smartstooge

Writer of both fiction and non-fiction with specific studies in History, Performance Art (including film/TV, animation and videogames) Writing, and Japanese Culture.

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    Guilty Pleasures - Built on a Society of Shame

    I’m afraid to tell people I love "Super Mario Bros." It’s awfully made, awfully told and awful in everyway. Yet in the same vein groups are popping up all over celebrating bad films and defending their right to enjoy them, from "Clue" to "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (yes, the original one). Many movies are considered poorly made, yet enjoyed by devoted followers, cult films if you will. Many more are seen as completely wasteful and the ultimate "bombs". Yet still many people find great entertainment in these films that the majority have written off as bad, naming them "guilty pleasures", i.e. something bad they are only allowed to like because they can’t help it. Can the public judge a film as not worth being made? Or should people be accepting of different tastes and try to remove the stigma "bad films" have (especially for those who enjoy them)? Can humanity ever look at all films as equal, and just rate by taste or is there an intrinsic human nature to defend ourselves from majorly disliked themes or techniques in filmmaking? Can explore evolving film methods (examining old films and how some stand up despite current technologies), notoriously "bad" films that have cult followings (Ed Wood’s works, films that are "so bad they’re good", etc) and/or personal moments of feeling shamed for liking something different than the mainstream.

    • See if you can't mention, "Manos the hands of Fate" as you do this write up. – ajester 2 years ago
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    • In keeping with the Manos the Hands of Fate suggestion, I think this could also provide an interesting discussion of the popularity of riff-tracks or other movie commentaries such as Mystery Science Theater 3000. Why do we seem to enjoy bonding over showing how clever we are by making jokes about a show that is enjoyable precisely because it is bad? Is this ironic enjoyment really any different than the sincere entertainment derived from a "guilty pleasure"? – bam216 2 years ago
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    Pride: The Sin of Sitcoms

    Many sitcoms are driven by characters with strong personalities, stronger so than might be encountered in real life. These characters are often faced with difficulties episode to episode that deal with them conquering or at least examining said personalities. Pride in oneself and wanting to retain one’s unique personality is an interesting concept to explore in the leads of sitcoms. An examination of how pride drives main characters, from Sheldon on "Big Bang Theory" to Jerry on "Seinfeld", would be a most interesting article. Specifically focusing on how much pride is apparent in sitcoms, and how characters, while retaining a general personality learn lessons about themselves and are or are not willing to change would be interesting in a broader look at deconstructing sitcoms as a genre, and perhaps looking too at how Hollywood presents these characters which have stereotypically been associated with the film/tv industry, even in its own works. In short, how does pride affect sitcom leads, how do they struggle with it, is there a message about it that is being constantly presented by the show creators, and is its prevalence unique in these kinds of shows? Looking at different sitcoms, the specific situations within each and the similarities based on the character stories per episode or over a period of time will all be helpful in exploring this idea. Is the sitcom all about prideful characters learning humility and/or the aspect of pride in themselves and how to deal with it when faced with alternate scenarios where their way of thinking isn’t the best option?

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      Mickey or Fieval: Which mouse do you stand behind?

      During the creating of "The Fox and the Hound" Don Bluth and several animators left Disney, disheartened with the direction things were going. In the years to come they would produce several critically-acclaimed children’s animated films (to call them cartoons seems rather derogatory in the face of such praise) which not only presented kids with a vastly different group of films to watch, but ones that contained elements different than the Disney pictures of the same time frame. With graphic death, scary scenes and dark lessons, Bluth (often quoted as saying "Kids can accept anything as long as there is a happy ending") has been criticized for going against the grain of what children’s films should contain. Examining this unusual event in film history, as well as other "children’s films" that have been controversial (including Disney’s own "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves"), discern what merits both sides of children’s filmmaking have (traditional and new age) and whether it is more beneficial to take a darker path or only allow happy endings and bright stories to fill the screens of young impressionable human beings.

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        Fiction Snatched from the Jaws of Truth

        Many films take real-life historical characters to play major and/or important roles that add to a movie’s overall message. Everyone from William Wallace to King Baldwin IV has gripped audiences with their strong characters and pivotal roles. But these depictions of people long dead are by all means not entirely accurate. Often they are made sympathetic to allow the filmmakers to showcase a message or idea and while that is fine in fiction, circumstances are different for "nonfiction" films often boasted as "true stories" (not always prefaced by "based on" or "inspired by"). Should we allow films to bastardize these real-life people and depict them falsely against the actual things they did, only focusing on limited aspects or ideas of who they were? Examine the treatment of real-life figures in film and changes made to them to suit the work’s needs as opposed to the truth (such as ignoring or conveniently avoiding mentioning how they too tortured, raped, stole raped or hurt others to get their way) and if there could ever be a truly "nonfiction" film, if such liberties must always be taken. (Remember, even documentaries are written and edited to suit the goals of the makers.) Also examine if there is a differing treatment of long-dead, near-dead and still-living subjects of a film (such as Jesus, Winston Churchill and Bob Dylan, respectively).

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          Afraid to commit (fictional) murder

          In an interesting trend media throughout its existence seems to be afraid to kill off characters, especially important ones. From "Superman" to "Sherlock Holmes" key characters die, only to return due to some thought-up Deus Ex Machina in order to both have a sad catharsis followed by triumphant victory. But is it a true victory when the loss of death is negated? In a world where characters cannot die (IE, Digimon or Pokémon), versus one where characters do meet their permanent untimely end (Game of Thrones) what difference (in message or otherwise) does the audience experience as a result and what is the overall effect each technique causes for understanding of the stories?

          • Being unable to commit to the ending of a character definitely hurts plot development... anime is notorious for it; nothing changes ( maybe something minor in 100 episodes or so). Some people (usually concerned parents not fighting against the violence in shows) address this issue saying it creates an unrealistic perspective and even de-values life itself. Kids who grow up watching these shows where characters always come back don't register the severity of certain brutalities, and in an extended way are those who don't think through their actions before resorting to gun violence (for example?). I do like how Sherlock deals with the circumstance though. John's acting clearly shows the hurt and pain behind losing someone, he keeps it realistic when Sherlock is re-introduced. – Slaidey 2 years ago
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          • An interesting note with Sherlock Holmes is that he was intended to die. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wanted to end him. However, the pressure from the fans for him to return was so big that eventually Dues Ex Machina was forced to come in an save the day. While looking at this topic, consider the role fans play in preventing their favourite character's deaths. – OddballGentleman 2 years ago
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          • OddballGentleman's observation is super important. I think genre is also super important in determining how much leeway we, the audience, give to Deux ex Machina. With comedies, like The Threepenny Opera (a takeoff of The Beggar's Opera by John Gay), because it's a dark comedy, we grant it the ridiculous ending. But for a realistic drama-- like Sherlock-- we need it to make sense. – meganhennessey 2 years ago
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          Latest Comments

          A very good point about criticism’s acceptance in society. This speaks to why there are so few cynical critics. Yet by saying how people don’t accept criticism well in the US, doesn’t that then support how there should be more criticism so that like in Germany both the negatives can be dealt with in a mature manner and the youth can be introduced to the positives of critical thinking? Comparing how criticism impacts people, positively or negatively, in various situations and locations would be an interesting study to do, and see if, in a active environment, the application of criticism to popular culture could help educate youths the importance at looking at the world around them with a discerning eye. Thanks for the comment, it seems the perfect cynical criticism of my own piece!

          The Glaring Importance of Critics in Filmmaking

          Very good article, and the movie sounds like a must-see! I watched a documentary on this very subject and it is stunning how an advanced country like S. Korea can have such a dark overbearing situation (or perhaps it should be expected from richer cultures). One wonders how humanity will develop in the future with such emphasis on beauty as defined by advertising.

          200 Pounds Beauty: South Korea's Plastic Surgery Industry

          I was glad to see the part about schools and Universities not forewarning or aiding women when it comes to the industry. Even as an actor with a degree I never saw even a discussion on the two-facedness and backroom dealings even community theatres dare commit, let alone Hollywood. It’s very true that the way things are done and have been done is to blame, but also education is key to at least warn of these awful things and help try and put more pressure on the system to change. I wonder too if the rising idea of youtube and online stars may help change things one day, especially in environments where women can reach similar heights without risk of an over-watching businessperson with such unlimited power over them.

          Sex and Harassment in Entertainment Industry

          Satoshi Kon definitely was on to something when he spoke of “escapism”. Too much of a good thing, no matter what, can always lead to harm and he knew that it was fine to enjoy the culture of manga, anime, J-Pop, etc. but the over-obsession and desire to escape real life is where the bad came from. It’s the same with everything from “meatheads” (steroid abusers born of people who enjoy the gym) to “shopaholics” (people unable to stop spending because it gets them away from home and real problems). There’s all sorts of negative stereotypes with fun, innocent activities like watching anime, but of course the headlines go out to the ones who take it to the extremes. It’s a warning of watching yourself and ensuring you don’t forget to live the life that let you enjoy all these interests in the first place. Satoshi’s warning is to not let a good love for something become an obsession and remember there’s a far bigger world outside of one or a few strong pursuits that bring instance pleasure.

          Satoshi Kon's Otaku: The Dangers of Technological Fantasy

          A very interesting and thorough article. I have found a lot of “what to watch” articles in general on anime tend to get very (for lack of a better, or existent, word) “Otakuish. When I was younger I asked many what anime to watch (not understanding Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z were indeed from Japan) and I got a lot of suggestions of anime filled with Japanese jokes and cultural references which for a beginner is kind of a turn off when you don’t get the joke and the episode seems to be a boring amount of talking (case in point for myself: Lucky Star). However though many put down series dubs, the one for me that made me enjoy anime was Digimon (once I knew it was an anime). Filled with western references and jokes it made me laugh and I still got the more in-depth serious issues that are universal to human beings. As far as introductory anime go, that for me was the best route, along with silent anime shorts like “Robot Carnival” and the works of Miyazaki. Later learning much more of Japanese culture I definitely have enjoyed anime far more, but those original half-and-half westernized anime actually helped a lot, so I’m glad people can still thank them for being introduced to an untapped world of amazing animation and stories.

          Anime for Dummies: What Starters Should Watch

          John Hughes is not only still relevant, but ahead of his time. Even today people are afraid of how smart young people are. Growing up in a time when kids not only served in the military before they were the age to vote but also were shot in schools for disagreeing with the government, he obviously had a lot of ideas of the wrong impression the world had (and still has) of them. From him then to Don Bluth in the next decade the trust in kids and teenagers they pioneered hopefully will grow and they won’t be treated like idiots rather than inexperienced. But if recent memory since the millennium shows, there’s a lot of catching up to do to this master of movies, John Hughes.

          John Hughes Remains Relevant: Don't You Forget About Me

          Looking at the idea of originality one need read no further than “Hero of a Thousand Faces” but yes, the new spin a work puts on an old idea is the core of modern art today. An interesting comparison this particular director also brings up is works based directly on another’s. Recently Ghibli switched from Hayao’s own original works (Nausicaa, Porco Rosso) to works others wrote (Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, The Cat Returns). Since Spirited Away (original Hayao idea) won the Academy Award, I’ve heard many speak of the falling of Ghibli’s greatness. While Ponyo and Howl both did rather well, they never reached the status of Spirited Away (to be fair probably Miyazaki’s best work) and since then each work like Arietty and The Wind Rises met with less acclaim than Ghibli’s first several films (from Castle in the Sky to Spirited Away), though were still recognised as being superior to most current popular animation. This trend of the works being less critically acclaimed and more based on others’ works is an interesting change and as this article proves, worth looking into in the case of originality as important for a work’s worth.

          Hayao Miyazaki: The Art of Repetition

          I definitely find the best impact a film or any work of art can make is spanning a whole range of emotions (and Inside Out is a perfect example, haha), the sadder we are, the happier we’ll be. I think Pixar is continuing a trend started by the great Don Bluth: go dark and make the characters have to suffer to enjoy the sweetness of the victory that comes. Granted Bluth went further with the idea than Pixar has, but I hope the trend of exploring the dark issues kids face today will continue to bravely shine light through media on how to understand those young minds most of us left a long time ago.

          10 Mature Moments in a Pixar Film