2014 Retrospective

Trigger Warnings – Mentions of suicide/depression, related to Robin Williams

2014 was a pretty full year, granted it’s not quite done yet but I’ll be damned if I’m waiting to the very last second for every single morsel of news and trivia to include in here. I had originally thought of making a month by month Charlie Brooker-esque look back at the news of the year – media, films, business, politics, technology, war – all that jazz and more but my god was there a lot to cover, far too much to squeeze into my usual article length. I mean, when I look back at the year, it feels like it went on forever, not like 2013 which sorta came and went for me at least.

A strange year, we lost many great names and we saw twerks and jerks all over our News Feeds – Russell Brand became a ‘revolutionary’, the battle for equality escalated tremendously with victories for Gay Marriage cropping up across the US, Scotland voted on independence, photos were hacked and made global, cinemas cowered from cyber threats, Rocket Raccoon became a recognisable character to the mainstream and we learnt the dark truths behind some famous faces of yesteryear. So much to cover on one little blog, some of it I only really rediscovered in my research and was surprised at how recent things had been and just how much had happened. I’ll cover what I can, in brief summary.

So globally, the most searched names were those of Robin Williams, Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Kardashian. Robin Williams being one of the most tragic losses, at least to me and to the public community, and he served as a reminder as to the truth of depression – that outward appearances do not portray inner feelings for this man who brought nothing but joy felt such intense sadness and pain inside that it eventually overcame him, that’s a blog post in itself, something I can relate to, but I’ll leave it be for now. Jennifer Lawrence, of course, was constantly in the public eye for her various film appearances in the likes of Hunger Games films and X-Men First Class, as well as being a victim of the nude photo hack scandal. To clear up my stance on that one, she’s a victim and no she shouldn’t have just not taken the pictures of herself, that’s like saying if you don’t want to be robbed, don’t own valuables, victims are victims, criminals are criminals, stop blurring the lines. Yes, leaving a door unlocked will let a burglar into the house more easily but I can walk post a door and not open it, if someone goes ahead and walks in where they’re not invited, they need to be punished accordingly, we shouldn’t shrug and say it was inevitable. As for Kim, Kim tried to ‘break the internet’ by posing naked on a magazine cover, apparently forgetting the internet already knows what she looks like naked. I heard talk of it being brave or bold or stupid or whatever, I just shrugged, it was the least spectacular bit of ‘news’ I’d ever read, it’s why I’d never even considered doing an article on it – I refuse to make my blog into a celebrity gossip dump.

In film, we had the undying popularity of Frozen linger on well into Christmas this year, so much so various shops had to enforce maximum budgets on customer purchases for Frozen merchandise, we had Guardians of the Galaxy make Marvel a shit ton more money than they already had, there were Hobbits and Ninja Turtles all over the place, Lego became a film… somehow, Divergent joined the roster of “Dystopian teen fiction made into long running Hollywood money machine” novels, and we learnt that Benedict Cumberbatch REALLY can’t say penguins and that apes can outmatch the military. A lot of good films, a lot of not so good films, a lot of films I meant to watch and didn’t but the most part of it was “You know what we need? A team of characters standing around in epic poses whilst stuff explodes, it made Marvel rich, it must be the key to immortality or something” – so much so the freakin’ Penguins of Madagascar parodies the scene with the penguins stood in the trademark everyone-is-here-let’s-stand-back-to-back position and their leader saying to hold the position until maximum coolness is achieved. I still have a lot of these films to catch up on, Big Hero 6 looks fun, definitely need to see The Theory of Everything and wouldn’t mind giving some of the others a go just to say I have done. Of course, there was the fiasco with The Interview, which has been resolved with online releases, though there is a discussion in that for another day maybe.

World news, the big charity pushes this year were the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that every fucker and their nan took part in and the fight against Ebola, which America handled by saying “OH GOD NO AFRICANS WILL KILL US ALL, EBOLA IS EVERYWHERE!” whilst actual charities worked hard to clear up the damages and the rumours. We heard news reports on wars and conflicts across the globe, so much so it all sort of blurred into one horrid mess for people who didn’t follow these things, myself included. Conflicts in Gaza, Israel, Crimea, Ukraine, it became this endless stream of human beings just doing horrid stuff to one another and I daren’t even step on the subject because I just didn’t read up on it, it passed me by, I’m sure it did for most of you – the advantages of our lifestyles huh? We have our complaints and financial insecurity but there are considerably less guns and explosions in Shrewsbury, I’ll give you that much. In my neck of the woods, UKIP enjoyed a surge in support, much to my disgust, but at least the Greens did too. Scotland had their vote on independence and said it wasn’t for them, which to me is a wise decision, Britain as a whole barely stays afloat, breaking chunks off won’t do anyone any favours. Yes, that’s very brief and vague, so what?

Ugh, my gosh, over a thousand words, barely scratched the surface. I haven’t covered ISIS or Ferguson or the Sochi Olympics or Peaches Geldof or Conchita Wurst or… do you see my point? A lot happened this year, it’s impractical for a man of my limited resources to go into these things in one go so maybe this post will jog some memories of “Oh yeah, that happened” and start a few discussions. Truth be told, in this modern age, our attention spans are short, things don’t stay relevant very long – try it, do an ice bucket challenge now, see who gives a flip. Come 2015, we’ll have forgotten most of this year, I’ve certainly forgotten most of 2013 and 2012 before that. Anyway, perhaps slightly more interesting, tomorrow I’ll do a review of 2014 for me as a person rather than parroting Google searches. I have a lot to say there and it’ll be my way of signing off this year, letting it go

Letting it go… let it go… oh fuck

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Silenced Cinema

Trigger Warnings – Death, terror, strong language

Sony has decided to scrap their comedy ‘The Interview’ starring Seth Rogen and James Franco on a trip to North Korea and their humorous adventures with crazed tyrant Kim Jong-Un after the hackers responsible for the Sony leaks have declared that they will carry out “9/11 style” attacks on any theatre showing the film in and so as a result pretty much every cinema chain in the US has thrown their hands up and refused to show the film, the actors have sworn off publicising it and aside from the discussions of terrorism, people are doing their best to bury the film before it even hits the screens. So, let’s discuss this shall we, is this the right move to make?

Personally, I can understand where the cinema chains are coming from, they don’t want to run the risk of being the ones who laughed at a terror threat and got their customers killed in an explosion. However, the US Secretary of Defence has said these threats could not be realistically acted upon and there is no genuine concern of a terror conspiracy on American soil and we are unsure who is behind this and their capacity to deliver on their promises, it could possibly be the work of North Korea, it could be radicals, it could be pretty much anyone at this point. Frankly, if the stakes were lower, we’d be pointing the finger at Sony and calling it a stunt but considering Sony has been telling cinema chains they’re free to opt out of showing the film, it seems unlikely they would be the culprits. Opinions on this matter are pretty divided and whilst I live in the UK, was never that interested in the film and have no connection to Sony, I want to express my own opinion and I think I will raise some points worth considering hopefully.

By making this decision to allow cinemas not to show the film and these cinema chains then acting on it and choosing not to, America has lost the war on terrorism tonight, it has shown that it can buckle, it can bow down and it can be scared. I understand, of course, this is a scary set of circumstances and whilst it is tempting to flip these hackers the bird and show the film anyway, if you’re the only company doing that whilst your peers hide in the safety of the shadows, you will be the target for these attacks and you will be the one the public chases with flaming torches should just one life be lost. Hollywood is the realm of the safe bet, it is a business based upon security, not risk, and this film will likely be brushed under the carpet as another bad move we should all forget about like The Lone Ranger movie. Sony is no stranger to bad decisions, they can just throw this film away and say “Well we are the same people that refused to team up with Marvel so…” but in this instance people would sympathise, no film is worth showing if the audience could be killed for watching it. However, my point is this, terrorism is not just about mass shootings and blowing up buildings, those are the tactics, not the goal – the goal is fear, the goal is to create a nation living in a state of panic and anxiety, afraid of what will happen next. Sound familiar?

Backing down has shown that the once indomitable giant that is the US can now be brought to its knees by vague threats from glorified cyber bullies, imagine if this continues? How many companies and businesses would crash and burn in a world ruled by the whims of those that are crafty with a keyboard? Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Fox, Michael Bay – all subjects of ire by the public for various reasons, be it tax evasion, bias media or ruining childhoods, any anonymous threat that gets the public spotlight could now potentially bring the American society to a total brick-shitting pause. Famous American actor Rob Lowe likened Sony to Neville Chamberlain. If you don’t get this reference, Neville Chamberlain watched passively as Hitler amassed power and when Hitler became a threat, Neville decided to visit him and talk to him and ask him politely to stop doing naughty things to which Hitler said he’d behave, fingers crossed behind his back. Of course, Hitler didn’t behave and war broke out, much to Chamberlain’s surprise and the British people regretted not having a leader who had the stones to step in earlier and tell Hitler to get stuffed, which is around the time Churchill stepped in and said the Nazis are bastards, let’s show them how the British rumble. Britain became a huge target for carpet bombing by the Nazi forces and Churchill never once begged for mercy for his people or pursued peace with Hitler’s regime, he had faith in the strength of the nation to endure every single blast with that British resilience and in the end, the plucky Brits gave Hitler what for. Sony, not so much, the terrorists won.

Ok, but I respect Sony is a business trying to protect itself and the cinemas are trying to protect the public, however we can’t just not ever show this film for fear of angering the thugs of the internet or else we basically have a censorship regime being enforced by a faceless entity that we have no idea as to what motivates them to such acts. So, what do we do? Simple – Sony, make that film available to stream online, hand it over to Netflix who have money to spend on anything that can appear on a TV screen and get them to make it available to as many people as possible across the fucking globe. Imagine if every household in the US streamed that film, that threat of bombing just became impossible to pull off. We cannot let terrorists win, you Americans love to big up your freedom and badassery so live up to it, show these cyber bitches that you don’t take shit from cowards and play that film on every screen that will show it. Sony, you could be the vanguard in the battle on terror or you could cry in the corner and beg for mercy, you hold a trump card and you could play it to watch these terrorists crumple.

Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation to enforce your belief system or your desires as a ruling force, it is about making your targets fear your name, your appearance, even flinch at the words you write and speak – so far, that is a tactic that is succeeding. People rise to violence and get nervous around anyone in a burka, we judge people by religion and race and the moment someone mentions the word ‘bomb’, we scurry around in a mad panic. I’m not trying to underestimate or play down the horror of what terror plots can do but if their objective is to create fear and promote chaos, we have to draw a line in the sand and stop taking shit, we need to say “Enough is enough, you won’t scare us like this any more, fuck you, we’re fighting back!”

Sony, the ball is in your court.