Newsbites: Narnia! Instinct! Brokeback!

1. You may have heard that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came out on DVD today. I haven’t had time to check out more than one or two bonus features so far, but I must say I do like the wardrobe-themed packaging. Plus I love Georgie “Lucy” Henley’s Linda Blair impression, above.

2. Paul Verhoeven, who directed the original Basic Instinct (1992) but not its considerably tamer sequel — which flopped when it opened this past weekend — tells Reuters that the erotic-thriller genre has died because of the current political climate:

“Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States,” said the Dutch native. “Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends.”

Scribe Nicholas Meyer, who was an uncredited writer on 1987’s seminal sex-fueled cautionary tale “Fatal Attraction,” agrees, noting that the genre’s downfall coincides with the ascent of the conservative political movement.

“We’re in a big puritanical mode,” he said. “Now, it’s like the McCarthy era, except it’s not ‘Are you a communist?’ but ‘Have you ever put sex in a movie?”‘

FWIW, this strikes me as somewhat preposterous, not least because the first film came out during the presidency of George Bush and the vice-presidency of Dan “Family Values” Quayle.

I do think that, with the notable exception of films that target the “urban” market (e.g. Training Day), there has been a decline in the acceptability of gratuitous sex and nudity in films — compare the abundance of naked-breast shots in 1980s action films like Commando, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard with the absence of such things from most action movies of the past decade.

But I think, if anything, the lack of open eroticism in mainstream film — most of which was badly written to begin with — owes more to the fact that it has become much more available in the culture at large. In other words, it may owe more to increased liberalism, as it were, than to increased conservatism. Hence, I’d be more inclined to agree with the following bit from the same article:

For producer JC Spink, the genre’s demise has little to do with politics, scripts or willing talent and everything to do with the Internet, which became ubiquitous in American homes around the same time studio executives were suffering through such debacles as “Body of Evidence,” “Showgirls” and “Jade.”

“Why pay $10 to see something at the movies that you can see for free on the Internet?” Spink asked. “I think the genre is suffering because sex is more pervasive in our society now than it was 10 years ago, from Vanity Fair ads to reality TV. I mean, there’s porn stars on reality TV.”

3. The Vancouver Sun‘s Pete McMartin reports that the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s “homophobia and heterosexism” group has released its “Brokeback Mountain Lesson Plan“. The film, which is the first to become the subject of an entire BCTF lesson plan, is rated 14A in British Columbia, so most students in Grades 10-12 would be able to see it without adult accompaniment. Needless to say, the lesson plan exploits the film for political reasons, and not to encourage deeper engagement with the film as a film.

4. The Associated Press reports that two more movies — Sony’s The Benchwarmers and Fox Searchlight’s Phat Girlz — are being released this Friday without being screened for critics first. That makes at least 12 such films in the first 14 weeks of this year (though two of them were shown to critics in Canada, at least).

5. The Associated Press reports that educators are “outraged” by a new series of Sesame Street DVDs that are aimed at children as young as six months, called Sesame Beginnings, because they believe “no form of TV or video is suitable for kids under 2.” In a completely unrelated note, my children have just graduated from Disney-themed Huggies to Muppet-themed Pampers, and it always freaks me out a little to see Baby Elmo’s eyes staring at me from my children’s diapers whenever I prep them for a change.

6. The National Post‘s Robert Fulford grumbles that biopics sometimes deviate from the facts regarding the people they depict; being a journalist himself, he pays particular attention to the way Capote depicted New Yorker editor William Shawn.

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