TV & Movies

Crimson Peak

Oh, dear.  Where to start.  First the good.  Tom Hiddleston is so handsome and so charming and such a good actor.  He can do more with a look then many actors can manage with a half page soliloquy.  He also dances beautifully.  yes, Tom I’ll waltz with you anytime and he’s in this film a lot.

Then there’s the rest —

 

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You have been warned.  I said to a friend this morning this movie felt like a Daphne du Maurier novel from the 1930’s.  Nothing wrong with that.  I read and enjoyed her novels back in the day, but it’s a kind of story telling that seems very naive to us today.  It’s was directed by Del Toro so it was visually gorgeous, but the story felt trite and rather empty.

I had been worried about seeing the film because I’m a big wuss and I don’t handle horror well.  There is nothing horrific here.  Del Toro tries for tension with sudden sounds, but it didn’t even get a jump out of me much less ramp up the tension.  Jessica Chastain is appropriately creepy as the overly clingy sister to the degenerate English noble played to perfection by Hiddleston.  Mia Wasikowska is appropriately fragile and innocent as the young bride brought to the brooding mansion in England, but it all felt so familiar.

The one nice change was that you ultimately discover that the ghosts — as horrific as they might look — are actually trying to help young Edith.  I did wonder why after you’re dead you don’t just come back to haunt in a form that makes you happy.  Why do you have to be a blood drenched skeleton?  Is there some rule at ghost central that you have to be a horror?

Ultimately you discover that the brother and sister were horribly abused by their parents (which you had figured out almost right away especially when you saw the hideous portrait of mommy dearest).  The older sister is the leader in this Folie à deux to try and make Hiddleston less horrific.  Probably a good choice since the actor is so appealing, but you can’t get around the fact that he married three women for money and then let his sister poison them.

Of course the big shocking revelation is that the brother and sister have been having sexy time with each other.  Another thing which was telegraphed from the first moment at the ball.  And really folks, after Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones can sibling incest really be shocking?

There is, of course, the stalwart young American lover who lost Edith to the degenerate baronet played by Charlie Hunnam doing a truly terrible American accent.  The character is also too dumb to live.  He literally walks through the snow to rescue his lady after discovering the baronets previous marriages, and the horrific death of the mother and he doesn’t bring a gun.  He fails utterly to rescue Edith and instead gets stabbed but not killed.

Edith survives a fall from a balcony that seems to leave her with nothing more then a sprained ankle which shows up intermittently as Edith engages in a knife/shovel fight with crazy sister.  It was a pleasant change that the burly hero doesn’t rescue his lady love.  Instead she rescues him, but it wasn’t enough to save this movie.

At one point I leaned over to my friend Stephen Boucher and said “If Hiddleston weren’t so pretty I’d leave because this is boring.”  So no, if you are a wimp about horror films don’t worry about this one.  It’s not scary.  It you happen to have a crush on any of the actors then go and enjoy.

Star Trek: Renegades

Okay, so now I can talk about the work I’ll be doing for Star Trek: Renegades. As many of you probably know there has been a tradition of fans of the show making their own episodes and putting them up on-line. They range in quality, but some are produced by people in “the Industry” as we call it. Renegades is one of those.

I was approached by executive producer Sky Conway and asked if I would come on board. I said I would have to look at the pilot they had produced and also that they had to be a WGA signatory. I don’t work outside of my guild. I then went and watched Renegades and was very impressed.

I was especially attracted to the idea of showing a side of the Star Trek universe that was glossed over or ignored in a lot of the shows — the grungy underbelly. My elevator pitch for Renegades is Guardians of the Galaxy meets Star Trek. The idea of writing about crooks, criminals, and con artists, journalists — in short people who didn’t (in the famous words of Peter Quill) “have broom sticks shoved up their asses” was very appealing.

So I’m headed back to L.A. to take up my duties as the executive producer overseeing the writing. I’m writing episodes 2 and 3. Which has me jazzed because these will be featuring Admiral Chekov (the ten year old Melinda had a total squee moment because I spent about forty minutes on the phone with Walter Koenig discussing the show).

One of the things that was important to me was to approach these next 11 episodes the way Daredevil was approached on Netflix. Tell a complete story arc rather then just a series of episodes. Because productions are always a frantic effort to meet deadlines and lay track there will be some hard days, but mostly I think this is going to be fun. And I get to write scripts again which is my preferred form when it comes to writing.

One of the things that helped me make the decision was listening to Felicia Day talk at the Jean Cocteau theater.  It’s clear that you can reach a broad audience on-line, and that this is a vibrant new way to offer entertainment.  Felicia became a star because of an on-line show.  This looked like an opportunity and I decided to take it.

If you are interested in giving us your support you can go to the kickstarter and become a renegade.Star Trek Renegades

Psychology and Agents of SHIELD

I love this show.  Yeah, the first 3/4 of the first season were shaky, but I liked the people enough — especially Coulson to hang in there.  I was also fascinated with Grant Ward and not just because he’s pretty (though that helped).  I just knew there was more to that guy then just being the pretty boy.  Then the whole Hydra thing hit, and yeah, I was totally there.  Now we’ve got inhumans and other planets, and wow.

What we also have is really interesting analysis of human psychology.  We’ve got May determined to be totally independent yet longing for the husband she pushed away.  We’ve got Coulson a profoundly decent man who is still wondering why he’s alive, what does it mean?  What can he, should he do with this gift?  The truly messed up relationship between Fitz and Simmons.  Total love on the one side.  Advance/retreat on the other.  Ironically Skye/Daisy has become the most grounded person in the mix.

And then there’s Ward.  Abusive family.  Psychopathic tendencies nurtured under the care of a true psychopath and sociopath.  Desperately looking for love but unable to understand what love actually is.  The last episode Ward is the head of Hydra but he calls himself “Director” as in director of SHIELD.  His people are called agents.  He’s trying to recreate SHIELD so he can recapture that feeling of belonging somewhere.  A friend of mine once suggested as a joke that the person Ward actually loves is Coulson.  I actually think there is something to that.  He clearly never loved May.  Skye was an infatuation.  Agent 33 was a weird attempt to nurture not destroy.  Maybe a sense that if he could heal her he could heal himself.  And then he killed her.  So maybe Coulson is the person over whom he obsesses.  Is it a misplaced need for a father?  Romantic feelings?  Which ever way the writing staff goes I’ll be there to watch.

And this is a show that had a shrink as a character.  You don’t see that very often.  Basically it’s a show that despite all the super powers and explosions and guns and just general cool shit it’s about the human mind and the human heart.

The Martian – Book and Film

Last night I went over to the Cocteau theater to listen to George R.R. interview Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN.  I had read the book several months ago and enjoyed it enormously because I’m a giant space geek.  It’s fun and funny and makes science and scientists cool.  It’s also a very short book so I finished it with in two days.

I then went off with GRRM and others to see the movie.  Which was great fun and inspiring, and apart from making cuts was a very faithful adaptation of the book.  Afterward George and I discussed the cuts.  He, of course, wished they hadn’t been made.  I thought they were perfect.  Basically George wanted more of trials and tribulations that Watney endured on his drive from the Hab and the landing site to the other crater where a return vehicle was waiting.  It consisted of more big storms, and getting tipped into a crater.  But here’s the thing.  We’d already seen one big storm, and by this point in the movie we wanted to see how launching a man into space while under a tarp was going to work out.  It was a pacing issue and the screenwriter and Ridley Scott made the right decision.

As for George’s constant whine about doing “faithful” adaptations.  Sometimes you can.  In this case it’s a short novel with a handful of characters and a very linear story.  It’s the Perils of Pauline done very, very well.  Those are easy stories to adapt — it’s one-damn-thing-after-another.  Other books don’t lend themselves to that.  Books that rely on the beauty of their prose, or vast amounts of internal dialog or have enormously complex plots and a lot of characters are far more challenging to adapt to a visual medium.  Make no mistake books and film are different mediums.  They require different story telling skills.

What I loved about the movie was watching smart people solve problems and humans being supportive of each other, agreeing that lives matter — even the life of one man.  My major quibble was with the portrayal of the head of NASA.  Even in the book I didn’t buy the idea that he would keep the information that Watney was alive from the Ares crew, and when you see Jeff Daniels portraying the bureaucrat on a fifty foot screen he becomes even more of a cliche.

There were two point that I wish had been sold a little better in the film versus the book.  I had a feeling that dimmer members of the audience might be puzzled about how Watney replenished his oxygen.  That was explained very well in the novel, but was a tossed off line in the film.  They spent a lot of time on how to make water — which was good — but the oxygen issue wasn’t as well defined.  The reason I wanted this is after a diet of gibberish from shows like V and movies like Independence where the aliens want our water or our natural resources I wanted people to understand that minerals and water aren’t hard to come by in the greater universe.  I’d really rather have these shows say that the aliens want our women (or our men).  It would actually make more sense.  (Which is not saying much).

The visuals on Mars were fantastic, but I actually enjoyed the scenes back at NASA and JPL even more.  Those scenes reminded me of that great moment in APOLLO 13 where all the techs are gathered and a guy comes in carrying an armful of junk, dumps it on the table, picks up a round tube and a square slot and says — “This has to fit into this.  Go!”

Weir addressed the elephant in the room right up front during is talk.  Yes, there couldn’t be a windstorm that powerful on Mars.  But hey guys, this is fiction and he needed a set up and this was great setup.  Why strain over that gnat when we swallow entire  747’s when we buy into stories with faster then light speed?

Bottom line — I really liked the book and the movie.  So read one and then see the other.

Insomnia TV Watching

I had a lot on my mind last night and found sleep to be eluding me.  I was going to watch my recording of ARROW, but at one point I went channel surfing and came across McCloud an old TV show from the 1970’s.  Dennis Weaver was the star and it was a show about a marshal from Taos New Mexico who ends up doing police work in New York City.  It was a classic “fish out of water” story that Hollywood loves so much.  It also had a hero who was from New Mexico so of course I watched it.  Because I’m always drawn to some supporting character I loved the irascible Chief of Detectives played by J.D. Cannon more then the star.

So there I was sleepless in Santa Fe watching an old TV show on Me TV and during the commercials shifting back over to the Arrow episode.  The differences were… striking.  I don’t know whether they filmed McCloud on film or tape, but it looked terrible.  Washed out, grainy.  Arrow looks like a feature film by comparison.  I’m not sure who directed or edited this episode of McCloud but in half the shots where one character was standing and another sitting the head of the standing character was cut off.  The acting seemed very broad, especially from the supporting cast as if they were stage actors who had suddenly found themselves on a sound stage.  And there was the smoking.  It was jarring after so many years of not seeing smokers on television.  I felt as removed from this era and this kind of story telling as I would watching a flickering black and white low budget film from the 1930’s.  The script also seemed very — I don’t want to say unsophisticated.  Let’s use innocent.  There were no surprises as we cut away to the bad guys so we knew their nefarious goings on while our good guys followed threads that were already apparent to the viewer.

I finally wandered off to bed at 1:30 wondering if it’s just the change in technology that makes entertainment so different or if there has been a fundamental shift in audience tastes, sophistication and expectations?  I think the latter.  Television has been with us since the late 1940’s.  Audiences are very savvy now.  When I was developing shows and writing television pilots I always had executives telling me to “explain things”, and I would try to argue that it wasn’t necessary for modern audiences.  They’ve grown up with this kind of visual storytelling.  They can fill in the gaps and you exasperate them if you are spoon feeding.

I think that lesson has bene learned judging by modern television.

Still it was an interesting walk through memories even if I might have to take a nap today.

Gotham — Must Rant

I watched the second episode of Gotham today.  I should have been working, but I’m trying to clear off the DVR.  What a mistake.  The only good thing was Sean Pertwee in a scene with Lucius Fox.  This entire episode was a lesson in what not to do starting with false jeopardy/tension.  If anybody hates SPOILERS stop now.

So Baby Batman has discovered daddy’s secret hide out, and starts to access the computer which Alfred smashes.  Then Bruce “fires” him.  One teensy, weeny, tiny problem — Alfred is Bruce’s legal guardian and the kid’s a minor.  Presumably Bruce can’t write checks to pay the bills on the mansion so Alfred tells the kid to shut up and take it until he’s 18 or 21 or whatever the will states. Also Alfred claims he just wants to protect Bruce from whatever his father discovered.  So he just leaves?

Then a scene or two later Bruce catches Alfred at the train station and they settle their differences.  Which means it wasn’t actually a problem so it’s false beat that doesn’t lead to an honest emotional reaction on the part of the viewer.  It’s just manipulative and not ever well done manipulation because Alfred accepting his fired was stone stupid.

Next we have Gordon who decides punt his brain in a spectacular fashion.  He chases after Crazy Barbara without back up and gets the shit beat out of him while the crazies kill all the cops in the precinct.  We’ve already seen these guys stage an event.  It doesn’t occur to Bruce that this is a set up?  So now our lead character has also been damaged even more then they damaged him last week.  Now he’s venal and stupid.  Makes me want to cheer for him.

Cameron Monaghan is doing his damndest as Baby Joker and he does crazy very well, but a parade of horror and villains can’t save this show.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Let me stipulate right up front that I loved this movie.  I want to see it again and that’s really rare for me.  I went in torn between hope and trepidation.  This was either going to be very good or a total train wreck.  On the one hand you had Guy Ritchie directing.  On the other it was based on the Man From U.N.C.L.E  I loved the show as a little kid.  I was madly in love with Illya Kuryakin.  I even got to go on the set because of my father’s business partners in Los Angeles who had connections to the movie business.  It was the first time I was ever on a set and David McCallum was even more handsome in person then on film.

Years later they started showing the TV show on Nick at Night.  I was so excited.  I settled down to watch this beloved childhood series.  And I was shocked.  Somewhere in the intervening years they had reshot all the episodes and made them shitty.  I stopped watching and resolved to just keep my gauzy memories.

So now there’s a movie and I headed out last night filled with hope and fear.  I say again — I loved it.  The two leads are handsome and charming.  Suggestive lines are uttered by Napoleon Solo, but unlike the ghastly Roger Moore Bond movies they weren’t stupid suggestive ranging into creepy suggestive.  Illya is one deeply psychologically messed up guy which I loved.  The female character, Gaby, is strong and capable and keeps you guessing.  She’s also not Hollywood pretty.  Instead she is interesting.

It was set in 1963 and Ritchie sent a love letter to that era.  It made me think of the glamour of the early Bond movies, or the film GRAND PRIX (a movie about formula 1 car racing that I adore).  There were exotic Italian locals, and race cars, the amazing fashions of Carnaby Street.  It’s action packed and also very funny.

It has Hugh Grant as Mr. Waverly who is going to lead this new team.  And boy are they a bunch of misfits.  Ritchie made an interesting casting choice.  David McCallum is not a big man.  Illya was slight, more like a whippet than a tank though he was the action guy while Napoleon was Mr. Suave.  In this Illya is a bruiser.  Bigger then Solo with real anger management issues.  He’s a handsome blond Hulk.  At first it threw me, but I ended up really liking the change.

It’s interesting that a Brit actor is playing the American Solo and an American is playing the Russian.  The rest of the cast is very cosmopolitan, and they all work with that light, tongue-in-cheek quality that was a hallmark of the TV show.

I’m not going to talk about the plot.  It’s very sixties spy set up.  The plot isn’t the point.  It’s all about the interactions between the characters which was just perfect.  I really, really hope this becomes a viable franchise and we see more of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Spaceships, Please

I’ve spent a lot of time in Hollywood trying to sell various shows.  Everything from a western set in NM in 1840 to contemporary thrillers, to shows about the army’s CID division.  (Yes, I pitched that before NCIS went on the air, but I was a girl and the reaction in the room was “nobody’s interested in the military.  *sigh*).  I’ve also tried very had to sell science fiction shows.  Even had a pilot shot of one of them.

What I ran into over and over and over again was “spaceships don’t sell unless it’s Star Trek.  Only Star Trek can make spaceships work.”  It was received wisdom.  Then Galactica came along to critical reviews and the mantra became.  “Well okay, Galactica worked but that’s because it was a show about real problems and it was a war story.  The spaceships were just incidental.  And anyway spaceships only work in Star Trek and Galactica.”

Now there is a new chance for those of us who love science fiction to have spaceships on our television screens again.  The Expanse is an upcoming show on SyFy based on the best selling novels by James S.A. Corey.  They are terrific space opera — five books now — I’ve read them all, and they were perfect to be translated to film.

And there are spaceships.  Because it’s set in the asteroid belt.  So I’m really, really hoping this show takes off so I will stop hearing.  “Spaceships only work on Star Trek and Galactica.”

My fingers are crossed.

Ant Man and Marvel Movies Overall

I’m just back from seeing ANT MAN with my friends Len Wein and Christine Valada.  I really liked it.  It’s a slight film, but it has heart and humor and thank god we weren’t threatening New York, or the Earth or the Galaxy or the whole damn Universe (Thor: The Dark World).  We were also watching it at the sybaritic Cinepolis theater with the full bar and meals and four kinds of popcorn (caramel corn — yum) and reclining leather seats with foot rests, etc. etc.  Paul Rudd is charming and not at all the muscle bound hero.  Michael Peña damn near steals the film.  Evangeline Lilly is a smart competent woman who isn’t traditionally Hollywood beautiful.  The villain felt like he’d been pulled from central casting — all he lacked was a mustache, but the fight sequences were fun because the direction and writers never took them too seriously.  Scenes that were titanic in power when the guys are ant sized are presented as silly when the would pull back to the real world to show a toy train falling over with a tiny “tink”.

I noticed that GRRM wrote a post about Ant Man and talked about the Marvel movies and his rankings (which are wrong 😏  (Teasing.  You get that I’m teasing, right?  I assume some of you heard our debate at the Worldcon in Reno so you know George and I have a long history of disagreeing in fun and with great abandon.)  Anyway, I thought I’d try and set him straight.  Anyway, here’s my list in order of terrific and why.  The two Spiderman films aren’t technically part of the Marvel juggernaut, but he’s a Marvel character so I’m going to include him.

SPIDERMAN 2 with Toby McGuire and Doc Ock (not those terrible remakes).  The scene where he stops the train and the commuters realize he’s “just a kid” can make me cry every time.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER.  Certainly the first half of that film is damn near perfect.  After that it becomes your typical superhero movie, but the early scenes with Dr. Erskine are just perfection.  I use that movie when I teach because it shows the power of the medium to say in a visual what would take pages in a book.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – a perfect little jewel of a movie with flawed characters who touch your heart and who actually grow and change in interesting ways.

IRON MAN 1 — Terrific film about a man finding his soul.  They should have stopped there and just let him be a brilliant asshole in the Avengers movies.

THOR  and not just because… Loki (sigh).  I use that film when I teach to help illustrate the difference between plot and theme.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS – beautiful evocation of a different time and the relationship between Charles and Erik is gorgeous.  It didn’t hurt that the movie had two top ranked actors in those roles.

AVENGERS – I liked the film a great deal.  Too many action sequences but at least they seemed like they were designed to move the story forward.  Unlike the second Avengers film which seemed designed to just have another big CGI fight.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – a grown up film about issues of freedom and security and a man and a woman who are merely friends.

ANT MAN – (see above)

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (the less said about X-Men 3 the better and this film fixed that).

SPIDERMAN – the first film with Toby McGuire

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

So, I think I’ll stop there.  This was fun thinking back on all the hours of genuine entertainment these films have provided.

Orphan Black

Yeah, I’m late to the party.  What can I say?  I’ve become spoiled with streaming and none of the streaming services — Hulu Plus/Netflix —  I had downloaded to my XBox were showing Orphan Black when ever I went to look for it.  I don’t want to wait for physical discs to arrive at the house so I kept putting off watching the show.  Then XBox Live offered a free month of Amazon Prime.  I knew Amazon had the series because I watched the pilot over at my friend, Mike Cassutt’s house and loved it.

IF YOU’VE NEVER WATCHED THE SHOW & HATE SPOILERS YOU MIGHT WANT TO STOP READING ————-

 

Long story short.  I started watching.  I have just watched episode one of season 3.  Yeah, I binged on the first two seasons.  This is an extraordinary show made even more extraordinary by the monumental talent of Tatiana Maslany.  I’m in the industry and at some point in the second season I was having to constantly remind myself that this was the same woman portraying Sarah, Allison, Helena, Cosima, Rachel, etc. etc.  It isn’t just the switch in accents, it’s her physicality that’s selling this completely.

What has struck me is that despite being created by two men the show is really a meditation on how the world attempts to own women — their bodies, their minds, their spirits.  It’s brought to the fore visually by the number of times we see these women with their feet in stirrups, vulnerable, being probed, used, viewed as vessels as objects to be harvested.

The exploration of gender and sexuality issues is also one of the shows great strengths.  Cosima is a lesbian, Allison is one up tight lady, Rachel very much into being a dominatrix.  there is Tony the trans clone.  And the exploration of these issues isn’t limited to just the clones.  One of the other actors who deserves mention is Jordan Gavaris who plays Felix Sarah’s gay foster brother.  There is a fearless and yet vulnerable quality to this performance that deserves recognition.

Setting aside the performances and the underlying theme of the show I have to tip my hat to the writers ability to keep pulling more and more and more layers off the onion.  Each time you think you found the explanation for the clones another layer is revealed.  It may be that they are just winging it and haven’t thought this through, but so far it’s working and I haven’t gotten that feeling they are just throwing shit to see what sticks.  I hope they have thought this all out as clearly been done with my beloved PERSON OF INTEREST, but for right now I’m more then happy to go along for the ride.

Inside Out

There will be some spoilers (not huge and probably obvious) but you have been warned.

I went to see INSIDE OUT last night.  I liked it a lot, but I didn’t love it as much as I’d expected to.  Like FROZEN I think it suffered from the hype.  It’s still a very fun and charming movie, but on balance I liked Tomorrowland better.

The reason was a basic writing 101 problem — they didn’t ground me in the theme early enough in the film.  I thought the idea that we need both sadness and joy if we’re to have a full range of experiences was the message/theme, but it was a little unclear until fairly deep into the film.  They kept offering me other alternative threads that might be the theme so I kept grabbing mentally at them instead of being taken where the writers wanted me to go.

I did love the fact that a brain researcher was part of the team that made this film.  In many way Len Wein had it right when he said this was a film for adults that kids would probably enjoy.

Lewis Black absolutely stole the film in his type cast role as Anger.  Amy Poehler was appropriately chirpy as Joy (to the point that I wanted to kill her).  The other stand out for me was Richard Kind as Bing Bong.

My two favorite moments were when our heroes had to go into the area of abstract concepts, and the cat brain at the very end.  It was also fun when they cut into “headquarters” in the parents brains as well.

This is one of those films where I may need to see it again with my expectations re-calibrated and re-evaluate.  I had that happen on Thor: The Dark World too.  It was a good deal better than I initially thought on my first viewing.

Mad Max Returns

Yesterday I went off to see the new Mad Max film with Len Wein and Chris Valada, her sister and son.  It gave me exactly what it promised, and I happen to really like the Mad Max movies though I realized last night that when I think Mad Max I’m really thinking about the second movie — The Road Warrior.  I often forget about the first film, Mad Max which didn’t have the sheer wonder and bizarre world that was presented in Road Warrior.

In some ways this recent film was an even more frightening look at the world.  Back in the 1970’s Road Warrior was a meditation about oil, a reaction to the recent oil embargo.  This one had much more of a general and terrifying environmental apocalypse feel with the soil “soured” as it’s phrased in the film, massive dust storms, rain that falls too fast and too hard and in the wrong places.  The marsh visual was one of the creepiest in the film for me.  And finally the lack of potable water.  Considering that we are already starting to see the result of drought — war in Syria and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa — this to me was one of the most disturbing things about the film.

It’s a fascinating script as well given that there is almost no dialog.  I’d be curious to know just how many words Tom Hardy actually uttered as Max.  Thirty?  Fifty?  It really is Furiosa’s movie and Charlize Theron’s intensity just burns off the screen.  The action was stupendous and virtually all of it practical which gave it far more power then the endless CGI battles that have become a staple of summer movies.

It was also weirdly comforting to me as regards my current book series.  I’m writing about a culture where women have once again been into very limited roles in society because of the inherent dangers involved in colonizing new planets.  I had worried that that would seem quaint today and that such a societal change could never happen (though even today there are many cultures in which women are grotesquely curtailed and oppressed).  Watching FURY ROAD just intensified my belief that when times get tough it may be that women will again only be valued for their ability to breed.  So yeah, I case the angry little Men’s Rights guys were right that this was a deeply feminist movie.  That’s one of the things that gave the film it’s power.  So deal with it, boys.

This Won’t End Well

I can’t decide whether this calls for a <headdesk> or just open mouthed, gobsmacked disbelief.

youre-gonna-love-disneys-new-white-african-princess

It also falls under the who-ever-thought-this-was-a-good-idea-and-do-they-still-have-a-job? heading.

Looking for Insults in the Avengers

I have to add an addendum to my thoughts about the Avengers flick.  Apparently a lot of people are very upset about Black Widow in this film because of the scene with Bruce Banner about her inability to have children.  That is not a sexist moment.  Listen to the dialog.  She isn’t saying she’s a “monster” because she can’t have kids.  She’s saying she’s a monster because she was trained to be a killer from childhood.  She’s regretful she can’t have children because of the actions of her handlers, and there is nothing wrong with that moment.  Lots of women want to have children.  Acknowledging that fact is not sexist.  Saying or even implying that it is best and only role for women that is sexist.  This was a character moment.  We learned that Natasha would like to have had children.  That just adds to the character.  It’s not an insult.

Yes Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans did a bone headed thing during an interview calling Widow a slut.  The truth is that she has never been presented as a love interest for any of the male Avengers until this movie.  It was shaded in the first film that she’s sweet on Hawkeye, but with the added information about Clint’s personal life we can also take her concern as a woman who is worried about her best friend.

One of the things I loved about Winter Soldier was that there was no hint of romance between the Cap and Widow.  They were professionals and comrades.  There is respect and they are working toward friendship, but not romance.  Yes, she kisses him.  It’s a ploy and it shows once again that she is clever.  Just as her manipulation of Loki is one of the best moments in the first film.

The exchanges with Banner are the first time we’ve seen her be obviously interested in a man.  And there is much to admire in the man, the compassionate healer.  She lacks his essential kindness, it’s been crushed out of her so she’s attracted to that.  She also sees that they both have a dark side.  It was an interesting choice to have them toy with the idea of finding companionship with each other.

If you want to talk about sexism then you need to pull way back, and look at the superhero genre as a whole.  It’s definitely a bro kind of thing thing.   We have one woman as a member of the Avengers.  The X-Men do a bit better with a large slate of women who get to play at world saving, but slamming this movie for sexism because of this one scene is silly.

I’ve been a feminist since my youth, but when we allow ourselves to insulted by trivial things, or inject sexism where none exists then we hurt our struggle to be equal participants in society at large.

Pondering the New Avengers

I went and saw the Age of Ultron on Monday and enjoyed the sybaritic delights of the Cinepolis theater with the reclining leather seats with foot rests and full bar, gourmet food, etc. etc., and I’ve been thinking about the film ever since, but also realizing that I actually remember very little about it.  Which is a sad commentary.

Then tonight I decided to re-watch Guardians of the Galaxy.  There’s a lot more heart in this film than in the latest Avengers installment, and ultimately if a story isn’t primarily about the people overcoming obstacles both personal and in the wider world, it’s not going to work for me.

But back to Ultron.  Spader clearly had a lot of fun voicing our killer robot and Whedon had some very nice little personal moments in Ultron, but they felt squeezed between all the action sequences.  One of the stand out moments for me was when Clint’s wife points out that the Avengers need him because he is an ordinary man.  He centers the others, grounds them, reminds them why they fight.  There is power in his quiet dignity as husband and father.

All the rest of them are fundamentally damaged — Stark who is trying to both win his dead father’s approval and outshine him.  The man who faces the world with arrogance and a quip.  The Captain a man who is grieving and is lost in time, a relic.  Banner who struggles to control this violent ID creature that can undo all of his humanity and his work as a healer in one horrible moment.  Black Widow who has been twisted both physically and mentally to make her a killer.  The moments when we saw those vulnerabilities, when they actually talked to each other instead of trading quips or insults were terrific.

And I did enjoy the banter, but how many CGI fight sequences does a film need to be successful?  I’d say this one had at least two and maybe three too many action sequences.  We had the fight in the forest, the fight in the Stark building, the fight in Africa in the derelict ship, followed by the Hulk hulking out and wrecking part of a city.  Then we go back to made-up-slavic-sounding-city and have a seemingly endless battle where Hawkeye gets the best line in the movie and which I can’t help but think represented Whedon’s overall thoughts and feelings on the franchise when he says —

“The city is flying! We’re fighting an army of robots! And I have a bow and arrow! None of this makes sense!”

Will I see the next installment?  Oh probably, I’m hooked on these comic book movies and shows, but I have to say that Winter Soldier and X-Men Days of Future Past and Guardians were for me more interesting and enjoyable films.

Appearances

  • Boskone — Boston February 17th-19th
  • Helsinki Worldcon Agust 9th - 13th
  • Bubonicon August 25th-27th, Albuquerque, NM

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