Monday, October 4, 2010

The DBIM and John Woo

[I'm late on entries, so here's an old piece I wrote for NPR's "Perspectives" series.  It's about birds dying.]

John Woo’s movie Paycheck is the most important film of the new millennium. I urge all of you to go see it now.

Sure, it has flaws. There are a number of plot holes, Uma Thruman should be prohibited by law from doing any more close-ups, and Ben Affleck acts like… Well… Ben Affleck, but it’s still groundbreaking. Why? In Paycheck Uma’s character has these two pet birds and, by the end of the film, they’re both still alive.

Okay, so birds dying in movies is hardly a pressing issue these days, what with Al Qaeda, morning after pills, and the upcoming presidential elections, but it’s a problem that has been growing for years. Today, every time you see a bird in a movie or a television show it will be eaten, blown up, set on fire, or suffer some gruesome death before the end credits roll.

Sure, there are exceptions. Disney movies are relatively safe. The postal owls in Harry Potter and giant falcons in The Lord of the Rings fare pretty well. For the most part, however, birds in cinema have the life span of scantily-clad teenage girls in early 80s horror flicks.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not just the birds; lots of animals get killed in films. However, birds get it worse than anything else. Lets take the Stuart Little movies as an example. At the end of first movie, the evil cats are defeated when they’re knocked into some cold water. At the end of the second movie, the evil bird is defeated when he gets eaten. That’s right, cats get wet; birds get killed. If this isn’t a blatant double standard, I don’t know what is.

I can’t say I entirely blame the people who make these movies. They’re torn between the desire to make their works more “edgy” while still keeping within the lucrative PG-13 rating. An easy solution is to kill an animal, but dog and cat owners tend to write angry letters. Bird owners like me have always been quiet and unassuming. At least, we were until now.

I urge all of you to join me in protesting the unnecessary avian violence in film. Call your representative! Write the movie producers! Email whoever the heck is in charge of these things!

And somebody give John Woo an Oscar.

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