Saturday, 30 November 2013

Film Score Monthly Issues 1990-2005 Available for Free

Film Score Monthly Anyone interested in film scores should check out this archive: 15 years of Film Score Monthly available for download as free PDFs from the Film score Monthly website:
http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/fsmonline/backissues_print.cfm

Friday, 29 November 2013

Film Quarterly 66:4

Film Quarterly Issue 66:4 is out now.


COLUMNS
Made for Quality Television?
Caetlin Benson-Allott


FEATURES
Hitchcock on Truffaut
Sidney Gottlieb

Unsafe Houses: Moonrise Kingdom and Wes Anderson’s Conflicted Comedies of Escape
J. M. Tyree

Cine-Surveillance: 3 Avant-Docs Interviews with Amie Siegel, Sharon Lockhart, Jane Gillooly
Scott MacDonald

Walls of Flesh: The Films of Koji Wakamatsu (1965–1972)
Alberto Toscano and Go Hirasawa

The Fog of Class War: Elio Petri’s The Working Class Goes to Heaven, Four Decades On
Evan Calder Williams

Leading with the Ear: Upstream Color and the Cinema of Respiration
Joseph G. Kickasola

Thursday, 28 November 2013

IWF, Human Rights, and 'Potentially Illegal' Porn

Ken MacDonald's report has suggested that the Internet Watch Foundation should not make legal judgments about what constitutes or does not constitute 'potentially illegal' porn, and should limit its scope to identifying and removing child abuse content. Check out this really interesting article published at https://publicaffairs.linx.net/news/?p=10195



Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Aroused (2013) Passed Uncut


Deborah Anderson's porn documentary Aroused (2013) has been passed uncut by the BBFC. It looks like Metrodome currently have the film slated for a 2014 released in the UK. The film features interviews with porn stars such as Belladonna, Lexi Bell, Lisa Ann and Jesse Jane. Check out the official site here.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

When Anti-Immigration Protests Backfire...

An anti-immigration protest being organised at the University of Texas faced such strong opposition that it was replaced...by a pro-immigration reform protest. That is how to lose an argument.

For the full story:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/20/america-ferrera-rally_n_4312283.html?utm_hp_ref=latino-voices

Monday, 25 November 2013

Who are the Tallest Contemporary Porn Stars?

Who are the Tallest Contemporary Porn Stars? Ava Koxxx and Carlo Minaldi, apparently. So congratultions to both for winning the genetic lottery.

Check out the full list here:

Sunday, 24 November 2013

New Formations 80/81

New Formations logo

The new double issue of New Formations is out  - the theme is neoliberalism, and the issue features articles by Angela McRobbie, Stephen Maddison, Lisa Downing and Paul Gilroy amongst others.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Da Vinci's Instrument Arrives 500 Years Late


Whether one likes the sound or not, it is amazing to hear Da Vinci's design in action. For more on the instrument itself, click here.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Diff'rent Stokes: The Bicycle Man

I filed this under "misc. horror" because it is disturbing in various ways: a) because of the subject matter, b) because so many jokes are made during the episodes (why are people laughing when he gets the porn magazine out?!!), and c) because I must have seen this as a child, but I have no recollection of it. I vividly remember the kidnapping episodes (that's right - multiple episodes about abduction) but this one did not register for me.
Don't get me wrong, in many ways the subject matter is well handled and the intentions are clearly honourable. It is also useful to use likeable characters and mainstream entertainment media to tackle serious issues....
...However, I'm still creeped out and a but dumbstruck by the whole thing.  
As a bonus, see the wonderfully apt sound experiment 'Disturbing Strokes' below. Indeed.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Projections 7:2 (2013)

The new issue of Projections is out. Check out the TOC here:
http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/berghahn/proj/2013/00000007/00000002

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Banning "Rape Porn": Dangerous Pictures Bill Redux

A few years ago I co-authored an article about the Dangerous Pictures Bill: a piece of legislation that is worryingly vague (as most other laws regarding taste boundaries and taboo are). Lack of specificity has its uses if one is seeking to apply the law in a wide variety of contexts; because taboo is a plastic notion, the law can be molded to fit differing visions of "community standards". One power of keeping such legislation fluid is that consumers cannot find loopholes regarding the kinds of images that are il/legal to possess, and so forth.
One such loophole that has received attention in recent months concerns "rape porn". A petition calling for the banning of "rape porn" is indicative of the anxiety I refer to. That petition appears to have inspired David Cameron's announcement that the Dangerous Pictures Bill could be extended to include 'simulated depictions of rape'.
Although I personally have absolutely no desire to watch rape porn, the proposal troubles me because it is already veering towards greater ambiguity rather than increased specificity. So far I have presented the term "rape porn" in quotation marks because it is not entirely clear what constitutes "rape porn" in the punitive discourse that has inspired this proposed change. Will this legislation only apply to genitally explicit material, for example? If so, a genitally explicit depiction of rape such as that found in the fictional crime-thriller Baise Moi would count as rape porn. If only material that presents itself as "rape porn" is deemed illegal, then another potential loophole becomes apparent: changing terminology or dressing-up rape porn with the trappings of another genre could offer some avenue for producers to reach consumers who are scared to engage with what might be perceived as "rape porn". Other problems abound. Since the proposal seeks to encompass fictional simulations, how do we judge a consensual BDSM scenario in which one character is gagged, for instance? In such a scene, even if the performers consent, gagging might imply one character's inability to consent - would such a depiction therefore count as "rape porn"?
My concern is not rooted in a reactionary disavowal of censorship per se. Rather, I wish to question the methods and reasons for censorship. There might be good reason to welcome a revamp of the Bill. For example, this could be an opportunity to offer greater clarity regarding exactly what material is il/legal to possess, rather than leaving consumers in fear that they may or may not be breaking the law (and therefore avoiding any material that might be subjectively construed as problematic). The new proposal sounds like it will dilute the Bill further, creating an even vaguer version of the legislation that encompasses a host of sexual activities under the heading of "simulated consent violation". 
There are very good reasons to address how rape is represented more broadly. The commentary offered by those who publicly commented on their support for the Change.org petition to ban rape porn were characterised by anger and distress. This response is unsurprising and understandable: not only is the idea of rape upsetting, it is also a politically loaded issue. The problem is that nowhere in the comments did I read any significant discussion of the conceptual issue at hand: why exactly are fictional, consensual simulations of rape morally problematic? It is obvious why rape itself is immoral, but simulations are a different case. Conflating fiction and reality is useful if one seeks to support a "media effects" position (as many of the comments did). However, the "effects" model provides shaky ground for such a position, having not been proven with any reasonable certainty. The "effects" model is powerful because it offers an over-simplified answer to a complex issue. The "effects" argument is contingent on an assumption that it is "obvious" why fictional rape porn is problematic - "common-sense" dictates that it should be outlawed. As such, the causal paradigm underlines why avoiding the more complex question of why fictional rape porn is morally wrong is so problematic. Avoidance bypasses the difficult questions that give outrage meaning. Bypassing those questions means remaining ignorant of what inspires such outrage.
Here are two starting points on which one might mount moral critique of fictional rape porn. One reason that sexually explicit rape fantasy might be immoral is that its presence is disrespectful to those who have survived rape. Another is that rape porn expresses the kinds of values that we collectively wish to admonish. I am perfectly sympathetic to both positions, and I would relish the opportunity to participate in discussion about these issues. In fact, such discussion strikes me as incredibly valuable, culturally, socially, and politically. If we collectively decide (a) what rape porn is and (b) that it should be officially outlawed, so be it. 
My concern is that rather than having or even encouraging such debate, the impetus to ban seeks to deny the problem by eradicating the perceived source. Doing so means not really thinking about the problem or whether the elected course of action (outlawing) really is the most effective means of remedying the problem. Banning may be damaging then insofar as it means implementing a short-term goal that encourages us to not have to think about difficult moral questions. Lack of detailed reflection is likely to foster exactly the kind of ethically impoverished environment that is evoked in the case against "rape porn".   


Monday, 18 November 2013

Jenna Jameson Returns to Porn: Bad News for ... Sex Trafficking Victims?

Wow, Anti-Porners cover a lot of ground when they want to turn a porn-related issue into something much larger...

As Jacqueline S. Homan, has it:
'Recently, Jenna Jameson announced with much reluctance that she was returning to porn, citing financial hardship as the reason. What she did not say was equally important: no other options for earning a decent living in a real job with dignity was afforded to her due to her “past” — something that sex trafficking victims, most of us who are much poorer than Jenna Jameson ever was, are keenly aware of.'
Who would have thought that Jenna Jameson's decision to return to porn would be comparable to the plight of sex trafficking victims? 

Anyone with an ounce of compassion might posit that the two situations are incomparable; they  both involve sex, but that is about as far as the comparison goes. Surely we should have enough respect for both Jenna's individual situation and the horrible experiences that each sex trafficking victim undergoes to treat each as significant in their own right, rather than conflating them?

If one is seriously invested in changing the plight of persons who have been involved in sex trafficking, then one should engage with sex trafficking and persons who have experienced sex trafficking rather than pointing towards tangential examples. The comparison between the most successful porn star of her era and an anonymous sex trafficking victim is flawed. 

Homan ought to be ashamed in using both Jameson and sex trafficking victims as a means to an end: vilifying a genre (porn) that Homan finds distasteful. Much more evidence of compassion towards individuals is needed before Homan's alleged goal - protecting people - becomes convincing. 

I fear that Jameson and sex trafficking victims are instead being used by Homan and others to forward a taste agenda.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Sweden, R-Ratings and Dross Whedon

 
After yesterday's rant, an offering to those readers looking for a more interesting proposal regarding the future of film ratings: how about the Swedish proposition that films should be rated for sexism? Consider this: in The Avengers (2012) Loki threatening refers to Black Widow  - one of the only female characters in the movie -  as a 'mewling quim'. Is the film's gun-based violence really more shocking than its patently offensive dialogue? Even more offensive is that after penning this atrocity Joss Whedon attempted to take issue with the term 'feminist'... will someone spare the man a dime so that he can buy a basic primer on gender discourse?



For anyone with the patience to sit through his 'now-infamous...soon-to-be-forgotten' speech, check it out below. Or don't bother.


Friday, 15 November 2013

My Two Cents on this 'PG-13 Violence' Study Currently Doing the Rounds

You've Been Terminated For anyone who has missed it, a couple of days ago NPR reported (in a fairly salacious way) that in a study of films from the 1950s onwards it was found that PG-13 rated films contained more gun-based violence than higher rated films. The study has angered some folk. I am less bothered on a personal level because the whole affair comes across as another lazy effects argument.
The study does not demonstrates that PG-13 films are 'more violent' than R-Rated films (as Shute implies). Rather, the study demonstrates that on average PG-13 films contain a higher quantity of a particular kind of violence. It tells us nothing of the qualitative nature of violence, including: a) how graphic the depictions are, b) the extent to which injuries are dwelt upon, c) emotional ramifications for characters, d) contextual cues such as previous actions and dialogue, d) how form (framing, music, and so forth) underline or complicate those meanings, and so on. 
These elements are not extraneous, but rather are part of meaning-making. Film is not simply a collection of images - it has a language that seeks to appeal to viewers on an intuitive level. The sooner researchers such as Bushman, Jamieson, Weitz and Rohmer account for the qualitative nature of narrative film-making, the sooner I'll stop yawning.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Mindfulness Versus Learning

A recent study has found that mindfulness can impair implicit learning. It makes intuitve sense that being more aware of oneself means one is less likely to develop bad habits, since self-monitoring should (in theory) help to staunch behaviours before they form into habits (i.e. before they become routine). 
However, there are two further implications worth considering, which are perhaps less obvious. The first is that mindfulness can also inhibit the formation of beneficial habits. The second is that habit-forming (of whatever kind) is not typically considered to be "learning" insofar as 'learn' is commonly associated with effort rather than passive reception. This study might suggest mindfulness itself requires effort. It certainly raises questions about the potentially detrimental results of expending such effort.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tobias Hochscherf Talk at Northumbria Univeristy on 27 November

The Department of Media and Communication Design at Northumbria University presents the following research seminar by Professor Tobias Hochscherf on 27 November at 5pm (Squires Building, Room 020A).
Juggling Career and Parenthood: Borgen (Denmark 2010—) and the Family in Contemporary Danish Television Drama.
Tobias Hochscherf is Professor of Audiovisual Media at the University of Applied Sciences Kiel in Germany. He is the author of The Continental Connection: German-speaking Émigrés and British Cinema, 1927-45 (2011) and co-editor of Divided, But Not Disconnected: German Experiences of the Cold War (2010) and British Science Fiction Film and Television: Critical Essays (2011).
The event marks the launch of the latest issue of the new Journal of Popular Television, which is edited by James Leggott (Northumbria University) and has a dossier section on the theme of contemporary Danish television, edited by Tobias Hochscherf. There is information on the journal at http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=216/
The event is free, but places are limited. If you would like to attend, please email johnny.walker@northumbria.ac.uk.  See below for a detailed abstract.
Juggling Career and Parenthood: Borgen (Denmark 2010—) and the Family in Danish Television Drama.
The number of Scandinavian television series that have been captivating audiences in continental Europe, Britain, the US and elsewhere is significant. More often than not this success is associated with slick crime dramas produced by the public service broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) including The Killing (Forbrydelsen, DR 2007- ) or Unit 1 (Rejseholdet, 2000-2004). However, the triumph of quality television from Denmark is not limited to programmes revolving around sinister serious crimes. The political drama series Borgen, in particular, seems to suggest that the penchant for Danish television well exceeds the realm of what has been termed ‘Nordic Noir’.

Surprised by their own success, the cultural director of DR told the British Observer: ‘We thought Borgen was maybe too Danish to travel. We are amazed and happy it is possible’ (14 January 2012). One reason that helps to explain as to why a series on Danish politics was palatable abroad, as I argue, is the way in which it combines narratives on political events and the media with the private lives of its protagonists. Indeed, whilst Borgen was rightly compared to Aaron Sorkin’s acclaimed The West Wing (NBC 1999-2006), which adapted themes around the American Presidency to primetime television, the Danish series offers a very different look at politics. Not only does it tell the story of how a woman is elected Minister President of Denmark (and thereby predates the election of Helle Thorning-Schmidt as the first woman in this post), it also shows how her husband compromises on his own career for hers and how she tries to combine a high-profile career with being a mother. Rather than a mere subplot, family matters and raising children form a central part of the complex narrative and ultimately the appeal of Borgen. In fact, what seems interesting about Borgen in comparison with other political drama series is the way in which real time politics and Danish cultural and family values are picked up as a way of product differentiation. Against this background, the paper takes a closer look at the way in which childhood, parenting and family life are represented in the series as an example of how Danish public service television (still) manages to raise fundamental questions dealing with modern motherhood, life-and-work-balance and the generation gap.
 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Cereal Killer

Image of Cinna-Bites 
Available as a print from http://london1888.bigcartel.com/product/cinna-bites 

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Rambo Videogame Shifts Series' Violent Aesthetic...Again

A while back, I wrote an article in  New Review of Film and Television Studies about the Rambo series - having seen all of the Rambo films together for the first time in my late 20s, I was struck by how radically the approach to depicting violence shifted across the sequels. Of particular note is the most recent film (Rambo), which is jaw-droppingly bloody. A couple of years later, and the aesthetic has shifted again: the Rambo Videogame is due out in 2014. Although the game's plot is based around the first three films, the approach to violence is clearly aligned with the fourth film's "splattery" ethos. I am intrigued to see whether the game also ditches the comic-book storytelling of First Blood: Part 2 in favour of Rambo's grim tone.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Torture Porn on offer at Amazon


Torture Porn: Popular Horror After Saw is currently on offer at Amazon.co.uk: rather than the RRP (£50), it is currently on offer at £42.30. They must be expecting a run of Christmas sales. Buy a copy for your grandmother today!