Sick US TV

March 16, 2008

Hanging out with the Savage brothers this weekend brought my attention to two sick US TV shows, Moment of Truth and To Catch a Predator from Dateline NBC.

Moment of Truth is where a contestant takes a lie detector test on every personal or private matter in their entire lives and all they have to do to win $ is answer the questions correctly a second time. Only this time in front of the family and friends that they are generally hurting, deriding or insulting. Its sort of like Scientology Auditing on live TV in front of a crowd but with your family and pals present. Its a purely sadistic show as people are forced to confess ever form of horrid personal feelings about everybody around them. They do this of course as the Network dangles the all mighty dollar on a stick in front of the contestants donkey like noses. A preview is below.

Dateline NBC’s series To Catch a Predator is the more troubling, though. Well, hard as it might be to say this…it basically exploits pedophilia for ratings. In conjunction with law enforcement and social anti-pedophile groups they set up sting operations where they pose as 13 or 12 year old girls online and set up ‘dates’. Of course soon a deranged gaggle of pedophile’s turn up in various cities to meet they’re supposed jail bait prey. The show is guilty of entrapment and cases have been dropped in the US from the shows methods…. but getting pedophiles off the streets is not the shows intention, exploiting the freak factor for ratings is. Yes, as your friendly neighborhood kiddy fiddler turns up for his ‘date’ instead of finding her or him, he finds an actress who is over eighteen but could be under, playing the ‘victim’. She asks if he has condoms and is ready for action, etc. Then bang in comes host Chris Hanson from behind a screen to start the ‘public humiliation of the pedophile for ratings show’ before the police come out of hiding. Hanson of course does his best to humiliate these losers on national TV before they apologize, go to leave and then of course the Police swoop in and arrest them. The show is pure sickening manipulation from both ends. I include a clip below from the show.

To Catch a Preadator is sick on two, maybe three levels. Firstly, obviously the pedophiles net prowling and second NBC’s decision to exploit these attempted crimes for ratings. There have been suicides from the show and it adds the punishment of  public humiliation to the predators entrapment on the show. Thirdly, it is sick because it creates the crime it seeks to stop, by trawling the net with lures and invitations from a 13 year old to get it on. Without TV camera’s a case could be made to legally do this, but with them it becomes a vial form of sadistic Entertainment. Its as if watching crack whores, meth heads and white trash getting busted on Cops is now not enough. Now we need, Pedocatch-TV! There are not many shows that confirm a completely misanthropic outlook on humanity…but this is one.

What’s next? To Catch a Killer or better yet To catch a Cannibal – Set up a show for murderer’s or cannibals by posting online fake id’s as willing victims, just so you can lecture the psycho’s who turn up about the error of their ways? Where does this quest for harsher reality TV end?


In Hawaii, in late 07, I was switching between 100 channels on US cable one night before going Tiki bar hunting. I thought if TV can represent our collective unconscious, the mix of 100 channels I was self editing at random, like a Burroughs cut up, represented the collective unconscious of someone who is deeply insane. Strange synchronicities in dialogue began to occur and even stranger juxtapositioning of images. Anyone can do it…just sit in front of US cable (or Aussie) and change channel every 8 to 15 seconds and you will soon see what I mean. I’m sure most of us have done this many times? What do we see. The unconscious of an utterly insane entity. Throw in To catch a Predator and Moment of Truth and you have two more touch stones of Western mental unhingedness.

Technically, all of us who live in the West, are in America in some way…so their mental picture is not that far ahead (or behind) of ours. Not that it’s news to anyone ….but its clear the Capitalist West has clearly gone Insane. Psychopathology run amok.

Are we all doomed? How can we harness this ‘greatest danger’ from the media and technology in general and turn it into what Heidegger referred to as the ‘saving power’? That is the question, Comrades, that indeed is the question…

Here are the two clips to boggle the mind. You wonder if American society isn’t terminally ill after watching these two latest forms of ‘Entertainment’.

Into The Shadows preview

March 14, 2008

Here’s a preview of an upcoming film about what’s wrong with the Australian film industry and other issues, it’s called Into The Shadows by filmmakers Andrew Scarano and Phil Hignett. I was interviewed for it a few months back. See also other links on You Tube to cool clips and good comments from the likes of Brendan Cowell, Robert Connolly, Anthony Hayes, Anthony Buckley, Sue Maslin and Bruce Beresford.

Cowell’s comments are spot on about weak protagonists in Australian movies, Connolly is right, right, right about the need for Innovation -that’s we try and foster at MUFF, Buckley’s comments too are on the money about the need for more $ spent on P&A, Hayes’ idea about making a certain percentage of theatrically screened Australian films Australian is a good idea too.

All the interviews talk about what’s wrong with the Australian Film Industry. What industry crisis, right?

It’s getting harder and harder to deny it by these parasites who sit with a large Government paid salary, running this industry into the ground, year after year. What do they care? They’re pulling down 100K, 150K, 200K?… on the lousy state the industry is now in… all they want is to protect their position of privilege, these political vipers of the Australian film industry. Its not right! Brilliant filmmakers scrap out an existence often in poverty or holding another job and can’t afford time off to write a new script or shoot their next film. All the while these bureaucratic fat cats are reaping in great wages, perks, OS trips and security rejecting talent or putting it on a drip equivalent to the doll. We have created a monster in these bureaucrats. Most have never made a film and wouldn’t know how to, to save their lives… and these are our nation’s cinema gatekeepers? Why don’t we have filmmakers run these jobs in downtime between their next projects? Let me take juts 20 100k to 150k wages from these assholes and give it directly to the top 20 guerilla filmmakers from MUFF and you would transform the industry in a year or two! Damn, keep your fat cats if you want… just invent a new 2 million dollar fund to give out to the 10 best MUFF filmmakers a year and you would see a change, vitality and innovation in this industry quick smart.

Don’t get me wrong some industry professional bureaucrats do a great job and are important, necessary and needed, but the size and waste of some of these bodies must be immense. A little deck reshuffling and belt tightening and putting saved funds in the hands of innovative low budget filmmakers…now how can that be a bad thing?

Less fat cats…more cool Indy films. Only one or two have to be a Peter Jackson, Nicholas Winding Refn, Kim Ki Duk or a Lars Von Trier and the Industry begins to save itself!

When will people heed our call from the now three year old MUFF manifesto and declare a State of Emergency in the Australian Film Industry and then act and do something about it!

Anyway, Into the Shadows looks like it will be a damn good timely doco.

Website for the In the Shadows project is here.

The Black Balloon Bursts

March 11, 2008

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Speaking of bubbles, sorry to burst your’s about new Aussie ‘masterpiece’ “The Black Balloon”. Australian film Industry potente’s and power brokers look away, look away… as another darling of your’s faces the poison pen of Idea Fix.

I shouldn’t be too harsh. It is a film debut competently directed by Elissa Down, well shot, some nice thesp turns, the usual complements. But again the film is like a public service message for appreciating the plight of mentally disabled people. I mean what is up with all this? Last year it was difficult parents, now difficult mentally handicapped siblings? Please…

Anyway here’s the story: Thomas is an army brat who moves to a new town with his Dad, Mom and brother Charlie who has Down Syndrome. Charlie is a royal pain in the ass who clearly should be in a home at least a few days a week, to give his family a rest. But no… this family decides to live a normal life with this poor fellow, whose favourite activities include banging a spoon all day long, shitting himself and rubbing it into carpet and wanking at the dinner table when guests are over. Thomas likes Jackie, played by hottie Gemma Ward and somehow their blossoming love affair seems to always involve invites for Charlie to come along and fuck things up. That’s it really. There a scene at the end where the two brothers reconcile after a big fight post Thomas’ birthday dinner wank-a-thon in front of Jackie. Its also implied that Charlie can control his moods and acting out when it pleases him and that he does these things to fuck with his brother. Charming and not so PC…

Again the film is supposed to be some PC examination about respect for the mentally disabled but the film actually makes you dislike Charlie. It’s pretty clear to all concerned (including the audience) they/we would be happier if Charlie was in a home sometimes and taken out on weekends or whenever. Like Romulus and Home Song Stories, the film works subconsciously against its PC message about multiculturism in the aforementioned films and then here with the mentally disabled.

Don’t get me wrong you could make a great film about the sad reality of mental disability or handicaps. The recent Diving Bell and The Butterfly is a fine example. How does the world appear to mentally handicapped persons? Why do they behave in such ways that seem so foreign to us? etc. These could all make fascinating cinematic topics for mainstream, indy or even avant garde works. But the Black Balloon is not such a film. It glosses over Charlie’s perspective and just presents him as a burden and nuisance to all around him. An object of sickly charity.

The film is essentially a romance and just when it just looks like Gemma Ward’s pants are coming off and Thomas is going to get it on… in comes Charlie like David Walliam’s Nah Nah Nah Little Britain character. I mean it gets on your nerves. I found myself laughing at the film in some unfunny moments. Cant they just get away from this guy, snog, smoke weed, fuck, drive around…you know act like normal teens?

Thomas is blond blue eyed handsome and played well by Rhys Wakefield, his character hates Charlie through most of the movie but learns inexplicably to love his shit smearing ways in the end. Luke Ford is blond blue eyed handsome and does an impressive job playing the difficult Charlie, going after Dan Wylie’s crown as best actor to play an award attracting retard in Australia cinema and theatre. Gemma Ward is blond blue eyed and attractive and pretty good in the film, but her character is, unfortunately, one dimensional. I am sick to death of Australian female characters either being saints or whores. How about a little depth to her like in Thomas’ character? Its insulting to most female actors in Australia. Women are neither wholly good or evil so lets see some depth people.

The main point of my critique though is, like Romulus or Home Songs, who wants to watch such family difficulties on a fun night out at the movies? Surely we must get off this PC public service message trip in Australian movies and deliver real, authentic, entertaining and daring cinema again in this country.

Next Aussie major release Hey, Hey, Its Esther Blueberger. A coming of Age story about a young Jewish girl growing up in a snotty public school. A good teen public service message about fitting in and accepting everybody for who they are. Need I say more…?

Fuck it here’s a shot of Gemma Ward on zee Red Carpet. She could have a good acting career ahead of her.

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Chasers on Tropfest

March 11, 2008

This about says it all really about the Signature Item! I love these guys. On the money…and often.

I just finished watching the SBS Australian TV series Wilfred on DVD. Wilfred started as an award winning short that later was developed by Renegade Films with the shorts creators Adam Zwar and Jason Gann into a funny little TV show. Its about a mid twenties girl who has a Dog and her new boyfriend. The main joke of the show is the Dog is a full grown guy in a Dog suit who amongst other things likes to smoke bongs (that’d be Jason Gann). The girls bumbling new boyfriend (Adam Zwar) then gets into various adventures, predicaments and existential conversations with the dog. The first three episodes wore the premise a bit thin from the short… then suddenly the show took a walkie and got better when a Dog Whisperer shows up, an old boyfriend with his own man-dog (Angus Sampson) visits. The episode of Wilfred at the beach and a funny break out a kennel are episodes that are also very good.

By the end of the season of 8 episodes its really beginning to grow on you like flea eczema. Wilfred’s laconic and psychotic nature are oft witty with an odd surreal humor. The show itself is surreal and funny because you are unsure if the dog is just a guy in a suit playing a dog in reality and Zwar’s wimp cahracter accepts this kinky relationship. Or that the guy in the suit represents what your average dog might be thinking, feeling and saying if he could talk, etc.

Gann is excellent as Wilfred and comes up with inspired lines about scratching his ass on the rug, digging holes in th backyard for bones and bodies, barking at ducks in a pond, insulting people who ring the front door and many other ‘dog’ issues. This all goes to prove there is probably more to your pooch than an unthinking automaton science tells us he is. Wilfred is clever here in its portrayal of man’s favorite animal that thinks, does odd behavioral things and protects its mistress. It is both endearing and bizarre at once and one of the better comedy TV shows from Australia in recent years. Maybe not as daring as The Chasers War on Everything or the world class suburban tragi-comedy of Kath and Kim or prankster John Safran’s media interventions. But Wilfred holds his own close to these aforementioned three Oz comedy gems and that is something all involved should be proud of.

Australian TV is much healthier than its film industry it would seem…

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I caught up with Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales recently on DVD. I was impressed with its ozymandian ambition, mythopoeic zest and crazed execution. The film has been unjustly criticised for its lack of logic and fragmented story line, thats partly missing the film’s point, the film itself is part of the fragmented world it portrays. Even so, some criticism of the films various plot lines may be valid. But the real ambitions of Kelly’s new project do not strive for coherent plot, but aim for a nightmare Lynchian like fever dream of an alternate (Kristal) Now.

Unlike many, I didn’t completely love Donnie Darko but I did find it a very impressive debut feature and an 80’s style mystery with Surrealist ambitions and spooky atmosphere. The director’s cut I thought was not as good as the original as it tried to explain the mystery and changed some cool music cue’s. Can you imagine David Lynch trying to explain in a new version of Lost Highway how the two main characters actually transform into each other? Anyway, Darko wet our appetite for more of Kelly’s urbane suburban surrealism and with Southland Tales here it is.

While I can’t outright call this film a masterpiece, as the it draws a long bow in its scope and ambition and does not always succeed in the achievement thereof, you have to seriously admire Kelly for attempting such a grandiose project and in part realizing it. The film has its forerunners in films like Strange Days and shows like Wild Palms and other LA set sci fi. Combining poetry from Robert Frost, an inversion of TS Eliot’s “whimper and not a bang” and a strong dose of quotes from The Book Of Revelation, Kelly weaves a fractured postmodern myth about the end of the world – Hell A style. The plot is convoluted at best about an action hero slash prophet Boxer Santoros (Dwayne Johnson) who writes a screenplay called that The Power, from which the film sort of unfolds. Set in an alternative ozymandian fascist state of the near now (2008), the story revolves around a mad scientist who invents a new power source based on the movement of the ocean and who secretly organises time travel experiments involving Boxer and ex soldier Ronald Taverner from a time rift created by his new technology. War is on going all over the Mid East after a nuclear bomb explodes in Texas but also strife is rife between the US based Neo-Marxist underground and the fascist police state. Various other plots intertwine with intrigues and diversions but I think the plot of Southland Tales is secondary to its dream scape world of porn stars, terrorism, violence, pop culture, fascism, movie culture, new technology, Neo-Marxism, musicals, the environmental crisis and of course, the Apocalypse.

Kelly explore his favorite theme of time travel again and creates an apocalyptic myth that resonates beyond its sometimes corn hole plot, producing the odd moment of true cinematic poetry and beauty. Kelly borrows from David Lynch the notion of the complete movie dreamscape and takes it on a bizarre pop culture youth trip. Music is used exceptionally well (like in Darko) to invoke ecstatic sequences of decadence, decline, melancholy and post modern emptiness. Not really science fiction, this film is set Now and even includes some shots of the filmmakers actually making the film and actors talking about tracking shots and the like, which is inspired.

Great sequences include: Justin Timberlake (who plays a facially deformed ex soldier wounded by comrade Ronald Taverner in friendly fire) lip syncing to The Killers covered in blood and surrounded by dancing Marilyn Monroe’s, a cool Neo Marxist riot in down town LA, bizarre religious sequences at the climax of the film involving a floating ice cream bus, time bubble, rocket launcher and a giant Zeppelin… and the pinnacle set piece Rebekah Del Rio (from Mulholland Drive) singing a perverted haunting strings version of the US national Anthem. Only thing that could top that is to have had porn star Vanessa Del Rio sing it, that would have been apt and even more perverse. Other highlights include an Oprah (or The View) style talk show hosted by porn stars Kristal Now and friends that discuss such high falutin’ subjects as teen horniness and anal, bumbling right wing politicians involved in intrigues and sex scandals and a savage portrait of the left wing activists of Venice beach.

The casting is classic using many comedians in semi serious roles, many cast against type. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is good as the bumbling slightly effeminate finger twitching Boxer, Sarah Michell Gellar steals her scenes as porn star Kristal Now with many classic lines and Sean William Scott is looking for more than his car in this movie ending up bringing about the end of the world when he meets his time travel self. Look out for Wallace Shawn, John Laroquette, Jon Lovitz, Christopher Lambert, Bai Ling, Mandy Moore, Miranda Richardson, Curtis Armstrong, Zelda Rubinstein and Kevin Smith all excellent in grotesque and outlandish supporting roles.

What is important in Kelly’s new film is its portrait of a Los Angeles dystopia – that is no science fiction. It uses comedy and satire to make its points within a mythological structure. It’s warnings about various forms of extremism and its vision of a time traveling Biblical apocalypse are feverish creations and prescient. Kelly has been involved also in a series of comics that provide background to the strange plot. I feel all things said Southland Tales succeeds on its ambitions of presenting a post modern day meditation on the Book of Revelation that is beautiful, young and Now in its portrayal of the present shared nightmare we call US reality. While it may be a flawed masterpiece, I can’t help feel it is something close to such a word through its sheer daring, poetic verve and ambition. It’s a welcome relief to the unthinking Hollywood pap we are generally served and it could age well as portrait of today.

Kelly is making a new film The Box now in post production.

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Well, perhaps not. A video mocking black Sth African’s was produced on a Free State Bloemfontein University campus.

See Uncut video tape Here.

See story Here and Here.

CNN report, See Here.

Those words above make me laugh.

‘Home for Purim’ gets a tasts of Plaestinian brutality…See Here.

And Here.

Richard Wolstencroft Idea Fix, repeat.

How do you get to the top of Google bullshit for searches on your name and Idea Fix?

Those familiar with James Lovelock’s theory of Gaia and his excellent series of books on that subject will be worded up. Others might find this article (a few months old now) interesting at Rolling Stone.

According to Lovelock, Global Warming is now irreversible and that no matter what we do the planet will be uninhabitable for all but a billion or so people by around 2100.

So this begs the questions: How do we pick those one billion or so? Surely that figure can be increased given modern technological advancement? Surely whoever survives should not be chosen in an arbitary way? What happens to everyone else though? The depopulation process, how would it occur, naturally or by other means? Surely whoever’s not on board the party invite list post 2100, will not go down with the ship lightly and without a massive fight that could even sink the life boats?

While fools discuss humanist ideas like Communism and Democracy, these disturbing questions are raised by the brute facts of science and left deliberately unanswered. Such questions are too scary to even contemplate, it seems. But if Global Warming is not a hoax, as some would have us believe, uber tough decisions lie not very far down the road.

Lovelock’s book The Revenge Of Gaia, which I read recently, is a sobering shock report on our Planetary destruction, devastation and our forgetfulness of Being. Lovelock provides many disturbing facts, figures and trends that go beyond many predictions from the general scientific community that do not sound so far fetched. One can’t help but feel that, like Heidegger said, our technological way of life now completely enframes and dominates us… possibly to a point of desperation with threats of extinction to major percentages of Dasein. What Lovelock says could be a real Holocaust, that of 5 billion (not million) people or more! If Lovelock and pals are correct what lies in wait for us is like a steamship above Niagra Falls whose engines have just failed and only a few speed powered lifeboats are available to take 20% of the ships passengers to safety.

Let’s just hope against hope that Lovelock is wrong, like Ostrich’s with our heads in the sand. Or we should at least start changing our ways pronto to prevent worse consequences. And even consider starting the grim business of planning the life boat guest list for Planet Earth post 2100. ‘Cause it looks like its right over Niagra falls that we are all headed…

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