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.