The Life & Times of an Auteur.

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

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Best quote about "Star Trek" ever

Once upon a time, someone criticized "Babylon 5" for not being more like "Star Trek: The Next Generation." J. Michael Straczynski responded.
As for the notion that it could use "a little of Trek's humanism," I don't much like the way that's been defined there. Seems to me that that version of "humanism" is placid, unpassionate, orderly and for the most part, with some exceptions, bloodless. To me, humanism means embracing our flaws as well as our nobilities, and saying that we don't have to shed our basic humanity in order to go to the stars, but that we remain *humans*, with all that entails. And we somehow persevere in SPITE of our flaws. I find the process of overcoming more interesting, and more human, than assuming that we've already overcome everything. 
The kind of humanism you're referring to isn't humanism, by my book. It's "we should all be nice to one another, and nobody should have any problems except the ones forced on us by bad guy aliens"...it's humanity as written by Barney the Dinosaur.
http://jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-13827&query=Trek

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wow





This is easily, easily the greatest thing to happen yet, this decade. Stephen Colbert is making fun of Brad Paisley’s dumbass "Accidental Racist" song and it’s wonderful. Seriously, this song is dumber than a Bieber song.

Hmm, I think I'll write my own parody. I'll call it: "Inadvertent Nazi"
To the man that worships not like me at the synagogue across from my church, I hope you understand
When I wear my red armband, the only thing I meant to say is I'm a Mein Kampf fan
The brown shirt I proudly wear is a symbol of our unity as we march across the land
I'm just a Aryan man comin' to you from the fatherland....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Word: Pretentious


On the internet, there exists an opulent number of knuckle-draggers who have a favorite word in their arsenal. When a film, a book, a comic, or any piece of media comes out that receives well-deserved acclaim that these people dislike, they draw this word and fire. This word is "pretentious" and, quite frankly, the internet needs to stop using it.


Urban Dictionary, however, has a far more appropriate definition for the word in this new era:
In the English-speaking world, "pretentious" has become a catch-all phrase to criticize anything or anyone that is vaguely heartfelt, intellectual, earnest, sincere, artistic, unconventional, nonconformist, non-commercial, or not on TV, on Youtube or in the supermarket.
Thanks to Seth MacFarlane, we have people who lob the word at "The Godfather." Because of Kevin Smith, many hurl the word at "The Lord of the Rings" when they're not too busy quoting Randal (who, might I remind you, is into hermaphroditic porn and donkey shows), and both men have made no secret that their characters' opinions reflect their own. Naturally, their fans who simply parrot what they say while throwing the p-word at these movies are actually pretentious themselves. Even my beloved "Gargoyles" has had the word thrown at it a few times; I recall one individual --who had admitted to never watching it-- calling it both "pretentious" and "white elephant art." This same individual did not much care for "Batman the Animated Series," (he also used the word there).

Last night, I re-watched "Django Unchained" with the family, and Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Calvin Candie, is the perfect example of the correct use of the word "pretentious." In Calvin we had a self-declared Francophile who demanded to be addressed as "Monsieur Candie," and even named one of his slaves D'Artagnan. However, just before meeting him, one of our protagonists was advised not to speak French to Candie because "Monsieur" Candie himself did not speak a word of it, and it would embarrass him. "Monsieur" Candie was later shown to have no idea who Alexandre Dumas was, despite naming one of his slaves after the protagonist of Dumas' novel. Candie would present himself as a sophisticated, even aristocratic, southern gentleman but had no idea what the word "panache" meant. This my friends is an example of actual pretentiousness at work.

So, internet, if you must use this word, please use it correctly or not at all. Because ninety-nine out of one-hundred people who use it to sound intelligent clearly aren't, and reveal themselves as ignorant and pretentious in the process.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Summer Movie Season!

The Summer Movie Season is nearly upon us. What's coming?

"Iron Man 3"
"Man of Steel"
"Star Trek: Into Darkness"
"The Wolverine"
"Kick Ass 2"

What movie am I looking forward to the most? The correct answer is: None of the Above.

I doubt it will rake in the most dough, but I suspect this will be the movie of the summer:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Siskel & Ebert Best Movie Villains





Time For a Public Service Announcement!



Rick Santorum Hospitalized. For a gastrointestinal illness.

I find great pleasure in knowing that from his own world view, he believes that God wanted him to have an ass disease. And I bet he’s being treated by snobs with a college education, too.

Now, I know this is wrong to say, but.... I hope he dies.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Story Time With Uncle Greg

If I ever sound surly about stupidity on the internet and taste in movies, I will confess that it is almost a conditioned response from me at the moment. While I have gotten better and know when to just leave things alone now, I want to recount a story from the past where I did get into an altercation with an individual over a difference of opinions.

It was early 2009, the Academy Award nominations for 2008 had just been announced, and "The Dark Knight" was not nominated for Best Picture. Sad, yes. But an individual, who for the sake of anonymity, we'll call Ted, was furious. Ted went on a tirade, and called "The Dark Knight" the most dramatic and powerful movie he had ever seen. Now, while I do love "The Dark Knight," I felt the need to tell him he needed to see more movies, if this was the case.

 I wrote up a fairly lengthy list of films that I thought were great. This was not meant to insult Ted, but to give him a chance to expand his horizons. Many of the films I listed, he had no interest in. Some of the movies I listed, like "Citizen Kane," he thought was boring and didn't deserve the classic status it had.

Then Ted got my recommendation for "Schindler's List" and said he had seen it, but that "The Dark Knight" was more powerful. Perhaps I should have left this alone, but I couldn't let this go. I asked him how he could possibly think that. His response was "I don't know any Jews." After that, I literally hit the ceiling. As if Jews were another species almost. "Schindler's List" isn't about Nazis being cruel to Jews so much as it's about how one human being can pointlessly do this to another. And what's more, these things happened. These things were real. I don't know anyone from Darfur, but make a movie about the atrocities there like that (if there is, I haven't seen it), and I'll get behind it. The argument degenerated from there, and eventually an administrator stepped in and ended it.

Maybe I should have let it go, I probably should have let it go. But I couldn't. I'm not saying Ted is antisemitic. I don't believe he is, so much as he was ignorant. Looking back now, especially since I've gotten over my need to correct everyone on the internet, I wonder if my rage at the time was justified. And while I've calmed down and mellowed since then, if this happened today, I doubt I could let it go.

By the way, I later on recounted that story to my friend, Jill, while prepping this blog and that is where the name "Clue-By-Fours" came from

Today's Kick To The Nuts



Quesada mentioned in an interview that they are working on season three of "Ultimate Spider-Man." Yeah, that's a kick to the balls.

CA: You said this is a one-off episode. Does it tie into the rest of the season in any fashion?

JQ: It won't affect season two, per se. You could pull this episode out and season two is not necessarily affected in any major way. It will affect season three, though. That's really all I can say. There are some ramifications. The other thing that's fun about this episode is that you will see a classic Spidey villain that will appear for the first time in the TV show. I also think it's the first time that the show itself is creating three new villains who have never appeared in a Spider-Man comic before.
Yeah....

I've got a much better quote.
"The 4th episode of "ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN", called "VENOM", literally features a monster which arose from a toilet which nobody wants to go near. I cannot think of a better metaphor for this show if I tried." - Alex Widen
Thank you, Alex. Genius. And, no, I'm still not over it.



Friday, April 12, 2013

What I'm Up To

1. I recently finished watching the first season of "Game of Thrones." And by recently, I mean I finished about thirty minutes ago. I actually ended up watching the entire season in one day. It's a very good show. I plan to start season two tomorrow. Will I end up marathoning it, too? Probably. But expect a full review of the show once I get caught up. This is gold.

2. I am planning two "Justice League" reviews in the future. One for "Starcrossed" and one for "Destroyer." I think I want to take a look at both finales, one I love and another I loathe, and... well, I'll figure it out when I get there. Not sure when that will be, but expect them.

3. I ran a little experiment this past week. I wanted to see if I would get any comments if I reviewed things outside the norm here. Specifically "Elizabeth" and "Titus." I got none... come on, guys. You can all be well rounded geeks, too! I love comics and animation; but I also love Shakespeare, history, serious film; and all that other cool stuff. Broaden your horizons a bit! But yeah, expect more reviews in that vein, in addition to more geeky reviews.

4. I will be attending a production of "King Lear" at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival this summer, and I have every intention in the world of reviewing that. Should be fun, and different. I don't think I've reviewed a play on here before. "Titus" was a movie production based on a play, so I don't count it.

5. Trying to decide if I should review the second season of "Legend of Korra" episode by episode, or just review the season in one go, once it's all over.

6. I do intend to review the final season of "Dexter" episode by episode, and that's starting up relatively soon.

7. I might do some more retro reviews. Take a look at some older material, good or bad, and review them here. Not sure what, we'll see.

8. I'm considering doing something like Quentin Tarantino month, or something. A little special where over the course of a month, I'll review all of Quentin's movies. If it works out, I might consider similar things of that nature for other artists.

9. Seriously, Joffrey is a little shit!



10. We are in the process of buying a house and moving. The move is scheduled for late May, or early June. So if I disappear for a while, between cutting off the internet here, the move itself, and setting the internet back up in the new digs, that's why.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Favorite Creators?

I was recently asked who my all time favorite writers were. But I decided to expand upon that to favorite creators, because not all film directors write their scripts. This might be brought, but my favorite creators of material, so to speak. So, in alphabetical order by last name, here we go.

Woody Allen
Paul Thomas Anderson
Wes Anderson
Issac Assimov
Ingmar Bergman
Alfred Bester
Kenneth Branagh
Alan Burnett
Jim Butcher
Mike Carey
George Carlin
David Chase
Geoffrey Chaucer
Stephen Colbert
Francis Ford Coppola
Dante
Charles Dickens
Walt Disney
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Ben Edlund
Harlan Ellison
William Faulkner
David Fincher
Neil Gaiman
Ernest Hemingway
Alfred Hitchcock
Homer
Elia Kazan
Franz Kafka
Jack Kirby
Stanley Kubrick
Stan Lee
H.P. Lovecraft
John Milton
Alan Moore
Christopher Nolan
George Orwell
Trey Parker
Edgar Allen Poe
Martin Scorsese
Ridley Scott
William Shakespeare
George Bernard Shaw
Sophocles
Matt Stone
Jon Stewart
J. Michael Straczynski
Quentin Tarantino
Julie Taymor
Bruce Timm
Christopher Titus
J.R.R. Tolkien
Leo Tolstoy
Francois Truffaut
Mark Twain
Shinichiro Watanabe
Greg Weisman
Orson Welles
Joss Whedon
Tennessee Williams

This is, by no means comprehensive, but these are who came to mind.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The MTV Movie Awards

There exists a certain kind of people who complain about the Academy Awards because they nominate and award "artsy fartsy shit I ain't ever heard of." Of course, MTV had a response, the types of movies Joanne and Cletus have watched. You know Joanne and Cletus... they made Michael Bay a millionaire, and don't know who Alfred Hitchcock was. So, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the crappiest awards show there is. My thoughts on the nominees for the MTV Movie Awards.

movie of the year (they don't capitalize their categories)
Marvel's The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Django Unchained
Silver Linings Playbook
Ted

The fact that "Ted" of all things has a movie of the year nod should tell you everything you need to know. But, out of this list, and as much as I liked "Dark Knight Rises" and loved "The Avengers", I need to give this to "Django Unchained."

But, if "Ted" wins, it's just further proof that "Idiocracy" is coming true.

best male performance
Ben Affleck (Argo)
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Channing Tatum (Magic Mike)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained)

You know who my pick is. Moving on. But Channing Tatum? He's not even a good actor, let alone nominated for something that DDL is!

best female performance
Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Mila Kunis (Ted)
Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect)

Anne Hathaway, next!

best scared-as-s**t performance (What?!)
Alexandra Daddario (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D)
Jennifer Lawrence (House at the End of the Street)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)
Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi)

Better give it to Daddario, because she'll never be nominated for anything else. Normally, I'd say give it to Jessica Chastain, who I loved in ZDT, but I'd rather see her with a razzie for that performance than this insipid award.

best on-screen duo
Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo (Marvel's The Avengers)
Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign)
Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane (Ted)

Gotta give it to DiCaprio and Jackson. But if RDJ and Mark Ruffalo win, I won't mind.

best shirtless performance
Channing Tatum (Magic Mike)
Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises)
Daniel Craig (Skyfall)
Seth MacFarlane (Ted)
Taylor Lautner (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2)

I am unqualified to comment on this one, so I asked my good friend, and fellow pervert, Jennifer L. Anderson, for a blurb.

"I'm not even going to justify Ted at all. While Channing Tatum was great shirtless, Magic Mike was meant for those looking for more than just nice abs and solid shoulders (I'm sure waxing for that was a bitch and a half). Batman's Bale really looked better with his bat suit on, the guy was supposed to be recovering from a spinal injury after all. Daniel Craig holds up well considering his age, but all and all, Taylor Lautner has made a career out of being shirtless, the boy and his 1000 ab muscles definitely has an edge over the others."

She said it deserved honest consideration. ;)

best fight
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner vs Tom Hiddleston (Marvel's The Avengers)
Christian Bale vs Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises)
Jamie Foxx vs Candieland Henchmen (Django Unchained)
Daniel Craig vs Ola Rapace (Skyfall)
Mark Wahlberg vs Seth MacFarlane (Ted)

Why the fuck is "Ted" getting all these nominations? Hmm... I think I've got to give this to "The Avengers." While DKR was really dark and brutal, you could feel it when Bane broke the Bat, the battle in "The Avengers" was just thrilling, and everyone got their moments.

best kiss
Emma Watson and Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom)
Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained)
Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg (Ted)

The silver tongued devil takes this.

best wtf moment (why?)
Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect)
Denzel Washington (Flight)
Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)
Javier Bardem (Skyfall)
Seth MacFarlane (Ted)

The best "wtf moment" is Seth MacFarlane NOT being tarred and feathered for that piece of shit, and his stint at the Oscars. But, for the intent of this award... gonna give it to my boy, Django. Again.

best villain
Javier Bardem (Skyfall)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises)
Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises)
Tom Hiddleston (Marvel's The Avengers)

Ooh, good category. Best one yet. I still have yet to see "Skyfall" but I have seen the rest. First off, it's going to be very hard not to give this one to Leonardo DiCaprio, who's performance as Calvin Candy was perfect... he was this abominable, disgusting, piece of shit of an animal who fancied himself a gentleman. I loved Marion Cotilard as Talia al Ghul, I thought she was perfect and chilling at times. Tom Hardy did as great a job with Bane as anyone can. Tom Hiddleston turned Loki into one of the most iconic villains of cinema ever, and alongside DiCaprio is the top contender. This is a difficult one.

Let's ask Jen: "My heart belongs to Hiddleston. I wouldn't want to ruin DiCaprio's series of missed wins."

Thank you, Jen. Me. I'll take the easy way out and make it a tie. It's the MTV movie awards, I don't need to take it any more seriously than they do. DiCaprio and Hiddleston.

best musical moment
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez (Magic Mike)
Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Alexis Knapp, Ester Dean and Hana Mae Lee (Pitch Perfect)
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Hathaway. Next!

best hero
They have this award, but they want you to vote with a twitter hashtag. And is that Kristen Stewart?! http://www.mtv.com/ontv/movieawards/2013/best-hero/

Okay, vote for these dumb awards, if you want. I didn't. And for those of you who vote for "Ted" for anything, I hope you fall into a bucket of AIDS and crack your head open.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Titus


I've spoken about this film before, in my list of "Top Twenty Favorite Films" and "Top Twenty-Five Movie Villains." But since this is very high on my list of favorites, I decided upon an expanded review. Why? A lot of reasons, really. First and foremost, it's a favorite of mine. Second, I am sick and tired of people giving Julie Taymor shit because of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Say what one will of that musical, but Taymor directed this film, and as such will forever be on my genius list.

I've told this story before, but allow me to reiterate myself. I first became aware of the play in 1999, when I saw a production of it at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. It sucked me in and has never spit me out. I was captivated by this horrific story, this examination of the escalating nature of human cruelty and where it inevitably leads. I remember seeing it with a close friend, and his parents. Halfway through the play, his mother walked out while the three of us finished it and loved it. The following year, I rented Taymor's film, a couple of years later I bought the DVD, and now I await a Blu-ray release.

Anthony Hopkins plays Titus Andronicus, a Roman general who just defeated the Goths in war and brings back their queen, Tamora; three of her sons, and Aaron the Moor back as prisoners to parade in Rome. On the way, to avenge the loss over over twenty of his sons in the war, he sacrifices Tamora's eldest son to the gods. He then is awarded the position of emperor of Rome, but turns it down in favor of Saturninus, played by Alan Cumming.

Tamora has been my favorite Shakespearean character since I saw her on stage, and Jessica Lange captured the character to a tee. We feel for her when she begs for her eldest son's life, and understand her grief when she is later pardoned by Emperor Saturninus who then marries her, elevating her to Emperess of Rome, and she vows to massacre Titus' entire family. Lange was perfect. She was the right age; she brought the sexuality they needed for the character of Tamora; she has great chemistry with the other actors, especially with Alan Cumming, where she seemed to be almost motherly to him as well as a sexual bride.

There are no clear-cut villains or heroes. Every character has a dark, evil, passionate and sensitive side. These multi-layered characters are the real strength of the story because we are not asked to pick sides, rather we are asked to assess the actions and motivations of these characters. There are times when we are on Tamora's side just as often as there are times we are on Titus' side.

There is a scene in the story where Tamora is carrying on her affair with Aaron the Moor behind Saturninus' back during a royal hunt in the woods, when Titus' daughter, Lavinia and her betrothed, Bassianus (Saturninus' brother) come upon them. Lavinia behaves almost like a cat who caught a mouse and is playing with it, before tragedy strikes, and Tamora's sons murder Bassianus and are prepared to rape her... in which point Lavinia begs for a fast death, but as the play was written and film performed, it's almost as if Lavinia helped bring part of Tamora's wrath upon herself when she decides to let her sons do with Lavinia what they will... which then brings about the hardest scene to watch in the movie where Lavinia is raped, her tongue cut out, and her hands cut off.... and twigs shoved into her bloody stumps. Of course, or sympathy returns to Lavinia, and this is just the beginning of the blood feud between Tamora and Titus (assuming the initial sacrifice wasn't where it all started).

I still find it amazing how someone who can write something as beautiful as those sonnets and "Much Ado About Nothing" can create such brutality. It's as if he is saying "Hey, with all beauty there is darkness just as plain." As Colm Feore says in the commentary of Taymor's movie, you have all these movies about blowing things up and murder and crime, but you rape one girl, you manipulate one family to a tragic end, and do it in the language that Shakespeare did it, and no one can stomach it." It's not what they do to Lavina that is so shocking, its how they taunt her, how they ridicule the one virtue she hung her very life on that shakes us to the core. Its worth it in that respect. The beauty of the language is somewhat of a cushion against the agony the play puts you through.

As for the people who seem to really dislike the movie. To me the weirdest part is that many people who can't stomach stylization also don't have the fortitude to watch gritty realism. What it most probably boils down to is the wish for films to be mindless entertainment, and if a film demands attention, thought, engagement, there will always be legions of people ready to attack it for whatever handy excuse they can find to conceal the real reason for their dislike: they are lazy.

With this film: the acting was superb, the story is wonderful (of course, it's Shakespeare), and the effects and costuming and period-mixing and all the surrealist/impressionist stuff was sheer genius. Some might call it ridiculous, but to be honest, the play is a bit ridiculous. A person dies in almost every scene (and usually more.) It is over the top and surreal. I thought Taymor's approach worked extremely well, she showed the presence of violence in every culture, as well as the absurdity of it. Shakespeare could have well approved of innovative adaptations to the twenty-first century of his classics, like "Richard III," because Shakespeare was an innovator himself who went beyond the theater conventions of his day and who meant his works to be timeless.

This is an A+ movie. Everyone over seventeen, or with a strong stomach should see it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Elizabeth


I'll never understand the modern fascination with royalty. They're just puppets of the government who exist for tacky celebrity pageants. The fact that people think Elizabeth II is a great Queen is beyond me. Nothing against the woman, she's done the circumspect and pointless job she's been required to do tirelessly for sixty years (whilst lining her own pockets and quietly avoiding tax for most of the time). However, during her tenure as Head of State, the Empire was dismantled, many Commonwealth nations rid themselves of the monarchy as Head of State (good for them), the financial world brought Britain to its knees, the gap between rich and poor widened, Scotland elected a party whose main aim is breaking up the UK... I'm not saying ANY of this is her fault (of course it isn't, she's had no power) but the fact remains that it was under her watch as Head of State that all these things happened. A 'great' Head of State wouldn't merrily fiddle while Rome burns (whilst putting on shows to distract people) but that's all a constitutional monarch can do. He or she can't even offer an OPINION on what is happening to the people of Britain.

So let's take a look at Shekhar Kapur's 1998 dramatization of the early years in the reign of the greatest monarch that Great Britain has ever seen. "Elizabeth" starring Cate Blanchett.

As the movie opens, Mary I of England, a devout Roman Catholic, is in her final days as she dies of a cancerous tumor of her uterus, leaving her Protestant half-sister (who had recently been jailed for supposedly plotting to murder Mary) is given the throne. Did I mention this was at a time when Protestants were being burned at the stake as heretics en masse? Let's just say that hilarity is about to ensue as the Roman Catholic Church tries to remove her by fueling many threats to her reign such as including the Duke of Norfolk; her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scotts, who conspires to have her murdered; Mary's mother, Mary of Guise, who brings French troops into Scotland to attack Elizabeth's forces when they invade.

Throughout the movie, Elizabeth turns down many marriage proposals, as her heart lies with Joseph Fiennes' Robert Dudley (historically, the least popular man in the court... oh, it's hard to be the monarch's favorite), which sours when she learns of his own secret marriage. But truthfully, Elizabeth hardens and wants no one man to ever have any kind of power over her. She also grows more ruthless as the film progresses, hardening, and taking Francis Walsingham as her right-hand man to handle all of her wetwork, from having Mary of Guise poisoned, to torturing and killing all threats to her rule.

The movie ends with Elizabeth casting off the girl and becoming the hardened embodiment of the state of England personified. The transformation is brilliant as she almost ceases to be human, and instead becomes a symbol, a larger than life figure who we still talk about today. 

I think Walsingham had the most sense out of all of her advisers  Geoffrey Rush, who played Walsingham did an amazing job. He made the character honest yet secretive, goo- natured yet manipulative, charming but deadly. His character didn't get a whole lot of screen time, but any scene he had was brilliant. My favourite scene in the entire movie is when Walsingham is having a feast with Mary of Guise. When first saw it, I thought he was a traitor but then when I realized that he was there to kill her for Elizabeth's sake I was relieved. It's a well done scene.

Speaking of Mary of Guise, I loved this character and Fanny Ardant's portrayal of her. She was supposed to be wild and uninhibited, and they captured that look perfectly. Makeup WAS around at that time, just look at Elizabeth's own shocking look near the end. Cosmetics have been used for thousands of yeas, and her wild unkempt look was a nice contrast to Elizabeth and her stuffy crew.

The only thing that I dislike about Kapur's film was Dudley being involved in the conspiracy to remove Elizabeth from the throne. This aspect of the movie was pure fiction. Elizabeth and Dudley did have several arguments and falling outs over the years, but he was never involved in a plot to assassinate her or in danger of being executed for conspiracy.  What Kapur doesn't bother to tell the viewer (and I'm told the sequel has the same problem), is that Dudley remained part of Elizabeth's cabinet until the end of his life and was one of her commanders during the Spanish Armada invasion in 1588. In fact, when Elizabeth died, they found that she had kept his final letter to her in a silver box near her bed.

Now, a lot of people will ask... what if Elizabeth had found the right man? Given Elizabeth's family history, I think she never really wanted to marry and put herself under the domination of a man. She was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, who was murdered on trumped-up charges by her father, Henry VIII, and the stepdaughter of Katharine Howard, Anne's cousin also judicially murdered. She had witnessed close-up the powerlessness of women, even those who were noble. I am reading a biography of Elizabeth. One of the things stated is that she had no particular maternal instinct, and perhaps no interest in continuing the Tudor dynasty. If this was true, it is certainly understandable, as except for the fact that her power derived from her father, Henry VIII, she had not had a particularly close relationship with him; she reminded him of her disgraced mother, and Henry had had her bastardized after her mother's execution. She could say nothing against him, of course, but she was known to wear a ring with a miniature of her mother inside a hinged compartment. The ring still survives. That being said, however, Elizabeth did enjoy flirtation and playing at romance. She did have favorite male courtiers with whom she flirted. She also enjoyed the attempted courtships between her and crowned or noble heads of various European realms proposed for her. Of course, they never came to anything because she really didn't want to marry.  In addition, because of her Protestantism, her choices among the more powerful countries were limited (in addition, her counselors were suspicious of foreign-born consorts). and there was no one equal to her station in her own realm. There really was no "right man" for Elizabeth.

Overall, I recommend the movie. Great direction, perfect costuming that really reflects what's going on psychologically with each of the characters.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert



Tonight I honor the memory of a legend who's shoes I will likely never be fit to lick. Roger Ebert was the great statesman of film critics. He knew the medium inside and out. I didn't always agree with him. In fact, I often wondered how this genius of a critic could have written something as wacky as "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" but I would be so privileged to get my screenplay, "The Cleansing", produced... and hey, if it sucked, I'd like to think I'd be in good company.

Sometimes he gave bad reviews to movies I liked, and sometimes good reviews to movies I despised. I never based my opinion on his, but he often helped me make a decision on whether or not I would spend what little money I have on a ticket to see something, and where movie tickets are nowadays, that's invaluable. Any time I watch a movie for the first time, I've always felt compelled to look up his review of said movie to see what he thought.

I died laughing at his refusal to rate or discuss "The Human Centipede." He just outright said "I refuse." He WATCHED the movie, understand. Screened the whole thing. Just wouldn't dignify it with a review, despite admitting it was his job to do so... I think that's awesome of him.

He also championed animation as an art form when many of his contemporaries wouldn't. That deserves to be commended.

I think I'll link to some of my favorite reviews, and blog posts, written by the man.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - "If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination... The movie has been signed by Michael Bay. This is the same man who directed "The Rock" in 1996. Now he has made "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Faust made a better deal."

"I'm a proud Brainiac" - "Those who think "Transformers" is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved. Film by film, I hope they climb a personal ladder into the realm of better films, until their standards improve. Those people contain multitudes. They deserve films that refresh the parts others do not reach. They don't need to spend a lifetime with the water only up to their toes."

I Spit On Your Grave - It is a movie so sick, reprehensible and contemptible that I can hardly believe it's playing in respectable theaters, such as Plitt's United Artists. But it is. Attending it was one of the most depressing experiences of, my life.

Freddy Got Fingered - "This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

The Twilight Saga: New Moon - The characters in this movie should be arrested for loitering with intent to moan. Never have teenagers been in greater need of a jump-start. Granted some of them are more than 100 years old, but still: their charisma is by Madame Tussaud. "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" takes the tepid achievement of "Twilight" (2008), guts it, and leaves it for undead. You know you're in trouble with a sequel when the word of mouth advises you to see the first movie twice instead. Obviously the characters all have. Long opening stretches of this film make utterly no sense unless you walk in knowing the first film, and hopefully both Stephanie Meyer novels, by heart. Edward and Bella spend murky moments glowering at each other and thinking, So, here we are again.

Pearl Harbor - "Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality. The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialog, it will not be because you admire them."

Gladiator - "By the end of this long film, I would have traded any given gladiatorial victory for just one shot of blue skies... "Gladiator" lacks joy. It employs depression as a substitute for personality, and believes that if the characters are bitter and morose enough, we won't notice how dull they are.

Troy - "Troy is based on the epic poem The Iliad by Homer, according to the credits. Homer's estate should sue."

And, of course...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why "City of Stone" Sucks


Truth be told, I never liked "City of Stone." I know some people place it on a pedestal as the best there is for a very mediocre series (and that is being kind), but I'm here again, to tell you why you are wrong.

First and foremost, this is where Weisman really begins displaying his pretentious attitude towards childrens' entertainment by shoving the works of some dead playwright at them before their under qualified English teachers get a chance to do it when they reach High School. What kid is going to care about what some Shakespeare characters are doing in their afternoon cartoons? That's not what any kid wants. They want to see bright colors, and hear cool sound effects with a rocking soundtrack as bad guys are beaten up and humiliated. But Weisman thinks he is above all that, so he drops in names like Macbeth, Duncan, and the three witches.

Speaking of the three witches, at one point, they say the lines "double, double, toil in trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble". Why is it that when witches appear in anything animated, they say this thing. It's both a cliche and makes no sense as a line. I thought that when the witch character on "Looney Tunes" said it, and I still think it now.

On top of that, "City of Stone" does a very poor job of adapting the play. Why is Macbeth some kind of sympathetic victim of Duncan, and Lady Macbeth... Shakespeare didn't name her, why did Weisman? They plotted to murder a good king in his sleep and take the throne. They were worse than scum. Macbeth's story is one of unbridled ambition.

Now, I know Weisman will tell you that he did research on the historical Macbeth, but if so he didn't even get that right. There were no gargoyles involved in Macbeth's life, and those witches were an invention of Shakespeare's. Either do one, or do the other. None of this mix and match crap. And even then, why Macbeth. Can't you just make up your own character? Just because you have Canmore and Kenneth II on your show doesn't mean a thing, because no one cares about your Ivy League edjumacation!

Besides, this sort of thing has no place in a kids show anyway. There's nothing wrong with a character quoting Shakespeare, Beast did it all the time in the X-Men cartoon, even with little reason except to show how smart he was, but it never affected an entire plot, let alone four straight episodes.

Moving on, why should we care about Demona's angst? She's a villain. The whole reason she exists is to plot evil, and to get her ass kicked by the heroes. Look at Megatron and Cobra Commander. They stand the test of time because there was no effort to make the audience sympathize with them. If anything, they were allegory for the evil foreigners we're supposed to hate at any period of time, and that's how I like my bad guys. Ooh, the access code is "alone." Cry me a river, Demona.

Worst of all, the heroes don't even solve this thing. Xanatos does. Xanatos is the fucking bad guy. Now, it's not a bad thing to see good guys team up with bad guys against a greater threat, I remember when GI Joe and Cobra allied to fight the Headman and his drug dealers. But it wasn't CC's idea to do that, and he planned to screw them all over anyway. But it's Xanatos and not the hero who suggests the alliance and Xanatos who figures out how to save the city, and there is no backstabbing at all. He could have easily blown up Goliath and the gargoyles while breaking Demona's spell and gotten these heroes out of his hair, and he doesn't do that. What kind of villain is this? At least when Optimus and Megatron team up, Megatron pulls a double cross, and it's Optimus who ends up saving the day. Weisman made his heroes look weak to make his villains look good, and that sends a terrible message to kids.

Maybe if "Gargoyles" spent less time on pretentious Shakespeare and Scottish history lessons and more time on things kids like, like giant robot dinosaurs, it would have a movie or a reboot now, or something.