Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

As a filmmaker, one of the things you end up asking yourself all the time is "how long is this movie?" And it's also one of the questions other people ask YOU all the time. I've been working on a documentary for a while now, and it's probably in the top five of questions I get asked. Number one, incidentally, is "when will the movie be finished."

The answer to both is similar. It'll be done when it's done. And it'll be as long as it should be.

Stories have a length, and a rhythm. And almost always, films are too long. Especially documentaries. There are a lot of reasons, and I've fallen victim to them all. I'm probably still doing some of these things, so I'm not saying this out of some sort of "I'm better than this" impulse. I'm saying it as somebody who struggles with the exact same things.

Pink Ribbons, Inc. is too long. Which is a hard thing to say, because there's nothing in it that isn't important. The pacing isn't even all that slow, though it is a nice leisurely pace. The problem is that at 98 minutes, absolutely no one is going to see this movie that doesn't already know the contents of it. The message they are trying to get across and who they seem to be trying to speak to aren't the audience for the film.

The audience for a feature length documentary on this subject are people who are already upset about pinkwashing, who already understand the hypocrisy in most Breast Cancer foundations and marketing. And that's the heart of the problem here. I'm not even that involved in the subject or that invested, and there wasn't a single piece of new information in the film for me.

It was packaged well, shot well, and edited well. The graphics were consistent and done nicely. The film used a great device to divide up the different topics covered, by repeatedly going back to visit various charity "walks" and fundraisers and talk with participants about why they were walking and what challenges they were facing.

But I couldn't figure out what it's purpose was. I had a bit of the same problem with the book, which I had thought I would enjoy reading. But it was obviously a thesis paper that was expanded into a book, and the writing was a little dry and a bit hard to crack into for me. And for this kind of topic, that's just not going to make the impact. The reason breast cancer charities can do so many immoral things is because they're so very, very good at speaking in a simple, common language that encourages people of all ages and education levels to get involved and support them. If you want to expose their problems, you have to speak to the same audience just as well, or better, than the charity themselves. The book didn't accomplish that.

I feel like the movie was an attempt to do it, and like I said, there's no one place where they fail. They actually do manage to explore the difficult topics in ways that are accessible. But who is going to watch it, in the end? People who walk in the fundraisers aren't going to seek this film out, and if they come across it the first thing they'll think is "why would I spend 90 minutes of my life being told I'm wrong and part of the problem?"

The trailer for the film actually was extremely well done. It touched on the various topics quickly, and was this great little snippet to really make people think and possible make them want to research the topic more. If you pulled out any one segment of the finished documentary, I think it could do the same thing. There were several graphic moments about the marketing of breast cancer themed products that I think should be made into PSAs immediately.

In the end, the film is fine. It's even good. But since it offered nothing really new to people who are already even vaguely on their side, I can only assume the intended audience was people who don't know any of this information. And I don't think that those people are going to watch a feature length documentary, I don't think they'll even get through the first thirty minutes. If the filmmakers are planning an action campaign, or if this was intended as part of an action campaign, I think the best thing to do would be to start breaking out portions of the film and making shorter sections that are available online through YouTube or Vimeo, something embeddable. Then start encouraging different websites to blog about them, and at the end of each video you can say, "if you want to see everything, then watch the film."

Because it is all important, and it is well presented if you're wanting to reach a new audience with these facts. But how do you get that new audience? That's the question. I'm hoping the filmmakers have already thought about this and are working on it. Or that those who participated in the film are. Because in the end, we as filmmakers have to remember not to preach to the choir.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Supernatural "Rewatch" end of Season One!

I'm trying something a little new with my product ads. Not sure how much I'll like it or if I'll switch back to the Amazon Associates thing. Not that either is bringing in money for me. I would love it so much if I could get at least the money I spend on domain registration through ads, anybody got ideas for that?

Anyway, nobody cares about that, it's time for the SEASON ONE FINALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL REWATCH POSTS!

Salvation: Part One - So the big thing I have to say about this episode is "thank goodness, we're finally here!" And also "thank you for having some pay off for all of that set-up!" Finally, Meg has a larger purpose. Finally, Sam's visions mean something and matter to the plot more than just being a convenient device (though honestly they're still a bit of a convenient device here, but hey, progress!). Finally, the complicated relationship between the Winchesters is going somewhere! It might even be somewhere that makes a season of yo-yo emotions worth it somehow, but I was holding out judgement at this point.

Everything about this episode was well done, and when I was starting to feel a bit lukewarm about the whole show, it's a good thing this came around. I wasn't entirely sure I'd keep going after the end of season one, at the least I was going to call up people who had seen further and ask them if it was worth it or if I should just skip ahead or something. But thankfully it didn't come to that.

John Winchester's laying the groundwork for his meeting with Meg, I loved. The brother's and how they dealt with each other, their dad, and their own emotions. It was all good. It almost (almost) makes me forgive the show for not letting them grow a bit more, because this was a good emotional place for them to be for this story. I have my arguments on what they should have done instead, but whatever, I enjoyed it and I'll let it all go. Even my two favorite shows had uneven first seasons (though you can't accuse B5 of not having plot and character development).

Though I expected this episode to actually be the cliffhanger season finale. Though I had an idea what I was in for in the next episode, this was where most people would have ended it. But instead Supernatural ups the stakes EVEN MORE.

Devil's Trap: Part Two - I maybe should have done this as just one long review of the two episodes together, because everything I have to say about this one I've kind of already said. But I love the fact that the show revealed aspects of John Winchester's character not by having him do something, but because of Dean and Sam knowing their father so well.

Plus, I have to say - Bobby instantly became my favorite character pretty much the second he stepped on screen. I like the idea of the show branching out into having a few more recurring characters, because having to have the emotional arc of every episode dependent on the brothers was getting worn. With another family-type figure in their life, they can start to really do something new or explore the same ideas from new angles. And plus, Bobby just seems really freakin' awesome.

The episode succeeds because it takes a physical confrontation and makes it an emotional one instead, which is what all good television should do. I really liked it, and though I think the last thirty seconds were a bit of a cop-out, it proved that the boys aren't safe and that their journey is just going to continue. And it was probably the best way in the world to make sure that I put in the next disc to start season two because there was no WAY I wasn't going to find out what happened next.

Now that I'm done with season one, I'm going to review a few other shows for a little bit before moving on to season two! But I am going to keep watching, I'm really getting into this show.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Letting little girls be little girls

I read several advice columns on a regular basis, and one of them today had a letter from a stepmother who was butting heads with the mother of her seven-year-old stepdaughter over clothing, makeup, and apparently hair dye.

I have to say, if I was writing the column, my advice would have been, "then stop fighting and relax."

I admit, part of this perspective comes from the fact that my mom very rarely fought with me on these topics. I started dying my hair when I was a teenager, though I can't remember exactly when. And I didn't go with normal colors, I mostly tried out purple, green, blue, and other unnatural shades. I didn't wear makeup because I just didn't really care, but I would spend hours every week painting my nails with colors and patterns. The kind of thing you find on Pinterest now, that's really popular among a lot of age groups, that's what I was doing then.

I can still remember once when I went to a church function with my hair dyed purple, and somebody asked my mom why she let me do that. Mom just shrugged it off, saying that hair dye fades out, or hair grows out, so it wasn't like it was a big deal. I don't think I even understood why this was a big deal for me until recently, when I read a this quote:

“This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain.

Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be."
-Jada Pinkett Smith (quoted from Refinery29)

This wasn't the first time I had heard this sentiment from Willow Smith's parents either, here's an older quote from Will Smith:
"We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it's like how can you teach her that you're in control of her body? If I teach her that I'm in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she's going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can't cut my hair but that's her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she's going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives."

-Will Smith (quoted from ABC News)

And when I thought about it, I realized that by letting my dye my hair, and paint my nails, and letting me reflect my opinions and taste through how I presented myself, my mom was doing the same thing she'd done my whole life. She was letting me be independent and be myself. I was learning to make my own choices, I was learning that I was the ultimate authority on my own body. And sometimes, I lose that lesson in all the deluge of crap that women get faced with every day. Sometimes, I see a bunch of haters and trolls online insulting women for the sin of not being attractive enough and I forget.

I hope that the stepmother from the advice column takes a deep breath and thinks about WHY she cares so much. Why does she want her stepdaughter not to wear short shorts? Why does she want her not to wear lipstick? And then she should ask her stepdaughter why she wants to wear these things. Why, at seven, does she want to dye her hair? Is it to look like her mom? Is it because her favorite actress has a different hair color? Is she being teased at school? Quite a few girls start to want to alter their appearance and their bodies because they're being told they're ugly.

Or is this little girl being encouraged by her mom to do zany things because the mom is trying to get back at the stepmother? Or is the stepmother saying and doing things that the child is hearing as "I have to change to make myself pretty?"

At the end of the day, it's the why that matters, not the clothes. Not the haircut, not the makeup. Because if a seven year old looks at all the adult women in her life and sees that they wear makeup and hears women say that makeup makes them beautiful and that they aren't worth looking at until they've "put on their face" then she's going to internalize that to herself and want to follow. Adult women say these things themselves, this isn't just something little girls get from advertising.

It's only once she knows why that the stepmother can even approach the topic from a sensible angle that isn't just slapping down a little girl's control over her own body. And she'll lose that control to society pretty quickly if she isn't reminded that it's hers. This is a chance for the stepmother to help her daughter grow into a strong, confident, and intelligent young woman. And she wants to just say "no, there's a ban on shorts in my house."

Parenting is harder than any other job in this life, but I think we can do better than that.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Supernatural Season One "Rewatch"

Obviously I've had some more trouble keeping up with things. My health has been kind of up and down over the last few months, so I'm working on scheduling myself a bit better to keep up with this. I've got some ideas, we'll see if they work out.

But for now, back to the Supernatural Rewatch!

Hell House: This episode was a little weird for me. I really enjoyed a lot of the humor in it, but I felt like the "explanation" was a little weird. But I'll forgive it, because like I said, it was really funny.

I was especially amused by the fake ghost hunters and their website, since I've run across that kind of thing quite a lot before. Especially when I was researching amateur ghost hunting for a web series that I worked on. The series did a great job parodying ghost hunting in general.

Also, the monster in this one was actually pretty creepy to me for some reason. So good job all around, even if it was a one-off monster of the week episode.

Something Wicked: This episode generally exists so we can get more into Sam and Dean's backstory, and oddly enough they manage to delve into a dynamic that we hadn't really been getting into before. Usually the Sam vs. Dean fight is "I hate Dad vs We Owe Dad Obedience" fight. But instead this time it's about how Dean was expected to care for Sam even at too young an age. Which is a tried and true sibling dynamic, and much more interesting.

The monster in this was also very creepy, hit on a lot of my own childhood fears. I did think that the third act of the episode was a little rushed and less developed. They focused a bit too much on the character development and forgot the plot too long, so they had to wrap it up quickly. Which isn't the worst thing in the world.

Provenance: This episode was a little predictable, mostly because if you hire Jodelle Ferland to play a small child, said small child will be evil. Which is fine typecasting because at the end of the day she's so dang good at it. But it would be interesting to see somebody hire her as a red herring instead of being so cute she must be evil.

But I enjoyed a lot of things about this episode. Though I get tired of the common trope of "you have to move on and get back in the saddle" after your girlfriend/wife/lover/whatever dies, I thought they actually did a great job of establishing a love interest that was believable and likable, which is more than I can say for Dean's love interest in the Ghost Truck episode. I'm pretty positive she never comes back, and that really depresses me. They did too well establishing her, and I liked her. And that's the problem with this show for me so far, the biggest issue. I get that it's a show featuring two men, but I'm tired of the disposable women.

Dead Man's Blood: I'm really liking the show's take on vampires, and their strengths and weaknesses. It's a little traditional, in this era where everybody is wanting to play with the mythology and do new and different things. But it works really well in Supernatural. Plus, we're finally back to the main story with the demon that killed Mary Winchester, and adding in a new piece - the Colt. I knew that piece was coming, but I enjoyed the way it was introduced.

Though the one problem I had here was that we've spent an entire season hearing Sam and Dean run around and around the same arguments about their dad. So by the time we actually had John Winchester it the mix, it was old and tired. I wanted Sam to display even a tiny bit of growth and clarity on the subject, but instead he regressed even further and turned a bit whiny.

I know, I'm going to get yelled at for not liking Sam all the time, but I'm really a much bigger fan of Dean because he at least seems to be changing and growing when it comes to the subject of their Dad. He may fall back into just following orders, but he's not as blind about it as Sam seems to think.

On Thursday, I'll be finally posting about the end of this season and moving on to Season two!