Monday Morning Critic – 5.2.2011 – Bin Laden dead, Film Piracy, Zombieland

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

I normally was going to leave this as just about the film piracy bit BUT late Sunday’s news was too big not to comment on. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Deader than a doornail. But one thing bugged me: Why did it take them so long to start the press conference? They had said 9:30 and then didn’t start it for some time. I mean I get why they waited to announce it, officially, because things like DNA tests take time. But I’m beginning to think some wacky shenanigans were going on while the President waited to start the press conference. Why the wait? Well … time for some rampant stupidity as we look at:

The Top Eight Reasons Why The “Osama Bin Laden’s Dead” Announcement Was Delayed

8. They still can’t believe that Osama fell for the “Royal Wedding Invite” trick
7. He was too busy high-fiving the boys in uniform who pulled it off
6. It’s Celebrity Apprentice night and the President had to get his fix in first
5. Vice President Biden spent a couple hours posing him in “wacky” positions in the Lincoln Bedroom
4. It was ‘Date Night’ at the White House and Michelle doesn’t want work interfering with the two watching The Notebook for the 12th time
3. They were negotiating the rights to “Song 2” by the Blur for the celebration party
2. The President and the Vice President were engaged in a spirited discussion about the NFL Lockout
1. The President was reading “My Pet Goat” to his children. Sasha and Malia just needed to know what that pesky goat was going to eat next

Good Job, Mr. President. The world is a better place without Osama Bin Laden in it. This one’s for you and our boys in uniform who made this happen:

God bless you all.

Random Thought of the Week

One story that didn’t get a lot of publicity this past week was that of Wes DeSoto, who was arrested for uploading The King’s Speech online. While that necessarily isn’t the biggest news ever, one thing that struck me enough to write about. DeSoto is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and had done an uncredited part on CSI and had a role in Sol Goode, an indie that went DTV as far as I can tell. Apparently he ran his own store, or something, and as a member of SAG got a screener of the Best Picture winner.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Normally I’d look at this and go “oh, ok” and move on to figuring out how I could make a joke involving Tyler Perry and Rick Fox this week involving some bit of news but one of the film bloggers (Christian Toto) I read regularly, posited a question:

Could you do the same?

Christian always has thought provoking content, so I took it as a challenge. And what was supposed to be a comment turned into something much longer that felt right for a column. Why? Because it’s one of those questions that’s just absolutely loaded in either direction and will end up getting you into one of those discussions with people you don’t want to be in. Sometimes it’s like being the only one of your political slant in a group of political decidedly on the other side; you’re never going to win. It seems like an easy question, though.

“Would you download a film illegally?”

It seems like a simple matter of ethics, enough that anyone who’s taken Philosophy 101 could answer. The answer should be, once you hear the phrase “illegal,” to say “No, that’s breaking the law. I wouldn’t steal because it’s immoral, unethical and illegal” because that’s how society has to function in the Hobbesian fashion. Society functions essentially as a means of protecting our stuff at its most basic; to understand Thomas Hobbes and “Leviathan” is to understand a theory on how the world functions. Essentially society comes together to prevent the state of nature, i.e. pure and total anarchy, and thus cede to society some rights in exchange for protection. There’s some depth to it all, i.e. the state of nature, but in practical terms Hobbes thought of society like this:

“Human society develops from a need to protect our lives … and our stuff.”

That’s how my philosophy professor, Dr. Johnson, discussed Hobbes on our first day of class and it stuck with me a decade plus later. He had a certain way with words that was beautiful in that regards; it’s why he was my favorite professor in college.

So when we think of illegally downloading a film, the first thought that always comes to my mind is that if I was a film-maker I would want everyone who watched it to do so legally. They ought to buy the DVD or pay for a ticket … or both because I would hope they loved it so much, and convince their friends and family to do the same. To me I think of it as one of those things that you should do because you’re a good person as opposed to because it’s easy. It’s not always popular to do the right thing and sometimes the right thing isn’t popular, or somehow the saying goes, and I can say that I’ve never downloaded a film illegally.

It’s not that I never contemplated it; I’m just not smart enough to figure out the whole Bit Torrent bit thing, never have been. Thus I figured it’d probably be much easier to just pay for the damn films instead and not risk the whole illegality of it all. And I figure it’s the smart move because it is a crime, after all, and DeSoto will probably end up getting forcibly sodomized in prison or fined heavily for his behavior, or both. The FBI doesn’t send a full on tactical team to raid your house for just one film uploading and my guess is that the dude has a bit of a history doing it. That’s usually something you send a couple agents with a warrant for. The FBI is often known for its overkill in lots of scenarios but usually film piracy isn’t one of them. And here’s the thing that keeps popping into my mind after all this discussion of illegal behavior:

It almost feels like a victimless crime. Key word here is ALMOST.

The reason why we think of downloading films illegally as sort of victimless crime, as something that hurts no one, is because we don’t see the effects of it. We just click a button, wait a couple minutes, and then start watching. It’s not like running up to a young child and just slugging them in the face, then running away and never getting caught. That has a victim. In this case there is a victim, but it’s a movie studio but in one aspect it doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything wrong. It’s a faceless organization always trying to squeeze money from every aspect.

It’s hard to feel sorry for the studios when they give us films like Vampires Suck.

You really don’t think of yourself as a criminal in your home lighting up a joint or downloading a movie but it’s still illegal and has serious consequences if you get caught. Yet here’s the thing: I have no problem with weed and HUGE problems with downloading films illegally. Both are crimes but a little reefer never has bothered me.

There’s something about intellectual property being given away without consent of the creator that is wrong. It doesn’t feel like it because we can do the age old excuse of “the studio will make money anyway, screw ’em anyways” but theft is still theft. A crime is still a crime, no matter who the victim. I’ve never been able to get around that and people who do so, to deprive a creator of the ability to profit from their production, are wrong.

I’ll leave this open and ask one question: Would you do it? And why?

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Zombieland

The horror comedy is a hard film to pull off. Comedy as a rule is relatively hard, much more so than drama, but combining it with a genre like horror is especially tough. Which is why a horror comedy, a really good one that is, is cinema I can appreciate. Which is why Zombieland is always such a fun viewing; it’s done so well on both sides of the equation that it’s always a good viewing.

It’s got a simple premise. An airborne virus has turned humanity, en masse, into a bunch of zombies. Only a handful of survivors remain, amongst them Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg). He wants to get back to his family, whom he still wants to think of as still alive despite the evidence pointing against it, and is making his way across the country to do so. It’s essentially a Woody Allen type role, complete with neurosis but apparently without step-daughter seductions. It’s a solo road trip, reflecting on how society has changed without things like Twitter and Facebook to occupy our time, until he runs into a whacky cast of characters who take his fate in a different direction.

On the road he meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a badass who Zombieland has given a purpose to: Zombie Hunter Extraordinaire. Tallahassee is the sort that uses a banjo in zombie-hunting to great effect, amongst others, and has one goal outside of killing zombies: find the world’s last Twinkie. Hitting the road, they run into a pair of con artists (Emma Stone and Abigal Breslin) with whom they have some antics, and Columbus finds out a lot about himself and the kind of person he is along the way.

Marking Ruben Fleischer’s directorial debut, I can see why he’d want to do a film like this. It’s just enough of a satire of the zombie genre while also being a good genre piece to keep it entertaining. And it’s mainly because of just how good the cast is. It’s not shocking (three of the four have Oscar nominations already and Stone will have one in the next couple years) because of the talent level but the chemistry between them is terrific. There are plenty of small moments throughout the film, like Harrelson and Breslin discussing the intricacies of the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana, that make it such a fun film to watch.

It’s a small film about a big situation, a post-apocalyptic world, and it has that sense of immediacy to it. These aren’t people trying to rebuild humanity or anything along those lines; they’re just trying to have a semblance of a life. When Stone and Eisenberg are discussing Stone’s wanting her little sister to go to an amusement park, just so she can have some aspect of her childhood back in this world, resonates because these are just normal people who had normal lives and are now trying to have regular lives in the world they live in.

Strong recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Thor – The God of Thunder comes to Earth to kick ass and take names.

See It – The only way the trailers get more bad-ass is if they used “God of Thunder” by KISS.

Something Borrowed – Ginnifer Goodwin nails her best friend one drunken night. Problem is that he’s engaged to Kate Hudson. Throw in John Krasinski from The Office for some laughs.

See It – This seems like just another bad romantic comedy but it has a quirky enough cast that it just might work.

Jumping the Broom – A wacky wedding happens between upscale and downtown or something.

Skip It – When every character in the film can be described as whacky or sassy you know it’s going to suck.

The Beaver – Mel Gibson loses his marbles and talks to people through a beaver. Kind of like his life, but with a beaver.

See It – This has had an insane level of buzz for some time and might be a career-defining performance for Gibson.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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