Policing the police

Photo by Patrick Sison

Can we stand up against brutality without looking in the rearview mirror?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. November 18, 2015

On October 24, acclaimed director and writer Quentin Tarantino stood up at an anti-cop brutality rally, supported the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, and expressed his views on the damaging results of trigger-happy authorities.

When unarmed citizens are being shot down, it’s worth speaking up. It’s not a matter to be brushed away as collateral damage. The fear that many experience when being approached by a police officer is genuine. They have guns! Tarantino goes on in his speech, labeling officers who have killed unarmed civilians “murderers.” And perhaps that was what made the Fraternal Order of Police union put Tarantino in their crosshairs.

Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, in mafia fashion, issued this statement in response to Tarantino’s rallying speech: “Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element. Something could happen anytime between now and [theHateful Eight premiere]. And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable. The right time and place will come up and we’ll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that’s economically.” It’s a little freaky. It’s almost as if Pasco is an evil character in a Tarantino movie.

When a police official makes a threat to a public figure, it cannot be ignored. When I think of those people protecting and defending me, I don’t appreciate the fact that they use intimidation as one of their tactics. In addition, to say the police are going to “hurt” him economically is a petty attack. Apparently we are living in a world where we have the freedom to talk about whatever we want, except we aren’t allowed to criticize police. Apparently we live in a world where the police can act above the law and face little to no repercussion, and when civilians take arms and speak out—especially those in the public eye—they get accused for being slanderous. Then they get outright bullied.

The facts are there. There is no denying that unarmed citizens were killed. Instead of opening up and saying that the policing efforts will work to prevent these incidents from ever reoccurring, the police union—or rather the police mafia—in all boldness goes and threatens the work of an artist. In another example of this, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, announced that “it’s time for a boycott of Quentin Tarantino’s films.” Guess what? Boycotting a film is not going to stop cops from overreacting. It’s such a childish knee-jerk reaction to target the person who speaks up against the corrupted powers working to “protect” us. That is always the response police give when anyone questions policing methods. Civilians don’t understand how dangerous the job is for cops. But guess what? When you start turning against us for asking questions and demanding a response, we might start believing that you did all those awful things on purpose. So you tell me: whom am I supposed to believe?

Some movies bomb, while others F-bomb


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.

Entertainment references to stay, or E.T. phone home?


Formerly published in The Other Press. Mar. 26 2013

communication crutch

By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer

The wonderful world of entertainment has created a fictional place we can all live in. Sadly though, the matrix of our lives takes place not with Neo, but in the real world.

It might seem contradictory arguing against movie and television references by using one myself, but I just wanted to give an example of their effectiveness—or lack thereof. A big mistake is assuming everybody has the same taste and entertainment memory as you do. Since Seinfeld ended and The Simpsons did whatever it did, there hasn’t been a television show I could reference to get my exact point across. I try to stay well versed, watching a little of this and a little of that so I can hold my own in conversations, but few others do. Most are committed to a couple of television shows and a limited number of movies. Oftentimes, I use a quote and end up explaining the concept of the scene, the characters, and even the whole program itself.

But worse than having to explain a reference is having to listen to someone else explain one. “Have you seen the episode of the Big Bang Theory where…?” And I stare at them, my eyes glazed over as they try to paint the picture of Leonard doing something that resembles the situation we’re currently in. It’s unsettling watching a crowd happily discuss a television show you have no interest in or haven’t caught up on. You simply stand at the perimeter, lacking interest or fearful that your show will be ruined.

Similar to telling someone about your dream, referencing a movie the other person hasn’t seen isn’t even worth talking about. Sure, it can be a nice detour from the normal small talk of weather, traffic, and work, but like most detours, it’s only used when something is already broken: the conversation.

Getting a cheap laugh by referencing a Family Guy or South Park episode seems like fun, but the truth is it shows people your limited creativity. There are people at parties who are the centre of attention merely for memorizing Peter Griffin quotes, but nobody really cares about those people or finds them interesting.

If you want to reference something, make sure the person you are speaking to knows about it beforehand. If they don’t, don’t bother explaining it, because the magic is already lost. There is plenty to talk about, so don’t go on and on trying to describe the blonde guy from Clerks. You know… urgh… what’s his name? You know, you’ve seen it right? Let’s move on.