The Cove

 Posted by at 3:36 am  3 Responses »
Jan 092011

Tl;dr – The Cove is “Bowling for Columbine” for dolphins.

Okay, here we go. Every couple of years, a documentary comes around that is touted as “important” – a word that in the film industry is code for “soul-crushing”. In 2009, that movie was The Cove. To no one’s surprise, it won the Oscar for Best Documentary and, like most “important” documentaries, large-toothed men in non-black suits and cowboy hats accused it of being fabricated propaganda. But all that is neither here nor there.

What is both here and there is that you should really probably watch this movie.

First, a little clarification: I wouldn’t call myself a “dolphin-lover”. I don’t own a sweet-ass dolphin necklace or a poster or a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper. I’ve never even been to Sea World. In fact, when I think about dolphins, the first thing that comes to mind is this bizarre half-formed memory of being sick and shitting my pants while watching Flipper when I was little (it was last week). This is not to say that I’m dolphin-ignorant. I’ve seen Planet Earth. I’m fully aware that dolphins are one set of thumbs away from sending us back to the fuckin’ trees. I guess I’d describe my emotional relationship to dolphins as one of cautious respect.

That being said, The Cove straight fucked me up. Plus, now I’m totally gay for dolphins.

Here’s the skinny: In the 1960s a dude named Ric O’Barry captured and trained the dolphins that played Flipper (ugh…there’s that feeling again…gross). Basically, Flipper did for dolphins what the Taco Bell dog did for chihuahuas – people went batshit. So insatiable was the public’s appetite for frolicking, subservient dolphins that the marine entertainment industry exploded overnight.

Fast forward a few years. After some incredibly uncool shit goes down (which I won’t spoil for you), Ric O’Barry comes to the realization that this multi-billion dollar industry that he had a hand in creating is completely fucked up on every level imaginable so he does what anyone would do – he becomes a crazy-ass activist.

Director Louie Psihoyos and a group of guerrilla filmmakers team up with O’Barry and head to Taiji, Japan – the hub of the dolphin industry where every September, during their migration, dolphins are herded into a “secret cove” and captured by local fishermen. Some are sold to trainers and parks and some are sold for food. And according to O’Barry, shit gets pretty fucked.

In a shocking twist, O’Barry is not an insane person. Everything he said is true. After infiltrating the cove under the cover of darkness and setting up hidden cameras, the filmmakers capture events so flat-out abhorrent, they must be seen to be believed.

Ultimately, my list of reasons you should watch The Cove reads a lot like a list of reasons not to. I’m not going to lie to you – it’s a huge fucking bummer. But it’s an important bummer. You should really watch it.

I give it 5 out of 5 perfect spirals from Dan Marino. (Get it? He played for the Miami Dolphins. I’m trying to butch up after this teary sniffle-fest.)

Apr 072010

Everyone knows the MPAA is total bullshit. In fact, for many of us growing up – constantly being denied entrance to “R” rated movies – their judgments probably resulted in our first real anger and incredulity towards a faceless governing body. (Not me though…I popped out of the womb like “What do you mean the US dollar isn’t based on the gold standard?! It has only the imaginary value that we as a society place on it?! YOUR PRECIOUS HOUSE OF CARDS WILL SOON FALL, DOCTOR. Now cut this cord. I’m late for work.”) However, very few of us ever considered that the MPAA may be more than just an inane, antiquated organization doling out arbitrary decrees of what is and what isn’t acceptable for “children” to view. That it may actually be an indestructible unchecked strong-arming church-funded pro-war anti-gay juggernaut shrouded in secrecy. Wait…for real? Well, according to many, yeah…pretty much.

Kirby Dick is more than just an awesome name. Kirby Dick is a man. Not just any man, but an industry veteran that, in the last 28 years, has directed over 11 films (that’s code for 12 films). And guess what? He’s pissed. So he set out to make a documentary exposing the secret agenda and dubious authority of the MPAA knowing full well that before his film could be released, it would have to be reviewed by the very people he spent the entire film tearing apart. That’s like making a movie called “Castro Eats A Turd” and sending it to Castro for approval. Not exactly a smart move, but the result would probably make a better movie than the one sent in. Which is what Kirby did.

The first half of the documentary features the likes of Kimberly Peirce, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, and everyone’s hero John Waters talking about their bizarre experiences with the MPAA, calling into question the unknown standards by which their movies were judged. After a solid hour of a Michael Moore-esque defaming and actually hiring a private investigator to discover the secret identities of the anonymous film raters, Kirby Dick takes a cut of the film we’ve seen so far and submits it for rating. The last half hour is then Kirby arguing with the MPAA over the movie that you’re watching while you’re watching it (which sounds more mind-blowing than it plays out).

Overall, Kirby Dick does a pretty great job of getting your blood boiling, which is my main problem with This Film Is Not Yet Rated. In most documentaries dealing with some form of social injustice, there is a greater purpose – to get you to take action. Whether you end up considering going vegetarian, voting democrat, signing petitions, or putting a hold on your patronage of black market baby-selling syndicates, you do so because a film has made you aware of a problem and what you can do to help fix it. Not so with This Film Is Not Yet Rated. The movie basically says to you “Hey dude, check this out. Isn’t this completely fucked up? Yeah, it totally shouldn’t be like this, huh? Okay, well, see ya later.”

So, not only do we learn that we’re powerless to change the system, but to release this film as intended, it couldn’t be rated by the MPAA and therefore couldn’t be shown in the majority of theaters and therefore couldn’t reach its maximum audience and make its point which is the entire purpose of a documentary. So in the end, the MPAA won. That’s a fucking bummer. I guess the only thing to do now is watch this movie because it’s pretty awesome, tell a friend, and soon we can all be pointlessly angry together. Huzzah.

I give This Film Is Not Yet Rated 9 salty dicks in Jack Valenti’s dead-ass mouth out of a possible 10 salty dicks in Jack Valenti’s dead-ass mouth.

Monster Camp

 Posted by at 2:37 am  Comments Off on Monster Camp
Feb 182010

If you’ve never heard of LARP before, then congratulations – you’re obviously doing pretty well for yourself. But while you were busy furthering your career and getting to touch boobs, you missed out on something pretty unbelievable.

LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing and it’s a much bigger phenomenon than you’d expect or hope. Essentially, it’s a game of Dungeons and Dragons where, rather than rolling some dice and talking about it, you and your buddies dress up like your characters and go on adventures in the woods finding treasure and battling foes.

What? You’re not familiar with D&D? Okay, then it’s like acting out a campaign from World of Warcraft in character. Really? You still don’t get it? Okay, remember when you were little and you and your buddies would play swords and you’d be like “I got you! You’re dead!” and your buddy would be like “Nuh-uh cuz I got a magic shield!” and you’d be like “So? My sword is magic and cuts through magic shields!” and your buddy would be like “For real?” and you’d be like “Yeah, totally” and your buddy would be like “AAARRRGGG! I’M DEAD!!!!”? Yeah, well, it’s pretty much like that.

Anyway, in Seattle there is a LARP organization by the name of NERO and its founders/members are the subject of this oddly compelling documentary.

The “stars” of Monster Camp are not just nerds. They are that rare, almost unbelievable breed of über-nerd that even I, (a guy with a cat in his lap, surrounded by Star Wars figures, blogging about a documentary he watched on his XBox), would de-pants and give a swirly to. But do the filmmakers take advantage of their social naiveté by choosing unflattering camera angles, manipulating the subjects into embarrassing situations, and/or impudently editing scenes to make the subjects appear to be charlatans?  Not for a second.

Rather than parading these outsiders across the screen for us to laugh at, the filmmakers present the characters and events with an air of dignity akin to a PBS special about an isolated island culture (but without an annoying posh British man spelling everything out for you and dropping his tone an octave at the end of every sentence).

Now don’t get me wrong here – this documentary isn’t trying to make the world take LARP seriously. It’s obviously the goofiest thing to happen since baggy bondage pants. But the filmmakers make the bold assumption that you, the viewer, are not a total moron and decide to let you discover the humor yourself, rather than hitting you over the head with it for 79 minutes.

All in all, this documentary is pretty awesome and just plain fun. Plus, if after watching it you ever find yourself stuck in an elevator with a dude wearing a cape, you guys should totally have something to talk about.

To see how many HP I give this movie, roll 2D6 (drop lowest, +3 CON).

A Second Opinion
I took a liking to just about every person in Monster Camp. This is a documentary about a bunch of people who never managed (or simply refused) to abandon their imagination upon entering adulthood, and I think that’s pretty cool. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of LARP, and you classify yourself a nerd in an sense, then you will probably get a kick out of this movie. If not, then you should probably skip it.