The Life & Times of an Auteur.

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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hollywood Happy Endings

I just finished watching "Face/Off" on Netflix. It's a movie definitely from its era, but it's fun. I enjoy it. But what I think would have made the movie much better would be if John Travolta's character, Sean Archer, was forced to live the rest of his life with Castor Troy's (Nicolas Cage) face. They even had the perfect set up for it at the climax of the movie when Troy just starts knifing up his own face before being impaled on the end of the harpoon.

This comes from my personal belief that nothing comes without a price. Nothing gets resolved easily in real life without cost, why should it happen in the movies? Okay, for light-hearted fare, it's fine. But this is a movie that opens with the murder of a five-year-old boy. People die in all manner of gruesome ways, and Castor Troy rapes Archer's wife (sex under false pretenses like that is still rape). This is not a light-hearted movie. It's a big, over-the-top action movie, but it's not light-hearted. At all.

Sean Archer wins in the end. He kills his nemesis, he avenges his son, he has his family back, he adopts Castor's son. But the price should have been his face. In fact, the ending is so neatly tied-up that if I was told that John Woo wanted to end it this way, but the Hollywood suits wanted the happier ending, I'd believe it.

Is it a bittersweet ending? Yes. But it tilts a lot more heavily towards the sweet... in the grand scheme of things, his face is a small price to pay. In the grand scheme of things. But it's more real, it's a hell of a lot more dramatic. And it's a lot more honest. Everything has a price. Even in fantasy land.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Satisfaction


"Young Justice" returns, and on a pretty good episode. The fallout from Artemis' "death" is still being felt, and Roy Harper finally wakes up. Lex Luthor finally returns for the first time this season too, or the second time if you count his cameo during Black Manta's induction.

Roy, the original Roy (I refuse to say real since both are very real people by this point) wakes up and reacts about as well as one could expect. While his anger at Green Arrow was understandable, I felt his lack of anger at his clone was refreshing. How often do we see characters who get cloned hating their clone for reasons based less on logic and more on emotion? Nice to see that cliche sidestepped. Even nicer was that once he calmed down a little, his disdain for his mentor died down, at least a little. We'll see where they all go from here.

I am still enjoying this version of Lex Luthor, and after many years of disliking the character that is weird of me to say. Some might accuse me of feeling this way because he is written like David Xanatos from "Gargoyles," and after Lex's "vengeance is a sucker's game" quote, they might not be wrong. But I don't think that is the case. Sure, that line is there. And while they both share some traits, I do not see them as being all that similar. Xanatos is amoral, and I see Lex as much more immoral, for starters. I think all they have in common is that they see vengeance as petty and beneath them, and they both keep cool under pressure.... and high caliber gun fire. And both are extremely smart and manipulative. But smart and manipulative villains are a dime a dozen, and both are their own characters.

Original Roy is now Arsenal and has a new arm. Superboy needs to talk to this boy about accepting gifts from Lex Luthor. It doesn't turn out well.

The B-plot was the mourning of Artemis, and it looks like Superboy has found himself a new girlfriend. We'll see where this goes. But I really hope that Superboy and Miss Martian don't get back together. Something about that relationship never sat right with me, and while I tried to ease up on it when season one ended, learning the truth behind why he dumped her just cemented my earlier gut feeling. M'Gann is amoral. Period.

Poor Captain Cold, I knew he was going to have a bad time the moment I saw him, that was a fast surrender. And very nice to see Zatanna again.

Also very nice to get confirmation that Jason Todd existed in this universe. I figured that's what Dick's "don't die" line at the start of the season was referring to.

Finally, Jade wants to take out Aqualad and Sportsmaster, the principle thug and enforcer for the Light, wants to take out Black Manta. One of his bosses. This is it folks, mark it. Right here is where the thread that unravels the whole thing is about to be pulled. Sportsmaster might not be one of the Light, but he knows where many of the bodies are buried. All it takes is a spark, and I think this is the beginning of the end for the Light.

Good episode, looking forward to next week's.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Filler

Here's Spoony and Brad Jones talking about how horrible the Transformers movies are.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Who's a Diva?


So I've been lucking around and some of the comments I've seen directed at Marina Sirtis for how she behaves at conventions are... preposterous. Let me preface this this with a little disclaimer. I don't know Marina Sirtis personally. I have spent maybe four hours of my life in her company, total. I'll relay the total of my experience with her in a bit. For now, I want to talk about some of the reactions I've seen to her at conventions and on the internet, and why it's a terrible idea to expect actors, when you meet them, to be their characters.

Let's face it, for as much as I love and adore the character of Demona, the vast majority of the people who go to see Marina Sirtis at a convention are going there to see the actor who played Deanna Troi. As we all know, Troi was, for all intents and purposes, written as the nicest character in the universe. She was the ship's councelor, the one people went to with their problems, the empath, the one with a bottomless well of compassion and understanding. I tend to suspect that some fans expect Marina Sirtis to be this person, but no real life human being is that person.

Let's take a look at the video that inspired some of these comments:



As you can see, in real life, Marina Sirtis is very outspoken and opinionated, very fiery. There are a lot of words you can use to describe her now iconic character, but "fiery" is not one of them. But, being a very outspoken and opinionated guy myself, I find her attitude at conventions to be refreshing, charming and a hell of a lot of fun. She speaks her mind and she doesn't take crap. I admire that in a woman. Hell, I admire that in anyone. And really, what has she said or done that is wrong? I can think of only one answer: she did not act like Troi. But that makes me happy, I've found the real Marina to be far more interesting than the iconic character she played. But, I like spitfires.

I've met her twice, and... if you go in expecting her to be Deanna Troi, you're going to be in for disappointment, or a shock, or both. She has a quick wit, and a sharp, sarcastic sense of humor. She is also very opinionated and outspoken. I have heard her admit that she has much more in common with Demona, the villain she voiced on "Gargoyles" than she does with Troi (but notice that I never assumed she was a genocidal lunatic who spreads her massive amounts of guilt to everybody else in the world). That being said, being someone with a sharp, sarcastic sense of humor myself... we both got along quite well and chatted for a good five minutes while the line kept forming behind me. Eventually, I was the one who said "good-bye" ... mostly because I didn't want to get lynched by the people behind me. But we got along very well. That was the first time I met her.

The second time I met her was at the final Gathering of the Gargoyles. Without getting into specifics, we were a small convention. Much smaller than the ones she usually goes to, as such our war chest was less opulent. But, she was still nice enough to make the trip out to spend her day with us. She didn't have to do that, and we had a great time at our little soiree and had what I've heard was one of her few convention experiences where she could walk the floor into the art gallery without being mobbed by fans who don't understand the definition of boundaries. Another con-staffer and I volunteered to be her security while she was at the con, and we both got to chat with her. I even had the chance to eat lunch with her that day, and yeah... sarcastic, sharp, opinionated. But always with the purpose of being funny and entertaining. Not for ruining anyone's day. And never, not once, did she ever give a look or impression that she did not want to be there. In fact, when she left, her only regret was that she didn't come to our convention sooner. I thought she was a lovely woman. A lot of fun to spend time with, and never boring. She's someone I could easily see myself being close friends with if given the chance.

So, when you meet an actor. When you have a chance to see an actor live, keep this in mind... they are not their character. They will never be their character. You are getting a glimpse at who they really are. Don't act shocked when they are different. If they have a sense of humor that you don't share, do not assume they are being mean. Yes, like every other human being on the planet, they can have their bad days... but I doubt they go to these things to ruin anyone's day. If they hated interacting with fans, they flat out wouldn't go... plenty of people don't go and won't go. But if your problem is that she is an outspoken an opinionated woman then you are the one with terrible issues, not her.

Marina, if by any chance you ever stumble across this. You're a class act. Keep being yourself, because you're a fun, lively and lovely individual.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Does Greg Own? Updated!

Some stuff has since been ditched, other things have since been upgraded to Blu-ray, and there are some new editions. Oh, and lookie what I've got an advanced freebie copy of:


Batman Returns Come To Life?

It has been pointed out to me that Mitt Romney has lost the election basically the same way the Penguin lost the election in Batman Returns.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Best & Worst of Summer 2012

Okay, since the summer has come and gone, I think I'll list the best and worst of the this summer. For the best, this is much easier than I ever expected it to be.

The Best was easily "The Avengers." I honestly expected "The Dark Knight Rises" to put up more of a fight for this spot, and while I very much enjoyed it, this one is way too easy. "The Avengers" was the biggest gamble out of any movie this summer, and it was not only a remarkable achievement which will influence movies for many years to come, but it was also a great flick in and of itself. It also makes the best case that big, colorful, over-the-top blockbusters don't have to be completely stupid. So from now on, whenever anyone points and Michael Bay's cinematic abortions and then asks me if I want "Citizen Kane" when I point out how horrible they are, I can easily point at "Avengers" and say that's what I want.

The Worst was tough. I usually tend to go with the movie that pisses me off the most. In this case, it would be two movies I am glad I bootlegged off the internet to watch, because no way would I pay to see them or ask anyone to endure them. It's either "Savages" or "Ted" and I am torn on this. Both movies were horrible. "Savages" was Oliver Stone at his worst (and he can be really terrible), but I'd rather watch "Alexander" than this shit. It was like every single terrible independent 90's flick rolled into one. And as for "Ted" well, Seth McFarlane makes television for retarded frat boys, I suppose he may as well make movies for retarded frat boys. I am so glad I didn't see this in a theater because I would have felt like the smartest person in the room every single time the audience laughed. I don't know which of these two things made me angrier.

The marketing for both of these movies pissed me off too. Every time I saw "Savages" being promoted, the talent went on about how this is an important film, not something inane and pointless like comic book heroes. Well, anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy serious dramas and art house flicks. But I won't grade a movie on its subject manner, but how well it achieves what it sets out to do. "Savages" crashed and burned. But, ultimately, on the anger scale, I'm going to give it to "Ted" because... this shit was a fucking success. Seth McFarlane is the Michael Bay of animation, and now he's branching off. Sigh...

No, I did not see "Battleship" and I have no plans to.

Monday, September 17, 2012

And Then There Were None


Last night, America said good-bye to the Botwins. But before I discuss my thoughts on the finale, and the season, let me talk about my personal history with this show. I didn't discover it until after the fifth season had finished. In fact, while I was still in film school, we were assigned to pitch ideas and one of mine was "an exposed on suburbia starring a hot, single mom who sells drugs to provide for her family." Then I was asked an obvious question: "you ever watched Weeds?" My answer was no. It wasn't until some time later that I did start watching it, and Jenji Kohan did far better with the concept than I could have.

The show had its ups and its downs, what show doesn't, but it never failed to entertain me. Most will say the first three seasons in Agrestic (later Majestic and now Regrestic) were the best seasons. I agree, but I also really enjoyed the three seasons where Nancy got in deep with the Mexican drug cartels, and while season seven was the weakest season (I felt they failed to make New York City a character), I still enjoyed it. Season eight was better... but you'll notice that after the premiere, I stopped reviewing it. I had planned to, but as the weeks passed, I decided to wait until the end. And now that the end has arrived, the most I can say about the ending is this: it felt right. It satisfied me. And please don't take that as a lukewarm reception, because it is not. I thought it was the perfect ending for these people. It didn't feel forced, or contrived. For a show with as many twists and turns and over the top moments as this one had, I can see how some might be disappointed, but I wasn't. Sometimes less is more... but I would hardly argue that this ending was less.

The final moments of the penultimate episode was a moment I dreaded, because I was afraid it would be hackneyed and contrived. It wasn't. If anything I thought it was a perfect moment that summed up the relationship between two of our leads perfectly. Those who watch the show know what I'm talking about. I am refraining from spoiling because I know of at least one person who reads my reviews, watches and enjoys the show, who is still behind. And then seeing where they went from there.

Did Nancy Botwin get a happy ending? I would say her ending was very bittersweet. Honestly, I cannot think of a more appropriate ending for her. She didn't go to prison (they already did that), they didn't kill her (she's already been shot in the head), but the ending she did get felt natural and poetic. Sometimes you don't need to do anything apocalyptic. Everyone else seemed to end up in the right places too. Some turned out better than others, but that's life.

It was an entertaining series, and I admit that I am going to miss it. I'm going to miss my favorite MILF of an anti-hero, or anti-villain depending on how you view her. Fare thee well. You were an interesting person to know, Nancy Botwin. Fare thee well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Race, Gender, & Mainstream Comic Books OR Why Elisa Maza Was So Cool


First of all, let me state for the record that no one supports diversity in comic books and media more than I do. Unfortunately, especially in comic books, most of the iconic characters were created and established before the civil rights movement. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, the original X-Men, Hal Jordan, even the ones that are aliens look and behave just like white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The exception on that list is Ben Grimm, who wasn't revealed to be Jewish until much later. Ever since then there has been a push to diversify comics. Luke Cage and Black Panther are great characters now, even if they were introduced at the time as stereotypes. The Green Lantern, John Stewart, got a strong showing in animation, not so sure about his use in comic books... but a friend of mine who is a huge Green Lantern fan has called him boring.

However, every time the mantle is passed to a new hero, who doesn't happen to be white, it gets applauded. But in recent years, with a desire to return to the Silver Age, all of these Caucasians characters were taking their capes back from those who have since assumed them. Now, let me state for the record again that I do not believe race factored into this, as I can definitely understand and appreciate a desire to use the classic characters. Unfortunately, this has resulted in some very unfortunate implications.

Speaking of unfortunate implications, let's discuss the newest Arab-American Green Lantern. I am all for the idea of this, especially since there is sadly a lot of bigotry being directed at Arabs these days, so creating a character to be a positive role model, who just so happens to be an Arab-American is a good thing. Sadly, DC comics had to jump into the most stereotypical back story imaginable. If they wanted to be original maybe they shouldn't have had this new Arab-American GL origin be that he lost his job so he steals cars, then one van he tries to steal has a bomb in it so he drives it into his former place of business where it blows up, then he's falsely charged with terrorism and sent to Guantanamo Bay where Hal Jordan's broken ring finds him.

When I first heard this, I laughed. I did not think this could possibly be real. It's like if a Seth MacFarlane show introduced an Arab-American superhero. I do not mean, or even want to denigrate Geoff Johns, who is a good writer.... but damn, subtly is not his strong point. And yes, his heart was in the right place, but why not create a character and not define him by his ethnicity. He just happens to be an Arab-American. I understand why minority characters created in the 60s and 70s had these heavy handed origins, but this is 2012. Do you really need to do this? And to put him in a ski-mask and have him carry a gun? Why? Here's an idea, he's a police officer, he becomes a Green Lantern, and if you want him to carry a gun in addition to the ring, it's his service pistol. There, in just one sentence I justified that gun.

Marvel is just as guilty of this sort of thing. Most recently, at least in the books I've read, Peter Parker was given a hispanic female roommate named Michelle Gonzalez who was the epitome of the crazy, pissed off latina. She was a raging psychopath... like a rejected "South Park" character. It was offensive, and outright disgusting.

This will surprise no one who reads this blog, but in this genre, I think Elisa Maza is the best example of a character introduced who happens to be a minority. Her father is a Hopi Native American, and her mother is of Nigerian descent. You never get beaten over the head with this, when she is first introduced, no big deal is made about it. She is obviously not Caucasian, but nothing else about her ethnic background is mentioned, and you don't even see her parents until the eighth episode of the first season, and then you're not beaten over the head with it, they're simply introduced as her parents. Her ethnic background doesn't come into play until two episodes more than half way into the show's second season during the Avalon World Tour when two of their stops are Nigeria, and Flagstaff, Arizona where the local legends come into play and we also get to know about her family history. Two episodes out of sixty-five. And her ethnic background does not define her in the slightest. What Elisa Maza most definitely is is a New Yorker. She was introduced as a person first, and she just happened to be of mixed descent. 

There was nothing stereotypical about Elisa. Nothing. Sadly, if Marvel or DC created the character, this would most likely be her background: When we first met her, she would be stealing car stereos to support her kid, she'd  be a single mom who doesn't know who the baby's daddy is, while living off welfare and picking up garbage off the side of the road and making holistic medicines that are better than anything actual doctors can come up with. She would be a walking, talking stereotype of both cultures instead of a person who just happens to be of these two races.

I know that over in "Ultimate Spider-Man," Brian Michael Bendis has replaced Peter Parker with a kid who is half-African American, half Latin-American. I have not read it though, so I hope Mile Morales doesn't follow the unfortunate trend.

But the bottom line is that when you create a character, make them a person first. Who are they? What are their hopes, their dreams, their fears? Their ethnic background should factor in after that. Don't create a character that is a minority just to have that minority, that's called tokenism.

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, for all those who say that his being an alien shows the immigrant experience, now the metaphor would be all the stronger. He'd still be that guy, but he would also just happen to be a practicing Muslim.