And what are we up to today?
Just some helpful life lessons I have learned from my favorite movie genre...
1) When your house turns old and British, move out.
2) When your house turns old and Japanese, that ship has officially sailed. Make sure you enjoy the time you have left!
3) When it dies, you'd better make sure it's dead. In fact, kill it twice.
4) If you think you need to open it, you don't. If someone says you need to open it, you don't. If it tells you you need to open it, it's wrong. You don't need to open it. Do whatever it takes, up to and including giving yourself a lobotomy, but do. not. open.
5) If I need to explain hitchhikers to you, it's already too late.
6) The shit shall hitteth the fan-eth, and thou shalt become much more knowledgeable about thy friends and acquaintances.
7) Civilization + zombies = asshole people.
8) Civilization + apocalypse = asshole people.
9) Civilization + any variable under the sun = asshole people. Go live in the country.
10) 17.5% of country bumpkins are trying to eat you for dinner.
11) Pick up a damn weapon. Hello.
12) Save a life, think in 3-D. That includes above you, below you, and inside you.
13) If you found it in the attic, the basement, the shed, the lockbox, the chimney, the closet, the trunk, the mysterious delivery crate, or if you bought it at an estate sale because you thought it would look cute hanging on your wall, you made a mistake. It's okay, we all make mistakes. The worse mistake would be to not kill it with fire.
14) Space, the final frontier. Operative word? Final.
15) Lots of children are cute. Children that are not cute: those born after a spontaneous blackout, after a prolonged period of abstinence, or after trying your neighbors' homemade dessert... those who enjoy playing with dolls, talking to their closets, or crawling on ceilings... those who have no discernible date of conception, no trouble speaking in archaic tongues, and no reason to be standing by your bed at godawful o'clock while holding a kitchen implement. Above all, beware of kids who don't mind wearing their hair in a bowl cut.
16) Cats don't really have nine lives. It's a metaphor. Under no circumstances should you attempt to bring them back to life once they are deceased.
...and of course,
17) If Sean Bean is in your movie, just try to stay alive longer than he does.
Regarding Star Trek Into Darkness. (Don't worry, I will break for spoilers...)
Torn. Liked it, was fun... but I find, as was pointed out by a dear friend, I have trouble when whole scenes/lines from the original series are cannibalized and then used in ways that can't possibly have anywhere near the same impact, simply because this particular crew hasn't earned it yet. Which is fine. They haven't been together all that long, it'll come. And I do have faith that this new crew will build its own poignant legend as most of the others have. There's a lot of power in this ensemble, and they have one thing that I have found makes the experience: in-depth and well-written character interaction (for the most excellent example of how this succeeds, please watch ST: The Next Generation). I'm talking about individualized characters bumping against each other and reacting in ways that are not only appropriate, but evocative of MORE interaction, more plots. They feed off each other and the whole thing becomes this beautiful cohesive whole that goes way deeper than the plot-of-the-week.
But. We ARE dealing with a revamp of my absolute favorite original Star Trek film here, so I'm afraid I cannot look at this film without a little bit of :/
And here we go with the spoilers.
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
The Wrath of Khan. Spoilers for that here, too.
I knew we were going to be dealing with the Khanberbatch. I knew it. Someone postulated the theory way back when, and I was just, I was ECSTATIC at the idea. Ask anyone I babbled to at the time. I once basically outlined the entire run of Khan's encounters with the Enterprise crew to a friend who is not an avid ST original series fan. It took up a third of our conversation that night. I'm sure she was just thrilled. That's how geeky I am for that film.
And god, that was a good film. There was something there, something feral, instinctive, primordial. Basic humanity shoved right to its limits. Part of this was the presence of a truly formidable and frightening enemy with a bone to pick. Part of it was the crew having been together for years already, having gotten under each other's skin and inside each other's hearts. Part of it was the lack of crazy newfangled trappings: just two ships, two agendas, and one (literally) world changing technology caught in the middle.
Not to mention, an ending that left no back door out of the pit it plunged into.
Into Darkness certainly had a formidable villain, with a most legitimate bone to pick. The Khanberbatch did an excellent job. Of course. He's always a joy to watch. Not only that, but he didn't ape off of Ricardo Montalban's stupendous Khan at all; he recreated the character entirely. And the others, the Enterprise's crew, did a wonderful job conveying emotional impact that is tricky when working with such a recently formed ensemble of characters.
I think the difference in theme here is crucial to why one film works, and one film WORKS. This time around, that theme was family. Last time around, it was sacrifice. Both valid and heavily provocative themes that came up again and again in many forms throughout each movie.
In this case, and in my opinion, the sacrifice thematic arc packed more punch and left more holes in the heart when it was finished. It was spooled out extremely effectively, starting with the Kobayashi Maru simulation and ending with the Kobayashi Maru reality. Hard hitting, very hard. Yes, they fixed things in the third original series movie, but even that came with a nasty trade-off. There was no real white flag, no quarter given.
I feel almost offended (maybe "alienated" is a better word) by the way Into Darkness takes scenes and lines from The Wrath of Khan, scenes that cut the heart right out with a dull blade, and tries to fit them to a crew that simply doesn't have that history, that knowledge of each other, that sense of camaraderie and understanding. I think, again, that this young crew will have that, in spades. But, and through no fault of their own, they simply cannot compare to the time spent laying the foundations in the original series. There was a whole lot more to lose in The Wrath of Khan because there had already been a whole lot more gained. These scenes and lines ("The needs of the many, etc." ... "I (was and always shall be) am your friend"... "You'd better get down here. Hurry."... and of course the immortal Khaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!! scream) in this less layered scenario, just come across as adulatory, a salute to a well-loved memory, and with no punch of their own. What's more, it toes the unfortunate line of being amusing, which is no place this movie wanted to go during these scenes.
The pain I felt from Kirk's death scene in Into Darkness was not for this Kirk and this Spock. It was the remembered pain of Kirk losing Spock in The Wrath of Khan.
So. Thoughts done. And now I'm jonesing for The Wrath of Khan again. Maybe I'll watch it a few times. ^_^
(I feel this is somewhat… loaded subject matter, so please bear with me as I try my best to be succinct and not to offend.)
When I saw The Dark Knight Rises, it was with a far different mindset than I had expected in the weeks leading up to the release. The terrible opening night events at the theater in Colorado immediately cast a pall over the entire experience, affecting everything from how I spoke about Batman (who is my favorite superhero) to others, to how I read about the film in the media, to how I interpreted the previous film The Dark Knight, to how I dressed for my viewing (I was initially going to wear a Joker-esque outfit I’d been happily compiling for a couple weeks, and ultimately scrapped the idea). As the opening night draws further off in the movie’s run, I find myself pondering other worrying questions.
When a person goes into a theater on the eve of a film about such an iconic pop culture character as Batman and massacres prospective viewers, undoubtedly a connection will be formulated between the attack and the franchise it seems to revolve around. To add to that, the attacker in question deems himself “the Joker” to police in the aftermath. We the public have no way of knowing if he actually thinks he’s the Joker or if it’s a play for attention, and perhaps we will never know. But the connection has been made regardless, and conclusions, however on or off target, are being drawn.
The Joker of Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight is, to me, the quintessential Joker: Heath Ledger’s performance embodied the depravity and the inconceivable psychosis of a villain born out of such a world as the Dark Knight comic line offers. He is fascinating because of how he both engages and repulses the viewer/reader in equal measures. The filmic reaction to him by the mob bosses of Gotham is the artistic portrayal of everything he is meant to incite in the real world viewer: amazement, fear, even amusement… for a time. And then the gradual realization that the mob bosses have no idea how to deal with the monster they have released, and no manner of coming up with a solution, as he exists on a completely separate level from the “evil” they are familiar with. They are out of their depth here, and so are most viewers of the film. As such, the Joker is a character that I, a viewer, recognize as insane— a character whose crafting I admire and am in awe of from a writing standpoint— but a character I do not wish to emulate.
Clearly, that is not the case for everyone.
Blaming the character of the Joker and all his creators seems to be the next logical step, and probably is for many people. For my part, I believe firmly that the nature/nurture arguments, while certainly valid points of view, only go so far, and that people ultimately make their own choices concerning what they do in response to stimuli from the outside world. I recognize there is a great deal of gray area as well: mental faculties, mental health, and basic perception of the world vary from person to person, often due to things none of us can control. But it is extremely gut-churning to contemplate standing in front of someone who has lost as much as the friends and families of the Colorado victims, and making that case aloud.
Who am I to make a call either way? Who am I to speak at all? And what does the creator of a character like the Joker do when something like this happens?
The above statements are not at all meant as judgments. Each person must figure out the answers to these questions him or herself. But as a writer, it definitely makes me pause on another level, because I create stories. I create characters that I hope people will read and enjoy, hate and love, empathize with and push as far away as they possibly can. I especially create characters that I hope will evoke an uncomfortable, thought-provoking mix of the above reactions. At this very moment, the writing project I’m working on involves a number of psychotic characters, and while I’m pretty sure my approach does not push an agenda of support for their abominable actions… neither did Nolan’s Batman. It’s pretty clear who the villain is in The Dark Knight, and while Batman may share some crucial similarities in terms of world view, the ultimate difference lies in the fact that even Batman could not stoop to the Joker’s lowest level, to Two-Face’s lowest level, to Ra’s al Ghul’s lowest level, and god knows they all tried as hard as they could to shove him down there.
In the face of something like this, when a creator’s character is (on the surface) taken as the basis for such an act, how does the creator respond? I ask not to pass judgment, but to bring up a question I struggle with myself. How can we artists bring these characters to life when we know there is the possibility of such a horrible result? Can you, readers, say you’ve never read a book that got blamed for something and thought, “Yeah, I can see that”? Can you, writers, honestly say you have never looked at a character you are creating and thought, “I should just stop”?
Again, to make it clear: I am not saying we should stop, or that we are ultimately responsible for the interpretations formed by consumers. I’m saying the question haunts.
So then the question becomes: What are we meant to take away from characters like the Joker? It will be different for everyone depending on their experiences, their emotional states, their plans for the future. I certainly do not create my psychotic characters with the intention that one day someone will jump on that bandwagon in the real world. I personally feel the viewer is meant to be amazed and intrigued by villains like the Joker, to fear them in a manner that involves a certain amount of awe, but to decide in the end that actually being that person is not the way to go.
But what are authorial intentions anyway? I know from my Lit Theory classes (particularly the study of Shakespeare) that whatever the author intended is regarded, at best, as marginally important once the product makes its way out to the public. Rampant analysis ensues on multiple fronts, often along threads the author never once considered. The same must be assumed for creators of movies and, more generally, the characters that populate all pieces of art. To complicate the situation even further, as artists, by definition we strive specifically to influence consumers with our work. The flip side is that, try as we might, there is no possible way to dictate the interpretation of said consumer.
To say that art in all its forms has a responsibility to toe a line (to keep from planting harmful ideas, to avoid introducing conceptual violence to minds that may be ripe for influence) becomes ludicrous when it is clear that art echoes the world around us. How can it possibly do both at the same time? Even the best of censorship intentions on this front gives me images of 1984 and Equilibrium, realities that look good at first but simply cannot stand while taking into account individual human rights.
We know what the public does for pop culture. What duty does pop culture have to the public? Is there a duty at all? Is there a line of responsibility drawn somewhere, or is that consideration just as far out of its depth?
A film review. I have no idea if this will become a regular thing; I just felt so strongly about this one I wanted to post.
SPOILERS FOR ELENA UNDONE HERE. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I recently saw the film Elena Undone. I thought, okay, Tracy Dinwiddie is in it and I like her well enough, so I stuck it on my queue and watched it.
The plot is fairly standard: a woman (Necar Zadegan) married to a pastor discovers she has feelings for her new gay friend (Dinwiddie), follows through on those feelings, and has her life flipped as a result. She and her husband are trying to have a second child in an attempt to fix their marriage. This type of plot comes up a lot in the romance genre whether the characters are gay or not, so I wasn't looking for anything really brain-bending, but a lot of films manage to provide a nice fresh spin on things. This one had an interesting bent from the beginning: shown initially through the eyes of not the woman or her lover, but the woman's best friend, a man who makes a study of something he calls 'Soulemetry', or the meeting of that other soul that fulfills and completes you. This particular character is doing a documentary on couples' stories, and the film itself claims to be based on true stories; his interviews with different couples, gay and straight and in between, are scattered throughout. And that was the neat part. In retrospect, I'd much rather see the actual documentary on that, you know?
Right up front, he makes this statement about the soul you want and need and connect with not necessarily arriving in a physical form you expect or desire. He uses himself as an example: he's not really a Cary Grant, but this amazing, gorgeous woman came along (his wife) and fell head over heels with him, and he with her. And he cautions people to keep their hearts and minds open, to step outside societal expectations. It's a nice message. Until you start realizing that, aside from the interview couples who all look pretty normal and seem to fit this rubric of finding the unexpected... every other couple portrayed is sort of ridiculously hot. What's more, the women are ridiculously hot. Dinwiddie (Peyton) is hot. Zadegan (Elena) is SMOKING hot. Soulemetry man's wife is hot, Elena’s son's girlfriend is extremely cute, etc, etc. Meanwhile, most of the men do not exactly fit into a Brad Pitt-esque rubric.
So I started rolling my eyes a little, but the story is otherwise nicely told for a while, good pacing, good acting, etc.
Then there's the completely bigoted church member, a woman who obviously has the hots for Elena’s pastor husband. The husband himself is not a bigoted cliché, so that was nice, at least. They almost step over into Brokeback territory in that you feel the actual devastation of the breaking marriage, not just the righteous demolition of a straight mismatch... but not quite. And I'll tell you why.
They minimize the effect on the teenage son, for one thing: he starts drinking and stealing in these tiny sideline shots that you will miss if you blink. They give him the role of angst-driver, finding all the evidence of this affair and then confronting his mother in another 'wow, did that scene actually last a whole minute?' conversation that is supposed to make you feel for both of them but actually just makes you wonder if the writers are going to commit to a particular moral point or if they're just going to throw this stuff in to check off a box. They give the son's girlfriend a cheerful, wise, all-understanding attitude that would work if her character again did not seem like it is there specifically to set people down the proper path. They make the husband an Other by showing him as the giver of coarse, unfulfilling sex, which seems like an honest conveyance of their unsuccessful relationship... until they show the sex between Elena and her female lover, Peyton. Because they PORN IT UP. I was so dismayed, I don't even— Yeah. It was the music. The scenes themselves would be pretty tasteful if not for the sultry back beat going on as two hot young women writhe sinuously together. It could have been so sexy and so tender in all the right ways, but instead it felt cheap and manipulative.
And then. Inevitable outing of affair. Inevitable break up of lesbian lovers. Inevitable divorce of straight couple. I was expecting this; you don't build this kind of scenario without understanding that it's going to come crashing down around the ears of everyone involved. The actual parting of Elena and her husband is done fairly well, fairly genuinely, except for the fact that, again, it's a little too short, given the time they spend on everything else. No, the problem comes afterward, when six months later, Elena and Peyton meet again, in the park with Peyton’s best friend (maybe the only character I don't have a caustic comment for, though she does fall into certain 'been there, done that' dialogue toward the end), Elena's Soulemetry best friend and his wife, Elena's teen son and son's wise girlfriend... and we discover that Elena did, in fact, get pregnant, and that she's pretty far along.
Understandable chaos ensues as Peyton accuses Elena of lying to her while they were having their affair (Elena claimed her husband never touched her after she'd started up with Peyton). In a fit of deus ex machina, pregnant Elena freaks and collapses. Luckily, the writers do not make the mistake of using that collapse to fix everything: you know, the old scene of 'I’ll sit by your bedside clasping your hand apologizing for being such a complete nitwit and making grandiose declarations of love and we'll raise the baby together, OMG.'
No. They do this instead:
Elena's Soulemetry best friend is the father. Sperm donation. Elena wanted to get pregnant, he helped, his wife was fine with it, everyone's fine with it, pretty bows, yay! And I don't know if it was just unbelievable in delivery or if it was more the fact that it came out of nowhere for the sole purpose of causing more angst, but I think— and I'm just postulating here— it's because Soulemetry guy ends up coming across as the not-gorgeous man sitting high above with his arms spread godlike over his flock of beautiful women, one of whom he is married to, the other of whom is having his baby, smiling benevolently at how everything turned out fantastically and he is the one who did it all.
So what is the point of this movie anyway? Porny lesbian porny porn? A finger wagging at conservative religious beliefs everywhere? A statement on the fact that family obviously takes a backseat to finding soulmates? A comment on the very unconventional family and its right to exist? A backhanded argument for the continued existence of societal norms in terms of physical appearance? A demonstration of how, for all that exploration of finding your own way in life and love regardless of gender stereotypes, it's still the man's role to make everything superhappyfunsparkly for women?
I wanted to scream.
Hello! My name is Grete and welcome to my writing blog! I am a writer or romance, horror, and general observation