Wednesday, February 13, 2002

southern fimmaking
I’ve been reading Oxford American Magazine since their spring 2002 issue, which was the Southern-music issue, and was accompanied by a cd filled with some excellent music. Their Winter 2002 issue hit the shelves this week and its topic is Southern Movies. While we try to focus upon subjects related to Delaware or the law (or both) here, I really enjoyed an article from this issue of Oxford American by writer and filmmaker Gary Hawkins, called Chicken House Cinema.

Oxford American has nothing at all to do with the law, unless you consider that its founder and publisher is John Grisham, who is a former lawyer, and has written a few books with law-related themes. That’s a bit of a stretch though.

Delaware really has very little to do with the south, though some people consider it a southern state rather than a mid-atlantic state. Delaware is the only State in the union which is divided in half by a man-made waterway. The Delaware canal splits the State into a northern half, and a southern half. The area above the canal tends to be filled with more industry and offices than the agriculturally inclined southern half. And when I talk with someone from below the canal, I often detect a note of a southern accent in their voice. But that still doesn’t make Delaware a southern state

While you could probably fit the population of Delaware in Times Square on a new year’s eve and have room for a few-hundred thousand more people, in many ways, the population of Delaware is representative of the rest of the population of the country. People who study demographics tend to like to conduct surveys and polls in Delaware because of the way that results of Delaware-wide polls tend to echo the results of country-wide polls. Maybe we have a little southern attitude in that mix.

I think what I enjoyed about this article was that the author willingly took on a number of restraints in his craft to capture the local flavor of the region he was telling a story about with his filmmaking.

From Chicken House Cinema:

Oddly, the filmmakers who most strongly advocate regional filmmaking are Danish. A few years ago a movement called dogme (dogma) sprung to life in Denmark. It began as a joke, then it caught on. Their manifesto listed ten requirements that must be met if your film is to qualify as dogme-worthy. A few of them are:

(1) handheld cameras only; no tripods or dolly tracks.

(2) The cameras must remain near the action.

(3) Available light only.

And my favorite:

(4) No props can be brought to the set; only found props may be used.

When I read the full list of requirements, I thought, Well, that’s just what I need to make a better film, a litany of thou-shall-nots. But when I actually began filming Five Mile Drive according to the dogme specs, I found them not only freeing but a valuable contributor to the film’s sense of place. An example: I wrote a scene where two sisters go to a graveyard and trade out the artificial flowers on their mother’s grave. The older sister says it’s got to be done, the younger thinks it’s ridiculous. Real flowers, sure, but plastic flowers, what’s the point? It’s a bickering scene. On the day of the shoot, I jumped in my car and headed down to Shopper’s Paradise to pick up the flowers and realized, Wait a minute, those Danes won’t let me do this....I could cheat. Naw, I’ll have them lift the flowers that are already there. Naw, that’s pretty low and doesn’t work for the characters either. Then I hit upon the solution, which takes me back to Nunez in Panama Beach. I wrote a scene where the two sisters go to Shopper’s Paradise and buy artificial flowers. And I liked the solution, because it linked the sisters to the flowers to the store to the graveyard, all in a sequence. Southern filmmakers who dissed dogme when it first arrived might want to take a second look. There’s something kindly southern about it.

The dogme rules are an interesting approach to telling a story on film. For all of their restraints upon filmmaking, in some ways this approach frees the person making the film to focus upon the tale being told.

around the law

internet law in spain
It looks like a Spanish law regulating the internet may be going before the parliment. There is an aspect to the law that has some concerned:
Controversy surrounded one article in the law that said that a "competent authority" would be given the power to close down any website that violates principals of personal and family privacy, personal data, and freedom of expression and information.

verdict awarded to motor duty deputy who questioned quota
A California jury found in favor of a police officer who refused to follow an order to write a minimum of at least 100 citations per month, and who lost his position because of the refusal.

smuggled sperm in court
A New York mobster in prison in Pennsylvania; his wife wanted to use his sperm to get pregnant. A guard was willing to take a bribe to help smuggle the prisoner's sperm out of the prison. The frozen sperm has been impounded by federal prosecutors and the government is asking that it be destroyed. If you were the judge hearing this case, how would you decide?

incarcerating dangerous people
The US Supreme Court issued an opinion in a case at the end of last month that ventures along a dangerous ground. The case is Kansas v. Crane, and in the decision, the court sought to distinquish between people who are incarcerated as a punishment for a crime, and people who are confined without a criminal conviction in order to prevent any future harm. The author of the findlaw article calls the highest court's decision a failure, in that it didn't give any guidance to distinquish between the two:
Nine Justices at least profess to believe that the ordinary dangerous criminal should be subject exclusively to the criminal justice system. They claim to believe as well that despite the Crane decision, civil confinement remains a limited instrument for dealing with the unusual case. But all nine are wrong - for they have opened an Pandora's box that allows civil commintment of a wide range of ex-criminals, mentally ill persons, and even those who are simply considered "abnormal." Kansas and other states that have, or enact, similar laws are now free to show just how wrong the Justices are.

Who will next be confined without having done anything to justify that confinement? The answer to this question depends upon who scares us the most - and that group may no longer form an exclusive club whose members all boast some form of mental illness.

ftc busts chain mailers
Why am I so underwhelmed by this story of the FTC busting seven people for their involvement in a chain letter email? It's true that this paticular chain involved more than 2,000 participants from almost 60 countries. The settlement the FTC reached with the seven participants appears to be more of a slap on the wrist than anything else. My guess is that this enforcement action will have as much impact as a rare (but successful) prosecution of a jay walking case.
- William Slawski

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