The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Rogue One


I liked it, but....

SPOILERS!

Let's start with the "I liked it..." aspect, because there was a lot in here to like.

Gareth Edwards puts together a lot of great visuals. This movie was beautiful to look at. Every frame was a work of art. From the use of shadows and the use of colors, to the locations.

We've never seen that many ground battles in the "Star Wars" movies before. Yes we had Hoth and the Battle of Endor (though, I have a ton of issues with that), but in regards to actual ground, guerrilla warfare... this felt like a World War II movie at times.

The film was well edited, and the pacing was very tight. This was a very competently put together film, and I absolutely loved that we got to see other aspects and faces in the "Star Wars" Universe outside of the Skywalker clan. Don't get me wrong, the Saga films should be focused on them since they are the heart and soul of the universe... but in a big universe like this one, there are a near endless amount of stories to tell. This took advantage of that, and I would like to see that improved upon going forward.

Also, like "The Force Awakens" before it, Lucasfilm have mastered the fine art of combining practical effects and CGI... obviously using the prequels as a reverse yardstick. I felt this way after watching TFA, and I feel this way now. Lucasfilm (under the brilliant leadership of Kathleen Kennedy) is obviously now made up by people who hate the prequels and understand why they were so poorly received. This is a good thing.

Now I dive into spoilers.

The fan service was great, normally  I would think they were trying too hard here, but I absolutely loved the fan service. We've waited a long time for Darth Vader to return to the big screen after "Return of the Jedi". The last time we saw him was in one of the most embarrassing scenes of the prequel trilogy. The moment three movies had been building up to, and then it was something out of a bad comedy. But here, this is what we've been waiting for. Lord Vader only has two real scenes in the movie, but they're worth it. His second scene in particular, I've been wanting to see Lord Vader in a situation like that for decades now.

The return of Grand Moff Tarkin. He was played by Guy Henry, but they used a lot of make-up, motion capture, and CG to transform him into Peter Cushing and it looked pretty damn good. I'm not going to say it was perfect, there were moments when it seemed a bit-off. But they did a damn good job. He's not in the movie very much, but he's in it a lot more than Lord Vader. And while he's not Rogue One's adversary in the movie, he looms large over everything.

I wanted more of Tarkin and Vader, but I understand why they couldn't be at the forefront. The same reason that Vader rarely shows up in "Star Wars Rebels". If they lose too often, you diminish their threat.

Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) was somebody I wanted to see more of. An anti-Imperial insurgent who the even the Rebel Alliance considered to be a dangerous extremist. This is the sort of character "Star Wars" has been missing. Someone who's fighting against the evil empire, but is hurting the cause more than helping it. We see figures like this over and over throughout history. Also, like Vader, he was more machine than man and relied on a breathing apparatus. He should have been in the movie a lot more than he was. I understand he was a character in "Clone Wars", but I haven't seen much of that show. Maybe I'll look for his episodes.

My favorite of the new characters, however, was the droid K-2SO. His design was great, and despite being a droid, he was the most human and lively of the characters introduced in this. I just learned that Alan Tudyk was responsible for bringing him to life, which explains a lot. The dry humor was hilarious, and I ended up genuinely loving this character.

I enjoyed Jimmy Smits' cameo as Bail Organa, and.... without spoiling it, I loved the ending of the movie. And I mean the very, very end. If you've seen it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. That was a great note to go out on.

The final battle was terrific. The opening crawl of "Star Wars: A New Hope" called this the Rebel Alliance's first victory against the Empire, and seeing it on screen was a joy.

And, of course, seeing more and more diversity brought to, not only "Star Wars", but massive blockbusters. Excellent, keep it up.

So yes, as I said before, I liked it.

But.....

The movie's greatest weakness, and I'm sorry, but this is a big weakness, was most of the new cast. There was a lot of potential in each one of them, but the script didn't explore any of them to the degree that it should have. Personally, I think there were too many new characters introduced here. Cut two of them out, and use that screen time to get to know our leads better. As it is, most of them ended up feeling like characters from either a piece of fanfiction, or a video game tie-in... granted this is a tie-in, but I still wanted more.

Don't get me wrong, not one of them made me think "this is a horrendous character", as the prequels did with boring piles of nothing like Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, General Grievous, Jango Fett, Jar Jar Binks, Watto, Darth Maul (who was fixed later on in Rebels), etc. No one made my eyes and ears bleed. There just wasn't enough done with them.

"Star Wars" has always been full of colorful characters. Chirrut, the blind warrior-monk was a fun character most of the time. I didn't mind most of the "blind ninja" tropes, in hand-to-hand combat. But when he was able to shoot a TIE Fighter out of the sky, that was too much. I understand that he was a very spiritual man, and a believer in the Force. But they also stressed that he didn't have abilities like the Jedi... which is why his shooting of a TIE Fighter should have been cut. Also, considering how spiritual he was, and his faith in the Force was what motivated him, I think he should have been the one to deliver the motivational speech to the Rebels at the beginning of Act Three instead of Jyn.

Now, Jyn Erso was our lead. And she wasn't that good, but she could have been better, and should have been better; Felicity Jones' wooden performance didn't help. She sometimes felt like the protagonist in a piece of fanfiction... and don't crucify me, all the new characters felt that way. But, like pulling back on Chirrut shooting a TIE out of the sky, I would have given her motivational speech to him, and had her focus continue to be revenge on the Empire over believing in the Rebel cause until farther into Act Three when she embraces her heroism, and realizes that this is all bigger than her. As is, she was the weakest link in the whole thing.

There are more examples with the other characters, but a little bit of editing to the script and we'd have had a far more interesting and memorable cast.

Overall...

My current rankings are: The Empire Strikes Back > A New Hope > The Force Awakens > Return of the Jedi > Rogue One. I'm not going to even bother ranking the prequels.

Gareth Edwards is a director with a good eye for photography, pacing, and constructing a story. But, his ability to characterize people continues to be his greatest weakness. This was an improvement over his "Godzilla" where nobody felt like a human being. I saw actual life in these people, but it could have and should have been brought out to the forefront.

I had a good time at the theater watching this (I am considering going again), I will buy it on Blu-ray. So, yeah, go see it and have a good time. But don't go in expecting "the best since Empire Strikes Back" because it's not.

Grade: B

Friday, December 9, 2016

All Our Faves Are Problematic Or... Let's talk about Ian...



I've been trying to force myself to not write this entry for a couple of years, now. Ian runs a blog dedicated to tearing down "Gargoyles" and overlooking similar and deeper flaws in the 2003 4Kids "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". I'm not going to name it or link to it, but you can find it if you wish.

"Gargoyles" is pretty beloved in the animation community. Not by everyone, but that's okay. Even sacred cows like "The Simpsons", "Batman the Animated Series", and "Loony Tunes" have their detractors. Hell, I'm a detractor of a good portion of the Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe outside of Batman TAS... and yes, upfront, I am willing to admit my own butthurt that Justice League and Justice League Unlimited are placed on a higher pedestal than "Gargoyles". I'm admitting that now and upfront because I need to be intellectually honest before I dive into discussing Ian's words of... well, not wisdom. Let me also admit that back then I used to be very defensive of "Gargoyles", and while I still am, I am also more likely to just roll my eyes and click to the next page. It took a lot of growing up, and having better things to do with my time, but here I am. So, am I a hypocrite for this entry? Well, I'm willing to admit it. But if I'm still grinding an ax against "Agents of SHIELD" or "Lucifer" or, yes, even JLU in another ten years, I'll mention that to my therapist.

I first encountered Ian over a decade ago on ToonZone. Back then, he was going by the name "The Big Bad" and was using Rogue from X-Men Evolution as his avatar. He had an ax to grind about "Gargoyles" even back then. Mostly because the 2003 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" cartoon wasn't as highly regarded as it. Any time someone would criticize it, he'd bring up something he didn't like about "Gargoyles" without fail. For a while it seemed like he mellowed. Then he started his blog.

Ian has accused "Gargoyles" of every crime in the book. Homophobia, sexism, cultural appropriation. If Tumblr is angry about it, then Ian has accused "Gargoyles" of it. And he's been doing it for ten years. Despite my dislike of JLU, I only ever found one big red flag like that (Tala and Flash), and while I have talked about that more often than I should... you know what, in an effort to be less like Ian, I'm going to stop. I made my point long ago, and it's tired.

Was "Gargoyles" perfect? No. It's heart was in the right place, and it was pretty damn progressive. Yes, "Heritage" is dated. Yes, the resolution of Tea and Fara Maku could have been handled better... and yes, those were two of the weakest episodes of the series for a variety of reasons. Even Greg Weisman, himself, would agree the show wasn't perfect and pushes himself to improve on representation, as you can read here.

It's amazing how you can predict these people, like clockwork. ALL of them want everything to be absolutely morally perfect, and to them, stories are only a vehicle for teaching values. That's where his anger about David Xanatos ending the series with everything he wants comes from. Newsflash, sometimes evil does win... and yes, Xanatos has done horrendous things, and yes the guy is charming. But the gargoyles still don't like him, even now that they're being harbored by him. I don't think the show was endorsing his behavior... just telling a story about a world and the people in it.

On one of his blog posts, he discussed how Goliath, like other marginalized people, should be able to "be angry" at those who mistreated him--forgetting that no living human save for the main characters know about him. It's not the same as real-world discrimination! And, quite frankly, I don't recall the show ever saying that Goliath and the gargoyles didn't have the right to be angry.

Political writing has different rules than storytelling, which is why the Tumblr critique fails so often. Because sometimes in stories it's necessary for characters to do the wrong thing, to be flawed, and for them to fail. Tumblr also tends to get upset when a show talks about making peace with enemies, since that's often not how social rights are won in the real world. But if it serves the themes and the story, it's fine. The purpose is not instruction. We make peace with our enemies, that's why it's called making peace; but try telling a bunch of excitable teenagers that. I don't take "reviews" of movies and TV that originate from Tumblr seriously. And, frankly, neither should you.

Ian is looking for absolute perfection and casing down anything that doesn't meet those impossible standards. These people drive me nuts. And you can't argue with them because they think they're doing God's work. It's fine to criticize the politics of a story, but there's a huge self-importance and over-dramaticness that is really ridiculous.

But what bothers me is that he doesn't focus that magnifying glass on his beloved "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" 2003 series. And I'm not going to bash that show. It was a pretty good show. Not the best, and it had some lows, but it did so much right and is pretty much my definitive take on that story. Well, at least the first four seasons and "Turtles Forever" are. But I need to point out that if I reach and do the mental gymnastics that Ian does, I can find as many problems with it as he flat out fabricates about "Gargoyles". Here are just a few:

  • White writers writing about Feudal Japan.
  • Michelangelo's girly screams are obviously making fun of the transgender community.
  • Leonardo holding a sword to Karai's neck was perpetuating rape culture.
  • Karai ultimately giving in to her stalker's advances and dating him... being presented as a happy ending for both characters.
  • All the physical violence leveled at Baxter Stockman, the only African-American in the show.
  • Garbageman being the only physically challenged character in the series... one could say that's ableism.
  • And, the big one, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is about four American teenagers trying to be Japanese ninjas. Cultural appropriation, don't you think?
I'm sure I could find more if I wanted. But I'm not going to. I don't have the time and, quite frankly, I lack the desire. I don't have an ax to grind against this show. I like it. I just hate Ian's hypocrisy.

Maybe Ian believes his own hype. He hasn't examined his motives, and believes it's some kind of social good he's doing by pointing out that a series that thrilled so many people "doesn't have perfect representation". Ian can take what he wants to take away from it, and I would like to be able to respect him; but considering that I understand his true motive, I understand the ax he has to grind, I cannot give him one iota of respect, and if anything regard him and his self-righteousness with contempt.

All our favorites are problematic. Even Jon Stewart had his shortcomings, even a civil rights icon like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had them if you decide to look for them. My favorite is problematic, your favorite is problematic. You live with it, and you move on.

I'll keep doing my part to fight for social justice by continuing to vote, by continuing to make donations to organizations such as the American Civil Liberies Union. To attend marches against the upcoming Trump regime. To volunteer. To make a difference. Ultimately, trying to make the world a better place for everyone and to stand up against bigotry of all stripes was what I learned from "Gargoyles", and I try to apply that to how I live.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A retraction...

I'm not retracting an opinion or even an idea. What I am retracting is a nickname. Chloe Bennet's character on "Agents of SHIELD"... Daisy aka Mary Sue aka Quake aka Skye, etc. As most readers of this blog noted, I would refer to her as Special Snowflake. Right now, I am retracting and apologizing for that.

I am blissfully ignorant of a lot of buzzwords and code-words that MRAs, GamerGaters, the "alt right" or... let's be honest and call them fucking Neo Nazis... use. "Special Snowflakes" is an insult they love to toss around, alongside "cuck" and other hateful language to denigrate their targets.

So, on that note, I am issuing a formal apology for the use of that term. I do not want anyone to think that I hold views that are anywhere near in line with these degenerates. I condemn them; they are animals.

Don't get me wrong, I still think the show and the character are crap. But, in the event that I ever bring it up again (though that's not too likely, I've more than said my piece), I will not be using that hateful slur.

I plead ignorance, but make no excuses. Hold my feet to the fire should I ever espouse any of their hateful terminology whether purposely or accidental.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I'd be for it...




That's Mark Waid, Superman's biggest fan.

I'd take this even further:

You know what would have been something? If they were being really ballsy, when DC did the new 52, they would have made the Kents immigrants from Iran or Lebanon, make Kent short for something quite long. I think Clark could pass as a Lebanese immigrant with his black hair so it wouldn't really affect how he looked but in a snap it would affect how people viewed him. Does the world's greatest hero really need to be a WASP? He can still stand for Truth, Justice, and the American Way while being a practicing Muslim. If anything it would represent the best of America, the melting pot, where anyone regardless of your race, background, or creed can be anything.

Plus, it would make the awful supervillain, Captain Combover, take to his twitter while sitting on his golden toilet at 3am. And anything that makes Captain Combover's head expode is a good thing.

On another note. Yes, I saw Dr. Strange. Yes, I liked it. But I've been less compelled to blog as of late. What's going on in our country and the world stage has me a little bit more concerned.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Yes...

Yes, I know.

I'm looking forward to it immensely.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Clearing Something Up.

I was recently, once again, accused of being mean to people that disagree with me. Well, and maybe I'm proving this idiot's point by saying this, but you will never see his comments on this blog again. Not because he and I disagreed, but because he was a goddamn imbecile. He's entitled to his opinions, but even when others pointed out cold hard facts... he said "Well, it still feels that way". You know, how things "feel". No reason, no logic. Just feel.

Didn't Stephen Colbert dedicate an entire, nine-year, television series to combating that level of stupidity?



Yup.

But I have no issues with anyone who disagrees with me. As long as you engage me in intelligent conversation, and don't behave like an ass, I'll treat you with respect. A lot of people have commented here over the years whom I have disagreed with. I won't say there weren't occasional moments of head butting, but it's civil.

So yes, the individual in question could not be reasoned with, even after being proven wrong on a factual level. He continued to make comments, comments that I refused to approve... and will never approve. Why? Believe it or not, the argument itself wasn't the last straw. The last straw was when he blamed his behavior on his autism. If you do that, ever... you are dead to me.

I have a lot of friends on the autism spectrum. They do not behave badly, and they never, ever use their autism as a crutch. Being an ignorant asshole is a choice. And don't tell me you're not an idiot because you graduated from college... Donald Trump fucking graduated from college, and he's an asshole, a piece of shit, and an idiot. So fuck you.

And I just can't stand that excuse. I never could.

Okay, it's story time with Uncle Greg.

When the Gathering was still around, we had a gigantic asshole show up to three of the conventions. The first con he attended was run by a different staff than the one I worked on, and they allowed... let's call him Rod... they allowed Rod to run around and harass people, didn't enforce any of the rules, and harass the guests. Nothing was done to reign him in.

The next year, the team I was a part of hosted. Needless to say, we didn't have any of that shit. He showed up and, once again, walked around with entitlement oozing out of his every pore. He tried to harass the guests, he tried to talk all over people during the panels, and I'll never forget when the voice actors were signing autographs and he very publicly, and obviously tried to line jump... I marched over to him and told him that he needed to wait in line like everybody else. He argued with me. I told him again, he argued with me. I had to threaten to pull his badge and have hotel security escort him out before he screeched at me "FINE!!!!!!" (the entire room, and the talent heard him) before storming off.

That's only the tip of the iceberg... we had a list of complaints about him as long as Reed Richards' arms. What was the excuse he used? His autism. He demanded a free pass, and that he be treated like a king... that everything revolve around him... because he was autistic.

It climaxed at the final Gathering when the banquet was sold out and he spent two days walking around the con and demanding that people give him their banquet pass. That he was entitled to it because he was autistic.

Again, I realize this might sound ableist, but I don't mean to come off that way. I have a lot of autistic friends and they don't behave this way. Not only that, but they resent people that do.

I generally like this blog to be a respectful place. Not necessarily when I review bad productions, but when I engage back and forth with people that comment. But be respectful, don't be entitled, and for the love of god... don't make excuses for being an asshole.

In other news, the asshole I'm writing about has slithered over to another blog and is posting the exact same shit. I don't think he's played the autism card there yet, but he will... luckily that blog is run by a far nicer person than I.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 Emmys!



Congratulations to "Game of Thrones" on all your big wins. While I don't think you deserved this last year, you definitely earned it this year. Well done.

Of course, GoT won't be eligable for the 2017 Emmys since it will be premiering months later than usual. "Better Call Saul", will it be your turn to shine?

Also congratulations to John Oliver for his big win. But stay on your toes, because Samantha Bee is overtaking you fast.

Oh, and because I am obligated to be mean to this failed show and this failed thespian.