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Comment Archives: Stories: Movies

Re: “Edgar Wright's The World's End serves a stout brew of horror comedy — but its tart aftertaste lingers

Totally agree with this review, including the part about what a disservice the trailers do to the movie.

Just got back from THE WORLD'S END tonight — I managed to see my two favorite movies so far this year in one day. (More on the other one in next week's Scene.)

Posted by mr. pink on 08/23/2013 at 2:22 AM

Re: “Talking to a pot dealer about the new documentary How to Make Money Selling Drugs

It is interesting that the pot dealer describes himself as a normal dude who works on legitimate jobs.

0 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Benign Adviser on 08/14/2013 at 2:11 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

Thanks, Jen, for your perspective. I brought up Keiko as the known example of what happens with sea pens, although as you have shown, there is definite controversy in terms of whether or not different whales in different states of health and with different histories of operant conditioning might fare better. (As I'm sure you know, Keiko was also subject to political issues because he had HPV and sea parks and Norway did not want him to infect local pods.)

My problem with Blackfish is this: it is all sensationalism and emotional appeal, with facts only introduced when they can juice said emotional appeal. The sea pen question and its viability is much more pressing than, say, what Sea World did in the 1970s, or the cove runs for wild capture, none of which has occurred in decades. Cowperthwaite, the interviewed trainers, and certain partisans of the film are more interested in vilifying Sea World than in presenting solutions and educating the public. To wit: what you mention about ending the captive breeding program (which I think many would have valid arguments against, but all the same, a valid point) is not addressed in Blackfish AT ALL. I've watched it twice, and just checked my copy again.

There are important points to be made on both sides of the issue. (And as a Socialist, I don't say that lightly - I'm not a fan of mounting a de facto defense of a million dollar business, because it makes it easy for others to see me as some libertarian tool.) But Blackfish is more than one-sided. It's taking a lot of awful, dubiously-related things, editing them together, and making a lot of uninformed audiences upset through the rhetorical equivalent of three-card monty.

Honestly, Jen, it sounds like you would have made a much better film than Cowperthwaite did. You make your points with the utmost clarity, and I appreciate that a great deal.

13 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Michael Sicinski on 08/10/2013 at 5:53 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

Even if I agree with you that Keiko's release was a total failure, what other choice did we have but try to attempt to rehab Keiko?. SeaWorld said they didn't want him. No other park would touch him because they were afraid of the bad press if he died at their park. The FWKF were forced to move Keiko out of Oregon Coast after they turned of his filters and nearly killed him. Being an adult male, he was never a great choice for release, but what other option was there?. Seriously?
Lets not forget that Keiko was the one and only attempt made a rehabbing an orca and the team involved openly admitted that mistakes were made.

I'd like to post a comment made by a friend, it pretty much sums up the whole affair.

“Oregon was far from perfect though, even though the tank was a huge improvement from mexico, keiko still displayed stress behaviors, such as chewing on the rocks in his enclosure. He would also gather his toys together at night and float in the corner of his tank. I think a release was unrealistic but the sea pen was by far the best set up, he showed the most natural behavior, was far more active and had the benefit of hunting when he wanted to, and had human company and contact with wild orcas. There's no guarantee he would have lived longer in oregon, especially the way they treated him. Keiko was given the choice of freedom or captivity, he picked somewhere in the middle. He still had human care but could come and go as he pleased in Norway. Keiko got what he wanted, what he felt comfortable with, because in the end he chose how he wanted to live. He didn't choose to be wild, but he wanted space to swim, he wanted to explore the fyords around his bay in Norway,he wanted to catch at least some of his own food, but he also wanted the companionship of his carers. That's what he was given. It wasn't perfect, but its the best we could do for him.”

Besides. I don't even know why you brought Keiko up in the first place. All people involved with Blackfish and the anti cap movement in general (which I have been involved with since the 80's and yes, I know people who worked with Keiko too) just want to see either the whales RETIRED to sea pens (not freed, they wouldn't survive due to the lack of teeth, except possibly Lolita) or for SeaWorld to end their captive breeding programs and allow the whales to die out naturally. Nowhere in the film does it advocate a Free Willy style release for all the whales.

14 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Jen on 08/10/2013 at 5:04 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods


To clarify, Jennifer knew individuals who worked on the Keiko team. (There is not a lot of available information on the failures of Keiko's rehabilitation because the Free Willy Foundation worked to manage the p.r., which is not an altogether bad thing -- no one wants children or other potential pro-whale donors to feel like the project of helping orcas is doomed.)

Anyway, I think we're arguing semantics, but I will concede your point to an extent. Keiko eventually learned to catch fish *as a trained behavior* that he could not perform without trainer assistance. (After catching a live fish, he then had to be rewarded with a dead fish.) And yes, occasionally the smelt would drift into his mouth. But he certainly never learned to fish on his own like a wild whale, and as you yourself acknowledge, he could not come close to sustaining his daily intake with live fish.

8 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Michael Sicinski on 08/10/2013 at 1:19 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

Did anyone ever stop to think about why the trainers in this film are no longer employed by the company and have been fired?????? I know why they were fired and they are not a credible source of info. I am not going to post why, i would like to keep my job, but it was for reasons that this are completely against animal care policy and procedures. Now there people are pissed and out to get the company because they are too embarrassed and ashamed about their stupidity. Never once does this film mention the billions of dollars given to conservation efforts yearly, the mountains of research and science that this company contributes to the scientific field (first comply to successfully anesthetize a sea turtle, in July the first comply to complete a C-section on a shark), or the thousands of dollars spent on education. Perhaps we would all have a different view if the film put some of that info in it.

23 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by Lizzy REL on 08/10/2013 at 8:58 AM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

I hate to reply to comments like this, but I do feel very strongly on this issue. No, I have never "worked with these animals and know their facts first hand". An ironic statement, since Seaworld employees absolutely don't know their facts. They tell the public that orcas at Seaworld live longer than those in the wild. They tell them the collapsed dorsal fin is natural, both bold faced lies that are disproven by scientific data. What I have done is observed them in a truly educational and meaningful setting, the ocean. I'm sure I know more about them from seeing them with their families, then I could possibly learn from observing them doing unnatural tricks to blaring music. If for some reason I ever did want to work with them at a marine park, I apparently could as the only requirement would be that I pass a swim test to become a trainer. I however prefer the former. Not to mention, my degree in veterinary medicine would surely be wasted on treating illnesses that would never occur in the wild.

16 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by Liz on 08/10/2013 at 12:10 AM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

Regardless of exaggerations, agendas, & what side you may be on, I think it's very important that films like this & ("The Cove") have come out because what goes on in this industry is truly disgusting. Wild animals belong in the wild & have a right to stay in the wild. To keep ANY wild animal like prisoners in enclosures the size of a bedroom (or swimming pool in the whale & dolphin's case) when their natural territories stretch for miles IS animal abuse-period! No human has the right to dictate the fate of these animals or to force them to live locked up with little (& in most cases no) socialization with their own kind. I worked in a zoo for a short time as a zookeeper aide & I can say honestly that these animals are not necessarily "happy" in these environments & are simply tolerating humans because they are being fed. Most all captive wild animals have brain neurological pathology as a result. Monkeys and big cats pace in their cages because they are stressed & it is a sign of mental pathology. Even with the best vet care on site, you cannot "fix their brain" & it is heartbreaking to see. Of course there is the debate over zoos actually being helpful in the propagation of endangered species, but from what I witnessed most animals are either aquired by trapping in the wild or being purchased from a breeder. Regardless, the lesser of 2 evils is still evil in my book. I think movies like Blackfish are important (no matter how one sided or sensationalist) they may be, just to expose to the public what has been (& continues) to go on in these zoos. To say it's ok to make these animals perform for food because ("they are exhibiting the same behaviors they do in the wild") is total BS. They are trained by using starvation techniques to make them conform. Once they get hungry enough they will take the food from the trainer & then it goes from there. The same is done in falconry & with all other animals because there is no other effective way to "train" wild animals. How is this not animal abuse? I believe it IS. It seems pretty cut & dry to me. Then the animals are exploited to perform for paying crowds. It's really quite sick if you think about it. Any person who works in the industry & condones this cannot possibly love & respect these animals in my opinion. They are just cogs in the evil wheel. Kudos to those who get out of it, shame on those who stay! We should respect all life on this planet & live in harmony with it, instead of trying to bend everything to our will.

19 likes, 15 dislikes
Posted by Ruth on 08/09/2013 at 11:42 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

Michael @ You still ignored my point and rambled on about something completely different. Where did you get the information that Keiko never caught his own fish?. Also you claim that "that the film does not provide the dates of their employment, so we cannot evaluate their claims against the state of Sea World's policies at a particular time, and how those policies might have changed" That information is easily found since the trainers have stated it repeatedly in interviews. John Hargrove left in Aug last year and Brigitte Pertle left in 2010, for example. The information they provided was current and accurate.

10 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Jen on 08/09/2013 at 8:57 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

Thanks, Beth. Zoos and aquariums were a late 18th / early 19th century project and they were pretty clearly implicated with Western colonialism. There's ample scholarship to demonstrate this. However, we cannot unwrite the material history that we have inherited, in the form of thousands of living beings for whom we *are* responsible as human caretakers. We must agitate for the best conditions possible, and for expert, qualified, and empathetic staff. But we can't abandon our stewardship.

4 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Michael Sicinski on 08/09/2013 at 5:26 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

Megan is another "ive seen a movie, I know everything" kind of gal....there are a lot of those around lately

16 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by Angela Buckley on 08/09/2013 at 1:14 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

I disagree with your article for one thing it is a proven fact that SeaWorld tells lies about orcas dorsal fins flopping over and also you are giving inaccurate information about Keiko, he did catch live fish and was not afraid of other orcas, there is a film called Keiko the untold story that proves that he even left with orcas.

15 likes, 23 dislikes
Posted by Megan on 08/09/2013 at 12:40 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

I agree whole heartily with this article. At the Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast, we did a careful review of BlackFish, and found a lot of the information to be completely lacking context, and was driven by a clear narrative that the film makers had.

30 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast on 08/09/2013 at 10:53 AM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

I stand behind your review 100%, and so do all of my coworkers. We wouldn't work at SeaWorld if we didn't believe that this company had some of the highest standards for the care of animals in the entire world. It would not be accredited by the AZA if it did anything that was sub-par.
We have these orcas now, and there is nothing we can do about that, because to move them to sea pens or try to release them would no doubt be a death sentence. Instead, let them continue to receive the best care that they already do at the park. Our practices of animal care are exemplary, and are helped supported in part by continued public attendance.

If you feel you are against SeaWorld, then you should feel you are against any and all zoos and aquariums in the entire world (which is another philosophical debate entirely).

63 likes, 15 dislikes
Posted by Beth on 08/09/2013 at 10:35 AM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

I am not going to get into a combox battle, because I stand behind the review Jen and I wrote. (In a few days, I will post a slightly longer version that goes into more detail, and will provide a link.) But I think one thing is worth addressing. Jen Wingard was an employee of Marine World, just as all of the interviewees in Blackfish were employees of Sea World at one time or another. (Note that the film does not provide the dates of their employment, so we cannot evaluate their claims against the state of Sea World's policies at a particular time, and how those policies might have changed.) To characterize Jen as "industry" is unfair and misleading. She was an employee and she has a particular point of view (as do I), and it is different from the ones expressed in the film by other former employees. In fact, there are numerous aquatic park employees (non-management), past and present, who share the views expressed in the review. Why weren't they heard from in Blackfish?

33 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Michael Sicinski on 08/08/2013 at 7:59 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

That's funny to me. I wonder if Liz or Jen have ever worked with these animals and know their facts first hand. I also wonder if we should stop the space program, race car driving, mountain climbing, sea exploration, flying airplanes or just plain crossing the street because there is a possibility of danger....

71 likes, 15 dislikes
Posted by Just Me on 08/08/2013 at 7:51 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

Correction - Keiko never caught his full daily allowance of fish while in the seapen but he DID catch live fish. This was confirmed by his vets. A perfect example of why you don't trust people in the industry to give you "facts". Especially concerning Keiko.

26 likes, 34 dislikes
Posted by Jen on 08/08/2013 at 6:11 PM

Re: “Fruitvale Station's devastating depiction of an incendiary real-life racial incident couldn't be more timely

“it’s apparently legal in some parts of the country for white men to kill black people”

It’s come to be that when useful for one’s agenda, the title “white” describes any person whose ancestors dared breed with a Caucasian. Conversely, when it’s not useful, the Caucasian bit is carefully left out and the described person magically becomes a different color. In the end, the term does very little to describe a heritage and it has me concerned for my three year old son. He’s Irish, German, English, and Native American, with a dollop of French Canadian, but since he favors his mother, he most resembles his Cherokee roots. He is, in and of himself, a diversity worth celebrating. Even so, he will with pointed finger, be called a “white man” and with it all, will come judgments, stereotypes and even hate.

I ask that you please consider refraining from the use of this descriptor in your publication. If for no other reason, then to better mask your intentions.

Posted by sjsm on 08/08/2013 at 1:27 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

I don't find the message of Blackfish to be dubious at all. The evidence in the film is very straight forward and fact based. Orcas are unhealthy and unhappy in captivity, their high mortality rate and decreased longevity being the facts. They are aggressive towards each other as well as trainers, both behaviors not occurring in the wild. Blackfish never suggests that every orca in captivity be tossed into the ocean. It acknowledges that this is a very complicated situation, suggesting sea pens be made to provide a healthier environment and captive breeding to cease.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite is not an animal activist, she is a director of documentaries. She did not have an agenda making this film, she only presented facts. OSHA certainly doesn't have an animal activist agenda either and they have found Seaworld guilty of putting their trainers in grave danger. Of course Seaworld is fighting these charges that would call for many changes, because the Orca shows are what makes them billions of dollars. So it is clear that Seaworld is the one with the agenda here of continuing to exploit these animals and their trainers for nothing else except to make money. It would also seem that the co-author of this article has an agenda as he also made money at one time off these animals as well.

34 likes, 77 dislikes
Posted by Liz on 08/08/2013 at 12:21 PM

Re: “The hit documentary Blackfish has a message as dubious as its methods

See Sea World Entertainment PAC Activity Below the Story Line--Courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics

"The Killer Whales have their own languages and culture-each group is unique. Their life spans are as long as those of human males and females in the United States. Their societies are female dominated. Killer Whale offspring stay with their mothers throughout much of their life spans, according to Black Fish. In two of the most riveting scenes in the documentary Killer Whale children are taken out of the water away from their mothers. The baby screams and cries and the mother does too. More's the pity, the mothers, research showed, sent cries meant for long distance communication in the ocean--an obvious plea for help and sympathy from comrades."



SEAWORLD $$$ Members of Congress LOBBYISTS MAKING WAVES IN WASHINGTON: Following the death of a whale trainer at SeaWorld Orlando last month, the renowned Florida attraction is now trying to makeamends while, at the same time, facing down criticism from animal rights groups for the inhumane confinement of killer whales. Amid all of this, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment Corp. has increased their lobbying presence in Washington, and according to an update in The Hill, Bryan Cave LLP has been tapped to do just that. The man at the helm of this new lobbying campaign is David Russell, former counsel to the Senate Science, Commerce and Transportation Committee and chief of staff to former Sen. Ted Stevens. Though it is not certain what future relationships between whale and trainer will look like following an extensive safety review in April, SeaWorld’s new lobbying presence could signal the beginning of a mutual bond between the park’s owners and Washington.


3 likes, 23 dislikes
Posted by john on 08/08/2013 at 6:35 AM

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