stevenpiziks: (Default)
Yesterday, Darwin and I were watching a Big Name Spy Thriller on DVD.  It had the same plot every other spy thriller uses:

STEP ONE: Spy Protagonist learns of an object he needs to get hold of in order to save the world or himself (called "the McGuffin").
STEP TWO: Spy rushes from exotic location to exotic location in search of the McGuffin while various Bad People try to kill him.  Various vehicle chases through crowded cities ensue. Much time is spent on Magic Computers.
STEP THREE: An Evil Person within the Spy's own organization, who is secretly employing the Bad People, tries to sabotage the Spy's efforts and nearly succeeds.
STEP FOUR: The Spy gets the McGuffin, kills the Bad People, and kills the Evil Person.

We want to look at the Magic Computers.

Goodness me, computers can do anything these days!  Especially in a movie.  According to the movie Darwin and I watched, in fact, a computer and its attached hacker can:

1. delete a thousand files from another computer in a split-second
2. shut off the electricity to a single building in a foreign country with less than a minute's work
3. track down a single person whose face appears on a traffic camera anywhere in the world seconds after his face shows up
4. grab control of a landline telephone and use that phone to take control of an unconnected laptop sitting a foot away from it (I shit you not--the movie actually had a CIA hacker do this)
5. enhance a distant, blurry photo of a woman into a photo clear enough to use on a magazine cover in less than a second
6. hack into one of the most secure mainframes in the world while the owners of said mainframe watch helplessly (why they don't simply unplug their modems goes unexplained)
7. instantly toss video and photo files to huge, Star Trek-style screens on a wall without anyone ever saying, "Hold it . . . hold it . . . dammit, the system is really slow right now . . . a couple more seconds . . . okay, here we go . . . "
8. instantly notice when a particular person even touches a computer anywhere in the world or accesses a particular file saved on a flash drive, but CAN'T TRACK A CELL PHONE!

Not one of these things is remotely possible today.  Number 4 had both Darwin and me in an outrage, it was so stupid.  And this movie (one of the Jason Bourne flicks, if you have to know) isn't in any way unusual.

Hollywood computers and computer operators can find out literally anything, in seconds, in ways that bear no resemblance to reality.  If you need to know it or find it, a computer will do it for you, no matter how outrageous.  All you need is a character who is supposed to be a "brilliant hacker."  ("Brilliant hacker" is code for "magician.")  Hackers and computers are basically witches with crystal balls.

It's become a bad trope.  True hacking or other computer ability takes years and years of practice.  You need to study code, spend weeks writing programs, make friends with other hackers and learn the seamy underside of the Internet.  It's an extremely precise field.  If you make a mistake, you'll get caught right quick, with dire consequences.  The field also changes every day, sometimes every minute, and you have to keep up.

But Hollywood treats computer work like musical talent.  You can sit the right person with the right talent down at a computer, and BAM!  Instant hacker who can get you exactly what you need to know.  It gets so bad that on SUPERGIRL, Winn went from low-level IT guy to having the ability to take down an alien computer system--with a virus he wrote in the nineties!  Because . . . talent, right?  Because there are people who can sit down at a piano and turn out amazing work with almost no experience, so it must be the same with computers, right?

No.  It doesn't work that way.  All the computer talent in the world won't grant you knowledge and precision.  Hollywood is just using a cheap trick.  As a writer, I can understand wanting a quick tool to push the story forward.  The Magic Computer will do that.  The problem is, Hollywood does it so often, and so badly, that it's become a bad, BAD cliche. 

And have you noticed that no one ever touches a mouse?  It's true!  Hollywood is all about fingers chattering on the keyboard.  In reality, of course, everyone--including hackers--spends most of their time with mouse and cursor.  A clicking keyboard is more dynamic on the silver screen, though, so Hollywood runs with it.  Except we've noticed.  (Now that I've pointed it out to you, you won't be able to help but notice it!)

Please, Hollywood--end the Magic Computer.  We know better.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Now the Internet is losing its shit over a screening of Wonder Woman:

Short version is, a movie theater company arranged a women-only screening of WONDER WOMAN.  In certain quarters of the Internet (you know the parts I mean), this was met with howls.  Clutch your balls, gentlemen!  The wimmins have become sexist!  How dare they!

Shut your fuckity-shit mouths, trump-holes.

Let's look at what's really going on, shall we?

First, the guys howling sexism aren't really worried about sexism.  They're being small children.  For thousands of years, men have had power over women, and we're now in a society that is trying (and usually failing) to right this wrong.  Certain men, the ones who have only half a scrotum among them, are afraid of this.  So they meet every positive change with a demand for an equal-and-ridiculous sexist change.  "Women have demanded equal access to men's spaces such as men's clubs and men's board rooms and men's jobs, but now they want a special women-only place?  THAT'S NOT EQUAL! THAT'S HYPOCRISY!"  And they leap around clutching their balls because they're afraid someone is going to cut them off.  This can't actually happen--you can't cut off what doesn't exist.

At any rate, the WONDER WOMAN screening is a party, and a party is allowed to have a limited guest list.  Tell you what, ball-clutchers--when all of you demand to be included in baby showers, bridal showers, and strip clubs where men bare all, I'll believe your whimpering about WONDER WOMAN.  Until then, it's plain your protests are as fake as your wife's orgasms.

Second, if you're really and truly upset about a special screening for just women, then arrange a special screening for just men.  Go for it!  Nothing's stopping you--except the fact that you have a sphincter where your mouth should be.  There's no rule that says the group that arranged the women-only screening is required to arrange a men's screening for you--that's your job.  Get off your flabby, artery-clogged asses and arrange it.  Maybe I'll even buy a ticket.  If I'm in town.  And I can stand the thought of sitting next to a bunch of emasculated ball-clutchers with half a scrotum among them.

Nah.  I wouldn't be able to.  I'll wait until the movie opens and make my sons go see it with me.  Like real men.

stevenpiziks: (Default)
My husband Darwin likes horror movies.  As a rule, I don't.  I do like SF movies, though, and here we have ALIEN: COVENANT, which combines the two genres.  This, I thought, would be a perfect date movie!  Horror for Darwin, SF for me.

Then I learned it has a gay couple in it.  A married gay couple.

You might think this would engender happiness.  Joy.  Even a certain amount a giddiness.  Instead, my metaphorical ears went back and my hackles went up.  I spent a few minutes looking up spoilers and discovered my hackles were justified.

I will not see this movie.  I will not rent the DVD.  I will not support this movie.  And I urge you to do the same.

SPOILERS (you are warned)

According to various on-line sources, the sins of the same-sex relationship portrayal are the standard ones we've come to expect.  First, although there were several initial shots to the contrary, there is little or no indication of a marriage--or any kind of relationship--between the two men throughout the film.  They don't touch.  They don't exchange endearments.  There was apparently a brief moment of hugging between them in a preview, but that scene has been cut from the film, and that preview has been removed from the Internet.  In other words, gay people are still invisible.  No LGBT characters are actually in the spotlight.  No LGBT protagonists.  Just a couple of background guys who may or may not be in a relationship.

But the worst sin comes early in the movie.  Hallett, one of the men, becomes infected with the alien infection, and a baby alien bursts out of his face.  (Not his chest, like in the other movies, but out of his freakin' face.  He's gay, so we have to up the nastiness.)  While the ship's captain leans in to murmur quiet apologies, Hallett's husband Lope whispers, "I love you" and then is forced to walk away.

One more time, we have the tragic gay.  Gay men continue to be the objects of tragedy and disgust and ridicule.  We're only interesting or worthy if we watch our partners die.  No happy relationships for the gay guy.  In fact, we're going to get an alien burst out of our faces, just to super-compound the tragedy.  Because, you know, just dying of an alien tearing out of your chest isn't bad enough for the gays.  Let's make it worse.


I will not spend a dime for that movie.  I urge you to avoid it as well.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin and I finally saw BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.  My thoughts:

--Emma Watson isn't a great singer. Her voice is quite weak compared to Paige O'Hara. Come to that, none of the cast members has a standout voice, except the opera singer lady. I don't really want the album, as a result.

--They plugged a number of plot holes in this version, including why the villagers seem to have no idea an enchanted castle inhabited by a monstrous beast is within easy walking distance of their village; why the enchantress punished the castle's inhabitants as well as the prince; and why the village seems to enjoy summer weather, but the castle lives in winter.

--They used more material from the original fairy tale, including Belle's father cutting a rose from the Beast's garden.

--LeFou was clearly in love with Gaston throughout this movie.  I'm still not happy with Disney for handing us a villain as our first LGBT character, despite the fact that (SPOILER) LeFou redeems himself by the end. The final scene ticked me off all over again.  All the media outlets reported that LeFou would dance for a moment with a man, and he does--but first he dances with TWO women.

--We had a moment of gay panic mixed with a transgender moment.  During the seige of the castle, the wardrobe attacks three of the villagers by stuffing them into elaborate women's outfits.  (This happens in the original movie as well, but with just one man.)  Two of the villagers are so freaked out by being men in dresses that they run away.  (Gay panic!)  The third man realizes he likes the look and sashays away instead.  I wasn't as happy about that aspect as I should have been because the whole thing was played for laughs.  Trans people are played as objects of comedy and ridicule, you see.  I'm surprised the right-wing nutbags didn't say anything about this--the scene actually lasts longer than LeFou's dance with another man.

--This movie's version of "Gaston" is actually superior to the original.

--The French Renaissance baroque style of decoration for Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Lumiere are intricate and incredibly detailed, but ultimately it's difficult to make out details because facial features--eyes, mouths, noses, etc.--are so tiny.  And Mrs. Potts reminded me of that toy plastic phone from Toy Story 3.  She seems more like a windup toy.  It's cute, though, they way have Chip use his saucer like a skateboard.

--They definitely didn't change the main theme of the movie: it's a woman's responsibility to rehabilitate an abusive man by loving him so much that he'll change from a beast into a kind, handsome prince.  It made me squirm in my seat to watch Emma Watson start to fawn on the guy who, moments ago, screamed at her, pounded on her door, and ordered her locked in her room to starve.  Let the wolves have him, girl!

Overall?  The movie was done well, but I can't recommend it because of the themes and its poor treatment of LGBT people. Try harder, Disney.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I subscribe to three different news feeds that specialize in media news so I can keep up with the latest media information for my media literacy class.  For weeks and weeks, a single story has dominated the headlines: the "gay moment" in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

By "dominated," I mean the top four or five stories EVERY SINGLE DAY discuss this topic.  If you read media news, there is IS no other story.  They do try to vary the narrative.  How is the lyingly-named One Million Moms reacting?  What about that drive-in movie theater in Alabama that won't show the theater?  How much gay is there?  Is LeFou an appropriate LGBT breakout character?  Gasp--Malaysia won't screen it.  Gasp--Russia is slapping an "adults only" label on it.  Can we squeeze another interview out of a cast member?  How many times can we re-quote the director's original statement?  And on and on.  The news eats a sandwich, vomits it onto a plate, eats it again, and barfs it back up, fork at the ready.

Really, the only question is: will this have an impact on the box office?

Psh.  No.  It won't.  Did you see how much extra publicity this whole thing is getting?  No one is talking about anything but this movie.  Every network and news outlet has done multiple stories on it, and consumers are snarfing the vomit sandwich right down.  Couple that with nothing else opening this weekend (because no studio wants to compete with a major Disney opening), and you have the perfect set-up for a record-breaking blockbuster.  One Dozen Moms has their boobs in a bunch over this, but they only helped it happen, so maybe they need to learn from their mistakes and shut up.  They won't, but they should.

Anyway, we got a close up and personal dose of the phenomenon.  I wanted to go see BEAUTY AND THE BEAST because I use the 1990 movie in media literacy class to talk about abusive relationships--Belle is trapped in a relationship with an abusive beast who isolates her from friends and family, won't let her work or leave the house, expects her to fulfill his every wish (breaking the spell), pushes for a fast commitment, threatens violence, and shows sudden mood swings.  Textbook abuser.  In the end, Belle loves the Beast so much, that she literally changes him into a kind and gentle prince.  Great message to send our girls: when your man abuses you, it's your job to love him enought that he'll reform.  The abuse is YOUR fault.

Did Disney change this around for this new version?  I doubt it, but I want to see the movie so I can comment appropriately during the domestic violence unit.  Darwin and Maksim came along for the ride.

When we arrived at the theater for the 1:45 matinee, however, the ticket seller said, "We only have a few front-row seats left for that showing."

I conferred briefly with Darwin and Maksim, and they said they were okay with that, so I asked for three tickets.

"Oops!" said the seller.  "It just sold out!  And so have the 2:45 and the 3:30 showings.  The 3:45 still has some seats."

We didn't want to wait around two hours, so we decided to wait until next weekend.

If this is any indication, however, One Dozen Moms and the other groups did their job--the show will shatter all kinds of records.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
So the live-action version of Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has a gay character in it, and the right wing is eating apeshit crackers over it.

I'm not happy, either.

Yes, the apeshit crackers crowd are freaked for all the wrong reasons.  One Million Moms--or, more rightly, One Dozen Moms--screeches that it's not appropriate for the CHIL-dren to see such things on screen.  A drive-in theater in Alabama made news because it's refusing to show the movie.  (So a couple dozen bubbas will have to drive one town over to see the movie in an actual theater instead of watching it in the middle of a hayfield.  Oh noes!  The movie is doomed!)  These people haven't complained about the hetero stuff, though--Belle kissing the Beast, Lumiere kissing the dust mop/maid, Gaston's attempts to basically rape Belle.  And wait--isn't Belle basically being forced to fall in love with an animal?  Good heavens!  But let two men hold hands, and these nutbags act like Disney has gone XXX rated.

What's truly stupid is that this isn't the real reason to be ticked.

The gay character in B&B is LeFou, Gaston's little sidekick villain.  Here he is from the original cartoon:

SPOILERS: According to the press releases and news stories, the live version of LeFou has a crush on Gaston and flirts with him once or twice in the movie, but it goes right over Gaston's head.  At the very end of the movie, we get a brief glimpse of LeFou dancing with another man at Belle and the Beast's ball.

That's it.  That's the whole thing.  Less than ten seconds of LGBT content.

The "yay!" people are praising it.  LeFou is Disney's first openly gay character.  (Other characters have been hinted at, but never confirmed.)  What a step forward!  How fantastic!

I give it a thumbs down.

LeFou is a bumbling, sycophantic idiot.  He's clumsy, stupid, easily cowed, and comes on the receiving end of a great deal of the cartoon violence in the movie.  Gaston punches, kicks, slaps, drops, and crushes LeFou, and he begs for more.  LeFou attempts to murder Lumiere during the seige of the Beast's castle.  He's an evil, brutish, buffoonish clown.  His name is French for "fool."

This is what Disney hands us and says, "Hey, LGBT people!  This is how we're going to represent you! Isn't this great?"

Fuck you, Disney.

On top of it, the movie only gives teensy flashes of the character being gay.  A subtle flirt.  A half-second, "blink and you miss it" dance.

Fuck you, Disney.

How about creating some characters of note?  Some good guys we can root for?  Someone who isn't stupid, foolish, idiotic, or clumsy?  A strong person?  A likeable person?  A person kids can look at and say, "I want to be like him"?  I mean, when kids play "Let's Pretend", no one wants to play LeFou.

After hundreds of years of being denigrated and portrayed as the villain, we need good guys.

I can see the reponses already: "LeFou is going to redeem himself.  If he's dancing at Belle and the Beast's ball, it must mean he's changed sides, and he gets a boyfriend in the end, so he's happy.  What's wrong with that?"  Sorry, no.  For hundreds of years, LGBT people have been the villains, the bad guys, the tragic ones.  We still haven't been the protagonists, the strong ones, the powerful ones in these movies.  Not once.  Disney is handing us a rotten little crumb instead of a full meal.

This is why the apeshit crackers people are angry for the wrong reason.  Disney is timidly giving us partial LGBT characters instead of fully-developed, strong, likeable characters we require and deserve.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Saturday we all went to see the Lego Batman movie, mostly because Maksim wanted to see it, and partly to get out of the house on a Saturday evening.

Batman and the Joker are facing off in a self-aware Lego universe.  The Joker is upset that Batman refuses to acknowledge him as his #1 enemy, and so embarks on a master plan to destroy Lego Gotham and force Batman to admit the Joker is indeed his arch-enemy.  Meanwhile, Batman is also dealing with the ramifications of spending his life alone.

First and foremost, it's a silly movie.  They go for jokes first, and if that's what you're in the mood for, it's very funny.  The animation is great, though some scenes are a little too frenetic to follow what's happening--so much is going on in a single frame, you just can't follow it, and the movie seems more designed for home viewing on a DVD player with a really good frame-by-frame pause button.  The movie seems to have a hard time mixing both heart and action--the plot moves along at a good clip, then comes to a dead halt while the characters emote at each other.  After a while, you're able to predict the next emotional beat.  It overall lacked the punch of the first Lego movie.

But the comedy is fast and furious, with many references to Batman from the 1940s comics, to the 1960s TV show (lots and lots of those), to the Tim Burton Batman movie, to the Dark Knight.  The Justice League and Super Friends make cameos, including Zan and Jayna and Gleek (remember them?).

Maksim enjoyed it very much and wants to see it again.  Aran liked a great many one-liners, but wasn't enthralled.  Darwin and I felt . . . meh.

In all, it was a fast, light, silly movie for the kids or the "gotta see 'em all" Batman fan.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Over the weekend, I dragged Darwin to see MOANA.  Aran was working, so he wasn't able to see it with us.  Our verdict?


Moana, who is being groomed to become chieftain of her people, leaves her island to find a cure for the darkness which is ravaging the crops and killing the fish.  She finds the snarky demi-god Maui and the two of them team up with the ocean itself to save the world.

Okay, first the movie wasn't perfect.  (We'll get that out of the way first.)  The score has been lauded quite a lot elsewhere, but I didn't find myself humming the songs or even vaguely remembering any of them after the movie ended.  They're serviceable and they accomplish what they need to within the story, but they don't stick with you.  The pacing at the beginning drags as well.  Too much time spent lingering over island life.

That said, once we cross the barrier reef into Act II, the story snaps right along.  The best part?  Moana is her own self.  She doesn't need anyone else to become complete.  She's not even thinking about romance, and one isn't even mentioned anywhere in the movie.  This is a pure buddy pic, no romance need apply.

The woimen have most of the agency in this movie.  There's Moana herself, of course.  Her decisions drive the plot forward.  But she's advised and urged on by her impish grandmother, and the main plot revolves around rescuing a goddess.  The problems of Maui the demi-god aren't an afterhtought, but they're definitely secondary, and they serve Moana's story, not Maui's.

The lush setting is another delight.  We don't need explanations of Pacific Island culture thrown at us (such as what hula dancing stands for or how sailing works) because they're shown to us with firm skill that also assumes we, the audience, have the intelligence to keep up.  Oh!  And brown skins everywhere.  And no skinny minnies among the women!  Darwin and I saw a showing with a hugely multi-racial audience, and the brown-skinned children in the audience were thrilled about this.

I won't spoil the twist ending except to say that it delighted me no end.  This was not only because it's so hard to be surprised by any plot these days, but also because I was just saying to myself, "You know, this part of the story seems strangely forced" when FOOP!  It all snapped into a "why didn't I see that coming?" kind of place that was so DIFFERENT and SENSIBLE from any other fantasy movie I've seen.  Wonderful!

Highly recommended.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
(While Steven is unconscious from surgery, we will be providing a pre-approved blog for your comfort and convenience.)

Over the weekend, Darwin, Aran, and I went to see FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM.  Our verdict:


The moive deals with a 1920s New York divided between the no-maj (muggle) world and the wizarding world.  The no-maj's suspect there's a magical world, and they're gearing up to fight against it.  Meanwhile, the evil wizard Grindelwald has escaped custody and is expected to do Something Awful any minute.  Finally, Newt Scamander arrives in New York from England with a magic suitcase filled with magic creatures who keep escaping his custody.  If that sounds like a lot to keep track of, you're right.

Is there good stuff?  Sure.  It's fun to see the Harry Potter world in 1920s America.  The movie focuses on magical animals instead of spells and potions, a potentially fun new area to explore.  The effects are lovely.  Dan Fogler as Mr. Kowalski is a delight as the stand-in for the audience as he's accidentally thrust into a wizardling world he can barely understand but gamely does his best to master.


The movie has serious pacing problems.  Things take forever to get moving in the beginning. We  spend too much time dealing with unimportant issues, like the annoying niffler's thieving and the preparation of food in a witch's kitchen, and not enough time on actual plot points, like what the villain wants and how he intends to get it.  The latter is annoyingly muddled and confused.  Less time on special-effects creatures and more time on human character develoment would have been a better scripting choice.

Plot holes abounded.  There seem to be a gazillion witches and wizards in New York, and we see several times that they have the power to repair entire destroyed buildings and elevated train systems with a wand wave, but they can't seem to get their acts together in time to stop a single magic creature.  The reason Tina (Katharine Waterson) was disgraced as an auror makes no sense.  (I won't spoil it, but really--there was no reason for it to have happened.)  The American wizarding world apparently can have two people executed with no trial and no chance for the victims to say a word in their own defense, purely on the word of a single agent.  What on earth?

The characters are also dull and lifeless.  Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander as a hunched, stammering, bumbling idiot who spends most of his time staring at the floor.  At the end of the movie he says, "I've changed so much," and my instant response was, "How?"  He hadn't changed on tiny bit.  Tina, his female counterpart, is his exact match.  She's shy and stammering and wimpy and totally unable to stand up for herself or raise her voice above a murmur, even when lives are at stake.  Apparently at one point, it's supposed to be a major victory for her when Newt makes eye contact with her, and she gives a tiny hop of suppressed ecstasy.  Mysteriously, I didn't feel any of it.

Maybe it's an English thing.  JK Rowling herself wrote the script, and the Brits seem fascinated by the stammering, blithering, noodle-backed incompetent as a protagonist.  I've seen it in book after book, movie after movie, TV show after TV show.  It's almost as if the English are afraid of confidence and competence.  I wish they would stop it.

(This paragraph has mild spoilers in it.)  Mr. Kowalski, our muggle baker, is the only character of any interest in the movie.  Rowling (the screenwriter) wanders dangerous close to the bumbling fat man stereotype, but she barely swerves aside in time.  He's fun to watch, and we're rooting for him, especially with his unexpected romance.  And at the end of the movie, every bit of his adventure is utterly negated. I was disgusted.

Aran pointed out that the main characters are all outcasts, an over-used trope that he hates.

My main thought as I watched the movie was, "Man, this screenplay needs editing."  I rather suspect that Rowling wrote the thing and refused rewrites.  "I don't need the grief," Rowling says.  "Take it or leave it."

And the producer took it.

The animals had their own problems.  Admittedly, I've never much liked Rowling's mythical animals.  She rarely uses established fairy tale creatures and instead makes up her own entirely.  Rather than being refreshing, this comes across as hand-waving.  She can have literally anything she wants, anytime she wants, because--magic!  In this movie, it means Newt can whip a handy creature out of his case to meet any situation.  Animal ex machina.  Additionally, since I've never heard of nifflers or bowtruckles or squiddlemuffleticklebuddlepdiddlekumquats or whatevers, I don't CARE about them.  In this movie, we're supposed to care that these magical creatures are being exterminated, but we never see them be anything except destructive.  They maliciously break into bank vaults, smash windows, give human venemous bites, destroy zoos, and smash entire buildings, but we're supposed to worry that THEY'RE being hurt?  With one exception, the animals are annoying or dangerous, and are in no way sympathetic.  They're only pretty.

The movie was a disappointment for all three of us.  We were hoping for some cool historical urban fantasy and instead got a muddled storyline with unsympathetic characters.  Not recommended.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Hollywood is always upping the ante, isn't it?  The cliffhanger always has to get worse.

I mean the literal cliffhanger.  You know--when a character (usually female) is hanging off the side of a cliff, with certain doom below.  When this idea was originally created, someone would come along and save the character by pulling her up.  The 1920s and 30s serials liked to end with this image.  Tune in next week to see what happens!

Then audiences got used to it.  Someone ALWAYS saved the character, and there was no suspense.  So Hollywood made the cliffhanger worse--the victim fell over the cliff to certain doom.  The savior lunges to grab her and misses.  She falls.  Oh no!  But the smart, savvy savior does something to catch her before she hits.  This had the added suspense of watching the lady plunge toward her death, only to be improbably rescued at the last second.  The first SUPERMAN movie did this very effectively with Lois Lane and the helicopter ("You've got me? Who's got YOU?") as one example out of countless hundreds.

But this wasn't enough, either, because we got used to the character being caught or otherwise saved on the way down.  When Lex Luthor shoved Lois off the building Batman v Superman, we weren't worried in the slightest, for example.

So Hollywood invented the deliberate jump.  The character--now male instead of feamle--in an attempt to get away from the villain, walks nervously to the edge, then willing drops over.  We gasp!  But wait--he landed on something, something he could see that we couldn't.  The character wasn't trapped.  He was getting away!  Marty McFly does this in BACK TO THE FUTURE II when he drops over the edge of the skyscraper to get away from Biff, but we learn seconds later Marty landed safely atop Doc Brown's flying DeLorean.  Richard Kimble pulls this stunt in the movie version of THE FUGITIVE when he flings himself over the edge to escape Tommy Lee Jones's detective character ("I don't care!"), who realizes too late that Kimble was diving into a waterfall (which should have killed Kimble anyway, but this is Hollwood).

But this also become not enough, because, like all the other cliffhangers, the device got overused, and Hollywood had to up the ante again.

So now we have the run-and-dive.  It's the least realistic, and I have to say it's become the most irritating.  It works like this:

The character--once again a male, since this is an active move instead of a passive rescue--is running away from the villain.  Ahead is a cliff.  Ah ha!  The villain has the character now!  But the character doesn't slow down.  Instead, he runs straight to the edge and leaps off it, arms and legs spread.  He vanishes from sight.  The villian, thinking he's somehow chased the character into committing suicide, cautiously proceeds to the edge of the cliff.  WHAM!  The character and a flying machine or creature blasts upward, startling the audience and knocking the villain on his kiester.  Saved!  This shows up in AVATAR, THE AVENGERS, CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER, and just lately in PETE'S DRAGON.

This is the worst one.  Not only did we audiences get used to this after seeing it about twice, it's the least realistic, even for Hollwood action films.  It's completely implausible that the main character is committing suicide, meaning we KNOW the character will live, and we always wonder:

--How does the character time things so perfectly that he can land on the machine or creature WITHOUT SEEING IT? (They hung a lantern on the problem with Captain America. Cap almost misses the helicopter he's trying to catch and he complains to the pilot: "I said the forty-second floor!" "You think it's easy to count like that?")

--How does the character even KNOW the creature/machine will be there?  It's a total leap of faith that makes no sense whatsoever.

--How does the character (especially a child like Pete) survive a twenty-foot belly-flop onto the back of an unyielding surface?  Even if the character survives, he'll have at least half a dozen broken ribs and a concussion.

--How does the monster/machine know to catch the character--or where the character will be?  There's never a way for the catcher to see anything.  WINTER SOLDIER makes a half-hearted attempt at explaining by having Cap shout for the helicopter to catch him as he crashes out the window of a particular floor, but how should the pilot know WHICH WINDOW?  The building has four sides!  He could come out of any one of them.  Even if the pilot figured that out, there's still 50 yards of window to watch.

There's no suspense in this move.  When we see it coming, we KNOW the character will land on something, and since we know the character couldn't have survived the move anyway, it yanks us out of the story.

It's time for Hollywood to retire this bit of action.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Darwin and I went to see FINDING DORY on our Mackinaw Trip.

Our reaction: Meh.

It wasn't =bad=.  But neither was it =good.=

Hank the septopus (an octopus with a missing arm) was awesome, and stole the show.  The camouflage and disguises he uses are screamingly funny, and his propensity for escape is realistic, if everything I've read about aquarium octopi is true.

However, Dory as a main character doesn't work very well.  Her relentless optimism is a plus, but her famous forgetfulness, which is funny in a supporting character, makes her problematic when she takes center stage.  She is able to remember things when it's convenient for the plot, and never any other time.  There was also no explanation for her memory problems.  Her parents don't share it, and neither do any of the other fish like her.  So why is Dory forgetful?  This is never explained.  The settings ae also dark and grim.  We keep returning to the same kelp forest, where the lighting is dim and the colors are muted.  The aquariums that make up most of the rest of the show are sterile, empty cubes of water, or rusty, nasty pipes, or (in one memorable scene) a battered mop bucket.  There are a few exceptions, but gross and grim rule the set, which drags down the audience.

There was also too much back-and-forth in the plot.  As in, Yes! We found Dory's parents!  No--just kidding.  We didn't.  Yes!  We found them now!  No--just kidding.  They were moved.  Yes!  We found them at last!  No--just kidding.  They were moved again.  This kind of stuff happens all throughout the movie, and rather than building suspense, it becomes frustrating and annoying.

Also, by setting the movie in an aquarium theme park, Pixar boxed themselves in, and had no good way out of it. The main characters are continually casting about for ways to get from Point A to Point B.  Hank the septopus is the only character who can reliably get from one tank to another, but there is a lot of silly scooping Dory into cups, coffee carafes, and even sippy cups in order to bring her along for the ride--which is what she usually does; just come along for the ride.  Since she can't do anything in the environment of the aquarium, Hank has to do everything while Dory just sits in her cup and talks to him, or screeches in fear whenever they tumble down some stairs or rush headlong down a ramp or something.

All these flaws obscured the fun parts of the film, and stopped it from being a solid, enjoyable sequel.  In retrospect, I would rather have waited for the DVD.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
The McClary-Piziks household went to see CIVIL WAR last weekend.  It was everything BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN was supposed to be but wasn't.  It handled a huge cast of characters stunning well, and the fight between opposing sides was organic and inevitable.  The final battle between Captain America and Iron Man had to happen, and it was a fine thing for a writer to watch (unlike BvS, in which you could see the writers labor to force both sides to fight in ways that made little sense).  I want to see it again.

But that's not what I really want to comment on.  I want to comment on the theaters.

Let's face it--when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, movie theaters were pretty crappy.  They were built like middle school auditoriums, with narrow aisles, uncomfortable seats that flipped up and whacked your thighs whenever you stood up, and lobbies that were basically holding pens for patrons who were treated like cattle.  And the food?  Bleah!  Stale popcorn, baldy-mixed soda, and old chocolate. That was about it. I had read about movie theaters from the 20s and 30s that were lush palaces of gilt and velvet, with ushers that guided you around, and polite concessioners who brought food to your seat, and I wondered what it would be like to go to a movie that was an event instead of a trip to the grocery store.

Well, now I know.

Today's movie theaters . . . oh, how I love today's movie theaters.  Shall we begin with the seats?  They're tall enough to support your back and even your neck.  They stay permanently down so they don't smack you or make that annoying flip-flip noise whenever someone stands up.  They have cup holders in the arms, and said arms will even fold upward so you can make a loveseat or a couch with your sweetie, if you want.  The cushions are comfortable. Someone finally realized that stadium seating wasn't just for stadiums, and they applied it to movie theaters, so all the seats are good; you can still see even if a 6'4" linebacker sits in front of you.

The lobby has gotten a complete makeover.  It's bright and welcoming.  Sweeping displays of upcoming movies let you know what's coming up, some of which run videos.  An arcade will entertain you if you arrive too early.  Concession stands and even little restaurants serve a variety of foods, from hot dogs and nachos and pizza to ice cream to cookies to the old standby, popcorn, and a side table offers a variety of flavored salt.  The soda machines have become self-serve, but they're all you can drink now (and when you pay a thousand dollars for a soda, we want to drink a LOT), and they have the super-cool machine that lets you mix your own soda flavor on the spot.  Or make yourself a frozen flavored Coke.  The whole thing says, "We love having you spend money here!  Please come back!"

When we took our seats for CIVIL WAR, the theater had a festive air to it.  It was like attending a large party, really.  Everyone was in a good mood, and laughing and talking, but they all quickly quieted under some good-natured shushing when the movie began.  There were shouts and cries in all the right places, and appreciative applause during Winter Soldier's motorcylcle trick.  (You'll know when you see it.)

Yes, the theaters have come a long, long way, and I'm happy to see it.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I haven't talked to my high school friend Brian d'Arcy James face-to-face in probably 15 years.  I think the last time was way back when he was starring in TITANIC on Broadway.  Still, I follow what he's up to.  Mostly he does Broadway shows (look up SOMETHING ROTTEN to see what I mean), but every so often he makes a foray into television or the movies, and it's always fun to catch him.  So I was really looking forward to SPOTLIGHT.

SPOTLIGHT focuses on a small group of reporters at the Boston Globe as they work to uncover and report on the horrifying scope of the pedophilia crimes and cover-ups in the Catholic church.  The movie has been glowingly reviewed elsewhere, and this isn't so much a review as my own reaction, both as a movie-goer and as a person.

The main reason I wanted to see the movie was that Brian was in it.  He plays Matty Carroll, one of the reporters at Spotlight, the investigative arm of the Globe.  I told Darwin the movie had finally arrived in the Detroit Metro area, but he was clearly uninterested.  "Let me put it this way," I said.  "I am going to see this movie today.  You can come with me or you can stay home."  Darwin feels left out when I do things without him, so he elected to come.

We timed things to arrive only a few minutes before the movie started.  It was a Saturday at 5:00 on a holiday weekend.  Who was going to be there?

To our surprise, the theater was packed.  A great many audiences members were older, in their sixties and seventies.  (Later I realized many of the victims discussed in the movie would be that age today.)  Darwin and I were forced to sit in the whiplash seats way down front, and even after we found spots, yet more people filed in.  At last the movie began.

The film totally threw me, and this is hard to do.  It's hard to figure out where to start talking about it.

(I don't know if it's possible to spoil this movie.  It's based on reality, and everyone knows how the ending comes out.  However, in case you've been living in a cave on Mars with your fingers in your ears or something, what follows reveals a fair amount about the action.)

The movie stays tight with the Spotlight reporters.  It follows them through the dogged leg work of uncovering a sickening, horrifying scandal that grows bigger and bigger at every turn, but there's no action. This is a drama, not a thriller.  The movie takes place in relentlessly ordinary places--in records basements and among bookshelves and in judge's offices and at kitchen tables and on front porches.  The reporters are as far from glamorous as you can get.  Brian is a Hollywood handsome man, but you wouldn't know it in this movie.  The awful mustache and bad haircut are typical of a man who pays little attention to his appearance to focus on his work.  The camera often focuses on Michael Keaton, the Spotlight editor, and shows his face as a wreck of wrinkles.  Rachel McAdams, another reporter, usually shows up disheveled, with poorly-applied makeup.  It looks like Mark Ruffalo, the final reporter, and Brian are both carrying some middle-age spread, but if you look closely, you can see they both have athletic builds and they've created a skillful illusion using costuming--baggy khakis, bad sweaters--and carefully bad posture. These are ordinary shlubs who sit behind desks and deal with paper and telephones, not action heroes who pack pistols and punch bad guys.  Only Billy Crudup as the smarmy lawyer McLiesh is allowed to be a snazzy dresser.

The settings show much the same skilled banality.  Salt is scattered carelessly across a restaurant table.  Kitchen cupboards show wear around the edges.  Eyeglasses are smudged around the edges.  And looming over everything is the church.  Church towers glare down over tracts of houses.  Cathedrals frame parks.  Church bells ring on city streets.  A parochial school's windows stare across the street to the Globe's office.

But we never, ever see inside the church.  There are no scenes of cardinals and bishops gathered in dark spaces trying to decide what to do about these upstart reporters.  We only see the results of the church's machinations--empty files of court documents, lawyers who refuse to speak, adult abuse victims with needle tracks on their arms or who weep unexpectedly in a park after telling a reporter how a priest coerced him into giving oral sex when he was twelve.  We see the horror on Matty's face when he realizes one of the pedophile priests is now living quietly half a block away from Matty's own house.  (Matty has children of his own.)

We don't see courtroom drama, either.  The one moment it looks like we might, when Ruffalo's character is watching a Catholic judge hear arguments about releasing documents that would damage the church, the camera pulls away to Ruffalo's conversation with a rival reporter.  And in any case, the judge doesn't issue her ruling right away--it comes weeks and weeks later.  Over the phone.  This is not The Good Wife.

But the movie is never dull.  The director is highly skilled at creating tension and excitement during what were, in real life, long paperwork searches.  He and the cast show us the stakes at every moment, both personal ones and wide-ranging ones.

Each reporter has his or her own bailiwick.  Brian plays the relentless researcher who can find anything in print, and never mind the dead rat in the basement.  McAdams is the good friend who gets reluctant victims to talk (including a retired priest who unexpectedly and happily babbles about the boys he's raped).  Ruffalo thrusts and stabs at bureaucrats and lawyers who refuse to talk, using words like weapons.  And Keaton pals around with high-rollers, pulling out information and dealing threats over glasses of scotch.  Their excitement at discovering something important becomes our own.

As the scope of the crimes and coverups grows, and the reporters realize that they aren't dealing with three priests, or even 13, but 90--and that just in Boston--the largely silent audience gasped and murmured.  Their quiet question: how many monsters are living among us even now?

At the very end, the story has broken and Mark Ruffalo's character takes a copy to a lawyer named Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci).  Garabedian has been working with priest abuse victims for decades and has tried to get the story into the news before, but either reporter apathy or active interference by the Catholic church got in the way.  Garabedian glances over the newspaper, thanks Ruffalo, and shoos him out of the office.  Why?  He has clients waiting--a mother and two small children.  The children were both raped by a priest, the church is offering a settlement to cover it up, and Garabedian's work continues.  Just because the story breaks doesn't mean the crisis has ended.

Brian has the only two really funny moments in the film.  One comes when he drops a pile of the newspapers that break the story on the front porch of the pedophile priest in his neighborhood.  The other is in a scene with Rachel McAdams.  He says he's working on a book to take his mind off the scandal.

"What kind?" she asks.

"Horror," he says wryly, and the audience laughed.

Just before the credits roll, the movie lists other cities that have reported pedophilic attacks by Catholic priests.  Three columns of tightly-packed text appears on the screen, and the audience gasped in shock.

And then the text was replaced by another three-column set.

And then by another.

I don't know why, but this is the point where I started to cry.  It was awful.  I couldn't stop myself.  The screen blurred and I couldn't read anymore.

When the cast credits rolled, no one in the audience moved.  Every single person remained motionless in their seats, as did I.  We were a good way into the credits before we were able to get to our feet and shuffle toward the exit.

I overheard people conversing in hushed voices.

"That was a good movie.  Harsh, but good.  More people need to see it."

"I've always been anti-New England.  Now I have a new reason to hate Boston."

We can't forget this.  We can't let this drop.  No one is doing enough to stop it--and make no mistake, it's still going on.

Go see the movie.  Forget The Hunger Games and The Good Dinosaur. This is the movie everyone needs to see.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
Got Mad Max: Fury Road on DVD.  This was the movie, you may recall, that honked off a lot of anti-feminist (read "misogynistic") men who became enraged that Max took orders from Furiosa, a mere woman!  And ohmygerd--she had more lines than he did.  And ohmyfreakingerd--the whole storyline revolved around HER plan and HER ideas and HER decisions, not his.

Yeah.  Never mind that there are about a bazillion movies in which the male calls all the shots.  Because, you know, the men have to have it all.  Grow a pair, guys.

Anyway, the movie was . . . weird.  A gread deal of it was highly stylized, so stylized, in fact, that you couldn't always tell what was going on.  Several characters wore masks or heavy makeup and then spoke their lines in a thick accent, so it was hard to understand what they were saying.  Big hunks of the plot didn't make sense, either.  (SPOILER: So if every single citizen hated the leader of the enclave that much, why didn't they just take over after he left to pursue the women and slam the gates shut?  And what was up with the guitar player?  If there was symbolism there, it wasn't clear.  Maybe he was supposed to be the bard who watches Viking battles, or something, but it didn't come off well.)

But the stunts and vehicles were outrageous and freaky, and the pace rockets right along.  It's worth watching on DVD if you're in the mood for a lot of action and violence and dirt.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I heard great things about the horror movie IT FOLLOWS. I'm not a horror fan, but Darwin loves the genre.  I make him sit through super-hero movies, so in the spirit of being even, I sigh and attend the occasional horror movie with him.  When I saw the rave reviews about IT FOLLOWS, I thought, "Well! Here's a horror movie I might enjoy and it'll be a nice surprise for Darwin--a horror movie I'm not complaining about!"

I got the DVD.  Darwin was pleased with the idea, and we settled onto the couch to watch.

It was awful.

Plot synopsis: a girl has sex with her slightly older boyfriend and discovers that he has, as a result, passed a strange being on to her.  The being can change shape and will slowly, inevitably lurch toward her until it catches up with her.  When it does, it will kill her.  There's no way to stop it.  You can only outrun it.  And no one but you can see it.  The only way to get rid of it is to have sex with someone else and make it focus on them, turning you into a world-class asshole.

It's a great set-up, but the execution was awful.  The pacing was slooooooowwwwww.  And not suspensfully slow.  Boring and slooooowww.  Everyone sits around doing relentlessly ordinary things--brushing their hair, watching old TV shows, having ordinary teenage-type conversations.  (The girl's parents inexplicably vanish about fifteen minutes into the movie, and their absence is never explained.)  And NOTHING HAPPENS.  Finally the being lurches into view and there's a frantic few moments of rushing about to put some distance between the girl and it, but then everyone just sits around talking again.  You can easily take a bathroom break and pop some corn without pausing, and you'll miss nothing.

You also start to realize that the idea of the being is pretty stupid.  It walks.  Slowly.  So you only need to drive to Point A, wait 13 hours, and drive back home.  The being will have to turn around and lurch back toward you, at which point you just drive away again.  It's annoying, but not impossible to deal with.

The whole thing comes across as a metaphor in search of a plot.  The being is a stand-in for the consequences of sexual activity, apparently.  Trouble is, the metaphor doesn't SAY anything.  And the story is so thin, we don't care.  The characters, like the setting, are relentlessly ordinary, which means there's nothing remotely interesting about any of them, so we don't care what happens.  Die or not, so what?  They're flat and dull as a Detroit sidewalk anyway, so when someone dies, it's a bit of a relief.

I truly don't understand the rave reviews the movie earned.  Perhaps movie reviewers sit through so many movies, the films all seem the same after a while, and anything vaguely different comes across as brilliant by contrast.  I don't know.  I do know that there was no real story, no real suspense, bad pacing, poor cinetography, stilted acting, embarrassingly-bad dialogue, and plot holes you could lost a tank in.

Skip it, folks. Really.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I've watched the trailers, the sneak peeks, and the teasers, and I don't think I need to see the movie now.  I've worked out the entire thing.  Here's how the next JURASSIC PARK movie will go:

Jurassic Park, the attraction, will open with lots and lots of dinosaurs doing tricks to an amazed and adoring crowd of cute, happy tourists, including some bumbling, tubby ones for humor and at least one snotty soccer mom who will get eaten later.  But we'll also see behind the scenes, where a dreadful experiment, created to make the park MORE MONEY, has been conducted by The Suits, and has conjured up a dinosaur the size and temperament of a rabid godzilla.  The thing is growing bigger and bigger and smarter and smarter.  If it gets loose, it will wipe out the security system, and release all the other dinosaurs. Worse, the Giant Evil Dinosaur will probably escape the island.  Something Must Be Done.

The Suits send Stiff Female Suit off to see Hunky Dino Expert in order to persuade him to come to the island.  Hunky Dino Expert (HDE) has actually managed to train a troup of velociraptors like a lion tamer, and they do his bidding.  More or less.  Will he pretty please come to the island and train the Big Evil Dinosaur, too?

After some persuading, HDE comes to the island with his velociraptors.  But what's this?  The Big Evil Dinosaur has already espcaped!  The security system has been destroyed, and the dinosaurs are now munching, in descending order, on the fat tourists, the snotty soccer mom, and (horrors!) the cute tourists.  We have to stop them!

HDE says "I told you so" in a number of witty ways, but sets out to subdue the chaos.  He and his troop of raptors capture or kill most of the other dinos.  During this process, the Stiff Female admits she still has feelings for the HDE, and, with a rogueish wink, he admits the same.  However, the velociraptors are his life.  They don't betray you like people will, though they may try to nibble your entrails.  So really, he can't come back to the Stiff Female.

And the Big Evil Dinosaur is still out there, munching its way through dinosaurs and humans alike, getting closer and closer to escaping to the outside world.

At last, we're down to Stiff Female and Hunky Dino Expert and the raptors against the Big Evil Dinosaur. They lay a trap for the BED, and it nearly works.  But what's this?  The BED is smarter than we thought!  It destroys the trap at the very last moment!  The BED is going to munch both our Stiff Female and our HDE.  Oh no!

The head velociraptor leaps out of a plot hole and throws herself at the BED.  The BED chomps her hard.  The Hunky Dino Expert rallies and uses the distraction to kill the Big Evil Dinosaur.  Victory!

But no!  The head velociraptor is dying, and in pain.  HDE cradles her head in his lap with tears in his eyes.  Stiff Female, who never liked the raptors before, now sees their value too late. Still, she tells the HDE there is only one solution.  He resists at first, but in the end, he agrees.  He draws his pistol and, whimpering about Old Yeller, shoots the chief raptor in the head.

The Stiff Female decides, just as in all the previous movies, that Jurassic Park is Just Too Dangerous and needs to be shut down forever.  For real this time.  No kidding.  Until the next sequel, anyway.  HDE admits that human contact is better than living with a bunch of dinosaurs and smooches it up with the Stiff Female.  Happy ending!  Except for all the tourists who finished up as dinosaur poo.

We end on a close-up of a piece of scientific equipment that still contains a piece of dinosaur DNA.  Looks like the sequel is in the can.

And there we go!  I should get $50 for every plot point I get correct.  I'll bet it'll be all of them.  Agree or disagree?


Dec. 1st, 2013 04:01 pm
stevenpiziks: (Bear)
Yesterday I dragged Darwin to see FROZEN with the boys and me.  I mean--animation!  Disney!  It'll be fun!  About halfway through the show, Darwin leaned over and muttered to me, "We need to talk about your taste in films."

I couldn't contradict him.

FROZEN was awful.  Yeah, the animation was lovely.  It always is these days.  But the story was muddled and full of holes.


So Princess Elsa develops snow magic powers.  Why would this mean she has to be isolated from the entire world?  How would making her cold and unfeeling prevent her from misusing her power?  It seems like that would turn her into a little psychopath.  And who was running the kingdom with the king and queen dead and both princesses closed up behind "locked gates" for all those years?

The movie lacked for a clear antagonist, too.  At first it looked to be the visiting Duke of Wesselton, but he was nothing but an annoyance.  The movie has a secret villain, but his identity isn't revealed to Anna or the audience until the movie is nearly over.  When Elsa flees the castle in tears because she's lost control of her power (and why would a simple pair of gloves stop her ice powers when later her ice breaks her free of a pair of iron gauntlets?), it looks like Elsa might turn into the antagonist, but Anna firmly maintains Elsa would never hurt anyone.  And she doesn't.  Even the big snow creature Elsa conjures up to defend her ice castle doesn't do anything but roar.  As a result, the movie is utterly lacking in tension.  Not once do we ever worry the characters are truly in trouble.

And how does Kristoff suddenly become family with the trolls?  That came out of the blue.  The opening sequence shows him as a boy cutting ice with a bunch of guys we assume are his family, and then we see him spying on some trolls doing magic, but nothing happens to show Kristoff losing his human family or having any other connection to trolls.  Other than plot convenience.

And finally, WHY IS IT BAD THAT ELSA HAS ICE POWERS?  Holy shamoly!  You mean we have a queen who can freeze an entire fleet of ships at will?  Let's train that little sucker up!  No one will be able to invade us, like ever!

The story wanders around, looking for something to do, pulling the audience along with it like a bunch of lost puppies.  Even the musical numbers were mediocre.

A true disappointment and a waste of money.
stevenpiziks: (Fountain)
It does get tiring watching Hollywood portray the Midwest.  A thousand years from now, archaeologists will watch movies from this time period and get completely the wrong impression about the middle of America.

As just one example, I was watching SMASH yesterday.  Katharine, one of the main characters, goes home from New York to visit her family in Iowa.  When she got there, I alternated between cringing and outrage.

Katharine, who states several times in the show that she's a Midwesterner, is struggling to escape the horrors of the Midwest, you see.  And here we see why.  Her hometown reeks of stereotyped hick-dom. 

--Katharine's mother spends a great deal of time trying to convince her that she should move "back home" and get married.  Because, you know, that's what Midwestern moms demand of their daughters.

--The reason Katharine comes home is to attend a friend's baby shower.  (And how the hell, by the way, can a coffee shop waitress afford to travel halfway across the country to attend a freakin' BABY SHOWER?)  When she arrives, her friends all squeal like high school girls and swarm all over her, demanding to know what the big city is like.  Because, you know, there are no big cities in the Midwest.

--At said baby shower, the pregnant friend remarks to Katharine how nice it is to have a husband "take care of you."  "You should try it," the friend says.  Because, you know, having a man take care of you is what makes Midwestern women happy.

--During her visit, Katharine stays at her parents' house. Her father has some unstated office job and her mother seems to have no career at all.  Their two kids are grown and gone.  Despite all this, they live in a huge, three-story Victorian farmhouse in the middle of a cornfield.  (Yeah--a family of four on a mid-level executive's salary buys a mansion.  And what the hell is the cornfield for?)  Because, you know, that's how all Midwesterners live.

--At the baby shower, the girls (they don't act like women) beg Katharine to sing karaoke for them.  She claps on a cowboy hat, bounces up to the stage, and sings a twangy country piece of awfulness titled "I'm a Redneck Girl" while her friends howl "Yeeha!"  Because, you know, that's the kind of music all Midwesterners love and how all Midwesterners react to such music.

--Just when Katharine is about to break down and cry at all the awfulness of the Midwest that has surrounded her, Daddy encourages her to stay in New York to follow her theater dream and gives her a check to tide her over.  Because, you know, no Midwestern dad would do such a thing, which makes this is a stunning Hollywood plot twist.

It's not just SMASH.  THE BIG BANG THEORY, one of my favorite shows, is guilty of the same thing.  Penny comes from Nebraska, and the show consistently portrays Nebraska as a place filled with people who live in trailers, get pregnant in the back of pickup trucks, cook meth to pay the bills, and are stupid enough to pour manure into gas tanks to create alternative fuel.  When Penny returns from a visit back home, Sheldon shuns her because she mentions one of her relatives was sick.  Eventually, she does give him the flu despite his best efforts to avoid it--Nebraska even carries disease.  Penny herself is the only person on the show of average intelligence, and she's also the only Midwesterner.  Meanwhile, not ONE genius on the show comes from the middle of the country.  They come from the east coast or the west coast. Sheldon comes from Texas--the south.

Other shows do the same thing.  Yeah, there are some exceptions, but the overall picture Hollywood portrays of the Midwest is a place peppered with uncultured, backwoods hicks, and the rare smart or ambitious ones can't wait to escape to a coastline.

Wake up, Hollywood!  The Midwest is more than than flyover country, more than hickdom.  We have more than our share of intelligent, cultured people.  And just as one example, may I point out that the Midwestern accent (specifically the Great Lakes American accent) is the one considered closest to proper American English?  And the New York and New Jersey accents is considered harsh and the California accent is considered elongated and lazy?  National newscasters and actors strive to speak =our= dialect even while they ridicule our part of the country.  How weird is that?

Come on, Hollywood. You can do better.


Nov. 27th, 2011 11:49 pm
stevenpiziks: (Default)
Yesterday I told the boys we could go see a movie. Three of interest were playing: HUGO, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, and THE MUPPETS. I let them vote, and we got two votes for HUGO, so off we went.

I was expecting something . . . rather different.  I'd heard about the book, though I hadn't read it.  Sasha had done so a couple years ago for a school project, but I hadn't.  I got the idea it was supposed to be an adventure story with steampunk overtones, so I was set for that.

I wasn't prepared for the pace.  The movie was s-l-o-w-w-w-w-w.  And it was definitely a character story, not a world or plot story.  It certainly wasn't an adventure, by any stretch.  And there was lots of steam but little punk, despite all the clockwork.  I also found very little tension in the story and not much to like among the main characters.  The little girl came across as snotty and annoying, and Hugo was whiny and wimpy.  Could the boy do anything but skulk in corners and beg for things and run away from people?  I got =bored=, to tell the truth, and started to drift off.  Aran nudged me awake when he noticed I was falling asleep.  For me, the only saving grace was being able to see the movie history stuff come to life, though it quickly became clear that even this was a self-indulgence from the director and, likely, the reason Martin Scorsese wanted to make the film in the first place. ("Don't you find this fascinating?  I find this fascinating, and you should, too. Yes, you should!" Fortunately for Scorsese, I did. More or less.)

The surprise?  Maksim found it very interesting.  He scarcely took his eyes off the screen.  And Sasha was totally enthralled.  "It was exactly like the book," he said afterward with satisfaction.  "Exactly!"

Aran said, "It was boring."

Well, we can't all like the same thing--imagine what a haggis shortage there would be!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
At the last minute last week, I took the boys out to see TANGLED.  It was a really cool outing, and all three of the boys enjoyed it.  Partway through, Maksim changed seats so he could sit by me and snuggle in closer.  He's been even more touchy-feely since Kala left, which is very understandable.
The next day, the boys finished their jobs and I took them to the bowling alley.  It'd been a long time since we'd done that, and the boys like that very much.  Afterward we went out to lunch, which they also thought was pretty cool.  And it was all funded by a small check I got from Amazon electronic sales.
Right after that, I went over to my friend Kurt's, and we watched INCEPTION on DVD.  Kurt had seen it in the theater, but the film malfunctioned partway through, destroying the show's momentum, so this was the first time he'd seen it without interruption.  I hadn't seen it at all.
I liked it quite a lot, and (SPOILER) realized about halfway through that the entire thing was a dream cooked up by Cobb in an attempt to wake himself up.  Numerous clues show up the end.  His children don't look at him.  His wife keeps telling him it's a dream, but he refuses to believe her, thinking she's insane (but he's insane, not her).  As Cobb is leaving the airport at the end, everyone turns to stare at him (as we know dream constructs do to intruders) several times.  The huge clue is that the passport guy stamps Cobb passport with the same circle-and-aroow symbol Cobb drew for Ariadne earlier (you can just catch it in freeze-frame).  We don't see if the top stops spinning at the end, providing some ambiguity, but it's quite clear the whole thing is Cobb's dream.  Pretty cool.
The boys called twice while I was there.  They get nervous if I leave them alone for more than a couple hours.  So I slid back home for them.


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