Entries tagged with “Movies”.

It really doesn’t take long does it? A news story of any magnitude comes along and, within mere hours, some idiot journalist decides it would be a great idea to attempt to relate it to their particular paycheck. Take this migraine-inducing offering that appeared in the Hollywood Reporter yesterday:

Eerie Links Between ‘Harry Potter,’ Osama Bin Laden; Why Movie May Benefit

You know, when I read something like that, I just want to smack the perpetrator with a dead halibut. WHAT. THE. FUCK. Smack. Smack smack smack smack.

OK. Eerie links it is, then. We’ve dealt with them before, so we are not intimidated. Let’s see how Mr Gregg Kilday, our hamfisted excuse for a newshound, manages the contortionist feat of tying Harry Potter to the execution of Osama bin Laden.

While the first volume in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book series was originally published in England in 1997, the first movie, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” was released in November 2001, just months after 9/11.

Er… so what are you saying here, Sherlock? That J.K. Rowling was clairvoyant and foresaw 9/11 in a book written more than four years before the film came out? Because I’ll tell you something about the movie industry: the last four months of a movie the size of Harry Potter, and you don’t have your picture in pretty good shape, you’re in fucking trouble. And I’m going out on a limb here and saying that Warner Brothers probably had their release date figured out a teensy bit before then, you clown. You write for the Hollywood Reporter – you must know that huge films like this have established release dates years in advance. What can the confluence of the 9/11 attacks and the release of ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ possibly have to do with one another? It is nothing more than a coincidence. ((Unless Mr Kilday is suggesting that J.K. Rowling and al Qaeda are in kahoots. Well, I guess that’s at least as plausible as anything else he’s written in this article.)) Actually, it’s not even a coincidence. A coincidence implies some kind of connection and there isn’t one.

Voldemort is introduced as something of a formless boogie-man — not unlike the mysterious Osama — but then, over the course of the series, takes on more and more of a physical presence until in the last volume he and Harry go head-to-head in a final, cataclysmic battle.

Oh God. Give me the halibut again. Right, so just like Voldemort takes on a greater physical appearance as time goes by, Osama.. let’s see now… disappears from the view of the world and turns into an insubstantial wisp of rumour and guesswork. Yeah, that’s a really well thought out analogy. And that final cataclysmic battle with Harry is… what… bin Laden being shot in the head by Obama? Or by a Navy SEAL? Oh wait – maybe the SEAL is Harry? Was there a Hermione SEAL and a Ron Weasley SEAL? Did they have owls? Are you a FUCKING MORON?

Of course, what Gregg Kilday is really saying is that there’s some kind of supernatural element to all this – that the first film was released just after 9/11 and then that the last film is released just after bin Laden is killed and that means something. Never mind that the books don’t follow any kind of temporal logic in that respect, nor that it makes absolutely no sense in as many ways as you’d like to find; Obama represents Harry? Why doesn’t George Bush represent Harry? He was in charge when the planes flew into the WTC. Oh, maybe there are two Harrys? It’s dual personality thing! Smack smack smack smack.

For a generation of kids who grew up reading Rowling’s books and watching Hollywood’s big-screen adaptations in the shadows of 9/11, there have been inevitable echoes of the real world in Harry’s sometimes reluctant quest to defeat Voldemort.

You don’t have kids, do you Mr Kilday? This is what happens when kids go to watch Harry Potter: they see wizards and whomping willows and wands and werewolves. They see butterbeer and Every Flavour Beans and pumpkin juice. They see people flying and turning invisible and riding on broomsticks. They do not think about, care about, or even spare the most fleeting thought for, Osama bin Laden, George Bush, Pakistan, Barack Obama, international politics, Navy SEALs, the CIA, Wikileaks, conspiracy theories, or the Hollywood Reporter. This is what is referred to by people in the business as the magic of the cinema. It is only failed academics looking for attention, and sad geeks with nothing better to do, who draw stupid connections between escapist fantasy and the real world. Kids are not that dumb.

And as for Harry’s ‘sometimes reluctant quest to defeat Voldemort’, well there you go with the vacant analogies again. As far as I can tell there has never been any ‘reluctance’ on the part of the US in attempting to defeat Osama bin Laden. It seems to me (and most of the rest of the world) that the US has been pursuing him with relentless and almost psychopathological determination.

Back in 2004, a poster on mugglenet.com made some of it explicit, comparing the Death Eaters to Al Queda and noting of that “just as Voldemort was shaped by his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, Osama was shaped by his personal struggle between Western pleasures and Islamic discipline.”

That ‘someone’ was you, wasn’t it Mr Kilday? C’mon, you can tell us. We won’t laugh at you for hanging around in Harry Potter chatrooms. Just in case you can’t see the utter crapness of the comparison from that muggle contributor (who – if it wasn’t you – is undoubtedly a failed academic looking for attention or a sad geek with nothing better to do), let me reword it for you:

“just as Voldemort was shaped by his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment, Adolf Hitler was shaped by his mother’s death and his father’s abandonment.” ((Hitler’s father actually died too, when the boy was young, but that’s abandonment, near enough, right? He was also violent and authoritarian.))

See, THAT is an analogy. It’s where you effortlessly draw comparisons between two things that have some meaningful commonness. It’s not where you take one thing, and then hammer another thing to within an inch of its life in an attempt to make it seem like it relates to the first thing in some vague manner. But I guess there’s no real point in drawing an analogy between Hitler and Voldemort because no-one is currently releasing a film about Hitler, and anyway, he died nearly 80 years ago on April 30, 1945 (just hold that date in your mind for a bit). ((And, just in case anyone is tempted, no, I’m not intending to draw comparisons between World War 2 and Harry Potter. I was just making a random example for a point of illustration. You could probably do the same with any despot you cared to name.))

And just as Harry is known in the books as “the anointed one,” a number of President Obama’s critics like Rush Limbaugh have frequently dismissed the president by disparagingly referring to him as “the anointed one” as well ((It was actually conservative radio commentator Sean Hannity who first used this term in reference to Obama, anyway.))

Oh, right. Wow! That is eerie! And crikey, there was an ‘anointed one’ in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right? And Jesus – wasn’t He called ‘the anointed one’ too! So, what you’re saying is that Obama, right, is like Jesus and Harry Potter and the kid from Buffy. But hey – wasn’t the anointed one in Buffy evil? So Obama is, like, conflicted like Harry, the saviour of humankind like Jesus and an evil little bloodsucking monster who can only be killed by sunlight, all rolled up in one!

Sorry – I didn’t quite catch that. Did you just say I was pulling arbitrary connections out of my ass? C’mon! Who’d do that?

Meanwhile, in the wake of Bin Laden’s death in a mansion near Islamabad, a meme has already popped up on the web, noting the weird coincidence that Osama and Voldemort both died on the same day, May 1. But true Potter fans have been quick to point out that’s not quite true: When Harry and Voldemort actually finally come face-to-face in the Battle of Hogwarts, in the books’ chronology the date is really May 2, 1998

Wowzer! Now THAT’s eeeeeerrrriiiieeeeeeeeee! So, Osama was killed ON THE SAME DAY as Voldemort! Well, OK, not the same day – a day apart and thirteen years later. Yessirree, can’t get much closer than that! You know what would be REALLY creepy though? If Adolf Hitler was killed on May 1 or a day on either side! ((And, I might point out, J.K. Rowling would have actually known that.))

But Bin Laden’s death is now likely to give the movie an extra emotional resonance for the Potter generation, and that could translate into an even bigger box office bonanza.

Oh yes, I can imagine that the execs at Warner’s were just wetting themselves when they heard bin Laden was dead. The thought of the cleverness of their allegory playing out must have been uppermost in their minds. In fact, I’m going to propose something really radical: Warner Brothers themselves arranged the killing of Osama bin Laden! Think about it – it’s the end of their lucrative Harry Potter franchise, they needed to do something to wring out those extra dollars! What could be more obvious?! I bet they even sent in their very best team for the job…

What a truly terrifying last moment it must have been for Osama, with Daffy holding him down, Bugs taking aim with his SIG 9mm and Porky gloating…

‘Th-th-th-th-th-that’s all folks..’

What I’ve been working on for the last six or seven months. You should go see it. It’s fun.

Y’know, as much as I’m critical of the woo-mongers mixing it up with what they perceive to be ‘science’, I’m afraid that sometimes it’s the scientists themselves that need a good fresh mackerel to the side of the head.

Take this article Chaos Makes a Scream Sound Real, from ScienceNews.

To be fair, it’s not just the scientists. There’s a combination of factors that contribute to the diffuse, nutty quality of this piece, and it’s one that you find frequently in science journalism: a scientific concept that doesn’t immediately appear to be anything remotely worth reporting to a general audience, and a journalist’s desire (or job requirement) to try and spice it up into something that does.

I’ll try and paraphrase the whole idea for you, since I can’t be entirely sure what this is exactly about from reading either the Science News article or the abstract of the paper at Biology Letters, where it was published under the title Do film soundtracks contain nonlinear analogues to influence emotion? ((And I’m not about to fork out for the full article – people still aren’t getting this stuff. Listen to me Biology Letters editors: religious fundamentalists of all persuasions make their stuff available to all and sundry for nothing. THEY ARE YOUR COMPETITION! Get with the 21st Century already!))

Some scientists studying vertebrate communication observed that:

A variety of vertebrates produce nonlinear vocalizations when they are under duress. By their very nature, vocalizations containing nonlinearities may sound harsh and are somewhat unpredictable; observations that are consistent with them being particularly evocative to those hearing them.

What they’re basically saying is that jarring, loud or sudden sounds have a noticeable impression on an animal hearing them.


They go on to hypothesize that maybe this is the case for humans too, and that filmmakers use that trick in films.


To this end, they analyzed a bunch of films and found that there are more jarring and sudden sounds in horror films, although some appear in action films and a few appear in drama. ((Without even doing an experiment I can tell you that there would be close to none in comedies and romances.))


Then they sum up their hypothesis with:

Together, our results suggest that film-makers manipulate sounds to create nonlinear analogues in order to manipulate our emotional responses.

(Translate that to: ‘Film-makers use different kinds of changing sounds for emotional effect’)

Er… Yup.

Now, I don’t suppose that this was likely to be an experiment that cost oodles of money, but whatever they spent on it was WAY too much, because they could simply have emailed me and I would have told them all that for free.

The Science News reporter makes a futile attempt to spin this up into something more than what I just told you, by stirring in some references to Chaos Theory (wtf?) and getting a quote about ‘crying babies’ from a cognitive biologist who was not even involved in the study (‘Screams are basically chaos!‘). She then tags the piece with an entirely irrelevant factoid about how Hitchcock’s The Birds contains sounds that were electronically generated ((I’m not even sure I understand what the point of including it is – that electronic sounds are more jarring/chaotic/annoying than natural sounds? Again, wtf? It’s not true, and it’s immaterial in this context anyway!)) and signs off with the following knowledgeable-sounding quip:

…capturing a realistic, blood-curdling cry is so difficult that filmmakers have used the very same one, now found on many websites, in more than 200 movies. Known as the Wilhelm scream it is named for the character who first unleashed it in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River.

Well, someone has been pwned here and I’m not sure who. Either the reporter hasn’t done her homework, or she thinks that no-one will notice this risible flub. The Wilhelm scream is used in a lot of movies, not because of its terrifying blood-curdling quality, but because it’s so utterly lame that it has become a game among sound editors to see if they can sneak it in skillfully enough to let the director keep it in the final sound mix.

What’s more, it’s even extremely well known for that reason as even a very cursory search will reveal. Here’s a (VERY old) YouTube compilation of appearances of the Wilhelm scream.

You’ll have noticed that many of the above clips are from the George Lucas/Steven Spielberg stable, and that’s because sound design guru Ben Burtt is responsible for ‘resurrecting’ the Wilhelm scream in Star Wars and the fun challenge of trying to get it into mixes arose among sound editors who worked with Burtt (and with some of whom I’ve worked myself, so I know of what I speak).

I’m all for the concept of popularizing science, but this kind of writing doesn’t really help anyone. It’s painting a hazy and inaccurate picture for a lay audience, can easily be demonstrated to be factually sloppy and, worst of all in my book, because of the two preceding transgressions, casts a sickly glow over the effectiveness of all other science reporting. Science can’t, and shouldn’t be, reported in the same way as entertainment. Science is interesting for what it is, and if you’re a science reporter and can’t find an appropriately absorbing way of working with the actual facts at hand for a story, you should leave it alone and go on to something else. ((Another disappointing consequence of this phenomenon is that the bad story gets picked up, often completely uncritically, by other popular science outlets. In this case I note that it appears in Wired Science who should totally know better.))

You may remember that a little ways back I told you about a film called Shriek of the Mutilated, which, aside from having one of the best movie titles ever, is a work of cinema so terrible that it’s a must see. My friend Sean points out that io9 has a short clip up at the moment which allows you to get a taste of the full awfulness of this creation.

As well as some truly frightful yeti action, the snippet features some awesome ‘girl-in-lingerie-terror’ acting. Truly, girls, you need to watch this. Among other things you will learn that if you are trapped in a bathroom by an insane over-sized teddybear-with-fangs, you should flap ineffectually at the window with your hands and pull your hair across your face a lot.

Apparently SOTM is now available on DVD. This is something that the world has needed for many decades.


*You have to see the film.


I’m sure that you are all aware of the current movie phenomenon of ‘reboots’ – they’re everywhere these days, what with the reinvented Batman, the new Star Trek, the latest Sherlock Holmes and so on. In case this trend has passed you by, basically what happens is that a movie studio takes something that has run out of sequel potential and ‘reboots’ it by making the concept ‘hipper’, by editing it in a snappy fashion, and by casting it with some flavour-of-the-month actors.

When I recently read that they’re rebooting the Spiderman franchise I realised that the time is fast approaching where the reboots are going to come so quick on the heels of the original flick that studios will be in danger of rebooting films that haven’t even been made. This of course means that there is a grave and frightening chance of movies achieving originality – a situation that is plainly not acceptable.

In order that we may head off this alarming possibility, I have decided to launch the concept of the cross-boot. It works like this: you find two previously successful movies and mash them into a hybrid that will in fact appeal to even more people than either of the sources. For instance, Driving Miss Daisy, a film that was a hit with the ma & pa generation could be merged with a science-fiction action piece like, oh, Robocop say, to produce a film that simply can’t fail to bring the whole family together:

One of the problems that studios perennially face is the dreaded ‘couples’ dilemma. When he wants to watch an action movie and she is up for a chick flick, unhappiness inevitably follows for one ((Or both – the loser takes up the right to sulk for the entire duration of the film)) of the parties. But with the cross-boot, no more disputes! If we take the lead character from Alien³ and force her to make a choice about which of her alien spawn she should keep, we obviously get:

In this mutation of two much-loved motion pictures, Ripley’s dilemma is transformed, via thrilling action drama, into a tear-jerker of unparalleled poignancy. Who could possibly be disappointed?!

But the icing on the cake for the cross-boot should surely be smashing a humungous Pixar/Disney animation hit into a killer ((Literally)) vintage horror flick: a cute robot tries to fit in but is mercilessly mocked by his ‘friends’. In a bone-chilling fit of uncontrolled rage he wreaks his bloody vengeance…

The most discerning among you will have figured out by now that, aside from saving the motion picture industry from certain ignominy, all this amounts to the possibility of a Cow Competition… so, get to it! A wondrous TCA coffee mug goes to the winner. Plus, of course the fantabulous glory of saying you were funnier than me.

[The Rules: a pithy and amusing synopsis, plus title, plus cleverly Photoshopped poster mashup. Those of you without mad PShop skillz may enter, but your synopsis will have to be ultra funny to have a chance at the prize]

Good morning Acowlytes. As you no doubt know, 3D movies are all the rage at the moment, but have you ever wondered what the ‘D’ in 3D stands for? I bet you thought it was ‘Dimension’ didn’t you? But I’m here to tell you you are wrong – it stands for ‘Devil’. Yes, that’s right Cowpokes – 3D IS THE WORK OF SATAN!

Well, that’s the idea you get if you listen to the fucking stupid idiot media anyway, who will try and spin a panic story out of just about anything these days. Witness this piece of inane drivel from AFP which has been regurgitated by every undiscerning newspaper from here to Bullamakanka. ((Including the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age where I saw it – that’s right, I’m naming names)) The basic gist of it is that a Taiwanese man who went to see Avatar, died during the screening. ((Out of the tens of millions of people who’ve presumably seen it so far, one death seems to me to be on the low side)) The man, who had a known medical history of high blood pressure, was treated by an emergency room doctor who opined “It’s likely that the over-excitement from watching the movie triggered his symptoms.”

Oh whatever. I’m sure it was a tragic event for the guy’s family and all, but it’s hardly news. And the writer of the article knows it, so they tagged it with this frivolous and completely trivial factoid:

Film blogging sites ((‘Blogging Sites’ have become the modern equivalent of the old ‘Our sources’ – in other words, ‘We pulled some garbage that we want you to believe is ‘factual’ out of our asses and we’re giving them a diffuse, unspecified, unreliable provenance’)) have reported complaints of headaches, dizziness, nausea and blurry eyesight from viewers of Avatar and other movies rich in 3D imagery.

What are we supposed to infer from the conflation of these two globs of unrelated news-tainment other than that, if left unchecked, this newfangled 3D phenomenon is going to run amok and kill us all in our sleep with its boggly ‘comin’-at-ya’ tricks? Oooooo-eeeee-ooooo ((That’s a theremin playing…)) …. Maybe 3D is all, you know – dangerous and stuff…! Jesus H. Christ. No wonder the news media is losing credibility. If Mr Rupert Murdoch is hell bent on charging for online news, he’d better go hire some actual journalists to write his stories, otherwise I’m sticking with the mysterious ‘blogging sites’.


PS – The Tetherd Cow Ahead ‘ShooWooWoo’ button and keyring, both available in the TCA Shoppe, are guaranteed to protect you against trauma or death resulting from the viewing of 3D movies. ((Guarantee does not extend to effects caused by the subject matter of said movies))