Some movies bomb, while others F-bomb

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The Wolf of Wall Street’ breaks record with most fucks said in film

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan 14,2014

How did it happen that we now live in a world where the movie with the highest number of F-bombs dropped is not in a gangster movie, serial killer flick, or even a buddy comedy, but rather a film about stockbrokers?

There is no argument around Martin Scorsese’s prowess as a filmmaker, and that any key choices made in the film were well-calculated and thought-out. I’m certain he knew he was going to break some record. After all, he has shown affection for characters with dirty mouths in his other movies with high “fuck” counts: Casino with 422, Goodfellas with 300, and The Departed with 237.

When profanity is used appropriately in film, it has the same effect as a nicely timed edit or a tension-building film score. You don’t even notice it, because you’re so enthralled by the film itself. Odds are, while sitting through The Wolf of Wall Street, you weren’t tallying the number of “fucks”—instead, the fast-paced movie probably kept your attention for most of the three hours. But hey, I’m not writing a review; I’m just wondering what 506 fucks in 180 minutes would do to me. Turns out, nothing, because I’m used to it.

Swear words are so common these days that it feels a little ridiculous to even call attention to them. You hear them at sporting events and on the streets, you read them on the Internet and social media, and of course, they fill the airwaves every time the television is turned on. Shit happens and apparently, so does fuck.

I hope there will soon be actors mimicking Matthew McConaughey’s beautiful yet brutish monologue, or Leonardo DiCaprio’s fuck-filled narration—it really is a shame that The Wolf of Wall Street, pending Academy Awards, will be remembered for another fuckin’ accolade.

It’s not a contest or anything and a movie’s objective is not to reach arbitrary milestones such as the one The Wolf of Wall Street has achieved. A movie is entertainment, and the only way to entertain is to get the audience engaged in the story. How do you keep an audience engaged? The writer must be honest when writing the script, creating truth in the situations and the characters; and the filmmaker must have courage to follow through. Would the movie be any less if it only had 435 fucks like in Spike Lee’s 1999 New York serial killer movie, Summer of Sam? Probably not—not any significant difference at least—but I know a censored version of both those movies would be unwatchable.

Which leads me to the next question: how long will it be until we get to see the next cuss-filled movie to overtake The Wolf of Wall Street? It’s hard to say, there is no particular trend. Since the early ‘90s, filmmakers have been taking more chances by incorporating risky language, while being governed by the motion picture rating system that limits their audience. Because swearing is such a common part of modern life, I can’t imagine it taking too long.

Google alert

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Will search engine censorship track criminals or create them?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. Nov. 2013

The three titans of the Internet, Google, Microsoft Bing, and Yahoo!, are developing an ethical way to ban perverse searches, most notably links to child pornography and abuse content. At one point, Google and Bing echoed one another in saying the regulation “couldn’t and shouldn’t be done.” They have finally given in with a little arm-twisting from David Cameron, the British prime minister, who threatened to bring in a new legislation if the search engines did not take steps towards the solution. Now with over 100,000 illegal search queries blocked, one must ask: are we in fact closer to solving the problem, or have we just closed the door and opened a window?

Google admits that “no algorithm is perfect” when seeking out sexual predators and abuse offenders; still, the search engine has selected 13,000 queries to include a warning, which states that what the user has searched for is illegal and offers suggestions for help. The problem is those users aren’t searching for help; they are seeking pleasure and release—and they’ll get it one way or another. As soon as these offenders recognize the trap doors of the Internet, they will find loopholes and alternatives, perhaps ones that are more dangerous and damaging.

There is a global consensus that child pornography and abuse is an abhorrent crime and that it should be banned, but the Internet should be a platform of unlimited information. The difficulty is finding the balance between blocking too much and too little. How do we let the researchers research, while creating restrictions for the perverts?

The search engines will have to decide how far they are willing to push the ban. If pedophiles start using unrelated keywords to communicate, does that mean innocuous words will be banned as well? Slang words are born every day, and to try to track each and every one is a lost cause. Dr. Joss Wright, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institution, made a valid point saying that users can start referring to abuse images as “cake”—you cannot block the word “cake” from searches.

It’s also important to remember that Google, Bing, and Yahoo! are just companies providing a service—they are not the Internet at large. The dirty images can still be uploaded and shared through peer-to-peer sites, and experts agree that that is the common interaction between Internet pedophiles.

This new firewall might stop a few perpetrators, but these big companies need to watch their step, because they’re headed towards a slippery slope. Consider all the illegal content in the world and then consider the depths of the Internet. Our freedom to search the web may be greatly hindered if authorities truly believe that blocking links is the key solution. You wouldn’t ban the use of cars if drug dealers were transporting contraband on wheels. The same goes for the Internet. This blockade is far from the solution—if anything, it’s a mere detour.