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News Bites: Blindness Protest, The Graysons, Sherlock Holmes, Kung Fu Panda 2

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As I always try to look for some new way to expand my offerings, I have decided to keep an eye out across the world of entertainment news and try my hand at news reporting/commentary on stories that catch my eye. Obviously, I cannot cover everything, nor will I be able to cover most of it, or much of it at all. What I will do is catch whatever I can as I can and hope that it delivers something new to you.

Blindness Sparks Protests

According to a story on IMDb, the National Federation of the Blind are protesting the release of the film Blindess. In the film an epidemic robs people of their sight resulting in a collapse of society.

Marc Maurer, president of the NFB, is quoted as saying: "The movie portrays blind people as monsters and I believe it to be a lie. The NFB condemns and deplores this film, which will do substantial harm to the blind of America and the world. Blind people in this film are portrayed as incompetent, filthy, vicious, and depraved. They are unable to do even the simplest things like dressing, bathing, and finding the bathroom. The truth is that blind people regularly do all of the same things that sighted people do."

I can understand the desire to ensure that a work of fiction does not do damage to real world issues, but I also don't believe in jumping headlong into protesting something that is not fully understood. Now, I am speaking generally and do not mean to imply that these protests are without merit, I just feel that all too often these protests have nothing to do with the content of said film and more to do with forwarding an agenda.

I have not yet seen Blindness, but I think it looks excellent, and with director Fernando Meirelles' track record (The Constant Gardner, City of God), I am apt to give him the benefit of the doubt with regard to film quality. As for the content and portrayal of the blind, the people in the clips that I have seen have just lost their sight. I find it hard to believe that they would be well adjusted enough to function normally. Also, this is an epidemic, and so it should be completely understandable that things could turn ugly as they become more frightened.

All I can really say is that we need to wait and see the finished film before jumping to conclusions. Besides, the book has been around since 1995 — was it protested then?

Robin – Batman = The Graysons

Variety is reporting that Warner Brothers and The CW are beginning development on a new pre-superhero series. The show, tentatively titled The Graysons, takes a look at Dick Grayson and the years before he dons a cape and mask as Robin, Batman's famous sidekick.

The series is being developed as a potential replacement for Smallville, which may be on its way out. It could also be used as something of a sister series should Smallville continue past this season. The funny thing is, if you asked me about the Clark Kent show last year, I would have told you I wanted it gone; however, through the first couple of episodes this season, I feel like it has stronger focus and is actually better. It doesn't hurt that Kristen Kreuk's Lana is gone; man, her character got annoying.

Anyway, The Graysons will follow the same pattern as Smallville, following young Dick as he makes his way in the world before becoming a costumed hero. I wonder just how young they plan on going? I would assume high school age, but how long will they be able to go before they introduce Bruce Wayne? I would think the Batman would have to appear in some form on the show.

In the end, all I hope for is that it is better than the failed Aquaman pilot. I also must admit that I would be interested in a Green Arrow themed spinoff.

Sherlock Holmes Begins Production

According to, the latest take on Sherlock Holmes has commenced principal photography in London. Frankly, I had no idea it was this close to rolling; I feel like I was just writing about the potential Watson casting. Well, I guess it does not matter, it just means we are closer than I thought to seeing it on the big screen.

The film is based on a new story by Lionel Wigram, inspired by the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tales. It will have Holmes facing off with a new foe named Blackwood. It is said that this tale will allow Holmes to display his exceptional fighting skills in addition to his intellect. Of course, this has been interpreted to mean that this will be an action oriented film that will not truly display the intelligence of the lead character. Time will tell if this true.

The cast looks good, and it will be interesting to see how well they fill their roles. Robert Downey Jr. is Holmes, Jude Law is at his side as Watson, Rachel McAdams is Irene Adler, the only woman to ever best the sleuth, and Mark Strong takes the Blackwood part. In the director's chair is Guy Ritchie, whose latest, Rocknrolla, is heading into theaters.

Kung Fu Panda 2 Is Heading Our Way

I guess it was only a matter of time, but Slash Film is reporting that Kung Fu Panda 2 is coming our way and already has a release date. June 3, 2011 will see the continued adventures of Po and the Furious Five.

The film proved to be a big hit, with a box office of more than $215 million. When a film is making that kind of coin, it is only a matter of time before they try to make a sequel out of it. The question is, does the source material have enough substance to support a second story? I think that Kung Fu Panda does. I mean, it is not really set up for an obvious sequel, but the characters are good enough to build upon.

Jack Black and Angelina Jolie have signed on to reprise their voices and it is expected that all of the principals will return for round two. Screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger are also signed to pen the sequel.

I liked the film and found it to be, possibly, the best film from Dreamworks Animation. It has a good story, good characters, and it is funny. Hopefully the second will have similar quality.

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  • Paul

    Copy of a Letter I sent to NFB Public Relations:
    Good Afternoon Mr. Danielsen,

    I have no affiliation with this movie whatsoever, but felt compelled to write you about your protest.

    I fear that your organization has missed the entire point of this movie and are protesting it based on a misguided premise. You claim that the movie portrays blind people negatively, but please understand the situation that these characters find themselves in. People with normal sight their entire lives that suddenly and without warning lose their sight would not be able to do those basic things that you mentioned. They would be consumed by fear, disorientation, confusion and a miriad of other emotions. They would be lost without the proper support, education and guideance that is provided to most blind people in our society by an organization like yours. In addition to this they are rounded up by the government and thrown into prison-like living conditions and deprived of food and any freedoms whatsoever. Blind or not, most people in this situation would succumb to their situation and become like the characters.

    I ask that you reconsider your nationwide protests due to the fact that your argument against this movie paints your organization as a misguided group of resentful people looking for somewhere to point your anger. Your ability and energy used to coordinate a protest should be put to use in a positive and productive manner that promotes the message you’re trying to get out. It’s not in your best interest to be on the “reactive” end of something that wasn’t a direct attack to you.

    I welcome your reply and appreciate your consideration.



  • Sarah

    Okay, I know this is really long, but I feel compelled to paste it here anyway. It’s worth the read if you are TRULY interested in why the blind are offended by the film AND the book (yes, they condemned the book when it came out and tried to discuss the movie with Miramax BEFORE it was made). This is what a blind friend wrote in response to the question of why the NFB was protesting and what the big deal about the movie is:

    It was written in the Colorado Springs Gazette, “Every person goes blind over the course of a few days,” Fibbs said of the film. “Society implodes overnight. That’s the point of the film – the frailty of mankind and our propensity for inhumanity. It’s a spiritual blindness, not a physical blindness that the film wishes to address.” The author himself also denied that physical blindness has any part to play in the over-arching meaning of his novel, and has said that protests against this film are “a display of meanness based on nothing at all.”

    I, too, have read the novel. You could not walk away from that book without understanding over-arching allegory about the inner-struggles and moral frailty of humankind. In protests over this novel and this film, I don’t see a denial of Saramago’s allegory. What I see is a challenge of his metaphor.

    I see this in the same light as I see the years of racial discourse over Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” While the literary style (and sheer volume) of the two novels are vastly different, both books take aim at what is left when the constructs of civilization are peeled away and all that is left is humanity in its basest form. Both are books that use a metaphorical construct of the “other” as the primary vehicle for plunging their readers into the psychological process of human degeneration. For Conrad’s contemporary readers, Africa was “The Dark Continent.” Those who picked up his novel in 1902 or read it in its magazine form in 1899 would have had an immediate, almost sub-conscious socially conditioned response to the setting of his novel. Conrad was master of the written word with an uncanny perception into humanity. He was also a white European male writing for an audience of the “same”: white Europeans. As such, he deftly understood the psychological impact that the use of “the other”— in this case the African continent and the African people— would have. Conrad needed a metaphor and a symbol that would evoke a primal emotive response from his readers as he contrasted the ideas of primitiveness, savagery, barbarism, brutality, and evil with notions of civilization, good, and morality in mankind.

    In the same way, Saramago also uses the “other”, in this case the blind, as the necessary metaphorical vehicle he needs in order to evoke a specific emotional and psychological response in readers as he crafts his statement on bad/good and the civilization of humanity. Blindness becomes essential to Saramago because the most crucial aspect to his degeneration and devolution of humanity is disorientation. He uses the concept of disorientation extensively as a literary technique and in turn to further an emotional understanding of the confusion, powerless, helplessness, degradation, and fear that comes from being disoriented. For this, Saramago *needs* to play specifically on our collective, deep-rooted societal understanding of blindness. A big part of societal fears of blindness, even on a sub-conscious level, *IS* the inability to orient oneself and inability to perceive and ascertain information without sight. It is *THIS* automatically understood fear that Saramago NEEDS in order for his novel to be able to psychologically lay bare his version of humanity and to have his readers follow with him. This is why he needs his central character, the heroine of the book and the literal “eye-witness” to retain her sight. This is why no other metaphor of dreaded disease, such as leprosy, or AIDS, or some made-up hypothetical contagion that would lead to a slow and horrific death, could suffice. Saramago *could* have likewise shown humanity-stripped bare in panic over a contagious disease; it has been a common context for many novels and films wishing to discuss the same issues that he is discussing in his novel. But none of those as a context works for his novel, because he is exploiting a very specific sense of loss and powerless, disorientation and fear that comes from the sighted culture’s understanding and presumptions about blindness. Saramago is not writing this novel for those who are blind, nor does he display a knowledge and psychological understanding of blindness and the implications of blindness from the perspective of those who are actually blind. Instead, he has written a novel for the sighted, sharing the same understanding and context of blindness as his readers. He uses “the other”
    as a metaphorical construct that those who share in his understanding of the “other” will instantly recognize.

    Now, FROM the perspective of “the other” comes a vastly different view. They do not share the same emotive and automatic fear-response that he has carefully embedded in his novel. “The other” gets to decide for themselves whether the depiction of THEMSELVES is something to be shared or rejected; something that is accurate or inaccurate. You cannot write about “the other”, using them as an object necessary to successfully transmit your themes to your readers, and then tell them they do not have a right to view your work differently than you do. It doesn’t mean they “don’t get it” or that they are “missing the point.” It is precisely by understanding your point *exactly* and “getting it” fully that they are able to deconstruct the validity of the author’s literary construct. Because reality is, if blindness was not viewed the way it is by sighted society, then the metaphor of physical blindness as it relates to de-civilization in this novel, would fail. It would not be a deep-seated psychological thriller making sighted individuals retrospective to the animalistic nature within us all; it would be something else. If the emotional and psychological response to blindness is necessary to make this novel successful at conveying its point, then the blind have a right to enter that conversation and respond to the view of THEMSELVES that is portrayed.

    To dismiss these critiques and literary deconstructions as “missing the point” or being “overly P.C.” is actually rejecting intellectual discourse in favor of knee-jerk, defensive posturing. Saramago’s response to the blind protesting his novel and movie is case-in-point. Saying they are showing a “display of meanness with no point at all” is the phrase of a man who is offended by the fact that others could be offended by his work. He is then doing precisely what he expects others to not do–be offended rather than understanding. Secondly, by saying there is “no point at all” in the response of the blind to his film and novel is to say he is neither or open nor receptive to the exact kind of examination-of-self that his book is supposed to lead to. The fact of the matter is that at the end of his novel, people get their sight restored at the end, as quickly as it left. The enduring hope in the goodness of mankind then prevails for those sighted individuals who read his novel and can see themselves in the journey from civilization to savage chaos and the regeneration of mankind. What then, is left for the blind reader who will has been blind and will remain blind long after the restoration of sight and civilization in his novel? Why is the blind reader supposed to *not* see his humanity bound in the physically blind in this novel, but only in the goodness and hope that sight provides?
    Why is it o.k. for Saramago to ask his blind readers to subject their sense-of-self to his depiction of their lives, but it is not acceptable to ask Saramago to subject his sense-of-self to theirs?

    At the end of the day, I can read his novel and understand why those with sight don’t get “the big deal.” While I personally have never been a big fan of his literary style, I can even “set-aside” myself and appreciate the larger metaphor and the skillful mastery he displays as he makes it. I can appreciate where critics and readers/movie-goers feel that bogging ourselves down in the minutiae of whether or not the blind can dress themselves or find the bathroom is “missing the point” of what the novel/film is trying to tell us. And to a degree, the practical specifics *are* missing the point. For the most part those reading his novel aren’t pondering whether or not blind people can dress themselves, or even necessarily believing that blind people can’t dress themselves. But, the larger themes of his novel are *absolutely* tied to a broad, immediate and even sub-conscious emotional fear of the disorientation and disempowerment of BEING blind. The feeling and fear that blindness leads to loss of fundamental human capacity is ABSOLUTELY necessary to this novel’s plot line and larger themes being believable and understandable. And the blind THEMSELVES, and those with intimate knowledge and understanding being blind from the perspective of those who are actually blind, have every right to discourse about the accuracy of that metaphor, and their feelings about being used allegorically to make points that may or may not be related to themselves.

    It is unfortunate that rather than being open to this kind of discussion, he simply dismissed the actions of the blind as angry individuals with nothing better to do with their time. It is unfortunate that those who dismiss the blind as “missing the point” demonstrate their own lack of understanding of the point that the blind are protesting for in the first place. And unlike Africans in post-colonial Africa and African-Americans in the United States deconstructing the use of race in literature, or women discussing the view of femininity in 21st Century American Politics, the blind make up such a small percentage of the population that their collective voice is not always heard, or respected, at the table. All the more reason for the blind to do whatever it takes to get their voice heard and their seats at the table, even if it means protesting.