Thursday, August 1, 2013

Favorite Characters Part 2- Jaime and Tyrion Lannister

(just ignore the guy on the right)

It was inevitable, if I was going to put together a list of favorite characters, I had to include at least one contender for the iron throne. Well, instead you have two, so deal with it. These two are brothers who have been brought up in privelege being raised by the richest and arguably the most powerful man in the kingdom. Despite having similar upbringing these two brothers could not be more different. Jaime was a born warrior who had a sword put into his hand on day one and has been trained to become one of the finest swordfighters in the country. Tyrion was born as a dwarf and has had to fight society's and his father's perception of him to succeed in life. Not only that, but he has the hatred of his father for having killed his mother as he was being born. This transforms all three men into tragic figures in their own right.

Jaime- He was the sworn bodyguard of a tyrannical king who was rebelled against before the events of Game of Thrones and earned the nickname "Kingslayer" because he killed the king that he had sworn to protect, thereby ending the war and the reign of the Targaryen family. For this act that should have won him the respect and admiration of the people but instead earned him the disdain of all the lives he ended up saving, and the particular hatred of Lord Eddard Stark, the first book's protagonist, who never saw Jaime as anything more than a breaker of his oath. And I know what you're thinking "That asshole that looks like Prince Charming from Shrek?" Yes, I am talking about that guy. Don't get me wrong, I wanted nothing more than to see him get killed in horrible ways at the end of the first book/season. From throwing a small child out of a window, to attacking Ned in the streets of the capital, I never thought I would find myself finding this guy anything above despicable. But as the story progressed and we learned more about him, his actions become much more sympathetic and the only reason why he acted like such a prick before is because he had long given up on trying to change people's image of him, they would never see him as more than just an oathbreaker now matter how many honorable deeds he did. And keep in mind that when he attacked Eddard in the street, it first began as a questioning of Tyrion's whereabouts. It only turned violent after Ned confessed to having ordered him be arrested based on circumstantial evidence. Towards the end of the second book, he gets chastised yet again for being a Kingslayer, and in turn he recites the oath that he was forced to take when he first became a knight and how when you are serving a king like the one he did, it's impossible to keep all of your vows "Protect the king, obey the king... defend the innocent... Obey your father. But what if your father despises the king? What if the king preys on the weak and the innocent. No matter what you do, you're forsaking one vow for another" Well, when you put it like that... Later on, it's revealed that the king was attempting to burn down the capital city with himself and all of its citizens in it in order to keep it from being siezed by the rebels. At that point, Jaime decided that enough was enough and slit the king's throat before he could see the order carried out. In that way, Jaime becomes the most honorable character in the whole series. Sure, he still has some sins to answer for, like the bedding of his sister and having three kids with her. But unlike her, he legitimately cares for her and has not been with any other woman, unlike his sister, who sleeps around in his absence. If you read further in the books, Jaime's course of actions continue to show his transformation and how he has been trying to turn over a new leaf. His long quest for redemption is far from over, but when you see him doing things like jumping into a pit to save a woman from a grizzly bear, it's easy to throw your support behind him.

Tyrion- Tyrion is by far and away the best character in this show. If there are three things that all Game of Thrones fans can agree on it's this: 1. Joffrey needs to fucking die 2. Ned Stark's execution was a bummer 3. Tyrion is the man. He puts the imp in pimp. The great thing about both of these brothers is that they sum themselves up in one sentence. Jaime with his oaths and Tyrion with his views on his status as a dwarf "Never forget what you are, the world surely won't. Wear it like armor and it can never be used against you". He is the ultimate example of someone we should strive to be like. Something that bugs me about people who say that they don't care what other people think, is that they parade that they are different. Don't believe me? Look at the most pretentious friends that you have on Facebook. Tyrion is the one that has it figured out. When someone laughs at him for being a dwarf, he just shrugs it off. What he doesn't have in physique. he makes up for with his wit and by being the only truly admirable person in the show. He comes from a family of schemers who believe that in order to be successful, you are going to have to throw people to the wolves. He too has this line of thought, but rahter than screwing over people that get into his way, he screws over the people that deserve it. His devotion to his family only goes as far as to have the same last name as these people. If he didn't have that one thing in common with these people, he'd be throwing them to the wolves the same way that he threw the murderer or multiple innocent babies and sent him to join the Night's Watch... Look if I'm using a lot of terms and names that you've never heard of, don't worry, it just means you don't watch the show, and you therefore suck. But I digress. It's hard to buy the idea of somebody being so manipulative while also being so noble, but Tyrion is just that. And of course, the fact that he is underestimated and dismissed by so many people early on just makes it that much more satisfying and awesome to watch. Now that's not to say that he is perfect. Much like Jaime, we meet him while he is still very flawed. He is a drinker, a gambler and is addicted to whores at the start (his first scene is of him getting serviced by a prostitue). But as his story continues to put him into situations where he is forced to make difficult decisions, we truly get to see a man who steps up to the plate and is always willing to swallow his pride, even when his position gives him the opportunity to do what he does best (if you know what I mean) with his new bride (a teenage girl who he is being forced to marry for political gain). But he refuses to even share the bed with her until she feels comfortable with him. When she asks what if she never wants him to, he merely shrugs and says "And so my watch begins" (considering this is the oath of the Night's Watch, it really comes across as sweet rather than creepy).

Now for both of these characters, a lot of what I like comes from the performances of both Nikolaj Coster Walder as Jaime and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. As someone who has read 3 of the books and has long been following the show, I can say that both of these actors fit my image of them perfectly. Dinklage especially owns the character in the second season while Walder just commands the screen during the third. If you aren't into the show, I'd really recommend it, just be prepared to have your hearts ripped out when you aren't ready for it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Favorite Characters Part 1- Sean Devine

To kick off the segment on my favorite characters in film and literature, we'll start with my favorite character from one of my favorite books, one of my favorite movies and played by my favorite actors. Sean Devine is one of three lead characters from Dennis Lehane's best selling novel Mystic River, which was in turn made into a film directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Kevin Bacon, so I guess this counts as both a book and film character.

Sean, as a young boy, witnessed one of his friends, Dave Boyle, get taken away by a suspicious looking car while they were playing with another good friend , Jimmy Marcus (Jimmy Markum in the movie). Years later, the boys have grown up and have followed down very different paths until the murder of Jimmy's daughter has thrown these three men back into each other's lives. Sean has grown up to be a state deteeective, Jimmy is an ex-convict who runs a local grocery store and Dave has not recovered from the horrific events that followed him being taken away in that car all those years ago. While each of these men have their own amount of baggage to deal with, it's Sean that has been able to keep it together all these years. Now part of that is due to him having to deal with different issues than the other two, but there is another reason and that is because of Sean's unwillingness to quit like the other two. There is a great scene where Sean is talking to his estranged wife on the phone and he admits that he doesn't really know why he does what he does anymore. It won't matter if he ever finds who killed Katie because it won't really fix anything. The scumbag that killed her will go to jail and then get to return to his life after doing his time, while  "the dead are still dead". It's sad because you know that he wouldn't like anything more than to give up or just crack and hurt somebody, which is exactly what the other two end up doing before the end of the story. In Sean's case, he decides to pull himself out of that ditch before it's too late and makes a silent vow to right a wrong that was committed by Jimmy. Of the three men, he is also the only one who things work out for in the end and in a story that is so darn depressing, it's nice to see at least one thing go right. In one of the final scenes of the movie, Sean confesses that he often thinks back to that day with the car and how in his mind "All three of us got in that car. In reality, we're still just ten year-old boys stuck in a basement wondering what our lives would have been if we had escaped". His actions throughout the movie prove that he was the closest to escaping that basement.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grease pt 2

If you read one of my previous installments, I had said that I was going to go through one of the play's more memorable and stupid songs to show just how flawed and illogical it is. Now keep in mind, the set up for the song is Rizzo just got pregnant, she refuses to tell who the father is, and Sandy has just tried to reach out to her and say that she wishes her best, to which Rizzo says is bullshit. So, without more ado, here is the wrongest thing ever written until the inception of Stephenie Meyer.

There are worse things I could do,- That list is fairly short
Than go with a boy or two.- Yeah, you could get pregnant with some random guy you don't know
Even though the neighborhood thinks I'm trashy,
And no good,- Well, you did just get pregnant after a night of anonymous sex, so they aren't wrong
I suppose it could be true,-Suppose? Hon, that's truer than the Bible
But there are worse things I could do.-I refer you to my statement at the beginning of the stanza
I could flirt with all the guys,-That's worse than getting pregnant after anonymous sex?
Smile at them and bat my eyes.- That isn't that bad at all
Press against them when we dance,- As my teachers would all say "Leave room for Jesus!"
Make them think they stand a chance,
Then refuse to see it through.- That's called being a cock tease. Annoying, but there are worse things you could do
That's a thing I'd never do.-You're right, screwing every guy you meet is much better and more admirable than just being flirty
I could stay home every night,-Well going out every night and partying is what landed you and so many other dumb teenage girls in this situation in the first place
Wait around for Mr. Right.-Looks like you just found him, you're already having his baby
Take cold showers every day,
And throw my life away,
On a dream that won't come true.-Well you just threw any dreams you had away by getting pregnant
I could hurt someone like me,- Well, you did just hurt Kenicke by cheating on him
Out of spite or jealousy.- Isn't that what you just did?
I don't steal and I don't lie,
But I can feel and I can cry.-Bitch, please. We all know sluts don't have feelings
A fact I'll bet you never knew.
But to cry in front of you,
That's the worse thing I could do. -Showing a little emotion to someone who has been nice to you and who you have been a bitch to since day one is the worst thing you can do?

And now the ending. For this segment, I'm going to look at how each character ends up, and how they would have ended up had their fates been decided by my pen.
An now the ending. For this segment, I'm going to look at how each character ends up, and how they would have ended up had their fates been decided by my pen.
Rizzo and K- How it ended: Rizzo's pregnancy is a false alarm, her time of the month was late by almost a full week.
How it should have ended: Rizzo is still pregnant, but she refuses to tell who the father is. K is left in a moral dilemma since he doesn't know for sure if the child is his. He is stuck between two decisions: Stick around with Rizzo to help her care for the baby that may be his, or he can ditch the slut because she keeps insisting that it's not his, so there is no longer any reason for him to see her anymore. We last see him left in this emotional conflict
Marty- How it ended: She doesn't really change, however throughout the story, she has a reputation for being a flirt and all around slut as well, since she is supposedly engaged to a marine she went on one date with and yet still flirts with Vince Fontaine, the radio DJ who hosts a school dance (in the original stage play, they full on make out, or necking as it says in the script)
How it should have ended: Vince Fontaine gets arrested for having sexual relations with a 17 yr old, and following the scandalous headlines, rumors start to spread that she did more than just flirt (or neck) with Fontaine at the dance and she becomes a pariah.
Frenchy- How it ended: She somehow seems to succeed at getting a job in a cosmetics store despite the fact that she dropped out of both high school and beauty school. To be honest, this is the story arc that really pisses me off the most because there was a song where her guardian angel comes down from heaven to tell her that it would be best if she went back and finished high school.
How it should have ended: She becomes a prostitute. DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT! You know as good as I that this is the only way for her story to go.
Sandy and Danny- How it ended: Sandy decides to make Rizzo her life coach and undergoes a total makeover in order to win Danny's heart. What a shocker, they end up together.
How it should have ended: Sandy realizes that if she is to get anywhere in life, she can't be wasting her time chasing after the most superficial guy in movies until the introduction of James Bond. Danny continues down his self destructive path of pursuing the sins of the flesh while Sandy decides that she was much better off at the catholic school, even if they were a little strict on the dress code.
Doody and Sonny- I got nothing for them.
Rump and Jan- How it ended: They end up together
How it should have ended: Actually, I'm cool with that. These are the only people that don't do anything all that stupid so what the heck, we'll let them stay that way.
Just kidding. You see Rump got his nickname for having a reputation for being the mooning champ of Rydell High. So assuming he stays as immature in the future as he is right now, we'll say that one day he mooned a car that had a small child in it and was arrested for indecent exposure to a minor. It's a stretch, I know, but you have to remember that I come from the same school of thought as Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Bros, where shit just happens.

People of the Chair: Walt Disney

I've been thinking about new topics to write about on this blog, besides movies because that can get a little boring after a while and I haven't been able to go to the movies as much as I would like to this summer. So, I figured why not write about the people behind the camera? The people that sit in the chair all day and make the films that we love or the films that we despise. They can be actors, directors or even producers. They are the talented individuals who make what we see on the screen possible. And so, I've decided to start giving credit where credit is due by starting off with the name that everyone in the world has heard: Walt Disney
I was thinking about who I should start this series off with, and while you could make the argument for people like Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, or Steven Spielberg (and don't worry, we'll get to them) would make better starting points, to me, Disney was the one that made the most sense. Why? Well, because everybody knows who Walt Disney is and for a lot of people, some of the first movies they ever saw were ones that had the name Disney attached to them. He is one of the first, if not the first real icon of film and animation.
At work, I've often heard the saying "It all started with a dream and a mouse", and I don't really see Disney's work as being the fulfillment of a dream, I'd say it was more of following a vision. Fulfilling a dream is great, but doing what Walt did takes mountains of dedication and commitment and the word 'dream' doesn't seem to do that hard work justice. Walt was more than just a film maker, he really was a visionary, and that can be seen in many of the films that were made during his time. Probably the two best films that signify this are Bambi and Fantasia. Neither of these films follow the typical conventions of films made at that time or even today. Unlike Fantasia, Bambi may have a narrative like most films, but it doesn't have a typical one. One of the most identifiable aspects of Disney films are the villains, and Bambi doesn't really have one, or at least a clear one with a face. The villain is fate. I know a lot of people say that the villain is man, but it's really the cruel hand of fate. Man didn't enter the forest with the specific intent of messing up Bambi's life, it just happened. And in that way, Bambi is more of just a story of life and how things may happen for a reason, but the reason is not always clear, sometimes, stuff just happens whether we wish it to or not. But the strength of movies like Bambi lies not in the story but in the visuals or animation. When you get a chance, take some time to just watch the film and admire the animation. At times, it really is life like and you just feel like you are in nature.
Fantasia is a movie like no other because it doesn't have a narrative or real story. Sure, some of the segments have their little story to them, but they don't last very long. And if anything, this is the movie that should be released in 3D. When Walt Disney was envisioning Fantasia, he wanted it to be a total experience, he even wanted people in the theater to smell the things that you would be smelling when you would see these segments. The only way to describe it is animators listening to the pieces of music and just coming up with images to accompany them. In some instances, they are pretty akin to what you may have imagined, but in other times, you really have to ask how they came up with that. An obvious example would be in the sequel when they envisioned the whales emerging from the water and swimming in the clouds as they would in the ocean. But another example from the original would be The Rite of Spring, in which the visual accompaniment is dinosaurs. When I was a kid, I thought that was awesome, now I look at it and think "How did they come up with that?" It's just a testament to how the creative juices flowed at that studio. And the funny thing about all of this movie was that it was only intended to be one short, The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Initially, the film was just going to be the bit where Mickey gets ahold of a sorcerer's hat and does all sorts of crazy stuff with it. But the expenses just kept building up and it took way more time than was supposed to, so Disney just said "Screw it, let's make more out of this".
What do these movies say about Disney? Well, if anything, they are a statement about his commitment to the craft. A lot of people have argued about whether movies should be considered as art, and if you wanted a quick end to that argument you'd only need to look at these two films. And even if you don't like the movies or any movies that came from Disney, you have to admire the passion and the effort that went into them. Walt was always pushing his animators to see what they could come up with and try to top it, and the final result ended up being some of the most iconic movies in history.
But what about the man the myth the legend himself? Well, while Disney was an icon and a father to many, he certainly wasn't perfect. It has been reported that he was a workaholic and that he did have a bit of a temper at times. But does that mean that we shouldn't remember him as we do? The answer is of course not. Even if he did have his moments where he wasn't as cheery as the pictures show, the thing that we all have to remember is that he was devoted to making films that were primarily to be enjoyed by families, not just one specific age group, and that's really hard to do. Even if he wasn't always successful, you can't knock him for trying. Is trying even the right word for it? I feel like you are doing more than trying when you are giving each and every project your all.
I know I sound like a broken record by singing Walt Disney's praises as much as I am, but I do it for a reason, as does everyone else who you've heard talk like this. Unfortunately there are times where I believe that the Disney film studio of today has long strayed from the initial vision that Walt had when he initially started Walt Disney Studios, what with the countless direct to video sequels of 50+ year old movies, but as long as people like Hayao Myazaki (I'm kind of winging it with that name spelling) and John Lasseter are around, I still think that there is some hope that children and family entertainment won't fall into the chasm that houses Hannah Montana and The Suite Life.

The Wolverine

I never really gave a shit about the other X-Men. There, I said it. Don't get me wrong, the X-Men movies were all really fun and totally kick ass, but to be honest, the only two that I really cared about the whole time were Magneto and Wolverine, that's why I was so hyped to see First Class and today's movie, The Wolverine. Why? Because those were the first times (not counting the godforsaken origins movie) where these mutants were standing front and center and it was there time to shine. Sure, Magneto still had to share the screen with Professor Xavier, but it was still an interesting look into their relationship and how their different upbringings led to their different views on mankind and the world. So all we needed now was a standalone Wolverine movie and the series is prettu much golden, as long as we can bring ourselves to forgive and forget the third movie and the atrocity that was that other Wolverine movie.

So yeah, that was pretty much the task of director James Mangold when he took on the job. And how did he do? Well, let's take a look. The story is set about a year or so after the end of the original trilogy. Wolverine has left the mansion and is living in some unnamed forest, having taken a vow to never hurt another person after he was forced to kill Jean Grey. He's having a hard time living with his curse that is his immortality and has all but given up until an old acquaintance reaches out to Logan and invites him to visit his home in Japan. The person in question is a former Japanese soldier who Wolverine saved from the A bomb that hit Nagasaki while he was staying there as a POW. Nothing of what I have told you is a spoiler because #1- it's literally told to you in the first five minutes of the movie and #2- it was in all of the damn previews. Upon arriving in Japan, Wolverine is both thanked for what he did and is also offered the chance to have his rapid healing ability taken away so that he can age and eventually die like a regular human. Which, not to nitpick, but the reason for his andamantium skeletal structure is because of his rapid healing ability. Having said that, if that power were taken from him, wouldn't he just collapse? I'm a little hazy on that. If you have an explanation, feel free to leave it in the comments. So anyway, he denies the offer, but I guess that didn't matter because he got infected with something that caused his healing to become less quick and eventually stop altogether.

And here is the strength of the movie, Wolverine is finally vulnerable. I've always enjoyed watching Wolverine kicking ass but the thing that always bugged me was that it didn't matter what people threw at him, he was just going to get back up and keep fighting. I know this makes him more of a beast, but it takes away from the tension. Here, if Wolverine got shot or stabbed, he took damage, and there was a point in the movie where I thought Wolverine might actually not make it, which to me, made me care more than I did while watching movies like Iron Man 3 or The Dark Knight Rises, because in those stories, the characters were faced with the possibility of death and had come to accept the fact that they may just have to make that ultimate sacrifice. Here, Logan is being faced with that reality for the first time in his life, and that made it all the more heavy for the audience. So in the heavier, more drmatic and emotional sense, the movie florished. It's other strength is the fact that this is a purely Wolverine centered film. There are only two other mutants in the movie and even then, their roles are fairly limited. There isn't even a mention of the other X-Men. And the final thing that this movie got right was that Wolverine didn't dress up in the X-men uniform. Okay, I get that it  is a part of the X-Men lore for him to wear it but I really just prefer him fighting in just the wife-beater and jeans. I don't know why, but that is just way more badass to me. Maybe it's because Wolverine is a guy that very much marches to his own tune and having a uniform is just out of character for him.

Now where did this movie falter? Actually, it didn't really start to fall apart until the very end, but even then, it wasn't as bad as you would think. The end battle is between Wolverine and a giant robot suit thing called the Silver Samurai, which is like Optimus Prime if he had a japanese son. My only problem with this is that the only other enemies that Wolverine had to go up against for the rest of the movie are Yakuza assassins and ninjas. And to me, that was far more interesting because even though none of these guys had special powers and nond of them were mutants, they were still pretty badass and presented a very real threat. So for me, if the climax was just Wolverine going up against like fifty of these ninjas and probably have to fight Lord Shingen at the end of it, that would have been just fine. There's also a twist at the end of the movie in which we learn who the real villain is, and it's one of those twists where you really learned to like a guy because of how wise and how respectable he was, but then his true colors are revealed and I just said "Oh, you were an ass hole the whole time". And for a movie that was so deep and made Wolverine much more complex than we're used to seeing him have this kind of watered down ending that you'd expect to see in a typical comic book movie was kind of a let down.

With all of that said though, Wolverine is finally given the badass movie that fans and casual movie goers have always wanted to see from him.

Final verdict: B+, buy it on blu-ray