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George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead expanded it’s release finally making it into a select few local theaters. Romero has the zombie thing down, which he started back in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead. Although it may appear to be merely a good horror movie each installment reflects some type of social commentary.NotLD

While it may seen subtle to the casual viewer Romero is not shy about getting his political views mixed up in these films.

  • Night of the Living Dead: A group of people congregate in a small farm house for protection from the walking undead. -Just a bit of trivia this movie never stated the monsters were actually “zombies”. The film was the first one not to rely on a voodoo curse as the cause. Apparently the first script did not include an explanation but writers added in a line about, “a space probe returning from its exploration of the planet Venus, and it mysteriously exploded before entering the atmosphere.” The film showed the horrors of the Vietnam War and touched on racism.
  • Dawn of the Dead: This film made malls the go to place in case of the apocalypse. Critics argue the film is centered around the idea of consumerism and capitalism.DotD I assert that this was the first of the Romero movie to show women in a more active role. I can’t knock Night because most of the characters, besides Peter (Ken Foree), were whinny jerks. There was no real explanation for the “infestation” other than the tagline, “when there’s no more room in hell, the dead walk the earth”.
  • Day of the Dead: It deals with a zombie assault on a military establishment, satirizing the military mindset in the process. Critic After Dark said the this film was Romero’s “philosophical statements on the human condition, rendered in extremist–soldiers vs. scientists, men vs. women, pacifists vs. idealists, all cooped up in a hellhole of a pressure-cooker set to ‘apocalypse.'”
  • Land of the Dead: The world is infested with zombies and people fortify themselves in small cities where zombies become the least of their problems. After filming Day of the Dead Romero took a break from the zombie genre to create other films which brought him no commercial success, he returned with this installment. Journalist Mark Harris wrote, DiaryotD“Romero, seemingly saved up a decade’s worth of social criticism, unleashed a flurry of commentary on terrorism, the Iraq War, big business, the distribution of wealth and man’s inhumanity towards man”.
  • Diary of the Dead: This is the newest installment. The acting is definitely not at the top of the game (even for a horror movie). The movie follows a group of film students trying to make their way home. It reflects views on the importance of the media. In this case the major broadcasters lied to the public, making citizen journalism (videos, blogs, etc.) essential.

Imdb already has reported there will be another sequel to the Dead Series.

In a related note, fans of Max Brook’s “World War Z” can look forward to a movie version produced by Plan B, Brad Pitt’s production company. No official date is set though.

The details of these two actors’ careers and death are completely different (not to mention 15 years apart) but there are some eerie similarities.

Brandon Lee died from an accident with a gun on the set of his final film, The Crow. Brandon was the son of martial arts actor Bruce Lee. His death was supposedly linked to a family curse conceived because his father also died young. Bruce Lee died at the age of 32 while filming Game of Death. Circumstances around Brandon’s death are sketchy at best, a “dummy” bullet lost its tip and hit him in th abdomen. Brandon was rushed to the medical center in Wilmington but doctors could not help him.

There is still some mystery surrounding the death of Heath Ledger, star of Brokeback Mountain. Reports say that numerous drugs were found around the actor’s bed where he was found. Enews wrote, “It is still a mystery for them who gave the two powerful painkillers Oxycontin and Vicodin to Ledger. The mix of the sleeping-pills and the anti-anxiety drugs, even though found in a small quantity in his system, were lethal for the actor.”

The similarities are scarce but I felt the need to make this comparison based on a few random facts. They were both 28 years old when they passed away. They both died in tragic and somewhat shady accidents. In their last completed films they both play major comic book characters.

I think what really sets this tangent is the physical similarities and makeup of their characters. All that setup for this, sorry.

Joker VSCrow

Negative campaign ads never sit well with viewers but it does bring some interesting issues to light. Although the public generally despises this tactic it is increasingly popular with candidates and thought to be highly effective.

This election the mudslinging started when Hillary Clinton released a commercial knocking Barrack Obama refused to debate her in Wisconsin. Obama has for the most part has taken the high road against Hillary Clinton. Clinton has used various negative tactics from associating Barrack with Muslim groups, portraying him as a radical, and exposing dealing with NAFTA after he previously criticized the trade agreement in a debate.

The reports concerning NAFTA may have hurt Barrack in Tuesday’s caucuses and primary elections. The results lead Clinton to believe the two maybe running on a joint ticket, with her as the top runner.

A survey from the Project on Campaign Conduct showed that viewers are weary of negative campaigns and tend to distrust politicians (big surprise there).

  • 59% believe that all or most candidates deliberately twist the truth.
  • 39% believe that all or most candidates deliberately lie to voters.
  • 43% believe that most or all candidates deliberately make unfair attacks on their opponents. Another 45% believe that some candidates do.
  • 67% say they can trust the government in Washington only some of the time or never.ObamaClinton
  • 87% are concerned about the level of personal attacks in today’s political campaigns.

Voters hate the prospect of these ads but unfortunately they have been proven time and again to be highly effective. UCLA professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Marco Iacoboni completed brain imaging research from the 2004 presidential campaign. The results showed that viewers lost empathy for the candidate they supported once the person was attacked.

I can’t have an article on political ads and not at least link to the most controversial political ad, this one dates back to the Johnson vs. Goldwater from 1964. I think this one relates heavily to the Clinton ad posted above. -Same strategy just 44 years later.

Companies like Dove have started using “real” models in their advertising campaigns. The ads hope to change the standards of beauty placed on young girls who may feel encouraged to develop eating disorders or other emotional problems in order to fit these standards. It is still up in the air whether these ads have a direct effect on teens or whether other social factors weigh more. Dove is not the first company to try this route, just the first to make it last.

Dove is doing a commendable job making sure this does turn out to be a joke. They proved they were serious by taking it a step further than most companies by initiating a self-esteem fund. Women are responding positively to this campaign and hope it encourages other companies to follow suit.Klein

In the past, designers like Calvin Klein have used the same tactic. It was good that he quit using addict-looking models and half dressed children. Robert Triefus, then Senior Vice President of Communications at Calvin Klein told viewers, “We’re just reflecting real people, being honest, being independent, being real. We chose them for being themselves. They represent a generation”. Though they got the message right the ads were offensive to some and showed the real models in demeaning ways.

Rules in other countries have been changing on a national level. Countries like Spain, Brazil and the city of Milan, Italy took steps to ban ultra skinny models in 2006. The changes came after three anorexic models died that year.

NY considered banning unhealthy models last February for the New York Fashion Week. It appears nothing came of those plans though.

Glamour magazine feels they have an influence on teen’s body image and a responsibility to show women of varying sizes. “We do not run photos of anybody in the magazine who we believe to be at an unhealthy weight. We frequently feature women of all different sizes. We all know that you can look fabulous in clothes without being a size 2.”

SNLDebateSaturday Night Live’s debate sketch featuring a furious Clinton and idolized Obama brought up controversy for the candidates and the show. SNL came back on the air after a three month hiatus due the the writer’s strike. The SNL cast proved they were ready to jump right into the political scene.

The democratic race is really close and may have candidates looking for every opportunity to state their case. Senator Hillary Clinton used an SNL skit as an example of how the media presents a bias toward Obama. Clinton felt she was not receiving equal treatment at the debate held in Texas this month. Clinton told moderators, “In the last several debates I seem to get the first question all the time, I don’t mind. I’ll be happy to field it. I just find it curious if anybody saw `Saturday Night Live,’ maybe we should ask Barack if he’s comfortable and needs another pillow.” The Daily Show took it a step further this week when they joked that Clinton’s paranoia was not wrong as they reported from Anti-Hillary HQ.

Tina FeySNL tried to level the playing field when host Tina Fey pledged her support for Clinton. Fey stated that while Hillary may be considered a bitch, “Bitches got things done, yo, and that’s why Hillary would be a good president. So I’m sayin, it’s not too late, Texas and Ohio, get on board! Bitch is the new black!”

The idea of media bias may have to do with celebrities sharing their opinions with the press. Obama has definitely rallied a lot of celebrity backing. Everyone from Oprah Winfrey, Matt Damon and comedian Stephen Colbert have pledged their support along with a slew of others. While Hillary has her own list of supporters she also sports a short list of celebrities willing to come out against her for her stance on the Iraq war. I expect (and hope) voters rely more on a candidate’s presentation or stance on a particular issue than celebrity testimony. I am sure celebrity endorsements makes a difference to some though. It may simply be a matter of exposure. Celebrities can reach an audience not normally tuning into debates or the nightly newscast. It is like the old saying, ‘no press is bad press’.

FredSNL is also in the forefront for casting actor Fred Armisen from Chicago in the role of Obama. The choice has some viewers up in arms. Bloggers argue that the role should have gone to one of the casts many black actors.

The media backlash is a bit of a surprise considering this is a common trend for SNL. Darrell Hammond played Reverend Jesse Jackson and Billy Crystal was cast as Sammy Davis Jr. Crystal’s impersonation is considered the most flawless in SNL history.

This is just SNL up to their old tricks. Is it wrong? -Probably. Is it offensive? -To some. I’d be really interested to hear what people had to say about his performance and whether the actor’s race really makes a difference.

Truth 1Recent “Moment of Truth” contestant Lauren Cleri maybe heading for divorce because of her honesty. The show is a new low for television. USA Today said it correctly when they stated, “[Fox Reality] pursues bad taste with a zeal unrivaled in the industry”.

The show pits contestants against a polygraph and they are rewarded for telling the truth. That is fine and dandy but contestants have led anything but exemplary lives. They have cheated on their spouses, stole from their jobs, admitted to gambling problems and much more.

Contestants are so mesmerized by the chance to be on television and the thought of half a million dollars that they are willing to embarrass themselves and put themselves in ruin. Players do not consider that fact they could lose their jobs, their spouse or worse. The crowd could tell Monday that Cleri was going to be honest even if it ended her two year marriage to Frank Cleri. Host Mark Walberg even asked the contestant to stop but who knows if that is a genuine plea or merely a part of his job.

cleri momentContestants know what they are signing up for and should hardly act surprised about the results. According to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Contestants’ friends and family are interrogated thoroughly. “They research your whole life,” says Christie Youssef, 22, who admitted she’s a virgin in the second episode. “I didn’t have any idea of the scope until afterward.”

All the questions are answered in advance when the player is connected to a polygraph. Contestants are just not aware of the results. They also have to put up with shocking twist, like when Cleri was read a question by her ex, Frank.

A polygraph is not a perfect tool that magically detects lies. While the lie detector is hardly flawless it is the best tool available but still should not be considered by any means a mind reader. New York polygraph expert Joel Reicherter explained how the machine worked in an article with The Columbian. Essentially, the polygraph monitors whether a person is trying to “‘beat the test by clenching muscles. The collected data is fed into the examiner’s laptop computer and charted. The program includes a comprehensive database of medications that affect the test, so those can be factored.”

Players unfortunately seem to be getting themselves into more trouble by admitting to the truth rather than merely attempting trying to beat the test.

Hopefully predictions about the show are correct and it will be pulled because of faltering ratings.

Be Kind Rewind takes on a light hearted subject in the mist of an onslaught of dramatic movies. Michel Gondry’s film veers away from the current trend in theaters. The film is experimental and uplifting while other top rated movies like No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood have been horrific and bloody.

Be Kind Rewind follows the plight of Mike (Mos Def) to help his guardian’s, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), failing video store. Half-wit Jerry (Jack Black) unknowingly erases all the tapes when his brain becomes magnetized. In an effort to save the store, Mike and Jerry set out to “swede” popular titles including RoboCop and Ghostbusters.

Director Michel Gondry ventured a bit from his serious dream-like style as seen in The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Be Kind Rewind did maintain a lot of imaginative qualities and reminded me of seeing a group boys playing the backyard. The movie plays out like every kid’s imagination comes to life.RoboJB

The actors seemed to interpret their roles like they were playing kids. It was hard to determine whether Mos Def was really in his mid 30s or a sniveling 12 year old. Mike came off as whiny and powerless to the whims of others around him including Jerry. Jack Black has made a career of being a big kid or immature, however you feel the need to interpret it.

The film had a good message which was appealing after weeks of mostly seeing blood and violence in the cinema. It was a great reminder to me why film is fun; may the imagination of film making live another day.

Jon Stewart did a decent job at the 80th annual Oscars last night but certain segments made me wonder if some of the sketches were built in plugs.youtube-iphone.jpg

Jon Stewart had some funny moments at the Academy Awards. He nailed a lot of jokes, excelling of course with his trademark political humor. He was gracious during the ceremony. He even ushered singer Marketa Irglova back on stage for her acceptance speech for the song “Falling Away” from Once after she was abruptly cut off.

He seemed quite taken back by new technologies though. Stewart was featured watching Lawrence of Arbia on his iPhone. He battled 11-year old singer, Jamia Simone Nash, from August Rush in a game of Wii Sports tennis.

Engadget readers are left to debate whether the skits were merely a paid for advertisements or a celebration of new technology and pop culture.

The iPhone may have been a tool to make fun of some of the petty arguements that were center stage during the writer’s strike. Essentially studios and writers were fighting over profits from downloads that may end up on iPhone’s 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch screen.

Neither Nintendo or Apple were official sponsors of the Academy Awards. A list of sponsors included American Express, Coca-Cola, General Motors, L’Oréal, Mars, Mastercard, McDonald’s, J.C. Penney, ad firm Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. I am curious how Apple and Nintendo managed to sneak their way on the show.

I guess, good for them. They got the perfect promotion spot and waived the reported $1.8 million advertising fee. The commercials during the Oscars are only second to the Super Bowl in price.

Javier Bardem, Best Supporting Actor, for No Country for Old Men dedicated his Academy Award to his mother. He added in a small thanks in Spanish for her. I figured I would translate it for those who do not have the advantage of three years of high school Spanish under their belts (or an online translator).

Original Acceptance Speech:

bardem.jpgWow. Alright, this is very amazing. It’s a great honor for me to have this. I want to I have to speak fast here, man. Thank you to the Coens for being crazy enough to think that I could do that and put one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head.

Thank you for really proving my work. I want to share this with the cast, with the great Tommy Lee Jones, with the great Josh Brolin, with the great Kelly MacDonald. And I want to dedicate this to my mother, and I have to say this in Spanish, and I’m sorry…

2008_bardemj_02.jpgMama esto es para ti. Esto es para tus abuelos, para tus padres, Rafael y Matilde. Esto es para los comicos de Espana que han traido la dignidad y el orgullo a nuestro oficio.

Esto es para Espana. Y esto es para todos vosotros.

Thank you very much!”

Translated:

“Mom this is for you. This is for your grandfathers, for your parents, Rafael and Matilde. This is for the Spanish comics that have brought the dignity and the pride to our position.

This is for Spain. And this is for all you”.

Oscar Highlights

The 80th anniversary Academy Awards had a couple surprises on their winner’s list. Diablo CodySmaller pictures like Once and La Vie En Rose astonished audiences with their wins. No Country for Old Men stole the show, deservedly, with four wins.

Once beat out all three nominated songs for Disney’s Enchanted. I would have figured by numbers alone Enchanted would seal the deal. Marketa Irglova was let back on stage by host Jon Stewart after first being cut short. She had some touching words aimed at struggling artists in her acceptance speech, “And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up. And this song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are”.

Juno is an indy script with a low-end Hollywood budget, which makes a huge difference. Diablo Cody, who’s real name is Brook Busey-Hunt, gained a lot of applause for her anticipated win.2008_blanchettk_01.jpg She has led an eventful life going from getting a media studies degree in Iowa, to stripping, to blogging, to screen writing. Cody came out of the woodwork for this film but I anticipate there will be a lot more from her.

There is one person I believe was totally overlooked. Cate Blanchett was completely passed over. I can’t be upset that she lost to Marion Cotillard for best actress. I am still writhing over the fact that she lost the Supporting Actress nomination for I’m Not There. There is no way she should have gone home empty handed!

Though this was no surprise Daniel-Day Lewis took home the Best Actor award. I would have given up on awards shows altogether if that wasn’t the case.