Off-Topic: On Sony, “The Interview”, and a very poor precedent

It is rare that I say anything political on this blog, only slightly less rare that I say anything political on my Twitter account. This is not because I am not political, or because I am afraid to ruffle some feathers, but rather because this blog (and to a certain extent my Twitter account) is about baseball. I am actually rather interested in political and global events, but I know full well that that isn’t what you come here for and probably not what you follow me on Twitter for, so I keep it to a minimum. I don’t have a problem with people who do interject their political opinions, but it’s not really my style, and when I do say things on Twitter about politics, it’s usually either something everybody agrees with (tragedies are tragic, etc.) or more to give interesting factoids about things related to what’s going on.

But today, I am going to say something that’s a little bit political: Sony Pictures should be ashamed for pulling The Interview because of the demands of hackers suspected to be from (or at least hired by) North Korea. To be sure, there are far bigger things in the world to be angry over- just this week terrorists in Pakistan massacred innocent children, after all. But this move by Sony strikes at something I hold very dear: freedom of expression. It’s what makes this blog possible. It’s what makes Twitter possible. It’s what makes television, video games, movies, novels, comic books and basically anything else that entertains or informs us possible.

And Sony just let their freedom of expression- and by association the freedom of expression of everyone involved with the making of The Interview– be dictated by exposĂ©s and threats from cowards who don’t like the theme of their film.

Let that sink in: because some people didn’t like that The Interview made fun of Kim Jong-Un and was about a (completely fictional) assassination plot against him, the film is now indefinitely cancelled less than two weeks from it’s release. This is an unprecedented occurrence in Cinema. Oh, to be sure, there have been films who have had their release delayed or cancelled here and there before, but only on small scales, such as in certain cities or certain countries. This is a worldwide delay/cancellation.

Sony and the many movie theater chains (who had started cancelling appearances before Sony pulled the plug on the movie in general) may have their reasons (on the off-chance that there *was* actually a North Korean-fueled terrorist attack on a theater showing, the companies would have been in deep legal and insurance troubles since there had technically been a threat), but this is a horrible and dangerous precedent, as it now appears that now all somebody needs to do to stop a movie is make a threat about it. This time it was North Koreans, but next time it could be Iranians, or White Supremacists, or Russians.

Or maybe this is, in fact, a isolated incident. Maybe this is Sony trying to make lemonade out of lemons, delaying the film so that when it does get released it will be an even bigger deal than it initially would have been. After all, early reviews weren’t good anyway, perhaps they think it would be better released on a non-competitive weekend in late January or early February even without the surrounding controversy. Maybe nothing more will come of it and future attempts at bullying by people angry about movies will be met with silence, or at least with the release of the film going on as planned.

Only time will tell, but if this is just the start of future studio cowardice in face of criticism and threats, then it is bad thing indeed.

 

Off-Topic: In which my post gets quickly sidetracked because STAR WARS

Today, I want to look at the deals the Red Sox did earlier this week, acquiring Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. While I like this deal in the short term (although who knows how Hanley will handle the outfield), I feel like in the long-term…

Wait, what’s that?

Star Wars? Oh, crud, the teaser trailer is due out today. Hang on a second, everyone. I’ll be right back.

(Approximately a minute-and-a-half later)

OH MY GOD! THAT WAS SO AWESOME! THAT WAS POSSIBLY THE GREATEST TEASER TRAILER I HAVE EVER SEEN! YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT!!! NOW! WORK ISN’T IMPORTANT, FOOD ISN’T IMPORTANT, KEEPING YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD ISN’T IMPORTANT (WHY ARE YOU READING THIS WHILE DRIVING ANYWAY?!?!), ESCAPING A BURNING BUILDING ISN’T IMPORTANT! WATCH THIS NOW!

I mean, look at all the awesome in that thing! It’s mysterious and tells us basically nothing and we don’t see any of the old cast, but, but… WATCH IT! I mean, those X-Wings looked so great I have to wonder if JJ Abrams actually imported them from a Galaxy Far Far Away. And that cool looking cruciform Lightsaber looks so badass! And, wow, that final shot of the Millennium Falcon! I mean, damn! Just.. DAMN! That was so cool. I may have done a back-flip after seeing that. Also, I need to now take an aspirin, because I think I hit my head while doing a back-flip and now I have a mild headache.

(goes and takes an aspirin and then comes back)

And WOAH, it looks like one of the new characters is a former stormtrooper or something! And was that an R2D2-esque robot that moved using a trackball on the bottom?! That’s nuts! And.. and… THOSE SPACESHIP SPECIAL EFFECTS!! YES! YES! THIS IS GOING TO BE SO COOL!

I can’t take it any longer, I need to unleash my glee and excitement:
YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

kermit

Note: If the movie ends up sucking, let us never discuss this post again.

Movie Review: “Pacific Rim”

Normally I’d wait until an off-topic Thursday to do this, but I’ve decided to do this while the film is still fresh in my memory.

So, let’s cut to the chase: as an example of “film as art”, Pacific Rim may not be a great movie. It might not even be a good one. It doesn’t have much of a driving moral lesson or deep characters, nor does it provoke thoughts about what it means to be human. You can see 90% of the twists coming and you can spot references or scenes that are much like those in other films. No major new ground is broken.

However, as far as “film as entertainment”, Pacific Rim is a great movie, a eat-your-popcorn-and-enjoy-the-show experience that is also something that is an increasingly rare thing in modern movies: something new and original, and not a sequel, prequel, remake, adaptation or based on a true story.

That isn’t to say that Pacific Rim is something completely new. No, far from it. This is a film that follows in the footsteps of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars, paying tribute to previous traditions while putting a new spin on them. In the case of Pacific Rim, director Guillermo del Toro is paying tribute to Japanese Science Fiction in general and the kaiju (giant monsters- Godzilla, Mothra, etc.) and mecha (giant robots) genres in particular.

Now, with that introduction of my most basic thoughts and a quick primer on the film out of the way, go below the jump to see what I liked and what I didn’t about Pacific Rim.

Continue reading

(Off-Topic) Some suggestions for Disney about LucasFilm

Amazingly, the Walt Disney Company has bought LucasFilm, George Lucas’ long privately-held company. In short, this means that Disney now owns Star Wars (they’ve already said we can expect Episode VII in 2015) and Indiana Jones. As we are in a down time of baseball, here’s some suggestions I have for Disney on how they can use their new toy:

A) Respect the Fans

Star Wars fans are infamously creative and rabid. They make fan-films, write fan fiction and make costumes and props based on the series. And George Lucas and LucasFilm has generally always been supportive of this, in fact, they’ve held contests over them!

Disney, however, has been notoriously protective of it’s intellectual property, which now includes Star Wars. In fact, they’ve in the past been the driving force for increasing the length of copyright– usually lobbying for the longer copyright limits whenever Mickey Mouse is about to enter the public domain. And they, in the past, have been willing to go to court to protect their characters, even if it’s something innocent like cartoon characters decorating a daycare mural.

This, needless to say, would not be a good way to handle LucasFilm and it’s properties. In fact, if they were to try and mess with the status quo that Star Wars fans have been operating with for decades, they would be shooting themselves in the foot.

B) Make sure these new movies are in good hands

Episode VII, VIII and IX will probably be the most scrutinized movies ever made. The prequels were, of course, also scrutinized extremely heavily, and as a result all three of them, with the possible exception of Revenge of the Sith, were at best considered somewhat entertaining and at worst (in the case of Episode I) just plain bad. And these were movies that George Lucas was heavily involved with, fleshing out the little jottings of backstory he had had for decades.

So now, presumably, Episode VII will be done without Lucas involved in anything beyond an advisory role (perhaps in helping them flesh out whatever little jottings he had about the future of Star Wars in the same way that the prequels were the fleshing out of the little jottings he had about the history of the Star Wars universe). They need somebody good and focused to do it, somebody who has experience dealing with big universes and devoted fan bases. The first name that comes to mind is J.J. Abrams, however, he’s probably taken. The same probably goes for Joss Whedon (although maybe he could be involved in some sort of other capacity, or coordinate a TV series, or something). So perhaps it could be either Brad Bird or Jon Favreau, both of whom are already getting some talk on Twitter about possibilities.

C) Have Indiana Jones and Captain America team up to fight Nazis

Disney owns Marvel, famed home of noted Nazi-fighter Captain America. Disney now owns LucasFilm, home of noted Nazi-fighter Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr.

If they do not have a comic book or video game or something made that features them teaming up to stop a fiendish Nazi plot, I am going to be disappointed.

D) Make a whole Star Wars amusement park

Disney already has a Star Wars ride in some of their park, as well as Indiana Jones rides. Go bigger. Make a whole amusement park down in Florida that is focused entirely upon George Lucas’ grand creation. Let us dogfight in X-Wing simulators, let us eat lunch at the Mos Eisley Cantina, race landspeeders and have lightsaber fights with family members we are annoyed at.

Do it.

E) Give Yoda a part in the next Muppets movie

Because, c’mon.

Tomorrow: I return to baseball as I give out the Baseball Continuum awards, which are like real awards, only they are decided only by me and have no prestige whatsoever.

Baseballcontinuum.com now sends you here

Just a bit of house news: the website address of http://www.baseballcontinuum.com now redirects you here, to, well… The Baseball Continuum. You don’t need to update your bookmarks or anything like that, but it does makes it easier to navigate here, especially when you are using a mobile device.

 

UPDATED: Actually, it might not be working yet. But, rest assured, it won’t be long before you will just need to type “www.baseballcontinuum.com” to get to this page.