Expelled lawsuit — the article’s up!

My third Reel News column is now up at CT Movies, and it mainly concerns Yoko Ono’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed — which, as of last week, she is losing — in addition to the usual news links. I also note that Expelled now has a Canadian release date of June 27.

Canadian box-office stats — June 8

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Sarkar Raj — CDN $65,970 — N.AM $65,970 — 100%
Sex and the City — CDN $9,740,000 — N.AM $99,269,000 — 9.8%
What Happens in Vegas — CDN $7,040,000 — N.AM $72,230,000 — 9.7%
Made of Honor — CDN $4,330,000 — N.AM $44,660,000 — 9.7%

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — CDN $10,690,000 — N.AM $125,846,000 — 8.5%
Iron Man — CDN $24,050,000 — N.AM $288,893,000 — 8.3%
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — CDN $20,430,000 — N.AM $253,026,000 — 8.1%
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan — CDN $2,970,000 — N.AM $40,000,000 — 7.4%
The Strangers — CDN $2,300,000 — N.AM $37,646,000 — 6.1%
Kung Fu Panda — CDN $3,530,000 — N.AM $60,000,000 — 5.9%

A couple of discrepancies: Sarkar Raj was #9 on the Canadian chart (it does not appear on the North American chart at all), while Baby Mama was #9 on the North American chart (it was #16 in Canada).

Kung Fu Panda — the children! the violence!

I’ve been debating for some time now whether to take my 2-year-old son to see Kung Fu Panda. I took his twin sister to see Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! three months ago, and I have always felt that I owed it to him to take him to see a movie, too. But there aren’t all that many family films out there, and DreamWorks has a spotty track record, so I figured I would see Kung Fu Panda for myself first, and then decide whether to take him to it. And … well, I’m still undecided. I like the film quite a bit, and I like some of the “values” it teaches, etc., but … it is a martial-arts movie, and we’re trying to get my boy to stop slapping and shoving people as it is.

So I had to give a laugh of recognition when I came across this article by Associated Press reporter Josh L. Dickey:

There was a moment near the end of “Kung Fu Panda” so satisfying, so achingly adorable, that I wished I’d been secretly taping so as to immediately put it up on YouTube for the world to see.

Sorry, Jack Black — you were great and everything, but that final scene was cold stolen. The thief: my son, just a few weeks short of his third birthday.

As the credits rolled, he sprang from his seat, flashed into the aisle and began to whip himself into a jaw-dropping exhibition of kung fu fury.

Feet planted, his torso twisted and his tiny limbs whirled, locking arms and hands into holding positions that would arch the eyebrow of David Carradine himself.

Thrilling though it was, I had to wonder for a moment whether I’d made a terrible mistake.

Had I been too trusting? Are we blindly marching our kids into these animated movies with little regard for the subject matter or material? Was I too dense to consider whether “Kung Fu Panda” — a martial-arts film, by rights — was even meant for the little ones?

Yeah, exactly. And further down, he writes:

The other reason I’m not feeling bad today is that I know I’m not alone. That theater — and assuredly hundreds more like it — was packed with kids hovering below 3. One father, sitting a few rows up and trading actual karate-chops with his entire brood, made me feel especially self-righteous.

And no, my son wasn’t the only little one who was kung-fu fighting in the aisles when the lights went up. The truth is, they just about all were. Just so happens that when my guy got to whirling and chopping, all the kids who were nearby stopped, retreated and watched in awe.

Hu-ah! That’s my boy.

Incidentally, Dickey also talks about how he let his boy watch the original Star Wars (1977) a while back, which is something I definitely haven’t done yet. I was six or seven years old the first time I saw it myself — and on a big screen, where the pop-up Jawas and Tusken Raiders were especially startling — and my sister was only five, so I imagine I won’t hide it from my kids for all that much longer. But I think it can still wait, for now.

Oh, and speaking of Kung Fu Panda, they say the movie may have earned as much as $60 million this weekend — which is easily the best opening weekend for any animated film that was neither (1) a sequel or spin-off nor (2) produced by Pixar. Among non-Pixar films, it is beaten only by Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006, $68 million), The Simpsons Movie (2007, $74 million), and the two Shrek sequels (2004-2007, $108 million – $121.6 million).

Hulk — does the new TV spot have a spoiler?

There have been rumours of trouble behind the scenes on The Incredible Hulk, which opens this Friday, but Marvel Studios has had enormous success already this summer with Iron Man — which may turn out to be the only film this summer that grosses over $300 million. And Marvel has already announced its intention to bring all its heroes together in one big cross-over film called The Avengers, three years from now. So is it any wonder that, just to be safe, they would run a Hulk ad like the one here — even though it may or may not begin with a spoiler?

Bill Maher’s religiosatire — the marketing begins

The publicity campaign for Religulous, the religion-mocking documentary starring Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles, has ramped up a bit over the last few days. (Prior to this, there was little more than a couple of posters, a couple of photos, and a demo reel and panel discussion at the Toronto International Film Festival — and of course the film comes up whenever Maher does his usual interviews on Larry King and the like.) Click here for Disbeliefnet, a website that basically spoofs Beliefnet — note the similar font in the mastheads — and click here for the trailer, which seems kind of mild, to me. There is little here that you wouldn’t find in a film made by The Wittenburg Door — and a few of the humourous bits seem to rely on using two-second clips of people not saying anything, as if to imply that Maher has left them speechless. Then again, one of the clips shows Maher being left speechless by something someone says, so it’s all good, right?

Flags, Spike, Clint, and Spike again.

Two years ago, Clint Eastwood released a couple of World War II flicks that told the story of a single battle from opposite points of view, one American and one Japanese.

Most critics seemed to like Letters from Iwo Jima, the Japanese film, better than Flags of Our Fathers, the American film, but I found Flags much more interesting than Letters, mainly because I’m really interested in the nature of photography and the relationship between mythic images and the mundane realities behind them. One of my favorite quotes, from Chris Marker’s La Jeteé (1962), states: “Nothing tells memories from ordinary moments; only afterwards do they claim remembrance, on account of their scars.” Photographs — those pieces of film or bits of data on a flash card — are the scars that separate slivers in time from the ordinary moments that came before and after them and are now forgotten while the photographs live on. And it is always interesting to see how some slivers in time come to take on a greater iconic meaning that goes way beyond the original ordinariness of the moment.

Incidentally, I just discovered via Wikipedia that there is actual colour 16mm footage of the flag raising, which you can watch at that site. How fascinating to see this black-and-white still photo come to life like that. The 16mm footage was apparently shot from almost the exact same angle as the photo, and, following the Marker quote above, you could almost say that the frame which resembles the photo most closely would be the “scar” that we have all remembered, while all the frames that come before and after it are the “ordinary moments” that we have forgotten. Or, rather, we would have forgotten them, if it were not for the 16mm footage. But now the 16mm footage has, itself, become the “scar” that remembers a narrow sliver of time — not as narrow as the photo, but still narrow in its own way — while all the things that happened before and after the camera rolled have passed into oblivion.

Anyway. Eastwood’s World War II movies are back in the news again, now that Spike Lee has snapped at them and Eastwood has snapped back. The Guardian reports:

Clint Eastwood folds his gangly frame behind a clifftop table at the Hotel Du Cap, a few miles up the coast from Cannes, sighs deeply, and squints out over the Mediterranean. “Has he ever studied the history?” he asks, in that familiar near-whisper.

The “he” is Spike Lee, and the reason Eastwood is asking is because of something Lee had said about Eastwood’s Iwo Jima movie Flags of Our Fathers, while promoting his own war movie, Miracle at St Anna, about a black US unit in the second world war. Lee had noted the lack of African-Americans in Eastwood’s movie and told reporters: “That was his version. The negro version did not exist.”

Eastwood has no time for Lee’s gripes. “He was complaining when I did Bird [the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker]. Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that’s why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead he was making something else.” As for Flags of Our Fathers, he says, yes, there was a small detachment of black troops on Iwo Jima as a part of a munitions company, “but they didn’t raise the flag. The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn’t do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people’d go, ‘This guy’s lost his mind.’ I mean, it’s not accurate.”

Lee shouldn’t be demanding African-Americans in Eastwood’s next picture, either. Changeling is set in Los Angeles during the Depression, before the city’s make-up was changed by the large black influx. “What are you going to do, you gonna tell a fuckin’ story about that?” he growls. “Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player? I’m not in that game. I’m playing it the way I read it historically, and that’s the way it is. When I do a picture and it’s 90% black, like Bird, I use 90% black people.”

Eastwood pauses, deliberately – once it would have provided him with the beat in which to spit out his cheroot before flinging back his poncho – and offers a last word of advice to the most influential black director in American movies. “A guy like him should shut his face.”

That last sentence in particular has been making its way around the interwebs — and so it, too, has become an iconic, memorable, sliver-of-time scar that stands apart from all the ordinary words Eastwood said in that interview that have not been remembered.

And of all the online comments, perhaps the pithiest and most interesting one comes from Jeffrey Wells, who notes:

I don’t see why there’s a debate at all because (and I got this straight from my old man, an ex-Marine who fought at Iwo Jima) there were no black solders doing any early-wave fighting during that horrific encounter, so Lee is wrong.

Lee, of course, can’t let it sit at that, and so he told ABC News what he thought of Eastwood’s response to his remarks:

“First of all, the man is not my father and we’re not on a plantation either,” he told ABCNEWS.com. “He’s a great director. He makes his films, I make my films. The thing about it though, I didn’t personally attack him. And a comment like ‘a guy like that should shut his face’ — come on Clint, come on. He sounds like an angry old man right there.” . . .

Lee’s last words took a different tone.

“Even though he’s trying to have a Dirty Harry flashback, I’m going to take the Obama high road and end it right here,” he told ABCNEWS.com. “Peace and love.”

That is such a stupid, offensive response on so many levels, it’s probably best not to dignify it with a point-by-point response like, say, the one provided by the folks at Libertas.

The thing is, I’d like to know more about the experience of African-American soldiers during World War II. But given his track record, I just don’t know if we can trust Spike Lee to tell that story the way it needs to be told. This feud has certainly raised my interest in the subject of Lee’s film, but not in the film itself, per se.