Tag Archives: joy

Movie Baggage

Pacific Rim came out last week, and I loved it for most of the reasons I already predicted. Visually, it’s fantastic. It hits all the bright colors and foreign feel of Blade Runner while containing the grittiest elements of military fiction. And that’s kind of what the movie is, a marriage between Starship Troopers-esque action and Voltron with a massive budget and an adult demographic. It’s all the best parts the Power Rangers, Godzilla and, for reasons I’m not entirely sure, Street Fighter 2.

What the movie isn’t, though, is an origin story. And thank god for that. The audience gets caught up with the current events of the film through a 10 minute introduction with protagonist narration. It’s simple, elegant and somehow not reminiscent of the 90 second info dump at the beginning of Green Lantern.

Not unlike a cross between an anime, a video arcade and a Hong Kong casino.

Not unlike a cross between an anime, a video arcade and a Hong Kong casino.

I can’t say what every film should do because there is no such formula for success, but I can say what I liked about this movie: simplicity. There’s no question about how to use power or how to deal with the morally grey questions of supeheroics. The protagonists aren’t grappling with the hardships of great power and great responsibility or restraint.

There’s simply a hole in the ocean where monsters keep coming out and you need to punch them in the face with a robot while wearing Mass Effect style armor. Kick it in the d*** and don’t get killed.

And I couldn’t help but reflect on other summer movies that were a little too bulky. Man of Steel‘s origin story, coupled with the obligatory struggle with power and shoe-horned romance, had enough girth to bog down the entire story to a degree that made us questions whether it was still Superman.

For anyone that saw the film, did romance between Lois and Clark seem uncomfortably forced? With all the time we spent rehashing Superman’s past and dealing with the Kryptonian invasion, by the time they were kissing at the end, all I could think was, “Uh, Lois! You barely know that dude!”

Also, that Superman couldn’t stop the destruction of Metropolis, the death of thousands of people and snapped a guy’s neck: SUPERMAN IS SUPPOSED TO SAVE ALL OF THEM!

Am I saying that Superman’s origin shouldn’t have been part of the movie?

No.

Maybe.

I’m saying that everyone knows his origin story because Superman is the most recognized fictional character on Earth. Would it have been bad to do a clip montage like Pacific Rim or a brief intro like the 2009 Star Trek? Actually, that’s a great idea. In 8 minutes Abrams created a tangent history for Kirk and the entire Star Trek universe. Granted, the rest of the film was still a kind of origin story for the crew, but it was dynamic and interesting.

Speaking of Abrams, Star Trek: Into Darkness has a lot of the same baggage. I really wanted to like the film, and I’m quite fond of the first J.J. Abrams reboot, but there were some things that I couldn’t get past.

1. Kirk getting demoted for being a screw-up and then being immediately promoted to save The Federation and avert war.

2. Having a battle with a secret ship in orbit of Earth. Where is the rest of the Federation? They just had a terrorist attack like 2 days ago.

3. Earth’s complete lack of monitoring devices or defenses, allowing for a terrorist to crash a ship into Star Fleet HQ. If the destruction of Vulcan was the 9/11 (or Pearl Harbor) of Star Trek, how is it Earth is completely undefended?

4. Kirk kicking the ship’s engine to get it working again. This wasn’t so much an oversight as an accidentally perfect metaphor for the transformation of Star Trek characters from their original incarnation as diplomats and scientists to people who get things done by hanging off ledges and punching people.

All of these things are symptoms of movie baggage. These films are trying to complicate characters that, traditionally, are considered beyond reproach. And maybe this is the heart of the problem. I’m tired of flawed characters burdened by their responsibilities. I’m over shades of grey and coping with how awful having super powers must be.

Where is the joy? Where is the sense of whimsy? Where is the simplicity of having the ability to help people and wanting to do it? That’s what Pacific Rim had and, I argue, what Man of Steel and Star Trek: Into Darkness were missing. Again, I’m not saying that this is the way all films should be because you know I would be on here complaining about how static and boring protagonists are. But I do believe these two franchises deserved characters with a sense of wonder and joy.

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The Pros & Cons of the Oncoming Storm Called Christmas

After working for almost 13 years in the retail business, I’ve grown quite disenchanted with the holiday season. But over the past few years, it has started to regain some of its magic. Some, but not all. This year looks to be a bit brighter than recent years thanks to my girlfriend and her little girl.

Something about the joy expressed from a children during Christmastime, that sparkle of wonder and splendor in their eyes at the sight of snow falling and presents under the tree, really brings a warmth to your heart. I look forward to reading Christmas stories to the new little girl in my life and watching her rip through the wrapping paper on all the great gifts I got her this year.

There are a few other holiday events that I’m looking forward to… and some that I’m not. I thought I might compile a list for you. I’ll start with the Cons of Christmas, so hopefully the Pros will rebuild your holiday cheer.

Cons of Christmas

OBEY. [source: greenlivingtemple.com]

  1. Marketing and Consumerism– It seems that, in the retail market, Thanksgiving is getting skipped over and we’re just jumping straight to Christmas. It’s still being celebrated, there’s still parades and everything, but Turkey-time has been getting the cold shoulder lately. (And I understand the irony of this statement, seeing as how I’m writing an article about Christmas before anyone from this site has written one about Thanksgiving. Not a care is had.) Nothing lessens my holiday cheer more than hearing Christmas tunes playing the day after Halloween. It has even come to the point where it looks like Halloween may soon be looked over as well. I noticed this year that Christmas decorations and paraphernalia went on sale before Halloween was over. Outrageous!That’s not the worst part. That “honor” goes to the After-Thanksgiving/Black Friday sales. Mobs of insane shoppers lining up and waiting for hours on end, all for ridiculous bargains on a lot of second-rate crap, I mean merchandise. Stores have even resorted to started the sales on the night of Thanksgiving, as an effort to reduce casualties during this time of madness. I don’t see it working. Nothing can quell the rage in an over-worked mother’s heart when she’s barreling through a pack of like-minded moms, in order to get to that prized toy or electronic device that her ungrateful, heathen child covets so.

    If I woke up to this, I wouldn’t leave the house.

  2. Snow and the Cold– I have grown to despise the cold and the snow. I used to love them when I was a kid but now I dread them both. I think my hatred started once I started driving. When you’re a kid, you don’t worry about breaking down during the winter and having to suffer through the frigid weather. You play in the snow then you go inside and get warm. When you get older and you start driving, there’s a very good chance you’re going to break down and have to sit and freeze your butt off while waiting for a tow truck. Or maybe even sleep in your car on a frosty night. I know I have. And let’s not forget about having to wake up earlier so you can warm up your car and scrape the ice off of your windshield. Once you get on the road, you have to worry about not hitting a patch of ice and careening into a snow drift. Add to that, the horrible drivers who already can’t drive under normal conditions are on the roads as well.Making sure your kids are kept warm so they don’t get sick and winterizing your home to keep your heating costs down; all stuff you have to worry about as an adult. Also, add to list that once snow has first fallen and it is untouched, it’s beautiful. After that, it’s nasty slush.

    Yup. These Guys. [source: teamjimmyjoe.com]

  3. Spending Time With the Ones You Loathe – You know those friends and members of family that you ignore and spend all year trying to avoid? Well since this is the season of togetherness and caring, you’re probably gonna have to interact with them. More than likely in a wonderful holiday visit where they can regale you with news of how awful or better their life is, so as to guilt or gloat, ask you for money, and/or tell you what you’re doing wrong with your life and how they don’t approve. And a lot of times, you’re going to get all of that and more once alcohol starts fueling the misery train. It may only be for one day of the year, but it’s gonna be the worst day, that’s for sure. Especially if they decide that they want to spend more time with you afterwards and try to keep in contact. Prepare yourselves for that nonsense.
  4. Holiday Sensory Overkill – Too much of a good thing is bad. Some people should heed these words wisely. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hurt my eyes from looking at someone’s Christmas display that was just way too bright and gaudy. When your lights start to number in the hundreds of thousands, you might be overdoing it. And for some, tens of thousands is too much. It was funny when Clark Griswold did it, but you sir/madam, are no Clark Griswold. This also goes for the people who like to fill up their yards with tacky, plastic decorations to the point where no yard can be seen. You’re doing it wrong. I don’t know how many artificial versions of Santa and his eight tiny reindeer you think you need on your front lawn, but one is truly enough. I know common sense goes out they window once “Jingle Bells” starts playing, but how about we take a small step in re-establishing it by easing back on the outdoor (and indoor, for that matter) decor. And to the person who decided the giant bags of cinnamon-scented pine cones were a good idea…I hate you.

Pros of Christmas:

  1. Spending Time With the Ones You Love– For all the horrid people that you have to visit with this time of year, there are a bunch of really great people that make it all worth it, and you get to see them too. The ones who brighten your day, make you smile and laugh, truly warm your heart, and give you a reason to enjoy the holidays; those folks are gonna be around to share the season with you. So when you’re utterly disgusted and annoyed after talking with the ones you can’t stand; turn to the ones you love, smile, give them a big hug, and regain your joy. Remember, those negative jerks don’t matter. That’s why you avoid them all year long.

    If you haven’t seen it, watch it. [source: acartoonchristmas.com]

  2. Quality Holiday ProgrammingA Charlie Brown Christmas, Christmas with The California Raisins, A Garfield Christmas Special, The Grinch (animated and live-action), The Santa Clause movies…I love Christmas movies! I could go on and on listing all my favorites, but I’ll probably do that in another article. Nothing makes me feel like a kid again quite like sitting in front of the television and watching all of my favorite holiday specials, even when shows like Community and Supernatural have Christmas-themed episodes. The joy they bring is insurmountable. This includes the parades. Don’t judge.
  3. Holiday Sensory Nirvana – I have said before that some people can overdue it with the decoration, but there are a few, a great few, who know how to decorate well. So well that you must stop whatever you’re doing and stand in awe at the greatness they have created. Not too over-the-top and not too underwhelming, just right smack-dab at the center of yuletide perfection. The lights are done right (and sometimes splendidly timed to music), the yard ornaments are tastefully placed and not overcrowding each other, and there maybe be one inflatable Santa but they are keeping him constantly inflated. No flaccid Santa’s here (snicker if you must). It’s a display so wonderful that you want to run up and knock on their front door and when they open, give them the most awesome high-five you’ve ever given in your life–A high-five so powerful that it acknowledges their greatness in decorating on into the new year.
  4. Michael Buble – As well as The Rat Pack, Nat King Cole, Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, and few other greats, but mostly Michael Buble.

Need I say more?

What are some of your Pros and Cons for Christmas?

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