Venom and the Entertainment Factor

Critics have been quick this past week to criticize the new Sony film Venom. Reviewers have been gleeful about attacking the film with a sarcastic vigor that has made for some admittedly highly entertaining blurbs. One reviewer Rodriguez Perez from The Playlist wrote ““How Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed read this piss-poor script and decided it would make a deserving movie is an oral history worth reading 10 years from now.” The film currently has a 30 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Just to put that into perspective, the nightmarish children’s film Minions (2015) has a 56 percent rating. This shows that critics clearly have absolutely no love for this film. However, while I usually like to take into account the reaction of critics when deciding whether or not to buy tickets to a movie, this time, I paid the majority of them no heed.

This past weekend, I decided to listen to one reviewer in particular, Nick Schager of the Daily Beast, who wrote on Tom Hardy’s performance in the film saying “Far more entertainingly off-the-wall is Hardy, who appears to be channeling Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider via Jim Carrey in The Mask.” This, I’ll admit, enticed me. Nicholas Cage, perhaps ironically, is one of my favorite actors. I can guarantee that whenever you enter a theater showing a film that is starring Cage, you will leave entertained. Confused perhaps, disturbed perhaps, but always entertained. Sometimes, critics get so caught up in the mechanics of film – the mise-en-scene, the politics, the cinematography – that they forget the most important goal of a movie; to entertain. While the critics score on Rotten Tomato score was low for Venom, the audience score was an 89 percent. This large discrepancy demonstrates a common issue among film critiques. Films are not just made for critics, they are made for the general public. And while we should pay attention to what professional movie watchers think of films, and while we should hold the film industry to a high standard, we shouldn’t forget what film is all about.

Tom Hardy gave an insane performance in this movie. One scene involving a lobster tank stands out most vividly in my mind. I have no idea if Tom Hardy was doing a good job, but I can say that he was most definitely putting in work. Sony most assuredly got their money’s worth out of him. Yes, the script was horrible; no one had a backstory, Sony didn’t own the rights to the character of Spiderman so Venom’s character had no real agency, and there was once again a comic book love interest played by Michelle Williams who had no purpose outside of her status as a prize for the main character. Critics are right to take notice of these things. But they are wrong to ignore the fun of the film; the fight scenes made no sense, but they were exciting, there was a ridiculous, but amazing kiss between Venom and Hardy, and the special effects for the most part were amazing.

So the question remains; was Venom a good movie? Unclear. Was it a bad movie? Probably. Was it fun? Yes. And if you have nothing else to watch this weekend, it’s not a bad way to burn 10 dollars.

“Venom is not a good movie, but I also want to make it clear that I had the time of my life watching it.”

– Mike Ryan (UpRoxx)


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Thalia Badio

Screenwriting/Producing and Creative Writing

OU 2019′

A Trip to Flavertown Amidst Political and Emotional Strife

Last weekend when you logged onto Facebook, you were probably met with a barrage of delighted posts from your Mom and your Mom’s friends, all excitedly chattering about a new wave of Hallmark films in production. Hallmark released the titles of over 20 new upcoming projects recently. These women wait around all year for the mundane sense of muted joy they find from these cheaply made, plotless, emotionally exploitive movies. After a long day of work, many Americans just want to shut their brains off and feel easy, unadulterated pleasure. The same can be said for your aunt obsessed with the HGTV lineup. Or maybe your unmarried cousin who watches Say Yes to the Dress religiously and has an entire Pinterest page dedicated to a marriage to someone that doesn’t exist yet. Or possibly your uncle who secretly loves the Housewives of Atlanta and pretends to watch the game downstairs when he’s really catching up on the juicy details about last week’s extramarital affair.

Every type of person in this country has their own personal brand of reality TV poison and over 200 channels to choose from. For the average college student, this may seem ridiculous, a waste of time perhaps. However, this year is a time for something new, it’s time to join in on something many of us have left behind years ago; cable television.

The country is in crisis and every day the news appears to be getting more upsetting and less forgiving. There are Kavanaughs and Kanyes and the future looks dim. It is time for some self care and Christmas isn’t coming fast enough. In this time of uncertainty and madness comes the hardy, guttural laugh of TV’s most unusual and inviting host, Guy Fieri. This month, after you finish marching in protest, writing your paper, or finishing a draining night at the bars, curl up on the couch and watch the beauty of Chopped’s Halloween themed challenges. Take a minute to love yourself and take a trip to Flavertown, where Guy Fieri forces his contestants to wear animal-themed costumes all while trying to make a dish out of nothing but Ezekiel beans and candy corn. You won’t hear this very often in your life, but stop thinking for once. Let things slow down and take a minute to understand why your aunt loves something as uneventful as season 15 of The Voice.

In summary, make sure to register to vote, make sure to turn in the last homework assignment, but also, make sure to take care of yourself. Watch a wacky episode of some indistinguishable competition show on the Food Network for the upcoming Halloween season, you won’t be judged.


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‘Assassination Nation’ And the Devastation of the Comment Section

Assassination Nation is an indie, horror-thriller teen flick that premiered September 21, 2018 in theaters across the country. It was selected back in January to be shown at the Sundance Film Festival and has been sparking controversy ever since. When production companies NEON and Refinery29 tried to market the film on Facebook and YouTube, the platforms refused due to the violent nature of the film and its intended teen audience. Nevertheless, the film was released. However, it took a major blow due to poor advertising. The movie only made around $1 million during its opening weekend. Despite the fact that this film didn’t make very much money, or gain very much attention, it is still worth discussing, and not for the reasons you may think.

I should begin by saying, I don’t think this is a movie worth watching. While in the movie theater myself, the few people present left in disgust of the excessive violence and exhibitionism the film indulged in. I’ll admit I eventually felt sick and left the theater too, but while I thought the film was inherently flawed, it left me with quite a lot to think about. There are many aspects of Assassination Nation that could be analyzed; it’s feminist agenda, trans representation or excessive violence. But what made this movie thought provoking had less to do with the mechanics, or obvious themes. This film drew on some of the best conventions of the psychological thriller genre which aims to show audiences an ugliness that lies inside them. This movie did just that, and it was incredibly disturbing.

Assassination Nation is a sort of retelling of the Salem Witch trials. In the town of Salem, a mysterious hacker is releasing the information and internet history of select individuals who are then thrown on a sort of trial on the web. These people are crucified for what is found such as nude pictures, texts to family, and secret blog posts. When characters lives are put on display, the community acts out in the most horrible way: violence and hatred that eventually lead to an all out war. Again, the film takes things too far on multiple occasions, there are graphic depictions of suicide and murders that have no place in a film made for teens. But what the film does best, which other movies like Nerve (2016) tried to do, is point out the ugly side of the internet and the effect it is having on communities and the nation at large.

On social media sites like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, people have the ability to say disturbing, threatening, and evil things to people that encourage racism, bullying, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, and homophobia. Before social media, there were people who thought evil things in this world, there have always been bad people, but now everybody gets a platform to spew their hate and it’s taking a toll on the nation’s psyche. With every comment on Facebook, the world is becoming more divided. There have been comments that have lead to suicides, ruined careers, and torn apart relationships. This is something that is horrible to think about and left me with a pit in my stomach as I exited the theater.

While Assassination Nation has many flaws and takes many issues to an extreme, it brings to light an ugliness that lives inside America that is getting more sour and rotten by the day. Assassination Nation ends in death, with the majority of the town wiped out after the trials. I hope, for our country’s sake, that we can find a better way to deal with the hatred that lurks on the internet because it is sure to soon infect the world outside of the screens on our phones.  

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The Problematic Profits Behind Netflix’s Young Adult Content


You’ve probably noticed an increase in the number of obnoxious teen romances under the “trending” section of your favorite streaming service’s homepage recently. The trailers feature similar patterns: narration from a misunderstood and ostracized high school student, an overwhelming amount of synth pop, a tone-deaf social commentary and some type of forced minority representation. Each month, another one of these poorly made films or TV shows are rushed off the assembly line. Each month another scandal erupts, bringing more attention and more views to the lazy and reckless content. Netflix has created a perfect algorithm involving low budget set designs, cheap and naive cast members, easily manipulated, small-time directors, and badly executed themes about eating disorders, sexual assault, politics of sexuality, and mental illness. It’s profitable, it’s destructive, and it’s absolutely genius.

Netflix’s first big time hit in teen content was of course 13 Reasons Why. This show had a cast of unknown actors and the backing of executive producer, teen idol, and former Disney Channel star Selena Gomez. The show, which is based on a popular novel of the same name, is about a young girl, Hannah Baker, dealing with depression. She leaves several tapes for her peers detailing her traumas and blaming them for her eventual death. The show also includes a graphic depiction of rape and suicide. When the series was first released it resulted in an uproar of criticism and spectacle from tween magazines such as J-14 to critically acclaimed news outlets like the New York Times. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, wrote an article bashing the teen show’s depiction of depression, warning that it was harmful to young audiences. Despite, or perhaps because of this storm of controversy, the show became wildly popular with young people everywhere who began binging the show in droves. Netflix heard the critics, the enraged parents, and the psychological professionals who said the show was dangerous and wrote the second season anyway.

Next came the show Insatiable, about a high school girl, Fatty Patty, who is bullied about her weight until she is attacked by a homeless man. This event results in her mouth being wired shut. Patty is able to lose the weight and becomes a vengeful beauty queen determined to use her new found beauty as a way of getting back at the people who bullied her. This show, like 13 Reasons Why, carelessly simplifies serious issues like a binge eating disorder which is boiled down to a punchline and pedophilia that’s waved off as satire. Again a wave of controversy ensued leading to the berating of the director and actors, the pawns of the Netflix empire, who were harassed online. Netflix heard the critics from afar, saw the outcry from teens struggling with eating disorders, disregarded the comments about statutory, and made plans for a second season.

This pattern has happened again and again with movies like The Kissing Booth; a low budget film based off of a Wattpad story about a girl in an arguably abusive relationship with her best friend’s controlling older brother. Again, in Dude, a pathetic excuse for a film where teens consider using drugs as a personality trait. Also, another rape scene is poorly handled. Again, in Sierra Burgess is a Loser, when a young woman decides to catfish an unsuspecting classmate. She even engages in non-consensual acts with him after weeks of manipulation and stalking.

These films are horrible influences for young audiences and they draw on tropes and cliches that should have long since been left in the past. It is irresponsible of Netflix to continue to create these films despite how enticing the money looks. Sierra Burgess is a Loser was written and filmed in just over a month. In that same amount of time, Netflix could have bothered to write a story that was just as cheesy and low-budget, but with a script that wasn’t controversial and didn’t reinforce negative ideas about body types and romantic relationships. One of Netflix’s better movies To All the Boys I Loved Before, did just that. The movie was simple, heart-warming and featured some much needed Asian representation in the mainstream film industry. This movie was just, as if not more, popular than Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Hopefully, Netflix will take note of the success that can come with decent and thematically sound teen content.

[synth-pop plays]

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