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2004/03/31

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Tyler Cowen points out a recent study that suggests good wholesome films do better at the boxoffice than those filled with sex and violence. The study itself doesn't appear to be online, but the Washington Times summary of it says:

    In an analysis of American box-office receipts for 250 movies released last year, the Christian Film & Television Commission (CFTVC) found that films that stressed "strong moral content" made an average $92,546,413 — six times the revenue of those that focused on "immoral, negative content."

    Those movies brought in an average $14,626,234.

    On a broader scope, the study also found that from 2000 to 2003, movies with "no nudity" brought in an average $137.8 million across the nation.

    Films that depicted "full male and/or female nudity" in those same years brought in an average of $43 million, however.


Cowen notes:

    OK, that is from a very conservative Christian group. And I can't find the data either. Still, if you think about it, neither Spiderman nor Frodo nor Harry Potter ever has sex on screen. So I doubt if the numbers are made up.

    What are we to make of this? Michael Medved has argued for years that Hollywood has a left-wing, secular, 1960s bias, and could make more money with wholesomeness. Perhaps the moguls simply can't comprehend how such movies could be popular, just as they turned away Mel Gibson and made him finance Passion with his own money.
Exploring what little is actually on the organization's site, I came across this little screed on the evils of Harry Potter, so I doubt they're counting the series' lack of sexuality towards their wholesomeness index, but I agree with Cowen that their general conclusions are probably correct. This isn't a big surprise. It's well known among movie geeks that R-rated movies generally don't do as well at the boxoffice as lower rated films -- of the top 100 grossing movies, only 14 are rated R (less if you adjust for inflation).

There's a very simple explanation for this -- teenagers comrpise the bulk of the movie-going audience and (if the theater staff does its job) can't get into R-rated movies. An R-rating is the cinematic equivalent of late-night TV, whereas PG and PG-13 films are prime-time. And, despite Medved's carping on the subject, studio execs understand this and pressure directors to keep big-budget movies in the PG-13 range. It's mostly small films with limited appeal (such as Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind) and those that skew towards adult audience (like the upcoming Denzel Washington movie A Man on Fire) that get away with R-ratings, while those trying to appeal to the broad audience required for blockbuster status (like Hellboy) get toned down for PG-13. (On this line, it'll be interesting to see if the studio lets Petersen release his cut of Troy, which is supposedly the sword-and-sandal equivalent of Saving Private Ryan, or force him to trim it for a lower rating.)

Of course movies with full-frontal nudity don't earn as much as Pixar films or family-friendly actioners like Pirates of the Carribean -- but executives don't expect movies like Quills or Secretary to be blockbusters (or if they do, they're on crack). To say that,

    On a broader scope, the study also found that from 2000 to 2003, movies with "no nudity" brought in an average $137.8 million across the nation.

    Films that depicted "full male and/or female nudity" in those same years brought in an average of $43 million, however.
completely misses the point. Despite the way boxoffice figures are presented as a horserace, being Number One isn't everything -- studios much prefer films to be profitable, which is generally defined as earning three-times the production budget (so as to cover marketing, distribution, and the theater's cut). It doesn't matter if movies with nudity only earn an average of $43 million -- if their average cost is less than $14.333 million, they're a good investment for the studio. Yes, people like Medved are correct to say that execs are out of touch with mainstream American when they produce such movies, but that's because the audience they're aiming for isn't necessarily that wide. It's like saying bar owners are out of touch because fastfood restaurants have more customers.
Monkey Back Blues

For a brief while this afternoon, Teddy "That Bridge Wasn't There a Minute Ago" Kennedy was only the second biggest bastard on Capitol Hill (metaphorically at least; his alcohol filled stomach still puts most people and several countries to shame). Yes, the reincarnation of Howard Hughes, Michael Jackson himself, visited the congressional offices today, and Wonkette has all the details. The most interesting tidbit is this:

    All the while, the Gloved One tries to shield himself from the confusion of it all, but the confusion is his own creation.

    He's trying to hide from crowds that just aren't there. The jostling and the shoving are caused by all of his own people, not fans, not screaming admirers, his own folks. Most stars exude confidence, the Gloved One just looks scared.
What a sad, pathetic little man-child. Maybe someone will be kind to him and buy him an icecream cone to cheer him up.

2004/03/29

The Princess Diaries 3: The Lost Honeymoon Tape

So let me see if I've got this straight: the deliciously wholesome looking Anne Hathaway, tired of her competition with Lindsey Lohan to see who can be the new Haley Mills, is trying to prove that she can handle mature roles by starring in a movie that requires full frontal nudity and on screen masturbation.

Anne Hathaway in a transluscent black top

Now, while I have no objection to the concept of nekkid Anne Hathaway, I find it a bit disturbing that she has to do the full monty to prove she's a Serious Actress. I mean, Johnny Depp never had to wave his dick around to show that he was more than fantasy material for thirteen year old girls*.

Or maybe Hathaway told her agent she wanted to do adult movies, and he thought she meant Adult Movies.

* It's a well observed phenomenon that thirteen year old girls go ga-ga over non-threatening, asexual men, which explains why boybands tend to be most successful when the members look and sound like castrati. Thus Johnny Depp waving his dick around would actually be a turn off for his teen fanbase -- along with everyone else in the world.
What the Shiznit

Whoa, Google's gone and redesigned their site. Gah, it looks like they've been taken over by Microsoft or something.

2004/03/28

The Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse

By Ghu, the Gaurdian has an entire article saying life is better in the US than Britain. The only negative thing they could muster is this:

    But the grass is not always greener in the land of the greenback. While Americans might be growing wealthier overall, the top earners are doing considerably better than those from lower incomes. From 1979 to 2001, the typical American family in the lowest 20 per cent by income saw its after-tax earnings rise by 9 per cent, while families in the top 10 per cent saw their earnings increase over 200 per cent, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office.

    'You're better off in the US - if you're wealthy,' stipulates Datamonitor's Shields.
Yes, the old "The rich are getting richer faster than the poor" argument.

2004/03/26

Incestuous Amish Pedophilia

I've always suspected that the pious, simple life act was a sham and that the Amish are really just as screwd up as the rest of humanity. And here we have proof:

    An Amish woman's claims of repeated sexual assault over 10 years has led to the arrests of four Amish people in Vernon County.

    William Kempf, 77, Johnny Byler, 26, and Eli Byler, 24, were arrested Wednesday and released on bond the same day.

    Each will be charged with more than one count of sexual assault of a child when they appear in court Monday, District Attorney Tim Gaskell said.

    A fourth person arrested, Sally Kempf, 49, will be charged with failure to protect a child, Gaskell said. She also was released on bond.

    An investigation was launched after a 20-year-old woman left the community and sought help from a non-Amish friend, Sheriff Gene Cary said. The friend contacted Cary, and the arrests were made two days later, he said.

    The Bylers are brothers, and the Kempfs are the brothers' mother and stepfather.


Since the perpetrators are all related, and the mother is charged with failure to protect a child, I think it's a fair to infer that the victim is related to her molesters.

The article goes on to note that the Amish are often reluctant to report crime to the outside world, which makes me wonder how often this sort of thing goes on in their communities. I'm all for cultural diversity, but not at the price of letting people get away with crime. We don't let Mormon men marry a dozen fourteen year old girls; we don't let North African immigrants engage in ritualistic genital mutilation of their daughters; we don't let followers of Carlos Castaneda get high on happy mushrooms. So why the hell don't the police interact with the Amish and encourage them to be more forthcoming about crimes, or social-workers go into the community and distribute pamphlets so the Amish kids can learn all the stuff about sexual abuse the rest of us learned from PSAs and After School Specials? Or do the Amish get a free pass because they're "quaint" and "old fashioned"?
I Say We Take off and Nuke the Site from Orbit

Watching reaction to Richard Clarke this week, I struck by one thing -- the Democrats are rallying around him because he's criticizing the President on Iraq, but aren't listening to what he's actually espousing. If you think Bush is a warmonger, then Clarke is to the right of Ghengiz Khan. His problem with the Iraq War is essentially that we had better things to blow up. He was advocating war with Afghanistan long before September 11, and his plan was to bomb the whole country back into the stone-age -- and the areas already in the stone-age ... well, bomb them anyways.

And on top of that, Clarke is, by his own admission responsible for two of the biggest controversies surrounding the administration's behavior following the attacks: keeping Bush on Air Force 1 and out of Washington, and getting members of the bin Laden family out of the country in the aftermath. Keep the last one in mind if you ever see Michael Moore citing Richard Clarke -- the evacuation of the bin Ladens is one of the blocks in his Bush conspiracies.

2004/03/25

The Endless Summer

TCM was showing Bruce Brown's classic surfing docu, The Endless Summer earlier tonight. I hadn't seen it in a number of years, and I was surprised at how racist it was. It's not "Just string dem homos up so we can go lynch some negros" racism, but the casual type found in old Warner Bros. cartoons -- as Mike and Robert prepare to go off to Africa, Brown jokes how they're afraid of being speared by "primitive" natives, and at one point they have a Nigerian dressed up as a cannibal jump out of the jungle at them (and let's not forget the scene where Brown explains the social structure of an African village).

It's really too bad the film is marred by such wince-inducing jokes, because it is one of the best documentaries ever made -- no, it doesn't touch on any deep social issues, but damn if the cinematography, even in its spotty 16mm glory, isn't spectacular. And, despite the occasional racism, the narration is hilarious (it has to be since there's no actual dialogue, only Brown's voice-over), with ironic commentary not just about Africans, but Australian women, South African nature guides, and Tahitians. Even though surfing's been featured in countless movies since, this is the only film (well, except for other Bruce Brown docus) that not only explains the mindset of surfers but the logistics of surfing and how aquatic geography affects how waves break. It actually makes me want to learn how to surf, and I can't even swim.
Finally, a Device to Aid Oral Sex in the Dark

WARNING: Swallowing semen may risk electrocution.
For the Easily Amused

The Exorcist! With bunnies!
Double Dipping Xtreme

In what has to be the most crassly absurd marketing move I've heard since ... well, yesterday, Sony is releasing a "digitally remastered" version of Bowie's Earthling. Now digitally remastering old albums has long been a way for record companies to get people to buy CDs they already own, but at remastering is usually an improvement over previous releases. What makes this outrageous is that Earthling only came out in 1997.

See, when CDs first came on the market, they contained a string of three letters, either A (for analog) or D (for digital), on the packaging. The first letter represented the recording material, the second the mastering process, and the third the end product. Since CDs are a digital medium, the final letter was always D, but in the early days of compact discs, when analog tapes and even records still had a large market share, record companies stuck with analog recording and mastering techniques. The problem is that AAD discs sound horrible in comparison to DDD ones (or even AAA media like records, which I suspect is why some audiophiles insist vinyl is superior to CDs), so somewhere along the line, record companies came up with the idea of taking the source recordings and digitially mastering them -- represented by ADD on the packaging. And in most cases, this is a huge improvement, comparable to the difference between a VHS and DVD picture.

Now by the mid-90s all new albums were coming out in DDD, so record companies dropped the letter system -- you still occassionally find it on AAD discs, but ADD ones are simply denoted by "Remastered" somewhere on the cover. (The The's Mind Bomb, which is currently under "What I'm listening to" in the sidebar, for example, says "24-bit digitally remastered edition" on the slipcase, but doesn't have ADD anywhere on the packaging, inside or out.)

Since Earthling came out in 1997, the original CD version was DDD, which makes a remastered version overkill. If remastering an old Beatles album were like putting leftover pizza in the microwave, then this is like doing the same with a freshly delivered one. This is one of the most shameful double-dips I've seen since the Terminator 2 Ultimate Edition DVD was supplanted by the Extreme Edition. (I'm still undecided over whether the Ultimate Edition not being the ultimate edition is ironic or chronic idiocy by the marketing department.)

2004/03/24

This Is Pretty Screwed Up

Okay, right now Cinemax is showing The Rules of Attraction -- a film that features full frontal nudity (male and female), graphic discussions of sex, heavy drug use, and the most creative use of profanity I've ever encountered outside a Tarantino film (of course it is by Tarantino's co-conspirator, Roger Avery). It started at 7:00, and it's on one of the the East Coast extended package channels (MMAXE, whatever that stands for), so it's airing at 4:00 West Coast time for anyone with digital cable or satellite.

Now I have no personal probelm with it, but it seems really weird for Cinemax to be airing it this early; it's the type of film that should wait until at least 10:00 East Coast time (and in the past, it has; I've never seen it on before 11:00 until now).

2004/03/23

A Trip in the Wayback Machine

Some people have too much time on their hands. Seriously. Like this guy who made a few modifications to some old Windows 1.01 and 2.03 programs so they'll work with Microsoft's current OSs.

I mean, I can understand keeping a C64 emulator on file so you can play old games from your childhood when you get the urge ... but the Windows 1.01 Clock? The minute hand looks like an enemy plane in F-15 Strike Eagle.

Aw, who'm I kidding. I downloaded the files and played with them. If I were still in college, I'd probably try replacing Word with Write in the computer labs.

The sad thing is how little Notepad has changed since 1984 -- apart from the icon and file manager, it's still the same old piece of shit.
Holy Pedophile's Wet Dream, Batman!

Yahoo reports that fugitive child molester Roman Polanski plans to make Oliver Twist as a kids film.

    The wish to make a movie for children came from watching his own small children, he said.

    "I also thought about the children's books I used to love the most," he said.
Michael Jackson is in talks to play the Artful Dodger; Jeffrey Jones is already aboard as Fagin and Paul Rubins is set to play Bill Sikes. Expect Pete Townshend to write the score, and Paula Poundstone to put in a special appearance.

2004/03/22

What a Stupid Idea

Apparently Kate Winslet is up for the role of Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As much as I love Winslet, this is an awful idea on so many levels.

  1. She doesn't look remotely like a seventeen year old (but then, Shirley Henderson made a great Monaing Myrtle, and she was thirty-six at the time),
  2. She's not a silvery-blonde, nor would she look good as one,
  3. I cringe at the idea of Winslet doing ze hea-vee Beauxbatons accent,
  4. While Winslet is absolutely gorgeous, it's not the sort of gorgeous I associate with half-human creatures who can seduce men with the sound of their voice, and
  5. It's a well known fact that Kate Winslet appears at least partially nude in every movie she does (I think it's in her contract); how'll she manage that in a kids' flick?
Saruman Dead. Wormtongue Still at Large

Sheik Yassin, the mass-murdering thug who founded Hamas, sleeps with Generalissimo Franco tonight.

One of these men is pure evil ...

... and the other is a misunderstood capitalist-industrialist

2004/03/21

Speaking of Urinals

Aim fly

2004/03/19

Clas-say!

According to Yahoo, Virgin Airlines' new urinals look like women's lips.

    But nothing will prepare you for the men's room in the newly-designed Virgin Airways Clubhouse in New York's John F. Kennedy airport, terminal 4: Urinals shaped like a woman's mouth, dolled up with red lipstick, wide open and ready for business.


Open wide. Here comes the airplane.

Hmm, you know, to me they remind me more of Dr. Frankenfurter's lips in Rocky Horror Picture Show. And, let's face it, who doesn't want to urinate in Tim Curry's mouth?

2004/03/18

What Did We Ever Do Without Wonkette?

Wonkette, the blogeress who's way too obsessed with John Kerry's crotch, finally has some hard information on JFKv2.0's penis size -- he won't be able to cow the American people with his Holmesian member.
"Good Morning Gentlemen, This Is Your Wake-up Call"

Pakistan is saying they have al-Zawahiri surrounded. So do we let the Pakistanis behead him, or do we want to fry him ourselves?

2004/03/15

Horrible News

It looks like Monica Bellucci's body is about to be mutilated and stretched into a hideous new shape:

    Italian screen siren Monica Bellucci is pregnant with her first child. The stunning actress, 39, who plays Mary Magdalene in Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion Of The Christ, and her French actor husband Vincent Cassel, 37, are expecting their first child this autumn.
Yeah, I know, men are supposed to say that women look radiant and beautiful when they're pregnant. Well, it's a lie. Married men say it to keep their wives happy, but the truth is, pregnant women look bloated and disgusting. I'm not a big fan of Muslim ConcealWear, but in the case of pregnant women, I think it might be called for -- at the very least, a muu-muu should be required, especially for women who end up showing a sliver of belly no matter what they wear.
It's Nunya. Nunya Bidness.

Once more John Kerry is instilling confidence in voters.

    The town meeting was contentious at times, with 52-year-old Cedric Brown repeatedly pressing the candidate to name the foreign leaders whom Kerry has said are backing his campaign.

    "I'm not going to betray a private conversation with anybody," Kerry said. As the crowd of several hundred people began to mutter and boo, Kerry said, "That's none of your business."
Lovely.

If it isn't our business, then why the hell did he mention it in the first place? He sounds like one of those guys in a newsgroup or message board who claims to get email from lurkers supporting his position. "Yes, lot's of people really agree with me, but they're afraid to post here. And the emails are like private and stuff, so it'd be a breach of confidentiality for me to post them. I could be dismembered if I did."

Explain it to me again, Democrats -- why did you nominate this ass-hat?

2004/03/11

Democracy is for American Idol

I was just taking this Libertarian Purity Test and received a score of 47, which marks me as a bog-standard libertarian. (Like many political-persuasion tests, anyone who's not Adolf Hitler will turn out to share the same political leanings as the author to one degree or another.) Then I went here to register my score and compare it to other bloggers', and I noticed that I'm only a few points above Jonah Goldberg. Yes, Jonah Goldberg, the guy who, if there were a secret cabal that controls the world, would be the Evil Overlord's chief henchman, the sort of guy who sits in the comfy chair and plots to kill Patrick McGoohan. And I'm only slightly more libertarian than him?

Okay, I admit we share the same view of democracy -- namely that in a true democracy, 51% of the population could take away the rights of 49% -- but there wasn't a single question about what form of government we prefer, only whether we prefer government to the lack thereof. (Yes I do. I'm fundamentally Hobbesian in my outlook, and government is a necessary evil to prevent the War of All against All.) I think the only reason I scored higher than him is because I'm more permissive of butt-lovin' than he is.
Nothing Beats Watching Pretentious Indy Films While High on Nyquil

Sorry about the lack of blogging this week, but I've been dealing with a bout of the flu or something, and I've been stuck in that listless, jet-lagged state where you're always tired but not sleepy. I ended up watching a lot of episodes of Mythbusters -- nice show, but needs more 'splosions. And I caught Roman Coppola's CQ late one night. Maybe I was too out of it to appreciate it, but I came away thinking that Sofia got all of their father's talent. The idea of the film -- an editor ends up in charge of a Barbarella-type film after the original director is fired and his replacement gets into a car accident -- and in other hands it could've been a brilliant satire. But Roman spent too much time trying to ape Woody Allen and failed miserably. It does, however, provide a perfect counter-argument to anyone who says Sofia Coppola only receives attention because of her father -- nepotism didn't do anything to help CQ; apart from the guys who are going to stumble across this post after searching for "CQ" on Google (Hi!), probably no one reading this has even heard of the film before.

2004/03/04

Kitchen Fresh Chicken is Doubleplusgood

Am I the only person disturbed by the Orwellian undertones of Kentucky Fried Chicken's attempt to convince people that "KFC" stands for "Kitchen Fresh Chicken"?
A Bunch of Hot Air

I was just reading this review or Air's new album. It was a pretty good review until I got to the last paragraph and read this:

    "Alone in Kyoto", the track donated to Sofia Coppola's latest film Lost in Translation closes out the album. The song, reminiscent of Vangelis's score for Blade Runner does a tremendous job of living up to its name, introducing a metropolis that is both overwhelming and distant. Something is on the verge of happening somewhere, in the middle of the night, while the city is still humming, and all is quiet inside your hotel room looking out.
Um, no.

Apparently the writer's heard a great deal about LiT and its themes but hasn't actually seen it. While his discription of the film's atmosphere is accurate, it has one minor flaw -- it doesn't apply to the Air piece; if it did, the track would be called "Alone in Tokyo". Instead it's the piece that plays when Charlotte makes her daytrip to the temple in, well, Kyoto. It's notable as the only segment of the film that doesn't take place in the city. (It's also an exquisitely scored scene, with the music playing in perfect cadence with Charlotte's footsteps.) While there are other ambient tracks on the LiT soundtrack that do exactly what the reviewer's describing, "Alone in Kyoto" isn't one of them.
I Wish I Could Make this Stuff Up

The always unreliable IMDb news page is reporting that Jessica Simpson is so dumb (How dumb is she?) she believed she might be pregnant after reading reports that she was with child in the tabloids.

    Dizzy blonde pop star-turned-reality TV queen Jessica Simpson was so convinced she was pregnant after reading she was expecting in America's gossip magazines, she insisted on a check-up.

2004/03/03

Bend Over and Spell "Run"

Wonkette is certainly having fun with this picture of John "Holmes" Kerry.

John Kerry with huge crotch ... er, knee bulgage

If that's not a wrinkle in his pants, then I'm definitely voting Bush -- either one will try to fuck us up the ass, but at least we'll be more comfortable with Bush doing it.
Bjork Goes Jackie Chan

MENTAL NOTE: Do not piss off Bjork (mpeg).

2004/03/02

Richard Perle, neocon or zombie -- you decide

Grrrrr! Arrrrgh! Brains! Brains! Braaaaaaaaaaains!
Kerry vs Bush

Unless the exit polls are horribly wrong, it looks like Kerry's trouncing his opponents in every state except Vermont, where Howard Dean (!!!) is leading by a 2 to 1 margin. And with that, the primaries are over. Bye-bye Edwards, hello Kerry.

Shoot me now.
Paper Trail

The Junkyard Blogger isn't too happy with Maryland's new electronic voting machines.

    So I figure it out, get the card in there and start voting. That part is very, very easy. You touch the box next to the name of the person you want to vote for, and when you're done with a page you hit "Next" and go to the next page to select more names. When you're completely done, you hit "Cast Ballot" and the machine looks like it's thinking, then you hear a click and the plastic card is popped and ready for you to remove it. That's it. You've voted, or at least you believe you've voted.

    The problem is, you get no paper record of how you voted. No receipt comes out, so you can't walk away with anything in your hands that shows how or even whether you actually voted.
While I'm not a fan of electronic voting machines, which numerous stories suggest are far from secure, this particular complaint isn't bothersome to me. Besides the fact that a receipt would defeat the point of a secret ballot, this isn't even a particularly new phenomenon. The classic mechanical booths, which have been in use for decades without any problems, don't offer a receipt or anything to indicate that your vote's been tallied. You just go in, pull the lever to the right to close the curtain, flip the switches next to the appropriate names, and pull the lever to the left to open the curtain and presumably register your choice in the mechanical counter. "Presumably" because you have no way of knowing what's going on inside the machine. For all you know, someone put the labels on backwards so you're voting for the wrong party.

The difference between mechanical and electronic machines is that someone'd need physical access to the former in order to modify the system, and anything more complex than switching labels would require a great deal of time, whereas with electronic machines (and this is where the question of secuirty comes it) someone could remotely access the system and insert a preprepared alteration -- and he could do it to multiple machines in short order. Despite Diebold's president being a staunch Bush supporter and promising to deliver the election to the Republicans, I'm far more concerned about the company's security holes and the possibility that hackers know enough about the machines to fiddle with them.

2004/03/01

Ah, the Good Old Days

So, was the US behind the latest Haitian revolution? Charlie Rangel certainly thinks so, and Aristide's lawyer's making the rounds to the cable nets, accusing the CIA and DIA of backing the rebels.

Why? Well, uh, the US is like an evil empire and stuff. Or something. The lawyer isn't exactly clear -- when asked for proof of his claims, he just says to ask the CIA and DIA -- and I don't think Rangel's ever met a Bush conspiracy he didn't believe.