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Global Skywatch

language barrier in movies

In discussing our viewing theDen of Thieves DVD, we agree it was a B-movie, at most. Moreover, the writers and producers were unable to assemble more than a sentence or two without the inappropriate, undescriptive, sub-grammar F word.

As I mentioned earlier this month in The Wisdom of Daffy Duck:


I am primarily referring to his superior vocabulary and wit when compared to moderns who have replaced every adverb, adjective and oftentimes other English language fundamentals with a single word that carries no information or meaning in their application thereof.

Daffy’s exclamations were colorful. Such as Sufferin’ Succotash. Who in his audience even knew succotash as a corn and bean dish? We didn’t, but we full well understood his exasperation when this phrase was vocalized… colorful without being off color.

His great insult was to label someone a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. We knew that individual had been SLAMMED. None of us imagined the bird of the same name…

Sadly, a relative handful of Hollyweird writers and producers define the predominant culture in far too many lives. Thus our youth, teens and adults spend as much time with movie characters as they do in the real world. The splash, glitz and pretend excitement of the screen world entices them to adopt the language and cultural mores there as well.

Okay. I’m not fixing that. But I also am able to avoid it in my real world. If only the Southern California cultural sewer could apply a rating system that helped me skip foul-languaged B movies.

Lemme help

Language

Longshoreman to Librarian – We don’t expect extensive vocabulary from brute labor forces, but do from librarians and English major graduates. So out of 100 minutes of movie, how many are articulate versus how many are gutteral grunts? Instead of the uninformative “Rated R – lauguage”, how about:
Language 30 indicating 30% of the words carry no information and would be unwelcome in church.

Violence

Hollyweird loves to blow things up, crash vehicles, fire lots and lots of ammunition and make extensive use of their bloody special effects tools. It is a much simpler way to add excitement to their otherwise boring movies than to come up with gripping or thoughtful scripts. Compare movies from 40 years ago to modern ones. They transitioned from plot to violence. I would break it into halves:
Gore 5 – indicating 5 minutes of simulated body mutilating
Killing 25 – minutes of time spent stabbing, shooting, beating and violent assaults

Nudity

Our tolerances here vary widely from Puritanical to Nudists. In the purest sense, naked humans are no less natural than naked dogs, cats and birds. But natural and normal are cultural definitions. Subtle, brief long-distance flashes are quite different from lingering explicit scenes. A good movie rating system would help us keep our viewing pleasures within our comfort zones. It is hard to come up with a good one, but my best shot is:
Nudity – None – Subtle – Moderate – Clear – Extensive

Sex

Much of the interest in literature comes from human emotional interaction, often true, deep love being the ultimate expression, goal and result. In the real world, sexual interaction is a part of that. Movies often separate the two. With sex being much simpler to depict it gets the major role. Fifty years ago mainstream movies implied sex, fading out from a hug and a kiss with romantic music swelling as the scene disappeared. here, too, I struggle for a good rating system. I’ll stick with the one from my nudity category
Sex – None – Subtle – Moderate – Clear – Extensive

Quality

This would be the most important rating category I can imagine. Producers could do a lot with the above ones in an excellent movie without causing much offense, but a loser is simply a loser whether they throw in a ton of the above or none of it. Den of Thieves is what I call a B MOVIE quality-wise. Everything about it is thin, other than that Hollyweird has special effects down pat, and can shoot-up and blow-up anything without having to leave much to the imagination.

This brings me to my ideal rating system: Movie reviewers who establish their reputation based on how successfully they predict the reaction their particular audience will have to each movie.

Thumbs up, thumbs down ratings by Syskel and Ebert was the bottom line in a popular PBS show Sneak Previews. We came to trust one, the other or both for their abilities to anticipate our own assesments of the movies. They each built their own audiences as newspaper-based movie reviewers, a feature that was popular when print media had a significant audience.

Online today Rotten Tomatoes, Fandango, IMDb, MRQE, and others rate entire movies based primarily on popularity with audiences. In my experience, people who watch several modern movies a week have a much higher enjoyment of them than in our household where we are more outsiders, and therefore more critical of the whole package. Our culture finds much of their culture offensive.

My household has hung on to an old Netflix package that allows us two movies a month for $5. The primary attraction for me is that I rate the movies and their algorithm applies my past experiences with likely future ones. Meanwhile, our lovely local library has plenty of movies to be checked out and includes online ordering from a network of western Montana libraries. Most of what Netflix offers can be checked out free. My latest trick is to combine the two: check out from the Darby Library movies that Netflix suggests I’ll like.

Somehow Den of Thieves slipped through the filters.

I have some fine tuning to do.