V for Vexing

            V for Vexing

 

            While 2006’s V for Vendetta may sound promising- A politically critical thriller with a talented cast set in the not too distant future- it ends up having set the bar a bit too high for itself. Instead of being a provocative, exciting think movie, it ends up being a jumble of themes and ideas the filmmakers just couldn’t sort out.

 

Based on the graphic novel by English writer Alan Moore, the film takes place in 2038 London, where a George Orwell-esque society is under the rule of Dictator Adam Sutler (John Hurt, Hellboy.) Suddenly, out of the shadows comes a masked Hugo Weaving (Lord of the Rings), saving the character of Evey (Natalie Portman, Closer) but ultimately not being able to salvage the film.

 

We soon learn that Weaving’s ‘V’, who wears a mask meant to symbolize 1600s revolutionary Guy Fawkes, is bent on revenge on the movie’s government and a new future for London. Evey soon finds herself embroiled in his plan. While the politically-interested might be intrigued by the similarities in the film to today’s government ( the film’s version of London bears a color-coded curfew system that seems to mirror the United States’ own color-coded threat level system) they will be forced to squirm through the seemingly inappropriate pseudo-romance between the Portman and Weaving characters.

 

While the political aspect of the film may be interesting, an intelligent piece is morphed in to a loud propaganda-like mess. Speeches are made and images are shown targeting terrorists, real and accused, as well as the United States, who is made out to be a villain in the movie, as the viewer finds out America’s war spreading overseas was the reason for the state of England in the film’s universe. The solemn, harsh environment that is meant to be depicted is made gratuitous by scenes of a young girl being shot, unholy priests and hate crimes. The viewer is no longer sympathetic for the people of the movie’s version of London, but uncomfortable.

 


           Portman, baffled as to what kind of movie she finds herself in.

 

Also making the audience uncomfortable is the thriller movie’s uneven punctuation by saccharine ‘love’ scenes, which, regardless of their significance in the graphic novel, seem to have been emphasized by Hollywood to appeal to the female chick-flick viewing dynamic. V and Evey share cheesy dances and embraces, and this only adds to the mystery of what kind of character Evey is meant to be portrayed as in the first place. Is she a strong female, brave as she helps set V’s plan in motion, or a weak and naïve one, as she is shown tortured, and apparently falling for a masked man. The hardened female with her head shaved that we see develop throughout the film becomes softened as she returns to vulnerable girl we are introduced to back in the start. This confusing characterization pendulum continues to swing back and forth for the remainder of the time.

 

            Another story is the one following the detectives being played by Stephen Rea (Breakfast on Pluto) and Rupert Graves (the Forsyte Saga.) While their attempt to unravel the mystery behind V is intriguing at times, it is also another parable to keep up with. Instead of having a gracefully intricate plot, V for Vendetta is tiresome to follow. The stories jump around and by the time the viewer has rejoined one of the many characters again, they may have forgotten exactly who they were watching and why. The payoff for the confusion and mystery after a puzzling array of crimes, coincidences and courtships comes frustratingly late in to the film.

 

            Music is another weak point. As the Old Bailey, London’s housing for Criminal Court is blown up by V early on in to the film, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is blared over the city’s intercom system. But the musical choice seems hollow, as the fantastical elements of the film are outweighed by the ‘reality’ of it. In another head-scratch-inducing move, the soundtrack was made overly eclectic by its featuring of bass-y techno beats, the Rolling Stones, and indie (hipster) favorite songstress, Cat Power.

 

           What may be considered the strong points are the acceptable acting performances by the able cast. Weaving delivers some of V’s monologues with a curiously entrancing quality, while Stephen Fry (Wilde) plays a friend of Evey’s, likable enough to endear the viewer to the people living under Sutler’s harsh rule.

 

            Also redeeming is the climactic fight scene, stylized to their liking by the Wachowski brothers- the minds behind the Matrix trilogy. While many of today’s movies feature shoot-outs, this scene contains actual fighting on the part of V. And while some of the casualties here are almost humorously grotesque, it is one of the most entertaining and visually stimulating episodes.

 

            Early on, V prompts us to “remember the idea, not the man.” But since the idea of revolution, which V preaches, is no new idea, perhaps the filmmakers should have passed, and let award-winning author Moore (who was ultimately disgusted with the film to the extent that his name appears nowhere in the credits) have his book left alone.

-Amy Eiferman

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George Orwell – Yesterday and Today

While many pieces of the literature examined by students every year have become dated and irrelevant, there are some that still stir these minds. One example of the latter would be the work of George Orwell. Creator of some of the most artfully critical examinations of government, his views and critiques can still be felt by those opposed to modern day workings.

 

George Orwell was not always George Orwell, however. He was born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903, in Motihari, Bengal, India. His father worked in the British Civil Service, as Britain still retained power over India at the time. When he was one year old, his mother brought him back to England, where they lived a live that Blair went on to describe as “upper middle class”, according to the 1950 New York Times piece “ Moving Up with George Orwell”.

For his education, he attended Henley-on-Thames, followed by St. Cyprian’s in Sussex, England. For college, he attended Wellington for a short time, followed by Eton College, where he achieved King’s Scholar status. Also during his time at Eton, he was taught by none other than Aldus Huxley, author of dystopia novel Brave New World, and hallucinogenic drug enthusiast.

Following school, he enlisted in the Indian Imperial Police in 1922. Blair would go on to draw from his encounters to pen several pieces. One of these is the essay, Shooting an Elephant, during which he refers to a time when a crowd pressured him in to killing an elephant he had deemed “docile.”

After the Police, he returned to Europe, living in London, and then Paris, where he had his articles published frequently in several magazines.

But what Blair saw and felt transferred in to more than just essays and articles. Some of the best examples of these are perhaps his most famous work- the novels Animal Farm and 1984. Both of these are strong examples of political commentary. As Animal Farm and 1984 were published in 1944 and 1949 respectively, they were introduced in times during which much of the world was gripped by suffocative government, namely Stalinism and totalitarianism.

 

Animal Farm

“On my return from Spain I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood.”

 uses a barnyard setting, with a majority of the characters being talking beasts. The preface to the Ukrainian translation of the book holds the line;

The animals in the book include pigs, dogs, sheep and horses- most of whom are obvious representative to the leaders, parties, and various social classes and of the time.

1984 depicts, among other things, a society severely monitored by the government. The book spawned several terms that would hold a place in language, including ‘Big Brother’, which usually refers to a privacy invasion by those of higher rankings. It also spawned ‘Orwellian’; a lack of freedom by dishonesty (as is exhibited in Animal Farm.)

But how does what Blair felt and wrote relate to the world today? Would he have written similar pieces?

College student Brian Rubinton rattled off a list of issues he felt Blair would have written about in today’s times.

“ Healthcare, poverty, social problems… Imperialism…”

Rubinton wondered if he would still use a pen name today.

“ It was a security thing. He wrote a lot of pieces that criticized the government and society… He talked about how people were spending more on cigarettes than on books. Companies could come after him.”

But since Rubinton can list so many similarities between the novel 1984 and today’s time, we might guess that the pen name would have also been used in this day and age for writings concerning touchy topics.

“ There’s propaganda. Meanings of words changes. Since 9/11, people see more. We thought we were untouchable, but words like terrorist and bombs are familiar [to people.] But at the same time, some words are prevented. And our government is similar. They use fear to control people. Look at anthrax- They wanted us to duct tape out windows.”

When the Orwellian ideas came up, Rubinton mentioned how many schoolbooks have been altered to remove sensitive history topics.

“ That’s another example of the government controlling us. Editing textbooks ( parts about Vietnam) is wrong.”

Student Adam Michaelson sees another similarity fear-wise when bringing up the country’s color-coded threat-level system.

“ He would see those as scare tactics. A device to control the masses by means of intimidation.”

Michaelson feels Blair would write a similar pieces today. In 1945, Blair wrote an essay entitled “You and the Atom Bomb”, which was published in the Tribune on October 19th. Here, he accused the world’s people of being on the brink of blowing up one another by the means of atomic bombs.

“ His fears would probably be worse.” Michaelson said. “ His concerns would probably be amplified. Between recent terrorist attacks and the government’s actions, sending off the army and the bombings now… The war bypassed the U.N!”

 

So as some literature becomes outdated, the works of George Orwell speak in loud volumes to citizens today. While amount of similarities might be unfortunate, Blair’s writings can be utilized as an engaging history lesson, but also as a warning of society potential returns to previous situations.

-Amy Eiferman

Suggested readings-

Down and Out in London and Paris
Animal Farm
1984

The Collected Journalisms, Essays and Letters of George Orwell, Volume I
The Collected Journalisms, Essays and Letters of George Orwell, Volumes II
The Collected Journalisms, Essays and Letters of George Orwell, Volumes III
The Collected Journalisms, Essays and Letters of George Orwell, Volumes IV

 

Sources

Wikipedia
Encyclopedia Britannica
http://tmh.floonet.net/articles/abombs.html

Freedom (of the Press) Fighters

For centuries, citizens have relied on the media to get their news. Whether it be regarding world politics, who their favorite team is trading, or which celebrity is the newest train wreck, people turn to various sources to get information. These are mainly are from print, such as newspapers and magazines, and broadcast, which includes television and radio.

Traditionally, the pieces are delivered by writers, journalists and reporters, almost all of them professional. But in recent years citizen journalism, which refers to idea of non-professionals (usually everyday citizens) reporting, has risen dramatically.

It has become an issue today, because some feel that it is not the responsibility of the general public to report and that they should leave it up to journalists and others in the fields. Also, their stories might have a severe lack of objectivity given that the are not coming from trained or schooled sources. Others, however, see it as a free right.

Young people have taken notice, mainly because they are one group engaging in the activity.

So how exactly do they feel? Students at Nassau Community College had a lot to say, and they were privy to the seeing positives of the issue.

“ When people are not driven by agenda, they are free to write about what they really believe in.” Said Adam Michaelson.

Michaelson’s comment refers to the fact that since citizen journalists are less likely to be governed by a boss or editor, they have the choice to select what topic they would be most interested in covering, or one that might hit the closest to home. For the latter, many have set up blogs, on-line journals illustrating views on everything from day-to-day life, to opinions on movies or political races.

The internet has blasted citizen journalism into the stratosphere. Technology has given us the means to get our ideas out in the open without even having to leave our bedroom. E-mail lets stories be sent back and forth instantly, while search engines make finding a fact which might have taken hours of research to come across in earlier times available in only minutes. Blogs, which can be created for free, let a person report or commentate at whatever length and rate they choose. As many celebrities and politicians have created their own blogs, many bloggers may feel a sense of validation from the possibly growing legitimacy of blog-use.

But the internet has assisted more than just independent journalists.

“ I think the internet has helped [journalism.]” Michaelson said. “ A lot of people don’t pick up a paper, but they go online. A lot of major news organizations are relying on it.”

Indeed, news sites often ask their followers to send in their own stories electronically, to contribute to coverage, which may be a beacon of growing appreciation for citizen journalism.

Nassau students differed, through, on the subject of whether it was the citizen’s responsibility to report, particularly if they were a witness who might be one of few people prepared to report accurate facts. (For instance, a civilian who was present for a bank robbery or act of vandalism.)

“ It’s their obligation.” Samantha DeVictoria said.

Michaelson was not so quick to agree with her.

“ It depends on how sensitive the information is.”

A photographer himself, [Michaelson] also commented on the use of photography in citizen (photo)journalism.

“ It’s all in the story. You can twist any picture, and that can be a problem.”

Since cameras are everywhere, including most cell phones, many people use more than words to put stories out there.

But Michaelson picks up on one of several negatives that exist concerning citizen journalism.

“ Some of it is a lot more biased. It is harder to site sources. People can end up spewing a whole lot of untracked (expletive).”

One comment by DeVictoria added to a sense of disregard for citizen journalism.

“People don’t take what they have to say seriously. There is a big gap in between what is professional and what is not.”

Even a talented writer who may be accurate and non-biased may have his work looked over or frowned upon if he is not writing for a professional publication. But is this reasonable?

DeVictoria thinks a cue exists that professionals might take from citizen journalists, despite a widespread notion that their work is of lesser value.

“ Be more honest.”

With citizen journalism on the rise, but mixed feelings from professionals concerning it remaining the same, the two will simply have to learn to coexist.

-Amy Eiferman

Guilty Pleasure

I feel the extreme need to share this with you guys. For the past several years, the LiveJournal.com community, Oh No They Didn’t has fulfilled my guilty pleasure celebrity gossip cravings.

Is this stuff news? Well, unfortunately, the answer to that is yes for many people. For me it really only is gossip. The community lets registered users post to it, but these posts are filtered by moderators who only let through what they see fit. (Maybe like editors, hmmmm?) I myself do post to it from time to time, and comment on posts, so if you see the username cinnamongirlxxx talking about how much Prince Caspian sucked, it’s me :D!

One interesting note is that all of the ‘news’ stories can’t be posted unless they have a source down at the bottom. Like other media, people want to know their stories about Brangelina’s babies came from somewhere credible, darn it!! Another thing I thought has been interesting to watch is how over the years, what people percieve as media news has evolved from Paris Hilton to lists on The Best Book Covers, etc…

Be careful, it can get addictive. So try to look at it only when you’ve done your daily world news readings that I know you all do 🙂

http://community.livejournal.com/ohnotheydidnt/

Hope everyone is having a good day :)!
-Amy

Paint Wars

An alley in Jackson Heights is being made to look like the New York City of the past that was plagued by graffiti. Several teenagers, believed to be between the ages of fourteen and eighteen have taken to spray-painting graffiti art on the garage doors of homeowners whose approximately twenty-four houses make up an alleyway between eighty-eighth and eighty-seventh street in the borough of Queens.

Residents report these incidents as being ongoing, and the latest one occurred just last week. No culprits have been caught. The crimes occur in the late-night/early morning hours, and this only adds to the frustrations of the residents, who are prone to waking up to find these surprises.

“ No one likes to have their house marked up.” Said Melanie Ellen, a member of the alleyway’s association. “ It’s a hassle.”

Ellen has seen the displays since moving in to her house in ???. She eludes to a ‘turf war’ between homeowners living in the three-story houses, and the teenagers of the neighborhood who reside in apartment buildings. “ The homeowners want to keep things nice, and the kids want to prove they exist.”

The ‘tags’– spray-painted proverbial John Hancocks of graffiti ‘artists’– usually include symbols, or names and nicknames of the offender. According to Ellen, they show up most frequently on garage doors and the neighborhood landmark signs of the area, which are meant to give a nice touch to the block, but become even more damaged and unsightly upon attempted paint removal.

Aside from alleyway association meetings, the issue is brought up at the community meetings which take place at local New York Police Department Precinct- 115. Here, a community liaison, or sergeant speaks with the locals.

“ [The police] can’t do much about it, though.” Ellen says. “ They have to catch them in the act. But the culprit can see them coming and run.”

Since the police are evadable and therefore can offer little assistance, residents are left to deal with the problem on their own. This means spending time panting over the blemishes left on their homes. Usually, the same day upon finding the graffiti, residents will reluctantly do so. At times, frustrated neighbors will even help out and paint the doors that are not their own.

Residents have several current and potential actions against the perpetrators. One example Ellen gave is the purchasing of paint that is harder to spray over than other brands. Those perhaps most likely to utilize this are those whose garage doors are white, which displays spray paint best the most easily. Ellen admits hers has not been painted because of its dark green shade.

One prominent resident of the street is the superintendent in the apartment building that sits on the block after the one and two family houses of the alley end. Since one wall of his building is another target, Ellen says he is planning to keep a closer watch and stay outside more than usual.

There have been talks of a security camera being rigged up. However, it is expensive to buy and maintain.

With few options, the residents can only hope that it will end soon.

-Amy Eiferman

Jack of All Trades

Mary Kate’s thoughtful face becomes even more so as thinks for a few moments, then recalls that the last movie she saw in theatres was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. “ And I was disappointed.”

I would soon come to find that for Mary Kate, disappointment from a film is disappointment in a area which is more than just a hobby for her.

A native of New Hyde Park, New York, Mary Kate hopes one day to cross the country and reside in Hollywood, California, wellspring for movies and other media. Her passion for cinema has moved her to pursue careers in both entertainment law and film production.

Her drive shines through when speaking about entering these fields. In quick succession, she acknowledges that the inner workings of film has long been male-dominated, then admits to seeing a shift in gender dynamic. “ I see a lot of women rising in the industry. I think it’s exciting. It’s fun to be a part of.”

Instead of blindly going to Hollywood like so many young people do, Mary Kate has laid out a path for herself. “ I want to start out in entertainment law, and meet the right people.” These “right people” are the ones Mary Kate hopes will help ferry her in to the production and “behind the scenes” world of film.

Here, she will most likely draw inspiration from some of the women she admires greatly in the film world. One is Kathleen Kennedy, who has worked with Steven Spielberg since the 80s, and has served as producer and executive producer on some of his biggest successes such as E.T. and Munich.

Half French, Mary Kate has a fondness for the film world of France. “ It is so much more open and feminine.” Women also have more opportunity in film there, and Mary Kate is more than open to being a part of it. “ I would love to work with the French film industry. Maybe with subsidizing [films] and bringing them here.”

Aside from Kennedy, another female admired by Mary Kate is Sophie Marceau. The French actress who Americans might recognize best from her roles in Braveheart and the World is Not Enough is someone Mary Kate describes as “a jack of all trades” due to her work not only in on-camera but as a novelist and director.

However, Marceau is not the only one Mary Kate referred to as one of these jacks of all trades. She also used these words to describe herself- And with good reason. Motivated as she is about film and her future goals, she still has room in her heart for a variety of other hobbies that she feels just as strongly about.

A different art form she engages in is music. Master of piano, guitar, drums and bass, Mary Kate also writes her own. A listener of alternative, new wave and grunge, she has a preference for classic rock, and worships Led Zeppelin guitar maestro Jimmy Page for his innovativeness. Another interest, politics, is responsible for an affinity for tunes she calls “ politically charged.”

But on what may be considered the opposite side of the spectrum from the arts, Mary Kate is also an avid sports fan, and it has led to her taking on the role of athlete herself. Her heritage has her placing allegiances with the French soccer team when it comes to international play, along with the Montréal Canadiens of the National Hockey League.

She is also a fan of the New York Giants and Los Angeles Lakers, but no team has driven her more than the New York Yankees. The Bronx team is the reason behind her taking up softball, which would lead to her playing in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the Little League capital, as a self-described utility infielder. Another accomplishment is the brown belt she has gained in the mixed martial arts form, muay thai.

Automotive racing also holds a place in her heart, as she follows the Formula One and French Le Mans circuits. Her dream car? “ A Porsche 911 GT3.”

Perhaps this is the car she will drive out in Hollywood. Before California, though, she hopes to transfer to New York City Ivy League Colombia University.

And with her dedication, that isn’t too hard to imagine.

-Amy Eiferman