left and right have been calling Smith everything from a visionary to a charlatan.

Smith had reportedly grown weary with the Hollywood machine and the huge amount of money required to publicize and release the film. He also didn't like the idea of the filmmaker being taken out of the equation once it comes to selling a film to the public. "For me, the idea of giving somebody else five times the amount of the budget for the movie that we all collectively made, worked our asses off real hard, to sell the thing just seems obscene," Smith said.

This opinion is reiterated on the RED STATE website in a brief posting that reads like a manifesto. "We believe the state of film marketing has become ridiculously expensive and exclusionary to the average filmmaker longing simply to tell their story," the statement reads. "When the costs of marketing and releasing a movie are four times that film's budget, it's apparent the traditional distribution mechanism is woefully out of touch with not only the current global economy, but also the age of social media."

RED STATE already has dates lined up as tickets go on sale for advance screenings. Smith will host "one night only" screenings at huge venues. A Q & A session with Smith and awesome actor Michael Parks will follow each screening. Prices will naturally be much higher than your standard movie ticket. The first of these screenings will be at Radio City Musical Hall. From there, it will move onto at least a dozen other venues. If you live somewhere that might make getting to one of these roadshows difficult, never fear. This model is only designed to recoup costs and pay back investors. RED STATE will have a wider release on Oct. 17, 17 years to the day Smith's first film CLERKS was released.

Smith's model is actually nothing new. As he has acknowledged, the age of 3,000 screen releases that only last a few weeks in theaters is still relatively new. In the decades before the internet, home video or cable television, movies opened on far fewer screens, sometimes only one, and toured the country a bit before calling it a day. Smith's process is similar to an old practice called "four walling," a process by which the filmmaker releases their own film. It has been used by some religious filmmakers as well as exploitation gurus of years past. Kroger Babb famously toured his film MOM AND DAD everywhere, a fake doctor substituting for the more reputable Smith and Parks.

"This is Indie Film 2.0," Smith said during his rant. "It's not enough to just make the movie. We have to learn how to release the movie. Because true independence isn't making a film and selling it to some jackass. True independence is schlepping that shit to the people, which is what I intend to do."

Not every filmmaker, especially those starting out, could afford to do what Smith is doing. Smith does however have a built in cult following and a ready-made publicity machine with his SModcast network. If nothing else, this shows that there is more than one way to do things. Other filmmakers, who might feel that the current method of doing things is outdated, might want to take a look at what Smith is doing. After all, if there is more than one way to get a film out to audiences, there is certainly more than two.

That is something that is reiterated in the Harvey Boys manifesto. "It is our intent to use the groundwork we lay with RED STATE to aid other filmmakers in releasing their films, via our new launched SModcast Pictures," the posting read. "Don't hate the studio; BECOME the studio. Anybody can make a movie; what we aim to prove is anyone can release a movie as well."

Kevin Smith has shaken things up and forced filmmakers to take a look at new ways of doing things. And that's always exciting.

As if all of this weren't enough, Kevin Smith also announced his retirement from filmmaking. For months, he has been hinting at this development in his podcasts. "After this, I think I have one more film left in me and then I'm done," he told the Nerdist. That film is another comedy, the hockey-themed HURT SOMEBODY, to be made next year. So, this announcement was sort of expected. Still, to hear it formally announced at Sundance is a major disappointment.

Personally, I've enjoyed all of Smith's films to varying degrees. Some I naturally love more than others. But I am very excited to see RED STATE, because I believe Smith is at his most interesting when he defies expectations. Smith took his brand of comedy and inserted it into a tender and unconventional love story, coming up with the incredible CHASING AMY. He used old school zany humor to skewer religious stereotyping in DOGMA. I was personally a big fan of the film he did a few years ago, ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. So now that he is truly going out on a limb like no other filmmaker with his reputation, it would be a shame if this were an end to what he has to offer. I personally hope he discovers more stories he wants to tell.

Is RED STATE a successful film? I don't know. Like much of the country, I have not yet seen it and so I cannot comment. It will however be an interesting film, just like it is interesting to see any talented filmmaker venture out of their comfort zone and deliver something new. That is something that doesn't only cover the making of RED STATE, but the release as well. Maybe it will be a success, maybe not. But Smith has already struck a resounding blow to independent filmmaking. Just like 17 years ago, when Smith first burst onto the scene.... at Sundance.

THE RAZZIES... Bitter Hipsters Page Through Gossip Rags, Make Catty Comments, Call Themselves Critics

Are the terms, "R. Patz," "Brangelina," or "JWoww" part of your everyday vocabulary? Congratulations then on your annual awards show.

Every year, just before the announcement of the Oscar nominations, the Razzies beat them to the punch. These are of course the anti-Oscars. These are the awards that celebrate and/or roast the very worst cinema had to offer over the previous year. A cathartic blow to the filmgoers and cinema lovers who were duped into buying a ticket for cinema excess.

At least, that's what it should be.

But such is not the case. For most of it's long life, the Razzies has instead been the "tool cool for school" people, eating Bon-Bons, paging through their latest gossip mags and making catty comments. Ever see someone get drunk on daquiris and make superficial comments to reruns of SEX AND THE CITY? That's the Razzies' Board of Directors.

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia - and really, why would they lie? - the Razzies are voted on by "650 journalists, cinema fans and professionals from the film industry." Instead, the Razzie noms often read like they were voted on by gossip columnists, ironic hipsters and put-upon assistants with an ax to grind. Their choices often read like blurbs found in People Weekly or the National Enquirer. You can practically hear the hissing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge celebrator of bad movies. And the whole point of this site is celebrating the good and holding the mediocre to task. However, the Razzies often seem to never have much to do with actual filmmaking and have more to do with sniping at whatever is popular at the moment.

Such is the case with the latest Razzies. Some of their selections are impossible to argue with. LAST AIRBENDER, BOUNTY HUNTER, VAMPIRES SUCK? Oh yes, those were horrible movies no doubt about it. But the film that seems to be leading with the most nominations is THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE. Now, don't get worked up. I didn't think this was a great film. I also didn't think it was terrible. But really, the only critics that are considering it one of the absolute worst of the year are among genre sites, like the one I used to write for. Otherwise, there are plenty of TWILIGHT detractors out there. From people who are genuinely upset with the defanged vampires in Stephanie Myers' universe, to guys who think making near-homophobic comments about the series is an easy target, to the hipsters that sneer and pop culture. That last one is the Razzies audience, in case you haven't been paying attention.

ECLIPSE's reviews were not stellar. But currently sitting at 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 58 on MetaCritic points to the very definition of mixed. It would be one thing if this was one or two people's opinion. But the Razzies are supposed to be a consensus of several hundred reputable people. Sorry, but no one else is saying that David Slade's direction was horrible. No one save for the Razzies, who nominated Slade (who also directed HARD CANDY and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT) as Worst Director, suggesting they don't understand or care what it is that a director does.

But enough of that. Even more suspect is their insistence on not judging films individually. No, the Razzies judge the complete career output by an actor or director over the course of a year. This in my opinion completely negates any ability to take this group seriously. It states flat out that all the films on the list are equal and all the finished product from an actor, actress or director is equal.

One of the actresses they love to pick on is Jessica Alba. True, few actresses manage to be this beautiful and pick such awful projects. But this means that she was also nominated for her role in THE KILLER INSIDE ME. Not too many people saw that film. But it did make a definite impact with those that did. It was on quite a few Ten Best lists from 2010. Those who did not like it often agreed that the film was well acted and perhaps even technically well made. Few would call it among the worst of the year. But there it is. That'll teach Alba for co-starring with Dane Cook three years ago.

Another punching bag for the Razzies is Sylvester Stallone. They even named him Worst Actor of the Century back in 2000. Because they could not let a year go by without getting a dig in, they nominated him for Worst Director for THE EXPENDABLES. Okay, you don't like him. But the worst? Honestly guys, it's getting old. Stallone has been nominated more than any other person in Razziedom. Before, it may have made sense to hold him accountable for the admittedly questionable films he had done in the past, but THE EXPENDABLES? Again, not one of the best remembered films of the year, but not one of the worst either. It just reeks of bitterness.

People can vote on the Razzies by signing up at their website, which makes them roughly as reputable as the Talk Backers on Aint It Cool News. And maybe that is the fate of the Talk Backers. Twenty years down the road, look for the 2031 Razzie nominations. Then find the nomination for some guy who was once in a George Lucas property. And know that they're not nominated for the merits of their work or lack thereof, but because Han totally shot first.


Hello, name's Scott Davis. Pleased to meet you.

Some of you may or may not know me from the various blogs, websites and podcasts that I've taken part in the past. Most recently, I have been co-host of the podcast Film Geek Central with the truly awesome Austin Kennedy. We're on extended hiatus right now, returning in some form or another on a date to be determined. You can still check out the old episodes though, and I recommend you do. Start from the end and go back though. Some of those early ones? Woof.

Before that, I had a blog on exploitation cinema, my first love. Adventure Without Shame is the name and honestly, I didn't do much with it. I hope and expect that to change very soon. AWS should exist beside this blog in posting whatever tickles my fancy. But as you will see, the focus of each blog will be entirely different. I also used to be editor of the website Horror Express. The website is still there and they still do wonderful work, even if I am not directly involved with them anymore. I also was a contributing writer to CultCuts.

The purpose of Moviocrity is simple - anything in mainstream cinema that I find interesting will be commented on here. This includes reviews and also news from the world of film. This is where the two blogs come into play. If I want to talk about a great B-movie that you just have to see, that's Adventure Without Shame. If I want to talk about the latest high-profile film and how they are either succeeding or screwing it up, that's Moviocrity.

And the title (suggested by dear friend Kevin Wetzler) is appropriate too. My Film Geek Central co-host said it best, "I would much rather see a bad movie than a mediocre one." He's right. We have all seen our share of bad films. But the ones that most grind my gears tend to be movies that just go through the motions. These are the films you see and quickly forget about. These films figure out a formula, stick to that formula unwaveringly and never attempt to do anything more. These are not the films that are complete successes. These are the films which on any level can at best be described as passable. These films hold their audience in contempt. And it's time that we didn't stand for it.

So that's Moviocrity. From time to time, I will comment on what is going on. I don't know how often this site will be updated. I have a lot on my plate right now. But I would not start this thing unless I had something to say. Working within the system, enjoying cinema but also not standing for the mediocre. We're not trying to destroy Hollywood, we're just trying to keep them honest.