A thought on context and evidence

First off I’m going to lay my cards on the table because I don’t want to be seen as an apologist or defender of ‘Lads’ Mags’. In my experience of them they are generally repellent and couple dull softcore airbrushed tits with a tone that definitely leaves a sour taste in the mouth. There is every possibility that a nasty misogynist undercurrent runs barely under the surface of Nuts, Zoo etc.

An article  was going around Twitter today about a study by Middlesex and Surrey University whereby a group of young men were asked to differentiate between quotes from ‘Lads’ Mags’ and those by convicted rapists and that ‘most people who took part in the study could not distinguish the source of the quotes.’ They were also asked to rank the quotes in order of derogatoriness and found that the magazines were ‘somewhat’ more derogatory.

This sounds very persuasive and certainly plays to assumptions that many (like me) generally make. However, there is one glaring omission; none of the quotes used in the study, either from the rapists or the magazines, is given. Not one. Therefore we are completely unable to judge this study. The notes at the bottom of the article give sources for the quotes from the rapists but we are completely unable to find which ones were used specifically, nor are any issue numbers or page references of the magazines given.

I would argue that the very act of trying to compare like for like quotations is dangerous as, by necessity, all context is removed. The rapist quotes were taken from interview tapes whereby the tone of the speaker is lost which can strip the words of a great deal of the speaker’s intent. In the magazines, no text exists in a vacuum; surrounding pictures, the layout and the prefiguring text all add to the context and can change something quite dramatically.

All of this can be illustrated in Jeremy Clarkson’s infamous comments last week about the striking public sector workers. He said ‘I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families’. Written down like that the comments are horrific and sinister but when looked at in full:

Is Clarkson a twat? Yes. Is he advocating murder? No. This is precisely the kind of context we are not given for any of the quotes for this survey. It might be the case that the quotes are completely equivalent and that this is not an issue but without them we simply can’t tell.

The press release gives very little in terms of the measurable elements of their study. We don’t know how many men participated in the study. It says that ‘most’ people couldn’t tell the difference between the magazines and the rapists. That can mean 49% could and 51% couldn’t. The magazines were found to be ‘somewhat’ more derogatory. What on earth does that ‘somewhat’ mean? How were these actually ranked?

There is absolutely no way of judging this study or its conclusions whatsoever on the basis of this shoddy press release.

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Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 7:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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See That Thing Everyone Thinks is Good? Well I Think It’s Shit

The above could well be the title of David Cox’s regular Guardian column ‘Between the Lines: The Agendas Behind Recent Releases’.  Take a goosey gander at this one about recent mind-shafting film Inception starring an aggressive rent boy, Charles Bronson, a pregnant teenager, and Leonardo DiCaprio (points if you can indentify the references. Clue: the last one is from The Making of The Beach). Anyhoo, this article is so pompous, so crammed full of clever sounding words masking a complete lack of any real commentary that the fact it is trying to point out that Inception is crammed full of clever cinematic tropes masking a lack of meaning is ball-shatteringly ironic. That was a long sentence.

If you look at Mr Cox’s past record of film criticism it includes ‘Four Lions May Roar but Its Laughs Are Hollow’,  ‘Precious is an Insult to the Poor’ and ‘Why has A Prophet Won so Much Acclaim?’ His formula reads;

1.Take whichever film everyone loves at the time.

2. Say it’s rubbish.

3. Pad

That’s it; a sure-fire way to cause a bit of a stir and get idiots like me chattering about his fake opinions. I say fake because no-one could so uniformly dislike awesome films with such clockwork regularity.  Could they? No, they couldn’t. I’ve met loads of people like this, children mostly, who take a contrary viewpoint for no real reason other than to antagonize.

I enjoyed Inception a lot (as well as Four Lions and A Prophet (I have mixed feelings regarding Precious)) and you might be forgiven for implying that I’m having a go at this guy purely because he disagrees with me. You might be forgiven but you won’t be because I’m not just some knee jerking internet troll lashing out blindly at dissenters who dare question that which we geeks have declared ‘awesome’. I welcome criticism of stuff I like; the broadcaster Andrew Collins amusingly criticised the film for its stuffy interpretation of dreams. ‘Why didn’t any characters suddenly realise they weren’t wearing trousers?’ quipped Collins . A question which may seem pat but I think genuinely exposes a weakness in the film. Contrast with this from Cox:

‘So, do Inception’s multi-layered dreamscapes shed any light on that preoccupation (accepting traumatic memories), or on the modularity of the mind, or on anything very much else?’

Cox doesn’t think so. The above is the crux of his argument and renders the rest of the article mere padding. I want to separate the above into its constituent parts. The film doesn’t shed any light on the modularity of the mind. I’ll give David that much. Why? Because it doesn’t set out to. It’s not a biology lesson; the various layers of the mind that the characters descend into (this will make no sense if you haven’t seen it) aren’t supposed to be really actually the real proper parts of a human mind, they’re just excellent places to stage action sequences. That’s not to belittle them at all. Like The Matrix, Nolan stages his action within a fictional world with well defined reality-bending rules adding danger and spectacle. Where Nolan genuinely finds meaning is in the ‘preoccupation’ which Cox dismisses out of hand. What really sets Inception apart from similar blockbuster fare is the emotional centre of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character. He gives a realistic and compelling portrayal of a man wracked with guilt. OK so it might be slightly clumsily introduced (I’m looking at you tiresome viewpoint-of-the-audience exposition queen Ellen Paige) but his self-imposed mental torture rips through the film like a knife in a way that supercedes David Cox’s attempt to classify it as a lame intellectual exercise. In the end, the emotions outweigh the power of the effects and they were some fucking awesome effects.

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm  Comments (2)  

TaRANTino

***THERE ARE SPOLIERS FOR INGLORIOUS BASTERDS IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH***

Right. I went to see Inglorious Basterds (IBS from hereon in) the other day and a thought entered my brain pan: Quentin Tarantino (QT) must be stopped. Not riddled with bullets like his ahistorical Adolf or even banned from making films. He just needs someone to say ‘no’ to him once in a while like ‘no, Quentin it is not a good idea to have Mike Myers anywhere near this’ or ‘no, Quentin, just because Eli Roth is your friend that doesn’t mean that he is a good actor by default’ and ‘no, Quentin, for crying out loud leave your goddamn foot fetish inside the bedroom for a change! Just once please! Just one film without the camera snaking up and down a shapely toe set and ball. JUST ONE FOR FUCK’S SAKE.’ You see there is a good, even an excellent film, trying to get out of IBS but it is subsumed under layer after layer of nonsense which seemed to be chucked in because the QT thought it would be ‘cool’ to do so. This comes at the expense of the film and my patience.

Mr Tarantino has always made ‘cool’ cinema but in his earlier films the cool touches and genre elements served a compelling twisty turny story with proper characters that the audience could sympathize with or were at least compelled by. The apex of this was Jackie Brown (JB). While JB was definitely part of/a homage to Blaxploitation and had flourishes of post modernism (the shopping centre (I will never call them malls) sequence for instance; listen to the changing dialogue) at its heart lay a tender but staunchly unsentimental love story. The titular Brown and Max ‘Robert Forster’ Cherry bond over old records and movies – QT staples – but the important part is their bonding; not the knowledge of the records themselves. JB marries this love story with an absolutely corking plot which keeps you questioning everyone’s motives the whole way through. This is the stuff that cinematic dreams are made of. Of course we can not overlook Elmore Leonard’s contribution whose book Rum Punch formed the basis for the film. QT has since stated that he won’t be making any more films based of books by other people which seems a shame because JB proved that QT was an excellent adapter and it looked like he had matured as a director.

Contrast JB with its follow up Kill Bill Part 1(KBPt1); angry lady kills more angry ladies in cool ways. Does anything else actually happen? The plot has been stripped to less than that of an advert. All that fills the remaining time is just ‘cool stuff’ which is fun an’ all but completely empty. It’s as if Tarantino though that plots were constricting him and he needed to break free to fulfil his dream of making a film whose only purpose is to joylessly and mechanically re-tread kung-fu clichés and display Uma Thurman’s feet. Oh yes, and be cool. Kill Bill Part 2 (KBPt2) comes like a half arsed appendix to KBPt1- attempting to add back-story and empathy but is delivered as leaden exposition by a collection of the world’s least articulate actors. In fact, entertaining as some of it is (both Kill Bills are definitely entertaining) it strikes me that QT could have just stuck the end sequence (where she finally Kills Bill) on the end of KBPt1 and it would have made not a jot of difference because the plot is so slight. We would have been spared a whole trip to the cinema or 90 minutes of our lives had QT released it all as one long, plodding mess as he originally intended. The whole Kill Bill exercise is just a list of fights which sounded cool to QT and thus were made into films because no-one tells him no.

As a typical film buff type sort I am all in favour of the power of directors over the meddling studio suits – that’s a given – but it strikes me that Mr QT is sorely in need of some kind of editor (a discussion about ‘auteurs’ is for another day). In no film is this more evident than Death Proof (DP) which again has a plot so slim it could be written on a grain of rice by a literal gorilla but this time it is padded out by reams and reams of snappy yet rambling dialogue. But, say you, his older films had loads of that stuff and those were well good. Yes, says I, but in Pulp Fiction (PF) and Reservoir Dogs (RD) it punctuated the action and rounded the characters; so much so that the ‘Royale with cheese’ the ‘Madonna’ and similar conversations have all become iconic. I challenge you to recall a single one of the lines in DP. No cheating. See? Nada. It is because the characters are just sassy mouthpieces to show off QT’s writing with no plot worth considering to anchor them to.

The thing with IBS is that it does have a decent plot in there. I mean it’s no JB or RD but it’s LAC* compared to KBPt1 or DP. When the film isn’t speaking English (or when the terrifying and  brilliant Jew Hunter is speaking English) it is rather excellent and there is a far more satisfying, if equally preposterous, seam of revenge than either Pt of KB. The climax is also bombastic, powerful stuff for all its lunacy. It just needed someone, be it a skilled editor or a benevolent suit, to say ‘not all your ideas are good, or necessary, or interesting!’ This same figure could have made KB into a single 90min action fest and DP into an interesting 15min experiment to be buried on a DVD somewhere. I really want Tarantino to come back and prove that he can be the exciting teller of stylish stories he once was and not disappear further in to the cursed kingdom of his own arse; a land where the only gods are Genre, Cool and Women’s Feet.

*LA Confidential

Top 10 Important Life Lessons from Films Watched this Weekend

The films were Milk, Gran Torino and The Devils Rejects – DESPOILERS ABROAD

1. Racism is bad.

2. Clowns only fuck attractive ladies in dreams.

3. Homosexuals are people too.

4. Rob Zombie hates film critics and vice versa.

5. Just because a bunch of things rhyme with ‘Gran Torino’ that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to make a song.

6. Especially if that song is a duet between Jamie Cullum and Clint Eastwood.

7. Pimps are not to be trusted.

8. Coors doesn’t like gay people.

9. If you are a crotchety old man (who also has a heart of gold) the following terms are acceptable: zipperhead, gook, slope, spade, spook, dago, coloured and mick.

10. Josh Brolin is a better actor than Sean Penn but if you are a character in a film with him in (and he is not the star) run away as fast as possible!

Nazi Tits

Seen along the Hove seafront

Seen along the Hove seafront

Hove is like the older sophisticated sister of show-off little dipshit Brighton. It has the classy restaurants, the classy bookshops and an enormous Tesco the size of God Himself. I was in Hove a couple weeks back arsing around with my new iphone like the wannabe media sort I am when I happened to see the graffiti above. Which, as you will undoubtedly have noticed is a swastika next to the word ‘tits’. The extra observational among you will also see that it is the straight on horizontal swastika which is actually more associated with Hinduism, Buddhism and (my favourite religion ever, purely for its name) Jainism. I doubt, however, the scrawling is intended to mean ‘Buddha is the tits’.

No, more likely someone intends it to evoke the oft referenced years of 1933-45 in when it was ruled by the good ol’ National Socialist party. What was going through the mind of whoever wrote this? Was it “I know what’ll rile those $%^£@s in Hove; the concept of Nazism and the word ‘tits’. If they’re a Jewish woman THEY MIGHT ACTUALLY DIE.” Or were the ‘tits’ there first and a crazy joker felt the need to Hitler it up a notch. The swastika was certainly drawn in a hurry in comparison to the deliberate, heavy, chalk strokes of the capitalized ‘tits’.

Chalk is the most polite of all the graffist’s implements; able to be washed away with the application of a single damp cloth. Perhaps this is a deliberate reference to the impermanence of both National Socialism and tits; the former promised 1,000 years but waned after twelve and the latter, errrr, droops a bit after a while.

Published in: on July 28, 2009 at 10:10 pm  Comments (4)  

Greetings

Afternoon.

I’ve attempted several of these blog wosnames before and given up on them pretty sharpish but this one will be the exception that proves the rule. Though if this is that exception then there will be no further blog thingmies (this being the last) thus the rule, once proved, will be redundant.

Hmmm convoluted opening gambit wasn’t it?

Anyways my name is Simon, I hail from the toon o’ Edinburgh but i currently reside in the toon o’ Brighton. I am a wannabe comedian/writer/film critic who, like others with those interests, has a menial administrative job.  I can rap much better than you’d think to look at me.

Well best be off now but I’ll be back later with the first non-introductory post so see you then. Yeah, keep hunched over your computer pressing refresh again and again until I post. You love it.

Laterz

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment