Sunday, July 17, 2016

Obligatory Ghostbusters 2016 Review

Going to the the 2016 Ghostbusters on opening weekend was something of a point of pride for me after reading all of the "trollicious" comments about how terrible the new movie would be. After having written my thoughts about the bizarre anti-women sentiments of too many fanboys (disguised as "this remake will ruin my childhood" whining), I felt obligated to review the film one way or the other -- positive or negative -- as long as I could review it honestly.

In 2011, director Paul Feig struck gold with the comedy hit Bridesmaids. Since then, he's made three additional film starring Melissa McCarthy (Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters). These films, penned by Katie Dippold, Paul Feig, or a combination of both, all seem to draw from the same well. There's a pattern to the jokes in these films which mixes ribald comments with a seemingly faddish turn wherein characters riff a series of allegedly funny lines and, rather than using the best one, several of them are strung together in the final product.

That kind of "on the fly" humor can be effective but it has to be honed and used judiciously. At times, these jokes pile on to one another, making scenes increasingly funny. When not done well, however, scenes can feel clunky and each additional comment makes the scene clunkier.

Unfortunately, Ghostbusters 2016 is a very clunky movie.

The film re-teams Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy while introducing "Saturday Night Live" alumn Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to the mix. Wiig as Professor Erin Gilbert is our protagonist though she quickly becomes eclipsed by McCartney as Abby Yates and McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann. Gilbert and Yates bicker like the former friends they are while Holtzmann embodies some kind of living cartoon character -- appropriate since she seems styled after the Egon Spengler on the animated "The Real Ghostbusters". This presents a conundrum as Holtzmann becomes the most interesting person to look at on screen but she never gives us anything but an out-of-step lipsynching scene (where she's seemingly seducing Gilbert?) and several nonsequiters. She may be brilliant when it comes to making ghost-catching gadgets but she doesn't know DeBarge from Devo.

After the three women begin a business to investigate the paranormal, they hire Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). Dumb as a box of rocks, Kevin is a one-note character whose first note rings flat and only gets worse from there. The scene of him showing his graphic design skills might be one of the most excruciating bits of the film.

We eventually meet Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a mass transit employee who manages to make it past Kevin's incompetence and summons the Ghostbusters to the subway for their second supernatural encounter. Apparently, Patty is impressed by the team's incompetence and inexplicably joins them. This is one of many "this thing needs to happen so it's just going to happen" moments of the film.

There is an antagonist in Ghostbusters... of a sort. Rowan North, played by Neil Casey, has less depth and backstory than a "Criminal Minds" freak of the week. He's such a thumbnail sketch that I kept expecting that he was just a lowly henchman for some bigger baddie (like Andy Garcia's Mayor character or, even better, Cecily Strong as Jennifer Lynch, the Mayor's assistant). Alas, no. The film's villain remains unmotivated and as poorly drawn as the rest of the characters in the film.

It seems that the real bad guy of the film is Paul Feig who's given his team very little to work with. Additionally, the film suffers from being simply poorly made. The most glaring example of this comes in the scene after the team gets called into the Mayor's office and told that they have to stop their ghost-busting antics. This cuts to the team in an alley where Yates says that the Mayor is allowing them to continue to hunt ghosts!? The scene proceeds to exist with the sole purpose to demonstrate a few weapons that will be used in the final confrontation with the Oogie Boogie version of Rowan North. There's really no need for this scene as the audience has seen Holtzmann making quantum leaps in technology throughout the film. The film then cuts to what was the next natural scene after the Mayor's office scene where our heroes are downtrodden, not the elated characters we saw during the brief weapons try-out.

This same kind of editing and pacing issues mar much of the film. Of course, the film takes an extra beat whenever introducing a ham-handed cameo from the original Ghost Busters cast (the Sigourney Weaver bit just feels tacked on, because it is) but then one of the film's other cameos, Ozzy Osbourne, cuts away too quickly (after a terrible laugh line).

Other pacing problems present in the Ghostbusters only catching one ghost before the final confrontation, the inexplicable absence of Gilbert from the team after their strange-but-brief "victory" over Rowan North, and the gaping absence of the dance number Kevin-as-Rowan is setting up the police for (which we see somewhat in the credits).

I won't even go into how troubling Leslie Jones's role was handled in her "white people be crazy" stereotype into which her character was cast. Again, better writing and judicious editing could have helped her character just as it could have helped all of the other paper-thin characters in this overblown film wherein, at the end of the day, it didn't matter what gender the actors are but how good the script and direction need to be.

Ghostbusters 2016 is not the worst movie I've seen. It's not necessarily a terrible movie. It feels like there's a competent film hidden beneath the incompetence of the product that came to theaters. I don't think that a fan edit will help the movie once it comes out on home video as that can pare back some of the clumsiness of the current film but it can't do anything to help build the characters into something more than the synopsis descriptions they're limited to on screen.

And, by the way, I don't think it's going to ruin your childhood.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Trouble with Ghosts

I've written a bit in the past about the trouble with so-called "fan boys" and women. When the piece about Lianne Spiderbaby came out, a lot of males didn't get angry about Ms. Spiderbaby's plagiarism as much as her being a woman "writer" in a typically male-dominated field (penning genre reviews). The acceptance of women as being fans of and participants in genre films, filmmaking, and fandom has only gotten worse rather than better with major flare-ups around events such as "Gamergate" and Sad Puppies.

This same anti-woman sentiment seems to be the undercurrent of the backlash against the 2016 remake of Ghost Busters which reverses gender roles of our five main characters (Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth). Rather than being forward with the idea that a female-lead Ghost Busters is anathema to "fan boy" culture, it's easier to disguise the hatred while holding up the mantle of fandom and originality. While film culture is beset by remakes, sequels, and prequels, too many male fans have used Ghost Busters as the rallying point to decry remakes as if it were simply a bridge too far.

Apparently it's no big deal to make horrible movies out of geeky TV shows like "Transformers" or "Jem & The Holograms" but Ghost Busters (1984) is a sacred text. Can I remind people that Ghostbusters 2 was absolute garbage and one of the two (!) "Ghostbuster" cartoons was also terrible. If anything, Ghostbusters 2016 seems to be cleverly paying homage to the good Ghostbusters cartoon -- "The Real Ghost Busters" -- via Kate McKinnon's wild Egon hair.

That said, I have been not-so-silently lambasting James Rolfe AKA Angry Video Game Nerd, as being something of the face of this issue. That's probably not fair as he's not overtly come out to say that he has a problem with the gender-reversal of Ghostbusters 2016 but he has been very vocal in his dismissal of the film prior to its release via a video he made for Cinemassacre titled "Ghostbusters 2016. No Review. I refuse."



Watching this video is painful as Mr. Rolfe comes off as a whiny little prick. It takes him five and a half minutes to state to his fans (the audience of the video) why he won't be reviewing Ghost Busters 2016. He does this without vitriol or even raising his voice from a languid librarian pitch. There's no "koala dropping" rant. No. Instead it's a very calm discussion of how there's no way that Ghostbusters 2016 can be good because:

  1. It uses the same name as the original movie
  2. It forgets about the old characters
  3. It doesn't pay service to the fans

Apparently, all of those things can be judged by the trailer (which is one of the most disliked trailers in YouTube history). Mr. Rolfe goes on to talk about good examples of remakes/reboots/sequels like Star Wars VII and Star Trek XI which pass the torch from one generation to another. "A little fan service goes a long way," he says. How does Mr. Rolfe know that there won't be any "fan service" in the new Ghost Busters? I already mentioned Ms. McKinnon's hair, the trailer seems to show a few familiar characters like Slimer, and Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson make appearances in the new film. I suppose it's too little because Harold Ramis (RIP), Bill Murray*, and Rick Moranis won't be in the film. It seems to me that, if anything, Ghostbusters 2016 is going to have too much fan service but I can't be sure because I haven't seen the movie yet.

*Bill Murray may show up in an uncredited cameo as he did in at least one other film.

I think Brad Jones does a terrific job of recontextualizing Mr. Rolfe's video by taking the gender politics out of it and simply pointing out the absurdity of Mr. Rolfe's arguments against the remake/reboot/sequel protest:



Again, Mr. Rolfe does not say anything untoward against women or that the idea gender-swapping is a cheap gimmick. Instead, he seems to focus more on the idea that this new Ghost Busters will sully the memory of his love of the original series. As someone who suffered through The Phantom Menace, I would ask him to get a grip. He doesn't know what pain is.

Does Mr. Rolfe sound like a "whiny man baby" in his video? He doesn't whine but he comes across as whiny because he felt the need to even bother to spend the time to make the video. Some people feel that he had to address his fan base because they were demanding it. I don't buy it. Isn't it enough to say "That movie looks bad. I'm not going to see it."?

Mr. Rolfe has his very odd reasons for not watching Ghostbusters 2016 and he felt the necessity to get on his YouTube soap box for five and a half minutes to talk about it.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rolfe has become something of a poster child for paranoiac fan boys who feel they're being persecuted by feminists.

Seeing the responses to the responses to Mr. Rolfe's video (here and here) really make me sad. Are people really persecuting fan boys for not enjoying the trailer for Ghostbusters 2016? Are they being burned in effigy? Has anyone been killed because of it? Or is this all conjecture based on self-delusion and some internet comments/tweets?

You can hate the new Ghostbusters without being a misogynist and I'm not saying you are a misogynist if you do. I'm not saying you can't pre-judge a movie based on its preview. Full Disclosure: I have only watched one of the trailers for Ghostbusters 2016 as I don't like to watch a lot of trailers because they can misrepresent the movie (Hugo), give away plot twists (Shutter Island) or simply show all of the plot points of a movie. The one preview didn't look very good but I'll still be seeing the movie as I'm curious to see it.

If you dislike Ghostbusters 2016 because it's a remake of a film you hold sacred then get a grip. If you dislike the movie because it's bad, that's fine. If you don't see the movie because you don't want to spend money on it, that's fine.

I'm just saying that with the gender-reversal of the film that it's very easy for people who misogynist or at least gynophobic to decry a movie they've never seen based on the idea of strong female characters and masquerade as simple "movie fans speaking their opinion."

But, please, don't try to pretend that you're anything other than a sexist pig if the real problem here is that you can't stand the idea of women playing in your safe space.

If you want to see a video version of what I said here, Comic Book Girl 19 does a good job of summing it up:






Friday, May 27, 2016

Noir City Festival: Detroit

From Film Noir Foundation:

This fall, the historic Redford Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, will play host to a three-day NOIR CITY festival, the inaugural edition of what could become an annual event. The Redford is a classic single-screen movie palace rescued from oblivion by the Motor City Theatre Organ Society, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of theatres featuring original pipe organs. NOIR CITY Detroit, hosted by Eddie Muller, will take place September 23–25, 2016 at the massive 1928 movie palace, which accommodates 1,600 patrons—200 more than NOIR CITY’s flagship venue, San Francisco’s Castro Theatre. The festival’s film schedule is in development now.“There’s a great synergy here,” said Muller. “At the FNF we’re preserving at-risk films, and these dedicated folks at the Redford are preserving this classic movie palace so folks can see the films as they were originally meant to be seen. It should be a perfect match.”

And here's the schedule:

September 23
7:00 The Killers (1946)
9:30 99 River Street (1953)

September 24
7:00 Double Indemnity (1944)
9:30 The Prowler (1951)
11:30 Blue Velvet (1986)

September 25
3:00 Lady From Shanghai (1948)
5:00 Woman On The Run (1950)
(35mm Film Presentations)

Learn more about the historic Redford Theater.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Journalism Is Dead

Not "listicles" per se, the phenomenon of top ten videos by hackneyed outlets such as ScreenRant, WatchMojo, along with the Everything Wrong With and CinemaSins groups are really a scourge to anything related to valid journalism or criticism. Even when being satirical, they fail miserably.

Let's take a look at a recent ScreenRant video. First, the title of the video is "10 Amazing Hidden Easter Eggs in Superhero Movies". We'll soon be asking if ScreenRant knows what an Easter Egg is. For the record: An Easter Egg is an unexpected or undocumented feature in a piece of computer software or on a DVD, included as a joke or a bonus. The term has since been bastardized to now include simple references or inside jokes.

Back to the title. The video says "10 Amazing Hidden Easter Eggs in Superhero Movies" but the title on YouTube is aimed more at being Clickbait by being more inflammatory: "10 Hidden Superhero Movie Easter Eggs You Never Noticed". By saying "You Never Noticed" ScreenRant presents a challenge to the viewer.



Looking at the list, most of these things are items that are little jokes or inside references, nothing "hidden" and no "Easter Eggs".

  1. A reference to Doctor Strange in Spiderman. Yup. Caught that years ago. Thanks. Not hidden. Not an Easter Egg.

  2. Reference to Cat Woman in Batman Begins. Caught that. Thanks. Not hidden. Not an Easter Egg.

  3. Reference to Magneto being Quicksilver's dad in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Caught that. Thanks. Not Hidden. Not an Easter Egg.

  4. Reference to The Black Panther in Iron Man 2. Well, it could be a reference. So maybe that's an Eater Egg? Maybe not.

  5. Reference to the Iron Man cartoon theme in Iron Man. Yup. Caught it. Not sure if that would be considered either hidden or an Easter Egg.

  6. Reference to Sapphire in the Green Lantern movie. Okay, this one might be an Easter Egg.

  7. Reference to issue 121 (the death of Gwen Stacey) in Amazing Spider Man 2. Hey! I would consider that a valid thing!

  8. Reference to Willy Lumpkin in Fantastic Four. Not really an Easter Egg. Just a character that not a lot of people may know.

  9. Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill cameo in Superman. I've known this one for years, I'm not sure if everyone did. But, major points deducted for showing a picture of George Reeves and Phyllis Coates in the video to demonstrate Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill. Even more points deducted because George Reeves had been dead for quite a while before Superman cam out in 1978. I guess the people behind the video forgot about Hollywoodland.

    What's worse is the the site Sploid (one of the Gawker family of websites) then teased the "article" with this GIF:

    This might have worked better:

  10. Steve Rogers punches Hitler in Captain America: The First Avenger as a reference to the comic book cover. Nice if you know it but not really an Easter Egg.

This bloated list of pedestrian references is nothing compared to just how terrible CinemaSins and Everything Wrong With can be. Here's a wonderful video that explains everything wrong with a typical CinemaSins video:


Monday, January 18, 2016

Let's Do Some Math

Is The Hateful Eight really the 8th film from Quentin Tarantino? This seems suspect.

1/2 My Best Friend's Birthday
1 Reservoir Dogs
1 Pulp Fiction
1/4 Four Rooms
1 Jackie Brown
1 Kill Bill: Vol. 1
1 Kill Bill: Vol. 2
1/8 Sin City
1 Grindhouse: Death Proof
1 Inglourious Basterds
1 Django Unchained
1 Hateful Eight

It seems like the 9th full feature. Maybe the 8th if we're counting Kill Bill as one film (though I paid for two tickets). But, really, it seems like it's the 9.875 film from Quentin Tarantino.




Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wolf Punk'd?

Occasionally I go over to check out William Pattison AKA Eric Morse's astounding Wolf Pack Podcast. He's still stumping about how "Women in Horror" is unfair and that the Soska Sisters are the spawn of Satan. Rarely does he go off the deep end enough to be of note lately. However, July 2015 episode, An Awakening of Horror: The Bullying Continues, is really something special. Here's the show's description:

Join The King of Splatter Punk, William Pattison and special guest Hank Morris and they discuss Hank's recent bout with bullying by WiHM ambassador Heidi Honeycutt and a number of trolls on Facebook....
This episode is a howler. I'm trying to figure out just who "Hank Morris" is. I thought maybe he was the person behind "Dr. Blood" but regardless, the person going by "Hank Morris" is hilarious. The story he spins just keeps getting increasingly outrageous but either Morse is oblivious to that or just doesn't care. Morse seems to take everything that "Morris" says to heart, including when "Morris" starts talking about his "condition" where he has to drink a lot of moonshine!

Morse doesn't miss a beat, empathizing with a fellow misunderstood horror fan...

There's a bit of a backstory to the episode that Morse doesn't go into. He talks about how "Morris" was bullied by Heidi Honeycutt. Yet, there's no real discussion on what that means. Morse loves to talk about people being bullied, never realizing that he is the bully he despises.

Even when "Morris" (in an obvious put-on voice) suddenly announces that he's attracted to Honeycutt and that Morse should offer an olive branch to her, Morse launches into a convoluted rant about treating women equally; that he can hate them as much as he hates everyone else. What a guy!

I hope that you enjoy this incredible episode of The Wolf Pack Podcast as much as I did.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cinephilia & My Spleen & Holy Grails

The workprint version of Apocalypse Now has been available on the bootleg market for years. I first read about it in the mid-'90s and paid a hefty price for three VHS tapes of it.

Oddly, the fantastic website Cinephilia & Beyond recently posted an article entitled THE HOLY GRAIL OF WORKPRINTS: THE FIVE-HOUR ROUGH VERSION OF ‘APOCALYPSE NOW’. This seems like a very strange thing as a "holy grail" is often seen as something unattainable while this workprint is wide spread. Author Peter Cowie wrote about it extensively in the The Apocalypse Now Book in 2001.

What seems even stranger is that the "article" is simply a list.

What's stranger still is that this list seems to be culled completely from another source.

As I'm doing research on Apocalypse Now for an upcoming episode of The Projection Booth, I have been keeping notes about the film and creating my own "dossier" of articles about it. A few months back I made note of the description of a torrent on MySpleen for this workprint (uploaded 8/12/2014). When I read the Cinephilia & Beyond post, the list and some of the language seemed familiar so I did a comparison of the two and found that they're nearly identical.

There's no author credit on the Cinephilia & Beyond nor is the uploader of the Torrent identified. That said, I'm not going to throw around The "P" word here but I just wanted to say that this might be some fairly lazy "journalism" to just post a copy/paste list.

The following is a comparison of the two posts. The words in blue are from MySpleen. The words in red are from Cinephilia & Beyond:



Description: The holy grail of workprints... The 5 hour workprint of Apocalypse Now. This is raw unedited footage from the 3 years Coppola filmed. The Theatrical version runs 153 minutes, the Redux version runs 203 minutes, this version runs 289 minutes. In this version you'll get to see Scott Glenn's entire role, Dennis Hopper's character meeting his end and more of Marlon Brando.

Workprints, rough versions of films before the editing process kicks in and trims out all the material deemed surplus, are considered priceless memorabilia among filmlovers. The 5-hour-long version of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, moreover, is considered to be the Holy Grail among them. Now, we’re excited beyond words to share with you the 289-minute version of this classic picture. Just so we give you time to let it sink in—if the theatrical release print lasted 153 minutes, and if the Redux issue offered 202 minutes of the film, this means this rough cut gives us the priceless chance to enjoy an additional hour and a half of Coppola’s groundbreaking study of human nature. Before you start enjoying this highly educational ride, let us prepare you for what you’re about to witness.

It became a famous fact that it took almost two years for Coppola and his editors to cut down a million feet of film and turn it into the movie filmgoers got to know back in 1979. What this workprint offers is an invaluable insight into the filmmaking process, shedding light on what kind of decisions Coppola was forced to make as he labored to get the film done. It’s exhilarating to see practically everything the crew filmed during the extremely tough production period in the Philippines, and it’s even more enlightening to witness what exactly failed to find its place in the final version of the film, cut out and ignored because Coppola decided the material, as exhausting as it was to film it in the first place, did not enrich the story. One of the most important things that Coppola cut, at least according to our opinion, is the political aspect of the film: scenes in which characters criticize the US involvement in Vietnam. It was apparently decided the film would benefit more from concentrating on psychology and human nature. And who’s to say Coppola made a bad call?

During the U.S.-Viet Nam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

The following deleted scenes in this version are:

A longer opening montage, the entire 10 minute song "The End" by The Doors is heard.It intercuts longer helicopters/jungle images with Willard in the hotel room in a drunken rage, as well as a scene where he is with a prostitute. There are various shots outside depicting the streets of Saigon.

A longer opening montage, the entire 10 minute song The End by The Doors is heard. It intercuts longer helicopters/jungle images with Willard in the hotel room in a drunken rage, as well as a scene where he is with a prostitute. There are various shots outside depicting the streets of Saigon.

When the two soldiers pick up Willard in the hotel room there is a brief conversation while they help him shower and shave. They notify him that his wait for his new mission is now over.

When the two soldiers pick up Willard in the hotel room there is a brief conversation while they help him shower and shave. They notify him that his wait for his new mission is now over.

The scene where Willard is given his assignment is longer and contains much more dialogue. The general informs Willard that the mission is purely voluntary and he can decline it. The general also offers Willard a promotion to major upon completion of the mission. For some reason Colonel Kurtz is referred to in this scene as "Colonel Leevy". There are some external shots of the military base.

The scene where Willard is given his assignment is longer and contains much more dialogue. The general informs Willard that the mission is purely voluntary and he can decline it. The general also offers Willard a promotion to major upon completion of the mission. For some reason Colonel Kurtz is referred to in this scene as ‘Colonel Leevy.’ There are some external shots of the military base.

A brief scene where Willard is introduced to the crew of the Navy P.B.R.

A brief scene where Willard is introduced to the crew of the Navy P.B.R.

Carmine Coppola's score is not present in this version. Many more songs by The Doors are played throughout the film instead.

Carmine Coppola’s score is not present in this version. Many more songs by The Doors are played throughout the film instead.

None of the narration or dossier voiceovers are in this version.

None of the narration or dossier voiceovers are in this version.

There is no audio dubbing in this version. All the audio is from the sound recorded during the actual filming. Much of Robert Duvall's dialogue is unintelligible due to the sound of the helicopters in his scenes.

There is no audio dubbing in this version. All the audio is from the sound recorded during the actual filming. Much of Robert Duvall’s dialogue is unitelligable due to the sound of the helicopters in his scenes.

A much longer first cavalry "Ride of Valkyrie" attack scene (30+ mins)showing much unused footage and alternate takes.

A much longer first cavalry ‘Ride of Valkyrie’ attack scene (30+ mins) showing much unused footage and alternate takes.

A much longer playboy bunnies performance.

A much longer playboy bunnies performance.

Various extended scenes on the boat, and alternate takes and shots.

Various extended scenes on the boat, and alternate takes and shots.

In the Playmate scenes, Willard trades two drums of oil in exchange for spending two hours with the Bunnies. We see Chef with Miss May in a helicopter, and Lance with the Playmate of the Year in a ransacked house. Miss May was once a bird trainer at Busch Gardens and tries to talk about birds with Chef while he is busy trying to get her to re-enact her photo that he showed the crew. They end up kissing and Miss May gets excited because Chef kisses like a bird. The Playmate of the Year is talking to Lance about her troubles and insecurities about being a Playmate. Clean is seen trying to barge in on both men, and when he barges in on Lance, the Playmates open a chest (in which to hide) and discovers a dead Vietnamese. Lance comforts her. Chef finds out afterwards that Clean is a virgin and starts calling him names on the boat. Willard told Chief that the whole crew can spend time with the Bunnies, but Chief refuses.

A scene where a miniature toy boat passes the Navy PBR. Lance tries to grab it out of the water. The Chief yells at him to leave it alone claiming it's a booby trap. To prove it the Chief fires some shots at it to which it explodes.

A scene where a miniature toy boat passes the Navy PBR. Lance tries to grab it out of the water. The Chief yells at him to leave it alone claiming it’s a booby trap. To prove it the Chief fires some shots at it to which it explodes.

When the P.B.R. reaches Do-lung bridge, the soldier that greets them gives a more detailed explanation of the chaos around the bridge.

When the P.B.R. reaches Do-lung bridge, the soldier that greets them gives a more detailed explanation of the chaos around the bridge.

When Lance is reading his letters on the boat, he suddenly stops to machine gun a water buffalo on the shore. The Chief yells at him to stop.

When Lance is reading his letters on the boat, he suddenly stops to machine gun a water buffalo on the shore. The Chief yells at him to stop.

The sequence where Clean is killed is omitted.

The sequence where Clean is killed is omitted.

A slightly longer French plantation sequence. After the French woman strips she crawls into the bed with Willard and they begin kissing. (This scene runs approx 20 minutes).

A slightly longer French plantation sequence. After the French woman strips she crawls into the bed with Willard and they begin kissing.

The sequence where the Chief is killed is omitted.

The sequence where the Chief is killed is omitted.

More dialogue between Willard and the photojournalist when they first reach the Kurtz compound. The Journalist reveals that it was HE who was able to get the montagnards to break off their attack on the boat in the previous scene. Willard repeatedly asks the Journalist's name but he refuses to answer.

More dialogue between Willard and the photojournalist when they first reach the Kurtz compound. The Journalist reveals that it was HE who was able to get the montangnards to break off their attack on the boat in the previous scene. Willard repeatedly asks the Journalists name but he refuses to answer.

The character of Colby, (the soldier who was sent before Willard to kill Kurtz, played by Scott Glenn) has a much more substantial role in this version. As Willard inspects the compound, Colby tells Willard that the night before, NVA soldiers had attacked (which explains all the bodies lying about the compound). Willard then enters Kurtz's house, much to the dismay of the journalist. Willard sees Kurtz empty bed and his medals, also his journal with the inscription "Drop the bomb, exterminate them all" (many of these scenes were in the final version but re-inserted in different places).

The character of Colby, (the soldier who was sent before Willard to kill Kurtz, played by Scott Glenn) has a much more substantial role in this version. As Willard inspects the compound, Colby tells Willard that the night before, NVA soldiers had attacked (which explains all the bodies laying about the compound). Willard then enters Kurtz’s house, much to the dismay of the journalist. Willard sees Kurtz empty bed and his medals, also his journal with the inscription ‘Drop the bomb, exterminate them all’ (many of these scenes were in the final version but re-inserted in different places).

The scene where Willard talks to Chef about the airstrike on the boat is omitted.

The scene where Willard talks to Chef about the air strike on the boat is omitted.

In this version. The first time Kurtz appears is the scene where a mud caked Willard is tied up (seated) to a pole in the rain. Kurtz appears with camouflage face paint, Willard asks...."Why he is being mistreated?" and tries to bluff his way past Kurtz by telling him that he had just completed a secret mission in Cambodia, and only stopped for supplies. Kurtz says nothing to him, but plants Chef's head in his lap. (Only a portion of this scene was in the original version).

The first time Kurtz appears is the scene where a mud caked Willard is tied up (seated) to a pole in the rain. Kurtz appears with camouflage face paint, Willard asks… “Why he is being mistreated?” and tries to bluff his way past Kurtz by telling him that he had just completed a secret mission in Cambodia, and only stopped for supplies. Kurtz says nothing to him, but plants Chef’s head in his lap. (Only a portion of this scene was in the original version).

The scene where Willard meets Kurtz in his bed chamber contains more dialogue....as Kurtz makes it clear that he knows why Willard is there.

The scene where Willard meets Kurtz in his bed chamber contains more dialogue… as Kurtz makes it clear that he knows why Willard is there.

A scene where Kurtz talks to Willard in the bamboo cage while two children sit on top of the cage and dangle insects in Willard's face. He tells him that Willard is "like his colleagues in Washington, master liars who want to win the war but don't want to appear as immoral or unethical".

A scene where Kurtz talks to Willard in the bamboo cage while two children sit on top of the cage and dangle insects in Willard’s face. He tells him that Willard is “like his colleagues in Washington, master liars who want to win the war but don’t want to appear as immoral or unethical.”

A lengthy scene where the montagnards in a ritualistic display pick up the bamboo cage (with Willard inside) and poke him with sticks (Lance and Colby participate in this). The natives dance around the bamboo cage, chanting and singing while a squealing pig is tied up and killed.

A lengthy scene where the montangnards in a ritualistic display pick up the bamboo cage (with Willard inside) and poke him with sticks (Lance and Colby participate in this). The natives dance around the bamboo cage, chanting and singing while a squealing pig is tied up and killed.

A 10 minute version of the scene where Kurtz reads the poem "The Hollow Men", intercutting between his reading and the journalist talking with Willard.

A 10 minute version of the scene where Kurtz reads the poem ‘The Hollow Men,’ intercutting between his reading and the journalist talking with Willard.

A scene where the journalist meets Willard to tell him that he thinks Kurtz is about to kill him because he took his picture again. During which Colby comes behind the journalist and shoots him three times, killing him. Willard throws a knife at Colby's stomach to which he falls, but before he dies he asks Willard to talk to his family for him and asks him to kill Kurtz.

A scene where the journalist meets Willard to tell him that he thinks Kurtz is about to kill him because he took his picture again. During which Colby comes behind the journalist and shoots him three times, killing him. Willard throws a knife at Colby’s stomach to which he falls, but before he dies he asks Willard to talk to his family for him and asks him to kill Kurtz.

Kurtz speech about the horror and the children vaccination are omitted.

Kurtz speech about the horror and the children vaccination are omitted.

During the assassination scene at the end, before Willard enters Kurtz' home, one of the guards confronts him. Willard picks up a spear to defend himself as the guard picks up a child to shield himself. Willard runs the spear right through the child and into the guard. The final scene with Willard and the montagnards after Kurtz assassination are omitted.

During the assassination scene at the end, before Willard enters Kurtz’ home, one of the guards confronts him. Willard picks up a spear to defend himself as the guard picks up a child to shield himself. Willard runs the spear right through the child and into the guard. The final scene with Willard and the montangnards after Kurtz assasination are omitted.

Quality's rough but watchable. Tidbit: The workprint came from 3 U-Matic tapes.

This version is 5 hours long!!!



Here's the response from Cinephilia & Beyond:

The 'WHAT'S DIFFERENT IN THIS WP' text has been cruising the web for about 10 years, "signed" under a zillion of different nicknames. We're not able to credit the author of the text - we have no intention of promotion torrent websites. If you know the name of the original author, feel free to tell us and we'll acknowledge it in the article.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. I understand that no author is credited on the C&B piece so no one is claiming ownership (except, by proxy, the C&B website itself) but it just seems like someone could have rewritten that text to bring it some freshness after ten years of "cruising" on the web.

Am I just being oversensitive?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Rue Morgue's Traffic Violation Continues

There's etiquette and then there's "netiquette" -- the proper way to act and operate online. One of the things that the people behind a website should not do is try to subvert traffic from another site to theirs. It's one thing to cross-post and backlink but it's quite another to poach traffic outright.

In the world wide web, content is king. I will admit that I don't get a whole lot of traffic to this site and that's because I barely write anything new here. I'm sporadic with my updates and they are few and far between. Worse, most of my posts are pretty boring. However, they are mine. I take the time to write them.

What I don't do is go out to another site, copy their posts, give a little link back to them, and then go out to my social media channels and point people over to this site rather than the original source material. That's pretty shady, right?

That's exactly what I've seen going on lately with the fine folks over at Rue Morgue.

Normally, web traffic should go like this:

I see an article or announcement that's interesting and then I go out to my social media feed and post a link to that page/site. I'm spreading the word about something and perhaps prompting a discussion of the topic on my Facebook wall.

What Rue Morgue has been doing lately (at least since around June that I've been able to find) is wholesale copying articles from sites, putting them on their site, and directing traffic to themselves. This isn't plagiarism, per se. They give the author of the original article credit but they don't get permission from the original website to reprint.

Rue Morgue is taking away traffic from original websites who rely on those hits for revenue to hire the writers responsible for content that Rue Morgue is lifting. Rue Morgue isn't paying the writers that they're reprinting. For some reason they seem to think that this is fine for the web. I hope they never consider this to be fair practice in the print version of their magazine.

Here's the flow of this Rue Morgue set-up:


A real world example is "their" recent posting "Lost ending of Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING explained" from July 10, 2015. Gwynne Watkins wrote the original piece for Yahoo Movies and Rue Morgue copied and pasted her entire piece onto their site. True, it was credited to Ms. Watkins (as if she is working for Rue Morgue) and there's a link (below the fold of the page) to Yahoo Movies but this still feels shady as Rue Morgue then posted the link to their article on their Facebook page so that traffic would go back to their website.

That means that Rue Morgue gets the hits. Rue Morgue's web ads show. Rue Morgue looks like they're providing content. Rue Morgue gets to save on paying writers while the real writer and original site get none of the benefits.

Yes, getting an article reprinted on Rue Morgue's website may be great exposure for an aspiring writer but so is just sharing that article via the Rue Morgue social media feed. Diverting viewers to the Rue Morgue site is a boon to Rue Morgue itself. They have ads at rue-morgue.com to be clicked, merchandise to be sold, and magazines to push. They're getting free content and not paying a dime to anyone. It's not a win/win situation for the writer/magazine as the writer isn't getting anything for their work except the effluviant "exposure" while Rue Morgue is driving up their web traffic and, possibly, sales. Essentially, they're making money off the work of other people and not paying them. It's not like they're abusing unpaid interns but they're taking from other writers and websites without any permission and with just a cursory link and credit.

A writer like Gwynne Watkins doesn't need "exposure" via Rue Morgue. She's a professional writer with upper-tier magazines on her curriculum vitae. She's not an amateur blogger who might take an unauthorized reprint as a compliment.

When asked about this practice, Ms. Watkins says:

"I'm not familiar with this site but I do have a problem with any website or publication reprinting an article of mine, in full, without my permission or the permission of the original publisher. It's one thing to excerpt or summarize, and link back; I consider that a compliment. But this amounts to stealing content, and it's unethical."


Not all of the Rue Morgue website posts are complete lifts. They often will excerpt pieces from an article on another site and provide a link to read the full text. This is the more standard practice. Yet, this still isn't completely kosher.

On July 9, 2015 Rue Morgue posted on their Facebook page: "We countdown the creepiest MAGIC: THE GATHERING cards of all time". However, the "we" was not Rue Morgue but James Whitbrook of i09. Mr. Whitbrook doesn't get credited on Rue Morgue. The article is credited to "Staff" on the site. There is a sentence after the lead paragraph that plainly states "James Witbrook of io9.com has compiled a list of the all-time creepiest magic cards, complete with artwork and blurbs, and they are pretty damned spectacular." Yes, Rue Morgue misspelled Mr. Whitbrook's name.

Mr. Whitbrook's original article included 12 cards/descriptions. Rue Morgue reprinted seven of those with a link back to io9 at the end of the piece. This is close to proper netiquette save for the misspelling of the author's name and the post that says "We" as if Rue Morgue was the source. How hard would it have been to say, "James Whitbrook of io9 counts down the creepiest MAGIC: THE GATHERING cards of all time"?

That pesky "we" creeps into their Facebook posts like "Sir CHRISTOPHER LEE: legend of screen and Gentleman of Horror, we bid you adieu... " for an article they reprinted from The Guardian (it says that it comes "courtesy of The Guardian, as if The Guardian granted them permission to reprint?) and "From the Flaming Wheel to Getting Tossed Onto Knife Mountains, we've got the craziest punishments in Hell!" in which the "we" was actually Rob Bricken at io9.

This isn't a case of a link or two. A quick look at the Rue Morgue Facebook feed over the last few weeks reveals numerous instances that go beyond simple reprints of posters, YouTube videos, or images from other sites. Yes, some are simply copying a few paragraphs as a "teaser" (common practise for a lot of sites) but here's a couple of the more egregious violations like The Shining article:

Charlie Hintz, who penned the Haunted Bunk Bed article is pragmatic about his situation:

I wasn't even aware of the Rue Morgue article. Not sure how I missed it.

I have mixed feelings on this subject. From a writer's perspective, of course I want my articles to be read. However, the reason I carve time out of my busy day to write around a day job, activities with my children, etc. is because I have bills to pay. I rely on the content I create for my websites to help support my family.

When my content is published on another commercial website without my knowledge or consent, the benefits are marginal at best. Generally, though not always, a link to my original article is included, which may provide a trickle of new website visitors for a brief period of time, and as well as a citation helpful in building authority for SEO purposes.

In the end, however, Rue Morgue benefits much more from my work than I do as it fits into their overall content marketing strategy.

This situation of reprinting is not limited to Rue Morgue and is something that I had hoped had gone the way of the internet Wild West. Yet, this damming of internet traffic flow still happens fairly regularly either under claims of "remixing" or "fair use".

If this problem isn't limited to Rue Morgue, why pick on them? Here are a few reasons:

  1. It seems that this is a fairly recent practice so it's not too late to pull all of these reprinted pieces, delete the Facebook posts (or change them to point to their original sources) and apologize for this practice.
  2. As a print publication of many years, Rue Morgue should know better than taking other people's work and reprinting it.
  3. Rue Morgue can re-evaluate their situation and hire real web writers rather than cribbing content from other sites and doing a bait & switch to make it seem like their own.

Let's hope that this piece shames Rue Morgue into blowing up those dams and reestablishing the proper flow of traffic while encouraging them to realize that writing for the web is as important as writing for the pages of their venerable publication.

Your move, Rue Morgue.

Update: 9/15/2015

It seems that Rue Morgue's move was to keep going down the same path.

Here's a page on their site: Read about the legends surrounding New Jersey's SHADES OF DEATH ROAD posted on September 7, 2015. That is a complete direct lift of The Cursed Death Road of New Jersey by Brent Swancer.

When contacted for comment about having his article completely taken and re-used by Rue Morgue, Mr. Swancer said, "I had no idea that my article was being used in such a way. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I think this sort of behavior is disheartening. I spend a lot of time and effort researching, compiling, and writing my articles. They are a labor of love. So to see them picked up and then not linked to my site, in a way in which I can not get the proper traffic or respect for the site that I am on, is quite sad. I have seen worse. I have seen some of my work wholesale plagiarized without any credit to me at all. But this is almost as bad.

"I don't mind if someone wants to link to my articles. I welcome it. However, they should do so in a manner that is keeping with how things are usually done, where we can get due revenue and respect for our efforts. This sort of behavior quite frankly makes it hard to be a writer on the Internet and I wish they would not do this.

"I do suppose that there will always be those scavengers without the talent, means, or desire to put in the effort, who would rather just pick up others' work and subject it to this kind of treatment for their own gains and it is discouraging. It does nothing but make them a little money, robbed from us, and at the same time lessens the quality of articles out there due to discouraging the most talented people from wanting to put in the work to put their articles out there. This sort of behavior is only detrimental.

"I am not so much angry as very exasperated and disappointed. I was quite shocked to see this and would request that the site in question either goes about these things in the proper way or ceases such activities."

What's the story, Rue Morgue? Why do you feel that you're above it when it comes to picking up articles and placing them on your site? Is it okay to just start taking articles from the Rue Morgue site and passing them off as your own? Maybe people should all pick their favorite Rue Morgue piece and re-blog it with a little link back to the original but say it was written by "Staff".

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ack

Picture this...

I'm attending the University of Michigan which is something of a prestigious school. I'd been there for four years and was getting ready to graduate when the announcement of our commencement speaker's name came through.

U of M has had a history of some big named speakers: James William Fulbright, Earl Warren, Edward R Murrow, Robert McNamara...

In the three years prior to my graduation ceremony George H.W. Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the address. And, years hence, we had some heavy hitters like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

So, who did I get? Whose wisdom inspired us that crisp April morning in 1994?

None other than Cathy Guisewite, the eponymous creator of "Cathy," the execrable two-joke comic strip that's plagued newspapers for years.

All I could say was "Ack!"