I wasn't too sure about REPO! The Genetic Opera when I saw the line "From the producers of Saw," but then I heard Anthony Stewart Head's amazing voice... and I was sold. In the future, those who get organ replacements but can't make the payments are hunted and stripped of the now-troublesome organ replacement. The actual plausibility of the premise is just as haunting as the dark Blade Runner-esque futuristic atmosphere. It is visually intriguing, and I agree with the trailer that it is sure to become a cult classic. Here is the trailer:
1. I can't stand So You Think You Can Dance. It's just not interesting or entertaining. I prefer the set-up of Bravo's Step It Up and Dance, although I really don't think Jessie Spano has any right being the host.
2. I watch the Top 12 to the Top 4 on American Idol. Then I stop caring.
3. I hate reality shows. Except for the ones on Bravo and HGTV.
4. I really, honestly, seriously would vote for Jon Stewart for president.
5. I don't mind mixing genres, but I do mind mixing media (mediums?). Rappers and singers should stay out of movies, and vise versa. People just aren't special enough to do everything. (Of course, they may be some exceptions... Lyle Lovett was good in The Opposite of Sex...)
6. I sometimes clap when I'm laughing in the movies. It annoys me when other people do it, so this makes me a conscious hypocrite. (I tend to clap only when I agree with the statement being made. Otherwise I just laugh.)
7. I judge people's intelligence based on how they speak. Articulation, eloquence, vocabulary. It all counts.
8. I really don't like cooking shows. Chefs shouldn't be entertainers. And Rachel Ray quite annoys me.
9. I wear flip-flops 365 days of the year. I don't know what I'll do when I leave Florida.
10. Everyone should say "please" and "thank you." Even if they don't mean it. It's just a nice thing to do.
In Entertainment Weekly's "Best 1000 of Everything" list, Michel Gondry gave his personal favorite top 25 music videos of all time. I was going to find them online and post links to them, but I found that some other guy already did this! Sean at Filmjunk.com has the videos listed in order with links to youtube clips, and here is the original EW article.
Gondry, of course, was the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep (which he also wrote), Dave Chapelle's Block Party, and his latest was Be Kind Rewind. He's more known for his music videos, though, and I've included my favorites below: in order, Daft Punk's "Around the World" (my absolute fave), Chibo Matto's "Sugar Water" (a visual palindrome), and Kylie Minogue's "Come Into My World" (an existentialist manifestation of parallel worlds).
I love Walt Disney World, despite myself. The cartoons perpetuate and misrepresent stereotypes of race and gender, and the parks are designed for children. But I love it. And now, to shed light on my love for Disney, I found Disney World Trivia, where I spent the last couple of hours. The following are attractions I found particularly interesting:
Spaceship Earth -- I never paid attention to how detailed the scenes were. And the geodesic sphere weighs as much as much as 158,000,000 golf balls! Big Thunder Mountain -- It cost $17M to make in 1979, which is how much it cost to build all of Disneyland in 1955! And scroll down to the bottom for the story reveal (I didn't know the ride had a story either). Here's a hint: it involves greedy miners and Indian spirits! General EPCOT/Epcot Trivia -- The park's name is no longer capitalized, meaning it's no longer an acronym. It stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow! Star Tours -- Really? Pee Wee Herman?
I wish they would build Old-School Disney, a theme-park dedicated to rides of Disney's past. They could still be labeled as E-rides! And they could bring back Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!
In London, Somerset House is once again hosting their film series. Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to see 2001: A Space Odyssey outside, under the stars. But now I'm sad that I won't get to see Singing in the Rain, which I think would be quite lovely in a sitting-on-the-cold-ground romatical sort of way. Here is the list of other titles in the Film4 series.
What movies do I think would be perfect for outside slightly-chilly weather? Well, other than the obvious 2001... definitely Vertigo and Lives of Others (which are both perfect for the occasion), and perhaps Amelie, Shaun of the Dead (Somerset did Hot Fuzz, I think), A Clockwork Orange (which can now be shown there again after a bit of controversy), and certainly a sing-along to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Any film noir would also work, although it's not a genre I typically enjoy. Oh, and to add one more to the list: the original The Day the Earth Stood Still.
The other night, I watched Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, and it was far better than I imagined. When I saw the trailer, I had assumed it was a chase-'em and kill-'em flick and that the trailer contained all of the available comedic moments of the movie. I was completely wrong on both accounts. Primarily, the film is about acceptance and redemption - wanting redemption and accepting that you won't get it, finding redemption through an acceptance of past actions. This is an ironic film with comedic layers on a serious foundation. The plot is quite serious. We follow Ray (Colin Farrell, who I normally dislike but absolutely loved here), who is hiding out in Bruges after killing a priest. His boss, Harry Waters (a rather creepy-looking Ralph Fiennes), has put him up in Bruges with another hitman, Ken (played so wonderfully by Brendan Gleeson) because he thinks Bruges is like a fairy-tale. Ray, however, hates Bruges and thinks it's actually more like hell, constantly adding "Fucking" as a prefix to the city's name. The film finds humor - in, honestly, every single scene - because Ray really hates Bruges. He also has an odd obsession with midgets (and their suicidal tendencies), and he tends to get into fights with people for no reason at all. In one scene, he beats up a Canadian, thinking he's actually American, and says, "That's for John Lennon." It's such an odd thing to say, but unexpected things are often funny. (It's why we sometimes laugh after scary moments in movies and why we never laugh at America's Funniest Home Videos). It's not until later you realize he said that referring to Lennon's murder, not his actual existence. Really, who could hate John Lennon? Well, Ray does hate Bruges, so...
But, unlike my assumptions from the trailer, there was no big chase scene. There was a chase scene, but it lasted maybe five minutes, and even then, the time was condensed. McDonagh knew that the film was not about Harry Waters or his quest to kill Ray. This was Ray's story. Killing the priest was Ray's first job, and, due to unfortunate events, he accidentally killed another person, a child. Racked with guilt, Ray is suicidal and faces every moment of his life like he has nothing to lose. And really, he has nothing. Even to himself, he's dead. Ray is not seeking redemption for his actions; he's seeking acceptance. Every day, every moment, Ray can't understand why things unfolded as they did. He doesn't expect to be redeemed because he cannot even accept what he did.
But, for me, Farrell does not carry this film. This film is really about Ken. Gleeson is superb in his subtle role. Also a hitman (who has done multiple jobs and has a strong connection/kinship with his boss Harry), Ken loves Bruges and is a complete tourist. When Ray gets cabin fever, Ken only lets him out of the room when he wants to do touristy things (which, trust me, as someone who would rather go to a museum than a pub, this scene is really funny because of its realism). They go to a museum and look at some Bosch, which, for any art history major, is an utter delight. Blatant display of the thematic message! Redemption! Hell! Judgement Day! Umm... Hell! Ken contemplates the painting in an almost zen-like manner, and he explains the concept of Judgement Day to Ray, who looks a combination of disgusted, terrified, and certain of how he would be judged. Ken's personality doesn't change during the film, which I thought was really interesting. Normally films with multiple lead characters all experience a character alteration (because if they don't change, what can the audience learn from them?). Ken stays the same because he has years of experience under his belt, and he has already come to accept his actions, and he finds redemption through this acceptance.
Throughout the movie, Ken is calm and normal, which offsets the twitchy and spastic Ray quite nicely. Harry comes in and causes some trouble, and the ending moments of the film are perfect. Endings of movies tend to disappoint me, even if I love the rest of the movie. But this ending completed the movie; it made sense of the connections between acceptance and redemption. Everything was set up in a way that I figured out the ending before it happened, but the ending wasn't supposed to be a surprise, so I can't really brag about my intelligence. This film isn't about a chase. I may have figured out the plot, but I didn't figure out the characters until long after the movie ended.
And let's not forget the fourth character in the film... BRUGES. I visited Bruges a few years ago and loved it. It's known as the Venice of the North, but other than a canal, it doesn't have much in common with Venice. (Although, it rained the majority of the time I spent in both cities, but I digress.) The houses are absolutely charming, and you're amazed that they even have electricity. It really is like taking a step through time, or perhaps into a fairy-tale. The location shots in the movie were extremely well done, especially the scene in the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where Ken steps in line to touch an encased cloth with Jesus' blood. (I did that!)
I don't consider myself to be easily impressed, and perhaps it's been a long time since I've seen a movie that I truly connected with on an emotional and intellectual level... but this film was amazing. If I had a rating system, I would give it 4.75 Awesomes out of 5.
For my class in the fall, I'm going to play them songs from musicals that deal with issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. It'll just be a way to start the class, since the course's primary medium is film, but musicals are interesting in that they don't necessarily reflect society. The age-old question with film is whether it reflects society or creates new conceptions of society. In theatre, that question doesn't exist, which is interesting because actors are literally before the audience (in correct dimensions) and everything (props, backdrop, clothing) is all tangible and factual. Whereas film can distort images (CGI, close-ups, etc.), theatre is directly in front of you. It's more real than film, and yet that question doesn't exist in theatre. In fact, with musicals especially, people suspend their disbelief. Anything goes in theatre. And certainly with the opening of Avenue Q, more people are realizing that theatre is at the forefront of change. Think Angels in America or Rent. It's where people can express topics that can't otherwise be discussed.
So here is my line-up. I think it's kind of awesome.
1. Prologue from I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change where two guys and two girls are getting ready for a date (gender) 2. Tear Jerk from I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change where a guy let's a woman pick the movie on a date, and it's a chick-flick and all he wants he "some naked shots of Sharon Stone" (gender) 3. Everyone's a Little Bit Racist from Avenue Q (duh, race) 4. America from West Side Story (I may actually show this scene from the film, race) 5. There's a Light from Hairspray (race) 6. If You Were Gay from Avenue Q (sexuality) 7. I'll Cover You from Rent (sexuality) 8. Wouldn't It Be Loverly? from My Fair Lady (class) 9. BoHo Days from Tick, Tick... BOOM! (class) 10. It's a Privilege to Pee from Urinetown (globalization)
* Roman Polanski is going to be directing Pierce Brosnan and Nicolas Cage in The Ghost? Perhaps he is not familiar with Cage's work... I may have to write him a warning letter.
* Erik Davis of Cinematical.com did a review of WALL-E and loved it, of course. I have a soft spot for guys who get mushy about sci-fi.
* The long-awaited My Name is Bruce movie finally has a release date in October. It sounds like B-movie heaven. I saw Bruce Campbell speak about the movie two years ago while he was filming it, and he showed a fifteen minute clip that was amazing.
Above is the poster for The Day the Earth Stood Still (the remake). I'm just as annoyed as anyone else that Hollywood only manages to recycle ideas (and are now bringing this laziness to Broadway), but nothing aggravates me more than doing a remake of an already solid movie. I can understand Gus van Sant doing a remake of Psycho (the ending is outdated and, yes, comical), but it wasn't a remake. He recreated Psycho shot-for-shot. Isn't that THEFT? American remakes of foreign classics also irritate me because Americans should just rent the original anyway. Two things happen with these Americanized remakes. One, people have no need to see foreign films because Hollywood will just make a craptastic version of it eventually. And two, they're craptastic. Most remakes are mediocre. Can you think of a remake that surpasses the original? (Even Haneke's Funny Games, which is a shot-by-shot duplication of his original German film, isn't as interesting.)
So above remakes and sequels and foreign rip-offs, I hate remakes of already stellar movies. (If anyone does a direct remake of It's a Wonderful Life, blood will be spilled. Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey.) So why remake The Day the Earth Stood Still, which, if you've seen it, is more impressive in plot, character development, and special effects than most movies today. (Did you see their guns just disappear?) My prediction for Hollywood's latest remake is... the smartest person in the world will no longer be a scientist but Joel Osteen, and Klaatu (played this time by Keanu Reeves... seriously?) will be more futuristic-looking than the original Klaatu (who took on the guise of a contemporary human). I also imagine that the final message will not be about love and tolerance... but about violence and breasts.
The Movie Blog posted a hysterical article about actors who fooled you into thinking they could act. This is SUCH a good list, and I agree with everyone on the list, including some of the suggestions in the comments, like Cuba Gooding Jr., Jennifer Lopez, John Travolta, Katie Holmes, and Nicolas Cage (who I consider to be the worst actor EVER; it's worse when they're dramatic actors who take their roles seriously and still suck).
I would definitely add Lindsey Lohan to the bunch. She was great in The Parent Trap, but she was a kid. People need to stop hiring her so she will go away! And she can take her craptastic leggings with her.
P.S. I seriously dislike Cage. What did he ever give us but pouty faces and a mouth that barely moves? City of Angels (such a horrible remake). National Treasure (I pretend like this movie and its sequel were never made).
Writing has always come naturally to me. Yes, I have occasional typos, but I've always had a knack for the rules (and even the exceptions to those rules). On my college papers, I've only ever written first-drafts, and I get As on all of them. And because it comes so naturally to me, I get extremely irritated when people abuse and misuse grammar, especially since many of the mistakes are rules you've used since childhood. And these irritations even extend to my personal life. If someone texts me using numbers as letter replacements, I will not respond. And with my students, I am harder on grammar than I am on actual content. (In my defense, ideas are easy; execution is not. And that's how I compare the papers.)
They're, Their, There I really don't understand why people still confuse these. They're not forgotten words. In fact, they are probably among the most commonly used words! They're is a contraction. Do people even remember what that means anymore? It combines two words together, and the apostrophe denotes such. Their is possessive. There's no real gimmick to remember this other than it's not they're or there. And as for there... it has the word "here" in it. The two words are so similar, and the only difference is the distance of the object! My CD is here. No, my CD is there. The misuse of these words annoys me more than any of the others. They're words we learned in first grade and learned how to spell in second.
Further/Farther I'm always reminded of the film Finding Forrester. Jamal explains, "Farther is in relation to distance. Further is a definition of degree." Well, that's not so hard. Farther = distance. This one annoys me when supposed intelligent characters on TV or film say further when they should really say farther. In fact, I think most writers put down "further" as a default. (While I'm at it, I also get annoyed by TV and film programs that ignore common sense. Like in High School Musical 2 - I'm not ashamed to admit I've seen it - where girls are singing on a stage without microphones, yet you can hear every single one of them. Or in any medical program where they just stab people in random places with a needle. Doesn't the needle have to go into a vein for the liquid to work?)
A Lot It's two words. To the fifth grade teacher who started this trend: I dislike you. A lot.
Its vs. It's Sigh. As a columnist for my local paper once wrote, you wouldn't put an apostrophe in the middle of Hi's or Her's, so the possessive doesn't take an apostrophe. Or, if that rule is too hard to remember (sigh, which for some people it is), just remember that a contraction brings two words together! It's = It is.
Misspelling Definitely Definately? Is definate a word? No... but DEFINITE is. If something is definite, it is a sure bet, certain, unchanging. Therefore it is finite... and what do you know? Finite is in the word definite. Mind-blowing, I know.
It seems like everyone is doing lists these days! Entertainment Weekly, in honor of their 1000th edition, made a 1000 Classics of the Past 25 Years list, which covers film, tv, music, poster art, video games, and (woot!) theatre. To me, "classic" does not mean "best," although I seem to be in the minority opinion on that. To me, classic refers to something that will stand the test of time, something that others will be references for years to come, that changed the face of its medium. Like Singing in the Rain. It's iconic. When Harry Met Sally is a good movie - with obnoxious characters - because it primarily explores a friendship and not a romance. I wouldn't call it a classic, though. Although, the orgasm scene is classic, as is the line "I'll have what she's having." Really, I have two major issues with these lists. One, how can there be fifty classics in the film and tv sections? Aren't classics supposed to sparse? And two, if you do translate "classic" to mean "best," how can the list be so broad? "The best of everything." You can't do that! Because then you have Evil Dead 2 on the same list as Lord of the Rings, which is on the same list as Die Hard. Those films are completely different, and how in the world do you compare them to each other? They're all on different levels.
So... here is the list that EW should have done. And as you all know, I hate genres. They're limiting and not very even. (Comedy can be separated into slapstick or dark, for example. And the term dramedy is such a cop-out.) So hopefully my Top 3 lists appease this problem.
Top 3 Films with a Kick-Ass Heroines 3.Raiders of the Lost Ark -- Marion Ravenwood 2.Terminator -- Sarah Connor 1.Alien -- Ellen Ripley
[Note: If you do a search for "film heroines," a bunch of online quizzes come up. "Which heroine are you?" quizzes offer such gems as "Which is your style?" and offers jeans and stilettos, print dress and ballerina shoes, or skirts and pearls as insights. How about questions like "What is your weapon of choice?" and offer guns or uncanny wit and intellect as options?]
[Note: I mark Total Recall as a guilty pleasure because the science is all wrong. His eyes blowing up? The three-breasted woman? It hasn't exactly held up well over time... but it's so good!]
Top 3 Literary Adaptations 3.The Princess Bride 2.The English Patient 1.American Psycho
[Note: Is it bad that I put The English Patient on here, especially since it's not very faithful to the book? The novel really spends a lot more time on Hannah, so the movie is really like... a spin-off, using the same characters. Also, I really held back by not putting Adaptation on the list...]
Top 3 Mind-Frak Films 3.Being John Malkovich 2.Fight Club 1.2001: A Space Odyssey
[Note: Wait, what? They're inside his head? Wait, Tyler Durden isn't real? What happened to Bowman?That star-child is creepy...]
Top 3 Modern Movies About Love that Don't Suck 3.Stardust 2.Forrest Gump 1.French Kiss
[Note: I heart Tristan Thorne. Stardust was so good with character development, and I really believed and rooted for the nerdy underdog. And there's something about Claire Danes that I just don't like, but I always enjoy her performances. And who doesn't want to fall in love with a Star?]
Tccandler.com (who really has no authoritative voice, but then, neither do I) put up a list of 100 Greatest Movie Posters, and of course I have to add my own two cents. And, being the feminist that I am, I will ignore the handful of sexual posters engaging in the most blatant acts of scopophilia. My opinions expressed here are based on three fundamental factors to poster art: the aesthetics, the connection to the film, and its ability to preexist (or exist outside of) the film.
Here is my Top 10 list:
10. Adaptation: Quite possibly the most brilliant script, this film follows Charlie Kaufman and his fictional twin brother Donald as he attempts to adapt The Orchid Thief, a novel about flowers, without including scenes of violence, drug-use, and sex that are used in most Hollywood films. He wants to write a simple screenplay. Of course, the film's multi-layered narrative is pursued by scenes of violence, drug-use, and sex, but at the heart is a writer who questions the illusion of originality. Here is a wonderful cultural analysis of the film. The movie poster fits thematically with the film, from the uneven courier font (which I obviously love) to the shattered foundation of the orchid. The poster is simple, but highly surreal and symbolic, like the film. I can almost hear Kaufman's ill-advised voiceover discussing the poster...
9. Closer: This film is based on the play of the same name by Patrick Marber, and it was adapted by Mike Nichols for the screen in 2004. This script holds some of the most beautiful observations of human nature (which is often anything but beautiful) I have ever seen, and the film has unforgettable performances by Clive Owen and Natalie Portman. It revolves around two couples who manage to screw each other and screw each other over. It's about how the ideas you have (about yourself, about your lover, about the world) do not necessarily bring you closer to the truth. Certainly, the lies and hurt between the characters do not bring them any closer. The poster is clever in that it focuses on the four main characters, and they literally occupy each other's spaces. The most interesting of which is Portman's Alice, who sits in the background. She is the most elusive character of the bunch - her name isn't really Alice - but she is the most truthful of the group, but the truth is pushed to the back and ignored in order for the characters to rely on the false truths they have created for themselves. The tagline is romantic and hopeless, all at once, and it really speaks to the alternating definitions of love throughout the film.
8. Office Space: Who hasn't seen this movie a thousand times on Comedy Central? The poster is a summation of the movie, and the tagline says it all. The reason this poster is clever, rather than just quirky, is that it places a Regular Joe in a blank background. He could be at any job in any city doing any type of work. The only classifiers this character has are his shoes, glasses, briefcase, and tie, which all refer to the materialist structure of society. Harkening back to Marx, what is man? Is man defined by his labor? By what he owns? Here, the character - who most certainly does not share the same body as the protagonist Peter, played by Ron Livingston - is drowned in post-it notes, stripping him of every identifying characteristic of his individuality. Visual sarcasm. I love it.
7. Magnolia: I blame this cinematic masterpiece for all of the rip-offs using interweaving character narratives that followed, but this movie is damn near perfect. P.T. Anderson's film is about many themes, many characters, but the one constant throughout the intersecting storylines is the notion of chance, which is discussed in the opening segment. (Not only is coincidence experienced by the characters, but the audience can note references to flowers and Exodus 8:8 throughout the movie.) Click here for a more detailed plot synopsis. The poster is aesthetically pleasing with the characters occupying petals of a magnolia flower. Like the storylines, the petals overlap, and the ripple pouring from the center of the flower further argues the idea that time is relative, that moments repeat themselves, that life sometimes takes you where you dare not go yourself.
6. 300: For a film taken from Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name, the poster artists were obligated to use an image from Miller himself, not out of homage but because doing otherwise would be sheer idiocy. Even the film stole (appropriated? borrowed?) other silhouettes from the graphic novel. But what makes this poster #6 - and not, say, #10 - is that it illustrates the magnitude of the standoff. It's not just another war movie. It's not just a movie about righteousness (Braveheart) or the importance of family (Gladiator), and it's about more than just honor and duty (like Saving Private Ryan). It's a film about the Spartan way of life (which Frank Miller and the 300 accurately portrayed - minus the awkward Xerxes portrayal), and this poster shows the Spartans on a cliff. To those of us that know our history, we looked at the poster and knew they didn't win the battle, but winning was never the point. The Spartans were about protection, patriotism, and sacrifice, and the poster's tagline refers to the glory of being a Spartan, not of winning.
5. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence: Where to start? I'm not going to lie. I hated this movie the first time I saw it. But upon repeat viewings, it just gets better (and my attention span grows as well). The poster is supreme (might actually be my favorite). Aesthetically, the silver and black balance is striking and clever. The lack of color projects the mechanical themes of the film as well as denying the viewer a vision of the future, which is reserved strictly for the film (probably because this is a teaser poster, but still, the absence of a conceived futuristic society is enticing). The real genius of the poster comes from the cut-out duplication of the boy. It's not enough to say that it's a cut-out; it's a copy... that cleverly produces the letters A and I. David, played by Haley Joel Osment, is a copy. (So which is the real representation of David? The David inside the A, the 'original,' or the David that constitutes the I?) The name of the movie also requires further investigation. Artificial Intelligence refers to robots with mechanically reproduced thought, but it seems that the humans are incapable of loving David. So which is better? To be a human without love, or to be an unnatural robot? As the tagline explains, "His love is real" and his quest for that love is heartbreaking.
4. Atonement: I'll admit that I'm biased towards this film. I loved Ian McEwan's novel, which divides the narrative through three characters (Briony, Cecilia, and Robbie) as well as three physical spaces (the house, the war, and post-war). The movie celebrates the novel by staying true to it, and the film was a true adaptation - taking my imagination and putting it on screen. This poster blew me away when I saw it. It, too, is divided into thirds. The color tones are a beautiful way of separating the zones, and the balance of Cecilia and Robbie's faces is key to their relationship. Of course, those two characters are separated by Briony, who interestingly is put in the same space as the title, again using the courier font, which indicates to anyone who has read the novel that the film is about a writer, and Briony is the one directing the tale ("you can only imagine the truth"). This is her story - quite literally - about the greatest love affair she's ever known, and there she stands walking alone, represented as a child and not as an adult.
3. A Clockwork Orange: First of all, the tagline is shocking and entertaining. Before you even get a third into the poster, you're intrigued by the character of Alex. Next, you see the unsettling glare of a man possessed by the weapon he carries, and the eye on the sleeve cuff is instantly bizarre, cooking up curiosity in the viewer. Confined to the recognizable V-shape of the frame, Alex hovers above an almost translucent female, representing everything pure, feminine, and futuristic. This poster is certainly interesting because of it's V-shape cropping, which resembles the legs of a woman or a female's reproductive organ (you have a few to choose from). The movie still looks modern, even today, thanks to the vision of director Stanley Kubrick. Ultimately, the film - despite the setting - asks, "Do we lose our humanity if we are deprived of the free-will choice between good and evil?" With this poster, you know you're going to see a visually stunning and innovative film on the human experience.
2. The Lives of Others: Let's see. My favorite film made since I was born. My favorite foreign film. My favorite film about psychological humanity (as opposed to philosophical humanity, which would of course be 2001: A Space Odyssey). This flawless film - I dare you to find a flaw! - follows Wiesler, a Stasi interrogator who spies on a playwright and his actress girlfriend. What follows is the truth of existence, as Wiesler discovers that beauty and art are aspects of the human soul and should not be censored or feared. For the majority of the film, Wiesler is alone in the attic of the playwright's apartment building, and in one moment of unknown happiness, Wiesler holds himself in an embrace. The poster summarizes the film's dramatic themes of deceit, secrecy, and intimacy. Instead of showing one image, the poster shows several, even repeating some images as if in a film reel. The poster alludes to the fact that we, like Wiesler, are voyeurs in this tale, listening in on the most personal of conversations.
1. Vertigo: The most recognizable poster of all time. The movie is arguably Hitchock's best (but it's an easy argument to win), and the bold orange immediately disorients you as the viewer. It slaps you in the face and forces you into the dizzying spiral that leads to the protagonist's demise. At the center of the poster is Scottie and his ideal woman, and her outlined body represents death and simulacra all at once. The death of Madeleine and Judy are represented in the outline like a chalk outline, but it also points to the absence of identity. Madeleine never really existed; she was portrayed by Judy the entire time. But Judy never really existed either because Scottie transformed her into his ideal Madeleine, putting into motion a simulacral relationship. The outline is the ghost of Madeleine - or that Madeleine that was - or that ideal Madeleine. However you choose to interpret it, the outline perfectly embodies the mystery and false reality of the film. There is nothing remotely wrong with this poster.
I traveled down to Tampa on the 17th to see Eddie Izzard's show "Stripped." I have very mixed feelings about the show. For the first 30-45 minutes (I have no idea how long), Izzard was on an improv-high and joked about Tampa's name and how hot it is. He pulled out his iPhone and, while waiting for Wikipedia to load, he said Tampa was discovered by Captain Tampa... which was false but everyone believed him anyway. (I wonder how many people get this historical facts from Izzard?) Then he told us we were used to the hot weather, to which a resounding "NOOOO" came his way. Then he went on a clever bit about worshipping air conditioning, and he created a scenario where AC was like heroin and that it can be handed out on shady corners of the street. "I need to get my AC fix." Then out of nowhere, he says, "By the way, the show hasn't actually started yet." The improv bit was funny, but scattered, as improv tends to be.
But then his show officially began and he went through the history of civilization. He talked about Egyptians ("who then all died in a car crash"), then moved on to the Greeks ("who then all died in a car crash"). Then he went on a rather long riff about God... which surprisingly didn't make too many people uncomfortable. He pretty much said he doesn't believe in God - certainly not the Judeo-Christian God, and perhaps I have been soaking in conservative American ideology for so long that I forgot being non-Christian is not a taboo everywhere. He joked, "I have two problems with Intelligent Design. The intelligent part, and... the design." Then, a bit later, he pretended to be an agitated Appendix: "Hello. Intelligent Design? This is the appendix. (pause) What the fuck?" Pretty much sums up Intelligent Design's problems to me. It also covers evolution. We humans have evolved so that we no longer need an appendix. And then Izzard brought up monkeys and the Monkey Trial (not referring to the Scopes Trial, btw), which lead to thoughts on evolution. "And Charles Darwin of course wrote the book, as you know, entitled Monkey Monkey Monkey Monkey You." I clapped really loud and hard on that joke.
But he did recycle a giraffe charades bit from two years ago, but since he hasn't been on tour in five years, the material is actually new. But it makes me wonder how much of this is fresh to him? Why do a tour unless it's to keep you fresh and new?
Because I've seen Circle and Dress to Kill enough times to incorporate the jokes into my everyday life (you wouldn't believe how often "I'm covered in BEEEEES" and comes up), I kind of felt like his material was borrowed... from himself. He's already talked about the Greeks and God. Or perhaps I wanted more coverage of the history of civilization... he could've made jokes about the Renaissance, certainly. I haven't heard a good da Vinci joke in a while (...or ever). My thoughts are also mixed because his stand-up is a bit like a coversation. He tends to reference moments in history but forget the name, and you want to shout out, "No, Claudius killed Hamlet's dad!" (Although, Izzard did a seat-of-the-pants 60-second version of Hamlet that was AMAZING. But I suspect that some audience members haven't read/seen the play... so the name Polonius was lost on them, which is unfortunate because he has the most ridiculous death in the history of fictional deaths.) So... yeah. I want him to be my friend. I want to watch The History Channel with him and make fun of how absurd the world is, and how the absurdities actually make it interesting. I'd want him to be my history teacher, rather than the guy I had who only called British people "pissants" which took me three weeks to figure out! And because of his casual demeanor on stage, sometimes his insanely clever jokes weren't laugh-out-loud funny. Cleverness requires chuckles... but not necessarily gut-busting laughter, unlike - and it doesn't matter where you go, they will always find you - this woman 300 people away from me who laughed at every major and minor joke like she was fueling the city on her cackle alone. (And it was a cackle.) Has no one told her how obnoxious her laugh is? How has she gotten this far in life, laughing like that?
My favorite joke of the evening came from a bit where he talked about God creating the world in six days... and how the Bible portrays it. He said, "If I were God, my first line in the Bible would've been, 'By the way, it's round...'"
I would still marry him in a heartbeat, and, now that I think of it, he's exactly the type of man I would want to marry.
Weeds: Not your typical premiere. No big bang, just character development and putting the storyline into place. Nancy and her bandit family have left Agrestic, and I think this premiere will be the last time we hear "Little Boxes" over the titles. I was wary of the addition of Albert Brooks as Judah and Andy's father - since I have never laughed at anything he's said - but his delivery of "You're eating German food in my mother's living room, and you smell of gas? She was at Aushwitz, for Christ's sake" was well done. My favorite line of the episode goes to Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker): Upon hearing about brother-in-law Andy's masturbation stains, "Great, my children are sleeping next to their unborn cousins." Now, these are awful people, and I don't deny that (and the show doesn't even try to hide it). In numerous occasions, Nancy could have left the drug-dealing world and made an honest woman out of herself and provided (legally) for her children. Andy is a screw-up who shows no signs of changing his ways. Celia is the front-runner for World's Worst Mother. And Silas needs to be punched. BUT they're an interesting bunch, and the blending of irony and comedy entertains me. Not a strong premiere, not much happened (other than finding a new residence), but I have high hopes for this season. New things.
Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Umm... I was hoping that this show would be more about loss of identity/absence of the self than it would be about sex. In 24 minutes, Hannah (call girl name Belle), played by Billie Piper, had sex with two men twice. On average, that's sex every 6 minutes. And those scenes last about 3-4 minutes... which leaves roughly 10 minutes left for character development and set up. Hannah has a best friend (Ben?) but he rarely had any lines, let alone time, to develop a character. BUT there was one moment - maybe a whole sixty seconds - where Hannah called Ben, who did not answer, and it showcased her vulnerability. There was a close-up montage of her looking around (which was a boring way of showing boredom) and lighting a cigarette (sexy?). These close-ups were screaming, "Hey, audience! She's lonely! She's torn between her private and professional lives!" If the show is going to continue the looking-at-the-screen narration, the narration needs to be more philosophical and insightful - a la Sex and the City. The premiere was little more than fetishistic sex (a horse saddle ride?) and retrogressive feminism ("I like sex, and I like money" is Hannah's justification/explanation for her career). The only insight came in the last few seconds, where she, via voiceover, says she can only be with a man who doesn't want to be with the real her. She has to dump a client who wants no makeup and jeans, no shoes in the house. She needs clients who want the fantasy. I'll watch a few more episodes, but please, for love of God, change the title sequence. Fragmentation was so eighteen years ago (ahem, Pretty Woman, ahem).
Side Note: Hey, Showtime, could you be a little more blatant with your Women=Sex campaign? I don't think the message is coming across... come on, a bathing suit in a potted plant and a mini-dress in a martini glass? And in high heels?
AFI has released the latest best-of list of films we've previously seen in other best-of lists. But now they're in a different order! And there are awkward genre categories! (Ganster, Mystery, and Western are a little too similar to me to completely omit a Horror/Suspense category, of which Hollywood is a big fan, and I don't know why Courtroom Drama is a category. Isn't that part of TNT's "We Know Drama" campaign? I swear, one undersexed male created this list...) So here's my list of what they got right and what they got wrong:
What They Got Right:
* Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as top Animation works. It's kind of like the Citizen Kane of Animation, since it created an entirely new way of approaching storylines, characters, and basic cinematic techniques. And yay for recognizing Toy Story!
* I love that Big and Groundhog Day are included in the Fantasy section. Bill Murray annoys me beyond belief, but I will watch GD whenever it's on. Even in July.
* Vertigo, Vertigo, Vertigo as #1 Mystery. 2001: A Space Odyssey as #1 for Science-Fiction was a no-brainer, but when I think that Star Warscould have stolen the spot, well, I realized that not all people listen to their brains.
* Epic. That's an interesting category. (And it would be very easy to put 2001 in that list, yes?) But is Saving Private Ryan epic? And did they leave Citizen Kane out (epic narrative) because people are tired of hearing how great it is? And I might include Brokeback Mountain in this list. The characters may have been relatively simple (translation: small), but the score, the cinematography, and the story were epic. Forrest Gump is also pretty epic... but, despite my suggestions, AFI did well to create this category.
What They Got Wrong:
* I feel as though the Animation list is out of nostalgia... or worse, homage. Certainly any of Pixar's movies are better than Pinocchio (at #2!!), Bambi, or Cinderella. And how is Shrek on this list? That movie had every ingredient of obnoxious in it.
* I think Back to the Future should be in the Fantasy section because, really now, how much science is actually in the movie? (Ultimately, it gets time traveling wrong because you can't change the past... but luckily the movie is amazing in all other aspects so the plot hiccup doesn't get in the way.) And how is It's a Wonderful Life fantasy? It's basic straight-up drama. I wouldn't consider A Christmas Carol to be Fantasy... or perhaps I would, but the Ghosts of Christmas Past/Present/Future allow for out-of-body time travel, so... at any rate, It's a Wonderful Life and Harvey are not fantasy. And why is A Clockwork Orange Science-Fiction? Perhaps because it's set in the future and in it's in the same subgenre for futuristic-political-mindfrak (now that would have been an interesting genre), but I don't think there's enough actual science for it to be considered science-fiction (and no, the classical-music mind-alteration does not count as science).
* Seven should be on this list SOMEWHERE. But alas, no Mystery/Suspense category. Also, surely some Zombie films should be somewhere? And what about All the President's Men?
* E.T. as #3 in Science-Fiction? Umm... maybe #3 in Children's Films (which also would have been a good category!). E.T. is creepy and it's not a particularly inspired movie. Loved by many, sure, but great? In the Top 3 when you have The Day the Earth Stood Still, Blade Runner (umm, this should be #2), Alien and Terminator 2 behind it? I don't think so. This category has good titles, but the arrangement is all wrong. It should be 1.2001, 2.Blade Runner, 3.Alien, etc.
* Why is Western even a category? This genre is limited to a couple of decades and to a handful of actors. The themes of the frontier, manifest destiny, and historical outlaws pop up from time to time, but it's not exactly a solidified genre worthy of a Top 10 list.
* The Sports category should really be called "Films that Actually Make Men Cry..."
* The Courtroom Drama category was conceived out of the sentence, "Hey, here's a bunch of good movies, but where can we put them? I know! Let's start a new masculine genre and put some other so-so films in the list to complete it!"
* Gone with the Wind? That movie is outdated and misogynistic. It is an epic film (which simply refers to costumes and length of showing), but it's not a good movie. And any woman who says it is obviously wasn't paying attention.
* Where is the Best Foreign Language category? I refuse to believe The Lives of Others, Funny Games, and Amelie are absent from any list...
Cinematical.com has a wonderful article on the greatest achievements of Stan Winston. It discusses Jurassic Park's dinosaurs, Edward Scissorhands, the Penguin from Batman Returns, A.I.'s cyborgs, the Terminator(s), the Alien Queen from Aliens, and Predator.
I would like to add to this list: Iron Man, Big Fish (so magical and beautiful) and Galaxy Quest.
I love interior design, more than I think my friends understand. I light up around certain colors, and I swoon over furniture. I have a palette that I love (browns/tans and other neutrals, light blues, soft greens, black, cremes - very earthy and natural), and I love natural lighting and built-in bookcases. My style is predictably traditional, and perhaps it is my special palette and specific style that limits me from understanding some of the designs from decorators on HGTV, namely those from Design Star, Season 3. I understand that the rules are different for them because they're contestants, competing for a prize and being judged along the way. In thinking of their designs, they have to think, "Is this too similar from my previous design? Will the judges be wowed by this? Is this design too safe?" And then it's no longer about how the design looks, but about how it fits into some mathematical equation... Worked well with others + Exciting color + Great use of space + Unlike anything ever seen before = Win! But... I really dislike the color yellow and don't think it should be used for anything but accent colors. I dislike how unlivable some of the designs are (end tables and night stands without storage???). So... here is my critique of the premiere of Design Star 3, where the nine designers had to decorate their living space. I don't know (or care) about their names at this point, so I'm dividing my critique by challenge.
Living Room: Loved the wall color! It was a dark royal purplish (purple-ish?) blue that really popped off the wall, which is important because it is an older colonial style home with built-in shelves on either side of a large white fireplace. It even had white crown moulding. The designers were smart with the color palette, but I hated the zebra rug and I felt like it was lacking art. The built-ins were styled well (metallic backing that really glimmered beneath the inset lighting), but the room was pretty much furniture and wall color. No interesting accents, nothing to draw your eye to.
Dining Room: They painted the most beautiful natural wood table! It looked like it came from a single tree, and they painted it! No. Unforgivable. I hated the dark grey/blackish walls, but I admit the color palette worked well. Dark greys and golds and silver... a hint of brown in natural wood stools, which I don't think fit in with the actual design. But the gold artwork and gold place settings were well matched, as were the gold floral drapes. It was an elegant design. Not necessarily my taste, but I understood and appreciated the overall concept.
Ahh, the perfect bedroom. Design by Pottery Barn.
Bedroom #1: The walls are orange. Orange, for those of you that don't know, is a color that induces hunger (which is why a lot of restaurants have reddish-orange walls). It is also a color that makes people conversational, but you're not supposed to talk in a bedroom. In my opinion, bedrooms, above all other rooms, should be neutral, natural, and earthy (basically, my palette of tans, blues, and greens). Cool colors, soft colors. Calm colors. Relaxing colors. Not orange. The bedding also looked like 70s tie-dye gone wrong (which assumes that tie-dye can be done correctly), and putting two of the twin beds toe-to-toe to save space COULD have worked, had the designer (just the one guy) put a separation between the two beds. But no, he made the two beds into one ginormous daybed. Most importantly - and I really don't understand this at all - there was NO ART. None. No paintings, no plants, no candles. There are just no words for that type of omission. Needless to say, this designer went home. [Side note: I don't understand how, with nine designers, this guy did a bedroom with four beds all by himself. The designers have to LIVE in this space, and FOUR designers worked on the living room and sunroom. I would never let someone else design the most personal space all by himself. Because when that happens, he forgets art and paints the wall orange.)
Bedroom #2: Five beds, one room... that doesn't fit five beds. One of the designers (of two) conceived and then constructed a four-poster bed comprised of four mini-twin beds inside it. The reason why THIS worked and the extra long daybed (see above) did not work is because this four-poster bed had separations. There were half walls between the beds without closing off the space. It was not claustrophobic and the colors were fantastic. They were soft and calm blues and tans. However, I did not like that the fifth bed had to be put on the top (does someone actually have to sleep up there?), and the bed did not have night stands. I am a big believer in night stands. You put your glasses there, or the book you read before going to sleep (assuming people still read anymore), or your, I don't know, alarm clock (!!!). This room was not complete to me because, again, the walls were bare, but the constructed bed itself worked as art in the room. It was minimalist and simple, and I appreciated that. But no night stands?
(This is NOT the sunroom from the show. It's a design by David Jimenez.)
Sunroom: Umm, brown walls? The whole point of a sunroom is to capture light, to make you feel like you're not enclosed in a room. I don't like the idea of brown for a wall color regardless; it makes rooms look smaller. Also, the layout was horrific. There was a seating area, but the table was hardly a foot in diameter (not large enough to play cards, set drinks on, or even rest your feet on), and two of the chairs weren't able to experience the view of the backyard. It was completely separate from the other half of the room, where a pool table sat by its lonesome, without any seating or art to befriend it. (Yes, furniture and art must be friends for a space to work.) There was nothing I liked about this room.
P.S. I really don't like designers (fashion or interior or otherwise) who don't take responsibility for their actions. They'll take responsibility for their work, but not their actions, and then they say the dreaded phrase, "Well, I just feel like..." And then they complain about someone else. It's annoying, you look bad for doing it, and you're not twelve years old anymore.
I'm a bit fuzzy about the biological makeup of Cylons and, more importantly, how they were created. And I'm sure that this will all be answered in the spin-off Caprica, but I have these questions now... so if anyone has any answers, I'd appreciate it.
1. Who created the skinjobs? Was it the centurions, or was there a human helping them evolve? Or was there a mediator race, created by man but who then revolted and developed the seven skinjobs? Specifically, I'm wondering if the Final Five were the original Cylon skinjobs who created the other seven models... 2. So Cylons have fully functional reproductive organs? Tyrol has functioning sperm... Athena has functioning eggs... how can synthetic sperm/eggs function? 3. How is Tigh able to reproduce with Caprica Six? Do the Cylon reproductive rules not apply to him (perhaps because his DNA makeup is different from the other seven models?), or was the Cylon-on-Cylon baby created through Love still, since Tigh thought he was having relations with Ellen? 4. How would the seven models not know who the other five are? And why wouldn't they be able to talk about them? It seems like the Cylons have a mysterious creator that is even mysterious to them... and it's not God. It's someone that programmed them to be a certain way (such as a human creator modeling them after 12 archetypal characters). 5. Why isn't there another evolution of models? Why procreate naturally? Why is there this pressure, this insistence on naturally having children? What's wrong with the Cylons continuing to evolve, to enhance and improve their race? 6. Where did the Cylons get their concept of God? Again, possibly from a human creator? And if there is a human creator, how did the creator know to have so many resurrection ships? There's hundreds of thousands of Cylons. Was the creator planning on Cylons being the next evolution of man - a la the Übermensch from Thus Spake Zarathustra? 7. Oh... and how can Tigh be as old as he is and still be a Cylon? I mean, he fought in the first Cylon War... before they went away and evolved, before they were anything but toasters.
Battlestar is a pretty consistent show, despite things being fleshed out as the narrative progresses (like in Season 1, the writers didn't know until halfway through that Sharon was seeking out Helo on Caprica in order to produce a child). But that's just as well; in fact, I prefer the writers to not know (unless, of course, we're talking about Lost - I'm bitter, get over it). The writers have developed the stories with the characters and in conjunction with the characters' developments. It's a circular way of writing that I appreciate, rather than a "Here is the plot, so this character has to say this line of exposition, even though it's entirely uncharacteristic of them." And because the show is so consistent, I have faith in Ron Moore and the writers, in their intelligence, in their ability to fully create an imaginary world. (I know they have the answers to my questions.) If there are holes, they will be minor ones.
I don't mind waiting for the answers... but it doesn't mean I won't still wonder about the full mechanics of Cylon birth and resurrection...
HOLY FRAK!!! (Warning: This post will be full of spoilers...)
Ron D. Moore, how I love thee, let me count the ways... you will never cop out, and you will never fail to please. Holy frak, you showed us Earth. A radioactive, post-apocalyptic Earth. And you didn't wait until the series finale; you gave it to us at the midseason finale, which means... we have to wait six more months until we can experience the last 10 episodes on Earth. The big question wasn't ever "Where is Earth?" but "When is Earth?" And you answered that question. (Again, Lost, take note on the answering questions.) This was a lot like the ending of Season 2, where the audience was taken to New Caprica... and then flashforwarded one year later... and then showed the Cylon occupation. Season 2 could have ended with the rebuilding of a society on soil, but it didn't. It could have ended with a teaser from the future, but it didn't. Showing us a glimpse isn't as heart-wrenching as putting us right in the middle of the story. Season 2 ended with the Resistance, reminding the audience that humanity will not go down without a fight. Same with this midseason finale. BSG could have ended with Tigh in the airlock... with the fleet's jump into Earth's orbit... but it went even further. I teared up when I saw Earth staring back at the fleet, in the same manner that the star-child looked at Earth in 2001. And then we went to Earth. The vipers and raptors were launched, and Adama touched the soil of Earth. And then the camera pans across the other characters... Kara in awe... pregnant Caprica Six gently touching baby-daddy Tigh... and then boom - are they in New York?
And I don't know why - because I obviously live on Earth with other humans - but I was still surprised that there were remnants of a civilization on Earth. I wasn't expecting anything else, really. I wasn't expecting druids building Stonehenge or apes throwing bones around. I just wiped Earth's history from my expectations... and the sight of a post-apocalyptic amazed and bewildered me in the most fantastic of ways. How far into the future is this Earth? What happened? (My guess is we - the 13th Tribe - all killed one another. But that may not be likely since buildings are still standing, more or less, so perhaps there was another nuclear attack... but by whom? Hmm...)
The best moments of this episode were... in my totally awesome and entirely correct opinion...
1. The scene where Kara finds out Anders is a Cylon. It was executed more dramatically than Adama finding out about Tigh, and I think that goes beyond the romance. The scene between Adama and Tigh was kind of silly - ALTHOUGH Adama did comment on the whole "When I met you, you had hair" thing, which is an intelligent and plausible response from Adama. It makes sense that Adama would be skeptical, and that was rightly done, but every time Tigh (or Roslin or anyone, really) said "Final Five" it sounded awkward. Not forced, persay, but awkward. But I did like how Michael Hogan portrayed Tigh's confession - surprised (at the words coming out of his mouth), ashamed (that he didn't send himself out the airlock earlier), and scared (what will Adama THINK of him?). Tigh isn't concerned about death, I don't think, but more about the friendship and trust he has procured from "the old man." But right, Kara and Sam... Sam being handcuffed, his back turned to Kara, unable to look her in the eye - well done. And there is a look on Katee Sackoff's face that's very ambiguous to read; you feel like her heart has already won out over her mind. In a recent episode, she told Sam she'd put a bullet between his eyes if he were a Cylon, but in her dumbstruck look, Sackoff gave a lot of depth and play with Kara's conflicting emotions. But perhaps it's because I've always been a Kara-Sam fan that I want her to still love him, even at his darkest hour. Which brings us to...
2. Kara telling Kat's picture, "We made it,"... and Sam comes to stand beside her. He's still there for her! The last time Kara saw Kat, she gave Kat painkillers so that Kat could kill herself. "There's enough," she had told her. But Starbuck had a special bond with Kat since Kat was her only pilot that ever questioned her authority, who called her a drunk when Starbuck wasn't able to admit to herself that she was falling apart. It shows a strong devotion to Starbuck's character for the writers to remember her relationship with Kat and to make that the first place Kara goes once she finds Earth. And... Sam is right there beside her. And I appreciated the other people standing at the wall of the dead. It absolutely broke my heart, the idea that some people made it to Earth and others didn't. Others didn't complete the journey. My heart swelled up.
3. Saul Tigh's eye. Michael Hogan has really fleshed out Tigh's character. He's one of the most morally ambiguous characters on the show (killing his wife, taking it upon himself to send Cylon-collaborators out the airlock, impregnating prisoner Caprica Six), right there with Baltar, but his convictions are so strong that I really understand his motives behind each of these actions. He has such a strict belief in what is right and what is wrong that even learning he's a Cylon won't change that. And so he knows that he should die. He knows that Lee should send him out the airlock. And his cycloptic eye quivers with righteousness as he tells Lee, "What are you waiting for? Just do it." Tigh's mouth is in a persistent state of frown, but his eye tells all. I bet the answers to the universe are swimming in his iris...
4. Adama's "Larger than Life Speech, Part XIV. "Crew of Galactica, people of the fleet, this is Admiral Adama. Three years ago I promised to lead to a new home. We've endured a difficult journey, we've all lost, we've all suffered. The truth is, I questioned whether this day would ever come. But today our journey is at an end. We have arrived. At Earth." Cheers erupt! Lee stands up on the CIC table and takes off his jacket like a Chippendale dancer (wait, what...?)... thank you, Mr. President. Tyrol celebrates with Nicky... Helo and Athena celebrate with Hera, who looks rather creepy... yay! Good things to come! (Like a preview of Roslin's inevitable death...)
5. Umm... EARTH! HOLY FRAK! We got to see EARTH! They weren't kidding when they titled the episode "Revelations." In a recent interview, Moore said "Revelations" would compete against the cliffhanger of "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2"... and he was right. Frak. I have to wait six months?
This past week, I have watched Firefly in its entirety through Hulu.com (which isn't that impressive considering there's only 14 episodes), as well as the follow-up film Serenity (released due to obsessive fan sites that didn't manage too well with cancellation). And now, perhaps a few years too late, Firefly has secured a place in my heart. The following are the reasons why:
1. The dialogue.
Almost every line of dialogue is believable, meaningful (there are no fluff lines!), and brilliant. Even the weaker characters - Simon, Book, Inara - have their shining moments of sarcasm. And when characters are faced with potential (and probable) death each week, it's tiring for them to say "Oh, no, we're all going to die!" and then insert dramatic music (I'm talking to you, Lost). This show approaches the same themes in various ways, and it's never static. The dialogue is almost always dry, but it is altered depending on where they are, who they're fighting, and their likelihood of coming out alive. And Malcolm and Wash have some of the best lines of dialogue of any characters ever.
Book: If you take sexual advantage of her, you're going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.
Wash: Little River just gets more colorful by the moment. What'll she do next? Zoe: Either blow us all up or rub soup in our hair. It's a toss-up. Wash: I hope she does the soup thing. It's always a hoot, and we don't all die from it.
2. Zoe. Period.
Finally! A strong female character that female viewers can respect and admire! She is sexy and strong and confident and smart and honorable and honest and moral and funny. She knows that her job is to follow Malcolm's orders (because she is the first mate, not because she is submissive to his will), but she also has such a relationship with him that she can add her two cents and protest certain plans. She is married and, furthermore, she wants to have a child, but there is nothing motherly or matronly or womanly about it. She wants a child because she loves her husband. She has been shown having sex with Wash, but it was never about the passion. You don't see her in the reverse-cowgirl position, sweaty and panting. You see her making love, feminine but still strong. She is the dominant role in her relationship with Wash, and it works for them. She doesn't order him around or abuse him physically or mentally; she merely disagrees with the typical domestic setup. And Wash appreciates her strength. Not ONCE during the entire show does he complain about her strength, her confidence, or her unwillingness to fix him a sandwich. She is able to hold her own against Malcolm, against enemies in a gun fight, or against Jayne and nasty mouth.
Wash: I mean, I'm the one she swore to love, honor and obey. Mal: Listen... (beat) She swore to obey? Wash: Well, no, not... But that's just my point! You she obeys! She obeys you! There's obeying going on right under my nose!
3. The subtleties between characters.
It really bothers me when television programs posit a "real world" concept... yet excludes many aspects of the "real world." Friends and Seinfeld did this, as do many comedies, now that I think about it. But with Firefly (and also How I Met Your Mother, to some extent), the characters actually listen to one another. When Malcolm and Jayne have a little tiff, Wash laughs. When Wash says something funny, Zoe smiles. When Zoe thinks Malcolm is being dumb but goes along with him anyway, she says "Yes, sir" in a this-is-a-trap-and-you're-wrong-but-I-wouldn't-miss-this-for-anything tone. The subtle nuances between characters are exciting to watch. I shouldn't have to watch the outtakes to see the actors having fun; I want to also watch the characters having fun.
Jayne: (adding) Ten percent of nuthin' is... let me do the math here... nuthin' into nuthin'... carry the nuthin'...
Jayne: (mock reading Simon's journal) "Dear Diary...today I was pompous and my sister was crazy." (flips page) "Today, we were kidnapped by hill folk never to be seen again. It was the best day ever."
5. Best stand-alone episodes in a serial show.
There's the premise of the show: A rogue captain and his crew of surly misfits try to survive on the outer edge of the 'Verse by stealing (literally, space cowboys). Then there're the A-storylines: Malcolm and Zoe go get the goods, something goes wrong, And then there're the B and C-storylines: Malcolm and Inora's pride gets in the way of them confessing their love for one another, Zoe and Wash have a beautiful and loving moment together, Kaylee says something that is a combination of hope and doom, and Jayne considers leaving a life of morality for something more... amoral. And even though the show is serialized through their B and C storylines (love and survival, and the dependence of each on the other, are big themes of the show), the individual narratives are incredibly well done. "Out of Gas," "War Stories," "The Message" and "Objects in Space" are all stellar episodes that receive an A+ grade.
"Out of Gas": The Serenity engine explodes, and Firefly explores Malcolm's devotion to his ship through two flashbacks - explaining how the crew came aboard Serenity, and also the moments leading up to the end of Serenity. The episode begins in despair; Malcolm is bleeding and has fallen to the ground, and a voice-over comes on that says: "She won't be winning any beauty contests anytime soon. But she's solid. Ship like this, be with ya 'til the day you die." We know that Zoe came on board due to her deep bond with the captain over the war of the Independents against the Alliance (the Unification War), but then we discover that she didn't like Wash upon first meeting him (he would later become her husband). And Kaylee enters Serenity because she's having sex with Serenity's incompetent mechanic, and we see Kaylee in a sexual light rather than the hopelessly romantic and idealistic child genius. And then we discover that Jayne comes aboard because - why else? - Malcolm tricked him through a monetary bribe, causing him to turn on his original crew. So those are the first sets of flashbacks, but the second set (which would normally be shown in actual show time) really defines Malcolm Reynolds. Not as a man, not as a friend or a lover, but as a captain. One of the most compelling relationships on the show is between Mal and his machine, his one true love. And he chooses to go down with his ship even after Inora tells him to escape with her. Mal is a very tough character who refuses to leave any member of his crew behind, and this episode really delves into the heart of the man who tries so hard to hide his heart.
"Objects in Space": The bounty hunter Jubal Early really gives Boba Fett a run for his money. The scariest part about Early is that he is calm in his delivery of harm. "Have you ever been raped?" he asks Kaylee. "To me, it's just a body." And you get the sense that he will actually rape her before pursuing his bounty (River), but he merely ties her up, leaving the prospect of rape available for the future. And Early has a repeated line throughout this episode that is particularly haunting: "Does that seem right to you?" (To the doctor, Simon, he asks, "You oughta be shot. Or stabbed. Lose a leg. To be a surgeon, you know? Know what kind of pain you're dealing with. They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed before they can get certified, but they don't make a surgeon get cut on. That seem right to you?") If River isn't in her bedroom, does the bedroom still serve a purpose? He is contemplative and meditative, and this showcase of logic informs the viewer that there isn't something quite right with them. And what happens? Love wins over logic. The crew's devotion to one another beats out his cold-hearted lifestyle. The last line of the episode is him floating away in space: "Well, here I am." Now, physically, he is alone with nothing but his thoughts... until his oxygen runs out, anyway. And there is a moment in the episode where River disappears, and she comes on the intercom and says, "I melted. I am not on the ship. I am the ship." And Joss Whedon really created a universe where you wonder if River actually is the ship now, if she somehow transcended her body (and time and space...) in order to save Serenity. That's a true gift. For a show to not only suspend my disbelief but to actually make me believe something so unbelievable is quite remarkable. (I think it would have been a sci-fi cop-out if she had actually became the ship, but the process of getting me to believe that it was possible is the point of interest.)
* I'm excited to see that Jemaine Clement is nominated for Best Actor for the side-splitting Flight of the Conchords, but isn't it a bit like Larry David being nominated as "himself"? How much acting is really going on? Alec Baldwin deserves to win again this year. And Patrick Dempsey is nominated for Grey's Anatomy? To use Shonda Rimes's word: Seriously? Also, I hope Emily Deschanel (Bones) wins for Lead Actress in a Drama. She can do comedy and drama better than anyone.
* If genre definitions are fading/blurring/becoming extinct, shouldn't genres be left out of the category? Entourage and Chuck as comedies? They both have pretty dramatic elements, so perhaps the category should be "Best Primarily Comedy Series" and Eli Stone can be nominated for "Best For-The-Most-Part Drama Series." In fact, I think David Boreanaz should be nominated as Agent Seely Booth for "Best Comedic Actor;" his show may be dramatic, but his character is hell-arious.
* Why are Josh Malina, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Chad Michael Murray, Zac Efron, Anna Friel, or Teri Hatcher even on the list? And short-lived Big Shots and Miss Guided are on the list...? And why is Nathan Fillion (as much as I love him) a Supporting Actor and not a Guest Star for Desperate Housewives?
* BATTLESTAR LOVE: Edward James Olmos is nominated (perhaps as the first atheist character to ever be nominated?), as is his other half, Mary McDonnell. (Note: Season 4's Mid-Season Finale airs tomorrow at 10pm on Sci-Fi!)
* I heart Adam Baldwin. He's why I watch Chuck (like with the "intimate moments" scene). Give him the Most Awesomest Awesome that Ever Awesomed Award. Also, Neil Flynn steals every scene he's in, so give him proper credit. Although Justin Kirk was pretty fantastic on Weeds... as was Jack McBrayer on 30 Rock... oh, no. This one's a tough call, but I really, really heart Adam Baldwin.
* Will Arnett should win for his guest spot on 30 Rock (his short robe should win its own award), and I do hope Kristin Chenoweth wins.
* How is the Special Series Finale of Extras in the Miniseries or Movie category?