Posts Tagged ‘Bully

28
Apr
12

About a Few Boys

Since Rye has no life, he just sits in his cave and watches movies of zero nutritional value. Occasionally, he’ll feel classy due to a bottle of wine that didn’t have a screw-top and he’ll watch something with subtitles. Here’s his keyboard’s regurgitation of what passed before his bespectacled eyes.

It was pretty much a week for the boys at the movies. Maybe it was a indirect response to The Hunger Games. And a direct response to . . . barf . . . Think Like a Man.

Boy is a charming coming of age tale of one New Zealand boy named…Boy (above right). He lives in a rustic country of old houses, wide open grassy fields and the oceans within walking distance, much like the country parts of Hawaii.

Boy’s only real interests in life are Michael Jackson and his father, who is serving jail time. A teacher, who knew Boy’s father in school, tells the youngster that he has “potential.” This is something Boy will spend the rest of the film trying to unlock, an ambition that becomes complicated when Boy’s deadbeat father, Alamein, is finally released from prison.

You are probably not safe around this man.

Alamein (above) is a pot-smoking, spastic, almost bipolar man in a state of arrested development. Suffice to say, he slowly doesn’t live up to Boy’s fantasies and Boy must figure out who (not what) he wants to be when he grows up. (Alamein modeling himself as a shogun after reading James Clavell’s novel should have been a dead giveaway.)

Taking place in 1984, Boy is quirky, funny, heartwarming, and it even gives off a sense of nostalgia, especially for Hawaii viewers—even if one has never been to New Zealand. There’s something similar about the lifestyles. Director Taika Waititi (who also plays Alamein) has created a fine dramedy, complete with a Bollywood-style dance number at the finish, done with a New Zealand touch. (For that matter, stay till the end of the credits for a little surprise.)

This bus is probably not very safe either.

Speaking of boys, think of Bully as the gateway drug to the epidemic of bullying in schools across the nation. Instead of confronting the school administrators, we just simply get one sad story after another. They are all affecting but it feels more like a primer: “Hey, look! Bullying exists in our schools and our children are its victims!” Uh, anybody with a Twitter account figured that out years ago. Frankly, the beef with the MPAA over the foul language probably helped the film more than hindered it because the actual product is one long PSA for the website TheBullyProject.com.

The filmmakers tell heartbreaking stories but don’t really go after school administrators to see what they are planning to do to stop what is a very real problem. When celebrities making videos on YouTube seem to be doing a better job at helping our at-risk youth, something’s seriously fucking wrong. Go check out that website and perhaps that’s where the real work can begin.

Being around these pirates is definitely not safe.

Also for boys, but of an entirely different thing is The Pirates! Band of Misfits, the latest stop motion/CGI animation effort from the folks that brought you Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit. If you’re fans, you’re gonna love Pirates. If not, the humor might be too bloody British. There’s a totally adorable dodo bird in it, Hugh Grant is the voice of the Pirate Captain and…well…that’s that.

In all honesty, it does go a bit long though and in the end, feels a bit slight. But kids will certainly love it and parents will get off on the Charles Darwin bashing. Come to think of it, as minor as it feels, this film was more entertaining than the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies combined.

This man is your best bet for safety.

For the tougher boys out there, someone who probably wouldn’t get bullied often is a burly guy named Snow in Lockout. He’s played by Guy Pierce and his brand-new biceps. (Watch L.A. Confidential again. Where did Pierce get those giant arms? He must’ve spent a lot of time at the gym since Memento.) Anyway, Pierce plays the one guy able to rescue the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) from a futuristic super max jail in space. And this is the point in my column where I will now refer to Lockout as Space Jail! because I find it much more appropriate and amusing. (Yes, my version of the title comes complete with exclamation point. I’m a whore for punctuation.)

Space Jail! is a fine enough film. Guy Pearce is the main reason to see it. He’s somehow funny even though the script doesn’t really give him a single witty thing to say. It’s all in his droll, deadpan delivery. Grace, formerly of Lost and Taken, does a fine job of once again being took. It’s a fun enough movie and I remember enjoying it, but I kinda forgot what happened already. It’s disposable like that. Like an orange creamsicle you ate. You remember really liking it but the details escape you soon after.

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Boy is currently playing at Consolidated Theatres Kahala 8 & Pearlridge 16.
Bully is currently playing at Consolidated Theatres Kahala 8.
The Pirates! Band of Fisfits are playing at theaters all across Oahu.
Lockout is playing at theaters across Oahu. 

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18
Apr
12

Movie Ratings, the MPAA, and Bully(ing)

This blog post has been rated R for strong language.

Playing just once at last year’s Hawaii International Film Festival; Bully-a documentary that focuses on the problem faced by 13 million kids a year, is starting its theatrical run on Oahu this weekend. Documentary films don’t usually make it on too many moviegoers’ radars, but this one is notable for a few reasons. First, it deals with subject matter that’s quite relevant to anyone that works with or has children–bullying. The second reason, and perhaps the most publicized one, is the controversy surrounding the film’s initial “R” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America.

So a bit of backstory . . . in order for most films to be played in theaters nationwide, films must first be submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to rate a film’s thematic and content suitability for certain audiences. Though submission for rating is voluntary, most theaters refuse to play films that are “unrated.”

As I mentioned earlier, Bully was initially given an R rating–due to the F-word being used too many times in the film. The film’s distributor Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company (TWC) and director Lee Hirsch appealed the MPAA’s decision of the R rating on the basis that the theme of the film is important for families with children to see, especially in light suicides that have been attributed to bullying in the past few years.

Long story short, TWC and the MPAA went to battle over the movie rating with celebrities, lawmakers, theater companies, and the public at large all having their say in the matter. When the dust finally settled earlier this month, both sides came to a compromiseBully would get a PG-13 rating, but did have to edit out or mute the use of the F-word in certain scenes. The PG-13 rating will allow anyone under the age of 17 to see the film without an adult present.

MPAA poster explaining film ratings.

With all of the controversy surrounding the film’s R rating it made me stop and think about just how important movie ratings are to me and the average moviegoer.

Does the spirit of a movie trump its content? Does the message a movie tries to convey make it more than the sum of its parts? Does the use of swearing, violence, sex, or things that some find offensive get in the way of communicating that message? In the case of Bully and its MPAA rating, I think the answer is no. A film like Bully shouldn’t be given an R just because it uses the F-word a certain amount of times. Now I’m not saying that the MPAA shouldn’t be any less strict or lenient when it comes to rating movies. However, what I think we do need is a better way for rating films that fits with today’s culture. Something that will take into account the theme of a film such as Bully.

Before we can change the system, we need to look at some of the problems that face it:

Clearer Context for Movie Ratings–Sure we all hear or see what the rating for a film is at the end of a commercial, but often times we don’t know why a film was given that particular rating. We don’t need a lengthy explanation about it, but we should have clear cut explanations that say why it did get that rating. What is it about this film that determined this? Having a rating without context for why it was given can give people the wrong message about a movie.

Sex vs Violence, Unevenly Weighted–Though no official criteria on how exactly films are rated is available, many filmmakers and film critics have noted that films that feature sex or even use profanity in a sexual connotation tend to receive a harsher rating than films that feature heavy violence.

To illustrate this point, the way the F-word is used in this sentence: “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.” (Die Hard, 1998)

Does not equal the usage in this sentence:
 “Don’t ever stop fucking me!” (Jerry Maguire, 1996)

The first instance is used in an explicative manner where as the second usage is used in a sexual manner. Is one really harsher than the other? Perhaps the best to way todrive this point home is with a line from the critically acclaimed movie South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut when one of the characters in the film says, “Remember what the MPAA says; Horrific, Deplorable violence is okay, as long as people don’t say any naughty words!”

Rating Basis on Profanity Word Count–It’s become common knowledge that PG-13 films can only have one instance of the F-word in it. Anything more than that will most likely jeopardize a film’s PG-13 rating. What is the difference between using the F-word one time and two times? Between using it two times and three times? Between three times and four times? Giving a film a higher rating due to excessive amount of profanity use makes sense, but how can you have a rule about a specific number of times profanity is used in determining a rating? At the point that you reach your limit will having one more profanity really make a film that much more harsher? If I had to say, probably not.

So how can we fix this? What could we do better? Mark Harris from Entertainment Weekly has some pretty good ideas in his article “5 Ways to Fix Movie Ratings” that answers some of these questions. His solutions are:

  1. Focus on content advisories, not ratings
  2. Abolish the supervisory role for theaters
  3. End R ratings for the use of one word
  4. Depoliticize the ratings
  5. Reform the board itself

Definitely check out the article to find out why each of the points listed above are valid.

When it comes right down to it, why do movie ratings matter? In the strictest sense movie ratings matter because they determine who can and cannot see certain films. It also matters because it advises moviegoers on whether or not films are appropriate for certain audiences. Most of all, movie ratings are important because sometimes the decision to see a movie, and maybe even the success of a movie, depends on its rating.

A film like Bully illustrates the importance of a film’s rating and also brings up questions of the system that is currently in place to rate them. I think we can all agree that bullying is a serious issue and because of that I feel that the theme of a documentary about bullying should definitely have some weight in determining who the right audience is for a film like this. Is the system for rating movies that the MPAA currently has in place the best we have? Or should it better reflect the life and times we live in?

The PG-13 rated Bully begins its theatrical run this week Friday at the Consolidated Kahala 8 Theatres.




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