Reality Bites; Film Should, Too

A scene from Warner Bros.’ “Gangster Squad,” which will be removed from the final cut due to its likeness to the July shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

We fear bullets. We fear emptiness. We fear life. We fear death.

But in an age of overwrought political correctness, astronomically ridiculous all-inclusivity, and children who get medals simply for “participating” in a little league game, our biggest fear seems to be insensitivity.

A month ago in Aurora, Colorado, a gunman entered a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s fantastic conclusion to his three-part social parable also known as a Batman trilogy. He opened fire, killing twelve people. That’s a reality.

The fiction of the films, however, are so much more than an glorification of violence. Nolan speaks to us on readily understandable levels of cinematic comprehension, albeit begging, in his own right, for small scale social revolution filtered through a pair of black tights and a pointy-eared mask.

The media began a connection between the film and the shootings, often calling the incident the “Batman Movie Massacre” or “The Dark Knight Tragedy;” headlines seeking to link a very tangible act of terror with the impressionistic experience of going to the movies.

In the weeks prior to the shooting, Warner Bros. Pictures was running ads for its period film, Gangster Squad, as it was set to be released in late September of this year. The film boasts an impressive cast including Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, and Sean Penn. From the looks of the trailer, it’s a beautifully shot film with impressive sets, costumes, and explosive action. Near the end of the trailer, we see a few armed men enter a movie theater from behind the screen, tearing through it and opening fire on the audience. At no point during the trailer (the first time I saw it was prior to the Aurora shootings in a packed theater) did anyone seem to show any sort of concern for the victims of the onscreen shooting. Nor did they seem alarmed when the trailer ended without the perpetrators being apprehended for killing anyone in that theater. The film is fiction, and the audience accepts that.

Following the Aurora shooting the ad was pulled. The film was placed into “release limbo,” and reshoots were deemed necessary out of respect for the victims of the Aurora shooting. The scene (which was gorgeous, at least from what I could gather from the trailer) is cut from the film, replaced with something completely different (hey, Monty Python) when the film sees release in early 2013.

Not only are the film’s Oscar chances severely dashed (early year and mid-year releases hardly ever see a nomination), but an entire artistic endeavor was compromised for nothing. Are we to the point in our society that we can no longer accept fiction for being fiction, and must begin distorting fiction to make us feel better about our reality? Although Fox News viewers would have you believe otherwise, the majority of the American public is smart enough to understand the difference between a news report and a scene staged for a film. A reshoot will not bring back the victims of the Aurora shooting, nor will it make the memory of the shooting any less impactful.

Life and death happen. If anything, movies are the first ones to tell us that. If cinema didn’t contain death, it would be entirely too difficult to suspend our disbelief. We engage with films because of their likeness to our reality. A world without death is a world not grounded in reality and difficult to accept. Bullets kill people. Sometimes in a movie theater. That’s part of life. It happened. And to compromise a film’s plot and an artist’s vision simpy because it coincides with our “reality” at any given moment does not, in fact, erase our reality.

Perhaps HBO Films should have shelved the release of 2001’s Wit ,a brilliant drama revolving around one woman’s battle with cancer, because countless millions are infected with the disease worldwide. Perhaps we would have forgotten about World War II if Saving Private Ryan never saw the light of day. Perhaps your 90-year old grandmother with Alzheimers will remember who you are if you don’t watch Away From Her. Ignoring reality in cinema is propaganda. And, in this case, an insult to the victims in Aurora.

But maybe, just maybe, you’ll actually remember to go see Gangster Squad now because Warner Bros. has successfully associated it with the tragedy, sending news outlets clamoring to the sets of reshoots to inform you that you’re being compromised.

And the day we start compromising escapist fantasy, ladies and gentleman, is the day we truly die.

“Top Model”-gate; Bianca, Shannon, respond; WHAT DA $*#& HAPPENED!?


It was a fitting conclusion, the “America’s Next Top Model: All Stars” finale was. The aftershocks of which are currently rippling through the entertainment industry. By “entertainment industry” I mean the 18 gays and their hags (and those on the RTV + IMDB forums, holla!) who still watch this shit (The CW’s core demographic, you know).

 “Top Model” has cemented itself as part of a dying breed of reality programs aimed at authenticating a weekly “competition,” validating its winner with the promise of household name status. We’ve seen them come and go on “Making the Band,” release-and-drop from a label on “Idol,” hawk a collection on and fade away into some costume design gig for local theatre post-“Runway”. But “Top Model” has always taken the cake for showcasing some of the most rotund of egos out there, regardless of their post-show “work” including an AppleBottoms spread as its biggest accomplishment (I’m looking at you, Jade) or a successful career in something that isn’t…well…modeling (I throw a side eye to you, Ms. Yaya).

Sadly, “All-Stars” did nothing but reaffirm that this is a show whose battle cry has been reduced to the sounding off of its various contestants via Twitter, which ultimately happens to be far more entertaining than anything that’s happened to “Top Model” all year (yes, I’m looking at you too, Cycle 16). Although that whole “Lisa popping up on the wrong side of the pool” thing was fucking tight).

The “All-Star” season was nothing more than a platform which gave already self-inflated (attached to under-producing “models”) egos the impression that they’re actually entitled to a place in an industry the “competition” suggested they were part of. 14 “icons” (as some of their Twitter account biographies self-proclaim) duked it out in an all-out exploitation of why “Top Model” hasn’t worked for about 5 years now (I realize that’s a generous overstatement).

If this show were anything at all about modeling, there wouldn’t be an “America’s Next Top Model” at all. Modeling isn’t something you can “reward” week after week. You have a model’s face, proportions, height, etc. or you don’t. You’ll most certainly never have to record your own single (Banks herself will be the first one to tell you that’s not a good idea… “Shake Ya Body,” anyone?) , produce a fragrance, or validate your own flag-football/hot dog designing/salad bowl posing skills (I kid you not; each of these was a challenge on cycle 17).

The aftermath of last night’s crowning of Lisa D’Amato as the ultimate “Top Model” All-Star (which basically just means a free Express campaign, Vogue Italia Spread, and “Guest” correspondent job on “Extra”) was met with a slathering of loathsome comments unto Tyra’s Facebook page. Twitter exploded. The forums ignited. The Allicats hissed.

And Angelea apparently peaced.

You see, a quick bit of editing post-ridiculous runway challenge (note to all aspiring models; you’ll never have to do anything remotely close to that) incriminated Angelea as…well…something.

 “She just didn’t seem right,” Lisa said, mentioning something further about Angelea’s uneven behavior and “racing” heart. We’re shown the diva in question demonizing herself, mug plastered with a blank stare in some spliced (what was undoubtedly shot as) B-roll I’m sure she was entirely unaware would later be used to incriminate her as some sort of drug addict (which I’m sure the producers wanted us to think).

Cut to commercial.

We return on panel, the usual post-runway judging that would involve the three contestants we, you know, left at the runway. But that’s not the case; Tyra and Nigel announce that Angelea has been disqualified. Some dribble about producers “finding something out” that rendered her ineligible to compete.

“We’re back in LA for a special judging,” Tyra says. “We decided it would be best to evaluate Lisa and Allison’s work in a separate judging that does not involve Angelea.” Lisa and Allison appear before us as if nothing had ever happened. Actually, Allison’s you-can-totally-tell-what-she’s-thinking-at-all-times face sort of read “Tyra be stealin’ cookies from da jar, I know, but I ain’t tellin’ ‘cept fo’ a lil raised eyebrow.

Time clearly passed, though. Enough time for Lisa to get a haircut and Allison’s eyebrows to return to a normal shade of brown as opposed to the horrendous shade of blonde they’d been dyed in Greece.

Rumors abound that Angelea initially won the competition in Crete, blabbed about the win to someone (press, Facebook, Twitter…who knows), was stripped of her title, refused to show up for the re-shoot (where Lisa would have won) and was then disqualified.

 This wouldn’t be entirely unconventional, especially not by “Top Model” standards. I mean, Angelea was the only bitch on this show who was actually eating right the fuck out of Tyra’s stretched (gloved, no doubt—commonfolk germs spread easy, you know) stigmata-plagued (in her own mind) hand. Tears, like, actual legit tears were shed by Angelea over the most minute of slip-ups this cycle. She took this shit seriously, bawling harder than when we first met her (under extremely unfortunate circumstances) three years ago. “This means so much to me,” she’d commonly spout. Clearly.

Can’t say the same for Allison, on the other hand, who couldn’t have given the slightest hint of a fuck (“Today you’re shooting with *insert no-name photographer here*! *other girls jump, Allison remains motion/expressionless*) about this whole damn thing (every judging, her face read an equal “you mean I have to fucking stay again?”).

Lisa was the most logical choice for a winner based on the “All-Star” format right from the get-go. She was vocal about using this to promote herself (“This win will be a great platform to advertise my new album!” she says), understanding the show for what it is and relishing in all its trashy exploitation. It’s just too bad she spent years trashing the show in interviews “We were all Tyra’s little monkeys” she said in an feature).

That point holds true when you examine Janice Dickinson’s surprisingly candid (actually, I’m more surprised it took her this long to finally admit it) interview yesterday, where she told Tyra to “suck a bag of stank,” revealing that CoverGirl actually picked the “Top Model” winner. It was rather difficult to discern who the eternal-bitchface CoverGirl rep “liked” last night (she seemed “tolerant” of Lisa, at best) but Angelea’s not-seen-on-the-show-but-still-leaked-to-the-public shot was, by technical standards, the best “CoverGirl” shot of the bunch.

Shannon Stewart claims the finale was taped in Crete (“I flew back with the girls..they did not reshoot the finale” she boasted on Twitter a few hours ago). Unbeknownst to her, Tyra actually said they were filming the finale in LA on last night’s show (What the fuck other reason would they have to fly back to LA for the finale MINUS Angelea? Calling attention to this was the huge mistake here).

Bianca Golden was quick to side-eye bitchslap Stewart’s comments to the ground (still waiting for Shannon’s obligatory “don’t crucify me” response to Biancus Pilate), telling her to “shut up” (burn) and revealing that she “knows” what really happened. To unlock the secret? She needs 20,000 followers by tomorrow (the thirst for publicity is never quenched, apparently).

Even Isis took the opportunity to sound off smack dab in the middle of this profound war of propheticism. “Producers promised us (decoys) would be shown in finial [sic] runway show.. cant believe it until you see it, and I hear it wasnt shown #antm” [sic, once again, one giant sic on this whole fucking thing]. She apparently didn’t get the memo about other more important matters, but this deserved a shout out in its own aloof absurdity as well.

First of all, I can’t stop thinking about is how fucking awful Allison has to feel right now. What was that production call like? “Umm…we have to reshoot you losing again…again.” And I’m not talking about “awful” as in “sad” but as in “I FUCKING THOUGHT THIS SHIT WAS OVER” (did you see the look of relief on her face last night?).

To be honest, I really don’t know what to make of this whole thing. The show shot itself in the foot after the first season, when the Jades, the Lisas, and the Angeleas ensured that no one from this show would ever be taken seriously in the modeling industry. I guess arguing about this kind of thing is like trying to bitch about what type of cancer is worse. There’s really nothing “good” that can come out of either side.

But right in the middle of it all is Lisa, happy as a clam.

“You’re all all-stars and stars to me,” she said on Twitter today.

Hearts and smiles, I suppose. I suppose your very own Italian Vogue spread that you can dangle over their heads will do that to you.