Sunday, January 6, 2013

Do You Carry A Gun To The Movies?

On Thursday, my wife and I went to the movies for her birthday. While watching people walk into the theater, because of what took place recently in a Aurora Colorado theater, I couldn't help but wonder how many were packing a pistol under their heavy winter coats?

Since we were there to see Parental Guidance with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, a comedy, I was sure that there wouldn't be anyone jumping up trying to imitate Billy Crystal in the same way that the murdering jerkweed in Aurora Colorado did when he tried to imitate the Joker from a Batman film and kill everyone in the theater.

As we watched the movie, I realized that this movie should be watched by everyone raising kids today. It was just that good. It was well done without vulgarity or violence. And really, it didn't need any sort of violence to present to its viewers a wonderful story about grandparents, parents, and raising kids.

Was it funny? Absolutely, but not really stupid type of funny. It was great. After the movie, as I sat through the credits, I remember thinking that this is one movie that I'd recommend to anyone to watch and learn.

And there's the point, since people can watch and learn something good and wonderful from a great movie like Parental Guidance - why does Hollywood and people who support ultra-violent films assume that people can't watch and learn how to carry out extreme acts of violence from extremely twisted films like say Pulp Fiction, Taxi Driver, or the latest Batman film The Dark Knight Rises?

Fact is, they can and do!

And yes, while sitting there, I could not help but wonder if there were safe movies versus un-safe movies to go to? Are there ultra-violent movies that attract ultra-violent nutcases who want to do horrific harm to others? Maybe there are?

Maybe there are people out there who love the sight of blood and gore in movies ripe with gun violence, just the same as there are those who love the horror genre with all of that blood and gore? Maybe they enjoy it for some sick reason?

Quentin Tarantino is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. He has received many movie industry awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and so on.

He is someone who director Peter Bogdanovich has called "the single most influential director of his generation."

Maybe so, but what kind of influence? A good influence or bad influence? I believe a horrible influence!

In the early 1990s, he began his career as an independent filmmaker with films employing satirical subject matter and the aestheticization of violence that often results in the exhibition of neo-noir characteristics.
His films include Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Kill Bill (2003, 2004), Inglourious Basterds (2009), and Django Unchained (2012), all incredibly ultra-violent movies bathed in buckets of blood.

The aestheticization of violence in high culture art or mass media is the depiction of or references to violence in what Indiana University film studies professor Margaret Bruder calls a "stylistically excessive," "significant and sustained way."

When violence is depicted in this fashion in films, television shows, and other media, Bruder argues that audience members are able "to connect" references from the "play of images and signs" to artworks, genre conventions, cultural symbols, or concepts. But remember, connect to incredibly violent artworks, genre conventions, cultural symbols, or concepts

In Xavier Morales' review of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol. 1, entitled "Beauty and violence", he calls the film "a groundbreaking aestheticization of violence."

Morales says the film, which he calls "easily one of the most violent movies ever made" is "a breathtaking landscape in which art and violence coalesce into one unforgettable aesthetic experience".

How anyone can put together the words aesthetic and violence is beyond me?

I suspect it takes a warped mind to think that extremely violent acts can be "aesthetically pleasing" to anyone.
How can any thing be aesthetic, which means relating to, or dealing with beauty, as being pleasing in appearance, as attractive, as being something appreciative, or something pleasurable to the senses, and be remorse or ultra-violent?

Aesthetics is all about emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste.

Morales argues that "...Tarantino .. presents violence as a form of expressive art...[in which the]...violence is so physically graceful, visually dazzling and meticulously executed that our instinctual, emotional responses undermine any rational objections we may have."

He goes on to say, "Tarantino is able to transform an object of moral outrage into one of aesthetic beauty...[, in which,]...like all art forms, the violence serves a communicative purpose apart from its aesthetic value."

When the female sword-wielding protagonist "...skillfully slices and dices her way through...[the opposing fighters]...we get a sense that she is using them as a kind of canvas for her expression of revenge...[,]...like an artist who expresses herself through brush and paint,...[she]...expresses herself through sword and blood."

Yes, this jerkweed Morales is a Film Critic. And yes, we wonder why films that disgust everyone else passes film critics.

In my opinion, film critics like Morales who see ultra-violent films as "physically graceful" or "visually dazzling," really appear to have deep seated psychological problems that I don't see even many years of counseling helping.

According to one source, film critics analyzing violent films that seek to "aesthetically please the viewer" mainly fall into two categories.

There are those critics who see depictions of violence in film for what they are - superficial and exploitative. They argue that it leads audience members to become desensitized to brutality, thus increasing their aggression.

Then there are those film critics with their heads up their ass. Those critics view violence as a type of content, or as a theme. And believe it or not, they claim it provides "acceptable outlets for anti-social impulses."

That's right, some of the jerkweeds see no harm in ultra-violent films see them -- and see them acceptable outlets for anti-social impulses.

Imagine that for a moment, then ask yourself, how many of these jerkweed critics saw nothing wrong with the use of ultra-violence in The Dark Knight RisesHow many of them changed their minds now that they have seen the effects that that new Batman movie had on just one sick individual?

And yes, of all of the millions who see violence in the movies and in violent video games, all it takes is one to act out what he saw in a film.

The mass murderer in Aurora Colorado used a film to inspire him to violence.  The film makers knew their film was extremely violent. 

The film makers knew they crossed the line between a film being art -- and their making an actual instructional how-to film for those wanting to commit  murder on a large scale. They film  makers must have  have known that their film would be inspirational to someone who wanted to play out their anti-social impulses.

Adrian Martin argues that critics who hold violent cinema in high regard have developed a response to anti-violence advocates, "those who decry everything from Taxi Driver to Terminator 2 as dehumanising, desensitising cultural influences."

Martin claims that critics that value this sick twisted logic called "aestheticized violence" defend gory shocking depictions onscreen on the grounds that "screen violence is not real violence, and should never be confused with it."

Martin claims that their rebuttal also claims that "movie violence is fun, spectacle, make-believe; it's dramatic metaphor, or a necessary catharsis akin to that provided by Jacobean theatre; it's generic, pure sensation, pure fantasy. It has its own changing history, its codes, its precise aesthetic uses."

It seems Adrian Martin is dead right on all accounts!

Margaret Bruder, a film studies professor at Indiana University and the author of "Aestheticizing Violence, or How To Do Things with Style" proposes that there is a distinction between aestheticized violence and the use of gore and blood in mass market action or war films.

In movies with aestheticized violence, she argues that the "standard realist modes of editing and cinematography are violated in order to spectacularize the action being played out on the screen"; directors use "quick and awkward editing", "canted framings," shock cuts, and slow motion, to emphasize the impacts of bullets or the "spurting of blood."

But of course, according to Hollywood, none of that incites or inspires others to violence. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Hollywood mega-star and director Quentin Tarantino said that shootings happen because of guns and mental health and not violent movies.

But how can that be the case since the creep who shot all of those innocent people at the theater in Aurora Colorado got the very idea to do what he did directly from an extremely violent movie?

Quentin Tarantino, the director of Pulp Fiction and the recent box office hit Django Unchained, has once again spoken out against accusations that film violence could be responsible for massacres like the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.

Speaking to Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air," Tarantino said "I think it's disrespectful to their memory actually, the memory of the people who died, to talk about movies," Tarantino said of the 26 shooting victims.

"It's totally disrespectful to their memory," he said, before trying to pass off the use of violence in the movies as a small issue - asserting that "obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health."

The tense and often excruciatingly awkward exchange on the popular radio left the director feeling "really annoyed." Tarantino seemed surprised when the genial conversation suddenly turned to the serious subject of violence in movies.

When pressed on whether the tragedy, which claimed the lives of twenty children and six adults, has made movie violence "less fun."

"So, I just have to ask you, is it any less fun after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary? Do you ever go through a period where you lose your taste for movie violence? And what do you like about that?" Gross asked.

"What do I like about it?" Tarantino asked with surprise, before laughing nervously. "It's fun."

Gross asked: "Are there times when it is just not a fun movie experience for you, either to be making it that way or to be in the audience?"

"Not for me," Tarantino said flatly. Then added, "Would I watch a kung fu movie three days after the Sandy Hook massacre? Maybe. Because they have nothing to do with each other."

"You sound annoyed?" Gross responded.

Tarantino wrapped up the subject with his thoughts on movies and violence by defending his influence on murdering rampages this way: "I've been asked this question for 20 years, About the effects of violence in movies relating to violence in real life. And my answer is the same as 20 years ago. It hasn't changed one iota."

Tarantino added that violence in movies does not affect violence in society, saying, "Obviously the issue is gun control and mental health." 

So according to Tarantino, he says that tragedies like Sandy Hook are all about gun control and mental health -- and not movies or video games violence. Yes, like most of you, I think he's full of shit.

And we're not alone. In fact, even the star of his new movie Django Unchained, Jamie Foxx feels differently than he does.

"We cannot turn our back and say that violence in films or anything that we do doesn't have a sort of influence," Foxx said in a recent interview. "It does."
Back in late August of 2012, another of many reports came out to dispute creeps like Tarantino. The report agrees with Jamie Foxx and others. It found that violent images in movies, TV or computer games can act as triggers for aggression.

After that took place, an international panel concluded that media violence can act as a trigger for aggressive thoughts and feelings.

"Violent TV, films and video games do increase aggression," that's from an international panel of experts who are warning parents to keep an eye on what their children are watching saying, "Ratings are not substitutes for parents watching, playing, or listening to the media their children use."

The report for the The International Society for Research on Aggression (IRSA) concluded that that evidence shows that the consumption of media violence can act as a trigger for aggressive thoughts or feelings already stored.

The panel is only one of many groups who study violence, and have concluded that exposure to violent images in different media, such as movies and video games, increases the relative risk of aggression. The panel also warn parents that a ratings system is no substitute for the watchful eye of a parent.

Grand Theft Auto IV was a critically-acclaimed 18-rated game, but there were concerns about younger players emulating the violence they saw on-screen.

The IRSA appointed the International Media Violence Commission in December of 2011. In their report, the commission concluded that aside from being sources of imitation, violent images such as scenes in movies, games or even pictures in comic books -- act as triggers for activating aggressive thoughts and feelings already stored in memory.

If these aggressive thoughts and feelings are activated over and over again because of repeated exposure to media violence, they become chronically accessible, and therefore more likely to influence behaviour.

The commission concluded, "One may also become more vigilant for hostility and aggression in the world, and therefore, begin to feel some ambiguous actions by others (such as being bumped in a crowded room) are deliberate acts of provocation."

The researchers wrote, "Parents can also set limits on screen use, and should discuss media content with their children to promote critical thinking when viewing. Schools may help parents by teaching students from an early age to be critical consumers of the media and that, just like food, the ‘you are what you eat' principle applies to healthy media consumption."

Research shows that the "you are what you eat" principle applies to violent film consumption. If people are exposed to violence, then some may be prone to act out what they see.

My wife and I sat through the previews of the upcoming films, I couldn't help but shake my head at how many new films had so much violence -- even the animation fims have a lot of violence.

Hollywood's desire to supposedly make everything more "authentic and real" should not be mistaken for "authentically real life violence." Fact is, Hollywood violence is sensationalized and exaggerated.

Fact is, while Directors like Tarantino who have a blood lust try to make violence somehow pleasing, Hollywood's depictions of violent acts are not supposed to be instructional -- yet they are as they are in fact reenacted.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many in the media and on Capitol Hill blamed one powerful lobby, the gun industry, and suggested banning assault weapons would lead to safer streets.

"On the first day of the new Congress, I intend to introduce a bill stopping the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of assault weapons," Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif., said.

On MSNBC, Chris Matthews said "people on the far-right, on the NRA front ... they go to bed at night ... afraid somebody's going to take that gun away from them. Normal people have other interests."

On CNN, host Piers Morgan called Gun Owners of America's Larry Pratt "an unbelievably stupid man."

Yet, there's another powerful lobby in Washington that few scrutinize, let alone criticize, and that's Hollywood. As we've discussed here, Hollywood bears responsibility for incidents of adolescent violence because they incite violence.

"Hollywood is very touchy about the idea of taking responsibility for the stuff it actually does," Parents Television Council's Dan Isett said.

"What happened in Newtown is absolutely heartbreaking. It shouldn't take an instance like that to have 20 dead children that just went to school that morning, to have a real discussion about why this happened. To have a real discussion about what media does to our kids."

Though numerous studies link violence on the screen to violent behavior, an interview with director Quentin Tarantino typifies Hollywood's position on the issue -- minimizing the role films play in the violent incidents carried out by young male gunmen in Newton, Conn.; Aurora and Littleton, Colo.; and other cities.

James Holmes who is in jail is accused of going on a shooting spree during a midnight screening of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012, at a movie complex in Aurora Colorado. He faces 152 charges.

He was inspired to to his horrible act by a horribly violent film. He learned how to do the deed from Hollywood and he emulated the scene from the film to do what he did. Thank you Hollywood!

But, what does Tarantino say about that and the violence in his latest film Django Unlimited?

"I just think, you know, there's violence in the world, tragedies happen, (so society) blame(s) the playmakers," Tarantino said.

"Is that a question you're tired of?" asked a reporter.

"Yeah, I'm really tired. It's a western. Give me a break." that was what Tarantino said when asked about Hollywood's impact on behavior during a screening of his latest violent movie, Django Unchained.

Others disagree, arguing that content matters. The depiction of extreme violence as a means of resolving conflict on the screen can cause viewers to act out in a similar way, they say.
Yet, the movie and video game industry spends millions so Democrats in Congress do not change the current system of "self regulation" that labels content violent or not.

Not unlike any big political action organization, Democrat in Congress fear the Motion Picture Association of America and their political allies.

After all, Hollywood supports Democrats even if the candidate were known for fact to be a convicted Pedophile and devout Communist. From Hollywood, millions of dollars of campaign contribution roll in.

Consider the clout and fundraising acumen of producer Harvey Weinstein, a major heavyweight in Democrati politics, along with actors George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio, all of whom have acted in or produced extremely violent films.

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, MPAA CEO former Democrat Senator Chris Dodd released this statement: "Those of us in the motion picture and television industry want to do our part to help America heal. We stand ready to be part of the national conversation."

"Obviously gun control is part of the debate. Mental health is part of the debate. The fact that movie violence is not part of the debate is a big problem," said Noah Gittell, a former Democratic campaign staffer who now writes about Hollywood for Reelchange.net.

"Big media companies spend literally tens of millions of dollars virtually every month, lobbying in Washington and around the country to make sure that they maintain the status quo," Isett said.

Since 1998, America's five largest film studios contributed $41 million dollars to political candidates, compared with $16 million from the NRA in the same time period according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

On lobbying, the watchdog group said the MPAA spent $25 million since 1990 compared with $29 million by the NRA.

The difference is that the NRA is fighting to keep a Constitutional Right shared by all Americans -- while the MPAA lobbys to keep violent prominent in films and videos.

The Entertainment Software Association, representing the video game industry, spent $4.4 million last year alone. That money has largely kept Democrats who controlled Congress for the most part since 1925 off their backs, despite pressure from parental groups to fight the increasing violence their children are exposed to.

Some advocacy groups have proposed a mandated ratings system that requires any movie with a murder scene get an R rating. Consider the violent Batman movie "Dark Knight,." where dozens died in the movie, often graphically, yet it got a PG-13 rating.

Others tried to end the voluntary rating system for video games - a $11 billion a year business. But, that too was shot down.

"It's pretty clear the MPAA does have an influence," Gittell said.

"If Congress wants the MPAA to do something, they can give them a nudge in the right direction. But I do think the massive contributions members of Congress get from Hollywood would pre-empt them from ever taking full regulatory authority."

As stated previously, at a press conference held at a Washington, DC, hotel last month, the National Rifle Association's leadership responded to the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School by decrying the impact of violent movies on our culture.

During his speech at Washington DC's Willard Hotel, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre sought to put the blame where it should be and called the film industry "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people," specifically highlighting "the blood-soaked slasher films like American Psycho and Natural Born Killers that are aired like propaganda loops."

The  pro-gun control media immediately dismissed his comments and openly worked to discredit the notion that violent movies encourage violent behavior. In fact, pro-gun control groups even stooped to pointing to an NRA museum that displays movie prop guns of all sorts.

Believe it or not, those wanting to ban guns are reaching new lows as they try to link the display of "non-firing" and "blank-firing" guns to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Since 2010, the NRA National Firearms Museum has hosted "Hollywood Guns," an exhibit featuring firearms made famous in all sorts of movies and television shows from movies such as old 1930s westerns and gangster movies to modern movies like Dirty Harry and Die Hard and Quigley Down Under. And yes, from 1950s television Westerns to present day cop shows.

According to NRA magazine American Rifleman, "If you love guns or you love movies, or still luckier you love guns and movies, this is a trip you cannot miss."

In a promotional video for the museum, senior curator Phil Schreier says, "We encourage you to come by and visit this sequel and come see a true blockbuster here in Fairfax, where all the stars of the silver screen have descended into these galleries and are represented by some of the firearms that we've fallen in love with in our youth and our adulthood, wishing that we too could be like our matinee idols."
Somehow anti-gun groups see that as a bad thing. For me, I'd love to see the pistols that stars like Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and others carried. Blank-firing or Non-gun, they would be interesting see.

I'd love to see the guns used when making The Sands Of Iwo Jima with John Wayne, or the gun that Humphrey Bogart used to gun down Edward G. Robinson in Key Largo.

I was brought up on John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Tim Holt, Hopalong Cassidy westerns were there was a always some gunplay, but back in those days the gun play was secondary to the story of good versus evil.

The small use of violence in movies was never the focus of the movie as it is today. And yes, in many cases depending which old movies you talk about from back then, some didn't even show any blood at all when someone was shot.

It was always a case of the act lending to the story, and not the other way around like movies these days. The shot that killed the bad guy was not in vivid color spurting out and splattering everywhere, it was usually done without focus on the killing - but instead more on what took us to that point in the movie.
Yes, those old movies were extremely mild in comparison to today's blood lust classics.

My favorite Western movie has only one person being shot dead in the entire movie. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, an outlaw named Liberty Valance (played by Lee Marvin) is out of control.

A dude by the name of Ransom "Ranse" Stoddard (played by James Stewart), someone from the East who knows nothing about the ways of the West or guns, finally accepts a challenge to a duel despite his complete lack of skills.

In the movie, Stoddard tries and supposedly miraculously kills Valance with one shot to the surprise of everyone, including himself. In reality, a local Cowboy Tom Doniphon, ( played by John Wayne, was asked to protect him and shot Valance from a dark ally.

The Cowboy congratulates the Dude on his success, and notices how his girl Hallie, played by Vera Miles, is lovingly caring for the Dude's wounds. Later, when the Dude Stoddard is feeling remorse over killing the outlaw -- the Cowboy tells him what he did.

Doniphon tells Stoddard that he (Doniphon) hid across the street and shot and killed Valance in cold blood, and that it was not Stoddard who killed Valance in self-defense. Stoddard asks him why he shot Valance. Doniphon tells him that he did it for Hallie.

In my favorite movie of all time, Casablanca, the only person shot dead was the evil Nazi officer.

And yes, American Humphrey Bogart warned Major Strasser twice before he left him no choice but to shoot. If he hadn't shot him, French patriot Victor Laszlo and his wife Ingrid Bergman couldn't have escaped Casablanca on a plane.

That was only the one shot in the movie that showed anyone getting hit. No big bucket of blood splatter in a 2 minute slow motion sequence. Bogart fires the shot and the n azi falls down dead.

Again, like in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance where Valance  falls down dead, in Casablanca the bad guy Major Strasser just falls down dead.

In both examples, those shot were not the focus of the story. The focus was on the storyline. They certainly, above all else, did not use huge blood splattering scenes in some sick twisted sense of logic to be aesthetically pleasing violence.

As I sat through the credits of the movie, I thought how well made the movie Parental Guidance really was. And yes, I thought to myself, I don't see today's ultra-violent films surviving the test of time.

I see them as being what they are, just trashy movies filled with gratuitous violence. Just violence for the sake of being violent. Just violence depicted without need or reason. And for the part, totally unrealistic with the sole purpose of glorifying violent acts and inciting others to violence.

Yes, I can't help but wonder how many go to see those extremely violent movies because they love it? And really, I can't help but wonder how many are like James Holmes when it comes to wanting to reenact such horribly violent films? How many are truly caught up in some movie director's sick sense of reality?
I'm sorry to say that I really believe that there are more out there like the nutcase who dressed himself like the Joker and tried to kill everyone in a theater in Aurora Colorado.

If there is one, than we can be fairly certian that there is at least one more like him. And yes, he is probably out there.

I  believe that he will show up one day to play out his fantasy to be just like some murderous character in a movie. He will try to emulate a scene he saw in a movie -- and probably want to be famous. He too will find his moment when to terrorize and be like someone depicted in a horrible film that few will remember.

That's why I believe that there are people who are now going to the movies armed. And yes. because of that concern I know a few for certain just because of the reasons I've stated.

Tom Correa

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