Friday, June 08, 2007

Quote du Jour

"There has been a degree of controversy surrounding the violence in Hostel Part II, with critics in some corners arguing that it amounts to 'torture porn.' While I'll be the first to admit that Hostel Part II isn't a good film, it's a horror movie, so criticizing it for amping up the levels of gore and violence seems pointless. Since Jason started hacking up people while wearing his hockey mask, the genre has been all about blood and guts and inventive eviscerations. Hostel Part II isn't any more shocking than dozens of its predecessors, so it's surprising that it has been singled out. Maybe that's because movie-goers have become so used to neutered PG-13 ghost stories that something with an edge possesses the capability to shock."

[Emphasis mine.]

-James Berardinelli in his (negative) review of Hostel Part II

Watching only Merchant Ivory films,

James "Cecil" Comtois

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Blogger parabasis said...

I'm sorry, James, but Ithink this quote is some strong BS. There is a substantive difference between the graphic, shocking violence of, say, Nil By Mouth or Old Boy or a really graphic horror movie and Eli Roth's bullcrap. Excusing the torture rape porn by being like... well... all horror is gory is a cop-out. And the issue with Roth's body of work (if you can call it that) is not that the torture and rape are there to SHOCK, but rather that they're there to EXCITE/TITILATE/AROUSE, much like in the similarly-pure-shite SAW trilogy.

The issue isn't the content, weirdly enough, or rather, it isn't just the content... it's the way the content is used, and the lack of craftsmanship with which it is deployed.

7:44 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Well, no, it's not strong BS, Isaac, because it's from someone who not only likes and appreciates horror movies, but has also seen it. What's a bit bizarre is the discussion over the idea of torture porn is being conducted for the most part by people who haven't seen the Hostel films or Hills Have Eyes remakes.

For good or for bad, the R-rated horror films of late have been upping the ante in terms of graphic images to attempt to stimulate a very cynical, desensitized audience.

If you note Berardinelli gave the film a negative review. He gets to (I think) the real root of the problem with these new R-rated horror movies: they suck.

I don't watch the Saw films (yes, I've seen all three of them) and think, "How unethical." I think, "Man, those sucked. Why did I watch all of them, when the previous two sucked so badly?"

Same with Rob Zombie's films: it's not that they're ugly and politically incorrect, it's that he doesn't know how to create characters that you care about (and therefore kills any sense of tension).

8:30 PM  
Blogger cgeye said...

I'm going to be objectionable, for a moment, and wonder if it's okay for women who object to violent porn -- the simulating rape and degradation kind -- to refuse to watch all the porn they object to, before criticizing it?

And, why do I have to bring the chicks, into this? Because there is a growing point of convergence between violent porn and horror movies that carve up women sexually, and this is the live wire that gets the government interested in prosecuting porn according to community standards of obscenity.

It seems that Roth and Zombie are working the other end of the equasion -- pushing the violence that the MPAA has historically ignored, and adding sex, to the tipping point.

Their limit isn't the taste of the American public, (which, considering their films' low budgets, they will always be able to underestimate) but the ability to be censured by their best marketers -- reviewers who deliver their audiences to them, through denunciations of torture rape porn. Both are looking for the NC-17 rating publicity, then publicity for their R-rated cuts, then restoration of the NC-17 violence, for the foreign and DVD cuts.

I can't have any sympathy for film makers who depend on their critics' publicized revulsion to deliver their audience to them, who then have the cheek to object to their critics' opinions. If they can film women's dismemberments while singing a tune, they should be man enough to take the disapproval that earns them money.

Having said that, both of you agree -- there is a lack of craftmanship that wastes the license they are given to use images of sex and violence effectively. These directors don't even bother with giving the audience compelling stories or characters -- just because anyone can die, doesn't mean we should check out, before hand, because we are now trained not to care.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

The thing is, cgeye, there is a level of straw man/bogeyman attitude with part of your argument. I’m not dismissing it, but I think there should be a level of balanced reality check when acknowledging movies with questionable content. The way to do that, I think, is to see them before condemning them.

In other words, you ask “if it's okay for women who object to violent porn -- the simulating rape and degradation kind -- to refuse to watch all the porn they object to, before criticizing it?” Well…what movies are you talking about? Are there ultra-violent porn films? I’m sure. I don’t know which ones they are. I’m not really interested in finding out. I’m certainly not interested in commenting on them. I mean, how could I?

Also, is it okay to refuse to watch it? Absolutely. Is it okay to publicly criticize it? Aside from saying, “Yeah, y’know what? This looks like shit. You couldn’t pay me to see that,” I honestly don’t know. My inclination is actually to say no, it isn’t really okay or fair. (Aside from it being generally okay for anyone to voice their opinion, regardless of how well-informed or uninformed it is.)

I am reminded of the woman who’s organizing a massive boycotting campaign against the Harry Potter books even though she admits she’s never read a single page of any of the books. I think that’s a good example of why I get very agitated about this subject. I think it’s very easy for people to go from, “I have zero interest in seeing this ‘cause it looks God awful,” to what the woman against Harry Potter is doing. (It's also really easy to get caught up in that kind of bandwagon, too.)

To be fair, maybe it’s my nature in that I can’t get worked up over some artwork (I’m using “artwork” in the broadest sense of the word imaginable) I haven’t seen/read/heard, so sometimes I find it odd when people do. That mindset is just alien to me.

My sister pointed out that yes, a scene where (say) someone decapitating a young woman and having sex with the hole in her neck is over-the-line, repugnant misogyny. I wouldn’t argue with that. However, I do have to think, “What the hell movie is that scene from? Is this an actual scene from an actual movie you’ve actually seen?” (She hadn’t; this was a hypothetical scene from a hypothetical movie.)

Does this make sense? I think it’s ultimately more practical to be having a discussion on these movies based on actually seeing them (aside from, “Yeah, y’know what? This looks like shit. You couldn’t pay me to see that.” That’s fine and fair).

This also goes with my experience in seeing horror movies. The idea behind a lot of them are a lot worse than the actual execution. The most blatant example of this is the Nightmare on Elm Street series. When I was a little kid, the idea of Freddy was far, far, far more terrifying than the movies themselves. The movies themselves -- aside from maybe the first one -- are pretty silly.

I’ve found this with many of the modern R-rated horror films coming out: I really don’t think they’re so much morally repugnant as they are just shitty and craft-less.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I haven’t seen any of Roth’s feature films. I thought his faux trailer for “Thanksgiving” for Grindhouse was hysterical. I’m neither really praising/defending him and his work, nor am I denigrating him or his work.

Yes, Isaac and I agree that there’s a lack of craftmanship that wastes the license the filmmakers are given to use images of sex and violence effectively. But in a private conversation (that I’m hoping to continue shortly between the two of us), we’ve admitted we watch movies slightly differently: he thinks through certain questionable material in works that happen to be ethical- and intellectual-free zones. I don’t (any more than I work through why I eat an entire bag of Doritos). I’m not saying either one of us are right or wrong in this; I’m just saying we have different personal approaches to experiencing junk food entertainment.

I could – and some day may – go into why I don’t, but I’ve already nattered on long enough in my own comments section and that sort of explanation could take at least a few pages.

10:28 AM  
Blogger cgeye said...

To recap the latest round of prosecutions:
"Recruits Sought for Porn Squad", Washington Post, 9/19/05,

"The U.S. attorneys scandal gets dirty", Wired, 4/19/07,

"Porn director faces charges for online distribution", InfoWorld, 5/31/07,

And, a few words from Max Hardcore: Porn Valley News, 7/2006,

And please note I'm only discussing whether a person has a right to say whether he or she disapproves of work that the filmmaker himself categorizes as offensive; obscenity prosecutions, as ever, are dependent on political tides, and have little to do with whether any particular community finds work objectionable.

As for the Porn Valley News link above, would I have been wrong in not pointing out that it's definitely Not Safe For Work? Should I have let anyone click on it first, and determine for his or her self, whether the site and the article are offensive?

Why not believe the marketing porn and horror makers depend on (XXX never was an official MPAA rating, but a marketing intensifier), and stay away, and say why?ctr3

9:30 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Why not believe the marketing porn and horror makers depend on (XXX never was an official MPAA rating, but a marketing intensifier), and stay away, and say why?

You're right. I'm actually totally down with that. What irks me is that a number of times those who get offended at this stuff don't just go, "Nnnnnope. Not fer me." We end up being pretty much forced (sometimes you can't escape it) to listen to the far left's self-righteous outrage for weeks.

And sometimes (well, actually, often) the outrage gets out of hand, like some of the links you've sent above. And also something like this, which I think is just flat-out insanity:

For selling a comic book that had disgusting, sexist material (illustrated, mind you; this wasn't a "snuff" comic), these guys were in danger of being put in prison for 43 years.

Seriously. 43 years.

For selling a comic book.

Same with the weird case of Michael Diana...

So, sometimes this stuff makes me a
shall I say...nervous.

And actually, heh, my work blocks certain sites, so it didn't matter that you didn't warn me.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Goose said...

Just wanting to chime in my two cents - many days later.
Interestingly enough, there was an interview on the radio as I was getting ready for work with Eli Roth, discussing Hostel 2. Unfortunately, I had to get to work, because I was actually interested seeing that violence, gore, etc. in films has been a big topic of discussion.

He said he makes them this violent so that the kids that expereinced 9/11 have an outlet to release their anger, their violence. Hence, why the characters are unloveable and you don't care whether they live or die. They are there just for the act of the death, the torture, ect. Now, that isn't verbatum, but was his main point. These kids who were 12 - 16 when 9/11 happened and are still grappling over the event now have an outlet.

I kind of see this as a crappy reason to make a 2 bit horror flick, but there you go.

And, James, you may remember this article - heck I think I read it off your blog - about the outlet of horror (and comics) for kids who have the pent up anger, frustration, etc. Their release is the comic. Or the horror movie.

Do with my comment what you will!

12:28 PM  
Blogger cgeye said...

So the kids want to see the violent, sexual torture-murders of the young adults of the class most affected by the deaths in the WTC: Children of businessman and financiers, who are able to send them to Europe, expenses paid.

Guess training them to hate Al-Qaeda, or the forces that want us to pay attention to the terrorists' second in command perpetually captured, or American Idol, or Paris Hilton, just doesn't bring in the box office, huh? Why encourage a lack of compassion, in people he says are already traumatized, unless he intends to produce a cinema of sociopathy?

I betcha that statement, like all his others, is hype and nonsense.

12:38 AM  
Blogger cgeye said...

I leave it to a better broad than myself to quote, for now, a last word:

"To get down to brass tacks: have I seen Saw or Hostel? No. Do I want to? No, and, really, do I have to? But do I want this government to tell me if I can or not? Absolutely not."

1:29 AM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Priddy good quote.

Though, I do have to say, having actually rented Hostel yesterday, I think I can safely say that the people talking about "torture porn" with this movie don't know what the hell they’re talking about. My sister is planning on writing about it on her blog (she thought it fails on every level, even as “torture porn,” I think it’s a C+ / B- horror/slasher flick).

Nothing in the movie crosses any sort of line (insomuch as horror films, by their very nature, cross some lines). None of the violence in Hostel is nearly as disturbing as the violence in Reservoir Dogs (and you can tell in a couple scenes Roth was striving for the infamous ear scene in Dogs).

He doesn’t come close.

Adele Hartley hits the nail on the head with the line:

“At first I thought there might be some legitimate concern about Hostel, but having seen the tedious, infantile waste of celluloid for myself, I can honestly say that I think the people who will insist on believing hype and advertising need to take a few deep breaths and go for a lie down.”

9:46 AM  

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