Monthly Archives: March, 2011

Movie Review: Of Gods And Men

The French/Arabic-language film Of Gods And Men doesn’t have the type of subject matter that would normally bring in a large crowd. The film is about Cicstercian Monks living in a small village in Algeria facing threats from fundamentalist terrorist groups. Nevertheless those lucky enough to see it will love it for what it is.

This film is based on an incident that happened in 1996. Seven French monks from the Algerian village of Tibhirine were found decapitated. The film focuses on the days just before they were killed. They were a group of eight monks who lived in a monastery in Tibhirine. They devoted their lives to monk rituals of gardening, distributing medical help to locals and religious devotions. They were present at the village during times of celebration and they conversed with the villagers regularly. They all did this during a time of the Algerian Civil War. Religious extremists were committing acts of brutality amongst foreigners and their own people. The pressure was felt by the monks. Christian, the leader and resident religious scholar, tells authorities they will not go. However this is hotly debated with the other monks as some fear for their own safety. Christian then gives the men time to decide whether to leave or not. News gets grimmer by the moment. They even face potential threats of their own. Authorities of the Algerian government request they leave for their lives. The villagers however convince them of how vital they are to the community. In the end, as one brother pays a visit to the monastery, they all vote to stay. Late in the night, seven of the nine are found, captured and taken away. Those would be their last minutes known to be alive.

The film has many great qualities. Its best technical quality was the cinematography as it added to the film in showcasing the landscape in its best splendor. The film was well-directed and well-written by French director Xavier Beauvois. The script he co-wrote with Etienne Comar was excellent and very no-nonsense as it cut at the heart of the monks and the village they served. As important as it was to show the events that happened leading up to the times, the script’s biggest focus was on the monks and their lives. It was more about people than events. Even the scene of the last dinner with the music of Swan Lake in the background was done with the focus on the men. 

 The biggest strength of the movie is definitely the acting. Of all performances, the two that stood out were that of Christian the leader and Luc the doctor. Lambert Wilson’s performance of Christian was excellent and the most intense. Often he said more in his scenes of silence than he did with his spoken parts. Michael Lonsdale’s performance of Luc the Doctor was the best supporting performance. There wasn’t a hint of phoniness in it.

As for the monks as a whole, the most remarkable thing about the film is its ability to give three-dimensional portrayal of monk characters. The film not only showed them in their prayer life but also showed the devotion during their prayers. The film showed them in their occupations and how important they were to the village. The film showed their convictions and their beliefs. The film showed the bond between the men. Above all, it was alll done in a three-dimensional manner. This is very rare for a film to accomplish that feat. Even back during the days of the Hays Code–where one of the rules was that religious figures were to be depicted in a positive manner–religious figures were still two-dimensional at the most. Even the negative depictions of religious figures that came once the Hays Code was dropped in the 60’s as ‘censorship’ or ‘restrictive of creativity’–were also two dimensional and often too stockish. This film has to be the most realistic and inside-out portrayal of religious characters, in both character and their vocation, that I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Even 1997’s The Apostle doesn’t compare as Robert Duvall’s portrayal of a minister had more focus on his passion and personal demons than on his vocation.

Also vital is the ending of the film. It is not known who exactly killed the monks. An Islamic extremist group has claimed responsibility but recent documents from the French secret service claim that the Algerian army carried it out as a mistake during the rescue attempt. The film doesn’t pick one group at fault as the monks are captured in the dead of night with the darkness hiding their identity.

There may be some nervous in seeing this film, feeling it might try to ‘convert’ them to Catholicism. For the record, director Xavier Beauvois has not directed a religious film in the past. One thing we should note is that while the monks lived at the monastery, there’s no scene of them trying to convert any of the villagers from Islam. In fact Brother Christian was as knowledgeable about the Koran as he was about the Bible. When religion extremists threatened to shoot the brothers in one instance, Brother Christian quoted a passage from the Koran which caused the leader to drop his gun and order his followers to leave. I believe Beauvois wanted to show that for the monks, the faith was mightier than the sword. Also in the script was a scene where the monks talk about the difference between the Islamics and ‘Islamists’. This is good for a time when religion faces a lot of flack from religious dissenters. I believe that may have been another point from Beauvois that it’s important for one to recognize the believers from the ‘beliefists’.

This film has won a lot of accolades. It won the Grand Prix and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. The Grand Prix is second to the Palme d’Or as the most prestigious award at the Festival. Other nominations and awards have followed such as wins at France’s Cesar Awards, nominations at the European Film Awards, nominated for Best Film Not In The English Language at Britain’s BAFTA awards and was France’s official entry for the 2010 Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film category. The film was well received by critics here in North America and has a 91% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Although this is a movie that makes for excellent viewing for Catholic communities, it’s not completely 100% ‘safe’ for everyone. There is a few profanities utters, including one by a monk. There are also some scenes of violence. The most violence is the scene of soldiers being cut at the throat by the extremists. Most of the violence is only seen through news footage.

For writers and directors with religious values, this film offers a ray of hope for those who want to break into film making. It shows that a film showcasing religious values can not only be shown on the big screen but also be written and produced well. That has long been the dilemma ever since the Hays Code has been lifted. This was best summed up in a quote by Catholic scriptwriter/acting school director Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington: 

I realized coming (to Hollywood) that it’s not so much Hollywood is persecuting the Church as much as it was the Church was committing suicide in Hollywood. Big difference. So I basically wrote an article about it saying that Hollywood isn’t anti-Christian as so much as it’s anti-bad art, and we’re just giving it schlock.

She states a major hurdle here as all too often a lot of Christian writers have written a lot of scrpits viewed by Hollywood as sub-standard in skill while the more liberal writers seem to know how to write for the screen. It’s a hugely difficult task to write a film of positive values or strong faith for the general audience without crossing the line of being schmaltzy or manipulative. Of Gods And Men shows that it can be done and it’s just a matter of learning how to do things right.

If you’re fortunate enough to have it come to your city, I highly recommend you see Of Gods And Men. Even if you don’t buy the Catholic faith or want a movie with preachy religious themes, it’s a film worth watching. It’s as much about people and their devotion to their beliefs as it is about an incident that happened. Even with the tragic ending, it tells a lot about the human spirit that will stay with the viewer once they leave the theatre.

Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

I’ll start by asking a series of questions. When you think of the term movie star, who comes to mind? Or what comes to mind? Is it their captivating looks? is it their ability to epitomize fame and fortune? Is it their ability to win crowds to the big screen time after time? Is it a presence that captivates the audience in their seats? Or is it their ability to do great acting time and time again? Do the standards of those that deserve the term movie star change over time? Or are the standards of a movie star timeless? When you think of the term movie star, how many from the past deserve that title? How many current actors deserve to have such a title bestowed upon them?

On Wednesday morning, we lost one who deserved to fit the term movie star in any or possibly every definition of the term. Her name was Elizabeth Taylor. She’s possibly one of the last of a breed that fit the term movie star as we know it to a tee. She had the looks, she lived large in more ways than one, she was able to attract crowds to the theatres and grab hold of their attention, and she knew how to give wonderful acting performances time after time.

Her acting career started early. She was discovered and signed on by both MGM and Universal at the age of ten. She had a great career as a child actor in gems like Lassie Come Home and Jane Eyre but it was her performance in 1944’s National Velvet that was her signature turn as a child actor. She was also successful in making a transition to adult actor almost immediately when she starred in 1950’s Father Of The Bride. Her career as an adult actress would accelerate starting with her role in 1956’s Giant opposite Rock Husdon and James Dean. She would then be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress four years in a row starting with 1957’s Raintree County opposite Montgomery Clift, 1958’s Cat On A Hot Tin Roof opposite Paul Newman, 1959’s Suddenly, Last Summer opposite Montgomery Clift and finally a Winner for 1960’s Butterfield 8 which she acted opposite then-husband Eddie Fisher. In 1960, she became the highest paid actress in Hollywood and more starring roles continued, including for 1963’s Cleopatra, 1967’s The Taming Of The Shrew and her second Best Actress Oscar winning role in 1966’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Soon after, the movies she starred were flopping and her bankability faded. It wouldn’t stop her from acting in movies, television and stage. Her last movie role was in 1994’s live-action version of The Flintstones. Immediately after, she announced her retirement from films.

She also had one-of-a-kind winning looks. Her looks were definitely that of a movie star. Even at a young age, you knew she had a face for the screen. The smooth face and glowing violet eyes. You could tell in her earlier moviesthat she had the looks. Even in adolescence, she matured with grace and beauty and would have the looks perfect for Hollywood’s Golden Age. She also knew how to live the glamorous life. She was always seen with the most glamorous dresses and was renowned for her huge collection of jewelry including huge diamond rings and diamond necklaces. She even launched two fragrances in the 1990’s.

She also had the ability to be the subject of much publicity, both while active in her acting career and after. She was known for her eight marriages to seven husbands: starting with hotel mogul Conrad Hilton and ending with Larry Fortensky. Her relationship and eventual marriage to Eddie Fisher made headlines because it interfered with his marriage to Eddie Fisher. She married Richard Burton twice over a period of twelve years. Only her marriage to Michael Todd lasted until his death. She was known for her weight gain battles, frequently lampooned in Joan Rivers’ standup comedy material. She had well-publicized substance abuse battles that included a stay at the Betty Ford Clinic where she met her final husband Larry Fortensky. Her friendship with Michael Jackson also made tabloid headlines. Fact: she is the godmother of Michael’s two oldest children. She also battled constant health problems and they would always make for good tabloid copy. She broke her back five times and had two hip replacements. She also battled life-threatening illnesses like a brain tumor, two bouts of pneumonia and numerous heart problems. 

Despite her life of luxury and her questionable relationships, she was also one who knew how to use her celebrity to attract a cause. She supported AIDS causes starting in 1984 when they were not popular but became more active after her friend actor Rock Hudson died of the disease in 1985. She founded or co-founded two major AIDS charities and promoted major AIDS fundraising events. He also devoted herself to many causes relating to Israel and Zionism. She herself converted to Judaism in 1959. She would use her celebrity for many fundraising events and for awareness for the causes she believed in. In turn, she has been awarded humanitarian awards during her life. She was even named a Dame in 2000.

When she died on Wednesday, many believe we lost the last great movie star of Hollywood’s Golden Era. Although that’s disputable, we did lose a one-of-a-kind. She had the picture perfect looks for Hollywood but she delivered solid acting every time. What mistakes she made in her personal life, she made up for in her charm and grace. She lived every inch of the definition ‘fame and fortune’ but was still in touch with what was happening in the world. Many leading ladies came before her and many have come since but she will never be equaled. Elizabeth, we’ll miss you.

Dine Out For Life, And A Good Cause

I would like to take a break from my usual writing to promote a good cause that’s hosting an event this week. Here in most of BC, specifically Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler, Thursday will have Dining Out For Life happening at many restaurants. Dining Out For Life is not strictly a BC event but it will be held in most of BC during this coming Thursday, the 24th.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dining Out For Life, it is an annual fundraiser where for one night, restaurants will donate a portion of their proceeds to their local AIDS foundation. The causes can be for awareness groups, volunteer groups and food services for patients. Most cities that take part in Dining Out For Life will hold their dinners during the last weekend in April or on International AIDS Day, December 1st. Here in Vancouver, we’re lucky to get it early. Also hundreds of restaurants have agreed to participate. The number keeps growing every year.

So if you’re looking for someplace to dine out on Thursday, you’ve got plenty to choose from and you’ll be supporting a good cause. So dine out for life this Thursday. You’ll be glad you did.

For more information on Dining Out For Life, just go to The Main Website or Vancouver residents interested in picking a restaurant, just click here.

British Columbia’s Minimum Wage Increase Could Be A Double-Edged Sword

Many expect this to be a benefit for the province but there are just as many drawbacks that could happen too.

Just days after Christy Clark was sworn into office as the new Premier of British Columbia, she starts her reign by announcing that British Columbia will have an increase in the minimum wage. For around ten years, the minimum wage has stood still at $8/hour: the lowest rate in Canada. This especially doesn’t fare well in the Canadian province with the highest cost of living. Clark announced that the wage will be increased in 75-cent increments starting May 2011 to an eventual $10.25 come 2012.

The raise has had a lot of mixed reactions. For many, it’s looked upon as a positive thing. As I mentioned earlier, BC has the highest cost of living of any province in Canada. The $8/hour was the highest in Canada at the time it was set (May 2000) and has now dropped to the lowest. Many have called the low minimum wage an embarrassment for the province. The plan from Christy is to start the raise in May 2011 to $8.75/hour, increase to $9.50 in November and finally $10.25 come May 2012. That would place it equal with Ontario as having the highest minimum wage amongst Canadian provinces. The highest minimum wage including territories is Nunavut with $11/hour.

Since her declaration, there have been many opinions from people from all sides. Some say this is finally a good move for BC. Some claimed that this was an NDP idea she stole. Some say this is happening too much too late. Some are also questioning if this is a difficult move, epsecially during an economic recession.

For every action, there are both positive and negative reactions. First the positive. For one thing, it will make life more livable for many BC workers who already deal with the minimum wage. BC, especially in Vancouver, has the highest cost of living based on provincial averages. Greater Vancouver alone has the highest housing prices in Canada. Gas prices are already at $1.30/litre. Vancouver has one of the worst child poverty rates in Canada. Already there’s talk of food prices going up worldwide. An increase to the minimum wage will help make life a bit easier for those trying to make ends meet in their own standard of living. It’s definitely not a solve-all but it does help. Also some argue that it could boost small businesses rather than hurt. With an increase in the minimum wage, it can mean businesses can have more customers. One economist even said that people with money generally spend in small businesses.

One downside is that this could mean an increase in the prices of goods and services. I know that from when I worked in a restaurant in Manitoba, they had to raise the food prices because of the minimum wage increase. Also with the raise in the minimum wage comes the risk of some smaller businesses cutting some jobs to pay the wages. Already a lot of businesses, especially restaurants, have already been hit hard by the HST and with the tough new anti-drinking and driving laws. Even though I mentioned one economist saying that those with money tend to spend in small businesses, that’s not a complete guarantee they’ll prosper significantly. There’s even a possibility that the already-difficult cost of living in British Columbia could increase along with it. Another of Clark’s claims is that the cost of living would not increase dramatically. With the increase in the minimum wage, it’s a 50/50 risk that it may or may not.

As stated, the first raise of the minimum wage begins in May 2011. The changes, whether positive or negative, will forecast whether BC is moving in a positive or negative economic direction. The minimum wage changes will also show if businesses are meeting supply and demand to keep their employees with the wage increases. This is a smart move for Christy Clark–her first move as premier of BC—but only time will tell if this is a smartly timed move for her.

Favorite Actor Quotes

Okay. So for the first time, I put my journalism ambitions on hold and post something for my own leisure. This is a selection of quotes from actors over the years. Some are about the craft, some about the biz, some you may agree with, some you won’t, but I hope you like them. Most of which are from IMDB:

“What distinguishes the real actor from the pseudo is the passionate desire to know what is going on in the hearts and minds of people.”

-Beulah Bondi

“Nobody becomes an actor because they had a good childhood.”

– William H. Macy

“I’m not the Stanislavski kind of actor. I feel I have to communicate with the people in my scene.”

-Tom Cruise

“Method actors take a picture. Real actors paint a portrait.”

-Charles Loughton

“I like to play parts that are not at all like myself. I’m not the least bit exciting.”

-Mildred Dunnock

“If I was going to be broke I decided I might as well be with actors as anyone else. They were cheerful idiots and seemed to take it better.”

-Peter Finch

“I’ve never tried to learn the art of acting. I have been in the business for years but I still can’t tell what acting is or how it’s done.”

-Paul Muni

“I remember someone once said that the whole thing is to keep working and pretty soon they’ll think you’re good.”

-Jack Nicholson

“Study your craft and know who you are and what’s special about you. Find out what everyone does on a film set, ask questions and listen. Make sure you live life, which means don’t do things where you court celebrity, and give something positive back to our society.”

-Paul Newman

“An actor is an interpreter of other men’s words, often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not, a craftsman, a bag of tricks, a vanity bag, a cool observer of mankind, a child and at his best a kind of unfrocked priest who, for an hour or two, can call on heaven and hell to mesmerize a group of innocents.”

-Alec Guinness

“An actor must interpret life and, in order to do so, must be willing to accept all the experiences life has to offer. In fact, he must seek out more of life than life puts at his feet. In the short span of his lifetime, an actor must learn all there is to know, experience all there is to experience, or approach that state as closely as possible. He must be superhuman in his efforts to store away in the core of his subconscious everything that he might be called upon to use in the expression of his art.”

-James Dean

“We’re all unique as actors. To yourself, you are unique, you have to think ‘I’m me, I’m not going to bunch myself with other people.’ Agents and producers have to get you into a box, to accommodate their limited imaginations.”

-Imelda Staunton

In The Wake Of The Japanese Tsunami, Are You Prepared?

Ever since the late evening of Thursday March 10th leading into Friday the 11th, the story of the Japanese tsunami and aftermath has dominated our headlines. We constantly see images, both professional and amateur, as well as the latest news updates. It’s both alarming and upsetting. It’s also a sobering reminder that something like this can strike close to home, especially if you live on either the east coast or west coast.

The news first broke this past Thursday night or very early Friday morning. A powerful earthquake in the Pacific Ocean just 100 miles east of Japan’s northern coast caused a tsunami that hit the coast of Japan, especially the city of Sendai, really hard. The quake measured 9.0 on the Richter scale and is the seventh-highest ever recorded. Replays of the wave’s crashing caught on amateur video has left many shocked. Some who were up during the early morning hours were able to see live footage of the wave as it was travelling towards the west coasts of the Americas.  The destruction to the Japanese coast and surrounding areas has been in the news daily. The statistics of destruction and human loss are growing. Many anticipate the final death toll to reach around 20,000.

Another shocking thing about this disaster is that it comes more than six years after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean which claimed a total of almost a quarter-million lives in many countries. That ranks as the deadliest tsunami in history. I’m sure many of us still have images of the disaster fresh in our minds.

Those living near the west coasts of the Americas had the least damage to deal with. Hawaii was hardest hit but there was no loss of life and damage was minimal. Even the west coasts of the Americas had their own damage to deal with but the most damage individual areas faced was one or two million dollars. We were pretty lucky. Nevertheless one thing citizens living  on or near coastal land need to remember is that a tsunami can strike at anytime. Where there’s a coast by an ocean, sea or lake, there’s a tsunami danger. The big question is do we know how to take action?

For one thing, warning systems are an excellent start for prevention. First part involves network sensors to detect threatening waves. Second part involves  a communications infrastructure to issue timely alarms to permit evacuation of coastal areas. This can beneficial since the tsunami from days ago was distant enough from the Americas to allow ample time for warning. Although beneficial, they are imperfect as in the case for Japan in this instance. Tsunamis can come as fast as 600 miles/hour and the earthquake epicenter for this tsunami was 100 miles east of the coast. This wouldn’t allow for ample time to save enough property or enough lives. Nevertheless new advances in warning are still yet to come. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, an Internation Early Warning Programme was proposed immediately after and it resulted in the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System. I’m sure after the Japanese tsunami, there will me more pressure to follow through on the Internation Early Warning Programme and propose for more technological advancements.

Technological devices are also helpful. One such is the DART buoy: DART standing for Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis. These buoys are held in place off coast to detect possible tsunami threats along with a Bottom Pressure Recording package to detect pressure changes of the tsunamis. The United States has 39 DART buoys in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and The Caribbean Sea. Since 2009, other countries have started to use DART buoys for tsunami detection. Another such is a tsunami warning system like the Pacific Tsunami Warning System based in Honolulu which records seismic activity in the Pacific Ocean. Although not every Ocean earthquake causes a tsunami, the computers assist in analyzing the tsunami risk of every earthquake that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and the adjoining land masses.

Then there’s also local preventative measures. Some are natural, like mangroves, coastal vegetation and coral reefs which helped to cause the least damage during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Others are constructed like seawalls and floodgates. Japan has constructed some seawalls that are as tall as 15 feet to protect populated areas. Seawalls may have to be expanded in the wake of the most recent tsunami. All Pacific Rim countries have organized evacuation routes and practice evacuation procedures.  In Japan, such preparation is mandatory for government, local authorities, emergency services and the population. Vancouver even has some disaster relief routes. There’s even preparation information and a program from BC’s Ministry of Safety and Solicitor General. It’s up to the governments to inform the public at risk to be informed how to take action.

The tsunami in northern Japan is a chilling and sobering wake up call to those who live on or near coastal areas. This will undoubtedly leave many questioning if such a disaster can happen to them and how would they respond. This will also leave government agencies time to question whether they have the right technological means to detect warnings necessary for alerts and possible evacuations. Hopefully none of us will have to experience what those in northern Japan are dealing with right now.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Tsunami.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsunami>

WIKIPEDIA: Tsunami Warning System.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsunami_warning_system>

WIKIPEDIA: International Early Warning Programme.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Early_Warning_Programme>

WIKIPEDIA: Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART).Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep-ocean_Assessment_and_Reporting_of_Tsunamis>

From Jersey Shore To Jersey Bores: Will Stars’ 15 Minutes End Soon?

Exactly a year ago, hardly anyone had heard of anyone named Pauly D, The Sitch, Snooki or JWoww. Now they’re household names thanks to a show on MTV called Jersey Shore. Yes, their names as well as expressions like Guido, Guidette and GTL are everywhere. To go with it, the stars of the show haver been enjoying their time of celebrity. The big question is how long will their celebrity last? Do they have what it takes to continue on?

 The show started on MTV in December of 2009. It followed the lives of eight young people from New York staying along the Jersey Shore. Most were of Italian-American descent. The pilot garnered basic pilot attention but steadily grew week after week. It captured things like the stars’ dating, their images, their sex lives, their partying, their fist-pumping and their bad behavior. The popularity allowed for a season two to be made with them in Miami Beach. The third season marked a return to the Shore. Since then, the show has gone on to become the highest rated series on MTV, a quote book and a sticker book was published and a CD compilation was released. Even the bunch have become stars and household names and their public appearances garner a lot of attention, like Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino was one of the stars competing on Dancing With The Stars, Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi’s arrest in July 2010 garnered national attention, Snooki became a popular Halloween costume, and Snooki and Jenni ‘JWoww’ Farley wrote separate books.

It’s interesting how the popularity of reality television has changed television popularity for better or for worse. Ever since MTV debuted The Real World back in 1992, it introduced a new phenomenon of television: reality television. The docudrama broadcast youth culture from sexuality to prejudice to drug abuse. It caught the attention of many people in its first season. Many credit The Real World for introducing and shaping reality television as we know it. Some would be unhappy with the latter years’ focus on immature and irresponsible behavior. More reality shows came to MTV and its rating successes would cause an extinction of music videos, thus causing a second MTV channel to be created.  The reality show also led to the start of reality shows being introduced to main network television. Before 2000, did we hold Survivor parties? Or were we interested in The Bachelor’s dating life? Did we look forward to seeing Paris Hilton’s latest attempt at nailing a job? Until five years ago, television scriptwriters appeared to be an endangered species. Actors with skill were now being overlooked in favor of notorious personalities. Although scripted television series’ did make a return to the public norm five years ago, reality TV changed television forever.

With the success of reality TV shows came the stardom of its players. The Real World made stars out of their players like Puck for his poor hygiene and violent behavior and Pedro Zamora for his struggle with AIDS and homophobia. Once reality television came to network TV, it allowed for more stars like Richard Hatch, the first Survivor winner, and Alex Michel, the first Bachelor. Even stars who were long out of the spotlight returned to the public eye through shows like The Surreal Life, Celebrity Boxing and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. It really surprised a lot of acting wannabes who learned their craft for a career only to be overtaken in the fame game by these personalities. Reality television stars remind us that fame is not something you work towards or earn. It’s something you grab if the general public is willing to give it to you. However up to the early 2000’s, most reality show stars would see their star go as instantly as it came.

Consistent fame via reality television would start coming when stars knew how to build on their TV fame. The first big result came upon the heels of The Simple Life, a show about the shenanigans of two spoiled stupid girls: hotel heiress Paris Hilton and friend Nicole Richie, daughter of musician Lionel Richie. The show focused on their antics while working on a farm and travelling throughout the US and their notorious antics made stars of them both. Even after the shows’ ends, they were able to keep their stars active as the paparazzi and tabloid writers documented and photographed their every move. Paris’ raunchy car wash commercial for a fast food restaurant and even their bouts with the law made for more popular copy than government affairs. The girls know how to work the tabloid brigade to their advantage in the fame game. That would continue with Kim Kardashian and the Kardashian sisters in the show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Upon the success of the show, she posed nude for Playboy, appeared in FHM Magazine and has had model offers galore. She even launched her own tanning spray, fragrance and jewelry alongside her sisters. Then came Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag of The Hills. Their romance, smug attitudes and sleaze became the water cooler talk of 2007. Heidi and Spencer knew how to work the tabloids to their advantage with their romance, religious conversions, marriage, phony divorce and notorious behavior including Heidi’s plastic surgery. They even wrote an unapologetic tongue-in-cheek book entitled How To Become Famous. They won’t deny thier love for publicity stunts. Even Spencer said: “There are only two people in the world that are bigger fame whores than us and that’s Brangelina.” Weird how in the past, after one’s star died off, they’d have to rely on their talent to keep themselves active. Not with this crop of stars.

Now comes the stars of Jersey Shore. What are their chances of longevity after the show tanks? And believe me, it eventually will.  Snooki and JWoww have released books, JWoww had a temporary clothing line called Filthy Couture, The Situation appeared as a dancer on Dancing With The Stars and has endorsed many products, and Paul ‘Pauly D’ DelVecchio has even cut a rap record. All results minus The Sitch’s dancing have been dismal failures. It’s going to be hard for them to carry on their fame after the end of Jersey Shore. It’s going to be even harder for them to try something new and catchy that hasn’t been done before by Paris, the Kardashians or Speidi. Also none seem interested in making a tabloid sensation of themselves. Even their backstage spat at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards that made the cover of Us Magazine didn’t raise enough eyebrows. They do a lot of the talk show and late night show rounds, all coming across as likeable. Only time will tell whether they have what it takes to keep their fame active.

Or maybe it could be that they’re not worried about their future fame. For starters, they may all come across as dim bulbs on Shore but they’re actually quite smart and more responsible than thought. Before Jersey Shore, the stars all had either working jobs or studying their career pursuits. Snooki graduated from high school and attended community college with the intent of becoming a veterinarian. The Sitch managed a fitness center and turned to modeling after losing his job. Pauly D worked as a DJ. JWoww is a master at computer programming and has her own graphic design company. And Vinny Guadagnino was studying political science at the State University of New York before he heard of the Jersey Shore auditions. So they’re not complete fails at life and may be able to carry themselves after the limelight fades away.

Fan or not, the Jersey Shore stars are hard to escape. They’ve become a new reality television phenomenon and have a long road ahead of them if they want to keep their fame alive. Whether they choose to continue on the road to fame or find a career alternative, only time will tell where they end up years from now.

2011’s Box Office Blahs

This is my first movie post that has little to do with the Oscars. Hope you like it.

Can you believe we’re now into the tenth weekend of 2011? Or ninth if you don’t count the weekend beginning on New Years Eve? Yep, it’s now March. Two months have passed and have compiled some pretty shocking box office statistics. Entertainment Weekly pointed out in an article that this January had the lowest ticket sales in 20 years. Just today, I received an e-mail alert from Box Office Mojo saying that this February had the lowest gross since 2007 and the biggest Feb-to-Feb nosedive since 1995. Not good news at all. Especially surprising since a Justin Bieber movie was released this February.

One could attribute this to a lot of reasons. Could be because of other alternative entertainment options, like videogames or Youtube. Some could say it’s because of those download sites like Netflix. Some could even say it’s not those things at all but could be because of the lack of spice in the set of commercial movie fare the past two months had to offer. It was especially surprising to see certain Oscar fare like The Fighter, True Grit and Black Swan go beyond expectations and each grossing above $90 million. In the last decade, most Oscar fare didn’t fare too well at the box office. Guess this year’ s saying something.

Even Entertainment Weekly gave ten suggestions in their article. Some included less commercials, less fat filled popcorn, remake movies better than the original, TV rwritiers writing screenplays, more appropriate use of 3D, and even stylishly designed theatres. I myself had to agree with some of what the article recommended. At various occasions I’ve had to sit through 15 minutes of previews, seven commercials before the movie on one occasion, questioning the use of 3D in some movies and even believing I could write a better screenplay myself.

Now the rest of 2011 does look bright. We have the very final Harry Potter movie, the first part of the final Twilight book,  a remake of Arthur starring Russell Brand, a brand new Scream, Captain America, and sequels to The Hangover, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Cars, Kung Fu Panda, X-Men, Transformers…should I go on? Basically the theatres are going to offer a lot in the coming months. I’m sure there will be something to attract almost everyone.

Even this March has a wide variety of movies to attract people to theatres (source: IMDB) :

ACTION MOVIES & THRILLERS

The Adjustment Bureau (opens this weekend)- Matt Damon stars in this sci-fi drama.

Battle: Los Angeles (opens the 11th) – aliens invade La La Land.

Limitless (opens the 18th) – Bradley Cooper stars in this psychological thriller.

The Lincoln Lawyer (opens the 18th) – Matthew McConaughey stars in this cat-and-mouse legal drama.

COMEDY

Take Me Home Tonight (opens this weekend) – romantic comedy with 80’s flavor.

Paul – (opens the 18th) – two comic book dweebs capture an alien and a lot more.

TEEN FARE

Beastly (opens this weekend) – fantasy film starring Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer.

Red Riding Hood (opens the 11th) – Amanda Seyfried stars in what’s more dark drama than fairy tale.

Sucker Punch (opens the 25th) – Emily Browning as the action heroine.

FAMILY FARE

Rango (opens this weekend) – an animated movie about a young lizard with true grit.

Mars Needs Moms (opens the 11th) – Disney animated movie.

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (opens the 25th) – wimpy kid Greg Heffley’s at it again.

INDIE FLAVOR

Red State (opens this weekend) – Kevin Smith spoofs conservatism.

Jane Eyre (opens the 11th) – an adaptation of the famous novel starring Mia Wasikowska.

Win Win (opens the 18th) – Paul Giamatti plays an attorney disguised as a wrestling coach.

FOREIGN FLARE

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (opens this weekend) – this Thai film has been impressive at film fests.

Potiche (opens the 25th) – this French comedy contains some big French names like Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve.

So there is a lot to offer in March. Hopefully the movie business will be able to pick it up more this month and lead to the year grossing well, if not the most ever. I hope you have a reason to go this March.

Christy Clark’s Pre-Election Baggage

Hi. This is my first non-movie article. Hope you like it.

The BC Liberal Party announced a new leader on Saturday, February 26th. Her name is Christy Clark. She is to replace Gordon Campbell who has served as Premier since 2001 but recently resigned due to low ratings. Being Premier of BC is a big job for the 45 year-old, especially after Campbell’s recent resignation. The big question is how will she and the BC Liberal Party hold in the next provincial election?

Currently Premier-Designate Christy Clark is no stranger to politics. If you saw her resume, you’d see she has quite a list of accomplishments. Her first political victory came at the age of 30 when she was elected MLA for the Port-Moody-Westwood riding in 1996. At the start, while the Liberals were the official opposition party in BC, she served as the Official Opposition critic for the environment, children and families and for the public service. As the Liberal Party headed by Gordon Campbell prepared for the provincial election of 2001, she served as the campaign co-chair in which the Party won 77 of the 79 seats. Once Gordon Campbell was sworn in as Premier, she was appointed Deputy Premier and the Minister of Education.  She would be appointed Minister of Children and Family Development in January 2004. In September of that same year, she quit provincial politics and did not seek re-election of her MLA position in 2005. She would later seek leadership of the Non-Partisan Association for the Vancouver mayor election that same year, but lost to eventual mayor Sam Sullivan.

She’s also a popular media figure too. She was a weekly columnist for the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province during the 2005 provincial election and was a television election analyst during the 2006 federal election. She also hosted a Vancouver radio show: The Christy Clark Show from 2007 until she decided to enter the premier leadership back in December.

Even though no provincial election has been called yet, she faces a bumpy road for the BC Liberal Party firstly based on past election results. On the provincial side of things, leading  provincial parties face a huge electoral loss after their leader resigns as premier. Past history in the last 30 years have proven so. In Manitoba, NDP Howard Pawley, who was elected premier in 1981, resigned. The leadership then went to Gary Doer. The NDP finished the election with the third-most ridings. Doer would have to wait until three more provincial elections before being elected premier of Manitoba. BC premier Glenn Clark, who headed the NDP Party, resigned in 1999 and would be replaced by Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh the following year. The BC NDP, headed by Dosanjh would face a humiliating loss of winning 2 of 79 seats, paving the way for Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals. Carole James, the NDP leader since, has headed the party in two provincial elections, regaining many seats for the NDP but losing to Campbell both times.

Nationally, political parties have had its own dark days when their leader resigns as Prime Minister. In 1984, Pierre Trudeau resigned as Prime Minister and John Turner would be voted head the Liberal Party. In the national election, his Liberal party would lose to the PC Party headed by Brian Mulroney. Turner remains the Prime Minister with the second-shortest leadership. He would head the federal Liberal party in the following federal election in 1988 and would lose to the Mulroney PC’s again. The PC Party would soon face its own party troubles after Mulroney resigned in 1993. Kim Campbell succeeded him. However Campbell and the PC’s would face a crushing defeat in the federal election that same year by winning only two seats. The Liberal’s headed by Jean Chretien would win the federal election. Chretien would be re-elected twice more while Canadian Conservatives would struggle with political parties for many years. The PC Party ran again in 1997, would reconstruct themselves at the Canadian Alliance Party for the 2000 federal election, and would them become the Conservative Party in time for the 2004 election.

If past elections aren’t enough for Christy to cause concern, it would be the Campbell leadership, especially in the last year. Campbell’s leadership has always been through a rocky road ever since he was elected but he would be hit hardest in 2010 upon introducing the HST. The introduction of the tax, and the rapid implementation if it, proved to be very unpopular amongst British Columbians. Soon after, the polls had him at an approval rating of just 9%, the lowest of any provincial premier. This was cause for him to resign in November of 2010.

Now despite party problems, Christy Clark has had some political problems of her own once she’s sworn in on March 14th. As Minister of Education, she introduced changes like stronger parental power, increased accountability and provided greater parental choice in the flexibility in the school system. This proved unpopular with teachers, school board members and union officials as they believed it resulted in funding gaps. She also sought to increase the independence of the BC College of Teachers against strong opposition from the BC Teachers Federation. She also has allegations against her regarding a BC Rail scandal when she was deputy premier, although nothing has been proven against her. Those could hurt her come election time.

Currently no provincial election date has been set, and there may not even be one for a full year. Dawn Black is currently interim leader of the BC NDP Party, succeeding Carole James. Jane Sterk leads the Green Party. The BC Conservative Party is not associated with the national Conservative Party and may have a slim chance in the election. Nevertheless all opposition parties have a good chance at rivaling Clark and the Liberals in the eventual provincial election. In this period of time, Sterk and Black have to prove themselves worthy of the office of provincial Premier. Black already has a lengthy resume of her own political accomplishments while Sterk has yet to prove herself. In the meantime, Clark can use the time to her advantage to improve her political image and the image of the Liberal Party in this post-Campbell era as an effort to win the next election. She would also have to use the time to prove she is worthy of being Premier of British Columbia.

With the next provincial election happening anytime, Christy Clark arrives at the Premier’s desk with a lot of baggage of the Campbell Administration and of her own doing. Despite it all, only time will tell whether she has what it takes to be Premier of British Columbia and whether she and the BC Liberals deserve to win the election.

WORK CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Christy Clark.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christy_Clark>