Mar 31, 2012

The MPAA: Bully of Film Makers

The Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA, is the national film ratings agency that reviews films and applies the ratings to them, be it G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17 (which used to be XXX).

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It is also a group that many filmmakers hate.

It is the reason why you see the above screen in theaters at every movie you go to. Their review decisions are made in secret, infuriating film makers, who are given little to no information about why a film has been given a particular rating. The appeals process allows no documentation or recordings, and produces no written judgments, and is a system in which the deck is stacked against the filmmakers. 

This is a problem, because films that are released unrated, or worse, with an NC-17 rating, are often not shown in the big movie theater chains. While the MPAA claims its rating system is voluntary, the reality is that it is a form of censorship, because unrated films are seen by far fewer people. It is a system that thrives on secrecy and has been resistant to change.

The most recent example is the film Bully, from Miramax, about the trauma of school bullying. The MPAA gave it an NC-17 rating for some offensive language (the kind heard in schools across the country) and refused to review its decision. As a result, Miramax is going to release the film unrated, even though that will lower the amount of theaters in which it can be seen.

This video covers the campaign to pressure the MPAA to back down on its arbitrary R-rating.

Turning The Spotlight On The MPAA

In the documentary This Film Is Not Yet RatedAcademy Award-nominated director Kirby Dick  puts the powerful MPAA under the microscope for inspection, looking at stateside cinema's most notorious non-censoring censors. 

Disturbed by the huge amount of power that the MPAA ratings board wields, the filmmaker seeks out the true identities of the anonymous raters who control what films make it to the multiplex (and which ones don't), hiring a private investigator to stake out MPAA headquarters.

Along the way, Dick speaks with numerous filmmakers whose careers have been negatively affected by the seemingly random judgments of the MPAA.

This is a fascinating documentary and well worth watching (be aware there are snippets of nudity and some coarse language, necessary to examine the issues covered in the film)

Predictably, the film was given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA, and Dick describes the unfair, arbitrary nature of the appeals process. 

The MPAA was also caught red handed making copies of the film, something they go after others for, but the MPAA justified its hypocracy  by claiming it was acting to protect its members (story about this HERE).  Apparently the same rules they so zealously advocate for do not apply to them.

The bottom line is the fact that the MPAA has an enormous amount of control over what movies the public is allowed to see, and there are movies that do not get made or released at all because of this system, something that damages the freedom of culture that is supposed to be a hallmark of our society.

Mar 30, 2012

Dead Can Dance In Concert

If you have never heard of Dead Can Dance then you are missing out on a fantastic band that plays mesmerizing compositions of ambient, world music with incredible vocals by Lisa Gerard and Brendan Perry. Below is DCD performing Rakim. Sit back and let your spirit loose.

Mar 28, 2012

Boston Finally Admits Wrongful Arrest

The city of Boston, after five years, has finally admitted that the arrest of Simon Glik for recording police officers in public was wrong. Until this point, the city has steadfastly refused to admit their officers had done anything wrong.

Their intransigence will cost Boston taxpayers $170,000. 

CNET has a good article about this case, and the increasing confrontations between police departments who are able to record citizens in public without their consent, but are arresting citizens who record police. Wiretapping laws were never meant to suppress citizens' constitutional rights, and yet they are increasingly being invoked by the police to prevent recording in public. 

Yet another example: a Coral Springs, Florida woman was arrested by police and charged with felony obstruction and DUI - charges that were dropped after a recording of the altercation was made public. Now the two officers are being investigated, something that never would have happened without the recording.

Here's one more: a security video proves that a man who spent three days in jail was the victim of a clear-cut case of false arrest by an officer, who claimed his life had been threatened. Now the officer is facing several serious charges for lying. If not for video of the encounter, this man would have probably spent a lot of time in jail. LINK

Further proof of why recording of the police is so important. The website Cop Block, whose goal is police accountability, has a good article listing nine reasons to film encounters with police. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the rights you have, you have only because they were exercised. Use 'em or lose 'em.

Mar 27, 2012

Writing Good Supporting Characters

The blog i09 has a great article about how to create convincing supporting characters in your stories or graphic novels.This is a good list to keep in mind when you're creating your worlds, and the people in them, so that your supporting characters are not bland background scenery.

Star Wars Meets Dr. Seuss

Here are the first two fictional Star Wars book covers, drawn in Dr. Seuss style, which will be available for sale soon.

I am in the process of creating an on-line store this week, and have to receive proofs from a printer to make sure the quality of the prints is high enough to sell. There will be more pieces in this series to come.

Mar 24, 2012

Found Slides Graphic Novel - Sneak Peek

Here is a sneak peek at some of the panels in the Forthcoming graphic novel Found Slides, A Life Remembered.

It is in post-production now, meaning I am shading and cleaning up the line art, and will be adding a couple of pages to flesh out the story line a little bit.

Mar 21, 2012

Artbooks Tampa Bay Project: A New Way To View Art

The art of Magnum Arts is now available on an iPad app called the Tampa Artbook Archive. If you have an iPad, be sure to check it out!

Artbook Archive on Facebook

The Artbook Archive is a brand new Apple app that makes the work of talented artists available on tablet computers, such as the iPad (other tablet computer apps, for the Nook and Kindle, will be coming eventually). The app will be priced at $9.99, and will contain 880 pages of fantastic art by Tampa Bay Artists. I'm excited to be included in the roll out of this exciting project.

The only way to see the art is through an iPad. If you don't have one, and would like to know which pieces of mine were selected, they are at the bottom of this post.

As an artist whose work was accepted into the project, I was given an invitation to the launch party, held in St. Petersburg. Below are some pictures of the launch party, and a good write-up by NewRoot News.

The Artbook launch party was held in a vacant lot lined with art and filled with the sounds of a funky, downtempo DJ. 

As the iPad (and other tablet devices) become more popular, expect to see more such apps appear. The iPad is an ideal way to view art, since with the swipe of a finger, you can scroll through each image.

But art, fortunately, will continue to be created by traditional means by many artists. Apps such as the Artbook Archive simply make it easier to see a wider array of art more easily.

Below are the pieces selected for the Artbook Archive, from my Dark Office series:

Below left: EOQ Guidelines, below right: Team Player

Below: Goal Attainment

Mar 17, 2012

Four Groups Protecting Your Digital Rights

Forbes Magazine has a great article about four public interest groups that are fighting to protect your digital rights. These are groups which deserve our thanks and support. 
  • These public interest groups are in a constant battle to fight against laws that restrict our freedom or threaten our privacy, or to alter aged laws and policies that don’t keep current with rapidly evolving technology. Their victories—and there are many—have improved the lives of everyone who’s ever owned a tech toy. 
This is a good overview of the threats to our freedoms that, if not challenged, will allow others to dictate what rights we have. Be sure to check it out.

Mar 8, 2012

Found Slides Graphic Novel Is Completed

The graphic novel Found Slides, A Life Remembered, part 1 (there will be 2 parts)  is DONE! I have created a completed review copy which I will be loaning to a couple of people for their assessment before post-production begins. After that: PUBLICATION! 

This is the working cover of the Found Slides, A Life Remembered  graphic novel.

Warner Home Entertainment: Jump Through Our Hoops For Our DRM Scheme

Yet another "this has gotta be a joke, right?" proclamation from Hollywood, this time from Warner, which gives you an option to rip your DVDs legally by driving over to a special DVD-ripping depot and paying a fee.

The catch? They will only be converted to DRM-locked formats that only play in approved devices. Warner calls this "safe and convenient."

"This has gotta be a joke, right?" 

Public Knowledge has a scathing commentary about Warner's cluelessness, which includes the helpful chart comparing the two ways to unlock a DVD you legally purchases, below:

LINK to previous blog post The Piracy Dilemma, in which I examine the issue of piracy, and big content creators' desire to control how customers use their products in every way

Mar 7, 2012

The 501st Legion In The News

This is a great news segment about the 501st Legion, the global Star Wars costuming group of which I am a member. This news piece does a good job explaining what the 501st Legion is, and what it is all about.

Mar 1, 2012

Police Hindering Release of Complaint Forms

This is a video montage of police officers across the country (the locations aren't specified) intimidating, harassing and hindering undercover testers who ask for a police complaint form. The officers ask for ID (when legally they do not have the right to do so under these circumstances), make threats and outright refuse to provide a complaint form when asked.

Police officers are public servants, supposed to be accountable to the public, but as this video makes clear, some police officers make holding them accountable extremely difficult.