Tuesday, November 29, 2016

To the Fragile, Conservative Few

It must be very hard to have your beliefs challenged nearly every single day.  It must be exhausting, indeed, to have to defend yourself, your choices, your "lifestyle" all the time to your detractors.  (I know it's exhausting over here to fight for those human rights.)  It must be tiring to be constantly questioned, especially when you find yourself unable to come up with answers to those questions.  And when you do find yourself ever so slowly inching away from those antiquated, racist/sexist/homophobic views, you probably want encouragement.

I imagine you want praise for gradually moving down the spectrum from "Complete and Utter Bigot" to "Somewhat Intolerant."  Maybe a nice pat on the back or someone to say, "Congratulations on your trek to fully evolved human being!  You are doing the right thing!"  Perhaps a participatory ribbon that says "Not a Complete Asshole...Anymore."  You want acknowledgment of your journey toward enlightenment, and I know there are people out there who will kindly and patiently give you such.

But let us be clear:  that person is not me.  It will never be me.

It is not my job to praise you for doing the absolute minimum when it comes to not being a conservative dick.  It is not my duty to measure your painfully slow progress and give you a cookie at each teeny benchmark.  I have no time for your fragile ego; my time is too busy spent fighting tooth and nail for those basic human rights that you can't seem to accept.

Image Compliments of RogueNegro.com

Monday, November 28, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

Leonard finally made it out of the house to see a movie!  And there was much rejoicing throughout the land.  We opted for a date with just us and our favorite pasty Brit, Pumpernickel Cumbersnatch.  Before we get into the review proper, though, trailers!

  • I hadn't seen the trailer yet for Logan.  If there was ever a perfect pairing of a trailer and a song, Logan with Johnny Cash's rendition of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" was it.
  • There was much chair-dancing and internal squeeing when the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer came on.
  • Matt Damon and The Great Wall:  what the fuck is that shit??  It seemed very,....I don't know.  Too much.  Too much CGI, trying to shove too much awesome into one package, the incredibly wrong vehicle for Mr. Damon.  Aha!  This blogger sums up my feelings accurately:  "general disdain, not for inserting fantasy into history, but [for] doing it badly."
Now onto our regularly scheduled goodness:  let's address the White Elephant in the room.  Whitewashing.  In fact, I'm going to come back to this because I need to do some research.  Let's write my other thoughts down first. ==> All done!  So Tilda Swinton.  She is amazing.  And I'm all for previously male roles being given to women; rather being made into something androgynous, and especially played by someone as breathtakingly beautiful/androgynous as Tilda Swinton.  But not at the expense of whitewashing a non-Caucasian character.  And it's not like they tried to simply make The Ancient One a woman; they changed him/her from a man born in "land high in the Himalayas" to a (bald) Celtic woman.

Yeah, that's not even a little bit similar.
That's quite a difference.
This article explains the studio's decision a bit, but completely ignores the race/ethnicity factor.

Just to make sure I wasn't overlooking something, I looked up the original Doctor Strange comics as well; however, I can't find evidence that Dr. Stephen has been anything other than a gray-at-the-temples white dude:

You, sir, are no Sherlock Holmes!
Thoughts on the movie proper, in bullet-point style as we do around here:
  1. Benedict Cumberbatch.  Benedict.  Ben.  Benny.  Can I call you Benny? Maybe just 'Dict.  You know I love you.  I have loved you since before most people even heard of Sherlock.  You starring in an honest-to-goodness superhero movie seems like the merging of all of my interests.  I would gladly pay money to listen to your basso profundo rumble across my eardrums, even just reading the phone book.  Or a take-out menu.  (Although I vote for phone book because it would take longer.)  -- in your original, natural dialect.  Your U.S./American dialect needs work, my love.  Some British actors can get it and it doesn't sound weird in their mouths (Hugh Laurie comes to mind).  But yours:  several vowel sounds were a bit "off" (like in the word "chart") and "r" sounds were odd, which is a distracting thing when one's character's name is "DoctoR Stephen StRange."  And perhaps it was an attempt to take the beautiful clipped British diction/enunciation out of the picture, but your words often sounded slurred -- and not just when your character was coming out of a drug-induced surgery/coma/car accident.  When I caught the mid-credits scene, my first thought was "Crap, more of this!" but hopefully it means you'll have more practice between now and the next movie.  Call Hugh Laurie, get the name of his dialect coach, and get back to me.
  2. The Award for Best Sidekick goes to...The Cloak of Invisibility Levitation!  Chiwetel, my friend, you've been upstaged by a costume piece.  Seriously, I loved the cloak, and it nearly upstaged all y'all.  It reminded me a bit of the magic carpet in Disney's Aladdin; however, Aladdin's sidekickery was spread out across the magic carpet, Abu (the monkey), and almost Robin Williams as the Genie (although he was such a genius he was pretty much the star of that movie and was upstaged by no one, let alone a costume.  Or rug.).  The Cloak added a fair amount of levity (see what I did there?) and even got an "Awww!" out of me during the mirror scene.  Speaking of the comedy...
  3. Dying is easy; comedy is hard.  Recent film-makers (in the past decade or so) have hopped onto the Joss Whedon bandwagon of mixing humor with cosmos-shaping derring-do's.  In his words:  "Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke."  With most things, Mr. Whedon makes it sound easy, but it is, indeed, a fine balance of using some humorous bits to diffuse intense, dramatic situations; better than just defusing, the really great artists make it come out of nowhere where you'd never put that funny bit.  This movie attempts that balance, but ends up a bit heavy-handed on both ends of the spectrum which then comes across as "trying too hard."  This is nit-picky stuff on my end, but the balance of the comedy and the timing just wasn't quite there.  The funny was trying too hard, too obviously to be funny; the drama was slightly pretentious, and the back and forth between them only highlighted these disparities, rather than balancing them.  Which brings us to #4..
  4. Benedict IS funny.  I know he is.  I've seen it before.  It's a very dry sort of British funny (as Sherlock Holmes) and sometimes just flat-out silly (as himself), but it's there.  However, the comedy (as written) in Doctor Strange did not do him any favors.  The rhythm of this particular humor, which has a sort of American cadence to it (if I may be so arrogant to say so) did not find its way into my Pumpernickel Bendersnatch's delivery.  Like #3, it just wasn't quite there.  In this kind of situation, a director/producer has two options;  retrain the actor (read:  give them line-readings) OR rewrite the dialogue to a patter(n) that better fits their skills.  I think the latter would have been feasible here; play to Wonderland Bandersnatch's strengths, please.
  5. Fancy hands.  I love fancy hand movements!  Whether it's sorcery, illusionists, card tricks, or Michael Moschen as David Bowie's hand-double, I love 'em!  Wish I didn't have tiny hands; I can't even snap my fingers.  
    That's right.  The Goblin King doesn't spin his own balls.
  6. Wong.  Wong is awesome.  Wong's real name is Benedict Wong; the levels of meta happening here are just delightful, as is Wong's portrayal and (eventual) laughter.
Moral of the Story:  don't look at body scans and drive....unless you want to be a SUPERHERO!!!!

End result:  I did enjoy it.  Will I purchase it when the time comes?  Absolutely, don't ask stupid questions.  Do I hope for improvements between now and the next Doctor Strange movie?  For love of all things Marvel, YES.

I didn't write this, but I could have.