The James Clayton Column: Rage Against the Screen

James has been thinking up some Internet campaigns that may just help the future of movies...

“Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” And so the masses did exactly what their entire Twitter contact list encouraged them to do and made the wise choice of downloading the Rage Against the Machine anthem Killing In The Name, ensuring its status as the last Christmas number one of the decade. The people rose up against the pop machine and in a synchronised act of defiance selected something other than the obvious Simon Cowell-sponsored X Factor single to be top of the pops this Christmas.

This remarkable occurrence proves that there is hope for humanity. Seeing that Rage had upset the smooth passage of inevitable pop-industry victory I felt like Sam at the end of the second The Lord Of The Rings film as he makes his wholeheartedly proclaims, “that there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for”. My faith that miracles can happen, that the forces of evil aren’t always going to win and that people can come together with a sense of common purpose to make effective change were all restored. Musically, it made my Christmas and sends me into 2010 with a sense of optimism.

In an age where politicians continually fail to inspire and where those great nasty conglomerates and entrenched elites still hold the power, it’s fitting that this mass flip-off to ‘The Man’ was expressed through the Internet. The rallying cry to get RATM to number one came about through a Facebook campaign and, in truth, that’s probably the only way that people can successfully rise up and strike the spark of revolution.

With hope that the soul of music can be salvaged thanks to such efforts across social networking websites, I’d like to think that the world of film will benefit from similar campaigns and the effective connection of like-minded people in cyberspace. Already we’ve seen how blogosphere power can manifest itself when Pacific Air Flight 121 was returned to its original B-movierific Snakes On A Plane. The people wanted a suitably pulpy title for the Sammy L. Jackson’s high-concept creature feature, and they got their way.

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The growing momentum to get award season recognition for Moon is an ongoing example of internet-savvy film fans in action. If Sam Rockwell gets any gongs for his gripping portrayal of an isolated spaceman going through intense trauma then it’d be a milestone in the democratisation of the movieworld. With the masses manipulating cyberspace to subvert the dominance of the elite, shunned sci-fi flicks, condemned ‘cult’ properties and overlooked arthouse treasures alike can finally operate on something resembling a level playing field.

Convinced that effective protest is made by pounding a keyboard instead of waving placards, I believe that now is the time for film buffs to fight for progress. I suggest a shotgun approach: let’s just find the things that require reform most urgently and hope that we start an avalanche and capture a fresh spirit of change. Taking a moment to imagine I’m a Tyler Durden-style rebel hero, I’d say we commence phase one of the movement with the following campaigns…

Academy Awards for Animated Movies

It’d be nice to think that the movies receiving Oscars represent the best cinematic output of a particular era. Just because a film doesn’t feature ‘real’ actors or is made by Pixar doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of recognition as a classic flick. Some of the most poignant, prescient and powerful movies of recent years have been animated and condemning them to a ‘cartoon’ or ‘kids’ film’ ghetto is criminal.

Silence is Golden

Sticking with modern animated masterpieces, the opening segment of Up can move even the most emotionally-stunted troglodyte to floods of tears. Likewise, Wall·E is intelligent, engaging and enjoyable, but yet lacks ‘dialogue’ for most of its running time. Both Pixar films exemplify the power of silence and stand as an interesting contrast to big, brash popcorn flicks that attempt to prop themselves up on passages of bland babble and inane talky-bits. Sometimes words are not needed; moving pictures can tell the story. We only needed to see the Darth Vader mask drop onto Anakin Skywalker’s head in Revenge Of The Sith. The birth of cinema’s greatest villain was ruined the moment he blubbered and bawled out a feeble “Noooooooo!”

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Restrictions on Classic Movie Quotes in Mundane ‘Family-Friendly’ Movies

The best lines from The Silence Of The Lambs should not be paraphrased in Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Paying tribute to other movies is nice but not when you’re nailing up an entire non-entity of a movie on in-jokes and references that no one in the mostly-underage audience is going to get. There is a line and when children that don’t know any better think that Tony Montana’s iconic exclamation, “Say ‘ello to my leetle friend!” actually comes from crappy stodge like Shark Tale, that line has been well-and-truly crossed.

Down With Destructive Anime Dubbing

Because you should be able to watch Howl’s Moving Castle without thinking “Hey! That’s Billy Crystal!” If Japanimation masterpieces such as those crafted by Studio Ghibli can’t be delivered in subtitled format then the least distributors can do is avoid casting distinctive Hollywood celebrities to do the dubbing. The beauty of Hayao Miyazaki’s visions in Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro is diminished when you’re distracted by American accents and identifiable voice-overs.

Michael Bay On a Meagre Budget

Can the director of Pearl Harbor do anything without enormous explosions, expensive effects and all the other blockbuster sheen that you’d expect of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie? I demand that Bay be forced to try and make a film with only a handheld camera and an Optimus Prime action figure (Transformers Origins, maybe). Condemned to cast homeless people and construct sets out of cardboard boxes, the man may discover the avant-garde underground artiste within and make a magnum opus.

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If anyone else is galvanised to wave the flag for any of these causes then I say let’s take ’em and run. From my soapbox, comrades, I can see an even better future where the obstacles to progress are vanquished under virtual protest. The momentum is with us as we move into a new age empowered by advanced technology and a fresh attitude. With fists raised in rebellion and righteous dissent across the blogosphere, I believe we are at the turning of the tides. We can stick it to ‘The Man’ and shape the cinema world into an even more beautiful place. Viva la webolution!

James’ previous column can be found here.