Film Archive for April, 2010

Why Not to Accuse Another Writer of Stealing Your Crap Unless You're Damn Certain They Did, in Fact, Steal Your Crap

There was an interesting little battle going on today between Gawker’s Adrien Chen and The Guardian’s Marina Hyde, wherein the former went off on the latter for “stealing” Justin Bieber jokes (surely there are more worthy things to worry about stealing than your Justin Bieber jokes, but hey, who are we to judge?).
Chen’s evidence for Hyde’s joke stealing is related to three jokes, one that talks about Bieber and Susan Boyle as YouTube sensations, one about Biebers Twitterability and snooty people who want you to know they are above the fray because they don’t know who he is by commenting “Who is Justin Bieber?” and the third about Bieber’s mall riot.
Despite the seeming simarility of their posts, I have to side with Hyde on this one. None of those jokes was pulled from any intellectual property (or even particularly creative ideas) exclusive to Chen. They are all fairly obvious jokes to make if one is writing a piece on Bieber: It would be remiss to write about him and not include a reference to YouTube predecessor Boyle; an observation about the snootiness of “Who is ‘X'” is hardly an exclusive observation; and Bieber’s mall riot was all over the news — again, it would be remiss to write a piece on him and not include a reference to that.
I suppose Chen could ding Hyde also for poking fun at Bieber (my idea! my idea!) but he’d have to be pissed at a lot of other people for “stealing” that idea too. But I’ll ding Hyde for her smart-ass reference in her response to working for a “real” paper and her implication that Gawker is beneath the Guardian simply because it’s online. Guardian IS a better and certainly more reliable source of journalistic writing than Gawker, but not just because Gawker is online.
When I was working for Cinematical, where we frequently wrote about entertainment news stories, I used to get emails almost daily from this or that website about how one or another writer had supposedly “stolen” a story from them, but I never found any of those allegations to be true. I’m not saying there aren’t writers and sites that crib off other people’s work, but when you have many writers writing stories about the same pop culture topics for many sites, it’s pretty much inevitable that more than one writer will have the same “brilliant” ideas that he or she thinks are completely original and then get miffed when someone else had the same idea and assume there was stealing of intellectual property involved.
This is exactly why I don’t read other critics’ reviews of films I’m reviewing myself, or even talk much to anyone about a film I’m reviewing, until I have my own review written. The kerfuffle between Gawker and Hyde appears to have been resolved more or less amicably at this point, with Gawker being 93% certain Hyde didn’t rip them off, but the whole thing speaks to the perils of so many writers writing and posting about the same things in real time … toes get stepped on, one person tells another to go fuck themselves, and it’s all downhill from there.

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“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg