Five years ago I was in Alaska to take in the sights. It was a nature vacation, full of mountains and glaciers and forests. And there was also plenty of majestic wildlife to behold. Killer whales and humpbacks, bald eagles and spawning salmon. There was even a random black bear taking a swim in a river.
Nothing, however, compared to the dolphins. I saw them on the return trip, as our ship sailed back down the coast between the endless series of islands that keep the Pacific at bay and maintain calm river-like waters for much of the run between Skagway and Vancouver. One morning they appeared at starboard, racing the bow as it cut through the sea, leaping out of the water every few seconds.
I ran down to our stateroom to grab a camera. Although I was destined to get no pictures of the airborne dolphins (their leaps being too quick, too fleeting), it was while I was in that cabin that I got treated to the best view I could hope for. I just happened to look out the window at precisely the right moment to see a dolphin fly out of the waves, just a few feet from the glass, and hang there, perfectly boxed in the panoramic frame as it matched the speed of the ship exactly. It was a beautiful, magic moment in my life. It was over in less than two seconds flat, and I’ll never forget it – even though that memory has now been ruined forever.
The internet can taint anything. Between tweeting and retweeting, Facebook sharing and your run-of-the-mill “Hey, check this out” emails, nothing wholesome and decent and beautiful is safe anymore. No longer will I associate dolphins with that split instant of precisely framed wonder in a northern coastal corner of British Columbia. When I think of dolphins, I’ll think of this.
Aquatic auto-erotic necrophilic inter-species exhibitionist bestiality aside, it’s his self-satisfied “O” face that really troubles me. Nobody needs to see this kind of moment of intimacy. Not from a dolphin, not from any species. What happens in the aquarium should stay in the aquarium, and I curse the smart-phone photographer for sharing this with the web. And then I curse everyone else on the web for sharing it – myself included. I can’t unsee this, and now, neither can you.
I hereby declare this video clip to officially be, now and in the foreseeable future, The Worst Thing on the Internet. And I know whereof I speak. I’ve see those two girls and their one cup and everything they put in it. I’ve seen those three guys and their one hammer reducing the number of guys by a factor of one. And, obviously, I’ve seen my fair share of Islamic-Fundamentalist execution videos. How could I not? They’re ubiquitous on the web. Like funny-cat videos. It’s getting so a coptic cab driver can’t even drive around with a crucifix hanging from his rearview mirror without inspiring an inpromptu flashmob of decapitation enthusiasts, each armed with their own knife and recording device.
I have to take a moment out, however, to provide some constructive criticism here. I know there are all sorts of middle-eastern countries in radical upheaval. The blood is running in the streets and camera technology is rolling in the hands. But Syria, a word if you will…
Syria, seriously, you have got to get some sort of whetstone to sharpen your knives. I’ve got shit to do. I can’t spend an extra five minutes on every decapitation video while you try to hack through some infidel’s spine with a rusty spoon. It’s all about pacing. And our attention spans in the west are very short, especially when we’re trying to be horrified. That’s why every Saw film had to open with a gruesome kill right off the bat. We don’t want to wait around for plot development while we’re jonesing for a cheap thrill. And we certainly can’t invest any more of our precious internet porn-surfing time watching you commit brutal murder. Not unless there’s a clever twist ending. Again, like a Saw film. Learn from them.
Let me play executive producer for a moment and give you and all the other assorted radicals some notes on your little iPhone snuff films. First of all, mix it up a bit. Does it always have to be a decapitation? They’re so predictable. Guy with knife goes for the neck, saw saw saw, cut cut cut, head comes off, show it to the delighted crowd of spectators. It’s 2013. Decapitations are soooo early twenty-first century. Time marches on, so up your game. Have you looked into disembowelings for example? Quicker in execution, slower in payoff, but they can be quite showy. Real crowd pleasers so long as the crowd stands upwind.
Second, do your research. And I don’t just mean you should improve your decapitation methodology (which, let’s face it, needs work). But crack open a history book if you haven’t already burned them all and read about the fun and games they got up to in the middle ages. I’m not saying you have to reinvent the anal pear (and you probably would have to reinvent it if you wanted one because I can’t remember the last time I saw an anal pear for sale at Walmart, and they usually have EVERYTHING). But back then, they knew how to throw a gruesome execution with only common household items. Remember, when in doubt, go pyre. It’s always a home run with the fans, and warm on those chilly desert nights.
Third, you need to upgrade your digital technology. I don’t care if you have the latest iPhone or iWhatever. That shit’s fine for selfies, but you’re shooting snuff. You need a wider aspect ratio. Invest in a real digital camera that’s actually designed to shoot home movies (and snuff). I know the iPhone is convenient and Apple seems to go hand-in-hand with crimes against humanity, but the end results speak for themselves. Someone is giving their life for your movie. Sure, they’re an infidel who lies with dogs for not acknowledging the one true god as you define him and is therefore beneath contempt. But show the teensiest bit of respect and at least shoot the murder well.
Which brings me to my final point, so I really need you to focus here, because I can’t stress this enough. You cannot hold a camera steady while you’re shouting Allahu Akbar at the top of your lungs in a religious fervour. Look, I get it. I appreciate your passion. It’s what makes you a cinéma vérité artiste. But let’s face it, God may be great and all, but he makes for a shitty tripod. The dude can perform miracles, but one miracle he can’t seem to do is turn your arm into a Steadicam while you’re in bloodlust mode. So skip the high-volume worship mantra during your money shot and shoot silent. If you really think the film is missing something after you screen a rough cut, you can always ADR it and loop your voice in with the chorus of other Allahu Akbars, okay? I know you don’t want to feel left out in the moment. The blood is pumping in your veins and spurting from the open arteries of your victim, and you want to participate. But respect your art. Get your shot list. Celebrate later.
Remember, I say this not as a film critic, but as a fan of cinema in general. The future of the mondo-gonzo genre of filmmaking lies in your blood and entrail-soaked hands. Do us proud.