This is an archive of collected Editorials/Analyses from the very first to the most recent. For what ever reason, the hyperlinks do not work and the written titles are not italicized, except for the headers.
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Editorial 23: Frank Castle, Ubermensch
I think this was the most fun I ever had writing about the Punisher because I equated his psychology to the Superman concept of Fredrick Nietzche, one of my favorite philosophers. Follow the link below if you are interested.
This is also my pseudo-official first post to the Writer’s Cohort as a contributor. Expect about two posts a month in the future. I will be sure to mention them here as well as on the Facebook page I made for all the writing I do on the internet.
Editorial 22: It’s Not You, It’s Ghostbusters
It is superfluous to talk about Ghostbusters (2016) because other personalities have made similar statements. Let me be absolutely clear and please remember this if you continue reading: Nobody except stupid people cares that the cast is all female. The problem is that Ghostbusters (2016) is a remake of a perfect film and the gall of Sony to conceive this detritus is offensive.
While stomping all over a classic to capitalize off nostalgia, Harold Ramis has been in the ground for just two years. To besmirch the legacy of one of the most important comedy writers of the last four decades is beyond the pale of insult. I know Bill Murray does not care and Ernie Hudson is just trying to live, but I guarantee that hack Dan Aykroyd allowed this to happen.
I do not have a problem with Paul Feig as a director. Spy was terrible, but I do not like him because he made Melissa McCarthy’s career. I will never understand why people think she is funny. Her humor consists of reactions, fat jokes, and insults that are not creative. Chris Farley had great energy and enthusiasm that made him iconic and he just happened to be obese. McCarty uses her weight as a crutch for her dearth of talent and I do not want to sit through another one of her movies.
The rest of the cast is pretty great. Kristen Wiig is phenomenal, Kate McKinnon makes Saturday Night Live watchable, and Chris Hemsworth is the kind of actor that makes the most of situations. Leslie Jones, however, I could care less about because she cannot get through a single sentence on SNL unless the cue card is five inches in front of her face.
So, yeah, Ghostbusters (2016) looks like utter dreck that has no business existing. I want to say again that nobody cares that the cast is female. Nobody. Because of the Internet and Corporate Hollywood, we cannot appreciate the past without hacks trying to capitalize. I have said nostalgia is dead, but it is because of nostalgia I am so livid. I grew up on the original Ghostbusters and I do not want to see its name dragged through the mud because Sony is butt-hurt over losing Spider-Man. I cannot emphasize it enough that the cast being female means nothing. Obviously I will be skipping Ghostbusters (2016) and I hope you do the same.
Editorial 21: Writer’s Cohort Guest Blog 3 and 4
I apologize for being so late on sharing this. I would like to thank my friends at the Writer’s Cohort for letting me ramble about how Man of Steel is a good-bad movie that can be enjoyed for its failings. I should have posted it when BvS was out, but that film was so depressing I forgot.
The next guest blog came out two weeks ago in time for Captain America: Civil War. In it I explore the first two Cap movies from the perspective of a fan. Afterward I was invited by the Cohort to be a regular contributor twice per month. I will be sure to link those posts on here for those who are interested.
Editorial 20: Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi
I have made no bones about my standing on white washing. Getting angry over the skin color of fictional characters is about as pointless as gun control; it solves nothing and it will only make your life worse. People who do not exist have no agency or bodily form in the real world. Why would you waste your life getting into arguments of color for characters in entertainment? That is like calling television homophobic because some disposable characters that happened to be gay were killed off. I complain about the Walking Dead being mostly trash, but it is not this thing of world-ending importance.
When looking at a film that takes a story from another medium, those in charge of production must adapt said work for the screen. This includes making costumes, drawing concept art, building sets, and casting actors that reflect elements of the story. What does not matter (most of the time) is the color of a character’s skin unless it is pertinent to the narrative. As long as the production gets the character and story right, who cares about the actor’s race, or gender for that matter? Rey being a woman and Finn being black in Force Awakens was not on my mind because I liked them as people.
Romeo and Juliet was about Italians, but Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation was set in Los Angeles. The new Battlestar Galactica featured gender-swapped characters that were better in comparison to the older characters. Everyone in Troy was Anglo-Saxon, but they captured the essence of Homer’s story about war. The many personas of Bob Dylan being played by diverse actors in I’m Not There worked because they represented the singer’s stages of creativity. Exodus had white characters, but it told the complete story of Moses. Last but not least, Gods of Egypt was about deities personified as humans, living among mortals, on a flat Earth, with the Sun dragged by Ra on a boat…
The case of Scarlett Johansson playing Major Kusanagi is no different, but it is of special consideration. Ghost in the Shell, the movie, show, and OVAs, are adaptations of Masamune Shirow’s manga from the early 90s. In fact, most anime is based on manga. Over the years, Major has undergone a swath of changes with many incarnations spread across the series. First she had black hair, then purple, and then blue. She was also short and stocky, tall and slender, and borderline illegal in Arise. What never changed was her character.
She is a combination of cold realism and philosophical introspection with enough heart to remind her of the good in people and the world. She is devoted to her job as leader of Section 9 and functions with the efficiency only a cyborg could produce. Confronted with hard questions, she often considers the broader implications in terms of spirituality, politics, and technology. When it comes to her team, her family, she makes time to have fun and enjoy their company.
The fact Major is Japanese means nothing. You do not think about her hair, build, and skin because you like her regardless. To that end, Johansson taking up the mantel for the live action adaptation is just another incarnation. The only thing that matters is if she can get the personality right. Based on her ability as an actress, I think she has what it takes. Furthermore, while the new Ghost in the Shell will by default deviate from the source material as an adaptation, nothing will (hopefully) change the fact it is same story we all know and love. If they made Harry Potter with black actors, it would still be Harry Potter. This live action version is simply a different take on the character and world.
Calm down, everyone.
Editorial 19: Getting Angry at Movies
A few weeks ago I watched the film Extraction for review, a direct to video action movie that is poor to say the least. It has awkward acting, amateur editing, a messy story, and is terrible overall. The only reason I watched it was because it had an under utilized Gina Carano, again. Why bother hiring a proven stuntwoman and make her a damsel? Despite its faults I was not offended, it did not make me angry like Taken 3 or Aloha, and I did not hate it. When it came time to write the review I was presented with a conundrum: what I had to say about Extraction was rather boring and devoid of passion. In the past my heated reviews garnered some attention, but in those cases I was actually mad. To that end, is it right to feign frustration and anger for views?
Nobody watches Best of the Worst for a thought provoking analysis of schlock; they want to see Rich Evans and company laugh to asphyxiation. Nostalgia Critic and Spoony built their identities on nitpicking and screaming about movies. The venerable BroTeam created his persona by acting like a psychotic maniac. Internet critics, reviewers, and let’s players attain notoriety by over-reacting as much as possible for entertainment. It is quite enjoyable and I find watching them more satisfying than other forms of media. Of course, all of it based on opinion, but when Brad Jones and friends work up a rage against a movie like Ted 2, the act becomes brutally apparent. It also misrepresents the work being critiqued, regardless if the review in question is meant to be serious.
Just because everyone lost their minds over God’s of Egypt does not mean it is bad enough to even talk about. I was shocked when people freaked out over Pixels because of course it is terrible: it is an Adam Sandler movie. Since these films are always bad, reviewers create a narrative that perpetuates this idea to monolithic proportions. Moviebob’s review of the same movie was so vulgar and crass he was later interviewed by the New Yorker. Furthermore, when reviewers attack media that is marginally okay or inoffensive, those watching are going to form conclusions based on misinformation.
That is my dilemma with Extraction. It is not good by any means (except for the opening track) and I see it as an affront to Gina Carano fans that expected to see her pull a dude’s brain out. The quality of the production, acting, and writing is just terrible, but not enough to get angry about. If anything, I am more disappointed because its mistakes are that of a college student’s short film. In better hands, it could have been a decent direct to video action movie and I will not overreact or show vitriol for entertainment. I am not a popular critic and I do not expect this to go anywhere once posted, but I refuse compromise honesty just to make fun of a movie. That I save for contemporary horror because fuck that shit.
Editorial 18: Daredevil Season 2
It was great.
Season 2 brings Daredevil into an expanded world with more problems and developments that put the characters through rigorous trials (pun intended). Matt struggles to maintain his dual life, while Foggy is forced to take the initiative, and Karen pursues an agenda that conflicts with the group. With the advent of the Punisher, Matt questions if what he is doing is good for the city, and if he is actually making a difference. Things come to a head when his old flame Elektra returns and everything spirals out of control.
And that is all I am going to say.
To be honest, I had a lot of trouble writing about Season 2. My vision was clear, but I could not put the words to paper because I do not think I understand the show as well as I should. I spent all day Friday watching Daredevil in anticipation for review and when I sat down to write none of it worked. Even when I wanted to talk about Punisher I struggled until I gave up.
Instead of posting what I already have, I think it is best to go through the show again and post a review focusing on the Punisher at a later date. I know that sounds biased, but what do you expect from me? Regardless, Daredevil Season 2 is great and you should watch it.
Editorial 17: The Greatest Show Ever
As a kid who grew up in the 00s I am no stranger to the garbage that is American reality TV. It began with programs about failed celebrities marrying prostitutes, teenagers fucking each other, and obese whores with their whore families. The Kardashians remains a testament to the failure of my generation and truTV is an abomination that must be scourged and crucified. Thankfully, I checked out a long time ago, but the only reality show I cherish to this day is one you have never heard of: Kenny Vs. Spenny (KvS).
Kenneth Joel Hotz and Spencer Nolen Rice are Canadian Jews that have been friends since childhood. In the 90s they failed to break into showbiz before they realized the potential that was each other. When you are friends with someone it is natural to be competitive. It can be anything from who can score the most phone numbers to who can pound the most shots. And so was born KvS, a half-hour program where the boys got into a different competition each episode, and the loser would endure a humiliation by the winner.
What make the competitions work are the boys’ dueling personalities:
Spenny is the archetypical Canadian, a neurotically self-conscious individual fixated on how he appears and what people think of him. If he feels you are defaming his character, he will either correct every transgression or call his lawyer. He is also quick to anger and will lash out if threatened. He is fervently politically correct, doing everything in his power to avoid using hurtful vocabulary, and offensive behaviors. He is so terrified of engaging the world for fear of doing something wrong he resorts to seclusion.
Kenny, on the other hand, is the absolute antithesis. He is arguably the most levelheaded where he does not worry about how people see him and acts in an extroverted manner. Making jokes are his forte, jumping at the chance to twist someone’s words into a gag, but his intent is never malicious. He is able to enjoy life and people because he does not take anything seriously.
Both personalities come to a head in the show. There is always a set of rules for each episode and Spenny, being a good citizen, follows them without question. Kenny does not care in the slightest, a cheater through and through, and is clever enough to exploit Spenny’s anxieties. Some times he jokes about being god or the better of the two just to get a reaction. Since he cheats, Kenny technically loses a lot of competitions, but he is so good about hiding it, Spenny does not find out until the editing process. Their competitive interplay is cathartic as you witness two radically different people going after the same goal. One is easily offended and the other is a self-proclaimed diabolical genius. Even without exploiting Spenny’s issues Kenny can come up with a ploy to win the moment there is an opportunity or rig the competition entirely.
In “Who Can Put on a Best Concert,” the boys had to form a band to play original music before judges that would decide the winner. Kenny took the sympathy route and organized a children’s choir to sing about dead kids, while Spenny put together a generic rock group. Since Kenny’s tactic was not a guaranteed victory, he called Spenny’s band using edited audio that told them not to show up. Come the day of the concert, the only group to make it was Kenny’s. The ending was hard to watch as Spenny got up on stage, alone, and walked the judges through the structure of his song. It made me cringe because you see this poor guy, who wanted to be a rock star for a day, trying his best to salvage the situation.
One of my favorite episodes is “Who Can Sell More Bibles.” What begins as a simple competition turns into a Hollywood story where Spenny receives a call from producers about adapting a script he wrote. Little did he know, Kenny engineered the ploy to build up his arrogance and trick Spenny into buying his Bibles. When the competition ended, Spenny was stranded at LAX waiting for a ride that never showed up.
Sometimes Kenny will use his cleverness just to watch Spenny suffer.
In “Who Can Handel the Most Torture,” the boys competed in a number of mini competitions that involved pain and Kenny lost them on purpose. The challenges included drinking Tabasco sauce, a full body duck tape wrap, and how far can you stick a sausage up your own ass (I am not kidding). Another was who can take hardest whipping from a pair of dominatrices that Kenny paid off to only beat Spenny.
In “Who Can Stay Blindfolded the Longest,” Kenny used Spenny’s gullibility to basically torment him as he wore a blindfold, throwing pop-rocks at his head, moving furniture, and writing on his face with marker. The whole time, Spenny thought it was Kenny’s friend who he supposedly bribed to harass him in the three days the competition took place.
Some times cheating does not work and it backfires.
In “Who is the Better Rapper,” Kenny faked a gang threat on Spenny’s life using props, a phone call, and an actor as a detective. Spenny, however, saw right through it and was able to get the win after Kenny, confident in his plan, gave up on the final rap event before the judges.
In “Who Can Stay Handcuffed the Longest,” the boys were bound and at each other’s mercy. Though extremely annoyed, Spenny remained steadfast before Kenny invited their obnoxious friend Wolfish to stay at their house. Spenny hated being around him more than anyone and after a day, even Kenny found himself at his wits’ end and conceded to a draw, which he turned into a victory by exploiting the rules.
KvS lasted six seasons before it was unceremoniously canceled in 2010. The only way you can watch it is buy the DVDs, download episodes online, or look them up on YouTube. Kenny himself had the entire series on his channel until the site’s copyright system had them blackballed. The links I used are from other sources that work around the systems to avoid a takedown.
I have always wanted to tell people about Kenny Vs. Spenny because it deserves recognition. The Kardashians and MTV may have ruined reality TV, but in Canada two men, an idiot and a crazy person, knew how to do it better than anyone. Kenny and Spenny are cult legends worthy of veneration. If more people knew what I know about the greatest show ever, we would get a seventh season, and perhaps others.
Editorial 16: On Nugent
If you follow this blog, you know I am a fervent supporter of the 2nd Amendment. For those who do not know, it is the reason America has lasted as long as it has and the most important part of the Constitution. I am also a vocal dissident of those who directly and indirectly undermine this vital human right like the current administration, that limey Papist subhuman Piers Morgan, Liam Neeson, and Australia. The world is full of people who think they know what they are talking about and a majority think taking away guns is a good idea.
For years the National Rifle Association (NRA) has fought to secure our right to bear arms and safeguard the Constitution. I do not financially support them, but I agree with what they stand for… some of the time. As a nihilistic anarcho-capitalist, I am not at all for their religious ideology and their propensity to support politicians I do not agree with. Regardless of what the Association believes, I can say with certainty they cannot possibly agree with Ted Nugent, a prominent member on their board.
About a day ago, Nugent posted a photo showing a number of politicians’ head-shots with an Israeli flag beside each one, and annotated with anti-Semitic remarks. In the post he referred to the individuals as the real “punks” behind gun control. Whether he was alluding to the fact they are against guns because they are Jewish is not clear, but the photo says it all. Either he did not understand what it really meant and posted it without thinking, or Nugent hates Jews.
Regardless of what he was trying to say, this makes all gun owners look bad. This is like getting doxed for saying something PC Nazis do not agree with or being accused of terrorism because you are Muslim. There are more than enough gun owners, conservatives, even Christians who believe in the cause of Israel, and treat the Jewish people with respect. Nugent’s little spat is not representative of who we are and I speak for all of us when I say he has gone too far. I agree that the people in the photo are enemies of freedom, but they should not be attacked for any other reason than their politics. The best we can hope for is Nugent is excluded from the NRA and fades into obscurity.
Thanks, Ted, you fuck.
Also, you’re from Michigan; take off that hat, you filthy Yankee.
Editorial 15: Writer’s Cohort Guest Blog 2
When I get to talk about Metal Gear Solid, I go all out at the risk of overdoing it. Extended tangents can hurt any would-be essay and I would like to thank my friends at the Writer’s Cohort for setting me loose. In my second post to their humble blog, I explain why Quiet from MGSV is a character not defined by her appearance, contrary to what a lot of idiots think in regards to women in entertainment media.
I hope you like it and please support the Writer’s Cohort.
Editorial 14: Man in the High Castle
The rise of Internet television has presented an interesting opportunity for many a perspective show runners. With the ease of access comes lax content regulation depending on the provider. If you have the ability and competence to make it appealing to both audiences and producers, you can air just about anything in this burgeoning market, subverting conventions of the rotten mire that is regular television. But sometimes it is hard to break old habits, lessons from a long irrelevant past, and Man in the High Castle (MHC) is the Internet equivalent of a hipster using a typewriter to send tweets.
I have not read Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, but after watching just the pilot episode, I was more than enough convinced to pick it up… which I have not done. The instant appeal for me was the element of alternate history, one of my favorite subgenres next to cyberpunk and post-apocalypse. It takes an event(s) we are familiar with and imagines a different outcome of said event(s). This can be anything from JFK avoiding assassination to Crassus conquering Parthia, but the most compelling to me is what if the Nazi’s won WWII.
There is nothing more disturbing than Hitler’s ideal world, purged of any and all the regime deems undesirable, and under the thumb of constant control. It is Orwell with a racist streak, motivated by delusional beliefs of genetic superiority, and expansionist ideals. What makes it interesting to me is what never happened because we won the war.
With a wealth of information on what went on in the Third Reich, there is even more on what Hitler would have done after taking over, specifically weapons and architectural designs. The Sonnengewehr was an orbital weapon that reflects sunlight to burn whole cities; the Ratte, an impractically giant mobile fortress tank; the Ho 229, the world’s first stealth airplane; and Albert Speer’s vision of Berlin, a cold concrete landscape that would be ugly if it were not beautiful in its stylish monotony. It is the stuff of pulp science fiction that Hitler’s insanity would have brought to fruition had he lived to see it.
My first exposure to the Nazi brand of alternate history was Wolfenstein: New Order, a first person shooter videogame and fourth entry in the series. Mechanically it is as simple as you can get: point and kill whatever is not you, but when it comes to characterization and world building, the game excellences where many shooters fail utterly. While B.J. Blazkowicz is a thoroughly fleshed out character, the setting is a fully realized nightmare of Nazi domination.
In addition to what was described in the last paragraph, the game features laser weaponry, robots, super soldiers, and a space program that has colonized the moon and explored neighboring planets. In minute ways it captures life in an oppressive regime where you read memos about city purges, the enslavement of the Japanese Empire, or you overhear citizens in Berlin telling the authorities about their neighbor’s son putting on make-up, and others talking about the continuing war in Africa.
New Order peaked my interest in alternate history entertainment. I even bought the art book and I cannot wait to see what they do with a sequel. I also sought out other works that imagine a world taken over by Nazis. Richard Harris’ Fatherland was the first novel I discovered and I heard about MHC when its pilot was first circulating on Amazon. It was interesting, but it did not grab me like New Order. Come the release of the full roster of episodes in November, I watched the entire season, and here I am to tell you all about it.
MHC is basically a day in the life of occupied America. During WWII, the Nazis and Japan invaded the States from both coasts, each laying claim to territory. Between the two a neutral zone was established in the Rocky Mountains where the last remnants of a true America remain. Germany and Japan are locked in a Cold War where they struggle to maintain peace against mounting tensions regarding the former’s technological superiority and the latter’s deteriorating hold on its colonies. Within both territories there is a resistance movement using propaganda films called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy that imagines an alternate reality where we won WWII. The maker of these rather omniscient films is the titular Man in the High Castle.
The story follows an ensemble cast of characters that experience a different side of the world with the main focus on the Pacific States. Juliana is an ordinary citizen who joins the resistance. Frank is Juliana’s boyfriend who wants to live a normal life, but is under constant scrutiny by the secret police because of his association. Blake is an undercover agent trying to infiltrate the resistance. Smith is an SS officer who wants to move on from his past. And Tagmoi is a government official that wants to better his country in the name of peace.
The fixation on the Pacific States plays well into the show’s theme of race because it would not work in the Greater German Reich. In San Francisco, non-Japanese peoples appear as equals, but are treated like second-class citizens under Jim Crow. They live in relative squalor as they do less desirable tasks in service to the Japanese like physical labor and general servitude. The secret police watch their every move and are never above suspicion.
What goes on in the occupied areas epitomizes the overarching theme of totalitarianism, a depth-full examination of life in the guise of the Axis Powers. Careful consideration is taken to breath life into every level of society. In the Reich, picturesque neighborhoods play host to Nazi flags and everyone says “Sieg Heil” when greeting one another. Police and other authority figures are clad in military regalia with a Swastika armband of 13 red and white stripes. Hospitals practice eugenics as they kill off those with severe afflictions and cremate them. The other side of the coast is no better despite its open racial laws. Maintaining order means monitoring phone calls and kidnapping people in the night. Whether they are guilty or not, citizens are killed when they do not cooperate or must be sacrificed as an example to the rest.
Each character provides a different perspective of the world. Frank is an oppressed minority pushed to the brink of sanity when his normal life is turned upside down for superficial reasons. Engrossing herself into the covert world of the resistance, Juliana goes deep into the minutia of Imperial government to help pick away at its grip on the country. Blake is compelled to work against his country under threat of death by the SS. Smith and Tagomi represent the mindset of the governments: one fixated on maintaining perfect order, and the other trying to achieve the success of his counterpart.
Performances can make any fiction a reality and the cast did an admirable job. My personal favorite was Rufus Sewell as Smith. His character is a man who is content in what he did in the past, but is in some ways struggling to move on. I got the feeling he kept working at his job to keep his mind off the guilt of being a mass murderer and Sewell’s subtlety sold it home. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa had great turn as Tagomi, one of the only non-villain characters I have seen him play. It was almost disconcerting watching Shang Tsung trying to talk a General out of making a nuclear bomb or meditating in a garden, but he seemed to pull it off. The rest of the cast was quite serviceable and not bad by any means. They drove home what the world is like, yet did not do anything to really standout.
The main problem with MHC is one congruent with regular television. Even before I went to an entertainment school and learned all this in a classroom, I understood the simple schemes that keep bad shows popular. Whether it is the fault of the producers or the brain dead drones that watch it, television has a way of keeping your attention, even if you know you are being played for a fool.
The scheme is one of open-endedness, where plot points and certain details are intentionally left out or incomplete. It grabs audiences by giving them a reason to keep watching, a final mystery that will be solved if they stick around for the next episode or next season. If they are able to hook you after the first episodes, be it with character or story, a final cliffhanger is enough build a following that will carry over to the next installment.
In some cases it works. The new Battlestar Galactica had an open ending for each finale, but it was the characters and action that kept us around. The same goes for Spartacus and Game of Thrones. But when the other elements do not work, there is nothing to maintain interest unless the people who watch it need something to do on a Sunday night. Vikings takes open-endedness to a whole new level by gutting its own plot so it can maintain the same story points and never try anything new. 24 utilized this scheme so extensively it killed the show’s narrative integrity. And The Walking Dead is so white bread ordinary it lacks the courage to even try something risky like killing off a majority of the main cast. Three quarters of the group were already dead by the time they reached Alexandria in the books.
With the freedom of the Internet you would think show runners would try something new, but the long-term design of MHC is a determent. One subplot involving Smith and his son has a lot of emotional weight. After the set-up, however, there is no pay-off, and it is never mentioned again. Other plot points back track to arcs that were already resolved in anticipation for season two. By the time the show is over, it feels like nothing has happened. Characters go back to square one with no change to themselves or the story. The reasoning behind it makes sense in a pragmatic narrative context, but because fiction is fiction, why not do something different? Kill a few characters or take them to places off the beaten path. If you at least attempt to be compelling, people will like it more.
Had it not been for the fleshed out world and carefully constructed elements that make it feel real, Man in the High Castle would be another prime time piece of garbage that just happened to be an Internet show. It is the kind of story you do not see often in the medium, but its adherence to television conventions keeps it from coming into its own. There was great potential to really set it apart from the norm, squandered by a fear of doing something different. Seeing the fully realized world is enough to give the show a look.
Editorial 13: Jessica Jones
Feeling compelled to diversify my content output, I find it fitting to provide an analysis of the Jessica Jones (JJ) series that just premiered on Netflix. I spent a day mainlining all 13 episodes and I believe I have a good enough understanding to tell you what I think. I have never reviewed a show before, seeing as how television is contemptuous garbage, but since this series transcends regular television I thought I would give it a try. In terms of structure I am winging it, so please bear with me.
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JJ is based on the Alias comic by Brian Michael Bendis, a MAX series with adult content like Garth Ennis’s run of the Punisher. It follows Private Investigator Jessica Jones, who after years being a superhero, falls into a state of depression and alcoholism. That is where my knowledge of the source material ends. I find dark versions of conventional heroes appealing, but I never gravitated towards Alias because I am not a fan of Bendis.
JJ, essentially, is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) equivalent of the MAX line. It has very explicit themes like rape, PTSD, drug addiction, and alcoholism. It also introduces a gay couple with Carrie-Anne Moss’s Hogarth going through a divorce. Unlike a lot of the press, people calling it X-rated and too gritty, JJ is quite tame. Sex scenes were not graphic or revealing, the violence toned down compared to Daredevil, and the overall feel was closer to PG-13 or a revolting CW show. I was a little disappointed, but it was exceptional for how it handled its themes.
The MAX line is known for gratuity. Punisher MAX was notorious for its borderline racist caricatures and excessive violence. I like the books very much, but its depiction of… well, everything was a little too much, and this is coming from a guy who laughed while watching Green Inferno.
JJ is respectful about its subject matter and does not pull any punches. Jessica’s alcoholism is a serious issue that affects her attitude and lifestyle as she tries to cope with her various traumas. She has flashbacks that result in violent tremors, harbors intense shame, and lives an introverted lifestyle that pushes people away. It is even clear she has given up taking care of herself, wearing the same clothes everyday and neglecting her apartment.
Jessica’s objective is to apprehend Kilgrave, the main antagonist with the ability to control people. In the past he made her his “girlfriend,” taking her out to dinner, buying expensive things, and having sex with her while she was completely aware. On their last night, he dies in an accident, and she is sent on a downward spiral of depression. While working a new case involving a missing girl named Hope, the circumstances behind her kidnapping are eerily similar, and Jessica puts aside her anxiety to clear Hope’s name.
This sets the stage for the show’s main arc. While conducting the investigation, Jessica realizes her experiences could help not only Hope, but also others controlled by Kilgrave. Slowly she develops some semblance of empathy as she assumes the persona of a hero. Jessica starts caring about her junkie neighbor, repairing the relationship with her friend Trish Walker, and works toward genuine recovery by cutting down on liquor consumption. The personality of an anti-hero is still there, but her sense of being good and conducting herself in a professional manner is greater. She wants to do things by the book, no matter how difficult it can be. It is not an ideal situation, but Jessica sticks to her principles.
In that way, JJ is very frustrating. Killing Kilgrave would not have helped Hope, but it is a simple solution that could have saved everyone a lot of stress, not to mention lives. It is the curse of all hero stories: they are unable to act outside the law because it would make them no better than criminals, trusting the system to render punishment. This both helps and hinders Jessica’s arc. The idea she cannot do everything the easy way exacerbates her anxiety, affecting her thought process to the point she takes extreme measures to get at Kilgrave. Her heroism comes from not only sticking to the system, but also working with it in the face of trauma. It presents a realistic examination of the hero archetype, as opposed to Batman or Superman, who are always content adhering to a code of ethics. Jessica has a code and hates it with a passion.
One of the more impressive aspects of JJ is Kilgrave himself. For the first time in a while, I believe Marvel has found its most sinister villain yet. Ultron was pretty cool, but a homicidal AI monster is not as unique as a legitimate sociopath with mind control powers. He knows what he wants and does whatever he can to get it. He does not care about anyone but himself, casually using his ability to enslave and punish in horrific ways. His perception of reality is warped, failing to see the rape in controlling a woman to have sex with him or the obvious evil behind making people kill themselves or each other. It paints a grim picture that trumps most of the MCU’s current rogues gallery.
Kilgrave’s detachment is thoroughly developed over the course of the show, but his full introduction does not happen until six episodes in. Before then you have to endure a dragging plot where nothing really happens. Everyone makes and repeats the same points that were already brought up in previous episodes, nothing changes, and no one moves ahead from where they were, except for some minute details that do not matter.
The goal is simple: catch Kilgrave, but the lead up to what eventually happens is so frivolous, that about three episodes could have been cut completely. Daredevil took three to reveal Kingpin and the build up was potent because we knew next to nothing apart from reputation. Having such a prolonged build up for a guy we learn more about after episode two is totally redundant. I have a feeling the show-runners had a lot they wanted to introduce and took their sweet time cramming it in wherever they had available space, eating up whole episodes’ worth of time that could have been better utilized or discarded entirely. It is a great waste that does nothing but cause fatigue until episode seven.
Krysten Ritter plays Jessica and I cannot think of a better casting choice. She is absent heroic features, looking like an ordinary person. Her demeanor is spot-on with light sarcastic quips overshadowed by a cold dismissiveness that drives home her anti-hero personality. David Tennant, the best Doctor, pulls his weight as Kilgrave in his best performance in years. He is as entertaining as terrifying with a casual attitude that enhances his sociopathic tendencies. He is gleefully arrogant and happily selfish as he orders people to kill themselves and do his bidding with apathetic delight.
Rachel Taylor plays a total opposite to Jessica as Trish, a former child star turned paranoid radio talk show host. She is the most together of the characters, but she is also naïve and totally separated from Jessica’s world. She has heart, yet is too sheltered to operate in a volatile environment. Luke Cage pops up as another supporting character thanks to Mike Colter. Taking note from the source material, Cage is a pretty standard hero with a normal personality. To put it simply, he is just a guy with indestructible skin and Colter captured that just fine. Wil Traval takes the reins as Simpson, and if you know who that is, I am happy to report he nailed it with some welcome additions. I am eager to see what becomes of him in the following season.
If you can endure the first six episodes without quitting, Jessica Jones is well worth the struggle. It takes the Netflix side of the MCU into territories not often seen in television, let alone a Disney property. The compelling set-up and depth-full examination of the hero/anti-hero archetype makes for an interesting watch that anyone interested in the concept should find enjoyable. It is well worth your consideration.
Editorial 12: November
The next two weeks are going to be complicated to say the least. In addition to the holiday, I have a lot to do for my internship that requires my full attention. To that end I have made sacrifices to prioritize my time and write posts weeks in advanced. Movie Reviews have not ended, but because of the workload, I had to forego a showing of Ghost in the Shell: New Movie this week. I will try to see it some other time, but I would like to get enough work done to the point I am not worrying about deadlines.
Furthermore, the month in general does not look very good. If Mockingjay Part 2 was not coming out, I would proclaim November the new January with all the crap on the horizon. I think because of The Force Awakens, studios just gave up and cranked out whatever they thought would turn a profit without regard for quality.
Spectre was bad, but this week there was The 33, which looks like a boring Christian movie without the propaganda; Love the Coopers, a holiday film that makes me want to take an acid bath; and My All American, a sports movie that does not realize it is a sports movie. In the following week there is Secret in their Eyes staring Julian Roberts with a brunette jellyfish on her head. And last we have Victor Frankenstein, an ironic fantasy movie that thinks it is special.
It is good to know there will be at least one decent movie for every bad, so I will have plenty to see and post without losing my mind or possibly regretting my purchase. Still, that only compounds the coming stress I will endure in the next two weeks. Rest assured, I will do my best to keep up and continue to write until this erratic time has passed.
And the release of Fallout 4 has nothing to do with it.
Nothing at all…
Editorial 11: Writer’s Cohort Guest Blog
Not long ago I was asked to write for my friends’ blog on any topic that had to do with writing or entertainment and chose Body Horror. It is a subject that really interests me and I would like to thank everyone at the Writer’s Cohort for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Editorial 10: The Punishers
Adapting superheroes was quite the challenge before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Back then nobody could get it right and with every attempt came greater failure. In the case of Spider-Man, the Tobey Maguire version was on point until Sony ruined everything with bad direction and even worse writing. Then again, I think Spider-Man is a puss, so his movies can crash and burn for all I care. The same applies to the Fantastic Four who were just fine in their first incarnation before Fox got in the way.
Frank Castle, the Punisher, has undergone a similar evolution over the years. Any opportunity I get to talk about my favorite Marvel character, make fun of the UN, Australia’s government, liberals, or third-wave feminists, I tend to take it whole heartedly at the risk of going on an extended tangent. The character is my most favorite of the Marvel Pantheon and with the advent of his new incarnation on season two of Daredevil, I find it fitting to explore his evolution in film.
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Punisher is a simple character when it comes to concept, but he is complicated in origin and personality. In the Marvel comics continuity there are two versions of Castle: the Vietnam and Modern variant. Each version’s war origins are vehicles to explain Castle’s proficiency with weapons, but it is important to consider the broader implications.
The Vietnam War is one of the most shameful travesties in American history and no one experienced it worse than those who fought it. An ignorant public with no respect exacerbated the various problems soldiers brought home at the war’s end, resulting in suicides, homelessness, and addiction. If Castle fought in Vietnam, it makes sense he would fall into vigilantism. Here is a man who suffered a living nightmare shared by an entire generation, who comes home to his loving wife and two children, only to see them murdered before his eyes, destroying whatever humanity Castle had left.
All war is terrible, but in the context of modern asymmetric conflict, especially in a time when help for PTSD is more accessible, the concept of Modern Castle is not as strong. War is easier and efficient compared to the late 60s, not to mention the public and government’s treatment of veterans has definitely improved. The exterior factors that would facilitate a character like Punisher are simply not present.
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Personality probably plays a bigger role in Castle’s evolution. Both variants can posses either the Nihilism or Apathy types, and underlining both is Psychopathy. Reflected in the colors of his costume, Castle sees the world in black and white. People are either absolutely good or absolutely evil with no gray in between. He makes every decision based on this binary morality with no more thought than a squeeze of the trigger. Castle is also aware what he is doing is wrong. He understand vigilantism is illegal, yet continues his work because he believes in it. He does not care what laws he breaks or lives he ruins as long as he accomplishes the mission.
The Nihilism type is most prevalent in Garth Ennis’s Punisher MAX, which also uses the Vietnam variant. In the story Born, Castle assumes a kind of split personality on his final tour that would become the Punisher. This personality is driven by a hunger for war and bloodlust as a kind of PTSD that negates every other nonessential emotion. He is completely shut off from the world, relying only on instinct and his binary morality. He is efficient in his thought process and methodology, but retains the concept of innocence. He cares about protecting children like in the Mother Russia and Slavers books, yet has no problem killing women when they fall into the black side of his morality.
The Apathy type is more mainstream and similar to most action heroes, but not without the element of psychopathy. On that same logic, John Matrix, Paul Kersey, John McClane, Dutch, and Rambo are all psychopaths. They do not acknowledge nor care about killing scores of human beings and often laugh about it afterward. Apathy Castle is no different, throwing out the occasional joke like in Dark Reign when he used Pym particles to infiltrate a casino in a pizza before enlarging after being eaten. He does not acknowledge the implication of his violence, treating it like an everyday thing, while casually dispatching criminals without hesitation. In that regard, he has a lot in common with his contemporaries. Iron Man probably does not think about the long-term damage his repulsors, nor does Captain America when using his shield, or Thor with Mjolnir. The closest match to Apathy Castle is Black Window who immersed herself into the life of an assassin to the point she almost enjoys it.
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The film versions of Castle adhere to different combinations of his origin and personality variants. In some cases they subvert the comics and do something entirely different. The following summaries are ordered chronologically from the first incarnation to the last:
Dolph Lundgren, The Punisher (1989)
The most obvious choice for a character like Castle would be an action star if you were stupid. It is important to remember the comics were not what they are now, but what remained the same was the Vietnam origin. Unfortunately, the people behind 1989 forgot and made Castle a former cop, which dose not account for his very military skills and methodology.
Though Lundgren plays the Apathy type, he is too emotional in many cases. He cares about saving kids, but he also monologs about morality, God, and constantly questions if he is doing the right thing. Before the climax he turns himself in for no reason and whines in his cell. It also does not help that Lundgren is not the kind of actor for this material.
The way he kills is unbecoming as well. The opening was fine where he sneaks into a mansion, hangs a guy, and burns the place. Then he has a comical shootout in an abandoned theme park, a conspicuous fight on a pier that would have killed him in seconds, and a very loud infiltration of a building despite using a suppressed weapon. The worst scene was when he dropped into an illegal casino, told a Yakuza soldier to deliver a message to his boss, and shot up the slot machines and tables with an M60. The real Punisher would have dropped in, killed everyone, and left at least one criminal alive to carry his message because he did it about six times in Up is Down and Black is White.
Taking it as a pure action movie, 1989 succeeds when judged on its own merit. I could tell it wanted to be a Cannon Films production, but lacked the sheer insanity of Golan-Globus. However, when you use the name of an established character, be prepared for inevitable comparisons and judgments fueled by preconceived notions.
Thomas Jane, The Punisher (2004)
2004 is a complete reversal of 1989. Where Lundgren’s Castle was totally flawed, Jane was the second best and more accurate as a combination of Modern and Apathy. He brought a level of subtlety that defines the character’s emotional state because Castle is not one for expression. With a conservative use of one-liners Jane did a great job of epitomizing Castle’s action hero aesthetic without insulting the character. The alcoholism element was a little too on the nose, but it is not his fault because the rest of the movie is hot garbage.
Where 1989 was an actual 80s action movie, 2004 was trying to parody 80s action movies and failed. There was slapstick in some of the fight scenes, quirky roommates that get into shenanigans, and ridiculous villain characters that would have been better suited in another movie or with a different version of Castle. The movie is tone deaf and devoid of the irony that makes parody work. If you are telling a joke, it must have a point and 2004 is about as funny as an Adam Sandler movie. How can you make a story about a guy losing his family in a massacre, who turns to vigilantism funny? In what way is mass murder hilarious?
Do not get me started on the petty, boring tactics and lack of action scenes. Where the real Castle would find the people he is after and shoot them, 2004 Castle formulates a complicated scheme with many phases of planning that could have been simplified with a bullet.
Ray Stevenson, Punisher: War Zone (2008)
It took two movies and 19 years to finally get Castle right. War Zone is essentially a straightforward adaptation of Punisher MAX. It barrows the tone, a few ideas from In the Beginning, Kitchen Irish, and was the most accurate depiction yet. Ray Stevenson delivers a compelling dramatic performance with little to no lines and is built like a tank. On a physical level alone he nails the character as he delivers a fatal tackle here, a face-caving punch there, and efficient, calculated attacks that reflect better upon Castle’s military origins.
While it is a basic action movie, War Zone also successfully parodies the genre. By making the villains ridiculous to the point of cartoonish, it provides juxtaposition between the reality of killers and those of fiction. Castle is serious about his work and does not hide from the truth. He acknowledges he is a mass murderer and that there is no hope for any kind of redemption. The villain characters in War Zone do not care about what they do and enjoy it as if they were in an action movie. They are caricatures of criminal archetypes, like cosplaying Sopranos fans, and Castle is the naked reality of evil making them see the truth.
It is too bad the previous Punisher incarnations made War Zone poison to audiences. The movie opened amid behind-the-scenes drama and flopped, taking in only a third its budget. Thanks to fans like myself, however, the film has risen to cult status and director Lexi Alexander has been venerated for making the best Punisher movie to date.
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With season 2 of Daredevil just months away, there comes the question of how Jon Bernthal will fair as the new Frank Castle. Personally, I would rather see Ray Stevenson back in the part or even Michael Shannon in an adaptation of my script. However, I trust in Bernthal’s ability as an actor to do the very best he can while keeping in mind the history of the character. The quality of the incarnations has steadily grown over the years and it would be disheartening to see a back track into mediocrity. A bigger question is how the other elements will affect the character. Do the show runners and writers understand Castle or will they earn the ire of a very vocal fan base? We will just have to wait and see.
Editorial 9: The Casting of Captain Marvel
Pan came out this week, but it does not take a genius to see what is in store. The retelling of classic stories has been done to death. Oz the Great and Powerful, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Slayer, and Maleficent are basically the same movie with a prophecy subplot, giant battles, darker tone, CG overdose, and a known actor being eccentric. Based on the trailer, Pan has all that and I see no reason to bother. Furthermore, my decision has nothing to do with Rooney Mara cast as Tiger Lily because it is a non-issue.
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Speculative casting articles are about as played out as lists and countdowns in geek oriented journalism. As fans we all know what we would like to see in the adaptations of our favorite characters and complain if we do not get our way. When a studio chooses the absolute worst actor or actress, we rush to voice our disagreements to no avail. While casting choices remain pure speculation, however, we hold out hope that whatever we have to say on the decisions of studios has some margin of influence like today’s subject.
Not long ago, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey announced her desire to play Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, the female Superman equivalent of Marvel. She was human before an accident made her part Super Skrull with flying capabilities, super strength, and heat based powers. Danvers is also an Air Force Colonel and a skilled fighter pilot. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been in dire need of a totally female driven movie and Captain Marvel is probably the best option, as opposed to something about Black Widow or Wasp. Is Rousey the ideal choice to play Captain Marvel?
Here is the short answer.
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There is no denying Rousey is built to play a superhero. She has the look, attitude, and the skill for a stunt oriented role. Unlike the male actors of the MCU, her physique is made of real muscle and she knows how to kill people. Where she excels physically, however, Rousey cannot keep up in acting.
It is extremely unfair to judge new talent on a handful of performances. Rousey has been in three movies: Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage, and based on those alone she does not qualify. Hiring an inexperienced actor for an expensive production is a big risk because it is impossible to gauge if said talent will come through in the end. Rousey simply lacks the acting ability, but she is not terrible as a Schwarzenegger type. I would like to see her in a Red Sonja remake if that ever happens. Casting her on the grounds of physical appearance is both dishonest and counter to the precedence Marvel has set since Iron Man.
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So who is the best choice to play Captain Marvel? As someone who read the eponymous comics by Kelly Sue DeConnick, I think I have enough of an understanding to select the right person.
My first choice would be Lucy Lawless if Agents of SHIELD had not wasted her in a part that lasted two episodes for a below average show. She epitomizes the strong female archetype with the way she carries herself in not just her performances but also her personality. She has a quick whit to keep up with her male counterparts and the experience working in physical roles like Xena and Hercules.
My next choice is Amanda Tapping from Stargate SG-1. She played Major Carter, the scientist archetype back when science fiction television was watchable. Along with the ability to speak the elaborate jargon and seem like she knows what she is saying, Tapping can play a military officer with heart. Danvers is similar to Carter as an officer that is not straightforward or by the book like many typical military characters, but competent enough to be a leader.
The best possible choice and the one I want to see most is Katee Sackhoff. With my decision comes heavy bias; I am one of those people that will watch anything she is in, even if I know it is terrible. It started with the new Battlestar Galactica (BSG), one of the last great television shows. While her character Starbuck was a maverick and ace pilot, she also had a number of personal problems like alcoholism, PTSD, and manic depression, and Sackhoff made them feel real. She imbued Starbuck with a strong personality that does not take anything from anyone and is never afraid to do something reckless. It is not too often Sackhoff was physical, however. She did some fist fighting, played around with guns, and did her own stunts, but in a very limited capacity. In terms of physique she is on par with Scarlet Johansson with more brawny, almost half the size of Rousey. Above all else, Sackhoff has the acting skill to bring Captain Marvel to life.
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On concept alone this article is pointless. It does not matter what anyone says because studios will do whatever they think is best for what they want. I can write a tetralogy of Punisher movie scripts with Michael Shannon in mind, but it will not change the fact Marvel cast Jon Bernthal and made Punisher a Daredevil character. With Captain Marvel, I can only hope they make the right decision and consider someone other than Ronda Rousey.
Editorial 8: Wow
Last night I found a trailer for a movie coming out next year that I had to share. It is called I’m Not Ashamed, a biopic about the first victim of the Columbine Massacre. Seems simple enough until you get to the crux of the video. The victim in question, Rachel Joy Scott, was a Christian and the angle the movie seem to be going for is she was killed because of her faith, making the Massacre an attack on Christianity…
…I do not think I need to say anymore to articulate how offensive this is. Corpse Worshipers playing the victim is nothing new to their propaganda, but using a school shooting is blatantly disgusting. It is not even out yet and I can tell it is going to be the most repulsive Christian film I will ever see. I hope it never comes out because the ignorant insensitive twerps behind it do not want to know what I have to say.
Editorial 7: Podcast
As a part of my internship for the Drunken Odyssey, I had the opportunity to contribute to the site’s podcast. In this episode I talk a book(s) that changed my life, which just happens to be Garth Ennis’s Punisher MAX. If you have read these select posts you already know I am a huge fan of the character. On the podcast I delve more into Frank Castle’s personality and moral compass while the Death Wish 2 theme plays in the background. Enjoy.
Editorial 6: In Support of My Friends
Though I am weeks late, I want to let everyone know of a new blog formed by my college friends. It is called the Writer’s Cohort where various contributors post articles on various subjects within the realm of entertainment. From videogames to literature, they talk about the minutiae and issues concerning their respective industry with great depth. I know most of these people personally and believe me when I say they know what they are talking about. Give the Writer’s Cohort a look.
You might learn something.
Editorial 5: Videogame Reviews
I would like to formally announce I will be writing videogame reviews for the Drunken Odyssey, a collection of blogs overseen by Mr. John King. I will also be editing the audio for the site’s podcast as a part of an internship. Reviews will go up every Wednesday, consisting of mostly recent titles and ones that I have actually played. Movie reviews will continue on their usual schedule. You may find the blog at the provided links.
Editorial 4: Kojima’s Heaven’s Gate
Hideo Kojima is one of the most prolific figures in the videogame industry. He used the platform of the Metal Gear Solid (MGS) series to tell a complex narrative with themes that had yet to be explored. He revolutionized the way we perceive cinematic storytelling today. On the cusp of his opus MGS5, however, Konami, the company responsible for publishing his work, saw fit to excise Kojima from memory, disbanding his production studio and erasing his name from future products. How did this come about? Why did Konami abandon its saving grace before the release of its biggest game to date?
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The situation with Kojima and Konami is similar to director Michael Cimino and the studio United Artists (UA). Deer Hunter was Cimino’s biggest achievement, taking seven Academy awards for its story of three friends going to Vietnam. UA was known for letting its directors have complete creative control of their projects during the auteur era of Hollywood. Seeing the success wrought by Cimino, the studio gave him permission to make whatever film he wanted, and that film was Heaven’s Gate (HG).
HG is inspired by the Johnson County War, a series of skirmishes between mercenaries and European immigrants in 1890s Wyoming. The movie was essentially a western on an epic scale. With a cast of hundreds of extras, a town built from the ground up, and Cimino’s extreme attention to detail, hopes were high HG would be another quality title from UA’s favored artist. What followed was a drama of obsession and financial turmoil.
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Problems first arose over the casting of French actress Isabelle Huppert in the role of Ella Watson. UA was concerned about her ability to speak English, but Cimino pushed hard and got his way. Being in pre-production, UA began to wonder how the director’s demands would affect the movie going forward.
Authenticity was Cimino’s goal and ensured every detail was precise and exactly to his liking. This translated into actors and extras going through rigorous training to put them in the mindset of the old west. While it is not uncommon for such preparation before shooting, it was during the process Cimino’s obsession negatively affected budget and scheduling.
Many scenes were shot in multiple takes, some significant and others seconds long. In one scene where Kris Kristofferson cracks a whip, a two second-long shot, was done about 50 times. To get the perfect outdoor shot, he and the crew would wait from dawn till the afternoon before the clouds were in the right position. Different emotional versions of scenes were shot to save for editing. However, the overuse of film stock compounded, adding up debt and putting the release window behind schedule.
What was supposed to cost 12.5 million for a winter of 1979 release cost 44 million and was not put out in theaters until a whole year after the projected date. Cimino spent months editing the one million feet of film into a five-hour feature before another editing session. At three and a half hours HG was put out in theaters to the vitriol of critics, calling it overly long and boring. Feeling threatened Cimino pulled the film for one last edit and brought the runtime to two and a half hours. But the damage was already done.
HG earned a meager three and a half million at the box office. The cascading effect of its failure tarnished the reputation of UA and ended the auteur era in Hollywood. Directors with vision were too much of a risk and limits were placed on future projects outside of independent circles. Accountants and committees became the final word on how movies are made. Contemporary Hollywood has become so bureaucratic and business oriented creativity has been expunged and deemed problematic. Theaters are flooded with remakes and sequels because studios are too afraid to try anything different while turning film into product. The Amazing Spider–Man movies, Fantastic 4, and Transformers are built on the backs of not artists, but cretins who do not possess a creative bone in their collective body. All they see is money and not the rampant decay of their industry. And it was all because of one man’s vision.
I have not seen HG, but it cannot be worse than the trash of today.
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Before I start comparing Kojima and Cimino, I find it important to describe what MGS is all about:
The first game came out in 1987 under the title Metal Gear. It was the first stealth action videogame of its kind and won Kojima recognition in his home country of Japan. After a sequel and a couple other projects, the series we know today saw its first iteration in 1998. It was basically a remake of the original in a 3-D realm and an opportunity for Kojima to indulge in what he could not in 2-D.
Kojima is very much a fan of movies and takes inspiration from a wide variety of titles. The characters Snake and Big Boss are based on Snake Plissken from Escape from New York, a cyclopean stealth specialist. Snake also takes after John Rambo from First Blood (the only one you should see and the fourth) with his signature bandana and his commanding officer, Colonel Campbell, is a direct imitation of Colonel Troutman. Much of the dialog in MGS3 is packed with references to westerns and classic Godzilla. The Mad Max series influenced 5 as Snake is more of a silent protagonist experiencing the world around him.
Kojima’s interests are readily translated into how he handles cinematics. He appears to see things in film and anime and emulates them in the games’ cut-scenes. There is evidence of an extreme attention to detail in the way scenes are set up and shot. Camera angles are reserved in their movements and placement for clear visuals. Characters and set pieces are arranged in a fashion that best fit the shot in the manner of a tableau in some cases. The action is inspired by Asian action movies, using a lot of slow motion and acrobatic stunt work with the boss characters. The cinematics also strive for a dramatic presentation to convey emotion. If the ending scene of MGS4 does not move you to tears, you are not human. With each iteration Kojima’s style has changed. MGS1 and 2 were visually standard, 3 reminiscent of old spy movies, 4 modern in regards to a documentary style, and 5 wants to be a long-shot similar to Children of Men or Birdman as made evident in the prologue Ground Zeroes.
While the cut scenes are an opportunity for Kojima to indulge himself, they are an important part of storytelling and the expression of various themes. PTSD, war, and killing in general were subjects not often explored in games until MGS. In 1, Snake knew all he was doing is killing and never thought of himself as a hero. In 2, the character Raiden was afraid of being a father because the trauma from being a child soldier could pass on to his son. 3 was about how legacy means nothing in an ever changing world. 4 dealt with the idea of war becoming systematic with the rise of private military corporations and advanced technology. The spinoff Peace Walker criticized nuclear deterrence as a means to prolong conflict and a build up arsenals. And 5 might as well be called PTSD: The Game.
Perhaps he would enjoy making an actual film, but unlike the self-proclaimed auteur David Cage, a French developer who fancies himself a movie director for videogames, Kojima knows a game is not a movie. The cinematics and extensive codec calls are only half the experience. With an arcade style ranking system, players can choose how they want to play between killing everyone in a given level with abandon, or calm and collect as they evade capture. One could finish a game without killing anyone except the bosses before receiving a score. The gameplay is as important as the cinematics and stands on its own.
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Kojima and Cimino possess a common eye for detail and the focus of a perfectionist. Both have visions they want to realize and push hard to make it happen. Everything about their projects must be consistent with that vision, whether it is the position of clouds or the movements of a character, reaffirming their shared obsession. Like HG, Kojima goes for authenticity in his games’ military aesthetic, using a variety of accurate jargon and techniques under the advisement of military expert Motosado Mori. To get the best shots possible, Cimino would take his crew hours away from civilization to places he thought would look best. This was nothing new as Deer Hunter was shot in several locations across the US.
The two are also absent egotism, motivated by their obsession and vision. There was a calm determination on the set of HG as Cimino worked to the breaking point in his pursuit of perfection, disregarding the word of producers and mounting cost. Apart from the fact the Japanese are culturally a humble people, Kojima just does not think too highly of himself. He acknowledges the games’ impact and takes into consideration what they have done for fans as he works hard to make each game a polished memorable experience. His extensive mention in the credits is purely coincidental and his appearances in the games are simple cameos in the same vein as Hitchcock.
Where Kojima and Cimino differ is what their respective studios did at the zenith of their projects.
UA knew from the outset HG would become a problem as production went on. By taking his time and going to such great lengths, Cimino was costing the studio millions, so much so it was the most expensive movie in 1980. Despite the drama and financial turmoil, UA wanted something out of the situation. To not release a film after such a struggle would have been suicide. There was plenty of evidence at the time to suggest movies with troubled productions could come out on top like Star Wars and Apocalypse Now. Of course, HG was a disaster regardless, but unlike Konami, UA let Cimino finish filming and editing before he was fired and treated him with as much respect as they could muster on the eve of collapse.
To be clear, based on the information available, Kojima left Konami on his own. There has been no mention of him being forced to leave and that he will continue working on 5 until its release. But the fallout of his departure raised questions with a singular answer: Konami is does not respect its creators or their creations.
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After Kojima left, word began to circulate his name was struck from the box cover of 5. While this was still an allegation with so little information present, the latest trailer (notice the drop in quality compared to a trailer cut by Kojima himself) showed the Kojima Productions studio seal absent and the studio itself dissolved. Even by American business standards this is excessive, denying recognition to the artists on their own art. It is no surprise, however, that Konami’s CEO Kagemaza Kozuki hates Kojima and has been trying to push the company away from videogames in recent years. In their native country, Konami is best known for mobile games, gambling machines, and a variety of other investments. Kozuki has gone on record that mobile games are cheaper to produce and more profitable. Being a company that builds gambling machines, I find it odd Konami could not see the risk in folding their hand after investing 80 million dollars (10 billion yen) in its most important game since 4.
UA did not quit after dumping millions on Cimino. They did not see the potential downfall of their company and abandon ship because they wanted something out of the debacle. What is worse about the Konami situation is it was never in danger of failing. Not only was Kojima their last reason for existing in the industry, he was on the verge of rejuvenating Konami’s last great franchise, Silent Hill (SH), in collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro. Furthermore, MGS used to be a PlayStation exclusive whose numbers steadily dwindled between 1 and 4. With the advent of release on not only current but last generation consoles, 5 is also coming out on PC through Steam. It will reach audiences that would have never played a single game in the series years before. The possibility of recouping cost has never been more favorable, but Konami was too caught up in its delusion before forcing Kojima out. And by default the new SH was canceled.
This is not the first time Konami has mishandled talent and their games. It started with Team Silent, the creators behind the original four SH games. I am not a fan of survival horror, but I appreciate SH as a fantastic example of psychological horror. All of that changed when Konami thought it was a good idea to disband the team and put them to work on mobile games. The SH series was then passed off to western developers with abysmal results. Konami has made a mockery of its flagship titles with no regard for quality, more so than ever with the release of an SH themed slot machine.
A recent Nikkei report revealed the company does not treat the rest of its employs especially well. Workers are monitored in their offices and on social media and the time they take for lunch is heavily scrutinized. When certain employees out grow their usefulness, the company reassigns them to different jobs regardless of what they were doing before. Konami also regularly changes its internal structure and discourages communication between teams. These are all allegations, of course, contrary to eyewitness reports, but based on past and recent activities, it makes sense for Konami to behave in such a manner.
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Hideo Kojima and Michael Cimino are artists that succumbed to a system absent creativity. In an environment that runs on money, creators often fall ill to outside interference and cooperate tampering that stifle innovation. Regardless of internal conflict, United Artists respected the work of Cimino and let him realize his vision. Konami, however, is absent humility and has no appreciation for art. In conclusion, fuck Konami, fuck everyone who support their practices, and I hope it collapses harder than UA before the end of the decade.
Editorial 3: Who Are the Secret Warriors?
If you have read my Marvel Cinematic Universe review on Smashwords, you probably know my feelings on Agents of SHIELD. Unlike Daredevil, there is nothing that sets it apart from convectional television. It is boring, predictable, and not at all reflective of the quality of the movies. It has more in common with a run-of-the-mill procedural. Joss Whedon was at the helm and the show still failed to hold my interest, compounding my decision to give up on television as a whole. I must confess I have not seen season two or Agent Carter as I wait for it to become available on Netflix. I do not know if it has improved, but my instinct says otherwise.
Recently it was announced season three will feature the Secret Warriors (SW), a team from a story of the same name that I just happen to be a big fan of, as indicated in my profile picture. The first issue I bought was number two in my formative years as a comic junkie and I proceeded to read the entire series. The appeal was author Jonathan Hickman’s signature big idea concepts and the set-up of a team similar to Special Forces or CIA operators. It was a great series that inspired a part of my Punisher script and the idea of Hydra controlling SHIELD in Winter Soldier.
The last thing I want to see is my favorite team on a below average prime time slog fest. So, like any pissed off nerd, I am going to use this as an opportunity to explain who the Secret Warriors are and why they are the greatest. By the way, if you want an X-Men equivalent breakdown, look not further.
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The SW was formed before the beginning of Secret Invasion, a Marvel Event where Earth’s mightiest were captured and replaced by Skrull agents. Nick Fury (who had passed his position of Director to Maria Hill following Secret War) formed the team to expose possible infiltrators in SHIELD and later showed up to assist in the final battle. The Skrulls were defeated, but Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, delivered the final blow. To commemorate his victory, he was made Director of SHIELD, later renamed HAMMER. Fury then tasked the SW to cause chaos and pull apart Osborn’s regime in Dark Reign.
Colonel Nick Fury– The Nick Fury of comics of vastly different from Nick Fury of the MCU, apart from the difference of race. Where Black Fury is cool, smooth, and likeable, White Fury is the most unreasonable, secretive, and pragmatic human being that has ever existed. Imagine Snake Plissken, Big Boss, a little bit of Frank Castle, and Bruce Campbell’s hair combined into a singular cyclopean super spy badass, whose sole purpose in life is to protect the world and its people. Not only did he fight in WWII as one of the original Howling Commandos, he served as a CIA operator in Cuba, Vietnam, and Nicaragua. Even as a senior citizen with a bullet in his head he finds a way to keep fighting or uses his espionage skills to get others to do it for him. He has defied governments and destroyed friendships to accomplish his goals and has no problem making sacrifices without remorse. He manipulates anyone and everyone, even people who do not know him, hidden behind layers upon layers of secrecy.
Daisy “Quake” Johnson– As before, Daisy from the comics has nothing in common with Skye from Agents. The power set is the same with vibration manipulation, but the whole master hacker crap that does not make any sense for someone that beautiful is nonexistent. Their personalities are also contrasting. Daisy is by and large a tomboy who cuts her hair short to be proficient in her duties and has natural leadership skills. She is in charge of the SW, but treats it like her family, and respects Nick Fury as her superior.
JT “Hellfire”– The grandson of the Phantom Rider, JT is an Atlanta native that can set chains on fire. He is a suave character in the same regard as a frat boy who hits on anyone of the opposite sex. He is also loyal to his friends and eventually Daisy when they begin a romance.
Alex “Phobos” Aaron– Alex is the god of fear and son of Ares, who was an Avenger before his death in the Siege Event. On the outside he is an 11 year-old with thousands of years of godhood to his name. Alex can induce an extreme feeling of fear with just a look, leaving his enemies petrified and vulnerable to attack. Despite being a god with minor precognition abilities, he still acts like a child because he can get away with it.
“Yoyo” Rodriguez– Yoyo is a mutant with a super speed power set and daughter of the super villain Griffin. After completing a full run, her body automatically slingshots back to her point of origin. She is an innocent character who is thrust into Fury’s world and comes out stronger on the other side.
Sebastian “Druid”– Sebastian is a Hawaiian native and the son of Doctor Druid, a lesser-known magic user opposite Doctor Strange. He is the “fat-guy” of the team, a sad sack with low self-esteem and a skilled sorcerer.
Jerry “Stonewall” Sledge– The son of Absorbing Man, Stonewall has a power set similar to his father, without the antisocial tendencies. He can increase his size and his skin takes on the consistency of stone. Stonewall is also kind at heart despite his appearance and develops a close friendship with Yoyo.
Eden “Manifold” Fesi– Eden is a teleporter mutant that can create portals to accommodate more than one passenger and can reach wide distances. He is Aboriginal and has a great affinity for rock ‘n’ roll.
HAMMER– Though its concept is reflective of SHIELD, HAMMER is opposite in purpose. It creates the illusion of enforcing peace while perpetuating conflict for personal enterprise at many levels of crime.
Norman Osborn– Known as the Green Goblin, Osborn is the Director of HAMMER and used the fallout of Secret Invasion to take out heroes and supplant his control as Earth’s new top cop.
The Thunderbolts– As Marvel’s equivalent to the Suicide Squad, the Thunderbolts are comprised of villains that do the jobs SHIELD cannot. During Dark Reign, however, they were given (for lack of a better word) free reign to do whatever they want. The team includes Ares, Venom, Bullseye, and Osborn himself as the Iron Patriot.
Hydra– The most prominent adversary of SHIELD, Hydra made a steady recovery after the Skrull Invasion with diminished numbers. In a HAMMER world, however, it became more of a threat as the two worked together in a secretive capacity.
Baron Wolfgang von Strucker– Compared to the film version, comic Strucker is far more sinister and plays a bigger role. He is essentially a Nazi version of Fury who founded Hydra after WWII with remnants of Imperial Japan.
Kraken– A mysterious and methodical figure, Kraken is Strucker’s second in command. He wears a helmet that projects a suit over his body and grants him powers.
Viper (Madame Hydra)– The matriarch of the organization, Viper is unmatched in her fighting ability and cunning as she manipulates others to further Hydra’s influence.
The Hive– Born from a symbiotic parasite attached to a reluctant victim, Hive is an anthropomorphic squid creature and conduit for an untold number of similar parasites Hydra uses to conscript henchmen into their ranks.
Gorgon– His real name Tomi Shishido, Gorgon is a skilled swordsman and agent of the Hand. As per his namesake, he can turn people into stone with a look and takes pleasure in honorable combat. He is also an extreme nihilist, his mind so empty his thoughts are equal to that of an abyss. His sword is Godkiller, an ancient blade forged by the gods themselves.
Leviathan– What happens when Hydra forgoes its Nazi roots in exchange for Communism? You get Leviathan, the Soviet equivalent of Hydra with a similar Cthulhu-ian aesthetic. They were a separate group to the KGB and remained dormant until the 21st Century. They posses one collective goal and do not allow personal needs to get in the way. They also make up for their inconsistencies in technology with superior numbers.
Orion– Not much is known about him, but Orion was a veteran of WWII and was there at Leviathan’s inception before going into cryostasis with other select operatives.
Magadan– Orion’s second in command, Magadan remained out of cryostasis to observe the progression of history and build up Leviathan’s influence before waking the horde.
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And those are the Secret Warriors. I could get into the story arcs (perhaps at a later date), but it would be futile considering Agents of SHIELD will be vastly different. I am more worried, however, about what will happen to the characters. I am fine with Black Fury because you can never go wrong with Samuel L Jackson, but I fear they will screw up as hard with everyone else like Daisy. I do not want these diverse and fleshed-out characters reduced to the department store catalog drones of the show. If Gorgon shows up and he is not my favorite undead nihilistic samurai, I will give up on all Marvel television, now and forever, excluding whatever they do on Netflix.
Editorial 2: Why I Did Not See Southpaw
My main reasons for skipping Southpaw are both monetary and personal. Usually I see two movies per week depending on what is out, but recently I have found my finances cannot handle anything more than one. Furthermore, certain things in my burgeoning professional life require my full attention. I would like to think I can focus on various projects, but as I have gotten older, the more I try the lesser the quality. My goal is to become a writer and if I want to git gud, I need to exploit my strengths while keeping in mind my weaknesses. The secondary reasons I chose to ignore Southpaw are more in regards to the film itself.
I hate sports movies about as much as Adam Sandler movies. I was young when I saw Miracle, a true story about America beating the Soviet Union at hockey. Sure, movies are predictable as I have said in my not-review of Pixels, but in Miracle I saw the same pattern of plot points reflected in others of the genre. There is always that dedicated coach or player on an apathetic team, inspiring them to do well until the moment of downfall, before they finally succeed. Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, When the Game Stands Tall, Pride, and Friday Night Lights follow this formula ad nauseam and Southpaw is no different.
You have the set-up of a fighter down on his luck after the loss of his wife, who then loses his child, and to prove he can be a better parent goes back to boxing for a fight that will certainly win back his life. I guarantee the film plays out almost exactly like that. While sports movies are not as bad as Sandler’s, the monotony of their plots is enough to deter my interest. Compounding my decision is the reason the movie exists in the first place.
Jake Gyllenhaal has made strides in his career with Prisoners and Nightcrawler (I did not see Enemy) and he deserves at a bit more recognition for his efforts. That being said, Southpaw feels like the cinematic equivalent of over compensation. Most average movies can be elevated by the work of their actors, writers, or direction. However, when an actor works as hard as Gyllenhaal for a generic sports film, it might as well be called Trying Too Hard: The Movie.
No disrespect, but if you have to break up with your girlfriend for training, maybe you should tone it down and look at the bigger picture. You are not Daniel Day Lewis or Joaquin Phoenix. Their transformations take such a toll they sign onto new projects between long periods of time. Going to such lengths for a boxing movie in under a year since your last film shows how desperate you are to be recognized, when people already know who you are.
Take for example Leonardo DiCaprio, a by and large character actor. In just about every one of his movies he has an accent and applies his signature intensity. At the same time, he goes the extra mile and takes control of the part. In Django Unchained he smashed a glass with his hand and bled all over. In the quaaludes scene from Wolf of Wall Street he used his foot to open a car door and sustained a back injury.
What I am getting at is a dedication to the process of acting. Nobody cares about how you get into character as long the end result is exceptional. DiCaprio is selective about his roles and goes for whatever will allow him to play a different character each time and at a consistent rate. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom was a character, but Billy Hope is no different than Rock Balboa, Jim Braddock, Maggie Fitzgerald, and Jake La Motta.
I do not hate the guy. I just find it disheartening that such hard work is wasted on a role that could have been done in his sleep. It does not make any sense for someone as talented as Jake Gylenhaal to put so much effort into a movie so ordinary. And for that reason I will not see Southpaw.
Editorial 1: Portfolio
As part of my last class I had to make a portfolio of selected works from the past two years. Some of them are already on here in one form or another and some are not. I will be adding more in the near future. Later I will make a page dedicated to the site, but here it is for your viewing pleasure.
Editorial 0: In Support of Jim Sterling
I do not normally do this, but I felt compelled to share this little discovery I came upon yesterday morning. It could be the funniest new thing on the Internet I feel more people aught to know about.
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To provide some context, Jim Sterling is a video game critic that I have been following since his time on Escapist Magazine. In addition to reviews he posted weekly reports and analyzes called the Jimquisition on the happenings of the industry with an informative and humorous tone. Not long ago he went independent on YouTube with great success. He has a Patreon and posts a slew of content to his channel, more so than his time as a contracted journalist.
In addition to his usual reports, Sterling has gotten a lot of mileage making videos related to the games of Steam Early Access, a digital distribution service for would-be developers. Said games are usually poorly made, barely functioning, and sold for prices that do not reflect their quality. To highlight the gross miss-use of this service, Sterling created “Squirty Play,” a first impressions play-through series that is not exclusive to Early Access. Each video is simple, short, and not at all a final critique, which are posted on his personal blog.
In November of 2014 Sterling released a “Squirty Play” for Slaughtering Grounds, a first-person shooter dubbed Worst Game of the Year. What started as a ten-and-a-half minute video turned into a saga when developer Digital Homicide released a counter-video called Reviewing the Reviewer. In it was a text over-lay on the original video of the developer defending his work and insulting Sterling.
Instead of making a point, Digital Homicide’s tantrum provided a great deal of entertainment. Sterling’s laughter-induced reaction perpetuated the developer’s anger to take futile legal action more readily defined in this episode of the Jimquisition. Sterling even replayed the game for two hours to prove he gave Slaughtering Grounds a fare chance, only to reinforce his previous argument.
But it did not end there.
Last Thursday, Sterling and Digital Homicide sat down for an interview of sorts on a special Jimquisition podcast. I do not want to spoil anything, as it is the most incredible 1:41:06 you will ever hear. It is the definition of paradoxical.
Why I Did Not See Unfriended
TRIGGER WARNING IF YOUR FEELINGS ARE EASILY HURT
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What started as an attempt to not see a movie rendered irrelevant a week after release, turned into something on a broader scale. It became apparent what I had to say would no doubt piss off more people than I care to count and lose me fans, if any. Through this blog, I wanted to express my opinions in a professional manner for the sake of critiquing film. But in a situation such as I find myself, I am going to be as honest as possible, no matter how much it will not help.
Unfriended brings up a variety of feelings in me, one of which being a movie shot on Facebook sounds like a movie shot on Facebook. I am all for experimentation, no matter how stupid, but what I felt most upon seeing the trailer was the underlying theme of cyber bullying. After watching a couple reviews, I was correct in my assumption, and here I find myself expressing my thoughts. I did not want to do this, but the more I thought about it, the stronger the urge became to put it all out there, and carefully articulate how CYBER BULLYING ISN’T REAL!
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It is strange how easily people go insane over a few words on the Internet. I understand there are cases where online harassment translates to real life consequences and those are the exception, but if you are affected by comments to the point you call yourself a victim, go back to high school, get some bullies that actually exist, and then you can be victim.
Getting rape threats every time you open Twitter or a troll on YouTube? How about you use the conveniently placed block button or report the user for abuse. If all you get are generally offensive comments, turn off your computer and walk away from the screen. It is impossible for cyber bullies to get you that way.
Do you know how to get rid of real bullies? YOU CAN’T!
Unless you go the Eric Harris/Dylan Klebold route of total massacre, you will always see, hear, and experience your bullies, with no escape or hope of fighting back without repercussions. Even worse is living with them and the constant repression of your desire to inflect the worst kind of vengeance.
There is no block button for what real people go through on a daily basis. In most cases, young people kill themselves after years and/or months of abuse because there was no hope of improvement. Even in situations of gossip and falsehoods, kids become convinced their lives are ruined, and give up without a moment’s hesitation. Hundreds die before they have the chance to live because no one bothers to help.
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I find it offensive when people call themselves victims in the context of cyber bullying, but it can be more than up lifting for real victims. The notion a person’s self-esteem can be destroyed with a Tweet inspires hope that you are strong enough to overcome harassment, solidifying that words will indeed never hurt. It shows you are tough enough to survive abuse when other people are rendered inert by 130 characters.
On a marginally sadistic scale, it is hilarious to see people lose their minds over something as petty as cyber bullying. People spend hours upon hours of their lives traversing social media and making a huge fuss over one or two comments that happened to be negative. Followers of those people will blindly support said fuss without regard for context or intelligence. Simple comments often morph into maelstroms of nonsense that evolve into controversies more hollow and meaningless than a black hole.
The most obvious controversy is GamerGate, a yearlong funeral march into idiocracy that continues today. It started with cyber bullying and has endured with self-proclaimed victims, mostly figures of the video game industry and journalism, claiming to be harassed by sexist and/or threatening Tweets.
Sure, if someone mails a knife to your house, it would be a good idea to call the cops, but if a random Canadian tells an insignificant joke about Armenians, then shut down the highways and airports because it is the apocalypse. Next thing you know it, social media explodes in a torrent of hurt feelings from people not even involved that twist the situation with a level importance totally unfounded, like a Soviet propaganda spin team.
A similar situation occurred when actor Jeremy Renner called the Avengers: Age of Ultron character Black Widow “a slut” in a sincere and joking manner. But idiots who obviously did not watch the interview in which the joke was said (https://youtu.be/7oMcFupuL78) blew it to a proportion so big, Renner had to apologize days later. Actually, I think both of them said something, but this issue is so unimportant, I refuse to research further.
All three controversies started out ordinary, GamerGate being the result of a perturbed boyfriend telling the Internet about his ex, before random people, who thought they had something important to say, applied their own take. Suddenly an angry blog post became the subject of sexism, feminism, ethics in games journalism, and women’s standing in the video game industry, a notion that renders the entire issue insignificant because it is about video games. I am a gamer and I do not take games that seriously.
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When an entire subculture loses their minds before your eyes, you become so dumbfounded it is hard to believe it is even real. It transcends humor into Lovecraftian horror, something that cannot possibly exist, but it is there and you cannot un-see it. You do not see a meaningless squabble over a few comments, but a world driven mad by delusion. You laugh a bit more until you realize you alone possess eyes to see the truth. When you tell people what they are doing has no merit, you are shunned and reviled, labeled another bully by a long list of fake victims. You exist a pariah, the only one with enough sanity to see everyone else is crazy.
That is what it is like to be a real victim. I revel in the glorious heartbreak of people easily damaged by a Tweet. It makes me feel secure in the fact I am stronger, but at the same time, I am angered to the point I wish they would shut their mouths and stop existing. Their lies and weakness do as much damage as actual harassment and they show no signs of going away. Until people get with the program and learn what it is like to have actual bullies, I am going to sit back and watch them suffer. It is certainly more entertaining than Unfriended.
Why I Refuse to See 50 Shades of Grey
As an amateur film critic, I have made it my mission to see and write about most of what comes out each week. I am going to school full time, but the free days I have are relegated to watching whatever has come out. For my holiday in December I saw four movies in a row and wrote a review for three of them. I hope to get paid for my work one day, but until then, I refuse see 50 Shades of Grey. No matter how many views I will get for my critique, nothing can convince me.
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Before I start, no, I have not read the book. I have done research and I will tell you right now, there is no reason for this movie to exist.
The book is fine because you can find a hundred just like it in the romance section, but why anyone decided to make an adaptation is a mystery. It is not that it is rewritten Twilight fan fiction, kind of stupid, or has misogynist undertones. On the contrary, I find the concept quite inoffensive, and this is coming from a feminist.
So what is my problem with Shades of Grey?
In general, I do not have a problem; it is a harmless trend that people seem to enjoy. It brings a touch of the risqué to the bland lives of stay-at-home moms and people with repressed hedonistic desires. It is a safe touch of “evil” that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. And we could all use a bit of that in our day-to-day lives.
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If is okay to have a around, then is it offensive?
From an outsider’s standpoint, the idea behind Shades of Grey; a woman submits to a man to fulfill his BDSM fantasies, would qualify it as simple erotica, that happens to be a best seller. Overall, it really is not that big a deal, but what I have found in my research suggests otherwise.
It is a consensus that Shades of Grey is poorly written and features a protagonist that is offensive to women. I have seen videos of people destroying this book because they were so angered by the submissive, naive, and dimwitted intelligence of Anastasia Steele. Normally I would agree, but here is where I present a differing opinion:
What were you expecting?
You are reading an erotic novel that started out as Twilight fan fiction, and you complain about the character not being a strong representation of women? I understand the need for better female characters, but you will never find it in BDSM erotica inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s evacuated abortion. Why even bother? In terms of genre, erotica is so minute it hardly qualifies as important. There is plenty more you can be doing with your time and money. Nobody has any reason to take this book so seriously.
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With that in mind, why do I refuse to see this movie, if I do not have a problem with it, and it is not offensive?
At the risk of ruining any reputation I hope to gain from this blog, I refuse to see Shades of Grey because it is not hardcore enough to be as infamous as it is. Believe me when I say that the real thing, a very profitable genre in the porn industry, is far more intense and female-friendly than this supposedly risqué book.
Let me explain:
When I first heard they were making a film adaptation, I asked myself why would you make a movie about something you can find on the Internet, if you know what to look for? Right now, I can find videos that make Shades of Grey look like Green Eggs and Ham, in less time and with less money it would take to turn out a feature length adaptation.
You think the book was something to swoon over?
I can show you Eva Angelina, a veteran porn star and mother, get bound by five to seven men, within the first 10 minutes of an hour-long scene. Your average stay-at-home mom will be reaching for the sleeping pills until the nightmares stop. In other words, Shades of Grey is amateur crap that stupid people think is professional.
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The most important takeaway from this whole breakdown is real BDSM, and porn in general, has more to say about feminism, and gender equality, than anything in Shades of Grey. You may not believe it because you have not been single as long as I have.
Here is what I mean:
Being in porn means you are having sex on camera for the whole world to see. You are exposed both physically and emotionally, something very few people can do. But those that can show they are proud of what they look like, no matter how they look.
In my opinion, doing porn equates to being a feminist because you are free of gender conformity and the bonds society puts on people based on how they physically appear. On top of that, women are paid more than men. An ordinary boy/girl scene has more to say about feminism and gender, in less time than it takes to read Shades of Grey.
If you think I am wrong, here are a couple articles by porn stars that support my argument:
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So that is why I will not see this movie. I have no idea how this analysis will affect my standing as a critic or as a person. My hope is that I have articulated why there is no reason for this movie to be important, or for anyone to see it. How it is a cultural phenomenon I will never understand. Unless I am being compensated for having to sit through it come February, I refuse to see 50 Shades of Grey.
Writing Frank Castle, the Punisher
As a student I must make it clear that I am not a professional in any sense of the word. The opinions expressed in this essay are based on what I have learned in my studies and personal observations. I just wanted to let you know.
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Frank Castle is one of the most under appreciated and under-written characters in Marvel Comics. Based on a variety of stories, I find he is considered a one-trick pony, a one-dimensional vigilante that is more renegade than paragon. Even other characters call him a psychopath and mass murderer. Usually he is placed in a supporting role for a book other than his own, and in titles that bare his name he is hardly the focus.
Why is this? Why do authors treat Frank like a one-off anti-hero with bland dialog and stories no different than an episode of Law and Order?
It is because no one understands Frank Castle.
All characters in fiction are hard to write, but Frank is the kind of person that requires an intimate knowledge of who he is on a psychological level. He is in no way an ordinary vigilante.
There are two versions of Frank’s origin. Both are the same, but different; one says he fought in Vietnam and another in the Middle East. For this analysis I will use the Vietnam origin.
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In Mark Millar’s Civil War, after a one-sided fight between Captain America and Frank Castle, Spiderman remarked: “Are you kidding me? Cap’s probably the reason he went to Vietnam. Same guy, different war.”
These few words speak volumes about Frank. It tells us he is or was idealistic about morality and justice, in addition to possibly being a fan of Captain America. All of that change, however, after Frank went to Vietnam, the single worst war in America’s history.
You could argue our modern wars are terrible, but when you take into account the physical and psychological damage done upon an entire generation of young men, the millions killed and poisoned, and the radical shift in public opinion against ordinary kids, fresh out of high school, who were forced to fight in a war, I could argue that you are a draft-dodging piece of garbage that doesn’t know shit about the world.
Of course war is an awful thing that creates as many heroes as victims, but Vietnam was a conflict that makes Verdun look like Grenada. There is not a single man or woman who grew up in that time that feels the effects of that disaster today. When you come home from the worst place in the world, after doing your duty to your country, to be called a murdering rapist baby killer, how would you feel about yourself? How can you move on knowing people think you are a monster? This mentality from the general public alienated millions of young men whom were already worse off with a flawed VA system and an even more incompetent government that had no idea how to deal with the situation after a series of domestic crises.
Frank Castle was one of the many soldiers affected by the war. He was a skilled sniper, but underneath his calm, stoic exterior was a man utterly changed by horror. Even Rambo could not cope with seeing his friends in roasted pieces of meat. On his return home he would have become one with disillusioned youth, had it not been for the one thing that kept him together: his wife and children.
Maria, Lisa, and Frank Jr. were his normal, his center, and reason for going on. Most returning vets would turn to heroin or suicide to cope with home life, but Frank had is family, and it was with them he was truly happy. They kept his darker side at bay, the part of him that killed hundreds, and seen the worst of humanity.
And on one fateful day, the horror is set loose after Frank sees his wife and children murdered in Mafia crossfire.
This is where the origins intersect and where most people find Frank an easy character to understand. It is the archetypical vigilante creation story; ordinary person loses loved ones and is inspired to go out and fight crime. It is Batman’s origin, a story even people who don’t read comics know about.
It is here most writers draw their conclusions about Frank. The problem is the blatant disregard for his past. Usually his military service is meant to justify his skill with firearms, but the psychological effects of war are completely disregarded.
Combat and a year’s worth of horror are taxing on a person’s mental health that becomes exacerbated after coming home. And when you consider the social effects of the Vietnam War, apply them to a man who saw his wife and children massacred in a park, you make for a logical take on the vigilante and a character with more empathetic complexity than any bat-themed billionaire.
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This brings to mind his psychological state.
Frank Castle is not crazy. He knows what he is doing, knows he is a mass murder, knows it is wrong, and does not care. This would make him a sociopath, but a sociopath is someone who willingly rejects morality. Frank Castle has a sense of morality because he murders criminals, ones that are the absolute worst. He does not shoot j-walkers or torture thieves, but when he knows someone has done true evil, he goes the extra mile.
He does not enjoy any part of it either; for him it is like a meaningless job you do just for the paycheck. In Rick Remender’s run from 2009-2010, Frank says a few one-liners, but the delivery comes of as dry and flat. This serves as a juxtaposition between the character’s action-hero aesthetic and the brutality of killing. What it is trying to say is nothing can make murder cool, no matter how witty your choice of words. It is more of a thematic aspect, but it says a lot about the character.
And on the subject of murder, Frank is very utilitarian in his methodology. He does whatever is necessary to get the job done, without the need for theatrics. He finds his targets, shoots them, and moves on. It is only when the target truly deserves it that Frank goes into Saw/Hostel territory; like the father who used his own children in pornography or the businesswoman that kidnapped girls to have them raped and drugged for prostitution.
So if he does not get anything out of it, why does Frank Castle kill people, even after getting his revenge? He is as much a hero as a victim; a man with morals and skills parallel to Captain America, and the emotional baggage of a disillusioned Vietnam veteran and a widower. To that effect, when he sees a world full of victims created by psychotic monsters, he has no choice but to cleanse them from the earth.
In the words of comic book writer Garth Ennis, “[Frank Castle] make[s] the world sane.”
Now if Frank is mentally stable and aware of what he is doing, why does he wear a costume? Wearing the skull is unnecessary because he does not wear a mask either; people and the authorities know exactly what he looks like. On top of that, why does Batman dress like a bat? To be a symbol? I understand protecting your identity, but you can do that without looking like a furry. But I digress; the reason behind Frank’s costume is simple:
If we assume Frank is a fan of Captain America, in a world of superheroes, then it is only fitting he dons a costume fit for his character. He is a murder, so he would wear a skull.
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I understand this has been a very biased analysis because I care about this character. There are millions of war veterans that have gone through the same experiences (family massacre aside) and like them, Frank Castle deservers the same respect in comics. However, I am not saying there aren’t stories that do him justice.
The best by far, if you are looking for a psychological and adult take on Frank, is Punisher MAX by Garth Ennis. The series can be a hard read because it is violent and offensive, but it is also compelling and realistic.
Another good story puts Frank knee deep in the Marvel Universe, unlike MAX. Rick Remender and Nathan Edmonson both take into account the realities of a world of superheroes, gods, and aliens. Remender goes into realms of camp with a story about Frank becoming Franken-Castle, a walking Frankenstein pun after Wolverine’s son chops him into pieces. Edmonson’s is more grounded in realism with appearances from Electro, Black Widow, and Domino against the backdrop of a drug cartel’s plot to kill the citizens of Los Angeles with a chemical weapon.
Other stories combine the serious with the fantastical. Greg Rucka’s run is more of a true-crime take, but it falls short because the focus is on the supporting cast. Another series is from the Essential Punisher Collection #2 by Mike Baron, where Frank travels the world in the war on drugs. Later he gets into a brawl with the Man Without Fear, Daredevil.
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I hope this analysis has bettered your understanding of this underappreciated character. Sure I have been very biased, but when it comes to the Punisher, I think he needs to be understood on a deeper level. Though he is not unique in concept, Frank Castle is one of the more complex characters in the Marvel Universe. It is a shame so many writers do not see it.
Millar M, McNiven S, Vines D, Hollowell M (2007). Civil War. New York, New York: Marvel Comics.
Ennis G, Larosa L, Palmer T (2004). Punisher MAX: In the Beginning. New York, New York: Marvel Comics.