Wax museum revels in ridicule as critics lampoon its statues

Wax figures of the Dalai Lama, right, and Mahatma Gandhi stand at the Dreamland Wax Museum on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Boston. Officials at the new wax museum say they're embracing the extra attention brought by online hecklers who have lampooned some of the attraction's likenesses. Critics say some of the statues missed the mark. Museum vice president Michael Pelletz says some are imperfect because they're based on photos and not actual measurements. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2017

Wax museum revels in ridicule as critics lampoon its statues

BOSTON: A good roasting hasn't caused a meltdown at Boston's new wax museum.
Officials at the Dreamland Wax Museum say they're embracing the extra attention brought by waves of online hecklers who have lampooned some of its less-than-flattering likenesses.
"It's absolutely been a blessing to have all of that controversy," said Michael Pelletz, the museum's vice president of sales. "Even if it's negative press, it's working wonderfully."
Photos of the museum's life-sized wax figures have been circulating online since it opened its doors in July, in some cases inspiring scorching ridicule.
It started with a wax portrayal of President Donald Trump that some say looks more like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Then it was a statue of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady that some called "creepy," with one online critic saying it looks like someone who "would murder you and hide the body."
Now it's a figure of former Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, which one sports-news website simply said "looks like someone who's not Paul Pierce."
Pelletz says some of the figures aren't perfect because they're based on photos instead of actual measurements from the celebrities. And if the sculptors aren't keenly familiar with every contour of Brady's face, he said they can be forgiven — most are based overseas, in London and Paris.
Still, Pelletz said even the imperfect statues are works of art that take months to create.
"I'm proud of every single wax figure in here," he said. "Some people love Picasso, some people don't. It's perception."
Going forward, most new models will be created only after artists sit down with the subject to gather dozens of dimensions. The goal is to add about five statues a year, mostly of stars with roots in Boston.
So far, the jeers have targeted only a small fraction of the museum's 101 wax models of musicians, actors and historical figures. Several others have drawn admiration for their impeccable likenesses.
Brandi Zeitz of nearby Saugus was at the museum with her two sons this week when she stopped cold before a seated statue of rapper Snoop Dogg.
"He's spooky looking. He looks like he's going to stand up," said Zeitz, whose sons posed alongside the statue for a photo.
Some researchers say wax models inspire mixed feelings because of a phenomenon called the "uncanny valley," an idea that people are unsettled by human replicas that look nearly — but not quite — real.
Pelletz thinks that might help explain the online hoopla. But some visitors have said they left feeling disappointed, not unsettled, by the statues.
"We weren't impressed," said Donna Mulvey, of Dedham, who went with her 11-year-old son for his birthday in July. "It seemed as though several of the people's heads were small."
Dreamland is in good company when it comes to wax museums that have drawn ridicule: The internet is littered with reviews claiming that others in England or Canada or California are the world's worst.
Still, it has made for a surprising start for the museum, which marks the first foray into the U.S. by a Brazilian company that owns 30 wax museums in Brazil and Mexico.
Instead of driving people away, though, Pelletz says the attention is drawing curious crowds to the site, which sits steps away from Boston's historic Faneuil Hall and other busy tourist attractions.
"Pictures and videos, sometimes they don't do it justice," Pelletz said. "When people do come, they absolutely love it."

Iran film for Oscars stirs debate on home front

“No Date, No Signature,” won best director at Venice last year. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018

Iran film for Oscars stirs debate on home front

  • The Farabi Cinema Foundation tasked with selecting Iran’s contestant for the best foreign-language film category has announced its choice of “No Date, No Signature,” which won best director and best actor at the 2017 Venice Film Festival

TEHRAN: The Iranian film for next year’s Oscars has stirred controversy at home both over the choice of a downbeat movie and for taking part in the Hollywood spectacle at a time of tense Tehran-Washington ties.

The Farabi Cinema Foundation tasked with selecting Iran’s contestant for the best foreign-language film category has announced its choice of “No Date, No Signature,” which won best director and best actor at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.

Vahid Jalilvand’s film, which has scooped a host of other awards aboard, tells the tale of two men tormented by guilt over the death of a boy in a road accident, set against a background of social injustice.

“Every year the same debate surfaces over whether or not to submit a film” for the contest in Hollywood, Farabi said last Friday while naming its choice.

The US decision to pull out of the nuclear accord with the Islamic republic and to reimpose sanctions this year has “led certain parties to propose a boycott of the Oscars,” it said, referring to Iran’s conservative camp.

Defending its participation, the foundation said that members of the Academy which organizes the event were among leading critics of “the populist government of (President Donald) Trump and of its policies tainted with racism and unilateralism.” 

The choice of “No Date, No Signature” was vindicated by its success abroad and “the efforts of its distributor” to bring the movie to screens in the US, Farabi said.

But the ultra-conservative press was unimpressed.

“Like the strategy used by Trump in interviews and tweets to depict Iran as a nation abandoned by hope and mired in poverty and misery, ‘No Date, No Signature’, a most bitter and dark film, has been chosen for the Oscars,” Javan newspaper said in a commentary.

It said the foundation had squandered “a golden opportunity” to enlighten the outside world on the values of Iran by nominating another movie, “Damascus Time,” on its battle against jihadists in Syria.

Director Ebrahim Hatamikia’s film, funded by the Revolutionary Guards, the country’s ideological army, has been a hit at the Tehran box office.

After three films were shortlisted from a 110-strong field, “the decisive factor that made ‘No Date, No Signature’ the best choice was its professional and effective foreign distributor which the others did not have,” said Houshang Golmakani, a critic with “Film Magazine,” a monthly on Iranian movies he co-founded.

The subject matter makes it “a caustic film” as regards its portrayal of life in Iran, he told AFP. “But art is not a matter of touting for your country.”

In 2017, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar for best foreign movie with “The Salesman,” but he boycotted the awards ceremony in Los Angeles in protest at Trump’s controversial policies on immigration.