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MUPPETS AND "CLEAN" MOVIES

August 2005


My apologies for not writing in a while. There have been two significant events in my life that have been taking up a lot of my time. My son was born in May, and anyone who has had kids knows what a newborn does to free time (in addition to a 5-year old). The other event that has been taking up much of my time can be summed up in two words: Battlefield 2.

The Muppets WILL Be In Widescreen

I wanted to give you some good news that wasn't good news until very recently. In late November, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Muppet Treasure Island will be released in both MAR and OAR formats.

I just got off the phone with Carla (who was incredibly pleasant, I might add) at Disney's Consumer Relations who said that the previous press release that stated that these movies would be in full-screen only was incorrect. She confirmed that there will indeed be widescreen releases of these DVDs in November.

This is particularly wonderful news since The Muppet Christmas Carol and (if I recall correctly) Muppet Treasure Island were shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Rumor has it that even Brian Henson was dismayed that those movies have only been released in MAR (full-frame) format.

Whether this change is truly due to a legitimate error in the original press release or not I don't know. Carla even admitted that they were fully aware that there was quite a stir on many Muppet web sites when it was announced that the DVDs were to be MAR-only. I'll give Disney the benefit of the doubt; but considering the way that Carla responded when I mentioned the stir that was caused from the initial press release, I believe that a widescreen release was not seriously considered the at the time of the first press release. Then the OAR tidal wave came in to Disney's Consumer Relations area.

Regardless, the movies are coming out in widescreen. That's all that matters.

Don't Clean Up My Movies

I recently received an e-mail from someone asking about my opinion of opposition to places like CleanFilms that take movies and “clean them up” based on their own moral standards. I've expressed my disdain for such organizations in the past (and I have reasons to believe that this particular e-mail was actually bait). Rather than rehash everything that I said, here is my reply in its entirety.

The only thing that I can say regarding opposition is to not purchase from them and to inform others to not purchase from them. The problem is that most people look at this as an issue of morality, which is at its core an emotional issue, whereas I look at it from the standpoint of principle and maintaining consistency with my anti-MAR beliefs. It's very difficult to argue a point based on ethics when the other person's argument is based on emotion. They're not mutually exclusive, of course, and many times they're intertwined, but that just increases the "delicate volatility" of this issue. Unfortunately, those who support it are viewed as wanting to impose their morality on everyone else while those who oppose it are often decried as immoral reprobates. I feel that both definitions are unjust, unwarranted, and unnecessarily polarizing.

The issue as far as I'm concerned is not the morality (or lack thereof) of the movies that are modified, but rather the usurping of the intent of the film makers. If the film makers wanted to make a family-friendly movie, they would have done so. It is, however, their right and their decision not to do so. Additionally, some directors, such as John Carpenter, are much more adept and visionary when it comes to movies of a specific genre, such as horror, that by their nature are not meant for kids or families.

It's not the place of companies like CleanFilm to second-guess anyone, particularly film makers who dedicate their lives to what they do. This to me is no different than those who second-guess the film makers by demanding a version of the movie that is framed differently than what the film makers intended so that they can have a full TV screen.

In my eyes, they're the same regardless of my position on nudity, violence, and language. Someone else has selfishly decided that the film makers were wrong and they've taken it upon themselves to "fix" the problem. No one (except for the film makers themselves) has the moral or ethical authority to decide that.

This is no different than you building your own midnight blue Corvette, painted and built to your preference and specifications by your own hands over the course of a year; however, someone whom you never met walks by and decides that you made the wrong color choice. So, the next day your Vette is painted a hot pink to "correct" your "mistake". You'd be furious, and rightfully so, because that's not what you envisioned nor wanted. It is your car; therefore, it is your place to decide how you want it to look.

Fortunately, it seems that Hollywood is getting the idea that family movies actually can do very well. Look at the string of successes from Pixar and Dreamworks to prove that.

Even if the film makers decide to sanitize their own works after their initial release, I accept that (even if I dislike it). At least the people who were responsible for making the movie were the ones who decided to modify it. The way that Steven Spielberg modified "E.T." or George Lucas modified his whole original trilogy are two prominent examples. I don't like the modifications. I think that they were completely unnecessary at best or disgustingly politically correct at worst. But the men who created those movies decided that they wanted to make the modifications. I have to respect that, even if I express vocally that I disagree with the decisions.

However, the reality is that no film maker is required to make movies that can appeal to families. As such, it is not CleanFilm's place to decide that any movie that they choose deserves to have a family-friendly version. That is second-guessing people whose lives revolve around the works that they create. That makes it just as abhorrent to me as having movies available in a modified aspect ratio, regardless of my personal beliefs with respect to nudity, language, or violence. It's not my movie. I have no right to demand that it be "cleaned up" to suit my tastes, nor does anyone else.

People do have the right to not purchase that movie at all, however. That *should* be sufficient for anyone.

I hope that answered your question.

As much as I try, I can't add any more to that. There are a number of movies that I would like to see but are what I would consider to be “excessively” bloody. There have been several movies that would have been great family films but had what I think were unnecessary nude scenes that didn't advance the story. Obviously, the film makers decided that such scenes of violence and nudity were acceptable. That's the way it is. I am under no obligation to buy or rent those movies.

That's all for now! Back to Battlefield 2.

Until next time...!