Category Archives: America

“Bully” Petition Nears 300,000 Signatures. Where the hell are the rest of you?

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Ellen DeGeneres, Demi Lovato and 20 members of Congress have so far signed on to support a campaign started by bullied Michigan high school student Katy Butler on Change.org, urging the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to change the “R” rating of the upcoming Weinstein Company release Bully to “PG-13.” The MPAA has cited “some language,” as the reason for the ‘R’ rating. Specifically, “fuck” is apparently uttered 6 times.

Ooooh. six whole times, eh? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. There, that’s 8. You gonna rate my blog post ‘R’ now, too? Does the MPAA realize that kids hear far worse than that before they get off the bus in the morning and bullied kids would love it if all they got was the occasional swearing at. These kids are being abused, mentally and physically until they kill themselves or others. What kind of a society do we live in where a film that has the potential to help stop this epidemic but is given a “restricted” rating because the word “fuck” is uttered 6 times?

“We’ve got the MPAA’s attention, and with nearly 300,000 signatures and support from celebrities and politicians, there’s now a national movement of people calling on the MPAA to drop the ‘R’ rating for Bully,” Butler said. “As someone who lived through bullying day in and day out in school, including having my finger broken by bullies, this film is too important to silence with an ‘R’ rating. Everyone should have a chance to see Bully.”

Let me get this straight, a bullied 17 year-old who has had bones broken by bullies is doing what basically every right-thinking person in America should be doing. 285,000 signatures is all fine and good, but why aren’t there 3,000,000? Where are all the celebrity parents supporting this petition? 20 members of Congress is great, but what about the other 515? Surely they can’t condone bullying and surely they can’t believe that a few utterances of the word “fuck” trumps the good that can be done by kids seeing this film.

The film is set to be released on March 30th, so there’s not a lot of time to get the MPAA to re-thing their dunderheaded vote. Go here to sign the petition.

Read the sign-on letter Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) wrote to his congressional colleagues and their letter to the MPAA insupport of Bully, here. See Ellen DeGeneres’ segment on the film, here.

Here’s the trailer for Bully. I can’t seem to get it to embed.

http://youtu.be/rjjeHeAzZZM

“The Invisible War” and the Ongoing Subjugation of Women in America

Congratulations to director Kirby Dick and producer Any Ziering for the pickup of their powerful new doc The Invisible War by Cinedigm Entertainment Group and New Video. I saw the film at Sundance and in addition to being a great film, it’s extraordinarily important in these times of increasing violence against and institutionalized subjugation of women. [Trailer and other videos at the bottom.]

In my wrap of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival I wrote of the film: “A heart-breaking and shocking look at rape in the military, Dick’s film details the pain, shame, horror and lasting damage caused by the attacks as well as the shocking hypocrisy and cover-ups endorsed by the military establishment.”

Some stats from the US Department of Defense:
20% of ALL servicewomen have been sexually assaulted while serving.
Women who have been raped in the military have a PTSD rate higher than men in combat.
An estimated 500,000 women have been sexually assaulted in the US military.
In 2010, according to the Department of Defense, there were 3,158 case of sexual assault within the U.S. military. It is estimated that more than 80% of those who are sexually assaulted don’t report it.

The film presents many more statistics, equally as disturbing.

While the subject matter is grim and at times the film is emotionally tough to watch, I will categorically say that this is a film everyone must see, especially educators. It’s a film that could potentially cause a sea change not only in the halls of Congress but in the high schools of America.

At the Q&A following the Sundance world premiere, a 17 year-old young woman in the audience stood up and said that while she had never been physically assaulted, verbal abuse was the norm in her school and she felt that every high school student needed to see the film because boys were not being raised to respect women. It was another poignant moment in the most emotional Q&A I have ever witnessed.

Continue reading “The Invisible War” and the Ongoing Subjugation of Women in America

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory – An Amazing Screening

On Monday night I was among a relatively privileged few that were invited to a special screening of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory that was held at CAA, with Berlinger and one of the West Memphis 3, Jason Baldwin, in attendance for a Q&A, following the screening.

After seeing the Paradise Lost films and knowing the story, just seeing Jason out of prison and as a grown man, hearing him speak about life before, during and after his incarceration…I can’t really describe the feelings. Relief at their release, anger at the State of Arkansas and a profound sadness that things like this, the railroading of three young men in such a brazen and disgusting manner can and do happen in the United States.

The film airs tonight at 9pm on HBO. Watch it, you’ll thank me!

Here are a couple of short videos from the Q&A. IN the first, Jason talks a little bit about life after prison and in the second he touches on just a couple of things that he’s noticed in his day-to-day life after prison.

Budd Schulberg and HUAC: Not To Be Forgotten

With the passing of writer Budd Schulberg there is the usual outpouring of hosannas and allelujahs to a great screenwriter and novelist and he was indeed a talented man who penned some excellent, enduring and quote-worthy works of art and therefore I feel neither the need nor the desire to add to said heapings of praise. Instead, I’d like to put on record one of the aspects of Mr. Schulberg’s life that is largely missing from these paeans.
Even the “Gray Lady” herself, the New York Times, glossed over the shameful fact that in the 1950’s Budd Schulberg and his occasional collaborator Elia Kazan both testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and thus destroyed the lives of many of their former colleagues including Ring Lardner Jr., Dalton Trumbo and Herbert Biberman. He named at least 15 of his close friends, helping to send many if not all of them to jail. As I have written before this is a shocking and despicable act and it must not be forgotten.
So far, only Carolyn Kellogg in the L.A. Times has run a piece about Schulberg and his betrayals and the testimony quoted in the article gives a pretty good idea of the kind of a man Schulberg was at the time. He claimed that he became disillusioned with the the Communist Party when Stalin signed a non-aggression pact and that the CP interfered with his work.
Both are valid criticisms (assuming the latter was true) and Schulberg was perfectly within his rights to leave the party, which he did. However, going on to name names and cooperate in one of the most horrific instances of government abuse in our nation’s history was going too far.

“Dalton [Trumbo] wrote one good novel and that’s it.” [Schulberg told Victor Navasky for the latter’s book Naming Names.] Most of these people never tried to write any social realism. I think maybe [they had some] guilt about making two thousand dollars a week and doing nothing. You could make it up by paying ten percent dues [to the Party], and maybe that made you feel better about being a hack. Most of them settled for being hacks.

These people, if they had it in them, could have written books and plays. There was not a blacklist in publishing. There was not a blacklist in the theater. They could have written about the forces that drove them into the Communist Party. There was practically nothing written.”

So according to Schulberg, even though his testimony led to the loss of his former friends’ ability to earn a living, it was their own damn fault because they either weren’t as prolific as he was or weren’t able to shift to stage plays and books, thus avoiding the Hollywood blacklist? That’s a level of ego bordering on narcissism. Of course Schulberg was also wrong about Trumbo’s output.
Please, save your “but he was a fantastic writer and deserves the accolades” responses. Of course he was a great writer and yes, deserves to be lauded as such. That said, when one does bad deeds, when one betrays long-standing friendships, when one does irreparable damage to the lives of that many people and their families, it must be included in any wrap up of your life. You don’t get to skate in death, just because you were a great artist in life.