Seeing Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback MountainI consider myself a serious moviegoer and when a movie gets a lot of critical attention I want to see it. So all the hype about Brokeback Mountain had me thinking I should see it, except I couldn’t. I am pretty open-minded about people and their sexuality, but I still get kind of queasy at the notion of watching two guys make out. Gay cowboys scared me more than Hostel and Saw II combined. The movie came out at the local theater here this weekend and the only other new film was Big Mama’s House 2. So the gay cowboys won out. I even convinced a few friends to go with me.

The controversy surrounding the film has given it a sort of stigma. If I didn’t like the film, would that make me a bigot? Sure enough I caught myself groaning at certain points in the movie when the two characters get back together for their trips. There it is, I hate gay people. I realized later that’s not true. What really bothered me was that they were lying to their wives and themselves. I feel the same way when watching any other movie about a destructive relationship.

Still my feelings about the film are mixed. Some of the more intimate moments between the characters had me a bit antsy. That’s probably not fair though, because I don’t have a problem when a film shows gratuitous amounts of female flesh. I think a fairer criticism of the film would be it seemed to meander for too long. This is a good story, but it is slowed down with a lot of empty subplots that seemed unnecessary. The cinematography and music were beautiful though. The actors also did a fine job, especially Heath Ledger’s with his performance as the quiet and lonely Ennis Del Mar.

The movie does a nice job of breaking down a lot of the stereotypes people apply to homosexuals, proving you do not have to be effeminate to be gay. I will admit that there were moments when I could really feel for these guys. That’s because the feelings of regret and unrequited love are pretty universal. After all, the concept of lovers separated by physical space or social norms is not really all that groundbreaking.

Seeing Brokeback Mountain was an interesting experience and I am happy I saw the movie. It broadened my horizons a bit and proved that I am mature enough to handle guys kissing on screen. If you are interested in the movie, I recommend checking it out. If you don’t want to see the movie though, that doesn’t make you any worse a person than someone who doesn’t want to see Pride & Prejudice. You probably shouldn’t be critiquing the movie though.

Update: Just for kicks, here’s Larry David’s column on why he won’t see the movie and the straight dude’s guide.

Update #2: I read the original short story that inspired the movie and I liked that better. It’s more consise and to the point.

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Civilizing the Wild Internet

It’s nice when I can just repurpose school stuff into a blog post. Tonight I had to find an article on cyberstalking for class, so I located one from a couple weeks ago about how it is technically illegal to annoy someone online. Basically the law suggests that someone can be charged with a crime for anonymously publishing something with the intent to annoy. Many people are concerned about the laws implications and how it could threaten our first amendment rights.

The notion of being arrested for being annoying seems ridiculous upon first glance and it seems unlikely that anyone would actually pursue a case like this. Anonymity on the Internet has led to some very interesting discussion that could not come out any other way. Speaking publicly on the Internet can also become annoying. I don’t try to hide my identity on this site and as a result a tribute to my dad is being shared with dozens of football fans. This is an example of how public blogging led to mild public embarrassment. Now, imagine if I wrote something damaging about my dad or the football program elsewhere on the site – I would be in a ton of trouble.

Still, one could see some upsides to a law like this. I imagine John Seigenthaler could use this law to press criminal charges against the man who kept editing his Wikipeida entry. I would argue he would be justified in doing so too. Likewise, restricting Internet anonymity could prevent tragedies like that of Amy Boyer, who was killed by a young man who used Internet tools to anonymously locate her.

This specific law is stupid in a lot of ways and will probably be struck down by the courts in a year or two. The larger issue of regulating the Internet is still largely unanswered, however. While many have talked about space as a new frontier, cyberspace in many ways reflects our conceptions of the “Wild West”. So far we have been able to keep the Internet open and allow a free flow of information. I fear that as more and more people “move” into the world of cyberspace, laws will be created to protect people from this freedom.

Conan’s 24 Pipeline

I have received a lot of traffic last week for a lot of reasons, among them being people’s interest in the Jack Bauer list. As I mentioned before I did not have anything to do with creating this entertaining piece, but I am happy to share it with the world.

I recently found out that the list was a spin-off of a popular Internet site with Chuck Norris Facts.And when WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg recently blogged about that list and the Conan O’Brien Walker clips, a light bulb went off in my head. The clips feature random and funny clips from the TV show Walker, Texas Ranger and while watching 24 tonight I realized that it also has similar clips that could be very funny. So without further ado …

Conan O’Brien’s 24 Pipeline (12.8mb)

This is a semi-original creation, so the video editing is pretty rough. It’s a good laugh though. If someone else can do a better job, feel free to. Also, if Conan wants to take this idea he is welcome to as well. Anyway, I wasted to much on time on this for now. So good night.

Disney + Pixar = Magic?

Apparently the rumors are true: Disney will buy Pixar tomorrow for $7 billion. This is probably a good move for Pixar and definitely a good move for Disney. What surprises me is all the bad buzz this is getting in the blogosphere. Apparently some people believe that the powers that be at Disney will rip Pixar apart and turn its movies into direct-to-video sequels. This is ludicrous.

John Lasseter will take control of all of Disney animation and likely help direct it to new heights. I imagine Pixar will become Disney’s computer animation division and Lasseter will reorganize the existing unit to start producing traditionally animated movies again. There were rumors that Pixar may start a traditional unit themselves, that won’t be necessary now. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Brad Bird (director of The Incredibles and The Iron Giant) takes over the traditional unit. Lasseter can guide both units to success with his focus on original storytelling, something that was lost at Disney for the last few years. If they can maintain both units and produce enough hits, maybe Disney can scale back the direct-to-video business since they have twice as many feature films to put out.

Steve Jobs will become the largest shareholder in Disney after this deal, giving him a lot of leverage in the post-Pixar Disney. If they screw things up, he will likely give them hell. It will also be interesting to see what Jobs does with his role in Disney. He could use his influence to help direct the company through the transition to digital media. I know people worry that Pixar’s culture will die when they join Disney, but I don’t think that will happen. Many people at Pixar once worked for Disney and many Disney people are Pixar fans. I think Pixar is more likely to change the culture at Disney than the other way I around.

I can’t guarantee all that will happen, but I do think the new arrangement will be successful. Now many seem upset that Pixar didn’t go it alone, but I don’t think they realize what they’re talking about. Pixar gained a lot from its existing relationship with Disney, using the companies marketing muscle to sell their great movies. If Pixar was forced to go somewhere else, they would probably end up with Warner Bros. – which would be disaster. Warner Bros. took Bird’s marvelous Iron Giant and turned it into a box office failure. That would have been a dark road for Pixar. Disney has experience selling animated movies (and all the spin-off merchandising that helped make Pixar rich). This is going to be an interesting partnership and I think it will also be a fruitful one.

The Community Blog

There’s a good essay going around the blogosphere about a former journalist who started up a blog about the happenings of her local community. She uses sarcasm and humor while covering “hyperlocal” stories, such as a train delay or a set of lazy lifeguards (I take a bit of offense to that one, because I was once a card-playing lifeguard myself :)). At its worst she calls it “small town newspaper meets the Daily Show”, but at its best they publicly scrutinize the small town happenings that never get covered.

Blogs get a lot of attention these days, usually unwarranted. This is the type of thing that the medium is great for. Jeff Jarvis talked about the flaws of local newspapers today before talking about this essay. The truth is a lot of news, and blog postings (i.e. this one) are regurgitation. There’s a lot of news going on in your own backyard and I would like to see more people recognize this. The web has an opportunity to enhance real-life communities by mirroring them in cyberspace. We see this in play on campus with the Facebook.

This is the type of thing I would love to be doing in my hometown when I am through with school. Last summer we had two totally random shootings that got some press coverage, but I haven’t heard much since. We also had a town commissioner hit a cop, that I would like to hear more about. Until then, though, I guess I’m stuck with reading Philly.com.

iTunes Videos Lead to Higher Ratings

I have been posting a lot about TV today. This is pretty exciting news though. TVWeek reported today that adding The Office to iTunes has led to higher ratings. Now The Office has seen a lot of extra promotion on NBC with its move to Thursday nights, but the iTunes influence appears to be a factor as well. The Office has several episodes in iTunes Most Popular Videos list and apparently makes up 1/3 of all the NBC programs downloaded. ABC is also saying they have seen higher ratings for Lost since the iTunes introduction, after seeing a small drop when they first started.

This really highlights the power of the Internet as a media marketer. Television networks are learning what indie music labels have known for some time: making your content available online will increase demand. And while it helps a big show like Lost, it means even more to a small show like The Office that a lot of people haven’t seen. Being able to download and watch shows at your own convenience is nice. It worked for me: I began downloading The Office this fall and now I am a regular viewer. Even more exciting for broadcasters is that the shows not only get publicity, but they are also making money off the downloads. Too bad Fox has yet to get on board, Arrested Development could have used this time of publicity.

The World According to Jack Bauer

Ok a little more TV stuff. 24 (a.k.a. the Jack Bauer Power Hour) has returned in fine form this weekend. I stumbled upon this funny list called “The World According to Jack Bauer” and had to share some of these.

  • If you wake up in the morning, it’s because Jack Bauer spared your life.
  • Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.
  • If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he’d shoot Nina twice.
  • Jack Bauer was never addicted to heroin. Heroin was addicted to Jack Bauer.
  • Don’t ask what Jack Bauer would do for a Klondike bar…
  • If you get 7 stars on your wanted level on Grand Theft Auto, Jack Bauer comes after you. You don’t want to get 7 stars.
  • 1.6 billion Chinese are angry with Jack Bauer. Sounds like a fair fight.
  • Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.
  • Jack Bauer does not sleep. The only rest he needs is what he gets when he’s knocked out or temporarily killed.
  • Jack Bauer’s family threw him a surprise birthday party when he was a child. Once.
  • David Spade always says ‘yes’ to Jack Bauer when he wants to redeem his credit card miles.
  • If Jack Bauer had been on Oceanic 815 there would no Lost.
  • Jack Bauer can sneeze with his eyes open.
  • Killing Jack Bauer doesn’t make him dead. It just makes him angry.
  • Jack Bauer shouldn’t be compared to Jesus. Jack rose from the dead not once, but twice.
  • When life gave Jack Bauer lemons, he used them to kill terrorists. Jack Bauer fucking hates lemonade.

You can see the original list in its here, thanks to Michael Sean.

Update: Here’s another 24 spoof I made featuring Conan.