The Life & Times of an Auteur.

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

Legend of Korra

Okay, huge improvement this week. Except for Bolin who isn't funny, just annoyingly stupid... I mean, good lord. It's reached a point where he's such an idiot, I'm wondering if he needs help wiping his own ass.

Everything else was fine. Korra's head was pulled out of her ass and let's hope it stays that way.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Farewell to the Morgans

Sigh... it was so close to being perfect. So close.

I admit it, this final season of "Dexter" was pretty lackluster. While Dr. Evelyn Vogel was a terrific new character, played well by Charlotte Rampling; the season meandered a lot on new characters we didn't care about, and a Big Bad who was pretty underwhelming... but then, I stopped expecting Brian Moser and Arthur Mitchell to be topped long ago. Some say I was kinder to seasons six and seven than I should have been. But I always enjoyed watching Dexter and Debra Morgan, even when the plot wasn't worthy of them.

That all being said, I was apprehensive about the finale. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, and also prepared myself for disappointment.

All things considered, I loved what we got. The penultimate episode ended with Dexter getting over his need to kill. Big Bad, Oliver Saxon aka the Brain Surgeon had been captured, Dexter chose to give him to his sister, Debra (who had rejoined Miami Metro Homicide), and he was going to leave the country for Argentina with his son, Harrison; and fugitive girlfriend, Hannah McKay. He was on his way to a happy ending and ten Saxon got loose, shot Deb and escaped.

Now we've seen Debra get shot before, and this episode teases you with the notion that she's going to pull through. She survives surgery, she has a conversation with Dexter (who got off the plane after shenanigans with a bounty hunter going after Hannah (played by Sean Patrick Flannery who I worked with once, yay!)), and the doctor gives her a good prognosis. Dexter sends Hannah and Harrison away with a promise to meet up with them after he is sure Debra is safe, and sure enough, Saxon shows up to finish the job only to be arrested by Miami Metro. All is well, Deb is sage.

But, for Dexter Morgan, there are no happy endings. Nor should there be. There were complications with Debra's surgery, she had a stroke, her brain was cut off from oxygen and she's brain dead. She will spend the rest of her life as a vegetable... and despite everything, Dexter knows this is all on him. He is a monster, and a horrible cloud on his family's lives.

He goes back to Miami Metro, goes into Saxon's cell and kills him in a manner he can say is self defense. Batista and Quinn know this is bullshit, obviously... but they never knew what Dexter was, and were just as happy to see this scumbag die.

And this is the end, Hurricane Laura (same name as Dexter's mother) is fast approaching Miami, the hospital is being evacuated, and Dexter goes in and commits his final kill. The most difficult one he's ever done, the first time we've ever seen him cry. He knows Debra would not want to live as a vegetable and pulls the plug in a very powerful scene. He then smuggles her body out of the hospital in the hurricane confusion and onto his boat, where he buries her at sea in a beautifully shot scene. He calls Hannah and speaks to his son one last time before deciding his son needs to be protected from himself... and then he drives his boat into the hurricane. The remains are found days later, and Dexter is declared dead. Batista mourns, Hannah mourns in Argentina as she protects Harrison from this information, and we fade to black.

After a lackluster season this ending was perfect, it was actually beautiful, sublime. It was nice to see Dexter finally have a moment of clarity and realize what a poison he's been to the people who care about him. Most importantly of all, this was about Dexter and Debra. The relationship between the brother and sister was the core relationship of the entire show. Dexter had to destroy the person who, throughout his life, he cared about most.

The flashbacks to Harrison being born, and Dexter and Debra seeing him for the first time were terrific, and really summed up how Dexter was kidding himself, how he felt that maybe he could connect with others, how maybe he could have a happy ending. But he can't. He shouldn't

I was fine with him escaping legal justice. We had Miami Metro hunting the Bay Harbor Butcher in season two, and we had LaGuerta privately hunting Dexter in season seven. I didn't need to see this same story again only this time they catch him.

When it faded to black, I was ready to give it an A+

Then we arrived in Oregon, and found Dexter living alone with a full beard, cut off from other people working in a lumberyard. Having sent himself into exile. I'm sorry, but no. I get what they were going for on an intellectual level, they wanted him to live with what he did, knowing he can never be near his son again, and finally having his actions weigh on him. But, as far as I'm concerned, you could either have had the one ending, or the other. The idea that he could pull a Batman and escape from a hurricane... and even beyond that. The death scene we thought we were getting was so well done, I believed in it... Debra was so human, she was his humanity. The final shot, there was just no soul to it, in an episode that already had a lot of soul.

I don't know what grade to give it. I loved the episode until the cop out ending. I have no idea what compelled them to do it. It felt like an alternate ending that would turn up as a DVD extra.

TV just hasn't been kind to me lately.


So, I've spent the last two days arguing about this with my brother... I'm going to give the show the rest of the season. Maybe my complaints will be addressed. I think Korra is salvagable as a character... I think Mako and Bolin are not. But, there are five people in the world whose opinions are, as far as I'm concerned gospel (even when we do occasionally disagree), and my brother is one of them.

Okay, Korra, you have my patience. Thank my brother.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I Quit.

This is a show I want to like. Really. I really do. "Book One" had problems, but the scales didn't tip for me, the good outweighed the bad. But Book Two so far... well.

Korra… she’s just a completely unlikable idiot who never learns a damn thing. The little girl who called her "the worst Avatar ever" got applause from me. I almost think the show would be more interesting if she was evolving into the primary antagonist, a corrupt and dangerous Avatar who the world needs to band together to take down. But they won't do that.

I don’t like Bolin. He’s not funny, he’s just stupid. Bolin is asking Mako of all people for advice on how to cleanly end a relationship in a way nobody gets hurt. And all the attempts at humor with him make me cringe. Sokka was funny, but there was way more to him than that.

Mako is, at best, horribly bland and at worst a complete abomination of a character. Oh yeah, and Mako referred to Asami as a blood sucking leech. You know, the girl who sacrificed everything for him. I reiterate this… bland at his best, a complete abomination of a character at his worst. Please kill him! Please! But they won't. In fact, the creators spent half of the entire audio commentary for the first season defending/justifying Mako and behaving as if his critics didn't know what they were talking about. The last time I saw that kind of defense in a commentary was about Sofia Coppola's performance in "The Godfather Part III"

I like everyone else on “Legend of Korra”, but these three are the leads… and for a show I desperately want to enjoy, they are sinking the ship for me.

And while I like the new locale and the new characters, I hate that we’re pretending the Equalist uprising never happened, sweeping it under the rug. It was a nuanced plot that should have had consequences, regardless of whether or not Amon was a fraud or not. But nope, out of sight, out of mind… no dealing with aftermath. Barely even a mention.

Tenzin is a great character. So are the members of his family. Lin? Awesome. Even Korra's parents are good, as were Amon and Tarlokk. There's a lot of good in this show. So why am I quitting? Because this is easily one of the most frustrating shows I've watched in a long time. I know they are capable of better. The supporting cast is wonderful. But I don't like the three main characters at all. This isn't like a Michael Bay film where I know it's going to make me angry, it's dead on arrival anyway. This could be spectacular, should be spectacular. I don't think it is. It actually breaks my heart. I originally said I would give it the entire season, and I might be lured back in due to my wanting to like it. But, for now, I'm not going to go out of my way to watch it. I doubt I'm going to miss it.

And yet, despite all this, I still root for it's success. Because I want action cartoons to be seen as profitable. My prediction is people will claim that the low ratings it's now receiving is because the lead is a lady and then we'll never get it again. They say that every time a comic movie with a lady matter how awful it is. You never hear that with "Jonah Hex" or "Lone Ranger". 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Yom Kippur

This day of atonement with two of my favorite bad guys (for the price of one).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Elisa Maza Is a Badass

While I muster up the constitution to watch Jackie Brown, I think I'll talk about one of the, sadly, unsung great heroes in the realm of animation. I was musing the other night about how I should write an essay on her, and then after being told by a friend that I had to do this, well, this is what you're getting.

Elisa Maza is often compared with April O'Neil, and I have no idea why. I suppose if you're channel surfing and spend less than a minute on "Gargoyles" and only take things in at their most superficial, you'll see a normal woman hanging out with a bunch of gargoyles and make that leap. But that's as ridiculous as saying Demona is just like Mystique or Xanatos is just like Lex Luthor. Elisa is so much more than that, and I will say it, she is one of the greatest animated heroes of all time. Notice that I didn't say "greatest animated love interests" or anything like that. I don't put her toe-to-toe with Lois Lane, Spike Witwicky from Transformers, or the aforementioned April O'Neil. No, I'm putting her toe-to-toe with the likes of Batman; any version of Optimus Prime; and yes, even the love of her life, Goliath.

Unlike April and Lois, Elisa is no damsel in distress (or, in their cases dumbass in distress). She can and does take care of herself and, while I haven't counted, she's rescued Goliath and the other gargoyles more often than they've ever rescued her by a significant margin... and all without making Goliath and his kin look like weak heroes in the process. Imagine a Superman show where Lois saved Superman more often than he saved her, chances are you'd have people complaining that they were making Supes look weak in favor of "girl power" or something. Not "Gargoyles." Not Elisa Maza. "Gargoyles" showed us very early on that Elisa wasn't going to be your typical gal pal when, in the fourth part of the five-part pilot, she takes down an entire squad of commandos single handed; commandos who were written as being competent instead of your garden variety moronic thugs that pop up in most cartoons.

A big point is made about how David Xanatos looks at his wife, Fox, as an equal. Fox even beats her husband in chess and judo sparring. Likewise, Goliath and Elisa respect each other and regard each other the same, a great reflection of Xanatos and Fox, I think. Again, one need only look at "Awakening Part Five" to see Elisa save Goliath's life from Demona before he in turn saves her from the collapsing castle as Demona falls towards her... apparent death (at least we thought so for a moment). They are a team. They are partners. They are equals.

Elisa is also a woman who is very self-possessed. Growing up mixed race (the daughter of a Native American father and an African-American mother) was probably not always easy, but it's clear to me that she grew up well-adjusted despite any hurdles she had to overcome there, never mind her succeeding in the police which is still, to this day, often considered "a man's world." She sees past appearances, choosing to see what is beneath the surface. Notice how quick she was to accept Goliath, strike up conversation with him, and get to know him. On the flip side, she didn't trust Xanatos from the moment she met him, despite the fact that most fall for his charms and suave demeanor.

This isn't to say she's perfect, no one in real life is (and no fictional character should ever be written that way). She's stubborn, she has acted selfishly, and she's guarded. She's tried to pretend her feelings for Goliath don't exist and then even after acknowledging them, she briefly panicked and tried to run away from them. But this doesn't weaken her as a character, quite the contrary, it strengthens her. She's human, without being just the human friend, she embodies the best of humanity just as Goliath embodies the best of his people... and they really are perfect for each other.*

She's a hero, as much as she denies being one, all while being human in the best sense of the word. Most pop culture heroes like Batman and Superman may as well be gods, or allegories for gods. They are larger than life, have amazing powers or abilities or resources, but they are too above us to ever truly be human. Elisa Maza might not be able to move planets, stop volcanoes and hurricanes, own a hi-tech suit of armor, be injected with a super soldier serum, be descended from gods, be a science experiment gone wrong, or be able to defeat any foe with enough prep time (she can't even beat Demona in hand-to-hand combat at night), but armed only with her brain, her heart, her badge, her gun, family and true friends, she carries on and does the best she can and has even helped save the world without ever feeling like she was invincible in the process. Elisa Maza is the hero we can all be.

*This is also a great sum up of why Elisa should never be transformed into a gargoyle again.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer 2013

Well, summer 2013 has come to an end. I cannot wait to see "World's End" and then that's it for me. But as I don't know when I will be seeing it, I can't review it.

My biggest regret of this summer has been neglecting this blog and Tarantino Month which turned into Tarantino Summer (and I botched that too), but life has been keeping me busier. Busier than it has been in a very long time. But in a good way. This has been a great summer, and a great year.

The summer's two biggest highlights for me are buying a house... becoming a property owner. It's a big step in the game of Life. New house and a new car. The other one is the release of "Gargoyles: Season Two, Volume Two." While I am not so obsessed with this show that I consider that greater than owning a home, it makes me happy; I've waited eight years for it... and now I have the complete run of my favorite show of all time (I know I put "The Daily Show" ahead of it when I made my Favorite Shows post, but who the hell was I kidding?). I also attended Connecticon and met Doug Walker and got to hang out with Marina Sirtis.

I hung out with a lot of friends this summer, met some new ones. So, overall, I can't complain. It's been good.

Now comes the part where I rank the summer movies. Well, the ones I saw, anyway.

Iron Man 3 - 4/5
Star Trek: Into Darkness - 1/5
Man of Steel - 1/5
Much Ado About Nothing - 5/5
Pacific Rim - 4/5
The Butler - 3/5

I didn't get to see everything. I had no interest in "The Wolverine" and I am waiting for "Kick Ass 2" to hit the second run theater. My opinion on "Man of Steel" has actually managed to lower since it came out and I thought about it more... don't ask why, I am finished discussing that movie. I look forward to "Thor: The Dark World" and I really am looking forward to "The Desolation of Smaug."

Great summer, I hope for more like it.