Posts Tagged ‘movie’

Biopic Temple Grandin to air February 6 on HBO; vegans sharpen their knives in anticipation.*

Friday, February 5th, 2010 by

Temple Grandin

For once, I’m actually happy that I don’t get HBO – otherwise, I’d feel obligated to watch and report on Temple Grandin, a new biopic starring Claire Danes that’s premiering on the cable channel this weekend. (Spared by own cheapness!) As if the title alone isn’t enough to turn all the vegans and vegetarians in the audience off (what’s that? you’ve never heard of Temple Grandin, you say?), behold American Humane’s gag-worthy marketing materials:

Movie Tells Inspirational Life Story of American Humane Advisor
‘Temple Grandin’ Airs Feb. 6 on HBO

HBO will premiere an original film based on the inspirational, true story of Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes, on Feb. 6, 2010. (Check your local listing for the broadcast time in your area.)

Temple Grandin paints a picture of a young woman’s perseverance and determination while struggling with the isolating challenges of autism. Grandin became a successful doctor in animal science through her unique connection to animals and is now a world-renowned consultant in the field. She is widely recognized within the animal welfare and livestock-handling industries as a pioneer in the ethical treatment of animals.

If by “ethical” you mean “killing more efficiently.” Similarly, Grandin’s “unique connection” to “food” animals is akin to that of a serial killer to her victims. Tomato, tomahto.

Grandin is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the American Humane® Certified farm animal program. American Humane Certified, originated by the American Humane Association, is the nation’s pre-eminent and fastest-growing monitoring, auditing and labeling program that attests to the humane care and handling of animals raised for food. Find out more about the American Humane Certified program at www.thehumanetouch.org.

Or just bypass the “happy meat” propaganda and go straight to http://humanemyth.org.

Grandin is also the best-selling author of Thinking in Pictures, Animals in Translation and Humane Livestock Handling. She recently authored an article titled “The Importance of Farm Animal Welfare” for The National Humane Review.

Vegans the internets over remain unimpressed.

In producing the film, HBO also engaged the services of American Humane’s Film & Television Unit, which is the exclusive monitoring and granting agency to award the coveted “No Animals Were Harmed”® end-credit disclaimer. The production followed American Humane’s strict Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media, had an American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative™ on set to ensure animal safety and welfare, and earned the famous assurance to viewers that “no animals were harmed” in the making of the movie. Learn more about American Humane’s Film & Television Unit.

Wherein “accidental” deaths don’t qualify as “harmful,” and the AHA has about as much authority (or will) to enforce its guidelines on film sets as the USDA does to uphold its own animal “welfare” and worker safety regulations in slaughterhouses.

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Lost‘s Sayid Jarrah: A History of Violence

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 by

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Caution: Spoilers through Season 5 below.

Last year, I wrote a (relatively) brief summary of the few animal-friendly plot lines found in seasons one through four of Lost. Animal advocacy issues are rarely addressed in the show, but look closely, and you’re bound to discover occasional gem: lovable Kate is a vegetarian, while show villain Anthony Cooper enjoys blood sports such as hunting. The Losties (understandably) took to hunting wild boar for sustenance early on, but the slaughter quickly ceased when they discovered the Dharma food drops. And who could forget Sayid’s memories of Amira?

While nonhuman animals didn’t much figure into the season five story arc, one episode in particular stuck with me. In fact, I meant to write about “He’s Our You” (Season 5, Episode 11) months ago, but somehow it kept getting placed on the back burner. With the final season of Lost set to begin tonight, what better time to revisit an old episode?

As I noted previously, Sayid’s story lines oftentimes revolve around the themes of forgiveness and vengeance, with Sayid struggling to come to grips with his strikingly violent past. As a soldier in the Iraq Republican Guard, he was captured, co-opted, and trained as an “interrogator” (read: torturer) by American forces during Operation Desert Storm. At the close of the war, his “skills” were put to use and turned against his fellow Iraqi citizens in the Republican Guard, where he was promoted to the Intelligence division and tasked with torturing dissidents and political prisoners – including his long lost childhood love, Nadia (as well as the aforementioned Amira). Torn between his allegiance to his country and his moral qualms, he helped Nadia to escape, but could not bring himself to go with her.

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Once on the island, Sayid (somewhat reluctantly) put his interrogation skills to use several times (as if fate would not allow him a break from his past – even when stranded on a lost island!), first torturing an innocent but obstinate Sawyer, and later, a guilty but cunning Ben Linus. During the “A-list missions” and battles with the Others, Sayid proved to be a valuable military asset. After escaping from the island, Sayid reunited with Nadia, only to see her murdered not a year after their wedding. The rest of Sayid’s time off the island is devoted to hunting her killers down, one by one, and exacting revenge. This came with an uneasy alliance with Ben, on the premise that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” However, it’s still unclear whether the men Ben directed Sayid to kill had anything to do with Nadia’s murder – or if Sayid was being conned.

Flash forward to Sayid’s return to the island – circa 1977. Here, a lost and confused Sayid struggles with the reason why he’s been brought back to the island; what is his purpose here? After meeting 12-year-old Ben Linus, Sayid has an epiphany: if he was to kill Ben, then the young, innocent Ben would not live to grow into the evil, adult Ben that the Losties know and hate – and thus most of the (present-day) events in Lost would never occur. But can Sayid really murder a child in cold blood?

He’s Our You” deals with Sayid’s inner struggle over this complex moral dilemma. As with earlier episodes, Sayid wonders whether he’ll ever be able to escape his past as a torturer and killer; are these merely things that he has done – bad things, of course, but things that can be left in the past – or are they what he is? To what extent do Sayid’s sins define him as a person? And, given the American occupying forces’ role in shaping his destiny, is Sayid a natural born or man-made killer?

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Sweeney Todd, a Caged Bird and the Devil’s Wife

Thursday, January 28th, 2010 by

Sweeney Todd movie poster 07

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Caution: spoilers ahead!

Normally, I’m not one for musicals (Little Shop of Horrors and Grease notwithstanding!). That said, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street struck my fancy right away. Now, I could attribute this to the film’s macabre, Gothic Victorian setting, or to the dynamic star/director duo of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton; and, while these are both ginormous positives, I’d be lying if I said that either of these is what compelled me to dabble in a genre I tend to pass up. Nope, as much as I love a Goth Depp/Burton vehicle, Sweeney Todd reeled this vegan misanthrope in with promises of cannibalism. Cannibalism is the shit.

Sweeney Todd opens with the titular character’s arrival in London. “Return to London,” actually: in a former life, Sweeney Todd was one Benjamin Barker (also a barber). But we’ll get to Barker’s story in a moment.

We first meet Sweeney Todd as he and a young sailor dock in a London port. Whereas Todd’s traveling companion, Anthony, marvels at the beauty of London, Sweeney will have none of it. His gloomy, sullen mood sets the tone for the rest of the film: shades of black, gray and blue, colored only by the red crimson of blood spilt.

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The Men Who Stare At Hug Goats

Monday, January 4th, 2010 by

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Crossposted from V for Vegan.

Caution: Major spoilers ahead.

While The Men Who Stare at Goats is by no means an animal rights or overtly anti-vivisection movie, it does (happily!) have a few animal-friendly moments.

Based on a 2004 book of the same name by journalist Jon Ronson, the film is a dramatized account of Ronson’s investigation into “psychic” warfare experiments conducted by the U.S. military in the ’70s and ’80s. Ostensibly a story for the skeptic set (indeed, that’s why the husband and I saw it in the theater), the film also at turns sentimentalizes the “free love,” hippie sensibilities and mysticism of the ’60s and ’70s. (Indeed, it concludes on a disappointingly “anything is possible if you believe” note.)

Anyhow, along with all the “flower power” comes not a little tree- and animal-hugging. Goat-hugging, to be more specific: because the army’s more “practical” experiments involve trauma training carried out on live animals, the medical school’s in-house goats also play a role in the aforementioned psychic experimentation – the purposes of which isn’t nearly as sadistic as the trailers let on.

Lest I get ahead of myself, here’s a brief synopsis, via Wiki:

The film follows Ann Arbor Daily Telegram reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), who one day interviews Gus Lacey, a man who claims to have psychic abilities. Bob shrugs Lacey off as crazy. Soon after, Bob’s wife leaves him for his one-armed editor. Bob, out of anger, flies to Kuwait to investigate the Iraq War. However, he stumbles onto the story of a lifetime when he meets Special Forces operator, Lyn Cassady (George Clooney). Lyn reveals that he was part of an American army unit training psychic spies (or “Jedi Warriors”), trained to develop a range of parapsychological skills including invisibility, remote viewing, cloud bursting, walking through walls, and intuition.

The founder of this unit, Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), traveled across America in the 1970s for six years exploring a range of New Age movements (including the Human potential movement), because of a vision he received after getting shot during the Vietnam War, and used these experiences to found the New Earth Army. In the 1980s, two of Django’s best recruits were Lyn Cassady and Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), who developed a lifelong rivalry because of their opposing views of how to implement the New Earth Army philosophy; Lyn wanted to emphasize the positive side of the teachings, whereas Larry was more interested in the dark side of the philosophy.

In the early 2000s Bob and Lyn embark on a new mission in Iraq, where they are kidnapped by a criminal gang. They escape with fellow kidnapping victim Mahmud Daash (Waleed Zuaiter) and get rescued by a private security firm led by Todd Nixon (Robert Patrick), but get caught up in a firefight between Todd’s security firm and a rival security firm; this would later be known as the “Battle of Ramadi.” Mahmud, Bob and Lyn escape from the firefight and go to Mahmud’s house, which has been shot up by soldiers. From there Bob and Lyn leave to continue on Lyn’s vague mission involving a vision he had of Bill Django.

Here it’s worth noting that Cassady recounts the story of Django and the New Earth Army as his Iraqi adventure with Wilton unfolds in parallel. Both tales begin on a light, humorous note, eventually taking turns for the worse. While the trailers and media interviews done in promotion of the movie tend to emphasize the New Earth Army’s more nefarious projects, Django began the program with the best of intentions: namely, achieving world peace through love and understanding. A laudable goal, to be sure – even if its implementation proved somewhat ridiculous.

However, Hooper eventually betrays Django, assuming control of the New Earth Army in order to corrupt it. (Think of Django as Obi-Wan Kenobi to Cassady’s Luke Sywalker and Hooper’s Darth Vader.) The peace, love and understanding of Django’s ’60s and ’70s give way to the greed, militarization and subjugation of – what? The Reagen ’80s? The Clinton ’90s? The Bush ’00s? All of the above? Take your pick! (The Men Who Stare at Goats is, if not anti-war, at least anti-torture.)

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Truth in Advertising: HUMANS ARE AMONG US!

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

This series of retro ’50s monster movie poster adverts for the SciFi Channel has little to do with animal advocacy – but why let a lil’ thing like that stop me from putting an animal-friendly spin on ’em?

Each “poster” depicts an iconic movie monster recoiling in horror as a human invades his space:

Sci Fi Channel - The Thing

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So, Shane and I saw Transformers today…

Sunday, August 5th, 2007 by

Crossposted from V for Vegan.

…and the early battle scenes in Qatar? In poor taste, to say the least. Watching American soldiers and Middle Easterners being blown to smithereens isn’t so much entertaining as it is depressing.

Also depressing was this statement, part of Optimus Prime’s endless moralizing: “All sentient beings deserve freedom”. (Or perhaps it was more along the lines of “All sentient being deserve the right to live”…I forget now.) Really? All sentient beings? Because, like, “sentient” isn’t codeword for “human+”.

Sentience refers to utilization of sensory organs, the ability to feel or perceive subjectively, not necessarily including the faculty of self-awareness. The possession of sapience is not a necessity. The word sentient is often confused with the word sapient, which can connote knowledge, consciousness, or apperception.

Sadly, and despite the obvious implications of such an animal-friendly statement, Transformers was hardly a pro-AR movie. On the contrary; one of Optimus Prime’s cronies (you know, the “good” “guys”) wanted to kill a dog (which he* saw as evidence of a “rodent infestation”) for pissing on his foot. Uh, yeah, maybe y’all should modify that statement to “All sapient beings…” I hate to break it to the screenwriters, but dogs are sentient, you dumbasses.

The effects were pretty cool, though.

* Though Shane doth protest, the Transformers are all clearly uber-masculine entities. Androgynous they aint.