Thursday, 19 March 2015

So Fetch Friday: Katy Perry Has Talent?

Well, I finally finished that difficult essay on film noir that was causing me so much trouble, and I managed to get it handed in on time. Finding sources for that one was hard considering the catch of having to find sources from the era I was discussing (for something that was retroactively named). I had to get around the restrictions by citing contemporary reviews and press releases. I also managed to find one psychological study of "American crime films". Then I got lucky when a classmate (in an unrelated class) gave me the name of French critic Nino Frank, purportedly the one who coined the term "film noir". I managed to find not only a paper of his but also another article by one of his colleagues: both touching on this basic material, translated to English, and published in 1946! Normally, I'd get started on the abridged version, but with the TA strike happening now I don't even know when it's going to get marked, let alone when I'll get it back. Long story short, I don't know when I'll be able to post the essay for you to see.

In the meantime, I now have two more essays to start thinking about. For one of them I'm writing about the movie Under the Skin. I've got my sources in order but now I have to figure out which movie from class I'm going to be comparing it to, though I'm leaning towards either I Am Curious (Yellow) or Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Either way, I've at least got something down for it. The other one will be discussing horror movies, and I have some ideas so hopefully I can get somewhere with it assuming it doesn't end up being cancelled (which seems a real possibility at the moment). I still have time for both, it's just that starting seems to be one of the hardest parts of writing a paper. I find that once I have a basic idea of where I'm going I do okay, at least until I get through all my main points and realize I don't know how to end it.

This week, we learned about "J-horror" and watched the Japanese horror film Ringu. I'm going to be honest here, and say that I did not find it to be particularly scary at all. I know a lot of people build it up as this amazing nightmarish tale but I just didn't feel much. I barely even felt unnerved, let alone frightened. I don't know what it is, but for some reason Japanese cinema just doesn't seem to work for me. It's probably the same reasons that I found a classic like Tokyo Story to be extremely tedious and I've never really been able to get into Akira Kurosawa. I can't pinpoint the exact reasons. Maybe it's just a cultural thing. After all, those films are made by a completely different society with different cultural standards and intended for entirely different audiences with different tastes. In that sense, perhaps its the same reasons some modern viewers have difficulty relating to Hollywood films from the Studio Era.

We also watched the movie Hangmen Also Die! and learned about the work of Fritz Lang (the guy behind Metropolis and who later had a hand in developing what would become known as film noir) and Berthold Brecht (a screenwriter who had an unsuccessful career in Hollywood). This one was actually not too bad, though not anything spectacular. It was obviously a piece of propaganda designed to instill hatred of the Nazis and to be fair it is reasonably effective in that regard, though that might be largely due to hindsight. The movie focuses largely on the pro-fascist side of their regime, but it was also made before some of the even worse activities of the Nazi party, namely the Holocaust, became public knowledge. Still, I don't know I'd call it anything special or something that I'd recommend to people outside of film scholars.

Unfortunately, there's even more trouble afoot, since it just so happens that next week is when we're getting this year's obligatory Jean-Luc Godard film. Maybe I should consider myself lucky that I've made it this far into the year without being forced to watch one of his awful movies, but now it's happening. I've had to watch a few atrocious films but now I'm going to be forced to see a film by one of my most despised directors. Why do they keep making me watch these films? Why do people even like Godard? What do they see in his work? All I see are a bunch of films that are overrated at best and an incoherent mess at worst.


I guess I should just be glad this time we're just seeing Breathless, which is probably the most tolerable of Godard's films if only due to it actually having a coherent plot (the same definitely cannot be said for Alphaville or Tout Va Bien). The other two are legitimately bad (and extremely lazy, in the case of Alphaville) films that purport to make a statement but get so lost and confused among absurd choices that the message is nowhere to be found. I don't know what the message was in Tout Va Bien but I wasn't getting it, and I have actually seen some "radical films" since then like Orlando and Walker that actually do get their points across using the same approach. Breathless at least has some coherence and it's really just a poorly-written crime film in which the main character is an idiot and it also deosn't seem to understand that shooting someone who doesn't put a gun down when asked is standard police proceedure. Additionally, I guess I should also be glad that this is the only Godard film this year, last year I had to watch two and it wasn't pretty.

That's enough about my education. I know you're only here to read my thoughts on fandoms, but first, here's something rather curious that happened during the weekend. If you're following my blog, you probably know how knowledgeable I am about movies, but that same experience doesn't extend so much to music. I'm not really a fan of modern music, I've never been especially keen on most of it. The only reason I even know the names of any modern bands is pretty much because my sister is, and even then I often confuse different artists when I hear their music. Most of it I'm indifferent to at best, outright despising at worst beyond a few exceptions. For one thing I actually like Lady Gaga, and that's about it. I personally prefer older rock, particularly stuff from the 80's like Pat Benatar and Kate Bush. Also I enjoy Celtic music like Enya and Clannad.

I'm not very keen on modern music, and I can't say I've ever been a huge fan of Katy Perry. Then, by total chance, I stumbled across one of her videos on YouTube and actually found myself pleasantly surprised. I've heard this song before and never thought much of it, but when I saw the thumbnail depicting Perry in combat fatigues I was rather curious. It turned out to actually be a pretty well done video that even left a sense of appreciation for the song, and it does a few things that feature films haven't done much of yet: namely it presents a fairly positive image of women in the military. I might not have heard as much from those idiots on IMDB's Alien Outpost board lately, but simply doing a Google search for "Women in Infantry" reveals a wave of articles making absurd claims about how women are weaker than men and therefore shouldn't be allowed to enlist in the military. Incidentally, I also found an article explaining why this kind of thinking is ridiculous, though I do find it somewhat horrifying that it was written by a man in response to a female officer making an argument against women in the army. It's like a black man trying to justify segregation followed by a white man pointing out why that shouldn't have happened, it just seems wrong.

In this video, Katy Perry actually goes in full-on combat mode here to remarkable effect. Even disregarding that side, there is a prominent feminist message to be found in that encourages women to show that they can be strong and keep moving despite difficult situations (in this case, her boyfriend cheating on her, she shows that she doesn't need him). Seriously, even if you don't like listening to Katy Perry, watch this video. It's amazing. It's a bit like what Private Benjamin (a movie that had a first half of great army sequences before becoming a generic romantic comedy in the second half) should have been.

There's been something of a controversy going around in light of recent news on the upcoming revival of Twin Peaks. Everything was looking great until several stories started emerging about some vaguely defined "complications" that are apparently getting in the way of things. Lynch himself was expressing some doubts about whether the news season was going to happen, but from what little information has been revealed, it sounds like a simple contract dispute. Besides, it's not so unusual for artists to occasionally have doubts and uncertainties about their projects, so I don't think it's too far-fetched to suspect that Lynch may have gone through them once in a while.

Maybe that's all it is, and I'm hoping that's all. I know a lot of people are really hyped about seeing this revival and several members of the original cast have already signed on so it would be rather unfortunate if they abandoned it now. Also, it would be really infuriating for a lot of people, myself included, seeing as it would mean we were all given false hope for a resolution to the infamous cliffhanger that ended the series. That, and it would mean the hugely popular article I wrote in response to hearing about the revival was a waste of time. Fortunately, it looks so far as though the revival is still happening.

Meanwhile, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back and we've got some rather peculiar developments going on. It seemed that Mac and Bobbi were up to something for a while and doing it behind Coulson's back. It looked at first like it might have had something to do with HYDRA but it's actually... S.H.I.E.L.D.? I'm curious where exactly this is going to go. I thought Nick Fury was very specific about entrusting Coulson to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. so maybe this is some sort of coup? Is someone mad about not being chosen to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D.? Maybe Fury secretly had a few people entrusted to help rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. separately but now there's tension among the ranks, or perhaps S.H.I.E.L.D. was never really destroyed and Coulson is now technically a rogue agent. Also, does this mean that Bobbi and Mac are villains now? There are so many questions and I have no idea what to expect from this.

Also, I feel so bad for Skye right now, all the anxiety she must be going through over having trouble becoming what she describes as a "walking natural disaster". Even Melinda May, who has dedicated herself to helping Skye, is becoming uncertain over what to do about her condition. She seems to be sort of getting the hang of it, seeing as she did after all manage to help out in stopping her psycho father from organizing a team of supervillains to get revenge on Coulson for killing the guy he wanted dead for the past two decades (a bit redundant, but a desire for revenge can blind people).

On Banshee, there was some huge tensions among different factions of the community after a Native American girl was found murdered and an Amish boy was kidnapped, but fortunately Kai Proctor was able to find the culprit though it didn't seem to make things all that much better. Also, it looks like Lucas Hood might have some competition as he's not the only vigilante in town. Nola seems to be ready to start taking the law into her own hands as well, considering the rather gruesome way she dispatched the guy who committed the murder. She might be even more violent in her methods than he is. Talk about moral ambiguity, which is usually a major requirement for vigilante narratives.

Now for The Walking Dead. Carol is starting to get a bit creepy, but on the other hand that kid is a bit annoying. He keeps sneaking into her house asking for cookies, which I can understand is irritating enough, but there is also something to be said about the fact that Carol tries to use that to make the kid do things, keep quiet about her stealing guns, and she threatens him with being eaten alive by zombies if he tells anyone what she has been doing. On the bright side, Abraham's proven to be very good as a construction foreman, and we have a new character in Francine, who seems promising. Eugene is also finally starting to toughen up and pull his own weight, so good for him! On the other hand, we lost Noah, who got devoured by zombies right in front of Glenn. I also don't think Aaron will be too happy to find out his lover has been eaten alive by zombies, and I hope Tara's okay.

So it's the typical end-of-the-year chaos, with extra pressure mounting due to the TA strike still happening. I've still been short on material for my blog, though I did manage to do a little piece on the Production Code so that's okay, I guess. I just have two more weeks and one Godard film until my classes are over and I start moving into exams. That's going to be rough as well but at least then I'll have a bit more free time for blogging and depending on how things go I might even be able to participate in blogathons again.I also have one currently scheduled to begin in a week and a half, an exciting summer-themed cast-a-thon that I think you'll enjoy. 

By the way, I've gotten a few complaints from people who have been uncertain about the implication that they would be rescuing Stephen Harper (I understand now that's not a very pleasant implication, but I'm really bad at following modern politics). I should probably just point out that I didn't actually have a specific Prime Minister in mind when I came up with this idea, so in this game he's really whoever you want him to be. I mainly chose to have it be the "Prime Minister" you were rescuing because rescuing the President would be too cliché and I thought it would be a nice change. Anyway, you'll see more details on that when it shows up on April 1. Right now, I got some papers to worry about.

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  1. I don't listen to a lot of modern music, but Katy Perry is one of my favorites. Her videos and lyrics always convey great, vivid and interesting imagery. I'm always amazed by her creativity despite how limited her childhood influences were in terms of variety in entertainment.

    The Walking Dead was great last week. I wished all of the cast had been on the Talking Dead. Noah's death was brutal. Carol's reaction to Jesse's abuse is understandable but just suggesting to kill her husband is not a smart idea, especially when I think she knows Rick would have a similar intense reaction... And, I think Aaron's partner is Eric, not Aiden. :D

    Congratulations on turning in your paper!

    1. Darn it! I think I still need some time to get to know everyone in Alexandria. It's only been a few episodes and I'm still getting people mixed up.

  2. I'm waiting rather impatiently for the new cast-a-thon. Thanks for the link!

    1. No problem. I figured I'd have to put a link to your blog in one of these posts sooner or later. After today, you'll only have to wait one more week for it, so you'll just have to hold on a little longer.

  3. I still need to see Under the Skin. Hey I'm not a fan of Katy Perry either, not sure I want to even check her songs on youtube. I do like some of her songs they use on my Zumba classes but I wouldn't go out of my way to listen to them on my own.

    As for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I've completely lost interest in that show. But then again I'm really bad w/ tv shows generally :)

    1. I'm not a huge fan of her work either, but that was until I saw the amazing music video where she joins the marines. That is definitely not something I would have expected from her but it works surprisingly well.