Updates

Hello everyone, I just wanted to post a quick update. I don’t have anything particularly enlightening to say here, I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve added tags to most posts (that rhymed!) so you can click on them to see other posts with the same tag. I’m sure I didn’t need to explain that but whatevs.

I’m sure I forgot some but I like the sense of connectivity that the tags provide. It reminded me of other stuff I’ve written about, which was a fun little trip down memory lane. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up a lot, which kind of made me happy.

So, there’s that. Oh, and I also wanted to give a quick update on The Following, the dreadful Kevin Bacon show I wrote about a while ago. It hasn’t really changed much- the plots are still far-fetched, the storytelling lazy, the violence graphic (one poor lady got murdered with a speargun a couple episodes ago), and the FBI incompetent (I read one comment online that said “FBI” in The Following stands for “Fools Be Idiots,” which I thought was hilarious and also sadly true). But at least the show has managed some decent tension in recent episodes, even the plot twists don’t make any more sense than they used to.

I’ve also started to like Kevin Bacon more, he’s actually quite good in the role of a burned-out alcoholic (I’ll refrain from making real-life parallels here, since I know nothing whatsoever about Bacon’s personal life nor do I have any desire to find out. Just busting your chops, Kev).

I also re-watched Ralph Fiennes’ modern Shakespeare adaptation of Coriolanus recently, and I still thought it was quite good. What really struck me, aside from how intense Fiennes’ performance is, is how relevant the story is. I don’t remember if I touched on this in my original post, but it really struck me on re-watching it just how much sense the story makes in a modern context. The conflict the film presents makes a lot of sense in today’s political climate.

I then started thinking about other Shakespeare stories, and how applicable pretty much all of the stories are today. You really could make a modern adaptation of just about any Shakespeare play and it would still make sense. You’d have to change some things obviously, but you could still make it work. There was even a movie some years ago called “O” that I think was like a high-school version of Othello. I never saw it, but it exists. Joss Whedon also made a modern version of Much Ado About Nothing that comes out later this year, so that might be fun. Nathan Fillion as Dogberry is perfect casting, and it makes sense since Fillion and Whedon are old friends from their Firefly/Serenity days.

Anyway, that’s about it for now. A few updates and random thoughts are all I’ve got for the moment. I’m planning on seeing G.I. Joe Retaliation this weekend which I’m sure will be very silly and enjoyable so I’ll probably write about that next.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.

The Greatest Manhunt in History

Zero Dark Thirty is a very good movie. Let’s just put that on the table right now. Strip away the politics and the controversy and what you are left with is an extremely well-made, methodical, focused, and well-acted film. It just isn’t very engaging on a personal, emotional level.

But even though it is still very good, to me it felt just a bit…distant. I missed it when it was in theaters and just recently caught it when I picked up the DVD earlier this week. After watching all 2 hours and 37 minutes of it, I just didn’t feel…I don’t know…very emotionally satisfied.

And yes, I still enjoy silly action movies that really aren’t engaging on an emotional level at all (like The Expendables and most Jason Statham movies), and for the most part I have no problem with that. I think I expected the experience of watching ZDT to be more cathartic, perhaps, than it actually was for me.

Maybe I’m a little biased because of how much I loved The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow’s 2008 Oscar winner. The Hurt Locker is one of the most tightly-wound suspense films I have ever seen. You are holding your breath for most of the movie, and you are also really involved with the characters. You care a lot about James, Sanborn, and Eldridge, the three protagonists of that film. They risk their lives every time they leave the safety of their base, and you grow to like and root for them, which heightens the nail-biting suspense even more, since you really don’t want these guys to get blown up. There’s also a palpable sense of mystery, since whenever these guys go out into the field they don’t know exactly what they will encounter any more than the viewer does.

I just didn’t really feel the same sense of suspense for most of Zero Dark. Part of it is probably that you know the eventual outcome: Maya the determined CIA agent played by Jessica Chastain is sure she’s right about where Bin Laden is, and it turns out that she is right. There’s really not much else in the way of plot, and not a whole lot else to Maya’s character.

Don’t get me wrong, Chastain gives a great performance, her steely-eyed determination is very convincing, and I was really rooting for her throughout the movie, she just doesn’t really have much personality beyond her laserlike focus on finding Bin Laden. This may be somewhat intentional, since the hunt for Bin Laden was something she spent ten years working on pretty much nonstop, so it’s understandable that she wouldn’t really care about anything else after such a long time spent in pursuit of such a specific goal. It just makes the protagonist a bit one-note despite Chastain’s very strong performance.

ZDT is still similar to Hurt Locker in many ways. There is a similar sense of focus which the style of filmmaking reflects. Let me try to explain what I mean by this, partly to myself as much as to anyone who may be reading this.

Maya in ZDT is completely focused on finding Bin Laden, and the film focuses on her search without any other concerns. There are no subplots, no family or backstory for Maya, no love interest, nothing. There is just her. I’m not trying to criticize the film for this, since all of it is meant to convey how much of herself that Maya put in to finding Bin Laden. She focused on it to the extent that she pretty much excluded everything else from her life, and the film itself reflects this. I don’t really know how else to say it.

The Hurt Locker is similar in the sense that Jeremy Renner’s character, Staff Sergeant William James, is focused on one thing and one thing only when he goes out into the field: disarming bombs. When he’s in the zone, he doesn’t give a damn about anything else, even his squadmates shouting at him over the radio, which eventually earns him a punch in the face from one of them.

It’s good to see focus like this. It can be really annoying when filmmakers attempt to do too much with their story, and try to do too many things and inevitably end up not actually doing any of them very well (look at Spider-Man 3 for a good example of this). Just like Maya, Bigelow’s film has only one thing in mind.

And the payoff is satisfying on many levels, it just didn’t quite pack the emotional punch for me that I guess I expected it to. It is also a very long film with a lot of talking, I thought 15 or 20 minutes could have been trimmed without the film suffering too much. By the end of those 2 hours and 37 minutes, I was starting to feel the length.

As for the controversy over the torture scenes, I honestly think it’s mostly irrelevant. A bunch of senators and whatnot with nothing better to do have made a big stink about the movie, saying that it promotes torture and portrays the use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques as having had a vital role in finding Bin Laden.

Frankly, I think all the controversy is irrelevant. For one thing, the film is a dramatization of actual events, and was never meant to be a completely factual representation of what actually happened. For another thing, all of the unpleasant torture-related scenes are in the first half-hour of the film, after that there is no torture for two hours. The torture scenes aren’t even particularly graphic. The scenes of torture and humiliation (one detainee has a dog collar put around his neck and is made to walk around on all fours) are certainly unpleasant and difficult to watch, but really not violent or gruesome.

And also, there is so much more that went into the hunt for Bin Laden beyond the torture-related stuff, it still took a hell of a lot of surveillance, intelligence-gathering, ground-level troops, and as Bigelow herself put it in an interview with none other than Stephen Colbert, good old-fashioned detective work. The film is not about torture. It just isn’t. I also think that just because the film includes scenes of what could be called torture doesn’t mean it endorses it. I really don’t think the film passes judgment on it one way or the other. Maybe torture was used in real life to gain intelligence on Bin Laden’s location, maybe it wasn’t. The important thing is that the torture scenes in ZDT serve a dramatic purpose, they are important to the film’s storytelling and they work as a plot device. Complaining that the movie endorses torture is simply a waste of time.

I suppose it is understandable that this aspect of the film was controversial. These kinds of things always are. Think of the frenzy Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ kicked up back in 2004. People will always see these kinds of things differently. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would violently disagree with me about Zero Dark Thirty’s stance (or lack of it) on torture, but that’s just the way things are.

I for one am glad Osama Bin Laden is no longer alive. I sleep easier at night knowing a monster like him no longer draws breath. This film about the decade-long search for him may not be the best film I’ve ever seen (if we’re just talking about this year’s Oscar movies, I enjoyed Argo more) but I’m glad I watched it and I’m glad it was made.

I’m also glad that people like Maya exist. Thank you for all the work you do, knowing that you’ll probably never be recognized for it. We all owe you a lot, and I for one am really glad you’re out there.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.

Incomprehensible Human Behavior

It’s been a while since I last posted, and today I felt like doing something different. This is an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while but I haven’t written anything about it yet because… I don’t really know why. I just haven’t. But, here it is now. This is a bit of a departure for me in that it has nothing whatsoever to do with movies or zombies or Bruce Willis or Batman or any of those kinds of things, but I still had fun writing it.

Sometimes, the crap people do is so ridiculous and confusing and stupid that it just boggles the mind. How many times have you seen someone do something or maybe read about something someone did in the newspaper that is so incomprehensibly stupid that you think to yourself, “Who in their right minds could ever think that was a good idea? In what universe is that a smart thing to do?” These kinds of Incomprehensible Human Behaviors, or IHB as I like to call them, are what I aim to explore here.

The sad thing is that there are potentially an infinite number of stupid incomprehensible things human beings do on a daily basis. The good news for me is, lots of material to write about, heheh.

The first, and perhaps one of the most frequent, examples of IHB is bad drivers. There are so many stupid things that people do on the road it sometimes makes you wonder if all the other drivers have spontaneously forgotten how to drive, or if they ever knew in the first place.

When I was in Driver’s Ed, I remember one time I was out driving with the instructor and I had to make a left turn. There was another car behind me at the time, and when the light turned green the car behind me made a super sharp left turn and cut right in front of me. I get that people don’t necessarily want to be stuck behind student drivers, that’s kind of understandable (my apologies to all the student drivers out there) but doing something like that is just plain stupid. Besides, most student drivers are probably already nervous enough (I know I was) without people pulling unpredictable and potentially dangerous crap like that. I mean, would getting stuck behind a student driver for a couple miles make that much of a difference for you to be able to get where you’re going? No, of course it wouldn’t.

Or how about when you’re driving down the freeway and you need to change lanes, so you take a quick look to see if the lane is open. It is, and there’s only one car in the lane which is a fair distance behind you. So you put on your signal and start to ease over into the lane, when you notice that guy behind you start to speed up dramatically. You’re already halfway into the lane so you go ahead and go the rest of the way, but that guy who was a decent distance behind you is now right on top of you, making frustrated gestures as if you are somehow responsible for inconveniencing him! Geez, dude, you were plenty far behind me when I started getting over, but you sped the hell up to try to get in front of me for no reason at all, and then you act like I did something wrong? Incomprehensible.

Or think about those idiots who realize they’re in the wrong turn lane, so instead of doing the logical thing, which would be to just turn in whatever direction they’re in the lane for and loop back around, decide to angle their car in completely the opposite direction to try to turn the other way, blocking all the other lanes for people who are actually going the right freaking direction? Incomprehensible.

And it always seems like people are in such a damn hurry all the time. People run red lights just because they’re too lazy to stop and wait for the light to change. Will it really make that much of a difference in your life if you get to where you’re going two minutes later than you otherwise would have? In most cases, probably not. I’d understand if there’s a life-threatening emergency or something, but 9.5 times out of 10 people are just so self-absorbed they run the red lights anyway, because to hell with everyone else. And when you’re zipping through red lights when other drivers are just starting to move once their lights turn green, you’re potentially putting other people in danger just because you can’t be bothered to give a crap. That level of sheer self-absorption is something I simply cannot fathom. Incomprehensible really is the only word for it.

Hell, I drive 65 miles an hour on the freeway and I get passed by freaking SEMI TRUCKS doing seventy. The world seems to have forgotten how to take its time with anything.

There are so many examples of IHB on the road that I could make a continuing series just talking about Incomprehensible Human Driving Behaviors, but for the sake of diversity I’m going to try to mix it up a bit with later installments of this series. For example, Incomprehensible Human Internet Behavior, or Incomprehensible Human Social Behavior. The possibilities are, sadly, endless.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an incomprehensible behavior to observe.