Thank you, Ray. You moved me.
How will you be passing the time as Hurricane Sandy– aka "the Frankenstorm"– passes your way?
We'll be watching 1930s and 1940s movies unless and until the power goes out. Our goal is to make it through at least one flick by each of the actors who have possessed and now torment actor Scott Ratner's mind:
('Like' the vid if you like the vid!) Good thing he became obsessed with talkies instead of silents. But I hear he also does a mean Buster Keaton and a passable Harold Lloyd.
If you're on a deadline, and you need to produce written content, the internet makes it ridiculously fast and easy to rip other writers off.
But people who live by the sword also die by it. Once someone suspects plagiarism, the internet makes it easy to search for other people who used your words first. It also makes it easy to spot-check your other work to see if any of it appears lifted from prior sources without attribution. Finally, once plagiarism is detected, the internet — full, as it is, of both successful and frustrated writers — makes word of the misconduct spread like wildfire.
This week's example: the Movie Junkies.
John Scalzi — who hates plagiarism the way you hate Hitler and the way I hate reality TV — writes the Alpha post, noting that MaryAnn Johanson's review of a film — appropriately enough, "Shame" — was plagiarized at MovieJunkies. As Scalzi notes in an update, MovieJunkies has now edited that review, leaving an incoherent mess that still has elements of the plagiarized work. A screenshot is here, and the sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and other errors are in the original:
A powerful plunge into the mania of sex addiction. The feelings of isolation and all-consuming need so piercingly in “Shame”. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a New Yorker who shuns intimacy with women but feeds his desires with a compulsive addiction to sex. His troubled sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment stirring memories of their shared painful past and Brandon’s insular life spirals out of control. Sissy is her brother’s polar opposite, and she proceeds to invade his carefully cultivated privacy.
Shame offers something different than I have ever seen on screen in a main stream movie. For the first a main stream audience can see a man with extreme vulnerability. Fassbender is exceptional is expressing is misery and utter weakness in the fight against his obsession and addiction. Most movies that are available to the mass audiences protect the male image and ego. Even male nudity is treated much more tabu than female nudity.
The only issue I had with the direction was that some shots were held for too long where I got a little bored numerous times throughout the movie.
Movie Junkie Rating: GOOD BUZZ Note: GREAT HIGH for Fassbender’s performance!
Now comes the part where other writers — and their fans — start looking for other instances of plagiarism. Scalzi's commenters are off to a good start and have found some strong candidates for plagiarism. Mike McGranaghan of Aisleseat indicates he has screencaps of six reviews plagiarized from him, and is tracking down plagiarism of other writers. Things are swiftly becoming very grim for MovieJunkies. The plagiarism is looking serial and pervasive rather than isolated.
Using the comment form on the MovieJunkies web site, I asked for a comment, indicating that I write about various forms of internet misbehavior and wondered if they had a comment about allegations they had plagiarized multiple articles. Here's the response I got — which I feel comfortable sharing because I made it clear I was writing to get a comment for a blog post:
I cannot apologize enough.
It seems some of my views that I passed onto to one of my staff to post on the site have used other sources that should not have been included. I should have looked more carefully and we do so in the future. I apologize for this error. We have removed the requests that have been sent to us.
Please let me know if you see anything else and I will gladly remove it immediately.
Thank you very much.
I find this incoherent and unconvincing. To the extent one can parse the main sentence, it's very difficult to believe. Is she saying that she voiced views that happened to incorporate the exact language of other writers' work, and her staff wrote it verbatim? Or that she referred to other writers' work, and they copied it verbatim? It's impenetrable, particularly for someone who supposedly writes professionally. Moreover, it's not believable. The hasty and incompetent editing of challenged posts — which as of now lack any apology or acknowledgement — suggests a guilty conscience, not an innocent error. The number of posts at issue, discussed above, also makes any innocent excuse hard to accept.
The people who run Movie Junkies are poised on a knife's edge. If they handle this situation correctly, with a convincing display to the extent that critics are mistaken, or (more likely) with abject apologies and acceptances of responsibility, the site might survive, even after this goes viral. If they take a dishonest, self-righteous, or evasive approach, they are done: curb-stomped by the internet they used as a source for stolen text. Just ask Judith Griggs
(If memory serves I learned of Griggs from Scalzi, too. Don't plagiarize around Scalzi. Just . . don't.)
Edited to add: another plagiarism victim.
Edited to add: Mike McGranaghan tells his story, and notes that the Movie Junkies site and Facebook page are down.
Could that be the predecessor to Weyland-Yutani, the evil corporation to end all evil corporations?
Either way, it's Ridley Scott with a heaping dose of gothic horror and science fiction. Until Guillermo Del Toro gets to make "At The Mountains Of Madness", this will do nicely.
It won't surprise long-time readers to learn that I approve of Justice Scalia's majority opinion in Brown v. Entertainment Merchant's Association, which struck down California's ban on the sale of violent videogames to minors. The opinion is more or less mandated by United States v. Stevens, another case we cheered.
So I won't dwell (other than to applaud it briefly) on the majority's holding that minors do have First Amendment rights, nor on the cynicism of California's attempt to end-run the First Amendment by claiming that all speech may be regulated in the name of protecting children.
I want to dwell on the concurring opinion of Justice Samuel Alito, which shows the danger posed by statutes such as California's Violent Videogame Act, and of judges who believe their opinions as art critics ought to be the law of the land. This passage:
It is certainly true, as the Court notes, that “ ‘[l]iterature, when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader’s own.’ ” Ante, at 11 (quoting American Amusement Machine Assn. v. Kendrick, 244 F. 3d 572, 577 (CA7 2001)). But only an extraordinarily imaginative reader who reads a description of a killing in a literary work will experience that event as vividly as he might if he played the role of the killer in a video game. To take an example, think of a person who reads thepassage in Crime and Punishment in which Raskolni- kov kills the old pawn broker with an axe. See F. Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment 78 (Modern Library ed. 1950). Compare that reader with a video-game player who creates an avatar that bears his own image; who sees a realistic image of the victim and the scene of the killing in high definition and in three dimensions; who is forced to decide whether or not to kill the victim and decides to do so; who then pretends to grasp an axe, to raise it above the head of the victim, and then to bring it down; who hearsthe thud of the axe hitting her head and her cry of pain;who sees her split skull and feels the sensation of blood onhis face and hands. For most people, the two experiences will not be the same.
illustrates the problem perfectly.
For those who haven't read it, spoilers follow:
I have no plans, and no particular desire, to go see "Atlas Shrugged."
I do have plans, however, to read and enjoy the mean-spirited reviews of the movie, the flood of gratuitous, impertinent, and semi-literate swipes at any ideology to the right of Dennis Kucinich, and the mouth-frothing rage of the defensive Randians and Objectivists. No movie can match that.
The movie appears appalling as an expression of filmmaker's art. As for the underlying work — well, I have many small-l libertarian views, but I find Ayn Rand tiresome. Political allegory can be gripping — consider Animal Farm or 1984. No one would say that George Orwell is subtle, but he doesn't have Snowball give a eighty-page speech, because he's not pathologically self-indulgent and self-satisfied. Rand lacks the elements that I require in an entertaining political writer: tolerance of nuance, capacity for self-criticism, and a sense of humor about it all. The folks who are loudest about how awesome she is also seem humorless, in a very humorous way. (Remember how angry the Objectivists got at John Scalizi for a funny throw-away paragraph?)
Dogmatism is dreary.
You unlock this door with the key of imagination: A graphic history of fantasy and science fiction, from the unknown poet behind Beowulf to Vernor Vinge and beyond.
I can't do this justice by describing it, and I won't steal it for reproduction here. Just click the link.
I can't speak for any of the other authors (remember Brian, our resident Obamican? I don't either), but for myself I've been going through rather grueling work, combined with a worse-than-usual case of seasonal affective disorder, combined with a mid-life crisis, combined with a family medical situation that demands personal attention. Although Popehat is a very fulfilling entertainment, my involvement here is a Thing Of Mood.
It'll get better.
Anyway, I did want to share three things, in no particular order:
John Scalzi's Old Man's War is coming to the silver screen. An entirely derivative tribute to the genius 1970s novel The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (which was itself a perverse love letter to Robert A. Heinlein), Old Man's War was still perhaps the most entertaining science fiction novel of the past decade. Wolfgang Petersen, who directed Das Boot before going on to mediocre American movies, is at the helm. Here's hoping Petersen has one great work left in him, because this story will make a dynamite movie in the right hands.
I've been playing a lot of Vindictus in my free time. Emphasis on "free". Most free-to-play games illustrate the engineer's dictate "Fast, cheap, right: Pick any two." They're either bug-filled nightmares, disguised spyware, or tedious grindfests. You can play Vindictus in twenty minute sessions. It's a mildly persistent world with fully persistent characters. It combines depth of play with an action-packed interactive combat system. It's fun as all get out, and it doesn't leave any unsightly residue on your hard drive.
But my Vindictus time may stall tomorrow, now that I'm getting my life back, and Rift is making its debut. I've messed with the beta for Rift since December, and the game has grown on me. Even in beta I found it more entertaining than World of Warcraft, and I think it has the depth to last me until Guild Wars 2 releases, sometime in the next century.
I'll have a full review of Rift, when I'm in the mood.
Lots of state and local governments offer you tax credits if you film within their borders. Though cynics say that this is just a way for government to favor its friends, some people claim it makes good economic sense. Film productions bring money to town, and employ hotels, caterers, sexually transmitted disease clinics, bail bondsmen, aromatherapists, gerbil veterinarians, and thus and such.
Some states and localities have elaborate requirements to qualify for the tax credit. That's not what distinguishes Texas. What distinguishes Texas, apparently, is that to get a movie tax credit, you have to ensure that your movie doesn't hurt their feelings. And apparently Machete did.
The Texas Film Commission has denied incentives for "Machete," the controversial immigration-related feature film from Robert Rodriguez's Austin-based Troublemaker Studios.
In a brief, formal letter dated Dec. 1 and released Wednesday by Katherine Cesinger , a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Film Commission cited part of a state code that says requests for film incentives can be denied "because of inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion."
Big Shiny Robot speculates about what got the Texans' panties in a wad:
s for the offensive part of it, I’m sure you could argue that there are portions people may find offensive. But the offense here seems to be more political rather than content-based. I didn’t hear conservative critics harrumphing about the abundance of boobies, using intestines to rappel out a hospital window, cutting numerous limbs off, or the general pervasive sex and violence of the film.
But because there was a political undercurrent- one which discussed issues surrounding illegal immigration, made a mockery of bigoted politicians and vigalantes, and proudly declared (from the top of a taco truck) “We didn’t cross the border- the border crossed us!!” I can see how that would be threatening to the small minds which inhabit many areas of our state government.
Someone with more energy than I have today ought to do a First Amendment analysis of Texas' rather arbitrary content-based system for granting or denying tax credits.
Now, I understand the inherent goodness of being careful of the feelings and sensibilities of the delicate. I have seven- and four-year-old daughters! But I have to ask this: what "portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion" in a more pronounced way: a silly action movie, or a state government that denies tax credits to movies that fail adequately to congratulate the state and its inhabitants for how awesome they are?
Stay strong down there, Lone Star.
If you didn't see "Inception" in theaters, it's available on DVD and Blu-Ray on December 7.
I didn't write about it while it was big, but "Inception" is the best mainstream movie I've seen in years. A wonderfully satisfying thriller with a mild science / speculative fiction tinge, an intentionally Hitchockian aesthetic, and as much appeal for women as for men (a rarity in techno-thrillers).
And it's as good as Hitchcock at his best. It's as good as "Vertigo," which is to say that it's a nearly perfect film that will be as great fifty years from now as it is today. If you have a special someone, this is the stocking stuffer to get.
Just be careful going through the checkout line. Some of the customers are pretty nasty.
Not parenthetically, at the rate George Romero is achieving mainstream saturation, he's on his way to a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars. Which will be given one day after he dies. As a fan of Romero before it was cool to be a fan of Romero, I like to see him getting his cultural due, but I'd prefer that he got loads of money, or at least had Martin recognized as the weird work of genius that it is.
Hat tip: David.
As Halloween is upon us, I thought I'd share this wisdom, which has kept me alive in a world teeming with serial killers, aliens that aren't interested in bringing peace to mankind, backwoods cannibals, and corpses that hunger for the flesh of the living:
Keep these lessons in mind, and you might live to be as old as I am.
Update: LabRat's list is better than mine: "Avoid cornfields and apple orchards at all costs."
It seems that the latest musician bio pic might be going a little too far. I don't want to know this much about my hero. It will just make me sad.
This weekend I saw two new movies. They were about as divergent as you can get. Big bloated action movie vs. quirky, snarky video game movie. Aging mega stars vs. indy kids. Jokes about therapy & cauliflower ear vs. jokes about Vegans and gay promiscuity. Sadly, it's clear that the bloated and forgetable The Expendables was the victor over the imaginative and resonant (at least with me) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Scott Pilgrim has a very easy story – he has to beat her 7 evil exes to get with his dream girl. It really doesn't get much more streamlined than that. Each ex is like a boss fight in a game (including one that comes back in a tougher form when you beat them the first time..) and the fights are all cleverly done. Not everyone is straight fisticuffs. One is a very cool battle of the bands, another a Bollywood musical.
The look of the film is amazing. Both the art direction and the effects. It's saying something that Michael Cera looks like he could kick ass in this film.
The film made me think of Amelie or Pan's Labyrinth. A small indie movie with modern graphics and effects. The movie is beautiful, often times looking like the graphic novel come to life. It is also a treasure trove of pop culture and video game references. It is a movie of it's time. In one strange choice, a short section of the movie is literally a Seinfeld reference (complete with trademark music and camera angles) that will be super confusing to viewers in about 20 years.
In contrast, The Expendables is cookie cutter film-making. The screenplay has every beat you would expect from an 80s action movie (except the black sidekick dying, shockingly) and just about nothing surprising (except for Stallone's face. Yikes!) It really fell flat with me, especially when compared to the energy and attitude of Scott Pilgrim.
Sadly, it also made $25 million more than Scott Pilgrim. In fact, people are already writing "what went wrong" pieces about Scott Pilgrim. That's too bad. In my opinion, the biggest issue was our expectations. If the film were treated like an indy, it's modest $10.5 million would be seen as a success. It shouldn't be compared to The Expendables (although that is inevitable) but to something like Kick Ass (which, alas, also tanked).
I know that if you went back in time and showed both films to a kid in the 80s, he would immediately connect with Expendables and be really confused by Scott Pilgrim. Same with someone 20 years from now probably. But I also know that they would immediately recognize the wacky inventiveness of Scott Pilgrim, and the energy and love that reside in the film. The Expendables just can't match that.
On a strange side note, the best acting in either film was (shockingly) from The Expendables, where Mickey Rourke once again proved himself an amazing actor. The few minutes he is on screen are magic, and he brings an inner life and pain to his character that makes you wish he were around longer. Especially compared to the other clowns in the film who think acting is making faces as they punch someone.
I was reading this entertaining Cracked article about six fictional corporations from movies that displayed both evil and incompetence, and noted that Cracked saw the same thing I did years ago: Weyland-Yutani Corp. must have some seriously patient stockholders if they keep losing expensive ships, androids, colonies, dropships, and Tom Skerritts just to capture an alien with acid blood, a mildly amusing birth process, and questionable dentition.
Cracked points out that Weyland-Yutani — which, based on the graphics from the original Alien, is a futuristic spinoff of Purina — has been throwing away resources for two hundred years. That's a lot. Ford's only been trying to make a decent car for a hundred. So why are they doing this? Cracked doesn't know.
But that's because Cracked is politically apathetic. To those of a political bent, it ought be immediately apparent what Weyland-Yutani is doing.
They're running a tax shelter.
The pursuit of aliens is simply an elaborate way to guarantee massive writeoffs to reduce W-Y's tax liability. It's perfect — they get rid of obsolete assets (Ian Holm was so last year's model. The Nostromo? A futuristic Buick.) and irritating personnel, and get to write them off at full (or even inflated) value. "Yeah, revenue was through the roof. But we only wound up paying twenty bucks this year, thanks to all those people getting eaten."
There's something oddly comforting about this. Whatever other terrifying and unknowable things the future holds, we can rest assured that shitty tax policy will continue. Thanks, space-Congress!