The 'Torture' films

I've noticed something that's been bothering me lately. There is a sub-genre of films that is being produced and ultimately appreciated by teens (sadly, gathering popularity even if the films are critical failures). I call it Torture films. Movies with pornography level of writing, but instead of sex scenes, we have people tortured. Films such as hostel, saw and texas chainsaw massacre: the begining are canons for this sub-genre.

The problem I have with these films is, as opposed to the grindhouses, are marketed for a commercial and blockbuster level of success. Whereas grindhouses did have a point of pushing beyond simple censorship, these torture films are meant to be taken as a serious and mainstream film.


Quebec opens can of worms by no standing

The whole issue of seperation of church and state is becoming a huge subject of debate in Quebec. Amongst recent incidents, guests at a sugar shack were asked to leave for muslims to perform prayers on the dancefloor of the establishement, a young soccer player was not given the opportunity to play soccer due to wearing the hijab and the announcement that women will not have to reveal their faces to vote if they wear the niqab. These are small examples amongst many to have occured over the past year in the province. The problem is the statement they make about Quebec politics and where they stand on the debate of freedom.

While it does give the idea that it is free to practice any form of religion in Quebec, the problem is the fact that it appears that practicing religions that prohibit the freedom of others is becoming an accepted practice. While many problems are evident with the examples mentionned above, the problems are far more complex. Such is evident with the case of a 10 year old girl who is awaiting a possible expulsion from her school for wearing a nose ring. The mother is contesting the decision given the fact that niqab are accepted as well as the kirpan. The later has an initial historical purpose of defense which could justify its use and the wearing of it. These sort of issues are surfacing one after the other.

Several people have had the idea of putting on mascot masks on voting day so as to display the ridiculous rule. The fact that Quebec isn't making any statements as to where they will draw the line between free-practice and infringement of freedom is like opening a can of worms. Several people can justify the wearing of small weapons in school, others can justify horrible or elaborate costumes, etc...


Dei Gratia Regina?

Have you ever wondered what "D. G. Regina", next to the picture of the Queen, on the back of all Canadian coins means? In full, it stands for "Dei Gratia Regina", which, in Latin, means "By the grace of God, Queen".

In the United States, there has been a very interesting movement to have "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance (this was an amendment and not in the original Pledge), to have "In God We Trust" removed from their coins, as well as other moves to rightfully and constitutionally separate church and state.

Here, in Canada, we have similar violations of this vital constitutional separation between church and state. Our national anthem, which is sung before every sports event, many schools, etc. invokes the protection of God over our land. This is all very interesting, unconstitutional, and insultingly stupid. However, it is the phrase "D. G. Regina" on the back of our coins to which I take the most exception.

Of course, the phrase is a throwback to an era in which the nobility ruled over states. Quite obviously, ridiculous positions such as the monarchy have no legitimate purpose or right to exist in (what should be) a modern republic like Canada. Even though we (mostly) live in a democracy, we do not vote for our monarch, but still we devote a significant amount of taxpayer dollars to this deprecated institution and all that it entails. While the Queen obviously has veto power in theory, her powers have been curtailed to mere symbolism for a long time (most of all since the repatriation of the constitution).

And while I take exception at the monarchy's relevance itself, it is this phrase D. G. Regina which offends my intellect most of all. On the back of all our coins, we are told that our monarch has literally been appointed by God to rule over this land. There is little which disgusts me more than such idiosyncratic pandering to the religious and political right-wing of this country.

Take your kids to the museum

After watching Bill Maher briefly yesterday on Larry King Live, one can clearly tell one of the messages he was trying to send to the audience was that travelling and understanding situations over seas helps in making a stronger and smarter government. The advantage knowledge and experience gives to somebody is priceless and helps the development of an individual tremendously.

Montreal, fortunately, is the home to a multitude of cultures. One can learn several languages, eat diverse style of foods and understand several different ideaologies. Although not the experience one can get from traveling and seeing the world first hand, the fact that these differences can be found and observed within a single community is still an advantage for children around.

Both of the authors of this blog actually spent a significant amount of time growing up in the city of Ottawa, Ontario. The luck of growing up in such a city is slightly different then that of Montreal. Although it does hold a diverse population, it more importantly is a city filled with museums to keep kids interested.

While I was growing up in Ottawa, my parents took me to a museum at least once a month. It could also mount to a little more then that. I remember walking through each museum, and although I had been to them many times before, the exhibits always sparked interest in me. Whether I read the little explanations that went with them or not, the experience of seeing visually first hand several pieces to a puzzle that would be complete many years in the future through education, I was definetly more interested and ahead of myself.

The advantage of museums, and although they're are a lot less of them in Montreal, don't only deal with a child's education. The fact that a family can visit exhibits for quite a cheap admission is a true advantage. It allows for a family to do an activity together for a good price, and it does keep the kids occupied in a positive way. This is the sort of activity that pays off later on.

The cities are full of culturally significant observation points. From museums, to architecture, the cities offer cheap solutions to keep a child busy and educate him at the same time. This is the sort of experiment that doesn't require much effort, or money and pay off in the end. So, do take your kids to the museum, or at least show them the effort that was put into building a city, and all that it offers.


Cheap Writing Skills

Structure is a very important part of story telling. Whenever I sit down and watch a film, I'll always end up commenting on the film structure. A lot of films follow a simple structure which is basically an intro, conflict, complication, climax, resolution and conclusion. The ones that truly interest me are those who structure themselves differently, or use another motif to do so.

I recently watched 'The Prestige'. Which is built like a magic trick, you have 'the pledge' which is the part of the story that shows something ordinary, or familiar, followed by 'the turn' which is when something ordinary turns extraordinary and finally concludes with 'the prestige' which is when the trick is finally created. These three steps can, by vocabulary, be substituded with the simple structure named above, but nonetheless is a worthwhile effort on the writer's part.

What I mean by 'cheap writing skills' is anything that comes in the form of flashbacks to explain things that were never looked at previously in the story, or plot developments that are unanticipated because they are never mentionned or looked into before they happen. Batman, the old television series, was the king of terrible writing. Often having the protagonist in peril, only to fix the issue with a simple line of dialogue: "Thank God I took my anti-poison Bat-milk this morning!" Another terrible franchise to utilize terrible writing is the Saw franchise which axed the entire third installement on flashbacks. I got lucky and skipped out on the story by reading up the plot on wikipedia, and the amount of time 'is shown in flashback' is written makes me happy I avoided watching this, or another film of the franchise. This type of plot developement is absolutely attrocious and should never be green lit.

It's not an exercise in good writing to fool the audience by using cheap thrills. Things like silent moments followed by loud string instruments, or trumpets doesn't make up good thrills either. One liner plot twists don't add much to story development as well. One series that was especially good at this was 'Angel', which had a lot of story progress in directions not previously foreshadowed or explained, simple lines would give the direction of the next episodes and made the process of following such a show a pain. Things like "It's the prophecy, I've managed to decipher more of the text. A giant meteor is currently hitting us because the almighty Lord is pissed." is definetly taken off of my list of things-I-should-watch.

A director, on the other hand, that utilized misdirection quite creatively and intelligently was Alfred Hitchcock. He was a wonderful user of the MacGuffin which is, according to wikipedia, 'a plot device that motivates the characters and advances the story, but has little other relevance to the story'. For example, in the movie 'psycho', Janet Leigh's character is initially running away from her employer after having stolen some money. The money is the MacGuffin because it drives the character to leave and find shelter at the Bates Motel, where the true plot of a murdering madman begins. This actually is a demonstration of good writing skills.