I am the Law

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Spiderman’s reboot’s been getting a lot of airtime in my Twitter feed this week, people stating it is by far the best version of the character as yet committed to celluloid. Except, amongst the platitudes have come some sniffs of unexpected dissent. I’m not talking about the apparent disparity in the Marvel timeline (the nerds can argue that one) but the assertion that perhaps the film could have been… well, a bit darker and dangerous. Everything is, like it or not, the path of least resistance: there is no risk taking. Now, as I’ve not yet seen this movie I cannot and won’t comment on these claims. However, I can use some evidence that does suggest that maybe, possibly, Marvel was never here to be edgy and controversial to begin with. They’re just here to make money.

I watched Dr Strange on its TV ‘rental’ release and was, I have to say, disappointed for the first time I’ve experienced a Marvel Universe title. The conceit is well executed, Mr Cumberbatch exactly the right fit for his character, and the journey that takes us from selfish to selfless well written and presented. However, without doubt, there is something missing. Maybe it is because I’d argue the origins of Strange are a little too close to those of Tony Stark to allow a measure of sympathy, but that isn’t the only discomfort. I’m also not about to get into Tilda Swinton’s casting, which creates more problems than it solves for the purists but finally establishes that, in the male-centric Marvel Universe, women took a while to graduate past supporting roles. One wonders what might have been different here if Black Widow had got a solo movie before this one was made, but that’s a different conversation for another blog.

The problem with the franchise, as it stands, is adequately demonstrated in this video which dissects the musical cues presented in Marvel Universe titles thus far. The key when you look at the bigger picture of the arc, is not to create a series of peaks and troughs in terms of cinematic presentation. All these movies are being produced with a very specific tone in mind, obviously consistent bar in terms of visual and audio cues. It is, like it or not, like reading a comic. Depth is not provided by the film but you: ambiguity kept to a minimum. You’ll rarely see blood either, to ensure the finished product reaches the widest possible audience.

In fact if depth is what is required one needs to go to the small screen: the various Marvel TV shows have been open to a range of criticism and perhaps even higher praise than their film ‘parents’ because it is abundantly obvious a different set of production and narrative values are at play. Ironically here’s where true diversity exists and has been allowed to shine: Agent Peggy Carter, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage presenting a far more realistic view of the superhero landscape as it should exist. The fact it has taken this long for Black Panther to make it to the big screen is, on reflection, not really a surprise. If the trailer is any indicator, Natasha Romanoff’s awful treatment plus the recent arrival of Diana Prince in the ‘other’ Universe is going to significantly redefine our ‘comic’ going forward.

I kop a lot of flack for my love of the DC Universe, almost on a daily basis, because of all manner of reasons, but mostly because nobody likes Zack Snyder. I still maintain that Watchmen is as good an adaptation as was possible at the time, have a soft spot for Sucker Punch (despite the fact it is quite easy to label it soft porn in certain lights) and am one of the nine people who think Man of Steel is a Superman worth rooting for. Here’s a Universe that is refreshing and obviously missing both thematic and narrative  consistency: one only needs to look at Suicide Squad to grasp the hit and miss nature of that particular approach. However, this is the same place in which Wonder Woman now looks set to outpace and conquer pretty much everybody else’s origin story, regardless of their affiliation. The unexpected irony of the man who wrote The Avengers now working on Justice League is not lost on me. Movie making is quite a small universe in itself at the top end.

Marvel’s approach to the business of movie making has always been ‘better safe than sorry’ which might make for a lot of fanboy love, but in this case the fangirl in me is being increasingly left wanting. Listening to nerds getting upset over Aquaman’s trident (which isn’t) has been typical of the toothless criticism I’ve seen levelled at DC. Sometimes, looks aren’t as important as actual depth. I suspect the true sweet spot for Superhero movies lies somewhere in between both camps, and maybe Whedon’s influence might have some sway in producing a continuation of the franchise that makes more people happy.

I for one love arguing that both group of Superheroes have equal merit.

Eat to the Beat

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Today, someone took the time to explain to me how one properly flosses teeth. I realise that this has never been pointed out before, and understanding WHY something happens is probably more important than the fact it is done. Sometimes, that extra step is hard when everything else matters. I’d never visited a hygienist until today either, so please feel free to chuck a disapproving look this way. However, I made sure to tell her how gentle she was, how nobody else had ever taken that care before with my teeth, and that being willing to learn brings great reward.

Remember to tell someone today how important they are, and how much they matter.

Last night, I rented a movie as I was alone in the house: Dr Strange now explains a lot of the motivation in the Marvel universe, the location of one of the outstanding Infinity Stones, and that however much I love Benedict Cumberbatch he’s fucking wasted as badly constructed combination of Tony Stark and Star Lord. The cut of the film feels horribly off in places too, and the effects sequences… it was like watching a migraine. However, I may yet give it a second viewing to see if stuff improves. This does mean however that two of the best British male character actors of a generation now hold significant store in a Comic book Universe. There’s always a bright side.

Last night was also my first lesson in what my body enjoys digesting post operation and what is unacceptable, and an important correlation was made. I understand why a certain Chinese dish makes me unhappy: it’s not the fish, but the batter they’re coated in. Sadly that means last night’s chicken also makes it onto the ‘avoid like the plague’ list, which is sad as it was lovely at the tastebuds stage. There was a warning I might also need to lay off trigger foods that were an issue pre-Operation, but as yet I think I might yet get away with going back largely to normal.

Today is the last day of playing with back end stuff for the other sites. Starting tomorrow, it’s T Minus 15 days to full-on Patreon awesomeness. I’d better get on with my to do list :D

Architecture and Morality

‘If something offends you, go do something else.’

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to my husband about ‘Passengers’, a film which has caused a bit of a fuss over the moral dubiousness of its plotline. I was genuinely excited about this movie when the trailers first surfaced in June, but when it became apparent that what this movie isn’t either pleasant or comfortable in terms of how the two leads end up together? I pretty much lost interest. The biggest problem however for me, on considered thought, was the fact that this movie intentionally skirts those real issues in all of the promotional material, and it was only when the first indignant reviews emerged that it became apparent what you were really buying into. Once that becomes unavoidably apparent? Well, it is obvious that some people didn’t care about anything else except the bad things.

My husband has very rationally and logically pointed out that if you know about the moral duplicity of the plot? It could make things more interesting, and not less so, and this is a very fair point. The problem is however that with the year that’s just gone, I suspect many people went to see this movie in the hope it would be sunshine and rainbows, and not to be metaphorically kicked in the genitalia. As a result, this whole endeavour also suffered as a result of circumstance. However, if your interest is the moral complexity of how to deal with isolation and loneliness? I suspect this movie could be right up your street. In discussion over this, my husband pulled up ‘While you Were Sleeping’ as a perfect example of a movie that, like it or not, is really rather morally dubious, but won’t see people bemoaning Sandra Bullock pretending to be an unconscious man’s fiancee.

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For my husband, the reaction to this whole debacle simply amplifies the depressing ‘echo chamber’ effect of the Internet. That revolves around a subset of people who decide to hate something based solely on exploitation or received moral indignation and doesn’t take at all into consideration the fact the focus of their ire in this case is a) entertainment and b) fiction. Because it is art there should be no need for such a reaction: if you don’t like it, then you can simply ignore the thing and move on. Those who somehow feel better about being part of the lynching party not simply over movies but in every aspect of modern life are genuinely scary, and it is becoming increasingly galling when these flash-points end up splitting up friendships and causing people to threaten others livelihoods or existence. Mostly, this particular episode has been a salutatory lesson for me, to remind him and myself that the only way all this works is when you listen to each other, and learn from contrary viewpoints.

I’m still not spending my cinema money on this however, that will be going on Rogue One.

What happens next for me in personal terms is becoming increasingly better defined as time goes on. Maintaining an open mind needs to be top of my list: engaging, not arguing, making people think and not imposing points of view on others. It isn’t about being right, and never will be, it is far more important to understand WHY and look to yourself as a potential source of change before expecting anybody else to do the same.

I want to talk with you in 2017 and very definitely not at you, and that will need some work.

Stupid Girl

I can quickly sum up yesterday for me in a Tweet:

That’s not even close to the whole story, of course, but what Thursday proved to me is that people finally worked out that realism makes money. It doesn’t make nearly as much cash as wish fulfilment, just ask the porn industry. However, for the brief and glorious time that it is smart to stick a woman in the Big Chair? Let’s all embrace that. Of course, how you choose to do this will vary, and some of you may not grasp that what you think is awesome is just the same old shit, but done differently. It’s okay, that always happens.

Women aren’t Mary Sues. They’re not bikini babes. They’re not automatic receptacles for your sperm either. They are the other half of an equation that’s been refined after millions of years of selective evolutionary processes. The fact that a subsection of you people seem to think this gives you rights to treat us like the shit you just scraped off your shoe is often hard to grasp, but as this is the Internet? I shouldn’t be surprised. The fact that MY OWN SEX do this as well just goes to reinforce the point.

People are stupid. Don’t be people.

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Put it and put them away, and stop thinking this is sex, when it ought just to be business.

Thank you.

Cleaning Up the Town

Normally when the Internet implodes, it is wise to stand well back. In this case, I have a few things that need saying first.

It is 1984. I’m in the Lower 6th at Comprehensive School and the day the original ‘Ghostbusters’ releases, I bunk the day off school with three of my mates and we watch the first showing of this movie at my local cinema. And the second one, and we don’t leave until the last performance of the day. We stay in the auditorium and watch a brilliant slice of cinematic genius, and it gets better on each subsequent viewing. More importantly we don’t get ejected, and this becomes the moment when cinema becomes more than just something I go to watch, it becomes one of my enduring love affairs. So, when it became apparent this ‘idea’was being rebooted? I’ll admit, I had my doubts. When it was obvious the main cast was being re-imagined as all female?

I couldn’t work out if this was madness or genius, and I still don’t know.

I never got upset about the content of the original movie, despite what various people will pin on the screenplay 30 years later. It remains a beautifully preserved moment from an era where this kind of brilliant mainstream comedy/paranormal bobbins never got made to begin with: the three main leads became worldwide stars pretty much overnight, as did the show which created them. I’d never heard of SNL until that point, and that plus so much else became tagged onto the coat-tails of an often uneven story around a bunch of intelligent geeky types who battled ghosts. I didn’t notice the token minority issue either, but 3o years on it was the first thing that hit me with the reboot. Because after three decades, and with women now doing science? The token minority is still blue collar. If this is a straight reboot (to a point) and that’s deliberate? Then it could well be acceptable with an ‘homage’ hat on but the objections I’ve heard thus far? On a two minute trailer there’s not much to go on, and until I see the movie… and suddenly things get really shaky indeed. The speed at which the Internet schismed over this yesterday was nothing short of breathtaking, if truth be told. Middle aged men throwing their arms up in horror at the juxtaposition of good girls for guys, women lamenting the choices made with the protagonist’s professions, everyone complaining that the theme tune still sounds shit. Ray Parker Jr ripped it off Huey Lewis and he settled that court case a LONG TIME AGO, people, so you can put THAT away as ammunition.

This film’s got a hard road ahead of it and we’ve not even seen the damn thing yet.

Take 40 minutes of your life to watch this dissection of the original movie and understand just how significant a piece of work this still is: indicative of a particular time and place, and a very specific set of World circumstances. I suspect, when we look back on the reboot in 30 years that it will be possible to do the same thing for them: a symptom of a society that has vastly differing ideas on how the World not only looks but is perceived by those who inhabit it. What matters more to many isn’t the subject matter, or the fact the ‘new’ version is in many places clearly a piss take of the original. It is more around the choices made to take from one to give to the other. There will be those questioning the need to remake the concept at all, why you couldn’t have introduced *some* women into the cast and left some guys alone, that the black actress automatically didn’t get cast as a Professor… The list goes on, because in the modern world, EVERYBODY sees the world differently, and the Internet has become the magnifier for every single disparate outlook. None of them are wrong, every one is valid, even those people who will tell you that giving the jobs to the girls is deliberately and completely pointlessly cheapening the original . Crucially, this might not make them sexists, because as of right now I’m still on the fence over that decision. I’m not sure this reboot needs or should do justice to the original, until I’ve seen the entire thing and had a chance to consider this exercise as a whole. The trouble is, that’s not how the Internet works, and I can’t wait to have an opinion. I gotta have a fully rounded argument right now, which needs to be expressed in 140 characters or GTFO.

I find myself torn. Again. I want to like this film, because the trailer (at least to me) isn’t simply doing lip service to its predecessor. I feel a lot better about the idea than I ever did about ‘The Force Awakens’ because, at least for me, this movie’s pitched up with very little to prove. I’m not going to have my childhood destroyed because someone decided to cast women into this fantasy, and I’m sure as fuck not about to allow prejudice and ignorance to colour a final outlook on anything until I’m in a cinema. Mostly, this trailer did its job: I wouldn’t have bothered to see this on release, I’d have waited for Sky or a DVD, but now I’m going to make the trip to a Multiplex, for no other reason than I think there is merit in seeing a big screen version. In that respect alone? Job done, Sony. I’m now on board.

What happens next? I wait until the movie comes out, I make a considered judgement based on what I’ve seen, and the World could respect the art by doing the same. Is that really so hard? Right now it appears to be a real struggle for a lot of people and this is increasingly disturbing. I’m not sure at what point it became de rigeur to have opinions on things before they actually released, but I suspect gaming might have something to do with this. If that is the case then I am truly very sorry, because it’s wrong, just so utterly and totally unfair to decide to condemn a thing based only on the fact you look at the main cast and they don’t have dicks. It’s the same way you don’t dismiss a thing as worthy because you think that a movie mirroring real life prejudice isn’t acceptable because all movies should be aspiration. Mostly, you don’t pass judgement on less than 180 seconds of cinematography ever as an indication of a finished product, so stop it now Internet and get a fucking sense of proportion as a matter of urgency.

/thinks

Yup, I’m done now.

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