Racial Stereotypes and Movies.

You know what I notice when I watch internet reviews? Most of the ones out there are by more…liberal minded youths.

Youths being subjective, some of them are in their thirties.

But they more to the left, if you know what I mean.

I still enjoy their reviews and get something from them, but on certain issues, they always end up disappointing me by taking the opposite stance from what I would.

A common example would be racism in films (by the way it’s a lot easier to see racism in films than in books.)

A lot of the time it’s just pointed out to make a sarcastic joke, and the observation is not based on substantial evidence that the movie was being racist.

Like in old Disney movies.

Maybe, and I say it with reluctance, Walt Disney did have some racist leanings. A lot of people did in the forties and fifties, even those who wouldn’t have identified themselves as for segregation.

But I might point out his movies were probably one of the first, if not the first, to feature ethnic characters in a kid’s film.

Also, I question whether all stereotyping is harmful.

To a kid, the stereotyping is a lot less about color or speech and a lot more about how the character acts. They won’t recognize singing a certain way as a stereotype. They’ll be paying more attention to whether the character is being good or bad.

And that’s why black is associated with evil and white is associated with good.

Before you get all offended (if you’re the type who does.) Let me further explain.

The black vs white thing has nothing to do with race, as much as certain groups of people would like you to believe it does. It’s all about the contrast between darkness and light.

This goes way back to the Bible itself, along with plenty of mythologies around the world. Darkness, night, underground, etc, is always representative of evil.

Which is not a coincidence or a chance but a deep truth. In darkness you are blind and you lose your way. That’s how you become evil. In a nutshell.

But light, daytime, open air, they all represent truth and goodness.

And we all know the connection there. Freedom and seeing things clearly leads to happiness and goodness.

Plus most people are afraid of the dark as children and prefer the daylight hours.

That villains are traditionally clothed in black or other dark colors is not a racist thing, nor are references to things looking blacker than before. Context, people, context.

Black characters are not often cast as villains anyway.

Which is also called racist, but I think the white people ought to be more offended over this.

why are we always portrayed as evil maniacs who lie, kill, steal, as if it were nothing?

And if this doesn’t bother you, but black characters not being villains does, you have a problem.

Because that’s basically saying white people can be evil and it’s normal, but black people can be evil and it’s special. It makes them important.

How messed up is that idea on so many levels?

Furthermore, if old movies portrayed black and Asian characters as goofy, quirky, and stereotypical, were they any better to white characters?

Couldn’t the whole tea party thing from Alice in Wonderland be called an English stereotype? Could the white rabbit who’s always in a hurry and kind of a milksop be a stereotype?

Actually all the characters int eh movie are white and very quirky.

But if that’s not the best example, what aobut the princess movies?

The only non white princesses are also ones portrayed as more proactive and hardworking and anti damsel in distress. (Pocahontas, Tiana, and Jasmine.) You can argue all day about how their ethnicity as a whole is portrayed, but aren’t they less helpless and docile than Cinderella and Snow White and Aurora; all European.

And aren’t all the white princesses up till Merida stereotypically man–oriented without any power of their own?

Merida and Elsa are still the only real exceptions to this so far.

Am I saying we should come down on Disney for all this? NO.

I don’t care.

I really don’t need movie characters to tell me what my gender should do or be. I don’t see little boys walking around being princely. (Too bad.) If I like identifying with princesses, it’s because something in the idea of it itself appeals to me. Not because i think that’s the embodiment of what a woman should be.

I would find that thought ridiculous.

And I don’t ask movies to define femininity for me. Wonder Woman is just as feminine to me as Cinderella. Because woman are different, and what we share is hard to capture in one film.

Saying that Cinderella or Wonder Woman are the peak of womanliness is as silly as trying to pick between a t\super smart guy or the tough wrestler guy as the epitome of manliness.

Doesn’t a man need both brains and brawn? Don’t most men fall between those two extremes. Or in some cases, are both. (Hi Batman….and most Superhero men.)

And don’t most women have both a tough and bold side, and a demure and beauty loving side.

For me those two sides are inseparable. I can be bold and appreciate the finer things in life simultaneously.

And any movie that says those are mutually exclusive is idiotic.

Just like any movie that thinks it can accurate portray an entire ethnicity is idiotic.

Here’s the rub.

People are all different. A movie portraying an ethnicity can only portray the most well known parts of it, or the worst parts, or the funniest parts, to get so many people to follow along.

It’s not a movie’s place to define a race. Only to use race as a storytelling tool.

It can’t tell you what you are, and how you live. It’s not able to do that. And no one should ask it too.

That’s not to excuse any film that’s using stereotypes just to put people down and dump on one culture or another. Those films are garbage.

But most films are just trying to tell the story using what the majority is familiar with. And that’s true whether it’s an american film portraying English stereotypes, or a Bollywood film portraying American stereotypes. (It happens.)

Whatever. Can I just focus on the actual message?

Those are my thoughts anyway, until next time–Natasha.

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Spiderman 3

I know I did talk about this already but at the time I hadn’t seen it yet. Now that I have I want to give you my assessment of all the complaints I’ve heard about it.

My assessment is: THE COMPLAINTS ARE STUPID.

I don’t normally just dismiss all the hate a movie gets as ridiculous, but this time, I am.

Okay, okay, to be fair. It was not perfect.

The only part I thought the criticism of the pacing rung true with was the end.

I thought each villain was set up well, but bringing them all together was too rushed, and though it made for an interesting battle, Venom and Sandman’s partnership wasn’t very intimidating or epic. For me it was more about Harry coming through than either of them.

And Harry’s change of heart was…not bad, no, but rushed.  Again.

I put all this up to superhero films not being allowed to be longer than 2hrs+. I mean, they aren’t 3 hrs long ever.

I would say this movie was written as well (for what it was) as Braveheart or Titanic. But those movies had more time to wrap up all their plot devices, and character arcs. This one set everything up flawlessly, but it couldn’t deliver slowly enough.

But I have no real complaints. The timing thing made it weird, but by no means un-moving. I actually teared up when Harry died.

And yes, Peter as one weird nerd. As MJ even says.

 

You don’t like Peter because he’s some dreamboat, hunky, suave playboy…like Tony Stark. (Sorry.) You like Peter for all the opposite reasons. Because he’s dorky and normal-ish. And a good guy despite how many times his heart gets ripped out. And he’s smart of course. (thought hey really down play that in this trilogy.)

It’s a little weird to me to have so much voice-over, with such blatant message giving in a superhero movie. But I don’t think it’s wrong.

IT’s a stylistic choice, and it doesn’t kill the gravity of the moment.

Spiderman 3 is a comic movie and it’s not wrong for it to play out as such. Even the special affects are way more comic book than sci-fi. But that’s why you love it, if you love it.

And at the end of the day, and the movie, it’s not about all that anyway. It’s about the heart.

Aunt May kicks off the message of this film by talking about revenge and how it eats away at you. Which the space mud is a not so subtle representation of. You may not remember in the scene where it latches on to Peter it forms itself first into a goblin shape, and then into a claw-like hand which  goes for his heart.

Creepy. And exactly what revenge does.

I actually appreciate that the movie isn’t pretending like this is a new idea. It’s not. We all know (or should) that revenge is bad. But we also know that Peter never truly dealt with his revenge against the man in the first film whom he thought killed Uncle Ben, and it’s been a stain on his character (at least for me,) I like that they went back to it instead of repeating it never happened.

Peter never forgave himself or the killer for what happened. Sot his movie is not pulling this plot out of nowhere, but actually addressing what they’ve built up to for a long time. Yes, it’s shaky because the guy in the first movie pretty much admits to killing Uncle Ben. I don’t like that, but I sympathize with them wishing they could tell a different story, and knowing that movies are kind of set in stone until they are remade. So they didn’t have a real choice in the matter.

Anyway, not only is the mud symbolic of revenge, but revenge has been the driving force of Harry and his father’s characters since the first movie. So it was gong to be a major part of this one anyway.

And the contrast between how Peter, Harry, and that other guy (Eddie?) handle their revengeful wishes is important.

All three are consumed by it for a time, but we see that with people who’s character started off stronger and more loyal in the beginning can easier throw off their anger an hatred.

Harry, even though h’es mostly a wimp, a crybaby, and a jerk; had his moments of being willing to help MJ and not wanting to kill his best friend.

Those moments of humanity and mercy on Harry’s part show he’s better than his father, who didn’t really resist the goblin’s sway. And also show that he truly felt something for Peter and MJ at one time.

Eddie (?) on the other hand was dishonest and cocksure from the start. It’s not exactly fair to say he was evil; and he had less reason for his actions than Peter or Harry. But the mud was influencing his mind, and he clearly did not have the character to resist.

A brilliance of this plot was having Peter’s revenge and jerkish-ness be verbal as well as physical. And show up in other areas of life. We see how vicious he has become in the club scene with MJ, but it’s enough to make him realize what this has done to him.

That he runs to a church is not a coincidence. He did tell Eddie “If you want forgiveness, get religion.” How interesting that you could read that as “if you want forgiveness in yourself.”

It’s never been hidden that Aunt May is a Christian, and that Peter has been raised with some knowledge of that faith. It shows in a lot of the things he says and does at critical moments in all three movies.

This movie was dark. Peter is a lot less nice in it. He’s starting to get a big head. MJ also does a lot of stuff we don’t love.

But as Peter says, when people have problems, they work through them.

There’s times in our lives when we aren’t so pretty, and we aren’t so loving as we might wish. I’ve had them. You’ve had them. The point is not that we are worse people, it’s nothing out of the ordinary, but that we move on and become better for it. That’s the extraordinary thing.

This movie is also about choice. As Peter says at the end in his narration. All three movies were about having a choice. Peter says Harry taught him that.

But really, Harry just capped it off. Peter had seen that already with Norman Osborne, and Dr. Octopus, and Venom, and his own life.

We have a choice. We can choose to forgive. Even ourselves.

That’s the movie’s message in a nutshell.

–Natasha.

The Encounter

Okay, I am going to take a slight detour from my normal review and talk about a Christian movie.

I stay away from reviewing those because I think a lot less people have seen them and frankly, they aren’t usually very good unless they are based on a true story. (Like Soul Surfer.)

That said, there’s a few of them out there worth seeing.

One of my favorites, back in the days when I searched for Christian cinema online, was “The Encounter” and its sequel “The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost.”

I’ll say upfront I think the second one was the better made and scripted, but the first one is what introduces us to the movie’s premise.

Which is, what if Jesus appeared to us today, in person. Like he did while he was on earth.

It’s also an old idea, if you’ve grown up in church you’ve heard it a thousand times “What if Jesus appeared now?” and it’s usually followed with “would you be ready?”

Well, I think Left Behind style books have their place. But this movie is actually not about that, it’s about Jesus simply meeting people, like you’d meet anyone else. And engaging their attention.

There’s a score of examples form the gospel of this happening, and the movie copies some of them. It most strongly resembles the story of the woman at the well. Because Jesus knows all about each of the five people who come into the Diner.

I should explain, the setting is a dark and stormy night, and five people have turn back because the remote road they’re on is blocked. So they go into the only building for miles Last Chance Diner. Which they think is a joke. (I think I actually saw the same name in another movie, or possibly in real life.)

The people are Sarah, a woman driving 500 miles to see her boyfriend hoping he’s going to propose; Kayla, a runaway who’s been sexually abused by her stepdad; Hank and Catherine, a couple headed for divorce, against Hank’s will; and Nick, a wealthy owner of a chain of restaurants.

Sarah and Hank are Christians, the other three are not though Catherine claims to be.

In one way, I’m glad there are some Christians already, because turning it into a five people get saved story would be kind of predictable.

So they all sit down, have some of the best water they’e ever tasted, and Jesus tells them all what they want for dinner. He somehow know their favorites foods. Then he makes it for them for free.

(I hate to pick apart the metaphor, but I’m sure when Jesus did honest work as a carpenter, he charged people for it.)

But if you think I’m too interested in semantics, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Because this movie is about 60% semantics. Jesus explaining free will, and creation, and salvation, and forgiveness.

There is nothing wrong with that, exactly, but I think the writers stressed it too much. When I read about Jesus, I don’t feel that semantics were a problem for him. When he is literally the truth, the living word, then whatever he says is correct. He doesn’t ‘ have to explain why.

That’s the thing, God doesn’t explain himself a whole lot. Especially to people of little faith. Like Nick, who is very scornful of his claim.

With some basis of course. It’s a little weird, and there’s a lot of phonies claiming to be Jesus out there.

Personally, I would have quoted that verse aobut “Many who will come in my name.” Or the one about false Christs. But that never comes up. Which you’d think it should.

Notwithstanding, I don’t have a problem with the idea of Jesus appearing to people. I just think the way it was written was under-baked.

I even think him telling them about themselves is within biblical limits.

But what leaves a bad taste in my mouth is how he shares all these people’s deep personal issues with total strangers. And basically goads them into telling even more aobut. Kayla’s rape story wasn’t really something all of them needed to hear. Neither was Catherine’s lack of faith. Or Nick’s past of feeling embarrassed because of his father’s Italian ways.

Yeah, I just don’t see Jesus exposing people like that.

Theologically, I agree with most of the film. But on a few points I think they are too glib. They treat tough topics like they can be easily explained. I notice a lot of christian movies do that.

Also, it makes it seem like we should expect Jesus to answer all our questions before we trust in him. But that’s not how faith works.

Faith means having enough reason to believe in something, without having so much reason that it ceases to be a choice. Unless you’re the C. S. Lewis type and reason can actually convince you of something. (Many people are not convinced by reasons or facts.)

Things like rape can’t be reasoned into being accepted. Only faith can cover it.

In the end, four people decide to believe in Him. Nick goes to the devil. Literally. Teh devil character is in this too.

Now, as cheesy as this may sound. I believe this movie does work in some ways. It’s more like an allegory than a real life representation. And the writers were trying to answer peoples questions aobut the faith. And some of their answers were good.

The acting is also very good for one of these movies.

But it lacks character depth. Even in Jesus, which is the worst crime of all. Though he is likable and almost believable, he doesn’t seem quite real.

That’s the problem, because for this to work, he needs to.

And the other characters need to be relatable.

But on record, the sequel does correct some of the problems of the first one.

What I think gives these movies merit is that they do help you imagine Jesus more as a person. And picture what it must have been like for people to meet him.

I would say another film that does it even better is “Another Perfect Stranger.”

And that’s all for now–Natasha.

Wonder Woman–2

I am looking forward to this part more than the first.

Now I get to talk about the meaning of the movie.

(Let me preface it by saying I am not claiming this movie is christian. But I think they used Christian elements to tell the story. Maybe just because that was what they thought would work. I won’t assume more than that. And I think it’s good whether they did it on purpose or not.)

This is where I feel this movie did do something new.

And I also feel that the fans are entirely missing the point when they nitpick the plot for being like other films. The plot was never supposed to be what made this movie different.

It’s Diana herself.

I think I related to her more not because she’s a woman, but because I felt like her story was kind of like my story.

At least par to fit was.

She was homeschooled after all. And very, very sheltered.

So what happens when you stick that combination into the real world?

Diana’s reaction to the horrors of war really hit home with me. Her honest admission that it was horrible. And her demand that promises be kept. Her insistence that they help those who could not help themselves. And her shock when she learned that Steve, one of the good guys, was a liar, smuggler, thief, and that his people had mistreated other peoples of the world. Just as the Germans had.

Diana starts off believing that even Germans are good, truly, and that Ares is to blame for the evil they are doing, and all the evils of war. When she confronts him, she is ready to unleash justice on all their behalf. But to her astonishment, Ares, while under the rope of truth, tells her that he doesn’t make men do the evil they do. All he does is inspire certain parts of it, and manipulate them into doing more things to prolong their troubles.

I believe Ares was still mincing the truth somewhat, though not completely. He’s bound to have more resistance to the rope than a human could, and he only told part of the story.

But Are’s here is a pretty obvious representation of Satan. The tempter, the deceiver, the one who encourages man to sin. But who will say, “I didn’t make him do it.”

Well, no. Satan can’t make a person sin. As in, he can’t put a gun it their hand and make them pull the trigger. But God is pretty clear about tempters still having a major share of the guilt when someone listens to them.

But Diana and we ourselves can’t avoid the truth that man does sin, and he does it voluntarily.

I still remember when I felt the way Diana did when she saw the men still fighting, and she realized Professor Poison really was a psychopath, only getting helped by Ares, but not set on that path by him.

I remember that sick horror when I realized the evils of things like Abortion, or the holocaust, or abuse.

The look on her face was just the look I remember having. And I remember feeling the same doubt about people. In fact, I still struggle with wondering if people can change. If there is truly anything in most of us worth saving.

And by the way, Ares does not highlight anything except the evils of man and his blindness to his own folly. That’s because that’s all Ares cares about. That’s all the devil cares about. The goodness in humanity makes him look less successful.

And like Diana, I have wished I could help everyone who needs it. I don’t want you all to think I’m saintly or anything for feeling that way. If you ask me, it’s no more than decent to want to alleviate the suffering of fellow creatures.

But the truth is, even a superhero can never help them all.

And the smart thing the movie does is come to grips with that fact. It’s basically what Civil War tried and failed to do. And what every Spiderman movie has dealt with.

Diana realizes that she can’t do it all.

I loved the moment at the end when she says she can’t save the world. Though Steve told her she could, she realized the truth: A hero can’t save the world. “Only love can save the world,” she says.

Diana doesn’t mean that just being nice to everyone can save the world. She means that, though evil still rises and men still commit it willingly, the other men who give up everything to stop them and save their people are the ones who save the world.

Essentially, only the ultimate good is more powerful than the ultimate evil. And Diana means to promote that good, and if necessary, lay down her own life, until that good wins out.

And since I believe love is a Person, I know that love has saved the world, and continues to save it. And will triumph in the end. So Diana is completely right.

And Steve’s sacrifice is our example of that love in action. It’s not just a cliche that his last words were “I love you.”

One more thing:

Earlier on, Steve tells Diana that maybe saving people isn’t about what they deserve, but about what you believe. I didn’t get it and thought it was some cheesy one line moral, until Diana was in the final battle with Ares, and she chose to spare Professor Poison’s life, even though she could have justified killing her as an act of war.

But she didn’t, because int hat moment for Diana, it became aobut more than just ending the war. And she repeated what Steve said to Ares as she turned from taking revenge.

You see, what Steve meant was not that you believe in the good of humanity. That would be flimsy and the movie proves it false.

What he meant was, you save people because you believe that is the right thing to do. You believe that somehow, someway, it’s important. It means something. You believe that there’s a different solution than just eliminating them.

If that’s what you believe, and that’s who you are, then you won’t change that just because they don’t deserve it.

And wow, was that a powerful message for me.

Maybe defeating Ares isn’t about stopping war. Maybe it’s aobut winning the war inside yourself. Maybe it means throwing off your own lust for revenge, for power, for the ultimate solution.

Because you don’t have it. But you can be part of it.

Isn’t throwing off all that what truly ends a war anyway?

In that sense, I think Diana killing Ares was symbolic. That was her personal battle. But she recognized that is was not so for all of humanity. The battle is different for everyone.

Diana starts off the movie proud but unaware of her own power; she ends it knowing what she is capable of, but humbled.

And darn it, if that’s not an amazing character arc, then there is just no pleasing some people.

So, I recommend the movie.

–Natasha.

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Wonder Woman–1

At last! I finally saw it.

Good luck convincing my family to go see a superhero flick in theaters. The only reason I saw Ragnarok was because they were going to see a different film at the same time. (Save for one sibling who went with me.)

So I had to buy this movie before I could see it.

Now, what did I think?

Well, some of you probably know that this movie has been widely approved by fans and I think also critics, but I’ve seen some negative stuff about it too. So I’ll start with that.

The worst thing aobut this film…it’s too short.

I’m serious, the whole opening part moves really fast, and unfortunately without a whole lot of detail besides setting up the story. I wouldn’t care, (I didn’t with Captain America) if it wasn’t for the fact that the mythological side of it is interesting, and you can’t help but wish you got to know the Amazons better and see more of Diana’s childhood there.

Still, if you want more, that’s a good sign right?

I was sure I’d like them if I had more time in which to do so. But I will say the attire and the scenery were awesome and gave me the correct idea of the island being a paradise. Heck, I’d want to train there.

People’s main problem with the film is that it’s just like Captain America, and its’ just like every other DC (or even Marvel) film to date. It did nothing new.

Well, considering Marvel is using the same plotline in every single one of its films and getting away with it more often than not, does that seem like a fair complaint?

But I’m not here to take sides in this stupid fan base war.

Was it like Captain America? Yes. More so than some people have been willing to admit. There’s a wired evil genius making dangerous weapons and getting help from a god (instead of just a thing belonging to the gods). There’s a ragtag team of unlikely heroes gathered by the main characters to do a mission the authorities think is insane. Wonder Woman goes off alone to do something she was strongly advised against doing in order to save people. She loses someone close to her. And there’s other similarities too.

But. Wonder Woman was already like Captain America in a lot of ways. And perhaps we shouldn’t blame DC for taking a page from the book of more successful writers.

It worked out well for them.

Anyway, originality is not what makes or breaks a superhero film. All superheros are somewhat unoriginal now, if only because there was so many of them back in the early days of their conception. You will never get complete originality for all of them if you have dozens to wade through.

I personally don’t care.

That said, should this movie have tried something new?

Well, I think it did, but I’ll probably put that into part two.

For now I’ll address the plot.

Was it new? No.

Sorry, making it about a woman isn’t enough to make it new. That’s a dead horse to keep beating if you ask me.

But my question is, why does it need to be new?

How exactly do you make an origin story new? They changed enough as it was.

Making the War WWI instead of WWII was an interesting step. But I liked it after thinking it over. One major point of the film is whether mankind is naturally evil or not. Wonder Woman seeing multiple wars gives her a lot more time and a lot more stakes to reckon with when she makes her choices. And that she keeps choosing to be a protector every time gives her the mark of consistency and faithfulness that, honestly, I have yet to see with another of these rebooted heroes.

Think about it, Wonder Woman has seen more terrors, more of man’s own evil, in her life time, than even Captain America, or the Avengers. And yet she has more resolve to do the right thing than the Avengers even have about their own role in the world.

I’ll get more into that later, suffice it to say, I like it.

And making Professor Poison a woman ought to be a progressive enough leap for the feminists out there, since it’s highly unlikely. And not historically accurate.

But I thought it was a good choice because in the past Wonder Woman has fallen into the cliche “blame the men and their pig pigheadedness for everything” attitude. When she came face to face with Professor Poison, there was no way to say that evil and malice and stubbornness are only male problems. They are human problems.

Also, Ares is not a respecter of sexes. he uses either to accomplish his purpose. So apparently, does Zeus.

One of the best things about his movie is how little it even brought feminism up. Or sexism. It was there. But the main focus is on humanity and its failings as a whole. Not what gender you are.

Again, one wishes there was more time to develop everyone’s character. By the end Diana and Steve are the ones we know best. But I felt like there was so much more to know aobut Steve before he was gone.

And yes, Diana and Steve’s relationship was way too fast, but they didn’t have much choice about that. And they did build up to it fairly well. With Steve’s fascination with her being apparent without being creepy. And hers in turn, though hers was more innocent.

I will say I could have done without the whole sexual implications, or discussions. I felt the latter was poor taste when they’d only just met that day. IT seemed forced in for laughs. And later on when another man mentioned being “aroused” by her, I didn’t like it. The fact is, nice guys in the early 1900s didn’t say things like that. To a woman’s face anyway.

But I suppose nice wasn’t exactly what Steve was looking for in his friends at that particular time. SO maybe we can let it slide.

(but it wasn’t necessary, movie, it really wasn’t.)

Other than that I have no complaints. I’ll dive deeper into the meaning in part 2

Until next time–Natasha.

Thor Ragnarok

Woohoo, I finally saw a Marvel movie in theaters!

Literally, for the first time.

I can see now why people like seeing them on the big screen, it’s just better for that kind of flick. I felt I could see more of what was happening.

Do I recommend it? You bet.

I thought it was a lot better than I was led to believe by the reviews.

The constant joking around didn’t take away from the story, though it did seem a break from Thor’s character, but considering how much solitude and stress he was under, I think anyone would have to adapt, so I could let it go.

And, unlike what I was told via the internet, the movie did take some moments to pause and pull back. Even though funny things still happened in those scenes, the character’s themselves were quite serious and I bought it.

Now, spoiler alert for the rest of what I liked:

The first two Thor films were some of the best MCU films in the franchise, to my mind. And this one delivers a satisfying ending to Thor’s private story. The character arc he’s being going through ended way better than I expected.

You see, in the same fashion as The Lion king, the first movie was about being the true king, and what that means. It means not power, but character; peace loving, but not stupid.

The second film tackles the theme of being willing to give up power and prestige for someone you love. And also being humble and willing to not have the spotlight. It also covers loss, and delves deeper into Thor and Loki’s bother-brother relationship.

After Thor declined the throne in the second movie and we saw Loki sitting upon it, I was fully prepared for a plot revolving around getting him taken care of, and more tricks and more of the same old same old.

I like Loki, but only because I always thought he was struggling with doing the terrible things he did, and I hoped he would turn around. Thor felt the same.

Oddly enough, the very thing fans were mad at Thor for doing in the Avengers (constantly believing Loki would change) we actually miss as he seems ready in this film to finally give up on him. But it was nice to see Thor finally not duped. He arrives on Asgard and immediately figures out Loki is masquerading as Odin. He exposes him in a refreshingly straightforward and speedy way, and then they go to Earth to find Odin and bring him back.

I can’t detail all the things that happen in a very short amount of movie time, so I’ll just say we get some more insights into Loki’s beef with Thor, and the whole world, apparently.

Then we meet Odin, and it doesn’t take the audience long to realize he is dying. (I mean, they’ve been leading up to it since the first film.) When he dies, Thor realizes this means he is king. But there’s no time for that to even sink in, since immediately afterward, Hella, the goddess of death and Odin’s firstborn, shows up. Odin’s life was all that was keeping her back.

Not only that, she destroys Thor’s Hammer. Making Loki freak and Thor speechless. Loki at once summons Heimdall’s portal, but in so doing unwittingly allows Hella to get to Asgard, and she throws both of t hem out of the tunnel and they land on some random planet just between the known and the unknown reality.

That planet was my least favorite part. It was frustrating to see Hella taking over Asgard, and then Thor stuck being tortured and having his hair cut and fighting the Hulk.

But, boy was that part satisfying. Thor finally gets to kick some rear without his magic hammer, and it was awesome. And that’s coming from someone who usually is bored by those fight scenes.

Also, Loki had some of the funniest moments in that part. And more character building ones too. Like how he was actually sad that Odin died, even if he had been angry at him for years.

Thor also comes to understand in part why Loki is angry. After he finds he’s been lied to by his father too, never being told about Hella’s existence till it was too late to stop her. And having so much history hidden from him.

But Thor never hesitates to do the right thing, and even to defend his father, though he admits he wasn’t perfect.

Thor is pretty beat upon in this movie, but his determination to go back to Asgard and save it or die trying never wavers. Even when Loki says it is no use.

And finally, finally, we get to see some of Thor’s well aimed speeches at Loki pay off.

In the epic show down, which was way better than I had expected from the trailer, (And by the way, the Led Zepplin song worked far better than you’d think) Thor finally learns to harness his power without the hammer. Which makes sense, because not even Loki needed a scepter to use all of his powers, so why would Thor? And he starts beating Hella back.

Hella is not a sympathetic villain, but we at least see why she would be bitter at Odin after what he did to her. Albeit she didn’t really give him a choice. I didn’t like her at first, but by the end I decided she did well at being inhuman, but not so much we couldn’t feel a moment of pity for her.

And Loki finally comes back and does the right thing. Without turning it into a trick at the end. (Yay!)

Also there’s Valkyrie, but I don’t have a lot to say about her. If you see it, you’ll have to decide.

Also,  Bruce Banner’s choice at the end struck me as very noble, since he is not even from Asgard, and it was one of the his best moments.

The theme of this movie is change.

Does a change in circumstances change your identity? Or are you a king with or without your hammer, and your title, and your respect?

Do circumstances dictate who you become? Is being the god of mischief all you can ever be, or can you be more?

Can you change?

Can you change you mind after years and years of trying to forget the past?

Can you change from a monster to a hero by your own free will?

Can you?

This movie says you can. And I love that message.

I loved it and I hope those of you who see it will too and forgive the few flaws with it.

–Natasha.

AntMan

It’s review time again. Yay!

I have watched quite a few new movies of late, but not all of them are worth reviewing, or have a message I think I could dig into. I just watched this film “The Art of Getting By,” Mainly because it had the star of The Good Doctor in it, but it wasn’t very clear or well made.

Anyway, I make no secret of my dislike for the Avengers (I being it up every time I review a superhero film,) so in case you are new to this blog, I am not a Marvel fanatic.

But that’s the reason I actually liked Antman.

Maybe I have thing for superheroes based off bugs. Spiderman, the older version of Black Widow (not the modern one, sorry;) and even the ones based off mammals were some of my favorites.

Antman was acknowledged by the general public to be different form the other Marvel material to come out in the past few years. It’s most like Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy. But it’s like Thor in that it works as a stand alone movie.

I’ll sum up the story if you chose not to go see it.

Antman is about Scott Lang, an ex-convict who’s a master thief. Somehow he catches the attention of an old scientist named Hank Pym. (Comic fans know who that is.) Hank has a problem. And old friend and mentee of his has finally cracked part of his code for the Pym particle. Which gives someone the ability to change their size and density. this particle can actually be used in pretty genius ways to wreak havoc, so there is cause for alarm.

Scott is just the unlikely hero Hank is looking for to send in instead of his daughter, whom he doesn’t want to put in danger.

So Scott trains with ants; and Hope, Hank’s daughter; and with the special suit Hank made for the particle.

The particle can also mess with someone’s mind if the don’t have proper protection, which is why the bad guy in this film is so bonkers. (Though he seems pretty sane compared to the other Avenger’s foes.)

So if you like superhero flicks; and micro battles; and weird and vague science; this is the film for you.

All joking aside, even with its obvious flaws in believability, this is a charming movie. It’s funny, and Scott’s development into a hero isn’t hard to buy.

He’s never really a bad guy to begin with, though he is a thief, he wants to go straight. He falls off the wagon, so to speak with a little help from his loser friends. But in the end he decides to take toe more noble course, and her even redeems his buddies into being good guys.

I won’t say his friends were the best comic relief ever, but they got a chuckle or two out of me. And the flashbacks were certainly unique.

Scott’s motivation through the whole thing is to be able to spend time with his daughter. Sort of similar to Drax’es motivation in Guardians of the Galaxy. He does some dumb stuff in order to make that happen faster, but in the end he sacrifices even the possibility in order to save her life and her stepdad’s.

I also had to give the movie points for showing her stepdad to be a good man, who could change his mind, and be noble. Instead of the typical jerk-face stepdads tend to be to our protagonist real dads.

I don’t know if this movie is reaching for a deeper meaning. It doesn’t really have to. No one expected it to be the the big thought provoking film of the franchise. But it has plenty of good old family messages. Like reconciliation, forgiveness, being able to say you are sorry, and giving up things for your family or friends.

It also even works in how the most likely person isn’t always the best one to do something. And sometimes the difference is really in what’s motivating them.

The mentee, whose name escapes me, might have been more likely to become Hank’s successor, but he got too caught up in the power of it and not the principle. Whereas Scott is more freaked by the power, but willing to do it for the principle of making the world safer for his daughter as well as Hank’s.

Another really cool thing was how Scott just naturally became the means for helping Hank and Hope to make peace. He didn’t really try to be that person, he just helped both of them to realize the truth about themselves and each other. Then he made tea. And a guy who can do that doesn’t come along all that often.

Ha ha ha.

Yeah, I know my humor really isn’t helped by me typing out a laugh, but oh well.

It was nice that all the relational healing in this film didn’t feel super rushed, and the people sharing their past didn’t leave the bad taste in my mouth that Bruce Banner, and Natasha’s true confessions did in Age of Ultron.

For the record, I do realize that Natasha’s remarks didn’t mean exactly what they sounded like, but still, ugh.

I also just realized that calling her Natasha is super confusing since that’s my name.

Yikes.

Anyway, so to sum it all up. Antman is a good family movie. IT’s not the most intense, but it is interesting, moving, and one you would be able to rewatch over and over without feeling exhausted. OR super confused because of some god or villain’s antics.

Seriously, what is happening with Loki? Doesn’t anyone in Marvel get that a character endlessly pulling the same crud isn’t development!

I think what makes this movie work is that it does not take itself too seriously, so we can all take it just seriously enough to get the message. But not be rabid fans or anti-fans over it.

And that’s so much better for everyone.

So, until next time–Natasha.

 

 

 

 

 

Wins vs Sins–1

This may be an old subject with some of you, but I think it’s one of those that has to be revisited again and again.

And that is the subject of positivism vs negativity.

Since studies have shown that the former is clearly better for health and happiness than the latter, most of us have no excuse to be negative. But you’ve probably noticed that that hasn’t stopped the vast majority of people from being negative.

The problem is that it is and always has been a habit to be negative. I know people who will admit that they shouldn’t be that way, but will not put in the effort to actually change their attitude.

I started thinking about this last night, when I was watching a YouTube video (way later than I should have been, but sometimes it happens.) This video was criticizing this other YouTube channel that those of you who are big movie watchers have probably heard of. Cinema Sins.

I happen to have watched a few of their videos myself (what person hasn’t who looks up internet reviews?) I didn’t like them. Not for any of the reasons this guy was listing, but because the channel was hugely inappropriate in its humor. (And I mean gross levels of it. Not just that tongue in cheek kind of stuff.)

Anyway, so I wasn’t super defensive about hearing it criticized. And I thought the video made some legitimate points, but I won’t list them all here.

What I really was thinking about was the point that questioned if these wholly negative reviews were actually good reviews or good comedy.

I want to unpack that idea more than the actual video did, because I think it’s a whole missed discussion opportunity.

Judging both from the comment sections of YouTube, and actual people I’ve heard talk about this, many just don’t see the point of even caring about movie reviews or reviewers, and whether they are serious or not, because, in these people’s minds, movies should not be taken that seriously.

To those people I would say that when kids are kissing frogs and maniacs are planning crimes because of something they saw in a movie, we had better take it seriously.

Even if what we take out of that is that people are morons.

Well, to be fair, many of them are.

But stupidity, in my experience, is almost always taught. It’s not an innate trait of the average person to be an idiot. There’s always a few who just seem to be born without a clue, but usually it’s choices made between childhood and adulthood that shape someone’s intelligence.

Even so, intelligence is not a permanent thing. People can become stupider, they can also become smarter. We used to understand that before IQ tests cam along to tell us those things are set in stone.

So, the charge that movies are playing to the stupidest parts of human nature, and society, should be taken seriously. Because it reflects on us, what we find funny, and what we support.

People like Cinema Sins are right to be disgusted with cinema that is only there to be stupid and “funny.”

I think the dumbest thing anyone can say about movies is that they don’t matter and should not be taken seriously.

That eliminates about a third of the voices on this subject.

So, turning to the other two main opinions on reviews, I want to explain where I am on this.

At first when I started watching negative reviews, I liked it. I was frustrated with plenty of the entertainment out there, and I thought a lot of it was dumb. It was nice to be agreed with by a public source. Plus, it was funny; and I also learned some terms that people use and how movies and shows are typically rated. All helpful and interesting stuff to know for the movie goer who really wants to be careful about their time.

But the problem was, these reviews picked apart movies I did like as well as movies I didn’t. Sometimes I acknowledged they had a point. But other times, like with my favorite movie of all, it was really painful to hear it mocked to dust.

More recently I started seeking out more positive reviews. Cinema Wins, a spin off of the other, makes good review that are all focused on finding the bright side. Another good channel was How It Should Have Ended; which does poke a lot of fun at films, but ultimately they are positive, and just freaking genius some of the time. (If you like that type of humor. I won’t say everyone would like it.)

Now, Cinema Wins is sometimes naively positive about movies. But the guy knows he is, and admits it. Which is why I prefer it to these negative Nancy reviews I’m so sick of. A reviewer of movies should actually want to like movies. Otherwise how can they admit anything is of merit in any franchise?

See, at first it didn’t occur to me that watching movies expressly to find fault was a problem. But once I noticed that I couldn’t enjoy even movies I liked as much anymore now that I had all this negativity going through my mind, I got upset.

I’m not even a big fan of the entertainment industry as a whole. But when I find a gem, I don’t like it being picked apart.

Now everyone will have different standards for what constitutes a good movie. Often I think people go by the wrong things, but that’s because reviews have shifted to focusing on stuff that is minor.

How well a scene is shot, how colorful it is, or how melodic the soundtrack is are not really major things. And nitpicking every line of dialogue, or every element that doesn’t make perfect sense can completely miss the point both of the movie, and of storytelling itself.

When people used to gather around storytellers (like we do around TVs now) it didn’t matter how realistic the story was. The point was in what it meant. Was it a warning? Did it explain something about life? Did it give hope?

What’s ironic is that now, many movies and books actually use this older reason for storytelling telling as a plot point within their story.

Take that briefly popular The Giver book. The whole story turns on the past, the stories as it were, that the Giver shares with the Receiver.

The same thing with Ayn Rand’s little Anthem story. The books and tales of the past end up opening Prometheus’ eyes to the present.

It’s sad that even though this element of storytelling is used, it has to be done undercover, because people will pick the actual book to pieces over little things.

No one would fault the Receiver for accepting what the Giver tells him. (Or gives him. I haven’t actually read the book.) But in the real world, stories aren’t often received so well.

I think I’ll have to make a part two to finish this properly, so until next post–Natasha.

Boasting, binging, and beginning.

First of all, I apologize for not posting in several days. I’ve been out of commission.

But today I feel better, so here we go:

You know what I notice about technology? It’s a tough thing to break away from.

But what if our addiction to it isn’t just because its addictive (though it is as addictive as drugs.) What if we have more addicts in our culture simply because our values have altered so much that we encourage it?

That’s not really  a new idea, but I think the implications of it tend to go over our heads.

We can all agree that entertainment industries feed our addictions. They even have the audacity to boast in their commercials that they are “bingeworthy, you can’t miss it, you can’t go without it, it’s irresistible”… sounds familiar right?

What if I said that about my posts? You have to read this. (Hey, we get emails titled that don’t we?)

Well, I’m not kidding myself. No one has to read my stuff. No one is going to die if they don’t see my latest. Come on.

Frankly those commercials annoy the heck out of me.

But how little resistance there is to them now. Being an addict is even kind of cool now, in the meaningless way anything is cool nowadays. (Cool used to be a certain way of acting and thinking and dressing, now I’m not sure what it means except that you like something.)

People joke (READ:Brag) about binging on things that they can’t get enough of. And the rest of us laugh; ha ha, they have no self control, it’s hilarious!

I suppose it’s equally hilarious when it is deadly things like drugs and alcohol.

So what about technology? We’re proud of being addicted to that too. Well, I’m not.

I don’t mind loving a good show or movie, or finding usefulness in electronics, but that’s nothing to be proud of.

The pride isn’t obvious, most of us wouldn’t use that word at all; but what else would you call it?

Getting the latest version of whatever. Getting to a more difficult level of a video game. Getting so many likes or views on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, you name it.

Getting a bigger TV, getting a better car, getting those channels on TV that other people can’t get.

Being able to say you’ve seen every single episode of this show, or that you’ve seen this movie so many times in theaters.

Even being slightly embarrassed about how much you consume can be something to brag about….I’m not clear on why. It just is.

Because somehow, admitting it makes it okay. I may do nothing at all to rectify my problem, but at least I’m not deceiving myself.

Except I am. Many of us are. We think that just because our friends (both in person and online) don’t judge us for our weaknesses in addiction, that means it’s okay.

Which is like a colorblind person thinking they know the difference between yellow and pink, just because all their friends are blind.

That’s an unlikely example in the physical world, but when it comes to mental things, it’s all too common.

The fact is, all our friends are not likely to point out our problem because chances are we only make friends with people who have the very dame problem.

What would most Americans have in common with anyone who did not own a TV, or a smart phone, and preferred old fashioned entertainments and knew nothing about pop culture.

I don’t mean to generalize, there are Americans who don’t buy into all that stuff, but there’s precious few of us who don’t own a TV and struggle with this problem at some level.

What’s hard is even getting the younger generation to see it as a problem. They have grown up with their lives wrapped around technology and entertainment. They boast about how much of it they consume.

The older generation admits it’s a problem but often is too susceptible to it themselves and they don’t set a strong example.

In my family the problem tends to be that each person spends a portion of the day engaged in other activities, but we don’t do it at the same time. One person’s play hour might be another’s work hour, so we distract each other without meaning to.

In some ways, having a designated room for TV and another for study and work is a better arrangement, but too often it becomes an excuse for isolation.

I know I harp on about this subject a lot, but part of the reason is that I mself notice that if I’m not regularly reminded of the dangers of screen addiction, I start slipping into it and not bothering to fight it.

So I’ll end with a few tips for at least cutting back on it, though eliminating it completely is something I haven’t figured out yet.

  1. Don’t be constant: It sounds like weird advice, but one thing to do is to limit what you watch in a day. One TV program, one movie. My mom used to give us time limits for how long we could use the computer for a movie or game. Sometimes I hold off watching anything until a certain time of day, and then only one thing. (It’s too easy now to just passively sit while someone else puts on something unfortunately, but if you live alone  or with less people that’s not such a problem.)
  2. Just don’t: Kids and teens will usually give into the temptation without much resistance; not because they are by nature more susceptible to addiction, but because they tend to go along with what adults are doing, and make poor choices when left to themselves. Humanity in general is not apt to make wise choices as it is. But with no one to watch us, we tend to do worse. So just don’t let your kids have access to technology except when it’s necessary or it’s a special occasion.

 

That’s about all I’ve got. Self control in this area is particularly difficult due to how often we are tempted. Total abstinence seems to be the only guarantee for never slipping.

But since perfection is not what we can expect, limitations are a good place to begin.

I don’t give up hope of conquering this addiction, but I admit it is hard and the hardest part is realizing it’s a problem. It just doesn’t feel like a problem most of the time.

Anyway, here’s hoping, until next time–Natasha.

Redeeming the time: X-men style.

When I did my X-men review, I wanted to go more into Days of Future Past, but I ran out of time. So, here we go.

Honestly, this one was my favorite.

I’m going to jump right in by bringing up the principle theme, split into two different plot lines, of the film.

The theme is Redemption.

First off we learn that in the future mutants are hunted down (so much for the efforts of the X-men in all the previous movies) and so are any humans who side with them or who harbor some early form of the mutant x-gene.

The reason all this happened is not because of Magneto’s heinous acts against humanity, as one might expect, but because of one murder of Mystique’s. Her first ( not her last.)

Mystique was always a pretty rough and seemingly merciless and conscience-less character in the first three films, in the fourth we learn she wasn’t always that way, in the fifth they finally get around to asking “What if she could have been different?”

If they could stop her from murdering the man, Trask, they could stop the war that is killing off all of them.

What if?

There are a couple things that come to my mind when I think about the idea of traveling back in time to save people.

There’s my favorite book, Till We Have Faces, in which the main character thinks that the gods can change the past. At first thinking they do so to make us seem guilty, and later realizing they do so by changing us ourselves into different people.

Then there is that verse in the Bible that says we redeem the time because the days are evil.

That certainly fits this movie’s whole premise.

I don’t believe time travel is strictly possible. But if it were, I would think it was like any other gift, meant to be used to help and to heal, but able to be used to do damage.

There’s plenty of fiction that covers the latter, but this film interestingly enough shows how, even with the best of intentions, someone could still make the future worse than ever by going back. There’s a delicate moment when Future Charles warns the team not to wake Logan up, or there will be a worse darkness than there is now. By which he means that thanks to Erik, the mutants will have exterminated humans.

Now if Logan had not gone back and busted Erik out, that could not have happened.

Actually Erik was mostly useless in the film. He didn’t help convince Raven not to shoot the guy, he didn’t try to change the people’s minds about mutants, he almost sealed their fate.

But I guess it was better for him.

Raven was the most intriguing character to me from the beginning, since I had heard she turned good eventually, but I was constantly frustrated by her poor choices.

What I liked about this film was its disdain of the idea that Raven was meant to kill Trask, and that the War was meant to happen. Of course those terrible things weren’t meant to happen.

The movie admits, through Younger Charles, that Raven needs to have a choice, but it never leaves any doubt that there is only one right choice for her to make.

That’s the thing abut knowing the future, it’s pretty hard to argue with it.

The reason Raven refuses to listen at first seems to be pure stubbornness and resentment of Charles’es attempt to control her; but I think it’s also human nature to deny consequences to our bad choices…why else do we make them?

The theme of redeeming the time comes in strongly in another way, through Logan’s wake up call to Charles himself. We know that before Logan came back, Charles wasted a good portion of those years, and was not there for Raven or for other mutants, as Erik spitefully (and unjustly considering his many betrayals) points out.

But Charles changes that, and redeems his own time as well as Raven’s.

Raven always chose Erik before, he was more intriguing, he had a sort of magnetic personality, even Charles felt its pull though he knew better than to listen to him.

What makes Raven in the end choose Charles is a number of factors.

Partly it’s that she realizes a lot sooner that Erik is not loyal to her, and does not care about her in any recognizable way; as she had thought he did. (By the way, trying to kill someone and then flirting with them when it is too late is sick and only seems charismatic in movies.)

Partly it’s that she is told the future depends basically on her actions. (Which is one thing that does not change oddly enough. People are positioned, they don’t get to choose that, they only get to choose how they use that position.)

But the most important thing that changes her mind is Charles’es persistence, and finally his releasing of her to be who she truly is.

And who she was, he believes, was never the person Erik saw her as, Older Erik admits he set her on a dark path; who she was was not even exactly what Charles himself thought, she was more than that.

When released from those negative expectations, Raven realizes what she really wants, and she drops the gun.

That moment was every bit as epic as it was intended to be, because we know how hard they worked for it.

Raven sees an opportunity to be seen as a hero instead of a villain, and she chooses it. And I personally thought the look on her face when she turns to Charles and Hank afterwards was pure relief.

Raven actually saves her own life by doing this, though no one ever actually told her (in the cut version I saw) that she died as a result of shooting Trask.

Much like another fictional character named Raven (Ever After High), she changes the whole course of history in one moment.

And who knows when any one of us might do the same thing?

Until next time–Natasha.

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