Saturday, 28 February 2015

General: Google Censorship

A few days ago I made a very harsh post against the company Google, comparing its new policies on adult material in blogs to the censorship in Nazi Germany. Now, less than a week later, Google has listened to the feedback from its customers and decided not to implement the new changes. This is proof that Google is an open-minded, tolerant company that accepts the rights of sexual minority groups. It is also proof that my criticism of Google was wrong.

I publicly apologise to Google for what I wrote in my recent post.

I have already removed the post, so if anyone hasn't read it they never will. Suffice it to say, my criticisms were ill-founded.

This is a screenshot of the email sent to bloggers on February 23rd, 2015.

This is a acreenshot of Google's new policy update on February 27th, 2015.

Thank you, Google, for continuing to offer your services to bloggers like myself free of charge.

Friday, 27 February 2015

The Green Mile (5 Stars)

Sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.

This is a slow, meandering film. The action scenes are few and far between. And yet it's perfect as it is. If things moved faster the film would lose its effect.

I've seen the film a few times, and its three hours never seem like wasted time. The first time I saw it was when I was in hospital in 2000. One of the nurses had it on video and brought it into the hospital. I think she showed it twice within a week. I loved the film from the first time I saw it. I would have bought it when I got home, but I was lucky enough to be able to record it on videotape when it was shown on television. I taped a lot of films from 2001 till 2003. After I got my first DVD player in 2003 I began to lose interest in videotapes. After all, DVD quality was far better. I watched DVD's and videotapes in parallel until 2007, but I was slowly buying all my favourite films on DVD, and after moving house in 2008 I didn't bother connecting my VCR. Until last week I had six boxes of videotapes in my bedroom, but now I've finally thrown them away. Gone forever.

I bought my first Blu-ray player in 2010. I now only buy Blu-ray discs, if I have the choice, but there are still films that are only available on DVD. I've re-bought a few of my favourite films that I already had on DVD, but in general it's not worth it. The quality increase from DVD to Blu-ray isn't as drastic as from videotape to DVD.

I've hardly written anything about the film itself in this post. So what? Isn't my five star rating enough to tell you what I think about it?

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Bridesmaids over the Edge (3½ Stars)

It's the day before Nicole's wedding, so she has invited her bridesmaids Jassi and Christine to her home for a private hen party. Except they call it a bachelorette party in America. Why do Americans always have to change the English language? It's not enough that they can't spell right, they have to invent new words.

An agency stripper, Brooke, has also been invited to the party, but she soon settles in as if she's known the girls forever. The girls have fun playing Truth or Dare together, which ends up with a lot of stroking and kissing.

Spoiler Alert: Nicole enjoys playing with the girls so much that she decides to postpone her wedding. Can you blame her?

P. S. This short film is included on a two-film DVD with "Candy Stripers over the Edge".

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Project Almanac (4 Stars)

Who's Doctor Who?

This is a film about a group of teenagers in their last year at school. David Raskin discovers notes left by his father who died when he was seven, along with a prototype for a time machine. An old videotape shows 17-year-old David present at his seventh birthday party, which proves that he will successfully complete the time machine. Or already has completed the time machine. Temporal paradoxes are hard to get my head around.

Encouraged by the videotape David works to perfect the prototype, together with his sister and three friends. They travel into the past repeatedly, changing things for their own gain. For instance, one of them wins the lottery while the others make changes to get revenge on school bullies or make themselves more popular at school. Unfortunately, they haven't reckoned with time ripples, the so-called Butterfly Effect. When a plane crashes as an indirect result of a small change that he's made, David travels into the past to put things right, but ends up making things even worse.

The film is in the pseudo-documentary shaky camera style of "The Blair Witch Project". For most of the film David's sister Christina is holding the camera, so we don't see her. On some occasions the camera is put down, so we see her as well.

I love the story, and I might even have given the film five stars if it hadn't been for the shaky camera effect being so annoying. Especially in the first half of the film it was shaking too much. Later on there were explosions, and the camera image was broken up and pixellated to fake the electro-magnetic effects. This got on my nerves.

The Mummy (1933 version) (4 Stars)

The film is listed in IMDB as being made in 1932, but the splash screen says "Copyright MCMXXXIII". So who's right? I'm not sure. Maybe the plan was to release it in 1933, but Universal Studios was impatient and brought it into the cinemas at the end of 1932.

As was the case with all the early American horror films, the director and producer were German Jews. The German influence on the pre-WW2 American film industry is immeasurable. While some notable people, such as Carl Laemmle, one of the founders of Universal Studios, emigrated to America in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the biggest influx of German Jews into the American film industry was in the 1930's, when Jews were no longer allowed to work in German films. Even today the top places in the American film industry are held by Jews.

In the film the mummy Imhotep (Boris Karloff) is unwittingly brought back to life when a scholar working at an excavation site reads an old scroll aloud. Why oh why do people in films always feel the urge to read ancient scrolls out loud? Can't they keep their mouths shut while they read? No good ever comes of reciting incantations. Imhotep then plans to bring his long lost lover, Ankh-es-en-amon, back from the dead. But then he unexpectedly meets Helen Grosvenor, the daughter of the Governor of Sudan, who looks identical to Ankh-es-en-amon.

At this time Universal Studios was promoting the actor William Pratt as an almost mystical figure. As a stage actor he had changed his name to Boris Karloff, but Universal Studios shortened his name to Karloff. The film poster above even refers to him as "Karloff the Uncanny".

When a new film called "The Mummy" was made in 1999 it was described as a remake, and people began giving their opinions on which version was better. I wonder if the film critics even took the trouble to watch both films. It's silly to call the new version a remake, because the story in the new film has almost nothing to do with the old film. It's the same mummy, Imhotep, and he's also brought back to life, but that's where the similarity ends. There is no need to compare the two films as if they were on an equal footing.

I like both films. My main problem with the 1933 film is that it seems too short. That was a product of the age. In pre-war days 73 minutes was a typical length for a film. After all, it was still common for cinemas to show two films together, so neither film could be too long.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Pusher (2 Stars)

Sometimes a film just doesn't live up to its reputation. I'd heard about this film for years, but I never got around to watching it until today. "The Best Danish gangster film ever", or so I heard.

Technically, it's not a gangster film. It's a film about a drug dealer in Copenhagen. He gets into debt with his supplier when he's forced to dispose of a large amount of heroin while being chased by the police. He's given two days to pay back the whole sum, about $40,000. The film is 20 years old, so it's probably worth about $100,000 in today's money.

The film was moderately entertaining, and I might have given it a better rating, but the film's ending annoyed me so much. Or rather the non-ending. It ended on a cliff-hanger, leading up to a final showdown that we never see. I hate films like that.

The film was remade in England in 2012, set in London instead of Copenhagen. That's unusual. Foreign films are usually remade in America. Maybe the English version is better.

There are better Danish gangster films. I recommend "In China they eat dogs" and "Old men in new cars", both of which star Kim Bodnia, the lead actor in "Pusher".

Candy Stripers over the Edge (2½ Stars)

Do you know what a candy striper is? Probably not, unless you live in America. It's a volunteer nurse who works in a hospital without being paid. Since she's usually untrained she only does basic jobs like making beds and bringing the patients their food. They're called candy stripers because when the volunteer system was first introduced the volunteer nurses wore red and white striped uniforms to distinguish them from regular nurses. Today they wear the same uniforms as regular nurses, but the name has stuck. Sometimes medical students work part time as candy stripers to get a taste of hospitals, so it isn't purely a matter of exploiting people as unpaid labour.

Now to the film, a short film made by Fred Olen Ray in 2007. Monique is sitting at home bored because her boyfriend is away. She remembers that her best friend Hannah, a candy striper, has her day off, so she invites her round. Together they read erotic literature, which turns them on, so they begin to play with one another in bed. In my opinion it's rather tasteless literature, relying on vulgar words rather than erotic imagery, so I was glad when they stopped reading it and got on to the other stuff. Hannah phones her colleagues Courtney and Ava, also candy stripers, to come and join them. Together they all roll around in bed talking about men while playing with one another.

This isn't one of Fred's better films. The girls aren't as attractive as his usual actresses. They have too much metal on their bodies. Maybe other men like things like that, but it's not for me. As I often say, "A girl should never have any metal in places that I like to kiss, lick or suck".

There are two short films on the DVD. I hope the other film is better. Wait for my review in the next few days.

Monday, 23 February 2015

General: Academy Awards 2015 Fashion

Here are a few photos taken at last night's Academy Awards. Most, though not all of the men dressed conservatively. The women dressed up to get themselves noticed. While some women, in particular Lady Gaga, deliberately made themselves look ugly, others tried to look good but failed.

J. K. Simmons was the best dressed man of the evening. He has class with a capital K.

Lady Gaga tried her hardest to look ugly and almost succeeded. She showed up wrapped in a dish cloth and wearing her washing up gloves.

Jennifer Lopez was one of the few top actresses who actually managed to look good.

There was only one thing wrong with Emma Stone's outfit. She would have looked better without underwear.

Chloe Grace Moretz looked beautiful and elegant, as always. Some fashion sites have criticised her for wearing a dress with pockets, but it's a good idea. It gives a woman somewhere to hide her hands when she's feeling nervous. It also means she doesn't need to carry a handbag.

Neil Patrick Harris is an actor with nothing to hide. Almost nothing, that is.

After the show Neil Patrick Harris was seen asking J. K. Simmons for fashion tips. He was told he needed a hat.

Unbelievable! 61 years old, and Oprah Winfrey was one of the best looking women in the room.

At the other end of the scale, "supermodel" Karolina Kurkova wins my vote for the worst dressed woman, outdoing even Lady Gaga. The tragic thing is that Lady Gaga wanted to look ugly, whereas Karolina probably thought she looked good. Someone should send her back to fashion school.

The awesome twins, Tegan and Sara, were nominated for an Oscar for the Best Original Song.

It was kind of the Film Academy to invite Kelly Osbourne, to show that they're not biased against people with zero talent. She should have asked the Tegan twins for fashion advice though. At least they know how to make black look good.

Look who they allowed on stage. It's Mr. Terrence They-Don't-Pay-Me-Enough Howard. It looks like he was telling people how much he wants for his next film.

Someone told Jared Leto the rook was leaking, so he came prepared.

Shia LaBeouf was turned away at the door because the security guards didn't recognise him. Or maybe it really was an imposter? We'll never know.

Unfortunately, Kim Jong Un wasn't invited to the Academy Awards this year. He requested a ticket, but he was told that they wouldn't invite him unless he got a better haircut. He attempted a new style last month, but it still wasn't good enough.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

50 Shades of Grey (3 Stars)

I'm fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia.

I can't remember when a film has sparked so much controversy. Everyone was talking about it from when the filming first started. That's not because the book on which it's based was so successful, selling more than 60 million copies worldwide. It's not the first time a successful book has been filmed. The controversy stems from the subject matter. It's a book about sex, moreover it's a book about kinky sex, leading to expectations that it would be a pornographic film. That's the sort of film respectable people don't watch in public. They watch it secretly at home on the Internet and never talk about what they've seen.

I'll get it out of the way first that the end result, the film I saw in the cinema today, isn't pornography. It has erotic scenes in it which probably go further than what most cinema-goers would sit and watch with their friends, but it's far from pornographic. It will probably disappoint many people who are used to harder stuff in their private hours at home.

It's difficult for me to steer completely away from spoilers in this review. I apologise for this in advance. Luckily the plot is so empty that I don't have to describe much. Anastasia Steele is a college student majoring in English Literature. She visits Christian Grey, the billionaire head of a telecommunications company in Seattle, to interview him for her student newspaper. After the meeting a disjointed relationship begins between the two. They're both fascinated with one another, but they have different expectations from the relationship. She falls in love with him and wants a romance, whereas he wants to control her, both sexually and emotionally.

Let's make it clear that it doesn't matter what I write, or what any film critic will write. This film is a smash hit. The following table, taken from the web site Box Office Mojo on February 22nd, shows that it's the best earning film of 2015 so far, outperforming the second place film by 43%. By the time you read this post it might be further ahead. Click on the table for an update.

This is a difficult review for me to write. Am I going to judge the production quality of the film or the content of what is shown? It's difficult for me to keep the two apart. I'll try to get the first category out of the way first, because I have more to say about the second. Many critics have said that the dialogue is poorly written and the acting is poor. I disagree. Both the dialogue and its delivery are appropriate to the characters being portrayed. Christian Grey is a billionaire, so he has a stilted way of carrying himself, very different to the way normal people talk. We see the same thing when Anthony Hopkins plays the billionaire Charles Morse in "The Edge". If this had been Hopkins' only film we might have questioned his acting ability, but as it is his performance is exactly what is needed for the role. On the other hand, Anastasia is a star-struck young girl, swept off her feet by a man who is out of her league in every possible way, and Dakota Johnson adequately portrays this. As for the plot, not much happens, but I'm assuming that in this respect the film follows the book.

Now to the film's content. It's a fairy tale that borrows a lot from the story of Cinderella. A poor young girl meets a handsome young prince. She leaves the palace, but he searches for her. I've read reviews where people claim that Christian Grey was acting like a stalker when he walked into Anastasia's place of work. This is ridiculous. Was the prince a stalker when he searched the kingdom to find the girl who had lost her slipper? Not at all. If he had had the Internet he could have found her a lot faster. What makes a man a stalker isn't pursuing a woman, it's continuing to pursue her when she says she isn't interested. Anastasia was still sending Christian positive signals in this part of the film.

In fact, for the first half of the film Christian was a sympathetic character to me. He protected Anastasia from a drunken assault by her friend Jose. He didn't take advantage of her when she was drunk. He emphasised that she was free to leave at any time. If only he had stayed like this for the rest of the film.

I don't see the non-disclosure agreement that he asks Anastasia to sign at the beginning of the relationship as a sign of control. On the contrary, it's good sense for a rich man in our kiss-and-tell age. So many women have a relationship or a one-night stand with a celebrity, then sell their story to the newspapers afterwards. It's what people like to hear, "how the other half lives". There has to be some level of privacy in a relationship, and there's a strong temptation for a person to break that privacy if the press offers thousands of dollars.

The other contract, the BDSM contract that's never actually signed, is a different matter. Judging by the brief quotes it sounds like a version of the same contract that I signed with a Mistress 20 years ago. The book's author, E. L. James, can't be accused of not doing her homework on the BDSM community. The problem in the film isn't the contract itself, it's Christian's attitude to it. Due to Anastasia's hesitation and the differences in her expectations she doesn't sign it, but Christian doesn't care. In the absence of a mutual agreement he single-handedly enforces the terms that he considers favourable to himself. "Fuck the contract!", he says when she appeals to its terms. This contract is intended as a document to protect a submissive from things he/she might not want from a dominant, so acting against it crosses the line from domination to abuse.

This is in character with other developments that we see in Christian in the second half of the film. He started as a likeable character, but once we see his darker side I felt like punching him in the face. He breaks into Anastasia's private apartment to wait for her and give her a present. This is totally unacceptable behaviour. There is no excuse for it. This is nothing to do with BDSM. It's the arrogance of a rich man who thinks he can do whatever he wants with the poor people below him, and he expects them to be thankful for it. In the same way he steals her car and sells it, giving her a brand new car in return. That should have been the final straw for Anastasia, but the star-struck little Cinderella welcomes him taking away her rags to give her riches. She doesn't realise her mistake until the end of the film when she asks for her rags back, and she's told it's too late.

Early on in the film Christian tells Anastasia that the terms of their relationship are negotiable. That's admirable. But when she comes with her wishes, for instance that she wants to be allowed to touch Christian without being asked to, his answer is a clear No. For Christian negotiation means that she tells him what she wants and he refuses. He is unmoveable. Any offers to compromise are just lies intended to draw Anastasia in.

Christian Grey is obviously an emotional cripple. He's the son of a crack addict and was adopted into a rich family when he was four. I'm not saying this to excuse him. Other men with a background like this would be hungry for romantic attachment in later life to make up for their early lack of love, but Christian rejects romance and only wants control. "I don't make love, I fuck hard". He's an ugly person. Anastasia is much too good for him. Christian mentions that he spent six years as the submissive of an older woman, from the ages of 15 to 21, but he seems to have learnt nothing from this time.

As much as I dislike Christian Grey, I find the film's portrayal of him as a person realistic. It's what I would expect a rich dominant man to be like. For most of my life I have skirted the edges of the BDSM community, but despite being in relationships with a few women I have refused to let myself be drawn in. I've never met any billionaires, or even millionaires, but I've known a lot of dominant men, and what I've seen has shocked me. The line between domination and abuse is very thin, and men are ill-equipped to stay on the right side. A man might begin a relationship promising to respect all of his submissive's boundaries, but when he becomes jealous or sexually aroused he can snap and reveal his true nature. I have had women crying in my arms who finally saw what their dominant was capable of. For instance, a friend of mine who married her dominant was ordered by him to kneel in the living room while he was having sex with another submissive girl that he had met online. She obeyed him, despite the unpleasantness of hearing the two together, but when she heard her husband snoring, having forgotten all about her, she finally stood up and left him. This might sound like an extreme example, but it's typical of what dominant men do if they get the chance.

Women, on the other hand, are better equipped to dominate, both genetically and emotionally. They can respect boundaries. They know when to stop, even without hearing a safe word. Apart from this, women are able to separate sex and domination. For a man, domination is foreplay to sex. A man cannot see the point in dominating a woman if sexual intercourse doesn't follow. Women are better able to compartmentalise. A dominant woman might have sex with her submissive, if it's her partner, or she might have a completely non-sexual relationship based on domination alone.

Many people disagree with my opinions on domination, as I know from endless discussions in the past. A big problem with the BDSM scene is that most people have only learnt about it from books. They read about what's right and what's wrong, safe words, consensuality, etc. and then they meet other people who've read the same books, and they're all happy together. When they encounter someone who says something different they say, "You're wrong", or "You don't know enough". It's a very intolerant community. Luckily it's possible to meet people, sometimes in unexpected places, who have the courage to think for themselves.