That’s the Truth! Truth!

If you are not sure where I got the title for this post. Here is the commercial that inspired me.

“Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is.” Sir Winston Churchill. I fondly remember in my documentary film class having the discussion of truth in documentary film. What surprised my counterculture classmates was how the Dr. started this conversation. Our professor was a child of the 1960’s and he discussed how people violently attacked his anti-war friends in college. He had my classmates in awe of all his flower power days and rightly so, those were turbulent times and to be thought of a revolutionary is a romantic notion. Well as the saying goes, “Discretion is a better part of valor,” so I sunk a little lower in my seat preparing for a long course on liberalism. Then after a screening of Michael Moore’s Roger & Me our professor described how Moore rearranged some actual events in his film to fit the narrative that he was striving for. This was not a true documentary and all those sad hipster faces in the crowd felt a little betrayed by our professor and possibly by their own ideology. They had their Matrix moment where they wake up to reality. To this day this I have nothing but respect for this professor.
This backstory will help us discuss the state of documentary film today and as a genre of film, are we getting the truth? When Michael Moore accepts the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine, a film that did not meet the requirements to be considered by the Academy Awards, truth comes into question. One of the requirements this documentary did not meet was the specific number of actual theaters it was screened in. For the 75th Academy Awards I believe it was rule 12 for documentary film. This film should have never been considered for nomination, yet it wins the Oscar. Then in typical fashion with all of Mr. Moore’s films, once people who are in his films see the final product they tend to find a lawyer and file charges for libel. And with a little bit of cinematic fairy dust, Moore’s films easily change from being under the respected description of “documentary” to your basic “fictional” genre in order to save face and charges. Yet, when you read reviews about these films it is nothing but unbridled praise as being the greatest documentary work without anyone asking is what I am seeing true? To quote Thomas Jefferson, “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” Our responsibility as the audience is to question what we are seeing.
Being a history buff I love watching The History Channel and they would have great shows such as Conquest where they would discuss and perform different military conquests throughout history. It had great historical value and small taste of reality thrown in. Today when you turn on The History Channel you get shows called Monster Quest and Swamp People programming that has nothing to do with history or documentary. I’m not saying these other shows are bad. I love Swamp People personally but it does not belong on this network. Even South Park used this as parody for one of their shows.

In the last five years or so, documentary films that try and uphold the pillars of truth do exist. If you don’t mind some profanity and a little nudity Penn & Teller’s Bullsh*t brings some truths to light. They are honest about who they are. Two atheist libertarians who strive to bring truths to social issues of the day. Another film which was inspired by the lack of truth in documentary film is Why Michael Moore Hates America. The filmmaker applied Michael Moore’s ambush style of interviewing to the man himself, Michael Moore.

Unfortunately, documentary films similar to Michael Moore Hates America, Indoctrinate U, and EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed, receive very little review or critical praise not because of their lack of truth, but because of the critics’ personal beliefs. Is this the protocol on how documentary films should be judged on?
I remember an independent documentary in college called Human Remains where the creator used stock footage of some of the most horrible dictators in history and used direct quotes as a voiceover for each one of the dictators. It was compelling and true. “Getting it from the horse’s mouth.” Always makes for the best cinema, which brings me to Dinesh D’Souza’s film 2016 the highest grossing political documentary to date. A film that has nothing bad poor reviews by most film critics and disdain throughout Hollywood.

Yet, the facts of this film hold up. Not only by using interviews and actual facts in the right order, but by using President Obama’s words verbatim. Uncut video of the president speaking is impossible to deny. Of course this film will never make it to the Academy Awards even though it will meet all of their requirements and they will not be praised by pop culture or mainstream media, but it will be a keystone holding together the genre of documentary film, Oh and the money too. “And that’s the Truth! Truth!


Victims…. Aren’t We All…

For the last decade and a half I have been noticing a trend in my beloved horror genre.   A trend where the antagonist character isn’t just plain evil, deranged, or some other supernatural phenomena, rather they are driven to their murderous rage.  This type of plot point isn’t bad and can bring complexity to even the basic hack ‘n’ slash film.  The issue is when the audience sees the evolution of the antagonist character into the killer because even for the most deplorable characters, the audience will find sympathy on a subconscious level which takes some of the “horror” and “mystery” out of the film.  A concrete example of this trend was Rob Zombies HALLOWEEN.  This remake of John Carpenter’s classic HALLOWEEN took the fear of a normal person in your average American neighborhood brutally stalking and murdering teenagers that the original film portrayed and replaced it with a child in an extreme abusive household where he developed into the masked killer.  This on screen evolution that Rob Zombie portrayed dilutes the fear element of his film, simply because we as the audience think, “well it’s not his fault.”  The killer is the victim too.  When the audience can find any sort of sympathy for the killer it is no longer horror.  One of the most powerful elements that can be used to invoke fear in an audience is that of the unknown.   In Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN we are never really told why the antagonist is on a murderous rampage, in fact the only thing known about the killer is that he is pure evil.  This storytelling is much more effective with audiences.  Yet, this victimization has become more common in the horror genre.  HOUSE OF WAX remake, SEE NO EVIL, FRIDAY 13Th remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A New Beginning and the list go on.

Now the question I have to pose is why?  Why victimize the antagonist?  One of the reasons why this could be taking place in present day storytelling is the audience.  Film as an art form especially in the horror genre is constantly showing society a reflection of itself.  Maybe we are seeing a reflection of our own society and our love for the victim card.  Every day we are exposed to people doing terrible things to themselves or to others and when they are arrested or dead, we as society treat them as a victim of “insert issue here”. Nobody ever wants to say maybe that person is just evil, or they chose that path and they will reap what they sow.  This moral ambiguity does not
work for the horror genre and is devastating to our society, so the next time you go see a “killer” film.  I hope you see an antagonist that is the darkness, the shadows, and the evil that haunts your dreams and not the bad guy who we all feel sorry for.

The Tea Party Rises

Even though it’s a little late it would be hard to start a film blog without mentioning one of this summer’s biggest films The Dark Knight Rises directed by Christopher Noland.  This film is the third, and hopefully final, installment of the Dark Knight series.  Based on the D.C. Comic anthology, Noland’s final installment does a fairly decent job of breaking the dreaded “rule of sequels”.  In case you do not know what that means let me drop a few titles; JAWS III, LEATHAL WEAPON 3, ALIEN 3, SUPERMAN III, and the list goes on.  That being said Noland paints a city under siege with great scope using beautifully framed shots of epic destruction makes this film perfect for an IMAX experience.  The story has Batman/Bruce Wayne in seclusion due to the events of the previous film and with the Gotham City having almost a decade of peace; political leaders want to replace their “wartime commissioner” commissioner Gordon.   Until a mysterious terrorist named Bane reveals himself to the city and holds them hostage.  Bruce Wayne has to become Gotham’s dark avenger once again even though he is hated for assuming the blame for the death of Harvey Dent.

You may ask so what does this have to do with the Tea Party?  Well first look at the protagonist and antagonist.  You have Bruce Wayne grew up in inherited wealth, which his family has used not only to develop technologies to help America, but mankind as well.  He used his wealth to help a city that was going to ruin, by funding boys homes and hospitals.  His family was never forced to “pay their fair share” they simply tried to help their neighbors.  In reality if you break down the amount of money donated to all charities in the United States you see that conservatives/libertarians donate about 3 to 1 compared to their wealthy liberal counterparts.   Yet with Batman’s wealth at his disposal he takes up arms against injustice, criminal, and corrupt not for glory or power, but for freedom.   This classic story is what America was born from, the rugged individual fighting against the mob, tyranny, oppression, so that individual freedom would prevail.  This ideal is paramount with the Tea Party movement.  Compare this icon with his nemesis Bane.  Bane, an ex-prisoner, enlists the aid of Gotham’s poor and criminal elements to destroy the city from bottom up.   Bane addresses a crowd saying that they are there to give them back freedom and choice by freeing all the convicts out of the city’s jail, as well as sending raiding parties into the homes of the rich in Gotham.  Bane is the epitome of the Bolshevik revolution that took place in Russia over a century ago.  The proletariat destroying the upper class because they feel entitled to other people’s wealth is a common belief held by modern day liberal progressives.  One scene in particular that shows Bane’s lust for class warfare is where wealthy people are forced out to an iced over river and forced to march over it to their deaths.  Compare the occupy Wall Street movement with that of Bane’s mob and you will find many similarities with their hopes of destroying capitalism and free commerce.   The concepts that Bane and Batman embody will help preserve The Dark Knight Rises for future moviegoers.  The only question left is which side do you chose that of the individual, or that of the mob?

Lights! Camera!! Blog!!!

Welcome to the Scarlet Cinema where the silver screen gets placed under the microscope to discover why movies inspire us.  Unfortunately everyone out there is a critic and sometimes even the professionals get it wrong. So instead lets get past the simple “Hated it!” – Men on Film (In Living Color)  and  strive to find meaning in what we love.  My advice for all future readers is there are no wrong answers, just make sure any opinions made provide evidence to back them up, or else “They ‘re all gonna laugh at you!!” – Carrie.    So sit back and watch some movies.  It’s gonna be a bumpy night.

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