Well, it's been a tricky week so far, ironically because I have a bit too much free time and I never seem to be sure what to do with it. I've been told that I do better when I have some sort of structure in my life so I'm still trying to get used to all this free time. Still, I have been able to find time for movies so I guess that's a positive, and I've been able to do a bit of LEGO stop motion which I guess is also a good thing.
This week, I saw a few movies. For one thing, I finally saw Into the Woods. This was one that had me a bit confused when I first heard they were making it. Since I knew it was produced by Disney (a company with a reputation for producing family-friendly material) I wasn't sure if it was going to be the full story or just the first half (i.e. up until the "Happily ever after" number at the end of act 1). I say this because I was myself in an adaptation of Into The Woods back in Grade 4, and it was a heavily abridged version. There was some stuff cut out for timing, like I remember some of the narration had to be trimmed, but it only covered act I, and ignored the fact that there was an entire second act that undoes the "happy ending". We weren't even told that there was more to the play until after our performance (though when it was revealed, the teachers let us watch the second act in full). Turns out Disney's Into the Woods is actually a full adaptation, doing the entire play, or at least as much of it as can be fit into a two-hour movie.
It was interesting seeing the movie because I could still remember a lot of my experience with the play. At the same time, I was impressed by the way in which it seemed to take full advantage of the fact that the show wasn't confined to a single stage and one angle, allowing for more complex musical numbers to be depicted across different locations through parallel editing. On the other hand, there were some stranger choices. I'm still not totally sure I understood why they didn't try to make Johnny Depp look more like a wolf instead of a man dressed in a wolf costume. That kind of makeup job works great on stage but on film these people had access to far more elaborate special effects. The one thing I'll say I was a bit disappointed by was that the character I played in that Grade 4 portrayal of Into the Woods, the Mysterious Man, was for the most part nowhere to be seen (his role seems to have been merged with the witch), though I think I understand why they made that choice, probably because otherwise there would be too many characters to develop. Still, it was otherwise a very interesting experience for a musical.
I also decided to try watching the old film noir They Live by Night, which turned out to be kinda boring. I suppose I can give it credit for at least trying to include a strong female lead (she is first established to be a skilled mechanic, even spending most of the first 20 minutes wearing pants), but then the rest of the film did seem to be trying to "feminize" her and treated her working as a mechanic as a bad thing. I can also give them credit as well since this is a rare film from Classical Hollywood that doesn't try to glamorize the female lead, but that isn't saying much. Ultimately I ended up just finding it kinda boring for the most part, and not very well-executed.
Also, here is something interesting: there's been some more news about the new Star Wars trailer, and it turns out the theory I proposed about Gwendoline Christie's role may in fact be half-right. So far, it looks like I was wrong in assuming that she was the mysterious villain character with the triple-bladed lightsaber, but I may have been correct in assuming she is playing a villain. Apparently, she is playing someone named Captain Phasma, who based on the pictures is apparently in charge of the Stormtroopers. It's an interesting choice, between Captain Phasma and Finn, it looks as though the new movies are going to try and humanize the Stormtroopers a bit more. At least some of them are going to get actual characterizations instead of being simply being cast as anonymous enemy soldiers.
You ever had the experience of watching a television show, getting particularly invested in a certain character or characters, and then having trouble moving on when they get killed off. I finally got back to watching Banshee, and that's happened twice now. When I saw Nola get killed off a few weeks ago it was hard to deal with. I felt like I couldn't go on. I couldn't even finish the episode. I finally worked up the nerve to start watching the show again and two episodes later they killed off my other favorite character, Siobhan Kelly. It was an intense bottle episode in which the police station was attacked and I suspect they drew a lot of influence from Rio Bravo and Assault on Precinct 13, but then towards the end, Siobhan got captured by the huge macho Native American warrior responsible for attacking the police station, and he broke her neck. This was especially painful because I think Siobhan had a personal significance to me. Really, she was the reason I kept watching the show past the first episode. Don't get me wrong, there are still lots of other interesting characters on the show, but if it hadn't been for her I might not have gone far enough in to meet all those characters.
I'm wondering if I've gotten too invested in this show, since on two separate occasions I've found myself feeling actual grief over the loss of a major character that I've never met. I mean, I should have known this kind of thing might happen at some point, considering how violent a show Banshee can get. I did after all manage to continue on through Hannibal after they killed Beverly and I've endured the deaths of several wonderful characters on The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, so this shouldn't be anything new. Then again, I have experienced uncertainties on how much more of The Walking Dead I can take, but that has more to do with the disturbing scenario than anything related to a specific character. I probably would get upset if they killed off Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones but going on these feelings I probably would have stopped after the Red Wedding. I've been told I have very strong emotions so maybe I just need to work on learning to control them. Has anyone else ever had these same feelings? If so, why don't you tell me about the television character whose death you had trouble coping with in the comments.
I also finished season 2 of Hannibal and things got intense. The whole episode ended up turning into a literal bloodbath. Just about every major character who hasn't already been murdered ended up at Hannibal's house in critical condition slowly bleeding to death. Will got his stomach cut open, Jack got stabbed in the neck with a piece of broken glass before being trapped in the cellar, and Alana got thrown out a second-story window; she was still alive when we last saw her, but probably at least broke several bones and it looked like she was in excruciating pain. On the bright side, it turns out Abigail Hobbs wasn't murdered after all, but then Hannibal re-opened the knife wound to her throat, so I'm not sure how much longer that's going to last. The only person who wasn't lying on the ground bleeding to death at the end was Hannibal himself, but even he took a huge beating from Jack and Will. It was such an abrupt ending, and now I have to wait for Season 3 to come out before I can find out what happens next, and even then I'm not sure what channel it's on so I might have to wait until it comes onto Netflix.
On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. things seemed to take an unexpectedly dark turn. Coulson and friends finally figured out where the "inhumans" have been hiding (though they won't reveal it to the audience). Skye wanted her mother to talk to Coulson but Gonzales forced is way into taking his place. From that moment it was clear that things were not going to go well, it was just a question of what would go wrong. Then just when it seemed like things might work out after all, Skye's mother killed him and then framed him for trying to kill her. I'm not quite sure what's going on, but it seems as though Jiaying may in fact have been planning war with S.H.I.E.L.D. and perhaps she was not as benevolent as she first appeared, either that, or Gonzales has just ruined any chance of S.H.I.E.L.D. developing an alliance with these inhumans. In either case this does not look good for the future.
As for our friends over in the wonderful world of Westeros, things aren't going a whole lot better. Tyrion is in fact being taken to see Daenerys, which was the plan from the start of the season though in this case perhaps not in the most ideal way. Jorah is still loyal to Daenerys and seems to be planning to win back her favor, which is certainly going to be difficult. However, she may have no choice but to take him back, since she is running out of support: a group of rebellious slave-owners have started an uprising and managed to take out a large portion of the unsullied in addition to killing Ser Barristan and possibly Greyworm. Daenerys is going to have to start looking for new recruits to join her army. She is definitely still capable of dealing with this mess on her own, but there is a lot of pressure and stress to being a queen, so having someone who can serve as an advisor and confidante would still be beneficial to her mental well-being, and Jorah seems to be the only person still alive who can do that.
Meanwhile, Sansa has been left at Winterfell by our good friend Petyr Baelish with a promise that she'll be free from the wrath of the Boltons once Stannis takes the castle. Stannis isn't exactly the nicest person in Westeros, but he is the brother of Robert Baratheon, who was the one person on good terms with the Stark family (really, it was only when Robert died and Joffrey usurped the throne that the Starks started getting into trouble). Stannis was still trying to take power even when Joffrey was on the throne, so he obviously opposed him. Considering these facts it is possible that Sansa might actually be best off if Stannis does indeed come to Winterfell. Then again, George R.R. Martin is very good at squashing hope, so even if that does happen there's no guarantee that Stannis will succeed. Also, everyone is always going on about how "winter is coming", but there's still no sign of that winter.
One thing I forgot to mention last week, I got talked into seeing the first episode Marvel's Daredevil, and sets things back for Marvel on so many levels. For starters, the show itself was confusing enough and was based on a premise that wasn't very-well explained. Apparently someone decided to just leave a bunch of hazardous chemicals lying around in the middle of the road and a kid was somehow exposed to them and blinded, but also gained superpowers which raises a few questons. That part about him being blinded doesn't entirely make sense. I could understand how the right combination of chemicals might destroy someone's vision but his eyes weren't even touching the chemicals. I suppose it could have been the fumes but then why was nobody else affected the same way?
So the plot makes virtually no sense, and I failed to see how this was intended to connect at all to the rest of the franchise. However, it gets worse. I've often praised Marvel for its strong female characters, of which it has many. It's not always perfect and yes, there is room for improvement seeing as there is usually a greater male-female ratio in each individual installment, but across the entire franchise we have Sif, Black Widow, Pepper Potts, Melinda May, Skye, Bobbi Morse, Jemma Simmons, Peggy Carter, Scarlet Witch, Gamora, and Nebula (which I still admit is an odd choice of name but otherwise still a pretty good character). Marvel's wasn't doing too bad, until now.
Unfortunately Daredevil completely undoes all of that and ended up being not just severely lacking in strong female characters, but by the end it was legitimately sexist and I'm not happy with how it treated the only female character. I mean, look at the facts. First, she is of course a victim who is shown to be unable to take care of herself and has to be protected by men. Second, she's kind of an idiot, not noticing the obvious resemblance between the "mysterious" superhero who saved her and the lawyer she is forced to rely on for protection. During the climax, she then has to be rescued by the male lead and shows no ability to defend herself again. Finally, at the very end, she literally offers her services as a free maid. It seems the only thing she can do for her protectors is cook and clean, and she is treated as being perfectly happy with this arrangement. No, I'm not okay with this and I refuse to go on with this show. Do yourself a favor, don't waste time with this crap, especially since we don't want Marvel to think we actually enjoy watching misogynistic garbage.
Now I've just got a few more days and my summer class gets started. This one is all about the business of filmmaking, and area I have not been looking forward to studying mainly just because I'm not exactly cut out for the business side of anything. Of course, maybe at the very least having the slightest understanding of how the business works could be helpful in some form. I don't know, but at least I'll have a structure of sorts. I also just realized that after this I'll only be three posts away from my 300th article. My usual tradition is to celebrate milestones by reviewing a film that has some sort of personal significance to me. Now I've just got to decide which one I'll be looking at. I guess some high stakes gambling is in order.
Stuff From Other Bloggers
- Roderick Heath is almost ready to start the Film Preservation Blogathon next week. You might want to get down there fast and figure out what you want to write about.
- Lady Sati concludes the White Swan, Black Swan Blogathon
- Wendell Ottley joins in on my own Summer Blockbuster Cast-A-Thon
- Victoria Loomes delivers an insightful essay on Alice Guy-Blaché, one of the earliest known female directors who was working around the same time as several more famous early cinematic pioneers like Thomas Edison, Edwin Porter, the Lumière Bros, Georges Méliès, and D.W. Griffith.
- Big Screen Small Worlds reviews a double feature of Double Gigolo and Pretty Women, both Richard Gere films where he plays very different characters.