Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: Top 8 List for Episode VIII

Top 8 Questions after watching the new trailer for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

8. Is Disney borrowing from their Marvel well to add wall crawling to Rey's abilities because normal Jedi powers aren't cool enough already?
#8 – Is Disney dipping into its Marvel well to make Rey a wall crawler because normal Jedi powers aren’t cool enough already?

#7 - The first lines heard are "Breath, just breathe." Is Luke reviving the lost Jedi art of Lamaze coaching? Do the words "Captain Phasma is pregnant" excite anyone else?!
#7 – The first lines are “Breath, just breathe.” Is Luke reviving the lost Jedi art of Lamaze coaching? Do the words “Captain Phasma is pregnant” excite anyone else?!

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photo by @Kmeron

#FreeMilo: Twitter’s Stance Against Freedom of Speech

Whether you’ve seen it or not, you at least know of the female Ghostbusters reboot that has hit theaters.  You probably also know about the divisiveness it’s created within the ranks of moviegoers.  Don’t worry though, this isn’t yet another review of the film, but a look at what it’s exposing in the social media landscape.

ghostbusters-2016-625x324After writing a negative review on Ghostbusters, Breitbart’s tech editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, kicked off a Twitter firestorm between himself and the film’s star, Leslie Jones.  After receiving a slew of messages from haters, Jones fought back, retweeting the comments and singling out the trolls.  It was then that Milo joined the feud, reminding Jones that everyone gets hate mail.  This spurred an argument between the two, which eventually resulted in Jones blocking Milo.  While Milo did throw some cheeky insults at Jones while defending his position, none of them compared to the death threats and racist remarks she received from the trolls.  Despite this, Milo was soon permanently banned on the grounds of violating Twitter’s abuse policy.  Since then, he’s been on the offensive, attacking the social platform for seemingly deporting him for no reason.

In a statement made on Breitbart, Milo said, “Twitter is holding me responsible for the actions of fans and trolls, using the special pretzel logic of the left.  Where are the Twitter police when Justin Bieber’s fans cut themselves on his behalf?”

Milo’s outspoken “cultural libertarian” view, which opposes the idea of culture as a corrupting influence, has been challenged by many liberal groups, including feminists, whom Twitter favors, argues Milo.  He said: “With the cowardly suspension of my account, Twitter has confirmed itself as a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives.”

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CARLOS-BARRIA/REUTERS

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – It Will Be On Facetime

Unless you were living under a rock, you will recall the foiled coup d’état attempt in Turkey. The Turkish military attempted to seize control while President Tayyip Erdogan was vacationing on July 15, 2016. The President took to Facetime to encourage the populace to take to the streets in support of the elected government. Now if you are well versed in Turkish history, you will remember that military coups are not uncommon. The military intervened in 1960, 1971, and 1980. In 1997, the Turkish military executed a “post-modern coup”. The military – the secular defenders of the constitution – has initiated coups to restore order and to protect the secular nature of the republic created by Ataturk.

SEDAT SUNA / EPA
SEDAT SUNA / EPA

This is one of the reasons why many find this attempted coup so suspicious. The Turkish government continues to point the figure at Erdogan’s longtime rival, an Islamic Cleric living in Pennsylvania. Yet, accusations that the secular military would support radical aspirations to overthrow the government seem unfounded giving its institutional history. Furthermore, the hasty and unplanned execution of the coup which failed to lockdown national media, the presidential palace, and transportation centers seems out of character for a military which successfully orchestrated 3 previous military coups. For this reason, accusations continue to fly of Erdogan’s knowledge and even orchestration of the coup. Now, the President has the opportunity to imprison his opposition, implement centralized control, and even dismantle the military, the one institution threatening his authoritarian ambitions. This also portrays the longtime Islamist Erdogan as the secular defender of the Turkish Republic, creating an ideal scenario where he can maintain his agenda under the guise of defending secular democracy from elements (in the media, military, and education systems) which he feels threaten the will of the people.

Other theories have circulated that Iran is behind Turkey’s instability, as a means to destabilize western relations with their longtime neighbor. Some argue that Iran is simply trying to set pieces in motion to bring about the Islamic Republic of Turkey. While a secular, democratic Turkey with strong ties to the west and NATO may not be in Iran’s best interest; the creation of a Sunni Islamist government in Anatolia could rise to challenge Iranian interest as well. Either way, all the facts regarding the attempted coup remain a mystery.

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amityville

From Page to Screen: The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror is a classic in the world of horror, both on the page and on the screen. After the ordeal the Lutz family went through their story made national headlines. It drew the attention of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, now famous because of the Conjuring and Conjuring 2, also based on cases they investigated. Within a year a book had been written (Jay Anson, 1977) that was an instant national best seller, and two years later the film (dir. Stuart Rosenberg, 1979) was released which quickly became the biggest indie hit to date. James Brolin was reading the book when some clothes that were hung on his closet door and scared him witless for a moment; at that point he said he knew there was something to this story. Clearly, it is a story worth the time to both read and watch, assuming you enjoy both claustrophobia and dread.

When is the house warming?
When is the house warming?

The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book. From the grand incidents, like Jody, to the little incidents or details, like the missing money or the mirrors in the bedroom, the movie knows and respects the source material.

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defendor

You May Have Missed: Defendor

You may have missed the movie Defendor. If that is the case, here is the trailer.  The short version is that Arthur (Woody Harrelson) is a simple, honest man who adopts the person of Defendor (a DIY Batman) to rid the streets of crime, especially his nemesis, Captain Industry.

The difference between Defendor and other “super” hero movies is Arthur’s character.  All heroes want to help, but most are also seeking a little bit of glory.  Arthur never asks for recognition, he is simply trying to right the wrongs he sees in the world. Throughout the film various characters try and understand his angle: his hooker friend, the crooked cop, his court appointed psychologist.  Most have trouble accepting that he wants nothing more than to do what’s right.

Defendor plays like It’s A Wonderful Life in reverse.  Instead of seeing the effect of one man’s absence, you see the impact of one man’s presence. There is a device throughout the film of voice over for a radio host and his callers to show public opinion about the state of things in the city as well as Arthur’s influence as he goes on his crusade.  Initially you hear the public’s frustration with the status quo, but also their complacency to just call in to a talk show and complain, either because it gives them a sense of doing something productive, or because they think there is nothing else they can do.

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foxcatcher

Foxcatcher’s Sin of Omission

MM_FOXCATCHER_POSTERBefore I launch into Foxcatcher, which I finally got around to watching, I should note that dramatic films based on real personalities are rarely true accounts of an individual’s life. At best one hopes that they are at least close approximations. Filmmakers must deal with the constraints of compressing events into a two-hour timeframe so their film is more marketable upon release. As a result, in the making, important factual information is often left in the editing bay. Of course, other filmmakers make conscious decisions to omit key information about their subject in order to enhance or sully the reputation of the personality being portrayed or to make other ideologically slanted statements. Thus approaching any film based on real personalities or real historical events should always be met with a degree of skepticism.

Foxcatcher is a well produced and well acted, though plodding and lumbering, film. It has an air of authenticity and is set for the most part on a sprawling estate standing in for the former du Pont estate near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania which, since the murder of Olympic gold medalist wrestler Dave Schultz by John du Pont, has been parceled out for a school and housing tracts.

Foxcatcher producer and director Bennett Miller (Moneyball – 2011 and Capote – 2005) gives us a John du Pont (played very seriously and adeptly, by Steve Carell) who bears some physical resemblance to the real John du Pont with the help of some prosthetic makeup on his proboscis. But at its heart Foxcatcher is an incomplete portrait and ultimately a dishonest portrayal of du Pont and the events that took place.

Taken at face value, Foxcatcher’s du Pont could easily be described as simply an unloved, eccentric and egocentric rich man/child longing for the approval of an aloof mother preoccupied with her line of pampered purebred horses. Foxcatcher’s John du Pont character (or caricature) displays moments of eccentricity tinged with an ominous undercurrent of potential rage. However, the glaring omission that Miller makes about du Pont, especially during the time that the heir to the du Pont fortune hosted and dubiously trained the USA wrestling team on the family estate, is that the man was suffering what was diagnosed at trial as paranoid schizophrenia that exhibited itself often in delusional tirades about people, including wrestler Dave Schultz, who du Pont believed was part of an international conspiracy to kill him. There is no mention of this in the film. In fact, there is no mention at all of du Pont’s psychosis.

There are actually two recent films about the events that took place on the du Pont estate near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania – Foxcatcher which was released in 2014 and a subsequent documentary The Prince of Pennsylvania released in 2015 by ESPN’s 30 for 30 film group. Had the ESPN documentary, which describes Du Pont’s psychosis in more detail, been released and viewed on television prior to Foxcatcher, it would have been easier to detect how Bennett Miller made a conscious decision to dismiss the disturbing aspects of du Pont’s mental state, which any reasonable person would conclude was the overriding factor in the murder Dave Schultz – not an inferred jealousy for Dave Schultz’s brother, star athlete, Olympic wrestler, Mark.

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2000px-Star_Wars_Logo.svg

Star Wars and Story

There is something about the pending arrival of The Force Awakens that I find to be deeply unsettling. As December 18th approaches, that feeling in my gut grows and those nagging voices in my head hound me as I fall asleep. Now, I converted to Star Wars when I was six years old, and have been a devout follower since. I’ve attended Celebrations and multiple Fridays at Comic-Con, yet something haunts me about this latest installment of the franchise.

empire-strikes-back-03At first I thought it was Lucas’s lack of creative involvement. But let’s face it, while George Lucas is a masterful storyteller; some of his greatest decisions as a filmmaker where to employ talented individuals to help him bring his vision to life. When we look at one of the greatest films ever made – The Empire Strike Back – Lucas brought on Irving Kershner to direct, and Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan to convert his story to screenplay. Lucas is still involved in this project as a creative consultant, and maybe this film will not fall victim to the same snags that prequel trilogy did with an oversaturation of Lucas’s involvement.

Then I considered that maybe my fear was that the new Star Wars film, wouldn’t feel like a Star Wars film. Any true Star Wars aficionado experienced culture shock when watching the prequel trilogy, resulting from an over-exposure to CGI. JJ Abrams has maintained that he will remain true to the practical effects used in the original films. Based on Abrams earlier films, we know that he is no stranger to preserving the integral magic of cinema with astonishing, practical effects.

Maybe my disappointment rested with the issue of “cannon”. Surely, this new film could not exist within the realm of the expanded Universe which has grown exponentially in the past three decades? However, the Expanded Star Wars Universe is in fact, expansive; and there are many contradictory story lines already within. One of the best examples of this was when the origins of Boba Fett were “rewritten”, after the revelation in Episode II that he was in fact, merely an imperfect clone. I made peace with that blasphemous information (though I still maintain that Fett’s original origin story is the better of the two) and I imagine that I will learn to make peace with future revelations, no matter how harmful.

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www.kobal-collection.com
Title: HOME ALONE ¥ Pers: CULKIN, MACAULAY  /  PESCI, JOE  /  STERN, DANIEL  /  BLOSSOM, ROBERTS ¥ Year: 1990 ¥ Dir: COLUMBUS, CHRIS ¥ Ref: HOM045AG ¥ Credit: [ 20TH CENTURY FOX / THE KOBAL COLLECTION / SMETZER, DON ]
HOME ALONE (1990)
,  
January 1, 1990
Photo by DON SMETZER/20TH CENTURY FOX/The Kobal Collection/WireImage.com

To license this image (10553328), contact The Kobal Collection/WireImage.com

Spending Time Home Alone This Week.

h-HO00001775Like all true 90’s kids, I have been anxiously awaiting the chance to relive my favorite tale of holiday-hi-jinks on the big screen – Home Alone. In remembrance of twenty-five years since Kevin’s first victory over the “Wet Bandits”, the film will be released for two nights (non-consecutively, mind you) this upcoming week.

Home Alone remains one of the most profitable comedy films ever made. Following release in November of 1990, it topped the box office for 12 straight weeks, and remained in theaters until the following June. But the real success of the film transcends profits and clever screen writing; as the film has managed to cement itself firmly in Nineties nostalgia somewhere between The Adventures of Captain Planet, Nirvana, and the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers.

Two decades into the new millennium, the film is a warm reminder of how the world was in the pre-digital age. For a moment we can travel back in time to a world before Skype, when internationally calling was actually a complication. We can graciously relive the innocent freedom which we once took so for granted prior to instantaneous and ubiquitous cellphone communications. Or we can once more travel through airport security with ease as we did prior to September 11th.

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bubbahotep

From Page to Screen: Bubba Ho-tep

This post introduces a new theme in addition to page to screen adaptations. That is: things you may have missed. In case you don’t know, Bubba Ho-tep is a movie, and a short story, where neither Elvis nor JFK are dead. They are both in a Texas rest home and have been robbed of their identities by fate and the powers that be. To make matters worse, an Egyptian mummy has started to raid the home and steal the soles of residents. Elvis and Jack are the only ones who know and therefore the only ones who can do anything about it. You can watch the trailer here, though it doesn’t do the movie justice.

He's gonna take care of business.
He’s gonna take care of business.

I think a lot of people view this movie as a silly B-movie send up, and I had a similar opinion before I watched it. Now, it might just be my lifelong affection for Bruce Campbell, but from my first viewing I was in love. Sure, it has a ridiculous premise and outlandish characters, but I have only ever seen a beautiful portrayal of aging and the struggle to maintain one’s identity and dignity. Why else would the cast feature such American icons as Elvis, JFK, and the Lone Ranger? When I found out the movie was based on an existing story I was the most excited to see more of the world.

This adaptation was interesting because I have more experience with novels being adapted into films and this was a short story. As such it means the expansion of the world as opposed to the reduction. The film allowed for more time with the characters and the introduction of the funeral home workers who pick up the bodies of residents. They, in particular, brought the “youth” perspective of the plight of the rest home residents and the lack of empathy and interest the rest of the world have for them.

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supersize squad

The Fast Food Mascot Re-Boot

Off of the tease announcements from McDonald’s that the Hamburgerler is coming out of hiding,  filmmaker Leigh Scott debuts this re-imagining of our favorite fast food mascots. From Wendy to Col. Sanders to the King and the Clown , in all honesty, this works great on so many levels.  My particular favorite appearance is from the purple guy himself, Grimace.  It’s the Supersize Squad.

Periscope

Periscope – The New Way to AMA and Connect

As I write this, screenwriter David H. Steinberg (Slackers, American Pie 2) is broadcasting from his own smartphone, answering questions from followers via the app Periscope.

While AMA (ask me anything) sessions are very popular on Reddit for users when someone interesting pops on to answer questions about their career, life or any other topic, it’s limited in that it’s all done via a keyboard. With Periscope, all Steinberg had to do was bring up the app, connected through his twitter, and start broadcasting video and take questions via text on the app from his followers. A tweet went out and notified his fans that he was on and ready to talk screenwriting and the movie business or anything that comes up.

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Simon Pegg

Simon Pegg Opened His Big Mouth and Made Nerd Nation Upset

Pegg at CCApparently actor Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Star Trek, Mission:Impossible) made some controversial comment regarding the current “nerd culture” being used to infantilize our society in order to keep it under control. The preoccupation in popular culture today of entertainment originally targeted to teenagers and their juniors.  Specifically comic books & video games and their film adaptations, cosplay and their conventions, and the more recent explosion of re-makes, re-boots and re-imaginings of favorite childhood memories is all keeping current social national-global conversation fixated on fantasy rather than reality.

Here is Pegg in his own words:

Recent developments in popular culture were arguably predicted by the French philosopher and cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard in his book, ‘America’, in which he talks about the infantilzation of society. Put simply, this is the idea that as a society, we are kept in a state of arrested development by dominant forces in order to keep us more pliant. We are made passionate about the things that occupied us as children as a means of drawing our attentions away from the things we really should be invested in, inequality, corruption, economic injustice etc. It makes sense that when faced with the awfulness of the world, the harsh realities that surround us, our instinct is to seek comfort, and where else were the majority of us most comfortable than our youth? A time when we were shielded from painful truths by our recreational passions, the toys we played with, the games we played, the comics we read. There was probably more discussion on Twitter about the The Force Awakens and the Batman vs Superman trailers than there was about the Nepalese earthquake or the British general election.

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WWC

The 2015 World Cup Starts Soon: Who Cares?

Certainly not FIFA.  And maybe not even the Canadian Soccer Association.  Probably a few corporate sponsors including the upstart carbonated beverage maker known as the Coca-Cola Company; some plucky airbnb users for sure; and definitely Fox Sports.  But after three decades of international play and an on-again / off-again romance with the beautiful game, is it possible to defend an American cultural interest in soccer as played by the most successful national team in U.S. history (sorry, Dream Team)?
uswnt wwc15
The 2015 Women’s World Cup Roster (USA)
Here’s how I see it.

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bingenet

How to Manage Your Binge Watching Problem

yall-got-anymore-of-them-episodesWelcome to Binge Watchers Anonymous (BWA).

I promise, if you follow this simple schedule you can change your life for the better.  If you are like most binge watchers, when season three of House of Cards premiered Friday, Feb 27th on Netflix you were probably done with the 13 episode season by late Sunday night.  After waiting an entire year for the season to debut, you immediately consumed it in less time it took the series editors to edit one episode.  I understand, I’ve been there.  I cut the cord a long time ago.  No cable, no satellite.  My Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions were my only link to the “good” part of television.  I have rabbit ears for the occasional sporting event, local morning news, or American Idol (don’t judge me.)

Both Netflix and Amazon have been developing original series for a few years now, and unlike traditional television, they dump the entire season online at once for audiences to consume at their leisure or as fiendishly as possible.  Most people I know, make it a habit to binge watch all 13 or so episodes all at once because, well they can.  As one who’s engaged in the habit, I began to feel disappointed after it was all done.  Because it’s over too quickly.  Sure, I had control and got to maintain the momentum of the series at my own pace, but it was my weakness for cliffhangers that did me in. I began to miss the anticipation you get when having to wait a week to find out what happens next and to digest and savor that one great episode.  Game of Thrones is a great example.  I enjoy watching it week to week because it’s so good and I get months of enjoyment out of it instead of 13 hours over one weekend.

So, if you’ve ever considered trying to maintain a regular schedule of Netflix or Amazon Prime programming, then I have the solution for you.  It’s the BWA 13 Week Program.

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Michael Keaton Is…

If there is one thing to like about the Golden Globes, (because the Awards themselves are a joke) it’s that sometimes one of the good guys finishes first and get’s a chance to talk into a world-wide microphone and drop some knowledge.

Michael Keaton was Mr. Mom and Bill Blazejowski. He was Beetlejuice and was Batman. But what Michael Keaton still is and always will be, is Michael John Douglas.

The Reason Foundation is Hiring

logoThe Reason Foundation, at the forefront of liberty application in modern society, is now hiring in various fields of work. Open positions range from reporters and writers, to film and creative opportunities at Reason.tv, to policy analysts. The Foundation would provide an avenue for liberty-minded professionals and creatives to work in an environment that champions and cherishes the value of liberty. Those interested should click here for more information about the opportunities offered.

Is E3 Important Anymore?

For 10 years of my life, I was an avid subscriber to the late, great magazine Nintendo Power. I would be excited every month when I got to catch up on my favorite consoles, games, and installments. But there was an issue every year that always stood out — the publication’s coverage of E3.

Now for those of you who don’t know, E3 — or the Electronic Entertainment Expo — is an annual fair sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and it begins today. The Expo has beenlmwmrfgsfxo6eezzeoqx the premier place for companies to show off all their new games, systems, and merchandise. E3 has been around since 1995, and in its glory days, it was like watching Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Big consoles made all of their debuts there, there were wicked displays by companies that went all-out, and the place was just magical. I personally never got to go, but just watching live coverage was enough. E3 was a regular gamer’s dream, and this year the event will be at the Los Angeles Convention Center on June 10–12. But I can’t tell if I should be excited or not.

Lately it seems that the expo is fading into the background, just like Nintendo Power (I still own a copy of volume 282), and I’m not sure how to feel about it. Several game developers are saying “good riddance,” while others like to make the case that the event still brings gamers and developers together, and therefore is important. But for me, I’m busy asking what the point of E3 still is? When it comes to funding, a lot of indie gamers can’t afford to show off their stuff, while some of the larger developers aren’t using the expo to make those grandiose statements, opting to do it beforehand and not dropping too much cash. And because of this, I feel like surprises are now few and far between.

yluovazuiigvxtahr424But speaking of dropping cash, what’s the point of a normal gamer to go to E3? As time goes on, the place only seems to have become a swirling carnival of demos among professionals swapping of business cards, and regular gamers are just paying way too much money to get swept away by the tide.

But the 12 year-old inside still says I’m wrong, still says that the coverage is totally worth it, and still says that Nintendo’s new Zelda WiiU game they’ll be premiering is totally drool-worthy. But how do you guys feel about E3 — is it still worth getting excited about? Do you find yourself following all the coverage, or are you burnt out?

 

High-Profile Kickstarter Campaigns Coming in 2014

Last week, we saw the Kickstarter campaign for Reading Rainbow dominate social media. The timing was perfect, as anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s was more than happy to throw money at the idea of having Reading Rainbow for their own kids. Sure, some people criticized the idea of a for-profit venture asking for millions of dollars in donations, but it isn’t really a Kickstarter campaign without some good ol’ fashioned negative media.

 

Despite the negative attention that many campaigns receive, most of it is moot if the goals are met and the donors make it rain (less Kickstarter’s 5% cut and Amazon’s 3%-5% processing fee). Which is why you can expect to see bigger, and “better” projects during the rest of 2014. Kickstarter isn’t just for small indie short films produced by your brother’s roommate in college. Nope. Don’t be surprised if you see some of these high-profile projects in the near future.

 

Avatar 2 – $250 million

 

 

If Zach Braff can raise over $3 million, why can’t James Cameron raise a quarter billion? Yes, Avatar 2 is already in production and has a budget/funding/major studio support/blah/blah/blah, BUT this is James Cameron we’re talking about. If anyone could find a way to spend an extra quarter-bill, he could (even if it’s making sure the a character’s retinas sparkle JUST RIGHT). Best Donor Perk:  For $10,000, you can have virtual 3D sex with the Na’vi of your choice. Better start growing out your hair now.

 

Jaden Smith’s “I am God” Project – $500 million

 

 

You don’t wear a custom made white Batman suit to someone else’s wedding without having a God complex. And once he sees James Cameron’s Kickstarter, he’ll be all over Kickstarter like white on…a Batman cowl worn by Jaden Smith. The point of his Kickstarter campaign will be a bit unclear, but it will be full of confounding hyperbole. Since it’s hard to connect the dots and figure out how donating to his campaign proves he’s God, he’ll throw in references to “making his own Avatar, but better” and “painting all trees blue.” Best Donor Perk:  When you donate $100,000 he’ll personally mention you in one of his punctuation-deficient, philosophically confusing tweets.

 

U.S. Government – $1 billion

 

 

Sooner or later Republicans and Democrats will be united with the a bi-partisan realization that Kickstarter can be used to syphon more money from the American people. Republicans will be happy, since tax breaks for the wealthy can continue, while the Democrats will be excited at the prospect of looking “hip” to the kids. The only downside is we’ll have to ignore the fact that the cost to produce and run the Kickstarter campaign is projected at $1.5 billion.

Best Donor Perk:  $500 gets you an American flag t-shirt. (What do you expect? It’s the U.S. government. Also the t-shirt is made in China.)

 

Boko Haram Ransom Campaign – $1 katrillionzillion

 

At its core, isn’t Kickstarter already set up for ransom negotiations? “You want to see a sequel to you favorite movie? Give me fifty bucks, or I’ll never release it!” It’s only natural that it would eventually be used for real kidnappings. Plus, Boko Haram has already had success with viral videos, so they’re already dominating social media. Might as well tap into that Vine fame and make some serious money with Kickstarter.  Best Donor Perk: $1 million gets you a “100% promise to never kidnap your village or take over your country.” Money well spent.

 

Satan’s “I’m not such a bad guy” Short Film – $10,000

 

 

After taking a Robert McKee’s Story seminar, the Lord of the Underworld is inspired to follow his dreams of being a filmmaker. The story centers upon a down on his luck writer, who is perceived by the outside world as a bad guy. From what I understand the script is okay with some quirky characters (especially his hispanic roommate Jesús), but suffers from a lack of stakes and clear plot points. Best Donor Perk:  You can be listed as an Executive Producer and hang out on set for just $2,500. You also get the perks from the previous levels, including a digital copy of the script, blu-ray DVD, and poster signed by the cast, crew, and Lucifer himself. If you’re low on cash and want to contribute, you can score a “thank you” in the final credits simply by pledging him your soul.

 

But what about the rest of you, who have brilliant ideas (iphone wallets ARE the future) but aren’t high-profile enough to convince strangers to send you buckets of digital money? You’re in luck, because my research partner, Crystal Hubbard, and I are working on a list of sure-fire steps you can take to ensure a successful Kickstarter campaign. Stay tuned! (aka just keep your RSS feed reader linked to Smash Cut Culture).

 

Lights, Camera, Liberty: A Series

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be posting videos submitted by participants in The Atlas Network’s “Lights, Camera, Liberty” program. Each member organization has been asked to share a short (in some cases, short-ish) video that they produced and best shows off their mission-in-action, as well as their filmmaking chops.

This week’s video comes from FIRE, a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia.

 

 

Here’s FIRE discussing their video submission:

The mission of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

When Chris Morbitzer and his University of Cincinnati (UC) chapter of Young Americans for Liberty sought permission to gather signatures across UC’s campus for a time-sensitive, statewide ballot initiative, their request was denied. Morbitzer was told that if he and his group were seen gathering signatures outside of the school’s tiny and restrictive “free speech zone,” campus security would be called and they could be arrested.

“I think it is absurd that they were threatening to put me in jail for exercising what is a constitutional right,” says Morbitzer in FIRE’s latest video.

Dismayed that he might not be able to gather many signatures if he was confined to a free speech zone that comprised just 0.1% of campus, Morbitzer took a bold step: He sued his university.

“Me suing the university felt a lot like David versus Goliath,” says Morbitzer, “like, I stood no chance at all because, you know, I’m just a little student.”

On far too many campuses nationwide, universities unreasonably restrict students’ expressive activities to limited areas—so-called “free speech zones.” When challenged in the court of law and the court of public opinion, these zones routinely lose.

In this video, we chronicle Morbitzer and his student group’s fight against their school’s attempts to limit their speech. In the process, we examine the problem of restrictive free speech zone policies on and off campus—policies that exile would-be speakers to far off corners of their campuses or, in some cases, place protesters behind barbed-wire fences.

Puppycide: A New Documentary

 

Puppycide
Puppycide

Ozymandias Media has announced a new documentary that confronts a heartbreaking issue. Puppycide is a documentary currently under production that discusses a controversial piece of legislation that allows police officers to open fire on any canine they view as a potential threat. The law has led to countless cases of innocent and beloved pets being unjustifiably murdered.

The evidence is shocking, and the documentary is designed to inspire citizens to fight for legislative support. Some states have already developed legislation that requires officers to receive additional training in how to handle dogs deemed vicious or dangerous, but far too many still allow “puppycide” to run rampant.

A week ago, Inside Edition published a video investigating the issue. Reportedly, it is estimated that a dog is shot by law enforcement every 98 minutes. The statistic is appalling, and should cause each of us to question the validity of this law.

Below is the Puppycide trailer. We should warn you that it contains some graphic and shocking images. But it certainly makes us aware of just how cruel and common the act of puppycide really is.

Be sure to watch the entire documentary when it is released by Ozymandias Media.

NETFLIX: When the little guy becomes The Man

It all started with a White Elephant Christmas gift exchange in 2002. Or maybe 2003. It’s really immaterial to the story because either way, Netflix was still new(ish) and novel and no one that I knew was using it, which is always a sure sign of a fledgling endeavor because I’m the opposite of an “early adopter.” (I got a smartphone right around the time your great grandmother did–which reminds me: have you heard of this new thing called quinoa?) So when my mom Godfather’d her way to a nondescript package in the middle of a pile of unmarked gifts, and discovered a check for a three month trial subscription to a service that would mail her VHSes that looked like CDs, my first thought was, “They deliver movies in the mail? In a red envelope? Oh, man–the future is adorable!”

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Even better was the absence of late fees, which was probably the main selling point for my parents, who had to take out a second mortgage in 1995 to cover fines accrued when a Blockbuster copy of “Ernest Goes to Camp” went missing.

Anyway, I’ll skip over the years of household strife that emerged as an organic development when a family of 6 has to agree on anything, let alone entertainment choices.

(Strikes years 2002-2006 from the record.)

In February of 2007, Netflix announced its 1 billionth DVD delivery. “YES WE CAN!” I shouted to no one in particular, and now kick myself for not trademarking. It seemed like the adorable little engine was going to get over the hill after all. The company’s early successes were had when no one–especially Hollywood–was watching. Studios, normally suspicious of anything they can’t control, practically gave away licensing contracts to the plucky up-start. As a result, Netflix capitalized on the low cost of doing business, allowing it to slowly but surely morph into one of the most powerful entertainment outposts since Philo Farnsworth slapped together a couple of two by fours, threw an antenna on top and called it good.

Since its billionth delivery, Netflix has gone on to partner with some of the best creative voices in film and television, racking up Emmy nominations like it’s 1974 and they’re CBS. Now, in the midst of a new world order that includes Net Neutrality, Netflix is getting even savvier. Last week it was announced that the company mostly known for its online services will be partnering with regional cable companies, whereby essentially acting like a new broadcast channel. This move allows Netflix to spread its risks–and potential for rewards–across more platforms, while other companies like Comcast scramble to figure out ways to keep up.

In just a few short years, the company that got its start renting us movies through the mail has become one of the most dominant forces in the entertainment industry. But empires don’t come cheap, and on the heels of their cable announcement, the media giant also announced that starting in June, subscription rates are set to rise.

It looks like it’s time to call an emergency gift exchange. Let’s hope the check is a little bigger this time.

Internships are great–but who can afford to take one?

Never work for free.”

This is (maybe) decent advice, which, in my own personal experience, has been most proffered by writers. Particularly successful writers. Writers who can demand not just a living wage for their work, but an enviable one. But most writers–or other creatives–looking to break into Hollywood are typically not in the position to demand any sort of monetary reward, decent or otherwise. (Unless you rent out your own sound equipment + time. Those guys are the unsung geniuses of Hollywood.)

Every year, a new crop of largely untested, unproven talent moves to Los Angeles with the hopes of making an impact on the industry. And every year, many–if not most–of them, hop from one lowly or unpaid gig from the other, telling themselves that what they’re getting in experience or exposure or connections more than makes up for their mounting credit card debt or unpaid student loans. It’s an incredibly burdensome gamble–one with merits, to be sure–made by those least in a position to do so. So why do they make it in the first place?

Hope. Dreams. Desire. For source material for a future tell-all ebook…. But also…

Because the establishment (which, for the purposes of this post includes agency mailroom workers and studio execs) tells them that this is how things work, and if you’re not willing to take that risk, there are 100 other people waiting to take your job–and they have the support of big media, too.

This is by no means a new attitude. Hollywood, like Washington, D.C., has run for years on the free labor of 20-something help. But the help is starting to fight back.

It’s an interesting tug-of-war, and some execs, frightened by recent lawsuits, have already started to adjust internship policies. I recently learned that the studio I once interned for (as part of a paid program) no longer admits people into their program unless they’re receiving college credit or have received funding from a sponsoring source. While I could still intern there, others that I met through the program–among which I count some good friends–would not. They’d be iced out. I, for one, never would have accepted my internship had I not been paid. I simply could not afford to turn down other work, in order to do script coverage and research for free. Regardless of the fact that it was for a great, successful studio.

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Plus, there are always opportunities to get an education in this town, and more and more, that means creating your own content and being your own boss. So I have to wonder how many other people, when faced with the choice to take a gamble on an unpaid position, ultimately miss out on what is still considered a great way to get your foot in the door.

So how do we change a clearly broken system?

Groups like Taliesin Nexus who sponsor internships, are, in my opinion, doing God’s work. They’re providing a third way that doesn’t trap people into making a professional Sophie’s Choice: my dreams, or my groceries? If you’re an executive in any sort of position to partner with programs that sponsor creatives, I urge you to consider the benefits of partnering with up and coming talent. After all, you get what you pay for.

Coachella: Fashion, Parties, and what was that last thing… oh yeah, Music!

It is reported that 90,000 people attended this year’s Coachella Music Festival. That’s a lot of people, all together, in the sun, crowded around, smoking things…  As a huge fan of music I can recognize the appeal; this year’s lineup included Outkast, Arcade Fire, Lorde, Queens of the Stone Age, Pharrell Williams, and one of my personal favorites,

Coachella Fashion
Coachella Fashion

Fat Boy Slim, amongst countless others.  But now it seems that the festival is about far more than the music. Girls search for their flower headbands and bikini tops to make sure they look sufficiently “free-spirited”, others search for undisclosed paraphernalia, and most seem more concerned with the stigma that now surrounds Coachella than the actual music.

If you’re looking for a great experience without all the fakiness, check out the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  To be sure, the “music festival” atmosphere is not totally eradicated, but the occasional sweaty, middle-aged guy in a tee-shirt that is there to catch one of his favorite jazz combos will be a sight for sore eyes.  They’re music festivals, after all.

Could an app be the future of publishing? A conversation with Connu Co-Founder

A new short-story publishing app is changing the way an entire industry does business

As of last count, I have 36 of apps on my Smartphone. Outside of Twitter, Yelp, and Uber, Connu is one of the most valuable. It’s been a particular life-saver during recent cross-country trips, and the audio version serves as a nice companion when I’m out for a walk.

Connu, an iOS and Android app, publishes (Monday through Friday) short stories written by up-and-coming writers who are recommended to the editors by already established writers.

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Oh. And it pays them.

In a publishing landscape dominated by websites routinely asking writers–historically not well-known as being a financially stable lot—for free content, it is rare to have an outlet that doesn’t buy into the myth that “exposure” is an even trade for one’s work. (Probably the most recent, brazen example of this is Entertainment Weekly.)

But this is certainly not a 21st century problem. Years ago, Ernest Hemingway counseled friends who were about to launch a new literary journal thusly:

One of the most important things I believe is to get the very best work that people are doing so you do not make the mistake the Double Dealer and such magazine made of printing 2nd rate stuff by 1st rate writers. I see by your prospectus that you are paying for [manuscripts] on acceptance and think that is the absolute secret of getting the first rate stuff. It is not a question of competing with the big money advertizing magazines but of giving the artist a definite return for his work. 

First off, the Double Dealer sounds horrible. Good riddance. But secondly, it seems unfortunate that Hemingway’s advice, given almost a hundred years ago when publishing magnates still roamed the earth, is still relevant. Enter Connu—a new, digitally relevant source full of procured, purchased material. If that sounds more like a publishing company than an app, well…that’s because it is.

I recently spoke with Susannah Luthi, co-founder of Connu, who was kind enough to indulge me in a conversation about her experience as a classics major, journalist, and MFA-graduate-cum-techie who decided to schlep herself and her copies of The Aeneid to the San Francisco Bay Area in order to develop Connu. To date, Connu has received recommendations from writers such as Sam Lipsyte, Joyce Carol Oates, Aimee Bender, David Sedaris, Janet Fitch, Wells Tower, and Lauren Groff.

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Cronies Uber All of Us

A few weeks ago I traveled to DC.  I looked into renting a car but the prices that week were higher than usual for some reason.  So I decided to take a chance and for the first time (for me, anyway), use those ride-sharing services like  Uber or Lyft I’d been hearing so much about.  (I even used Wingz on the way to the airport.)

628x471Turned out I made the right choice.  Got to where I needed to throughout my visit, for less total cost than a rental or the same number of cab rides, and didn’t have to worry about parking.  Bonus:  I felt tantalizingly hip, in a Silicon Valley-nerd way.  (Which is a step or two below Hollywood-hip, but two steps above DC hip.)

Well, you can imagine how rental companies and, especially, cab drivers (who pay thousands for the right to drive in a given city) feel about these new services.  They’re busily doing their crony-capitalist best to limit, outlaw or garrote them through government regulation.  You can imagine which side cities, which earn millions every year from selling cab-driver privileges, come down on.

Enter Nate Chaffetz, a distinguished alumnus of Taliesin Nexus’s Filmmakers Workshop, who produced this short video on just such a political tussle in Seattle, where the city council is being arm-twisted by the cab industry into limiting the number of UberX drivers who can be on the road at the same time.

Watch as council members employ pretzel logic to explain why the cap they imposed on the number of Uber drivers is actually a good thing for Seattle consumers.