Friday, December 24, 2010

Nearing the End of 2010: List Update

The return of the lists!

We are now well into Oscarbait season and my thoughts can be pretty easily summed up in this comic here: It's a time of good and bad movies and movies in-between. As such, it is also now time to account for the movies I have seen and the movies I plan to see. Here are my lists in all of their excitement:

Likely/Possible/Longshot Contenders I Have Seen:
- Alice in Wonderland (unfortunately)
- Black Swan
- Despicable Me
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
- How to Train Your Dragon
- Inception
- Love and Other Drugs
- Shrek Forever After (also unfortunately)
- The Social Network
- Shutter Island
- Tangled
- The Town
- Toy Story 3
- Tron: Legacy

Likely/Possible/Longshot Contenders I Plan to See/Might See:
- 127 Hours
- Animal Kingdom
- Another Year
- Blue Valentine
- Exit Through the Gift Shop
- The Fighter
- Get Low
- I Love You, Phillip Morris
- The Illusionist
- Inside Job
- The Kids Are All Right
- The King's Speech
- Made in Dagenham
- Never Let Me Go
- Rabbit Hole
- True Grit
- Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
- Waiting for "Superman"
- The Way Back
- Winter's Bone

...Well, that's a more even split than I expected. Obvs certain films, like I Love You Phillip Morris, are less likely to be major contenders, but I am too curious to not see that film for myself. Not sure when I can get my hands on Uncle Boonmee, but I am immensely curious about it. I know this probably isn't a good thing on my part, but I want to wait to rent 127 Hours because I am squeamish about things like arms getting chopped off and would rather avoid a big screen and intense theater experience for that. Also not sure when Another Year or The Way Back will make their way towards a theater near me, but I'll work it out.

I'd have liked to see The Social Network again, and I will before the awards season is over, but not in theaters. I'm sure I'll do some sort of massive movie update - I saw Tron on Tuesday, Black Swan on Wednesday, and Love and Other Drugs on Thursdays - soon, but as it is late Christmas Eve, I'll leave it at the lists for now.

Happy hols and awards season!

PS: Since there is so much yet to see, I likely will either not do a Best Of 2010 list or else it will come probably in 2011. Not that the world needs another Best Of list, so chances are I might forgo it all together and just write about the movies I've seen and liked.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thoughts on Children's Lit

It's been a while since my last post hasn't it been? Well, not to get too personal, but I've been having a rough semester and a very busy one at that. My film production class has left me wondering how I managed to even make it into the film department, my screenwriting class is kicking my butt at this exact moment with too much homework, and even my hundred-level religion class resulted in a shittily graded paper.

But do you want to know what is going pretty freakin' well this semester? My Children's Lit class.

I was just rereading my earlier blog post about The Girl Who Owned a City and thought that I would like to revisit my thoughts from that post about children's literature. I know, this is more of a movies and television blog and I certainly could rant about how this season of Dexter has been so slow or say how I've given up on House for now or commend Community on doing what it does best. I could rave about The Social Network or get unnecessarily excited over going to the new Harry Potter movie midnight release on Thursday night, but I'd much rather discuss the real shining beacon in my life right now, which is, surprisingly, this lit class.

Not that it's perfect. My first paper wasn't great, I haven't had time to do more than a general outline for the paper due this Wednesday, and I'm close but not quite at A level. I've finished some of the reading a bit after it was technically due and I've still yet to cover Twilight in the class, but there are so many interesting things to take away from this class, none of which I can do justice in a blog post at 1:30am, but I can give you a quick survey of the genius that is this class and this subject and my own personal relationship with children's texts.

We kicked off the semester with an excerpt from Alice in Wonderland, but not the whole text (originally on the syllabus, but, amongst a few others such as The Giver, Alice in Wonderland was cut in the end). The Wind in the Willows was next in all its episodic glory (my favorite being Rat's interactions with the traveling Rat he meets). The Secret Garden introduced me to Dickon and re-introducing me to creepy crushes on children (this would continue with Will Parry as I was inspired to reread The Subtle Knife during my "free time"). I even ventured into the world of fan fiction veer so briefly before realizing that writing Dickon's manner of speech accurately removed any sexiness. My desires for attractiveness and accuracy conflicted. Peter and Wendy told me that I really just didn't like the story of Peter Pan very much after all. The Twins at St. Clare's reminded me of my childhood addiction to series like The Boxcar Children and The Babysitter's Club: basic children's books that nobody really takes seriously after a certain age. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe told me that, no, I don't like Narnia and The Last Battle that The Amber Spyglass did religion better. Also, we approached The Problem of Susan, and I started to get my ideas for my coming paper, wanting to approach my gender's role in all of this. What's so wrong with wanting invitations and nylons? On the flipside, we went over to The Golden Compass, one of my favorite books ever, and I was reminded how great the characters were and how one of my future cats should be named Iorek. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm showed me another female character, though not the main protagonist, that I had originally written off but embraced by the end. Howl's Moving Castle was brilliant and I wonder how I'd never read it as a child. Officially decided another future cat shall be named Howl. I was also reminded that I am a sucker for a good literary romance - what's so wrong with Sophie and Howl having a happily ever after? Many of my classmates contested. Perhaps it's best we only read The Golden Compass and didn't introduce my beloved Will Parry. The Devil's Arithmetic brought me back to my middle school reading habits: American Revolution or Holocaust children's literature. How depressing! Magic made a comeback and time travel and another female protagonist, how fantastic! Finally, most recently, we've come to a collection of picture books and Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes. I don't remember ever reading any of the books: Where the Wild Things Are, Pat the Bunny, Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon, William's Doll, or Princess Smartypants.

Just take a glimpse through my notes from class sometime and you'll see a crazy amalgamation of ideas and concepts because in examining children's literature, it's not unlike examining adult's literature - there's quite a bit of everything. Adults have serialized literature that may not be brilliantly written, adults have historical drama and stories steeped in gender roles and fantasy and religion and science fiction. But when examining a whole group of literature, I never want to stop reading. I realized that today as I sat in the library, reading from our Oxford companion, filled with interesting essays on different topics in children's literature, we'd only read seven chapters of sixteen. I wanted to read them all! In fact, I want to read the gender roles chapter in time for my paper. I want to read the other dozens of books referenced.

Literature feels like a much more endless supply than movies or television. Not that one could watch the entirety of cinematic or televised history in a lifetime, but those mediums are so different from novels and poetry and essays and everything in-between. Children's movies are interesting and all, but there's something so much narrower about that library than the library of children's books. For exampls, film versions of these stories. Howl's Moving Castle was completely redefined and centered around a tale Miyazaki wanted to tell rather than the actual book's plot. The Narnia movies were even more ridiculous than the books, in my opinion. The Golden Compass, while well-cast, was watered down. I still have yet to see The Secret Garden. Peter Pan, the animated version, tries to simplify a simple story. Peter Pan, the live-action 2003 film, takes a completely different approach to the material, one which I might even like more than the book. And while Where the Wild Things is a good movie, in my opinion, it is an elongated version of the picture book from which the title hails. And that movie wasn't really made for kids so much as nostalgic adults.

There's a much more stream-lined narrative and style for "children's movies" than for children's books. Some of the worries centered around children's literature are much more apparent in movies for kids. Whereas some books are overly instructive or didactic, most movies for children are built around some life lesson moral that is hammered into the audience. Even in well-made features, such as Howl's Moving Castle, there is no escaping something so very clear. And gender roles are even worse in film, generally speaking.

I've always thought to myself which movies I would want to show my non-existent kids, being mostly a movie person. But I'm more interested now in understanding what books I also want them to read. The television I want them to watch. The games and toys I want them to enjoy. There is so much to learn, but even more to simply observe, to enjoy conflicting narratives that teach different lessons, allowing my kids their own agency of decision-making. It's easy to forget that kids aren't people too, but I'm still somewhat young enough to remember how intensely I thought about certain things and how not-intensely I thought about others.

Now is different. Now I see anything and I'm almost afraid I might over-analyze it. Everyday conversations involve some semblance of intellectualism. Ahh, college students, how they converse and interact. How they drag in the challenging of the concept of canon based on their children's lit reading from a couple weeks ago. But it feels so good to talk about those things, to have that perspective. Some might call it snobbery or elitism or silly to waste time learning about children's lit but there are so many ways to understand children, a huge part of this world, and one of which is to observe what goes into these texts and what comes out, whether it be in a college classroom or a child's bedroom.

My apologies for making this blog post so inherently steeped in my personal life. Unfortunately, I really don't have strong opinions about any movies or television I've watched lately (well, maybe except that the last few episodes of Glee have been a huge step up since the back nine, which were sometimes essentially unwatchable). Oh, well, I guess there's one big announcement: amidst my personal ~drama, I've started watching The Wire, which I am understanding to be one of the best television shows ever? Well, I'm certainly liking it. Liking it enough to start the second season rather than read the screenplays I need to for Tuesday.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Emmy" TV Shows. Not Unlike "Oscar" Movies.

Sorry for the long absence. I'm a busy student/employee/television addict/etc.

But as I catch up on last night's television shows, I started to wonder to myself about "the Academy." See, lots of people complain, whine, and moan over both the Academy that decides the Emmys and the Oscars. The thing is, though, I haven't seen many people spend all year discussing the Emmys, declaring this show an Emmy show and that show not an Emmy show, whereas even everyday movie-goers will easily be talking about the Oscar chances for The Social Network or Toy Story 3.

At first glance, this might indicate that the selectivity for the Emmys is not so severe as it is for the Oscars. You'd think an Academy that would nominate True Blood might actually have its marbles in a way an Academy that shut out The Dark Knight doesn't. I think though that you'd be wrong. True Blood, for example, has certain things going for it, including an Academy Award-winning main actress, a respected premium cable channel, and a "message" (y'know, how vampire rights in the show parallel modern day LGBT rights).

Don't fool yourself; the Emmys like the same things the Oscars do. Pedigree isn't everything though, as former Academy Award nominees Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos will tell you, having worked for years on a never-nominated critically-acclaimed little series called Battlestar Galactica everyone who knows me knows that I adore. It takes a certain class that comes, especially these days, with being on a premium cable network, which is why even though I haven't seen an episode of Boardwalk Empire, I'm convinced it will land several nominations next year. Because it's on HBO, it's classy like Mad Men, and it takes itself seriously.

As I'm sure the Buffy fans have lamented for ages, taking yourself seriously can be a big thing. I feel like one of the more common complaints about Mad Men would be a sort of "stuffiness" about it, coming from its slow, melodious pace and seriously fragmented (and often disliked) characters.

But the comedy category, you declare! Comedic shows are appreciated for irony! Just look at Glee? Though I decry Glee and watch it, such a contradiction as I am, Glee is actually something of an interesting anomaly in my opinion. It's a high school show, it's a musical, its pedigree is really not that impressive (Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele are the main show there - I won't count Jane Lynch, despite loving her more, because an unfortunate amount of not-young people don't realize how much she did pre-Glee). Glee's popularity comes from a more modern High School Musical approach - but you didn't see High School Musical get nominated for Best TV Movie, did you? Despite whatever sucks about Glee, it is kind of impressive for it to have gotten the formal recognition it has.

Besides Glee, however, the comedy area remains pretty locked for sitcoms and serious premium cable comedies (i.e. Weeds, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm). And, to be honest, the only reason Glee might get nominated again next year is because the current freshmen sitcoms are rather slim pickings, so I'd be prepared for a full-on repeat in the comedy series category.

Sitcoms are cute and quaint. They're very old-fashioned. Even Modern Family, which I watch and like and is lauded for its advancement, follows your old-school format of following a family around and seeing all their funny, morally-inclined hi-jinks in a short half hour. If there was a movie equivalent to sitcoms, actually, which there really isn't anymore, I'd be surprised if it got nominated for the Oscars, actually, because that area is even too backwater for them. When people talk about potential Oscar comedies, they think of raucous shit like The Hangover, which is more of a premium cable type show than a typical network sitcom.

But back to the drama category, where this all started for me as I thought longingly of The Vampire Diaries, the shockingly good show I have fallen in love with despite not being a big vampire fan and aware enough of trends to usually not be susceptible without my consent. The Vampire Diaries is a good show, hands down. Interesting characters, good plots, amazing pacing, problems are rectified, everything is reasonable, and as a bonus, the cast is gorgeous (and, so far as I'm aware, come across as respectable and scandal-free). The problems? The show doesn't take itself so seriously. Not in the same way, say, my beloved Chuck does, becoming a little bit too much of a self-parody at times, but there is an air of fun and danger that comes from a show willing to take risks, kill off a main character pretty quickly, and do a lot of things most shows aren't really willing to do. Second, the show doesn't have pedigree. It's highest pedigree right now is probably Ian Somerhalder, best known otherwise for his season-long and small recurring bit as Boone on Lost. Nina Dobrev did Degrassi. Matt Davis might be most recognizable for Legally Blonde. Seriously, this is not your A-list cast. But they're not just pretty, they're good. And, finally, The Vampire Diaries is on The CW. The CW may technically be a network station, but it is essentially trash to the bigwigs. The CW is home of Smallville and Gossip Girl, not a show that's better than Emmy-nominated True Blood (sorry, TB fans, I'm with you, but did you see the third season compared to TVD? Just, no).

Everything that might make a series worthy of Emmy recognition is simply not in this show, which is probably derided by people who've never seen it as part of the Twilight craze, as a teen drama with lots of skimpy clothes and scandal. I'm sorry, but this is neither True Blood nor Gossip Girl; there are few if none unnecessary shenanigans. High school is a setting, not a defining characteristic of the show (especially as of late; Mystic Falls is more the setting anyway, one of the coolest, cult-like towns ever). Skimpy clothes? Are you kidding me? Besides the car wash episode, there have been so few scantily clad moments. I can remember all of one legitimate sex scene in the entirety of this series. There are some sexy flashbacks, but it is nothing compared to the wild orgies of True Blood season 2, or even the least sexy of True Blood episodes. Scandals? I bet there are about five thousand more scandals in a single episode of Desperate Housewives than a full season of The Vampire Diaries. Vampire Diaries is more concerned with drama and action and zigzagging plots and surprises than with the kind of ~drama that fuels shows like Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill or Gilmore Girls (which I loved, but was soapy as hell sometimes).

Essentially, every stigma that The Vampire Diaries would attract is false. But that's true about a lot of shows that would never qualify for an Emmy nomination. There is no "Blind Side" slot in the Emmy nominees. The Emmys are probably even more out of touch with popular culture than the Oscars. Sci-fi has been at the Oscars for ages, from Star Wars to Avatar (more of a crowd-pleaser than it's-all-about-the-analogy District 9). Battlestar Galactica, despite being declared by many as one of the best DRAMA television shows ever, or at least a very good one in general, never got more than a technical nod at the Emmys.

So we bitch and moan and complain a lot about the Oscars, about the Academy Awards being old and how certain great movies will never be Oscar movies, but the Emmys are no better, if they're not even worse, especially since they can repeat old favorites in place of strong up-comers. While movies year after year can emulate and imitate older films, keeping that certain "old Hollywood" or "period movie" place in the Best Picture nominee line-up, Emmys can literally keep the same show in the running, even past its prime (I mean really? House? That show has been good at best, horrendous at worst, and meh most of the time for a couple seasons now).

And yet, few shows are looked at, saying, "this show was made for the Emmys" when one could look at, say, The King's Speech, and declare immediately "it's an Oscar movie!" There isn't a lot different between what makes television and movies appeal for "bigwig" Academies. If anything, audience size and critics matter more for the Oscars - I doubt you'll find many champions of House's last season (praise the mental institute episode all you want, there are over twenty other episodes in the season), but even The Blind Side was well-received by many, though certainly not everyone. House's audience has dwindled (and it was probably the most-watched series nominated for Best Comedy/Drama last year; remember, Glee's audience was pretty modest for most of the first season), but Avatar, District 9, The Blind Side, and Up were huge money-makers.

My point has been made clear by this point. Just like with the Oscars and movies, there will be brilliant shows that will never win an Emmy, that never won an Emmy, and probably were never seen by those who vote on the Emmys. And that's disappointing, sure, but that's life, and tastes change, though slowly, and one day all the types of shows we champion now will be detested by future generations as backwards and unworthy of admiration and we'll be clinging on.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Glee: The Rachel Problem & More

Been a little busy with the kick-off of the semester, but I'm going to try for a minor new blog post.

So. Glee.

Sometimes cute. Often talented. And also quite often a piece of gooey, unkempt, poorly-defined messes.

I like Glee for some reasons, I really do. The cast is talented, there have been some stronger episodes (particularly toward the beginning of the first season), the musical numbers are usually quite entertaining, and lately when the show just gives in to its messes (i.e. Power of Madonna and last night's Brittany/Britney) it is quite enjoyable in that format. I mentioned earlier to a friend that if Glee just devolved into incoherent musical numbers (which, to an extent, it already does) I'd still watch it and truly enjoy it for the variety/cabaret like quality it could be and is best at.

There are also many problems with Glee. The writing is often weak, continuity is crap, the "realism" is pathetic, and the treatment of minorities often stumbles off the fine-line between embracing and exposing stereotypes, not to mention giving heavy-handed speeches hand-in-hand with satirical nonsense. It's these weaknesses that make me think Glee could be just as successful and twice as entertaining if it abandoned plot all together and just played with its cast of characters as is and ran it like the best, most epic variety show/cabaret. I've always wanted cabarets to make a comeback though...

Amongst my many issues with Glee, I'd probably say the biggest one right now has a name: Rachel.

Sure, many of the characters are mishandled, underused, overused, given too much credit for their lack of abilities (I'm looking at Finn's singing AND dancing), etc.... but Rachel really takes the cake for me.

The thing is, Lea Michele is undeniably talented. She's got a great voice. I'm not sure if it's my favorite voice, but it's definitely good. Clearly, it makes sense that Rachel is often the lead. She's assertive and talented. The problem? She's an unrestrained diva who never learns from her many mistakes. Rachel is not only annoying, she is often insufferable. All together, these two episodes in the second season, I think I may have liked her for all of about ten seconds, in the latest episode, when she tells Finn that she'll stop being controlling since she's discovered her own empowerment. AWESOME. GREAT. ...and then, she goes back to her crazy, dramatic ultimatums. And I think to myself, WHO DOES THIS? What kind of crazy pills is this girl on?

Rachel has no redeeming qualities. Her personality is horrible. She is controlling, obnoxious, rude, self-centered, and displays somewhat sociopath-like behavior (her "I'm doing this because I love you" shtick in the season opener, much?). Rachel also has an obsessive personality, which means when she gets on about something, she harps on about it incessantly, because she's also a loud-mouth. Sure, she "owns up" to her mistakes, sometimes, but then she goes and does another horrible thing next week. And whoops, again, and then another thing, and then she's got a clean-slate again. Seriously, I used to wonder what Rachel saw in Finn, but what the hell does Finn see in Rachel? She's pretty and talented, and that's about it.

And the show exploits this. The show is convinced that Rachel is our hero, that Rachel really does mean well, and that Rachel is worth loving despite her flaws... because why? Because she sings really, really well, and here, let's demonstrate by having her sing a big, dramatic number at the end of the episode (the modus operendi for this season thus far, and used a bit last season as well - Episodes 2, 17, and 18). We're led to believe that Rachel is redeemed because she sings a heartfelt song, but she still resorted to crazy-ass, selfish means to keep Sunshine out of the club, and she still gave Finn a crazy-ass, selfish ultimatum. I don't see how being talented makes up for being a shitty person.

Rachel is the center of Glee's problems for me, because Glee has disillusioned itself into seeing her as someone that she really does not come off as: a victim. In the first season, somewhat, when Finn was actively ditching her, I could see it, but now she's only a victim of her own behavior. Likewise, Glee has disillusioned itself into seeing its show as a well put-together, honest, real show, when it's really just a fun hot mess. The problem is that Glee has got an epic fanbase, a great appeal, lots of merchandising, and the ratings to keep going for years.

It reminds me of the second season of Heroes, however. I knew Heroes wasn't the strongest show, but I was in love with it anyways, in love with its possibilities and its conceits. Heroes too was a huge hit when it started, if anyone can remember that a few years back. But Heroes too lost itself in numerous characters, bad writing, weird plotting, and stock in unchanging characters (including, also, an unlikable heroine with Claire). Heroes fell off ratings-wise, however, killed by the writer's strike. Heroes also didn't have built-in merchandising. It was, however, also hailed for its originality. Heroes brought superheroes to network television, Glee brought the musical. Neither were first, exactly, but they were hailed as successes moreso than others, though. It seems odd, because Heroes and Glee are nothing alike in actual context, but I simply see a lot of similar problems. Glee is so in love with itself, so doting on its fanbase, and so inconsistent, doubting that it could ever go wrong. Maybe Glee will improve; I think it has the possibility, but I doubt it will.

I'll just keep on watching Glee until it's too much of a train wreck to stand anymore (give it another season). It's still enjoyable and has its moments, but I'm not recommending it to anyone anytime soon. I learned my lesson about corrupting my poor friends when Heroes was in a downfall. There I thought it would get better and was wrong. Maybe if I expect Glee to keep on descending in quality, it will actually get sharper.

And so ends my mega-long ramble on Glee. g'night folks. I'm off to watch No Ordinary Family! I also hope that is better than Heroes. >.>

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Heart of the Heist

I know this may be silly and I don't really feel like writing up a whole essay on why I feel this way, but of the many talented men of Inception that could possibly be noticed on a supporting actor level, my choice would be Cillian Murphy's Robert Fischer.

Granted, one hardly needs an Oscar nomination or win to be remembered and I won't be surprised in a few months when Inception will fail to put up any nominees in the supporting actor category (as it is, neither Leonardo DiCaprio for lead nor Marion Cotillard for supporting are anywhere near safe bets, but are likelier than anything else). I do believe, however, of all the interesting supporting actors featured within Inception, whenever Cillian Murphy was on screen, that's where my attention went, and it's not just because he's attractive, it's because he played the part so well and it really was a plum part amongst Ocean's Eleven type caricatures (which, though fun and well-performed and well-written, aren't exactly screaming emotional depth).

Whether or not he gets any awards attention, I simply wished to express the beautiful supporting performance Cillian Murphy put on for us all. He is quite a talented actor and I'll certainly be looking into more of his works thanks to a fantastic job in Inception.

And this is not a knock to any of the other supporting gents; you are all great. But, if I had to choose one, there's no real question about it. That scene in the third level of the dream, with his father, was nearly as touching to me as the entirety of Toy Story 3. Some might complain that Inception is heartless, but it's not, and Robert Fischer is that heart. You may say it does not count, because he is dreaming and asleep, but in the immortal words of Albus Dumbledore, "Of course this is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean it's not real?"

I've been quoting Harry Potter a lot lately. So shoot me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why I Watch The Human Target

I think I've discovered what it is that really draws me into The Human Target, and it's not just the really awesome action sequences and the slowly building mythology. I know there was a fair amount of sad faces over Chi McBride being somewhat underused thus far, but his partnership with Mark Valley's Christopher Chance reminds me very strongly of Jet and Spike from Cowboy Bebop, and the whole series at large is very reminiscent of that brilliant anime series (as someone who has never gotten into a single other anime series, I believe it's a sign of the quality of Cowboy Bebop that I love it so much).

Just look at those pictures and try to tell me how different those scenes are.

I don't know how influenced the current incarnation of Human Target is by the 1992 series, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if this relationship in Human Target was influenced by Jet and Spike from Cowboy Bebop rather than anything from there. As for the rest of the Bebop, Guerrero is obviously Ed and his flaky, casual attitude is very reminiscent of Ed's excellent craziness. The host of female figures that wander in and out of Human Target play the role of Faye (although I hear a permanent female lead is coming in next season and maybe we'll get a real Faye going on). But in the end, it all comes back to Chance and Winston.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine a few years ago about the Cowboy Bebop cast. He commented about how he thought Jet was a rather unnecessary character next to Spike, Faye, Ed, and Ein, who all had their own purposes. I defended Jet, because I really like Jet and he is really the unifying link. His partnership and friendship with Spike was what was at the beginning and it was what was at the end.

Jet and Winston have a lot of those stick-in-the-mud sidekick characteristics to Spike and Chance's more reckless attitudes - they both tend to chide the lead character a lot, do a fair amount of yelling and sighing and eye-rolling, and sit to the sidelines a fair amount of the time. On the other hand, of course, it's proven in both Winston and Jet's cases that they are capable of much ass-kicking. Their histories are similar, as they are both former cops, just like Spike and Chance are the same person for their shady histories (Spike being an ex-mobster and Chance being an ex-assassin). Layer on top of that the characters of Baptiste and Vicious and their former-friend/protege-turned-rival relationships with Chance and Spike and it's kind of hard to distinguish the differences between these two series. They also both alternate between mission-of-the-week/bounty-of-the-week and the overall mythology of the series. And, of course, the mysterious dead(?) dame - Victoria is Chance's Julia - a badass woman worth falling for.

Human Target and Cowboy Bebop have their differences too, of course, namely that the bounty hunters of Cowboy Bebop are mildly less successful than Winston, Chance, and Guerrero, but even then, both Spike and Chance are infamous for causing major, expensive damage in the line of duty. Bounty hunting is also much different than the work Chance does, of course, which is essentially the opposite of bounty hunting.

But besides the series' similarities and differences, the central relationship between the reckless lead and his more sobering partner is one of my favorite parts of Human Target which, to be quite honest, makes better use of this relationship than Cowboy Bebop (but then Cowboy Bebop's got Faye, whom I adore to bits and pieces and I love all of her scenes with Spike so freakin' much).

Human Target doesn't attract a huge audience, which isn't surprising but is still a bit of a disappointment. It follows the good television rule of half procedural and half mythology, allowing current fans to be pleased while not shutting out potential fans. I'm really pleased Human Target's got a second season at all, even if it is in the death slot of Friday. I'm really excited to see more of the adventures Chance, Winston, and Guerrero go on and see a hint more of the mythology. Of course, I doubt the show will last much longer, but I can live with that. After all, Cowboy Bebop only has 26 half-hour episodes and it's still brilliant.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Objectification of both genders versus the objectification of just women - more or less progressive?

Is the entertainment industry the only place where it's OK to objectify men and women?

The argument that, if Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large objectify women, this is okay would be that those in the industry put themselves out there for judgment - their entire lives are defined by the opinions of other people. Those opinions may center on their appearance, but actors are also admired for their talent, wit, personality, and poise. Actors (both male and female) are hired for many reasons and attractiveness is amongst these reasons.

This is, of course, something that would not stand in pretty much any other profession. But at the same time, I wonder, is the entertainment industry's objectification of both women AND men something that makes it more or less progressive than other industries?

Men, sit down and shut up because this is for the women. Honestly, when was the last time any man felt like they were being judged by their appearance for a job interview? I don't want to hear men complaining about being objectified or judged by their appearance because, believe me, women have it worse. Luckily, at the tender age of twenty, I haven't experienced a job interview where I've been judged based on my appearance, probably because my jobs have been mostly minimum wage based professions (i.e. cashier, hostess, tour guide). But that doesn't mean I haven't felt the brunt of judgment about my appearance.

Let me break it down for you. I've had big boobs since I was 12 years old and I'm a natural blonde. I'm also 5'3. How many people do you think look at me and take me seriously, especially since I have a goofy, outgoing personality and a liking for feminine clothing? Men, how many of you have felt the judging eyes because you're short or fat? I apologize to anybody who is a minority because I know that race is another huge judgment point for people.

But women have been objectified for ages. What's the image that comes to mind when you think stripper? It's always going to be a girl, a skimpily dressed young woman. Porn stars, sex tapes, anything raunchy, you're probably going to be thinking about girls.

Celebrities and others within the entertainment industry who aren't necessarily defined as celebrities, on the other hand, are judged for their appearance no matter which gender. It's easy to make the argument that judging someone based on their appearance is wrong no matter what and I don't disagree. On the other hand, it's foolish for anyone to go into the entertainment industry thinking that their appearance won't be a part of their image. Whether it's the typical actor, that wants to be recognized for his or her work within their films or television series or other projects, or the more celebrity-based actor whose personal life is the center of attention, it's all about the appearance. In the former case, how well does the appearance of the actor fit the role? That's why actors get a lot of cred when they shake things up majorly for a role, say, gain or lose a lot of weight or drastically change their appearance so as to be unrecognizable. In the latter case, it's still about appearance, but about the actual, natural appearance outside of the movies and videos. Either way, actors are putting out their entire selves to be judged, and that includes their appearance.

So is it really unfair to then go ahead and deem someone attractive or unattractive? More often, people deem those in the entertainment industry attractive. Nobody really writes posts or articles about how unattractive someone is, and I doubt you'll find any genuine, credible source talking about the attractiveness/unattractiveness of celebrities or actors in the first place, save if it's about a role transformation.

I understand the harm of basing opinions of someone solely on their appearance, I really do. Nobody wants to be seen as just a pretty face - actors want to be taken seriously as actors and though appearance is a part of that, it's the praise for the talent that matters more than the praise for the appearance. My counter-argument, however, is that there is a line between playful "s/he's so hot" and derogatory comments like "s/he's just a pretty face." Is it really so wrong to drool over a Google image search of certain actors, so long as they're acknowledged as something more?

Well, I'll bring it back to me because I'm a selfish ho and I know myself pretty well and can't speak for everyone else. I love getting compliments on my appearance. I love getting comments on my talent as a filmmaker/musician/good person more, but I would never begrudge someone for thinking me attractive, so long as they know there's more to me than that.

Back on the sexism track, sometimes it's tough for me to think that people actually do see more to me than blonde hair and a big rack. I don't know, but, men, do you have the same problem? Do you feel as if women look at you and they only see what you look like and could never see you as something more than a man?

Historically speaking, though I know men also face objectification, men have always been more than just their appearance though. Men have always held jobs or positions or some role in the public world. Women, on the other hands, have been defined for centuries based on our womanhood and nothing else, because we didn't work, we didn't hold positions - all we were good for was being a woman (which entails: looking pretty, having kids, being present, etc.).

Do I feel for actors who are judged entirely on their appearance, regardless of their gender? Yes, I do. However, I feel a lot more for the women, to this day, who suffer from their gender in the workplace. Nobody would dare to call a man who worked as an office manager "just a secretary" but they would dare to call my mother that because she's a woman - she, as a woman, is a secretary and any other title is a joke, whereas it would be an insult for a man to ignore his actual title. God, what is this, Mad Men?

It may not be entirely right to judge actors based on their appearances, but it is part of their job. It is in no way, shape, or form part of an office worker's job to be judged on their appearance (well, maybe outside of their outfit; I'd judge a dude who wore a scuba suit to work, because that's just inappropriate - there is a certain dress code to working in the professional world). And though this may sound cruel, at least the entertainment industry is a bit more fair, ogling both men and women as attractive. Women definitely have a tougher time and are more scrutinized, but at least it's a bit more fair than the rest of the world.

Just keep on the right side of the line and don't cross over to pure appearance judgment and I don't see what's so wrong about appreciating beauty. It's not everything, it shouldn't be everything, but an appreciation is acceptable. I appreciate Alexander Skarsgard, for instance, both as a very attractive man and as a fantastic actor in his current role as Eric Northman in True Blood. He embodies the wit, slyness, and power of Eric very well. But, at the same time, I very much like the way he looks. Am I wrong?

I'm sure some might think so, but whatever.

(Inspired in part by a conversation had with a chap in the comments section of this post.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pop Culture Dreams: Installment I

Okay, so, being so immersed and interested in the entertainment world and pop culture, sometimes this seeps into my subconscious, as proven by a variety of dreams, including one I tweeted about back in June:

Last night I dreamed I was smoking pot with my BFF and Naveen Andrews' Sayid. Too much Lost? No. I'm more curious where I got the weed from.
1:52 PM Jun 15th via web

Also, not very long ago, I dreamed that I was actually in the top 10 or whatever of next season, season 8, of So You Think You Can Dance, despite the fact that I really can't dance very well and I haven't taken a dance class since I was eight-years-old. Regardless, I made it to like the top 8 or maybe it was even the top 6, but then, of course, I was knocked off because, well, probs because I can't dance. Everyone was sweet to me. It was great.

So, I thought, after these dreams (plus a few others) I should really start a segment on this blog about some of these pop culture dreams because I think it's hilarious.


Last night, I had a sort of extension of my earlier SYTYCD dream, only this time it appears I was in season 7 because Robert Roldan and I were, like, kinda tight. And by kinda tight, I mean my RL crush on his gorgeousness and talents translated into my dream, except I could be tots obvious about it in my dream because he was right there in my house. We were chatting and he was sad I had left the competition, but I was happy for him for making it so far and was gushing over him essentially, telling him how he was talented and also very pretty. He was all blushy about it and gave me a hug, and while I wanted it to be a hug that was like "okay, so, talking time over, making out time, yes?" it was a friendly hug and I was like "OH SHIT. Is he gay? Or into someone else?" But before I could really obsess over it, he was asking me to dance, so we went into my living room and somebody else was there (I think it was Ashley Galvan) and I danced around rather shittily, in my opinion, but they seemed to like it. My dad was walking around and kind of stared at me as he passed by, but Robert was like shooing him or whatever. That's where it ends.

Also, there was another part to this dream that I think came earlier where we were all dancing for the show and I was a choreographer and I had choreographed Lauren's amazing Argentine Tango she did with Pasha last week and we were kind of doing a "best of." Except - the stage we were performing on was my high school's stage. AND THEN Lauren and Pasha did this other routine that looked nothing at all like the tango "I" had choreographed for them. I was sooo furious and then the stage manager or whoever told me that that routine had never been on the list and it was another routine entirely even though they were wearing the same costumes... and it was somewhere around there that my dream ended, though you know dreams, they're very fluid, and there was a lot of other routines going on.

There you have it! Sarah's pop culture dreams, now shared for the whole world to see and know and love and appreciate and analyze and freak out over. Or, y'know, the handful of people who actually read this.

...Robert Roldan, if you're reading this (which you probably aren't), I adore you; go win SYTYCD, plz and ty. And I'm sorry if I've freaked you out. Blame my subconscious. And the fact that you're pretty and talented.

(For those of you who are not Robert/don't watch SYTYCD, here are some links so you too can appreciate where my subconscious is coming from: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Friday, August 6, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance? (I know I can't.)

This summer was dedicated to Lost early on, but I have strayed toward So You Think You Can Dance since then. My interest and dedication to SYTYCD has gone so far as to make a chart of the genres each contestant has performed in and how many times. Now, as the finale is only six days away, anyone who has talked to me knows my preference lies with either Robert or Lauren. I like Kent, don't get me wrong, but he is not my favorite contestant now or ever, even though he has had some really good routines. But you know who else had good routines? Billy and Alex and Ashley and Cristina and AdeChike and they're all kaput (I personally loved both of Cristina's routines before she was cut; she really should've made it a week longer than Melinda).

My main problem with Kent is that, though he has certainly grown as a dancer and as a person, the growth is much more apparent in his competitors at this stage. I've always liked Robert and his goofiness never bothered me, but his goofiness has become less of his personality and more of an occasional quirk as time has gone on. He has proven himself a serious, beautiful, and talented dancer. If AdeChike had learned how to let himself go more, he could've been the strongest looking partner on the show, but since he didn't, that honour goes to Robert, in my opinion (also, if Alex had lasted longer he might've taken that crown). Lauren has always been freakin' talented. We didn't get to see too much of Ashley to know how talented she was, but the other three girls were no rival for Lauren's skill (even though I will consistently remind the world that Cristina surprised me hugely in her two weeks on the show, but alas, we only got two weeks of her). But Lauren seriously has tackled so many genres and conquered them. She never looks uncomfortable or awkward and she's gotten really good at getting into character. Not to mention that the package when the other top six described each other and Lauren was pegged as the weirdo she became my hero. Also, the zillion and a half activities she does? I don't care that she's two years younger than me; I want to be Lauren when I grow up.

Comparing the remaining dancers, I can go on and on about how Robert's disco was better than Kent's and how Robert's hip hop was better than Kent's or how more physically stronger Robert comes across in all his ballrooms where Kent still looks like a kid, but I think that it's fruitless at this point to really hope for a Robert victory (as much as I want it). Robert's had a journey making it out of the bottom 3 the times he has (WHY? WHY did it take so long for the audience to wise up to the fact that AdeChike, despite all his strength and talent, just couldn't bring the it factor to most of his routines save three - contemporary with Kent, hip hop with Lauren, and lyrical hip hop with Comfort). I am so freakin proud of Robert for making it this far because he has been surprising me since the first week and winning my love over the course of the show.

But even Kent's greatest routines leave me unwilling to vote for him. Maybe it speaks to personal preference, but I'll take Robert's goofiness over Kent's rambling messes of speech anyday. I just don't get Kent, I guess. Talented, yes. Appealing to younger audiences, yes. But he is not the strongest contender on the show, he has not been the most attractive on the show, he has had some really stellar routines, but he makes the same consistent mistake week after week (as Mia will happily point out, the pulling of the faces) and that still didn't lose him any steam, although apparently it did for AdeChike eventually (his lack of connection and looseness in many of his routines).

It's kind of disappointing that the dancers who've grown the most have been the ones who've been in the bottom more. Lauren overcame her "girlishness," Robert overcame his goofiness, and Billy overcame his own problems with partnering as shown in his freakin' gorgeous contemporary with Ade last week. But Billy's gone and Robert was at risk of departing the competition several times and even Lauren's been in the bottom. But it took three weeks to give Melinda the boot when she wasn't growing, it took way too long to give Jose the boot after he'd stopped growing, and if Kent's got more growth to show, he is taking his sweet-ass time.

For this reason, I'm really glad Kent got disco. I'm glad Jose got that Broadway. Because choreographers can hide a contestants weaknesses all they like and get praise (a la Jose's pretty Sonya contemporary routine with Allison, which was pretty but really didn't need much skill from Jose), but it's important that a dancer's weaknesses are shown too. If the audience ignores them, whatever, but it's important to see them nonetheless. Through this we can understand what the problem with the dancer is. The problem with Jose, for instance, was that he was all personality and very unrefined talent. The problem with Kent is that as adorable as he comes across, there is a lack of strength there too. The problem with Melinda was that, even with a partner as talented and gorgeous as Pasha, she still didn't even bother to connect with him either time she danced with him, though it was very clear HE was trying.

I am happy with the finale three we've got, though, because as much as I complain about Kent, it's not because I don't think he's talented. I just think he would've deserved his potential win if he'd have auditioned in a couple seasons, when he he could actually exude more maturity, especially outside of the dance. Because when he dances, it is possible to forget the "farmboy" he is (well, in his best routines, like his contemporary with Lauren, or with AdeChike, or with Neil). But once the dance is over, I remember why I am not a Kent fan.

If only Alex Freaking Wong were still around! If it was Alex, Robert, and Lauren in the top three my dreams would've come true. But next season! Next season, dearest Alex will be back and the judges better get Anthony Burrell into the top 10/20 next season. I was annoyed enough when he didn't make it this season. :(

PS: I saw Despicable Me. It was pretty darn cute.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Twitter Trend I Can Get Behind.

Inception, Inception, Inception. It's the talk of the town, isn't it? I know I, for one, have been fangirling all over that thing for months. But, to be quite honest, I've quieted down a lot about it in recent weeks as it really approached. I've been excited for it, yes, but I was avoiding learning too much, theorizing too much, because I really like the experience of seeing a movie without truly knowing what you are going to get out of it. I had seen the basic trailers, but I avoided the spoilers, the plot details, pretty much all of it beyond the very basics everyone knew.

It paid off for me. I didn't even see the movie on opening day; I'd been thinking about a midnight screening, but had made plans to see it today and thought I might as well wait a couple extra days. I took my time, heard bits and pieces of the critiques, and just went into the movie without knowing precisely what I was getting.

I personally quite loved Inception. It was smart without being pretentious or much over my head, its cast was amazing, its technical side was stunning (that score! that cinematography! that EDITING!), and it was just an engrossing tale. Of course I applaud Christopher Nolan for his originality, but also for his dedication and his skill in bringing this fascinating tale to life. I thought the pace was tremendous as well, and like my favorite "long" movies, it didn't feel long in the least. I was thrilled to see more and more and more.

If I am to make a small comparison to The Dark Knight, however, I would say that the pace is better in Inception. I know there is some criticism about the ever-high tension of The Dark Knight, which I personally loved, and is still very much apparent in Inception. However, as Inception works in the layers that it does of the dream world, rather than through a straight time-line of different conflicts in The Dark Knight, the ever-heightened tension works better for Inception. That is really the only comparison I want to make between the two, because their handling is not so different despite their much different stories and tones in regards to the pacing of the films.

I want to watch Inception again, of course, before I really decide how much I liked it. I do know that I want the Academy to recognize it because it is brilliant and it is well-crafted and it is original. I know that many will argue that Christopher Nolan deserves his due because of the snub for The Dark Knight, but that's not why I want him to get recognized. I want him to get recognized because he has done consistently great work and this may not be his most critically-acclaimed film, but it is clearly one he poured himself into and is so very much his.

No matter if the Academy ends up acknowledging Nolan despite their snub of The Dark Knight and his work on it, they still snubbed a great modern film two years ago. Call me a fangirl all you want, but The Dark Knight is a freakin' fantastic movie and of all the Academy snubs in recent years, that is one of the most egregious, in my opinion.

But back to Inception. I really don't have a whole lot to say about it because though certain things stand out, every moment was as well-crafted as the last and the next. I did not see and points that made it weak. In its own concept, in its own world, it was done just right. Are there better movies, better tales both original and adapted? Sure, probably. But that does not take away from Inception's perfection in and of itself. I, personally, wouldn't change a thing about it. I wouldn't dare touch it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Thoughts on Eclipse. Let Me Give Them To You.

I have to give credit where credit is due. I may not have wanted to face it, but I admit that The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is probably the most tolerable Twilight movie. There were fewer moments than the earlier installments where I just wanted to scream it was so bad, but there are several reasons for that and there is one in particular, near the end, that stands out.

As much as I can't stand Bella as a character, she does give an interesting speech that I think relates to a lot of fantasy stories, the central idea being that, only in said fantasy world does she really belong. Now, I don't know if that stems from the actual book or if it's a movie only thing because I've never read the book, but it was interesting. I'm not sure if I like it, though, because it is a question that I feel is important to consider in any fantasy landscape.

The Hero's Journey, as written about in a book I recently read on screenwriting entitled The Writer's Journey (by Christopher Vogler), has a step near the end called "The Road Back." Such a grand example could easily be found, say, in The Lord of the Rings where it is a literal road back to the shire. The literal road back leads our four dear hobbits back to their homeland. Whether the book version or the movie version (because The Scouring of the Shire chapter is not in the movie), the shire is (or is eventually) a proper home for three of the four again. Sam, Merry, and Pippin, despite their wild adventures, can find home in this place. Frodo, on the other hand, does not belong in this world anymore. Bilbo, also, in The Hobbit can be said to have gone on the road back to the shire and he lives comfortably there for a long time after his adventures outside of his home.

One reason I think it is very easy for Bella to not go on the road back is because she doesn't really go on a road to the vampire world. To be quite fair, I read an article recently comparing the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises and stating that one obvious advantage Harry Potter has over Twilight is the fantasy world. Comparisons aside, there really isn't a lot of definition over the vampire world. Vampires are described, sure, but there isn't a lot of fantasy involved and Bella isn't really transported into a whole new environment, unlike in Harry Potter where Harry is constantly learning the crazy differences between the muggle and wizarding worlds. But, like I said, this is comparison aside. The world of Twilight is very normal and, honestly, not very interesting. I like my mortality most of the time, however, and unlike Bella, I feel as if I can achieve things in a mortal life, as if I do belong here, even when it's uncomfortable, awkward, or stunted, which it often it.

Even on The Road Back, however, there really is no going back, especially because The Road Back is not the last stop. There is still "Resurrection" and "Return with the Elixir." To be quite honest, Twilight follows this Hero's Journey outline well in the end. Bella clearly goes under a resurrection when she is transformed and boy oh boy, does superstar model and wicked talented vampire!Bella have an elixir. The road back isn't about returning to an old life as much as it is returning to an old home as a new person. There is no spontaneous "Happily Ever After" and then fade to black, because we are always growing beyond the end, which is clear in the last sections of the journey. I think the problem here with Twilight is that it assumes a happily ever after and there is an eternity where neither Bella nor Edward nor the other Cullens will ever grow. It is as Rosalie says in Eclipse, how they are frozen in time.

So while it is easy to say other literary characters such as Bilbo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to their old lives, it is also wrong. They all return to their old homes as completely changed persons/hobbits, leading their old lives into new realms. That is their resurrection (well, if we're ignoring The Scouring of the Shire, which could be cited as the real zone off a resurrection) - upon their return, they resurrect their old lives with new spirits and lessons.

Even in Harry Potter, as much as we may criticize the Epilogue of Deathly Hallows, it does prove interesting to observe what happens after the final battle, what happens after Harry goes back. Not to his old life as a wizard stuck in the muggle world, no, but back to being a generally normal kind of life, but after some very abnormal experiences. We see Harry as a new person, as a father and husband and man changed by his adolescent ordeals. It is important to understand this, even if its execution leaves something to be desired (I mean, Albus Severus? Really? Poor kid, poor poor kid...), because we see Harry resurrected into his future self. This is kind of a double resurrection though, as only a chapter earlier did Harry undergo a semi-literal resurrection after Voldemort supposedly kills him but he doesn't actually die and has that beautiful conversation with Dumbledore in "King's Cross." Oh how I love that chapter. But that resurrection is a figurative one as he comes back not so different than he was beforehand - he still has a battle to fight and he has not really gone on the road back yet; he hasn't finished his job just yet, but he's nearly there.

I think the reason Breaking Dawn split fans was that it presented a shitty conclusion to a mildly interesting premise. Bella gets to live in both the ordinary and fantasy world in the end, which is not right and downright selfish of Stephanie Meyer to grant her protagonist that. She gets to have a child, something to propel her forward, as well as remain in the fantasy world forever. It's gross and one of the many reasons I absolutely hate the introduction of "teethbaby" (aka Reneesme or however it's spelled). The debate between Team Jacob and Team Edward, the debate between life as it should be and life as it is (as Bella phrases it in the movie), is destroyed in the final chapter as totally irrelevant, which is appalling to me.

But Eclipse gets credit as probably the most interesting installment in the franchise. Bella and Edward, though still Mary Sues and lacking personality to the point of painfulness, have grown as a couple and are not totally disgusting when they're together (as a perpetually single girl surrounded by her perpetually dating friends, I know the difference between a sickening couple and a couple who has grown into their affection for each other, which sometimes takes a really long time and sometimes no time at all, but my personal life aside...). While the action is still horrible, the dialogue cheesy, and most of the characters pointless or annoying, there is something appealing in the actual story of Eclipse. I don't like what Bella chooses, and I hate how it turns out thanks to that atrocious author, but I relish the decision that has to be made and the options and the weight of it all. I can respect Bella's choice for one reason: namely the way she phrases it as how life "IS" rather than how life "SHOULD BE." That is such a mature and great phrasing that I can forgive her other nonsense about not fitting into a normal world, which, though understandable, just makes me dislike her more and more because it never feels like she deserves that special world. She never earns her keep, to me, which makes her such a dull character. But that aside, I have to give it to the three leads, their acting was totally watchable and occasionally, OCCASIONALLY, engrossing. Mostly, though, I live for Charlie, because he gets the only good dialogue in any of the movies.

I still can't stand Twilight for the many reasons I have brought up in the past and will bring up in the future, but I respect the movies more than the books. It helps that it would be even stupider to describe on film CONSTANTLY Edward's beauty and perfection. Actually, it's quite tamped down in this installment, which I liked a lot. On some occasions, I could almost even spot a personality. Granted, when he said things like how he'd let Bella go if he chose Jacob, I also felt like he was thinking to himself "...and then I'd kill myself." But I might blame that on the Eclipse 8-bit game of AWESOME where I know there's at least one scenario where Edward dies of a broken heart. Regardless, I feel as if some of the major flaws in the books are fixed in the movies. But the story is still rather crappy, so there's really no fixing that, no matter how many unintentionally interesting premises come into play.

For instance, I wonder to myself if Stephanie Meyer actually caught that Jasper had filled the same shoes as Riley once. I know the film noticed it, but it wasn't particularly direct, though clear to any intelligent moviegoer (which, I think it is safe to say, many Eclipse viewers cannot claim upon their viewing of the film. NOT THAT THEY ARE STUPID PEOPLE, but fangirls will be fangirls and when you are drooling over your fave hunks, you are not paying attention to plot details). I have no faith in Stephanie Meyer's writing abilities though, to be quite honest, and I feel that it may have been an unintentional thing. She MAY have realized it later, but I'll be a wee bit surprised if she had intended such a connection.

All in all, I can say that there were parts of Eclipse I genuinely liked (more than Twilight, where the only elements I liked for real were the vampire baseball and the soundtrack/score... and New Moon, where the only elements I liked were nothing). It was still bad overall, but I can understand the appeal more than ever. But then, that's me. Sexy vampire romance? Eh, not my thing exactly. Topics that raise a question that every fantasy story tackles in one way or another? I'm totally sold. That's what Eclipse has going for it, in my opinion, and that is where Eclipse surpasses the previous two films (not that it's too hard to do that).

I could go on for ages about the "ordinary world" and the "special/fantasy world" and the Hero's Journey and fantasy stories at large, but I'll hold onto that for another time because this post is long enough.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Yet Another Reason I Hate Twilight... and some gender ranting

'scuse me that I'm bringing this up, but there's something interesting that was touched on in this article over on Entertainment Weekly that I addressed in the comments but felt was really worth sharing.

The quote that bothered me most?

“A grand paradox in all this is that a great many professed Twilight haters are young men who, though they may not acknowledge it, are threatened by this pop-cultural juggernaut.”

My response?

"To be quite fair, I am the exact demographic, a young woman, that Twilight is aimed at and I know plenty of young women just like me who are professed Twilight-haters. Sure, I believe that there are plenty of young men who hate Twilight, I know quite a few myself, but for young women like me, it’s hard not to be insulted by the creation of these books and their aim at people like me. The belief that I am a sucker for anything dazzling romantic just because I’m a young woman? Insulting. I mean, I can stomach some rom coms every now and then and sometimes I even actively seek them out, but story still matters, even then. Just like how I can’t stand a shrill heroine (a la Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up – TBH that girl has every right to trash that role), I can’t stand a, not only passive, but downright inconsiderate and selfish heroine like Bella. Why would I ever want to watch or read about a girl who is supposed to be like me, but doesn’t appreciate anything in her life despite parents and friends who care about her? I would never want to be like Bella, and I think it is incredibly insulting that people think I should want to be like her just because I am a young woman."

All in all, women have more of a reason to be Twilight haters than men.

Men have plenty of their own say in pop culture - people make the argument that it's all them for the superhero movies, for things like Transformers and James Bond flicks or things like Star Wars or Star Trek. To be quite honest, that's a stupid, sexist stereotype as I am hardly a tomboy (love me some stilettos and skirts) but I have seen at least one movie in each of the aforementioned franchises and enjoyed them immensely. My favorite effing movie is probably Star Wars. But regardless, if the argument is that men are jealous of Twilight hogging some spotlight in pop culture, I think it is an immensely weak argument. If men were supposed to be the sexist stereotypes people write them out to be, they'd probably be thrilled that women were drawn into something so bad rather than going to the movies for incredibly intelligent fare which would show them as a true threat.

Of course, this is all complete bullshit. Sure, there are sexist stereotyped men out there, but it's unfair to say the whole gender is that way, just as it is equally unfair to say that women love Twilight.

It is because of this second assumption - that young women should be very interested in the Twilight franchise according to market research or whatever - that is the reason I think many a woman hates Twilight. We are insulted by these assumptions about ourselves and what kinds of stories we like. I think men should be just as insulted when things like "men have to love Transformers 2 even if it sucks, but because things blow up" pop into the conversation.

All in all, trying to figure out the success or failure of a franchise still, unfortunately, comes down to this sexist crap. Women movie-goers fit into one category, men movie-goers into another. When an audience is over 70% one gender, CLEARLY the movie is made for that gender. But 30% of the other gender is nothing to sniff at. And it's rare that you hear such a huge percentage for one gender. Most of the time, I see the range is usually smaller, the difference usually less than 30%. It's sometimes a big gap, but I doubt there's a single movie that has never drawn both genders for whatever reason.

Women and men both like crappy movies. Women and men both like good movies. Women and men hate the same movies. Women and men hate different movies. For every girl who says a war movie is too bloody for her, you get a girl like me who adores a good war movie, no matter how bloody it is. For every guy who complains about chick flicks, you get a guy who can actually enjoy a clever enough chick flick.

I know marketers have a job to do when they're selling a movie, and they're trying to find the right demographic. I understand that, but stop boxing us up too. Just because Twilight draws a female-heavy box office doesn't make "women between the ages of 18-34 love Twilight" accurate because I am in that demographic and I can't stand that crap. You're just making me hate it more by assuming I like it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Girl Who Owned a City

Call me obsessed with revisiting my childhood and I probably wouldn't call you wrong. I mean, I just saw Toy Story 3 for the second time yesterday, I just finished the final installment in the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series that I first picked up in my early teens by the suggestion of a friend, and I just reread The Girl Who Owned a City for the first time in nearly ten years.

When I first read The Girl Who Owned a City, I was 11 years old and in sixth grade. We read it for class, although I don't remember the why. I loved the book but it terrified me as well. I mean, I was eleven and the book depicts the story of an adult-less world where the oldest people still alive are twelve. I would've been the older generation. Not to mention that as much as my parents sometimes frustrated me, I didn't want them to die. I remember, after finishing the book, going up to my mother, crying and hugging her and telling her that I didn't want a plague to kill her.

Well, luckily it hasn't and now being well over the age of twelve, if the plague came true, I'd be dead. I expected this to be a reassuring thought, but honestly, the book still struck me just as much as it did when I was eleven. I won't be crying and hugging my mother not to die, but... wow, what a depressing book.

There were two major thoughts that ran through my head after I finished it. Firstly, where was the sequel??? I mean, what a cliffhanger! Lisa is returned to power in her city of Glenbard, but only after provoking a far-away army who is off to join the King of Chicago and his army of roughly 5,000. Even Lisa acknowledges that the army of Chicago was bound to come after them sooner or later at the end of the book. I'm just left there wondering what the hell happens next in this post-apocalyptic world.

The second, of course, was how much I want this book to be a movie. It would be such a glorious failure. The problem, of course, is that it is such a dark book, really. Dead bodies are never explicitly stated to be anywhere, but their presence is implied. Not to mention small children learning how to fire weapons and make molotov cocktails. Tom Logan gets oil burned down his face, Lisa gets shot, and Jill has to remove the freakin' bullet. The Girl Who Owned a City is an R-rated movie, but all of its characters are children. The thing is, not a one of them is innocent.

Which is simply twisted and hard to forgive. I love the story and, though it isn't the best-written thing in the universe, I think it is fascinating and I want to read it again and again. Not everyone, however, can appreciate children being violent and doing adult things. Just take a peek at the uproar over Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass and multiply that times a thousand because The Girl Who Owned a City is full of hundreds of Hit-Girls, all trained to kill and torture. I mean, they literally mention torture in the book! Children torturing each other for information!

The Girl Who Owned a City reminds me of The Road, unsurprisingly. I mean, they're both these post-apocalyptic stories of the fight between "good" and "evil" but the lines are really blurred. The only thing that truly separates The Man and his son from the rest of the survivors is their refusal to turn into cannibals. Aside from that, they are equally violent when need be. All the children in The Girl Who Owned a City have to turn violent, whether it is for attack or defense. And though The Girl Who Owned a City gives a supposedly brighter future, the last page is so depressing that I can't help but wonder how long the city of Glenbard can last before the world turns into a world not unlike The Road where civilization is too far gone for anyone to even dream of rebuilding it the way Lisa does and instead all they can do is what the gangs do - steal and kill to survive. Both tales are incredibly depressing and though The Road is much more wonderfully written and definitely more depressing and incredibly inappropriate for children, The Girl Who Owned a City also tells a compelling take and is still quite depressing and is a bit inappropriate for children. Granted, I heartily appreciate having read it when I was young enough to fit myself into the story.

I don't normally dedicate this blog to books because, not going to lie, I do not do a lot of book-reading anymore. I was a much more avid reader when I was younger (although, to be fair, I did just read three books in less than twenty-four hours). But, my goodness, do not make the mistake of thinking that I don't love them. The Girl Who Owned a City does not need to be a movie, of course. My only inclination to bring it in that direction is to make up for some of the weak writing in the book. And I love the book so much, I would just want to work on a project with it, whether it be a sequel or a movie, because I simply want to continue to live within that sad, awesome world.

Again, that brings me back to my earlier point, about how a movie version would be a total failure. I cannot see an audience who would want to watch children suffer and toil in a world with no help and little hope. They would call it insensitive and cruel and depressing. But this is one of those moments when I really feel like a filmmaker, like an artist rather than an entertainer. I don't care about the audience, to be frank. I'd want to make this movie because it is a beautiful story, whatever you say, and it deserves to be told over and over again.

Lisa, for all her bossiness, never would have made me think of myself when I was younger. I was whiny and did not want to live in her world - most of the time. Maybe it was after reading the book, maybe it was before, but I tried to imagine a harder world where I would have to fight to survive. What if my parents died? What if we had a fire and lost everything in our house? What if I lost my voice or my hearing or my sight? All these "what if"s and more plagued me and I would make secret loots in case of anything. A "just in case" bag filled with things if I needed to run away. Hotel shampoo bottles that had been cleaned out and filled with water hidden around the house "just in case." And Lisa's attitude, her beautiful, brilliant attitude, that if she can toughen up then everyone can toughen up, reminds me so painfully of myself that it hurts. It is not an uncommon flaw, but it is a harsh one, to forget that it is hard work to grow and some people just have not gone through it. It is also not uncommon and just as harsh to forget that no matter how much we've grown, there is so much more growing to do. Both of Lisa's major flaws are ones I see in myself which, though I am nearly twice her age, make me feel like a child again.

Sure, I may be revisiting my childhood, but what is so wrong there? There are so many beautiful lessons and important messages to be found and reminded of. Only just a few days ago was I listening to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on audiobook, listening to the chapter, "The Mirror of Erised" and Dumbledore's conversation with Harry toward the end of the book when I remembered why I fell in love with Harry Potter all those years ago. It was for the wonderful things J.K. Rowling had to share about life and death and friendship and courage and fear and so on and so forth. I am so excited for my Introduction to Children and Young Adult Literature class this coming fall where I will get to read literature supposedly for children and young adults, but really for all of us.

After all, many animated movies aren't just for children either, even if they can be - thank you Pixar and DreamWorks.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ego: Anton Ego and yours.

When I think about which Pixar movie is my favourite - and believe me, as a clear lover of everything Pixar, I think about this often enough - Ratatouille usually isn't at the top of my list (though it is never at the bottom). But that isn't because I don't love it - I truly do. Ratatouille was a grand experience - my first real foray into appreciating animated "kids" movies as, well, not an adult, but a seventeen-year-old, who might normally think they're too good for an animated movie and fully capable of seeing every movie at that age (three years later, I still get thrown off when I get carded 'cause I'm just so used to seeing everything regardless of rating, something my thirteen-year-old self would be jealous of). I'd seen most of the other Pixar movies, I'd lived through the Disney renaissance, but not like this.

The main thing I take away from Ratatouille is not the beautiful main message of the film, the one whose slogan rings throughout - "anyone can cook" - and translates into a tale of rising above one's circumstances based on talent and drive. The most beautiful and meaningful message any film has given me is also the most grounding of them - Anton Ego's stunning review of his meal at Remy's hands.

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, hungry for more."

One reason I admire film critics and all people who love film is how they love finding something new to share with everyone else. It's such a pleasure to ask a friend, "have you seen ___?" and to hear them reply in the negative. Then, you are granted the opportunity to open their eyes to that world.

But it is that same admirable quality that I also can't stand in film critics, people who love films, and oftentimes even in myself. Because, as much as I love film myself, most people do not care nearly as much as people like me and people who dedicate themselves to a life of loving, understanding, and analyzing film.

We all have different opinions. Like everyone else, I fall prey to being upset when someone disagrees with something I feel so strongly about - people who refuse to see Star Wars or people who avoid animated movies because they're "for kids" or people who are too stuck up to appreciate the badassery of Death Race or people who are too bored with film to listen to my recommendations. But all of those people exist and I'd be a fool to hate all of them for those reasons. I love film, but people who only like it or don't like it at all are not any worse or better than me by that mere characteristic.

Ego's speech from Ratatouille, particularly the first few sentences, often give me the swift kick in the rear I think everyone involved in film (other fields too, I'm sure, but the entertainment and art fields in particular fall prey to this most, I feel) really needs. We all need a reminder that our opinions, what we say and what we write and all the time and energy we dedicate to our field isn't the be all and end all. So many people simply do not care about what we have to say or what we do. Saying that one movie sucks or one movie is awesome doesn't really matter at all, because we're all going to make up our own minds, and so many people won't even bother to do as much as they simply don't care enough to see the movie. You might praise some obscure title non-stop, but that won't it an instant classic. You might get a few more viewers, but there's no guarantee, no matter how influential your position is. Even Oprah doesn't reach everyone.

Our dedication and love for our craft matters to us, but not to everyone, so we shouldn't get frustrated or try to change the world to fit our style. I would never discourage anyone from doing what they love - considering my life as a film student, this is not news - but I would recommend not obsessing over it to the point where you simply cannot accept a contrary point of view.

Now, where does this all come from? Of course, it comes from a combination of Ego's speech always being with me and from the few negative reviews Toy Story 3, which I previously reported brought me to crazy-ass tears. There are two ways I can spin this little speech of my own. Firstly, I can say that it is totally the opinion of the reviewers to say what they will. As much as I may be prejudiced against and frustrated by the reviews, they're just opinions and they don't change how the movie made me feel.

The other thing to take away, though, is where the reviews are coming from. I won't dare to presume that these couple reviews come from anyplace unnatural or forced, but I know there are critics in the world who do enjoy being mean or contrary for the sake of their own enjoyment and to be different in some way or another. Or they choose to only look at a movie or other work of entertainment/art from a certain perspective so as to find the negative angles. To those critics, I say shame on you. Let your opinions come from your heart as well as your head. We can praise the technical achievements or complain about ordinary dialogue, but what really matters is what the film does for you, personally, and that's all we can take away. Each review is individual to the person who writes it and we might agree or we might not. We all appreciate different works for different reasons, and that's fine by me. I mean, my love for Toy Story 3 comes from somewhere deep in my heart, though I'd also defend most other aspects of the film. Other films, though intelligent and well-made and good in so many respects, may still leave me wanting more or totally emotionless.

I want to be involved in a movie I watch, not detached and watching it for the sake of observing it. As a film student, I do plenty of observing and, though it's useful, it's also work. Some films take work and it pays off, but others don't give me anything. And I like films that can absorb me and fill me up - there are good films that give and good films that take.

Anyway, I'm rambling. My point, simply enough, is that first and foremost, no man is an island and no one should ever assume that what they love would capture anyone else in the same way. As a film major with so few film major friends, I am reminded again and again that my friends really don't want to talk about movies 24/7, although I most certainly could. We lovers of cinema shouldn't be so full of ourselves... and believe me, plenty of us are that full of ourselves.

Second and final point: Within that larger scope of life on Earth in general, there is the smaller scope of the film world. Within it, none of us are the same. There are those who make film for entertainment and those who make it for art. There is plenty of success and plenty of failure in both categories. Let's not be snooty or untrue to our own tastes. I won't pretend I like something because other people do, but I also won't trash on something other people like just to be different. I wish more people lived by that.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Toy Story 3

This is a comment I posted on on this newspost.

"I need to see this again. I was too emotionally crazed to really be able to tolerate anyone saying it was less than perfection. But I was in tears from the beginning, when we saw how many toys had disappeared over the years (not unlike my own storage units in the family garage, which are missing most of my old childhood toys), and barely held it together in the end when Andy played with his toys one last time with Bonnie. I was afraid I was going to audibly sob I couldn't stop crying.

Toy Story 3 may not be the best storytelling of some of the other films, but it is also clearly an installment in a franchise, which makes it different from most of the films. It is, indeed, its most emotional though. I have never been more touched by a movie in my life, but that's something my generation, who were kids when Toy Story first came out, and Toy Story 2, and now are coming back for thirds having been in Andy's exact place, is bound to experience. But I think it's something all adults can relate to and all kids will dread relating to (if I were young enough to still have toys in my room, you know I'd have gone home to instantly play with them for hours). Watching Woody, Buzz, and the gang go through all their trials is like watching what happens to your childhood, hoping that it doesn't get destroyed, but knowing it will never be the same as it was before, which is just as heart-breaking.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to rationally discuss Toy Story 3 because it just touched a place in me I'd forgotten I had. The first two feel so quaint and sweet these days, but this movie just feels too real, almost too personal, though I was never as cool a kid as Andy was, and I didn't love my toys quite the same way he did. But I think that just proves all the more what a fantastic movie it is, that it strikes a cord so strong that everything else beyond the tears and laughter is creates, doesn't really matter. It reminds me of Ego's review in Ratatouille, like all brilliant things do, and how technicalities and hard-hearts and reality aside, beauty is beauty and there are some things that are simply beyond proper criticism."

It'll be a long time before I can sum up my feelings on Toy Story 3 (I only left the theater about two hours ago), but I think the first reaction matters almost as much as the last. And, boy oh boy, have I got a first reaction. I know it's still soon after, but this was just one of those movie-going experiences where I feel like I'm a different person on the other side and I have no idea how I've changed, but I just feel it, but it could also be the emotional overload from the past few hours... it's too confusing.

But I do know that I dug my stuffed animals out of a trash bag in my brother's room, gave them a talking to about how much I love them, and set several of them around my room, including my poor, mistreated American Girl dolls.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Cultural Importance of Harry Potter and the Lack Thereof of the Twilight Saga.

I've never been a Twilight fan and I doubt I ever will be. This is unlike my initial distaste for Harry Potter when it first exploded onto the scene, because I've actually read parts of Twilight, I've seen the movies, and I still can't stand it. After I watched the second Harry Potter movie, I actually quite liked it and decided to give the books a shot and fell in love.

But the main thing that bothers me about Twilight is the fan culture, and I'm not talking about the rabid Taylor Lautner/RPattz fans. I'm talking about some of the major differences between the tiny generational divide of my age group, which grew up with Harry Potter, and the tween/teens now, who are growing up with Twilight.

The Harry Potter craze brought us fans who invented a musical genre, who helped kick off a renewed interest in reading and writing, and brought the famed sport of the books to life. Whereas the Twilight fans seem only capable of adorning their rooms with as much memorabilia as they can hunt down. Thanks to Harry Potter, I decided that I had wanted to be a writer, I actually ran a freakin' Harry Potter website for eight months (while having been a member of said site for nearly four years now), I downloaded albums of wizardrock (The Remus Lupins! Draco and the Malfoys!), and I have the guidebook to Quidditch because my school added a Quidditch team and I hope to bother to join soon enough.

It doesn't matter that, in my opinion, the Harry Potter books are much more well-written than the Twilight books (not sure I'd call them masterpieces, but they introduce interesting themes, well-rounded characters, and tell a classic, fascinating story) - what really matters to me in the debate of Twilight versus Harry Potter is the fandom. The question: What do these books contribute to the world?

Honestly, what can we say Twilight has contributed to the world? Heightened expectations in women of their perfect men that create FML stories like this one. Not to mention what a creepy-ass "guy" Edward Cullen is and how it's disappointing to see women of all ages wishing they had a man like him. Twilight has also spawned totally crazed fans that frighten me to death far more than the most rabid Harry Potter fan.

Sure, it's easy to say this now, three years after the final Harry Potter book was released and now that the storm has calmed, but even in my tween years, when I was one of those crazy Harry Potter fans, I was not adopting Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, or Tom Felton as my future lovers. Nor was I wishing that I could meet a man like Harry Potter. Why was that? Oh, because Harry isn't perfect - he's human, so to speak. A young man who spends paragraphs yelling because his hormones are out of whack and with a hero complex to shame... someone else with a huge hero's complex. J.K. Rowling treats her characters with enough respect to make them real.

Stephanie Meyer, however, has created Edward Cullen as a complete object. He is a dreamboat of perfection, of riches and chivalry and beauty. Bella is not much different with her Mary Sue flaw of clumsiness and beautiful individuality that attracts EVERYONE. Of course Harry gets attention; he's famous! What's Bella's excuse? And she hates it (whereas there is that beautiful moment in the sixth Harry Potter movie where Harry says defensively to Hermione, "but I AM the chosen one" and receives a thunk on the head), can't stand being who she is, is never comfortable with herself.

What kind of lessons can anyone take away from a story about a girl who has caring parents, is popular with girls and boys, beauty, and a bright life ahead of her but cannot be happy with any of it unless she has her man. It's worse than a Disney Princess! At least Jasmine gets pissed at Aladdin for lying to her, but Bella mopes and cries and tries to kill herself when Edward isn't around.

Harry Potter, on the other hand, teaches lessons of appreciating all those things in your life. Harry would be nothing without the strength of his friends, mentors, and everyone in his life. Harry is happy with himself most of the time - though being famous is hard work and he isn't pleased to be an orphan, even when he lives under the tyrannical rule of his aunt and uncle, he doesn't complain about it, merely makes the best of it with his wit and knowledge that life goes on. Seriously, we start off the first book with Harry pleased to look forward to going to a different school than his cousin so he could develop his own life. Even the much-hated epilogue of the final book provides that message: life goes on and it's worth living.

Twilight? Nothing's worth living for except hunky vampires and immortality.

Lessons aside, I've already listed the other cultural implications Harry Potter brought along. It has spawned so many excited and participatory fans that it is incredible. I met Harry and the Potters - I bought one of their freakin' T-shirts. I've dreamed of remaking the Harry Potter movies one day (though I doubt I'd bother nor would I probably be let to; it'll be too soon and the movies, for all their faults with continuity aren't bad). Harry Potter inspired me to do great things. I doubt Twilight could ever encourage such spirits. Musical genre? Collegiate sport? Literacy? Well, considering that Twilight is written the way that I wrote when I was thirteen...

Sure, I'm mean to Twilight, I'm hard on its fans. I can't blame people for liking the series; I'm sure that the right readers enjoy such tales. But there is nothing beneficial to take away from the books, and that they have succeeded Harry Potter as the "it" books is depressing because it is such a huge step down.

Oh popular culture. How interesting you are and how much I hate you until the Twilight movies are all made and freakin' over with.

...btws, rant was inspired by this interesting post over on

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Worst Episode of Good Shows - COMPETITION TIME

(edited 2:20pm 6/12/2010 - added synopses)

Before wasting sleeping hours rewatching episodes of So You Think You Can Dance (my latest obsession... and my return to actually enjoying reality television that isn't What Not to Wear or on HGTV), I managed to finally watch the much-hated episode of Lost that, in my anticipation, I compared to Battlestar Galactica's "Black Market." Not just for being totally useless as an episode, but also for the negative reaction and the admission of the actual creators that "hey, we made a crap episode." I also mistakenly thought the chick in Lost was also a hooker... but seriously, besides being a psychic tattoo genie or whatevs, she probably is. I mean, look at those clothes. No self-respecting woman would dress like that in dark alleys unless she's trolling for something.

So the verdict? Which sucks more? "Stranger in a Strange Land..."

...or "Black Market"?

First a brief, biased synopsis of both:

"Black Market" - After the success of the awesome Pegasus story arc and Roslin's life being saved, the show decides to kill some time with dear ol' Lee Adama and a random prostitute named Shevon that we're supposed to believe he's been seeing and is seriously into. Colonel Fisk, Cain's successor in commanding Pegasus, is killed and Lee is asked to investigate... why Lee? I'd think this is set up for Lee's ventures into lawyerhood later in the series, but it's a season too early, so it's more like a convenient plot device. Lee finds out that Fisk was involved in a black market that's been happening in the fleet (OH NOES) and then Shevon's daughter gets kidnapped and Lee feels responsible because he's been playing house with the kid and totally creeping her out. Oh and this is the episode where we start to see Dee and Lee flirting together, which makes me hate this episode even more for ruining my darling Billy's life. But anyway, back to the main suck of a plot, Lee goes after the head of the black market, kills him, and tells off the black market, but not entirely, more like "just don't take important stuff... oh and kids, kk?" Roslin gets pissed, but Bill lets Lee's arrangement go ahead. So essentially, NOTHING HAPPENS. We never hear from Shevon again (partially because she's not interested in playing house with Lee and partially because NO ONE CARES), the black market is never mentioned again, the fleet doesn't change at all, and... yeah. Pointless. Then the next episode we watch Starbuck get totally wasted, try to have drunken sex with Lee, and then almost kill herself for the billionth time, until Kat shows us that she doesn't suck as much as she used to.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" - This episode also kicks off after some intensely awesome stuff happening. Last episode was Desmond centric, which was great because Desmond is great, and we learned all about course correction (which, a few years later, FlashForward blatantly rips off in its failed attempt to be the next Lost) and how the universe is trying to kill Charlie. So what does the audience get next week? Zero Desmond, zero Charlie, and a whole lot of Jack, Kate, and Sawyer. Before Kate and Sawyer broke out of their cages, that would have been interesting, but instead we watch Kate and Sawyer bicker and lose Carl and find Carl and Sawyer lets Carl go and there's all this tension about having dead man walking sex and nobody cares because they reach their own island and that's about that. Jack's regular plot isn't so horrible, although the whole time I keep thinking Jack is being totally conned, but I think I was proven wrong, for like the first time ever when it comes to these characters conning each other. But anyway, Jack tries to protect Juliet for killing Danny or whatever his name was when she was letting Kate and Sawyer go. She's supposed to be killed, but he gets Ben to take that option off the table, so Juliet gets marked in a tramp-stamp way instead. Jack applies aloe. Fresh aloe hurts, I can tell you that. Tension is born, but I don't want it (as much as Juliet is growing on me). There's also some random sheriff chick, Isabel, if I remember correctly, who can read Jack's tattoo and all around just acts like a douchebag. The main problem with this episode though, of course, is the flashback. Jack is in Thailand to find himself (...) and starts by flying a kite on the beach (...) when he is helped because he can't fly a kite to save his life by some pretty thing that can speak English and is totally dressed like a hooker (... yeah). Jack and the chick start sexing it up and it appears she comes and goes as she pleases in his bed. They also fall off his bed at some point. Oh man, THAT was exciting. Then Jack drunkenly stalks her like the loser he is and finds out that, though she's dressed like a total hooker and wandering in dark alleys to some secret place and receives huge envelopes of money, she's not a hooker (well, maybe, I'm convinced she still is) - she's a MAGICAL TATTOO-IST. She can see who people are, so Jack acts like a douche and forces her to tell him and tattoo him although he's an outsider. Happy-go-lucky Jack leaves his house the next day, freshly inked, and creeps out some kid and then gets beaten down by the chick's brother and some of his friends. Jack presumably leaves Thailand now, having gotten inked. Whoo. I'll take the not-supernatural tattoos, please.

Well, those weren't that brief, but for being totally pointless, both episodes do eat up roughly forty-five minutes. THE VERDICT?

Honestly, it's a tough call. I was going to say that "Black Market" sucked more until the tattoo genie chick was all "I AM NOT A TATTOO ARTIST - I SEE THINGS IN PEOPLE." But it's tough, because I'm still really down on "Black Market" for its stupid retcon with Shevon the prostitute and her daughter, Lee's surrogate daughter for the one that exploded in his (OUT OF LEFT FIELD) pregnant girlfriend before she was born that Lee left before the apocalypse in the Twelve Colonies.

I also give favoritism to Battlestar Galactica for being a show I like more. No offense, Lost, but you move at a snail's pace at best. By the middle of the third season, Battlestar Galactica's characters had all frakked each other, made war and nice and war again with the Cylons, and had tackled issues of genocide, survival, abortion, crazy religion versus politics, religion in general, suicide bombings, forced occupation, and biological warfare. Lost has... coined some cool catchphrases, killed off a lot more central characters, and toyed with maybe two or three of those topics. Seriously, Emmys, can I hate on you times a zillion for ignoring Battlestar Galactica for, like, six years? And yet, giving the prize to Lost which, although being a great show in its own right, is still no BSG. There is no show like BSG.

Ahem. But we're comparing these episodes against one another, not the shows against one another. So I think I still might have to go with "Black Market" sucking more. Because, although Jack's flashbacks totally bite and the Sawyer and Kate plotline is just infuriating as per usual with them (and Kate lately has been pissing me off even more than usual), Jack's current day plot wasn't made of total suck (just partial suck). I mean, at least "Stranger in a Strange Land" fits within its narrative better. The question of Jack's tattoos is one that nobody cares about, sure, but nobody even asked "huh, I wonder how Lee's prostitute surrogate girlfriend and her daughter are doing?" BECAUSE THEY NEVER EVEN EXISTED BEFORE OR AFTER. Jack's tattoos at least will always be there. So now if anybody asks about them, we have the boring lengthy answer of that useless episode. But "Black Market" isn't just a useless episode but a horrible episode that disgraces everything that Battlestar Galactica is. Despite the occasional melodramatic bits of the show, it's usually pretty grounded (luls, har har, see how it's funny - it's because it's set in SPACE most of the time).

I do much more appreciate the controlled flashbacks of Battlestar Galactica, that held onto them mostly until the finale (save a bit of Kara flashback to Zak and ignoring the preggers!gf flashbacks of ten seconds Lee has in "Black Market" ...oh and the Final Five's memories on Earth) and just offered a couple character-defining moments that were really some of the most beautiful, sad, and touching moments in an otherwise action-packed and ending-packed finale. Lost, for being innovative in its use of flashbacks, also tends to overuse them on some characters (particularly Jack and Kate, but most characters really don't need like ten centric episodes. NOBODY is that interesting. Even Eko, for being fucking awesome and wicked interesting always only needed the three episodes he got). I long for the episodes where nobody gets a flashback and we can all live in the present because I am BORED with their pasts. I get it. Kate and Sawyer are criminals with hearts of gold. Jack had daddy issues. Charlie had drug issues. Locke had major daddy issues. Hurley was fat and crazy and is still fat and may still be crazy. I honestly don't care that much because that means half of the time the plot isn't moving forward, which is frustrating because already so much that is set in the present plotline isn't moving anything forward.

But this post wasn't supposed to be about Lost's shortcomings (though I could go on for quite some time with both praise and critique) - it is about the competition of bad episode against bad episode. And in that competition, "Black Market" takes the rotten tomato, mostly because of its horrible retcon in combination with the other bad elements that it shares with "Stranger in a Strange Land."

As my darling Television Without Pity ends their brief description of "Black Market" -

"Roslin is displeased with everyone and everything. She is right."

...and goodnight.

PS: I got McDonalds - TWICE, actually - and that commercial still won't leave me the fuck alone while I'm watching Lost on, no matter how many times I say that the ad is not relevant to me. It is one of the few ads, if not the only, I have said that about. I AM MAD AT YOU, HULU.