Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

03
Apr
17

White or Right, My Views on “Whitewashing”

*****
So, there’s this bad odor going around called “whitewashing.” If you are oblivious to the concept, it basically refers to…well, it has a few uses, already. One being Caucasian people being cast in roles originally set for other nationalities. And, that is what tops my peeve list at the moment. Namely, a certain typically blonde actress being cast to play a raven-haired and distinctly Asian character from a “popular” anime about a female cyborg cop.

[Note I have omitted names and titles lest giving them more specific attention only add to the theory that bad press still adds to ticket sales. For the purposes of this editorial and my own amusement, I will refer to the cast actress as “Red Role-playing Hood” and the movie as “Robocop 4: Turning Japanese.”]

Some say “Red Role-playing Hood” sells movie tickets and that this is enough justification to cast her. Others plain and simple object to her being cast in this particular role, regardless of justification.

According to an article I read, one of the artists behind the original story says the character has lost her original human name and identity, thus she could be just about anybody of any race.

If that is the case, I’d have made a different film. I’d have designed the film as a spinoff of the original story, having “Red Role-playing Hood” play a similar cyborg who looks different. Heck, the protagonist could have any body or hair color she wants if she’s not the original character. The story could have remained the same or similar with some minor changes. There’s a whole series of Resident Evil movies out there now that aren’t exactly about the original game cast, focusing on some lab creation, instead.

Another article states the actress has said she would not take a role she felt would be viewed as offensive…buuuut she IS taking the role; and some find her choice offensive, or, at least, infuriating. Myself included.

I think she, like many, will take just about any role she can get. So, if someone handed “Red Role-playing Hood” the script, I doubt she would have turned it down, considering she is open to expanding her options and likes to play odd roles that may not suit her, roles other actresses would more likely turn down to avoid being judged “weird” or being asked to play more roles like this one instead of roles in other genres they prefer. Months or years from now, one of those actresses that passed on the film will speak out at some interview for another project and admit they passed on the role while subtly praising “Red Role-playing Hood” for being an “amazing” person with whom she worked or met at an awards show.

I say the whole notion of “Red Role-playing Hood” making better ticket sales than an actual Asian, or more specifically Japanese, actress–possibly a “nobody”–is hogwash. Even if “Red Role-playing Hood” draws a certain crowd, it’s as likely the crowd comes to see HER, not the character she portrays. And, considering she looks like a clown in some green-screen body suit and wig, I feel she should NOT be playing this part.

[I am asking would-be film makers.] Would a character written as an African woman be cast/rewritten as a white woman in disguise, as well? And, if the character did not look one bit like Thandie N., would you still cast Thandie N. to play the part because she’s the only dark-skinned actress you could get to take the part? Or, would you go out of your way to find a more perfect match for the character? Is it really so important to put a movie out before all the pieces properly fit? Or, are you so lustful for profits and jumping at any dog that barks that you’ll rush to blow a budget on a lesser prize?

Why was the Thing shorter than the rest of the Fantastic Four in the first films, featuring Jessica A. as the Invisible Woman? Was Michael C. cast because of ticket sales, because he fit the role…or maybe because no one else wanted the role and/or the costume designers couldn’t make him appear bigger…even if they have the technology to fake such things?

I didn’t care for Charlize T. playing Aeon Flux, either. Some people you just get used to seeing with a certain hair color and look. And, throwing them into some character that is completely different without proper blending of appearance just makes the whole image a joke. I don’t want to see a parody of the original story. Thus, I don’t want to boost ticket sales for this film. I’ll give it a try another way, as the modern world provides. And, all ticket sale crap can just fly out the window. It’s bullshit that can be skewed, anyway. [And, I throw all the award show nonsense into the same pot. Such a waste of time and resources with little regard for the source material.] It boils down to what you choose to believe.

[On the flip side, Hugh J. was so compelling as Wolverine, I put up with him being taller than most other X-Men, even though the character was fairly short in the comics.  He also wasn’t a “clown” in a costume.  He was authentically crass, fierce and embittered.]

I believe this instance is a form of “whitewashing.” And, an Asian “nobody” would have befitted the role better, regardless of popularity or anticipated profits. I would pay to see better casting, to see an Asian beauty play this part. And, ever since I started watching films like “The Curse of the Golden Flower” and even “Rush Hour 2,” I think Hollywood can find a few. Or, maybe, such films should be made by people closer to the source material; and, if Americans are so lucky, the film will be dubbed into English, and they will learn to like it.

A “blockbuster” can never smell as sweet as it would with the right cast. Why do you think certain “franchises” got “reboots” so fast? If casting didn’t matter, why was there a reboot, anyway?

Years from now, people won’t look back and, when thinking of this blonde in a black Asian wig, say, “Gosh, she was so perfect for that role.” They WILL say, “Gosh, she sure made lots of movies.” The actress will be regarded like a Marilyn Monroe. And, only fans who concede to give up their cultural roots–including all Asian folks who try to look “American”–will not care who played what part and just be happy a film about that cartoon was made.

It doesn’t matter who is turning what characters into their own nationality. It’s Caucasian Americans and British folks, today. Tomorrow, it could be Mexicans or dark-skinned Africans altering Caucasian characters.

Some if not most movie makers are just too concerned with budget and ticket sales to consider the impact and value of proper casting (and story writing). I may be surprised to see a film pitched poorly play well. But, I will not be steered into accepting poor casting.

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26
Jan
17

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun, 2015/2016 Movie Review

****

Call me a cab and find a shrink. I may need some help sorting out my feelings about “The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun,” a French film starring Scottish actress Freya Mavor, and the mad people behind it. I am as much aroused and intrigued as I am puzzled and disgusted…which–from my understanding of the director’s explanation–seems on par with French cinema.

[NOTE: This film is either closely or loosely based on a novel I have not read, a novel the director claims is “insane” (though he loves it) and about a woman raised by a nun who still speaks to her as a conscience. My views are based solely on the DVD film and the interview I watched subsequently. And, I’d recommend watching both at least twice to have any chance of grasping every detail…unless you are just so damn observant that you miss nothing the first time through.]

The story seems to take place in the mid-1970s, resembling the TV series Mad Men. Dany, a tall, timid and short-sighted secretary (a 23-year-old Catholic school girl version of Donna from “That 70s Show”) is asked by her ad agency boss to type up his rough rewrite of some fifty-page “report” by the end of the day. Concealing her sexual fantasies, she is willing to tackle the task but confesses to a lack of typing speed. The boss offers her a chance to complete the work at a house shared by his wife and young daughter, provided she tells no one. Dany quickly begins to imagine him leaving his wife and child to toy with her. On top of being a daydreamer, she has a bad habit of “complicating” matters with questions which quickly get on the nerves of the boss and Anita (the wife and Dany’s former secretary school rival who may have “fooled around” with her “ages ago” which is actually a little over three years before the story begins).

When the report is finished, the boss makes one more request of his most trusted secretary. Accompanying the family to the airport, Dany is left with a teal Thunderbird and the “simple” chore of driving it back to the family’s Paris home. While the boss and his family are away, Dany decides to play, motivated by a tempting voice in her head. She takes the car south, in hopes of spending a few hours at the beach, but soon finds herself running into people who claim to have seen her earlier, a flirtatious stalker and amassing evidence that may convict her of murder. Whether or not the ending is a happy one remains debatable.

Though fairly brilliant in terms of cinematography (aside from maybe one or two poorly lit scenes), casting and music, the intentionally “trippy” and disorienting short story is not unlike something Quentin Tarantino would devise, except, thankfully, lacking his usual excess of gore. It has many of the touches I long to put in a similar movie: the fashions (though some, including the frequently featured “dress,” are a bit revealing), the moody lighting and music, the variety of camera shots, the comic book panels (without being panels), the bookish beauty with hidden sides to her personality and a backstory (though not flushed out in the movie) to explain her behavior, the scandalous/suspicious encounters, the well-devised plot of the villains played out (not perfectly) in the background, etc. There’s a somewhat magical flow to the whole product which some have said is a 95-minute music video. I prefer to think of it as a daring perfume ad (which could be ironic, considering the protagonist works for an advertising agency).

Even after two viewings, I have some questions. One, why can’t a half-dozen auto mechanics catch a man either entering or exiting a restroom at their gas station/cafe? Two, why would a religious young secretary hook up with a guy who admits to disabling her (borrowed) car and daringly climbs inside with her before she knows his name (considering she aspires to hooking up with her boss, unless both men are nothing more than a night of fun to her)? How does she stay so calm with the guy when he’s obviously dangerous in more than one scene? How does such a damsel in distress get from the wilderness to a truck stop, track down a missing car and then walk some unknown distance down a seaside road alone to find said missing car? Where were the parents of the boy at the beach? And, why would he want to climb in the car of a strange older woman when he knows something is amiss with the trunk?

While I can accept the nudity and sex as typical of adult films and more commonly accepted in non-American films (which is a bit surprising, considering the general impression I get of Americans being comfortable with casual sex and rape), the amount presented in the film was still more than I care to see. I also didn’t care for a young actress consistently playing with a religious necklace between her sexually daring exploits. [This may have been included to reflect the character’s childhood in the care of a nun (if the movie is sticking true to what the director says of the novel). But, viewing the film without such knowledge, I felt the necklace was unnecessary and misused. If it provided moments of conscience, I question Dany’s morals.]

The “naught bits” justify what some have said of the director. Or, at least, I assume what the director said of those who question his work is true and agree with the sentiments. He says people accuse him of “getting off” on his actresses and abusing certain camera shots. Well, despite his claims to the opposite, he DOES seem to play with women in a manner I’d say is either erotic or pornographic. He prefers the term “fetish.” His little collection of paintings and admission to designing pornographic comic books–the former displayed in his enclosed interview for the film–do not depict him as an entirely honest man, either.

Let me pause right here to address more about the interview portion of the DVD. Why is it certain (if not all) French “artists” speak with contradicting thoughts? Why is something “utterly useless” obviously valued by the person? Why is trash worth discussing at any length? Why build something just to tear it apart? And, why does the explanation for one idea spring off in some other direction that seems completely unrelated? [I have tried drumming up an example–without jotting down every word the guy says–but it just gives me a headache.] Is this simply some attempt at being modest (versus boasting)? Am I right in being puzzled? Or, is someone doing a poor job of translating the interview?

Just as I fuss and fume over some of Tarantino’s work, this little tale *directed* by Joann Sfar is a steamy pot of artistic potential. It’s not utter trash…nor is it a blissful masterpiece. But, with a little more editing, I’d be inclined to describe it as the latter. [Why do some artists poop on their creations?]

This is a DVD I’d keep on hand for reference material but would have a bit of a hard time watching regularly/casually (particularly with anyone who is not a lover). And, I’d consider working with those responsible for the camera shots/editing, provided they can cope with making some changes to their “routine.” While I might share some of the same fetishes, I would do more to keep the nudity, sex and violence blurred/veiled or–better yet–suggested (versus “in-your-face”).

[And, as I often say, if I am going to dabble in nude artwork, I’d keep such pieces private between me and my lover. It feels wrong to paint (or draw) nude and/or provocative images of someone working with me who is not (my lover). It is inexcusable to claim you are protecting actresses while displaying nude and/or scandalous images of them on publicly released material.]

“The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun” (2015/2016)
Directed by Joann Sfar
Editted by Maryline Monthieux and Christophe Pinel
Original “opera” music by Agnes Olier

18
Nov
16

No More Star Wars; I Think I’m Full

*****

“It’s the story of a young rebel being recruited to help steal the plans for the Death Star.”  Featuring Forest Whitaker and another brunette damsel in the lead role Carrie Fisher could have had; but it’s not Leia.**

Yep.  I think that about says it all.  I think I am done with the whole Star Wars craze.  Pack up my toys.  Put my plans for stormtrooper costumes away.  Burn my blueprints for any new plots.  Because they’re just going to up the budget, blow more money, make more excessive merchandise (including re-painted versions of the old merchandise in new packaging) and re-use what’s been done, anyway.  [There aren’t enough Native Americans to look at the landfill overflow and cry.]  The best any creative mind can do is post a poorly made independent film on some internet video showcase site and turn people away from what made theaters you sit with other people in great.

South Park, you got it right with your ‘member berry story.

The last “new” film made me angry.  Now I see the new one is one more Death Star story.  You end the empire only to reuse its parts, kill off my favorite rebel and throw in some stereotypical alien-looking Golem from the Lord of the Rings story as your big villain.  Now, you go back in time to tell the story of a girl doing what essentially Luke Skywalker did in Episode Four.  Way to break the gender glass ceiling.  Too bad Hillary didn’t get in office to enjoy it.  [Cool points to anyone who gets where I was going with that bit.]

In short, I am considering starting a rebellion of my own.  We can call it the Red __ (whatever number we assemble), the band of frustrated sci-fi fans who are seeing red under new leadership which smells no fresher than the old leadership.  We gotta fly our lil fighting-mad ships into that film studio HQ and blow something fierce up their womp-rat crap chutes.

Who’s with me?

 

**[I adore Felicity Jones…awlought.  However, no offense, but, Forest Whitaker–outside of his stellar role in the first Species film–seems to pick up roles in on-going franchises long after the parade has ended.  He seems to signal the final turn around the toilet bowl.]
21
Mar
16

Why Can’t Old TV Turn Into New Film?

*****

Have I asked this before?  Why IS it that shows we loved in the past cannot properly be converted to new films which respect the source material?

Why, instead, do we get Michael Bay films that blow it up and piss on people?

As I sit here watching an old episode of Inspector Gadget with a nephew, I see material ripe for a feature film with iconic costume design.  And then I remember the previous attempt at a film about the old cartoons.  It wasn’t all that great or memorable to me.  [Though I did like the gadget woman.]

What legal mumbo-jumbo prevents movie makers from properly converting older concepts into new film?  Or, why must every movie maker insist upon some measure of “artistic license” to warp what is already good and what fans liked?  We fans of the old don’t need a lot of new looks and ways of doing things.  If you must fix or change anything, just work on the bits that maybe don’t fit the present if it’s a story taking place in the present.  Or, set the story in the past.  Is that so hard?  Even a certain science fiction film series has gotten away with saying it’s from a distant galaxy a long time ago though it looks futuristic.

And, if it’s a matter of the original artists saying they don’t want the film to be made, then respect that.  If they don’t want a film, why is it okay to warp the original material enough to make a lousy one?

Anyone else care to share some thoughts on this matter?  I’m all ears…and busy fingers.

30
Dec
15

Back From the Dark Side…of the Theater

*****

Put away the zit cremes and Ovaltine. Take a deep breath. And, get ready to go geek-to-geek with one more lengthy, nit-picking but honest assessment of the latest “blockbuster” movie.

Okay. I saw it, the big spectacle of 2015, the film so many have been waiting for with some trinket of a past generation clutched nervously between their sweaty hands, the movie seasoned adults are supposed to inject into their inexperienced kids so they will continue to pick sides and wage wars between dark and light, the epic 38 years in the making handed over to the Disney Empire and the guy who put together LOST.

**********
The Good:

If you miss Luke, Leia, Han and the rest of the heroes who survived the 70s/80s films, they’re ALL back. The only characters who have not returned are the ghosts, the desert people, the Cantina regulars and a few members of the Sith/Empire. [But, it looks like one of the old crew wanted to nip this thing in the can by taking the big plunge. Shh!]

The visuals are spectacular. The 3D isn’t throwing much in your face, but the depth perception tricks are used well, including some intense spaceship fight scenes which make you feel like you’re living through a video game. Just about every environment is covered from desert to forest to snowy mountains. But, when you have Disney money backing your enterprise… Well, as the founder of Jurassic Park says, “Spare no expense.” I’d expect no less with all the modern technology and countless technicians/artists at one’s disposal. I imagine a massive army of stormtroopers sitting at drawing tables and beside film-processing mach–er, computers.

Lupita cannot lose. After being spotlighted for playing a slave, she becomes the red carpet fashion plate who rarely if ever misses with all of her stunning and trendsetting outfits. Now, she’s my favorite new character in the latest installment of this series. [I was semi-hoping she’d be cast as a Jedi with some sort of tribal face paint and eggplant robe.] You would miss her if you did not know her voice. No big spoiler here; she’s the yellow Yoda of the story. [I love you, Lupita/Maz.]

Daisy Ridley is a lovely heroine (even if she resembles the younger prequel Anakin crossed with Padme). But, what do you expect from the female lead? Everyone loved Leia (even if some criticized the “bun” hairdo). I loved Padme (but not all of her outfits). And, she uses her natural voice (which is refreshing when I think of all the Brits and Aussies using American accents in films). [I am guessing she gets the accent from her mother?]

Boyega’s Finn is a complicated man. No, he’s not Samuel L. Jackson (nor Richard Roundtree) but a good stormtrooper…er, bad stormtrooper turned good. …He’s with the Rebellion! Anyway, he’s a nice addition to the cast/story. [I like him slightly better than Lando. You know, Finn’s dad. Shh!]

Racial diversity is more apparent. And, women, well, two women, are added for more powerful roles…though one doesn’t do much. But, it’s a slight improvement on the original trilogy. [What about the “prequels?” There was a female bounty hunter in one of those, and she was badass.]

The whining I hated with the two previous trilogies is gone! Well…not exactly. There’s still a little whining and tantrum throwing by the Dark Side. It’s just restricted/sent to a private space sans rubber walls where the villain can slash the place apart. [It’s not like anyone is ever going to use those computers again, anyway.]

The star Jedi is NOT the one to strike the big, successful blow against the enemy! That’s right, it’s one of the smaller potatoes…who just happens to be the best pilot with dark hair.

A new R2 is used well. The little rolling ball of excited chatter is more likable than Number 5 from Short Circuit. [If you don’t know who that is, you’re obviously a prequel baby.] He’s sure to spawn a whole line of toys, speakers, other gadgets and remote control replicas.

—————
Is it just me or does the good list weaken as it reaches its end? Well, let’s get to the rest of it.
—————

**********
The Bad:

In seven words, it’s Star Wars, the Vader saga, revisited. If you watch the Darth Vader trilogy and the new film together, you’ll pick up on matching character looks/types and repeated dialogue.

In five words, there is no new story. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are a few small surprises, tiny kernels of continuation forty years after Darth Vader falls. But, you’d think more would have changed. And, as they say in the movie, the Empire is gone. So…why are there still stormtroopers running amok under new leadership which looks EXACTLY like the old leadership? [Then again, what changed between World War one and two other than who started the fight and why?]

In three words, too much recycling. I think the crew (including the director) were so scared to try anything new after the barrage of hate mail flew at the “prequels” that they went a VERY safe route to please everyone. [I guess furry little creatures were too dangerous because there are none.]

Unfortunately, this hit rock bottom when the big surprise weapon was revealed. At that moment, my smile wilted. If you are following my train of thought, you can guess what awaits our heroes and devastates worlds. It’s been done! And, I am tired of this constant upgrade of power which only falls the same way the old power did, anyway!

I mean, seriously, J. J.! You put a toaster over the Tatooine lizard’s head. Some of the stellar visuals are reused…though perhaps at new angles or with new computer enhancements. Even the big surprise from The Empire Strikes Back is essentially given a face-lift with new characters in the scene. And, you killed one of my favorite characters!

If you’re going to kill one of my favorite characters, why not get rid of the stormtroopers, too? If anyone wants to use force, it’s me, using physical force to knock some sense into your head. [Don’t worry too much, you’re still better than the guy who ruined Transformers and who is probably raping the Ninja Turtles before a sequel to that remake as I speak.]

If you want the truth, J. J., I think you do better sticking with the revised Star Trek franchise. [I have only seen trailers and interviews, but it looks good.] I take no enjoyment from being a member of the hate police. But, I am rather sick of all the Star Wars “swag” and undeserved domination of science-fiction interest. And, even if you’re tired of hearing it, you slowly lost me on LOST. You spent all those years not telling people they were watching the Twilight Zone.

It’s still too quick and easy for the good guys to find the fatal flaw in the enemy’s plans (even if the enemy does some serious destruction first…and just as quickly/easily). Apparently, we come into the “story” at the moment when the “aha moment” hits. Again, that’s been used in the previous films. It smells of lacking plot to fill the space between “Here are your new cast members.” and “Here is how the enemy falls.”

The very first Star Wars to be made was the “best” chunk of a lengthy story possibly too big for Lucas’ mind to handle. He didn’t want to bore people to tears with a long, ongoing war. So, he cut it down to a highlight reel to sell tickets and save people from cardiac arrest (from too many hours planted in theater seats which were not as luxurious as they are now). Still, people felt the need to sell toys and related kids’ bedroom items before Christmas, stoking the fire of future collecting/hoarding/resale crazes. Then the story grew; it continued with a new stage of the same war waged on the snowy side of some planet and a third in a jungle occupied by little teddy bears with spears and rocks. And, in the end, the Empire’s emperor fell.

This is not the first rodeo for the “guardians of the galaxy.” [Yea, I used a Marvel title, also purchased by Disney.] Get on with the story. Write something new while properly representing the old; show progression. Or, tell fans you are remaking the originally released film with new effects/technology and let them decide how to feel about that. Me? I’d be looking for a red lightsaber if I saw another remake (though I do respect the effort to improve upon what may have been limited by technology at the time if it is closer to the artist’s vision and given his/her consent).

With a good writing team, this “story” could have spanned three films and saved the big explosion for the third (using a DIFF-ER-ENT weapon as the ultimate target). But, no, this is now Disney’s battle cruiser; and we know Disney has been recycling/rewriting old tales since Snow White. So, as I said, you get Star Wars in a new, shiny package with plenty of the old trilogy squeezed into one film for the old generation to pass onto the new. Heck, why watch the original films when Disney will repack them for you? I expect another “big weapon” to appear in the third repackaged film of this new series. Surprise me with something different. I dare ya.

**********
The Ugly…er, my final rating?

Out of 5 stars, I give this one 2 1/2, average. 5 star visuals with a 1-2 star story. Even 2 stars is generous for the recycling. And, as many already know, this isn’t the end of it. There are two more sequels to round out another trilogy. Knowing Disney, there are spin-offs in the works, probably throwing some more kid-friendly TV shows and movies to surpass what was once Droids and Ewoks. And, with that is sure to come even MORE merchandising which has already been insane. It’s enough to make you hate Christmas. And, we sure don’t need that.

One question for those who have seen the film: [Don’t read this if you have not seen it.] Why doesn’t Leia sense Luke’s presence when he contacts R2-D2 (if she can feel what happens to Han and is able to feel Luke throughout the original trilogy)?

If I could:

1) I would erase four of the previous six films, removing the bits from A New Hope that repeat in The Force Awakens and salvaging the good parts primarily from The Empire Strikes Back with traces of Return of the Jedi to complete the chapter. You could squeeze six weak stories into two good films or spread the pursuit of bringing down the enemy over three stronger than weak films.

2) And, yea, I’ll say it, I’d cast someone else as or rewrite Luke’s script so he doesn’t seem so whiny and naive with unbelievable luck. If there’s one character in the first trilogy to be made that bothers me the most, it’s Luke. [I’d love the films if the focus was on the relationship between Han and Leia.] C3-PO is a close second. He’s the robotic equivalent to Donkey in the Shrek films. I’d say he’s as bad as some think of…

3) I’d keep Jar Jar Binks in the prequels. Not because I want to further anger those who hate him but because he’s perfect for Disney who created Goofy and now holds the keys to the whole shabang. Cheers to Lucas on ensuring a luxurious retirement!

4) I’d keep the pod race but remove the lucky shot from The Phantom Menace.

5) I’d strip the Clone Wars down to the bare bones, re-purposing the sickly General Grievous (who was a bit of a disappointment), saving Count Dooku (who is just about as good as the actor was in the Lord of the Rings films) and sparing viewers the madness that is the excess of troopers along with the dragging factory and arena showdown scenes (except for the bit when Mace Windu chops off Jango Fett’s head).

**********

In short, see the new film to enjoy the ride. Just don’t invest much in it. Don’t hate the “prequels.” But, why are they considered such a failure?…for being different from the future? Is it possible the first three chapters of the six-part saga were changed to once again hopefully please more fans than they originally would have? At least, J. J. won’t be called a TRAITOR! [I’m just throwing in a word repeated in a few of Boyega’s scenes for whatever reason, not calling anyone a traitor, presently.]

And, for those of you who have had no interest in the Star Wars movies whatsoever, bless your hearts. You might have the last semblance of imagination to create new stories that span the stars. May the creative force, divine inspiration, be with all who read these words and use it wisely.

 

17
Dec
15

What Sells a Certain Sci-Fi Franchise?

*****

If I mention a certain series of sci-fi films that have literally canvassed the globe in heaps of stuff, you might get excited.  [Please, don’t wet yourself…or me.]  Or, you might complain how everyone else seems excited but you.  Some of you may be a little divided.  And, rightly so.  I am, too.

And, as another tide of the hype hits me from television media, I ask myself…what sells the movies?

1- Is it the story? 

What IS the story?  How much of a plot is there?  And, how much is just visual fluff and audio hypnosis?

If I give it serious thought, stripping away the sounds and light shows, I am not sure there is much of a story.  At least, it’s not very deep in detail.  I might have to put on reading glasses to find a plot.  It’s more like a slide show of a war in progress with some splashes of stopping to gab or clash with peers.  More “Hold onto your seat!” and “Great shot, kid!” than “We’re family?”

When a film ends, we think there was a story because it all flowed with the wash transition effects.  If there’s anything that confuses us, we dismiss it in favor of the colorful pictures imprinted in our retinas.  I know I walk away asking more questions than I have answers.  And, if the new director’s other notable TV project with a title of four letters says anything about his future projects, I can expect more of the same, becoming LOST in the fantasy imagery and flashes of emotion.

If there’s one grain of serious story in the films, it has to be the father-son relationship and the impact of genetics/evolution upon life.  There’s also the rise of good and bad powers in deceptive clothing and the occasional changing of sides.  So, there is some story…but it might be like chunks of cereal floating in a sea of milky spectacle and merchandise.  [More on the latter later.]

2- Is it the acting, the cast? 

Can I really say any actor stands out for a stellar performance?  Well, I can think of two actors in the films that stand out for me.  One hated how she was “forced” to look.  As a little green puppet would say, “Bad costumes lead to anger.  Anger leads to hatred.  Hatred leads to drunken and verbally explosive behavior laced with expletives.”

The other, a male secondary character/actor, has had more films with meatier parts and gone through some small changes over the decades.  In some ways, he should have been the lead.  But, not if it meant he had to be a whiny youth with all the luck…except for losing limbs and turning evil.  [“Stop whining, already!  Don’t make me turn this spaceship around, mister!  No one’s destroying an empire today with that attitude!”]   Then, I guess, being second billing isn’t all bad.  I might even prefer to be a chatty orange creature with big, flapping ears in Goofy clothing.  [That’s right.  That annoying chatterbox was a pre-Disney takeover Goofy wannabe.]

There are some serious creature haters out there.  Some question the use of little people in teddy bear costumes.  I call those audience assemblers.  The films broaden the audience base by changing the original conceptions for the story.  A slasher samurai story becomes a dazzling display of both serious and silly characters.  It’s a Muppet show!  Everyone can come…even if you are too young to process the heavy stuff.  Bring the family!  Buy more tickets!  Spend more on snacks to appease the restless ones!

3-Is it the music/sound effects? 

A very likely possibility.  There is definitely a sound buffet that dazzled ears when they first heard it.  Thank the orchestra and sound effect technicians.  There are iconic sounds that people will echo when the titles come to mind.  So, that much sticks with many if not most viewers.  You might pay twice to hear them, again.  [Or, you could seek the purchase of a soundtrack.]

4-Is it the visuals, the special effects and cinematography?

As I like to say, if you have the resources, anything is possible.  We’ve already highlighted the orchestra which could get pricey.  What does it cost to film on lavishly decorated sets, create countless models and mold goofy yet innovative costumes?  How much does a growing, glowing light sword cost?  Could someone with less or more money have done the same or better?

5-Is it the merchandising?

Well, you tell me.  How much of the “stuff” have you already bought?  How much do you enjoy it?  And, how much sits on a shelf, hoping to not get scratched, dinged or dusty?  I worry about those who feel the need to collect nearly everything if not everything ever made for a film.

There has been WAY too much merchandising for the latest installment.  I cannot express that enough.  It’s sick.  It does not bode well for the environment nor mental health.  What it DOES do well is guarantee more kids will have plenty and not go “starving” for what another kid has.  It spares envy and jealousy.  But, does every kid really need a stiff plastic replica of a guy supposed to be the most evil thing in the universe?…at least, until someone replaces him.

But, if merchandising blindsides the story, what sense is that?  If you care more about the stuff because you saw it displayed in a commercial window.  Look, I have the guy on the screen!  Are you really enjoying the stories/films or clinging to material things?  Shouldn’t the story sell itself?  Aren’t there other films you like as much that have no toys to go with them?  Aren’t you just as happy without the stuff?

So, even if merchandise boosts ticket sales, it seems excessive and misdirecting.  It smells like people trying to milk something for all it’s not even worth instead of being content with smiles for a good show.  I guess there’s nothing wrong with getting a sale while the selling is good…until I think of all the packaging and impulse/erroneous holiday shopping that leads to second-hand and dumpster madness.  When is enough enough?   And, what monstrous behavior are we encouraging with all this production?

[And, let me just say this.  It’s probably the merchandising that bothers me most of all.  It may be the reason I feel compelled to write such a post.  That and one empire swallowing another just to become more ridiculous.  The films write the story of their own demise.]

6-Is it the “hype?”

I think that’s obvious.  I like how an article I recently read puts it.  Empty interviews with people who have not even seen the film(s).  Let’s get the cast on camera as much as possible with people who have no clue to promote, package, sell it every way possible until all parties are puking swag and over-tired….until everyone looks at what should be a delight as just another job in which we augment our bodies to fit a part for someone’s amusement.

Who is amused?  Not those who make the films other than the few golden moments of fan appreciation that get washed away by financial dealings and the next project on a star’s radar.  How many actors actually see their own films…and like them?  “Thanks, everyone, but I need to focus on changing my body for the next role…I DO have another role coming up; don’t I?   Where’s my agent?  Don’t pigeonhole me.  Send money.”  How many ways or times can an actor be asked how a film “changed their lives” or “changed the world” with some bleached smile in their face?  How many B.S. answers must be given on camera to appease the masses that are driven by hype-mongers?

MOOOO-vies!  Get along, lil couch potatoes!  Yah!  Buy more stuff!  Throw it away and buy even more!  Yah!  Then, it’s onto the next one.  Yah!   So what if you have ten thousand little people in white suits of plastic armor, some missing limbs or burnt to a crisp because you felt you had the luxury to torture the excessive supply in your play room.  [That’s right.  I veered back toward merchandising.  Because it’s everywhere.]

So, in conclusion, yea, I will likely see the latest film.  But, I won’t fully enjoy it because I am so frustrated with the negative points.  I might have been a more loyal fan if the leads in the films didn’t annoy me so much and if there wasn’t such competition over the old stuff and excess of the new…which looks a lot like the old.  You can paint a soldier a dozen different ways.  But, he still smells the same.  New packaging, same product.  Still…well, you decide if its a winner or a loser.

May good conscience and judgement be with you.  With tremendous power comes tremendous concern for how one uses it.

[Damn it, Stan!  Why did you have to sell your empire off to Disney?   There.  I said it.]

 

12
Nov
15

The Shirley Zone…Submitted for Your Discussion

*****

Yesterday, I posted my “love letter” to Shirley MacLaine.  And, as I wrote it a few days ago, I found myself saying…I’ve done this before (again).  As I edited one bit just yesterday, I could predict a comment I would receive.

Then, last night, I watched Terms of Endearment for what I thought was the first time.  [I can’t recall ever seeing the film.  I just remember the award shows for that year when the cast was on stage.]  And, I heard this little voice saying…”Wanna watch it with us?”  Then my own little voice said, “No.  I don’t want to spoil my view of Shirley from her earlier work.”  And, then the first voice said, “Oooh.  I didn’t know you had an interest in her earlier work.  What is this fascination you have with her?”

And, though I heard these voices as the movie started, I sat through it, anyway. It wasn’t the worst thing she could have done.  But, for a character named Aurora, she looked anything but colorful.  It was a very raw, emotional and modern slice of problematic life.  She was at a pivotal moment in her real life and apparently working it out in this film.  I think age was getting to her; thus she aged herself a bit…or felt a need to “act her age.”  I suspect at this time or soon after she stopped joking around as much and took a new look at herself…or felt “desperate” to try some new things while still holding tight to the reins of selective control.

I gotta say…the movie makes me like John Lithgow and Danny DeVito less. Strangely, the film gave Jeff Daniels depth and didn’t make him appear so terrible to me for what he did.  What was more upsetting was Debra Winger not confessing her secret before the end.  Yet, I think, she did what she did to lessen the pain of what was to come.  But, what if what she suffered would have passed her by had she confessed to her hubby?

As for Jack…you know Jack…he is pretty much the same guy I like/dislike from his other films.  There is one scene in which Shirley invites his astronaut character into her bedroom to “see a painting.”  And, when he enters the house, he just looks so grubby and shady like a thief in the night without the cat burglar costume/skills.  His best moment–the lucky bastard–was groping Shirley at the beach.  I wanted her to rip his arm off! 😛

Getting back to Danny…who is he supposed to be??  He just pops up in a few scenes, not saying much but taking an interest in Shirley’s character.  Is he an old ogling friend?  A husband of a female friend?  It just irked me seeing him pop up.

Looking at the theatrical trailer, it was one of those lousy versions that shows a near-complete synopsis of the story, leaving out the tragedy at the end.  A hard sell.

Seeing Debra Winger yell at her kids reminded me of my family, one member in particular.  And, as I confronted that member today, she shared a shocking little moment she had yesterday which made her think of me.  The two ripples collided, leaving an unsettling feeling running through me to this moment…

I did not have an easy time getting to bed and now know I probably should not have watched that movie.  Yet, a tiny part of me thinks it was like a rock in the sea on a sailing voyage.  I could have avoided it if I listened to word of mouth.  But, I faced it and steered around it best I could.  How it will impact my voyage is yet to be seen….

Perhaps, in the Shirley Zone.




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