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SAM MCMANIS; THE NEWS TRIBUNE Last updated: March 13th, 2005 02:40 AM
True story, I swear. Or, rather, I don’t swear.
A Washington Post reporter, flying to Europe recently, settled in for the in-flight movie, the Oscar-nominated “Sideways.” There on the screen was actor Thomas Haden Church calling someone an “Ashcroft.”
Now, we all know that studios dub out profanity when films are shown on airplanes or cable, and it appears that Fox Searchlight Pictures folks replaced a popular seven-letter profanity dealing with a bodily orifice with the last name of our former attorney general. They did it twice, actually, in Haden Church’s voice.
Oh, those decadent Hollywood liberals. They can be total “Ashcrofts” on occasion. And I’m not “Rumsfelding” around with you on that, either.
But it appears as if the morals police, of which Ashcroft is chief emeritus, has gotten its revenge on the film industry. They are just one House of Representatives vote and one George W. Bush signature away from allowing far more sweeping and troubling changes to be made to DVDs of your favorite movies.
Instead of euphemistic dubbing out of profanity, legislators are about to approve a bill that would let DVD makers and software companies edit out swear words, sex scenes, smoking, violence, drinking and suggestive dancing from DVDs. It’s called the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, and it’s got Director’s Guild members so mad that they are “Cheneying” bricks.
The directors and studios had filed copyright suits to stop outfits such as CleanFlicks, which in a dozen states has stores that rent cut-and-paste versions of films, and ClearPlay, a Utah-based software firm that markets a DVD player with the capability of turning R-rated movies into PG fare. In response, Congress offered up legislation to supersede the suits. The bill passed the Senate last year and, on Wednesday, sailed through the House Judiciary Committee.
“These days, I don’t think anyone would even consider buying a DVD player that doesn’t come with a remote control,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) told The Associated Press. “Yet, there are some who would deny parents the right to use an equivalent electronic device to protect their children from offensive material.”
Hold on. Parents already have a filter for racy or gory DVDs. It’s called the on/off button on the remote. Or it’s reading the back of the DVD for the ratings warning and not renting a “suggestive” movie in the first place.
But no, parents cannot be trusted to exercise common sense and not rent “Scarface” for their second-graders. They must have existing movies scrubbed clean of filth – and, in some cases, the crux of its meaning.
Soon, every flick from “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” to “Inside Deep Throat” will be sanitized for our protection. Picture the ClearPlay version of “Kill Bill: Vol. I”: 68 seconds, max. Or the famous horse’s head scene in “The Godfather,” replaced with a cellophane-wrapped flank steak from Safeway. Gee, if the drinking ban were imposed on “Sideways,” pinot noir would be replaced with Welch’s Grape Juice.
One of the most heinous examples of ClearPlay censorship is how it has “edited” the historical biopic, “Frida.” In the ClearPlay version, any hint of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s bisexuality is snipped away. That scene in which Salma Hayak, as Frida, and Ashley Judd slither on the dance floor and kiss?
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently obtained a version of “Swordfish,” the Halle Berry flick in which her breasts make brief cameo appearances in two shots. “But,” the paper wrote, “instead of cutting just those shots out, the filter eliminates the entire minute-long conversation between her and Hugh Jackman.” And, it confuses the plot.
On its Web site, ClearPlay’s mission statement is to provide “a tool that parents can use to help reduce content they might find objectionable.”
To me, it smacks of imposing someone else’s values on the masses. It also is altering art – the Director’s Guild’s main beef. When you eliminate a two-minute scene of naked and bereft Holocaust victims in “Schindler’s List,” you are taking away powerful images put there for a reason.
Call me an “Ashcroft,” but this is censorship, pure and simple, and it’s wrong.
i only saw it once so my suggestive notions are at bay here....
but i thought he said ashcroft on purpose? he may have said asshole ...
i don't know, I recall much profanity and a scene of joint smoking.
so what's the deal then, similar to CDs, movies will come edited for content now? There's no reaosn that the dirty versions wouldn't still be available...the only danger is if video rental places start giving out edited versions and us ignorants rent them without knowing better...
similar to how so many deluded people buy CDs from wal-mart. i've got news for you... violence in movies is DAMAGING.... consentual sex is, for the most part, NOT! Neither is profanity......
it's the violence that these ashcrofts need to go after.
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