Thursday, August 30, 2012

GLAAD Fails CBS and TBS, while Showtime, ABC, and the CW Pass with Flying Colors

This year's annual GLAAD report card was released for the the major television networks, and while not much has changed the statistics are a reminder of network priorities.  Here is a quick rundown from their report for basic cable networks:

The report shows that while the CW has dropped ever so slightly they still remain at the top.  The CW is network with much younger demographics, and as youth become more progressive they have used more LGBT representation on shows like 90210, and LA Complex.  ABC got a slight bump from Chaz Bono's appearance on Dancing with the Stars, a casting that also stirred up a lot of controversy, but the network stood by their decision. FOX dropped to third and while NBC moved up in percentages the Peacock network remained in fourth place.  CBS continues to fall farther and farther, but their network and the CW have completely opposing demographics, and while I am sure Les Moonves (a good network head) wants to have a better grade he is doing things to slowly change the perception of this network.  Both the last place networks have two shows focused on LGBT characters, CBS has Partners with Michael Urie and Brandon Routh as a gay couple (from the creators of Will & Grace), and NBC has The New Normal (from Ryan Murphy).  These two shows could help these networks in a major way.  

One thing that's clear is that the same creators create the shows centered around or that contain LGBT characters, and most of those people are gay men.  Ryan Murphy, Marc Cherry, Michael Patrick King, Alan Balll Max Mutchnick all as gay men, and seem to be some of the names that pop up with gay characters at the center.  I am proud that these men have achieved the success that they have, but it would be nice to see other creators incorporate LGBT folks into their framework.  Show runners like David Caspe (whom I believe identifies as heterosexual) has done a great job with Max on Happy Endings, another reason for ABCs bump. Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd who created Modern Family should also be applauded for adding a gay male couple to their line up.  The landscape is changing, but if you look at the gender of all the characters I have mentioned and the creators/producers most of them are men and the networks need to step it up on providing LB and T more.

The cable networks statistics look like this:

  • Showtime (46%), ABC Family (34%), TNT (34%), and HBO (33%) all received “Good” ratings for the quantity and quality of their LGBT-inclusive original programming.
  • MTV (23%) which received an “Excellent” score two years ago received an “Adequate” score this year along with FX (34%), TLC (20%) and USA (17%).
  • For the fourth year in a row TBS (5%) received a “Failing” rating, as did the History network (3%).
Interestingly enough I did not see AMC within this study, although I feel as though they were lumped into the "other cable network status" which is interesting because they have far more original programming than the History Channel.  I would not assign AMC a good grade either, even though most of their programming is some of the best on television, there are no LGBT character, which I can think of.  Everyone states that the cable networks are more progressive, and they take more risks, but in reality their scores are not much better than the three top scoring networks on the basic cable side.There are obviously other factors to look at, like the CBS parent company Viacom oversees Showtime so this could be seen as a win just as much as a loss.  

Statistics matter, but networks should not put something on the air, just to do it. NBCs new fall comedy The New Normal appears to be a forced example getting LGBT folks on television.  As networks attempt to be progressive they forget they need to shop around, and not put something on the air that lacks quality.  I would rather have these numbers with quality representation than force things on viewers.  

Does this report matter, yes and no.  I like that there are statistics to point out the networks which show me on television, but this is also a business, and money talks.  Losing affiliates is costly.  Utah affiliates will not even be showing The New Normal this fall.  My hope is that data like this becomes more useful, and people do not have to something like this in the future because it just becomes a natural occurence to see LGBT folks in television

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ryan Murphy's New Normal tries too Hard to Blend Humor with Progressive Ideals

The New Normal
Created by Allison Adler and Ryan Myurphy
Pilot Written: by Allison Adler and Ryan Murphy, Directed by: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Justin Bartha, Andrew Ranells, Georgia King, Bebe Wood, NeNe Leaks, and Ellen Barkin

I wanted to love this show, like a good gay you are supposed to like the everything about you.  The problem  with this logic is that as someone who critically analyzes popular culture is that, quality and content matter more than connection to a community.  Ryan Murphy has a created another heavy handed show using his own personal opinions, and logic with creating the bulk of this show.  Through in Allison Adler who has been an executive producer on No Ordinary Family, Chuck, and Glee.  Together these two have created a pilot, that tries too hard to be funny, and work to be progressive as well.

The pilot follows David (Bartha) and Bryan (Rannells) as they attempt to find a surrogate for their baby.  Within the same time frame Goldie (King) and her daughter (Wood), the best part of the show, flee Ohio to walk away from lives.  In the attempt to find this surrogate the gay couple quickly find Goldie and she offers to be the surrogate.  Enter two polar opposites Goldie's grandmother (Barkin) who is racist, sexist, and has every other type of ism making Ohio a bastion for evil, Bryan's assistant Rocky (Leakes) who can't act her way out of a paper bag.  

The show has a cute premise with this hopeful couple wanting a young baby, the couple is cute, and this has a lot of fun elements, which could make a great sitcom.  The problem with the pilot alludes to a show operates in absolutes, and is far too preachy like the latter days of Glee. Murphy has momentary glimpses of talent, but too often his show have an incredible lack of focus.  With a small ensemble this could become something better the pilot feels like something forced and contrived rather than well written or heartfelt.

Bartha and Rannells are solid enough, King is cute, and the young actress Bebe Wood who plays her daughter, is a talented young lady.  Then throw in Barkin's sassy Nana, and Leakes fiesty assistantand you get one big hot mess.  I feel like Ryan Murphy is trying to recreate Sue Sylvester with Barkin; he forgot one thing, Sue Sylvester stopped being funny after the first season because the character got written into a corner too many times.  Barkin spews lines like  "I feel like I just ate a black and gay stew"  "You know your kind is so good with computers, and thanks for the railroads."  While Barkin is a funny lady she can't make this awful dialogue work.  Leakes assistant seems like a waste, and could take away from the dynamic.

Murphy tries to hard to complicate his life, and writes characters as though he were a caricaturist; he loses depth when these people have one note they always sing.  In the future his attempt to humanize people like Barkin will seem forced, and won't work.  I will give the show one more try, but The New Normal, may just be something won't work.(You can watch the first episode below)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Avoids the Cliche and Becomes a Solid Film

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (3 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed and Written by Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller

As the stress of my actual job builds and undergraduate students check into my building I needed to take time away from my job.  The "perk" came in my e-mail last week, and went to the AMC Loews in the Boston Common to see the advance screening for this film.  Confession, I had never read the book so my anticipation was merely based on the trailer.  When I got there also had no idea the author of the book, who also wrote and directed the film would be doing a Q&A after the film.  

The film centers Charlie (Logan Lerman) an introvert entering his first year of high school after a bit of a breakdown while in middle school.  Charlie narrates his journey through understanding how to navigate the complex world of high school.  At a football game Charlie unintentionally notices a senior from his shop class named Patrick (Ezra Miller) who seems like Charlie, more of an outcast.  Charlie is so taken under the wing of Patrick and his step sister Sam (Emma Watson).  Charlie soon embarks a journey with his senior friends and becomes part of this group of "wallflowers" the kids who are on the outside of things.

The film's strength, and heart come from writer/director (and the author of the novel), Stephen Chbosky.  Chbosky knew his material well and even in his Q&A time was so articulate about the transformation of his own novel to the big screen.  Few authors take their work, and direct and write their own screenplay for Hollywood, but this man did, and met the challenge.  The beginning of the film had a bit of a slow start, and understanding Charlie was a challenge, but while speaking Chbosky highlights the challenges of portraying an introvert on screen.  Once Charlie meets his friends, the story takes off and not only does Chbosky shine, but his screenplay is one of the most impressive tales/accurate portrayals of high school I have ever seen.

Set still in 1990 Pittsburgh like the novel, the characterization of bullying, and being an outcast is so aptly portrayed, without ever being cliche, or maudlin.   The film has timeless elements that last throughout, like your first crush, but makes you nostalgic for the days of mix tapes.  Using nostalgia allows the films older audiences to help create a strong bond with this film. While the film may seem "youth oriented" Chbosky never tries to hard to make this a film accessible to all.  The film is genuine, and never panders to the audience to make you feel as though you need to try and buy something.  Chbosky's characters and the actor who play them have a lot to do with this, sealing the emotional contract within this film.

  Logan Lerman who has played people like Percy Jackson does a great job changing things up with a much quieter performance as Charlie.  Playing someone who struggles internally at such a young age is a challenge, but Lerman does a great job. Ezra Miller's Patrick was a thing of beauty, and you could tell Chbosky had such admiration for him when he spoke, although he seemed to love all of his cast.  Miller did a particularly good job breaking the norm.  Miller had such a strong performance, and I would like to see him get some attention come Oscar season.  From Paul Rudd who plays Charlies inspiring English teacher to Joan Cusack who plays his doctor, even small roles felt important, and these actors did an incredible job taking you on the emotional journey of this boy.  My only disappointment was with Emma Watson..While I love Watson she seemed the most awkward in the role, although this may have been the direction given for character.  Watson was stronger in her humorous moments, while fell flat in a few of her dramatic moments. 

The film is funny, sad, touching, and is a great representation of what people go through on their journey to becoming adults.  Chbosky  used his own life experiences, along with the lives of those around him; he let us into the vulnerable world of an adolscent boy and his friends, showing people that that are perks to being on the outside, and you have to find those people who get you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Opening says it all in the World of David Fincher

One of the most important parts of the film experience is the title sequence. The website The Art of the Title recently highlighted the great work of David Fincher.  Fincher has created incredible opening sequences in the modern film world that with all of his films allowing his films to to have an incredible flow that sets spark to wonderful story telling.

Fincher started with one of the boldest openings ever with Alien 3.  As the names of the cast and crew entered the screen, Fincher helped create a sequence that showed the deaths of the characters from Aliens, a bold, but interesting move.  The opening sequence for this film is haunting, and while fans often chastise this third film in the series, the opening sequence leaves your heart racing as you watch the aliens destroy the characters you have grown to love.  In interviews Fincher has stated that the cast from Aliens was longer going to be used so Fincher helped create an opening that explained what happened, and he did in bold way!

3 years later Fincher pushed the envelope even further with opening title sequence with the film Se7en.  When I was a young 11 year old budding film buff I remember sneaking to watch Se7en on television.  I was not able to see it in the movies because my parents would not take me, but I heard great things about the movie.  I had never seen an opening sequence quite like this film, and remember being blown away at how cool it was.  Fincher’s creativity combined with Howard Shore’s score creates a haunting opening sequence filled tension that permeates throughout this film.  This opening sequence opened my eyes to another world, and challenged my past perspective on film itself.

Fincher’s next brilliant masterpiece of an opening (skipping The Game) was the 199 film Fight Club.  Fincher says it best in his interview with art of the title “With Fight Club, the whole thing could have started with the sound of a gun being cocked, opening on Edward Norton — which is how it began in all the preview screenings — but I had this idea to begin with the electrical impulse of information between two synapses to cue the fear or panic receptors in Edward Norton’s character’s brain. Then we literally pull back, changing in scale all the way back, and we pull out through his forehead.”  There is an art to the opening sequence, and Fincher has always been willing to spend money, and take risks as he creates the feel for his films.  This opening sequence defines the complexity within the film, and emotional gravity, something we should never talk about in the first place, because you know the rule. 

Fincher has continued to define his stories in their opening sequence with the film The Social Network.  In The Social Network he uses the films first scene to set up this isolationist tone, combined with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score.  As Mark Zuckerberg strolls through Cambridge, and Harvard’s campus Jesse Eisenberg rushes to his computer and the birth of social media, all after being dumped.

These are only four examples, but proof that this man is an incredible storyteller, and uses the most finite details to create the pulse for his films.  Fincher has transformed modern film making, and is one of the foremost directors working today; he celebrates film while innovating.  This article listed below is full interview with him, and proof that this man’s view of the opening title sequence has impacted those working today!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Newsroom Ends High, while True Blood can't get Death Right

Tonight two HBO shows ended their seasons.  True Blood is now in its fifth season, and The Newsroom has ended its first.  Both shows have had critics all over the place in regards to their quality, but tonight is proof that superior writing wins, and story direction win out.

Few shows have made it to their fifth season without some bumps in quality, True Blood started out strong with their first two seasons highlighting some great character driven drama.  The show centered around (and still does to some extent) on a waitress named Sookie Stackhouse who could hear people's thoughts and drew vampires like a moth to a flame.  Throughout the years the show used different plots from the books, The Sookie Stackhouse series, and brought in different elements like the lore of more shape shifters, werewolves, werepanthers, faeries, and so much more.  Season 3 threw a wrench in quality adding too much to the thread of the show, proving to be too much for the writers to handle and connect back to the central theme of the show.  Season four did a better job of tying things back together, with the lore of witches, and continuing the up and down pattern within the series.  Yet the series hit the biggest low during this season.

Season five was one of the biggest messes I have ever seen.  There was no direction, and can someone please explain the point of them using the smoke monster from Lost to chase down Terry?  Sookie is still the central character , right?  Why did we focus on this mythical steam vampire named Worlo only to forget about him in the end?  Why bring back Dennis O'Hare only to give him nothing great to work with, and spoiler, kill him in the first five minutes of the season finale.  Bill as a villain had its moments, and the connection to evangelical religion was so heavy handed I can't imagine how people can complain about the politics of The Newsroom.  Fans of this show are losing interest, and HBO has to quit while its ahead, become more assertive and realize this is a dying brand that can't cling to the pretty pink heals of Pam.  This show over extends itself, losing focus, never allowing characters to grow.  Usually when a show I enjoy ends I am sad, or even excited to see how writers will handle the cliff hanger they their at their viewers.  At this point I could care less, and feel as though Alan Ball stepping down as show runner should have been a sign to put a stake in things.

The Newsroom signed off with class, tied things together, and brought things back to beginning without   being cliche.  People gave this show too much crap in the beginning, calling Sorkin misogynistic, and that the writing was heavy handed liberalism veiled with a Republican journalist.  The romantic comedy stuff has never been the shows strong suit, and while the show focused on this a lot, to tie things up tonight, things are not over of course, but with the new writing team Sorkin can make this work.  I am sounding like I am not on the show's side, but in reality this series ended its first seasons perfectly.  I liked the fact that Will and the girl he berated in the first episode cam face to face; his character and Sorkin's writing proved that belief in what's right matter most.  I believe in this show, Sorkin has a focus, a point; he ties things together allowing audiences to see his vision.

These two shows could not be more different, or well they are night and day, or a show about people who can't walk in the daylight.  How do you compare them?  All you can do is compare your experience/reaction to the way the show's handled themselves throughout the season.  Throughout the years True Blood appears to have built up a show on shaky foundation, that is crumbling for me.  When I keep up with a show I have hard time letting go, I will have a Sophie's Choice next June when the sixth season starts up.  I want to give up, and walk away, when a show make's you feel that way, its proof they have failed.  The Newsroom only left me wanting more,   Shows in their first season typically leave people with this reaction, but I feel as though this series knows what it's about more than True Blood ever did.  Time to silver the vampires, and fire up more air time for Jeff Daniels.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Flashback Music of the Week: Wake Me Up When September Ends!

Working at a college like most jobs has its peaks and valleys.  As a Residence Director the busiest time of the year (and most stressful) is when students come to check in with their parents for their first time in a residence hall.  I love the energy and enthusiasm, but this is typically followed with with grumbling complaints, negativity.  There are times when parents and students are incredibly appreciative of the work you do, and when you find those moments you cling to them for dear life.

When I was a Resident Assistant at C.W. Post Long Island University I remember Green Day's critical and commercial success with the album American Idiot, this critique on society, forged with some great song brought back their career with force.  I also remember my boss Jen being obsessed with the song "Wake me up When September Ends"

At the time I did not know where the obsession came from, but now that I am in her shoes I know exactly what she was going through.  Not only does move in happen during September, but there are numerous commitments, lots of other potential issues, and after working non stop for more than a month you want a week, no not even a week, but day where you can sit back relax and enjoy some peace and quiet.  Most of the stress of my job lasts from the middle of August lasts until the end of September, so Green Day said it best, "wake me up when September ends!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Asian and Africans Pushed to the Background to tell the tale of an Anglo family (was really a Spanish family) Experience with the Tsunami in 2004

In sociological terms Asians are viewed as the model minority in America, although this forgets the fact that the Middle East is part of Asia, and by most across the world define these individuals as Asians.  I digress.  My cultural intrigue was spurned by the release of the movie trailer for the  The Impossible, which was released recently.  The Impossible tells the story of a British family who were effected by the Boxing Day Tsunami in Southeast Asia (2004), the film is based on a true story and details their attempt to reconnect once the Tsunami hits.  The trailer is gut wrenching and reminded me about just how painful this experience must have been for those involved.  The trailer also reminds me of how Hollywood likes to to cast "familiar" Anglo people in movie that should be about different races.

In this situation the most affected group was Asians throughout Thailand, Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Africans in South Africa, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, and Somalia. Hollywood uses the same   spin the news media uses when a white girl goes missing, because she is white the little girl or boy (mostly girl ) gains much more attention if she is a minority we often rarely hear about the case.  Hollywood pretends to be a bastion of liberalism, but films like this one prove they still have dollar signs in their eyes.  I am shocked the far right does not slam them for this more often, maybe I just gave them the ammo.  This issue seems less about more about a fear of losing money than anything else.

Hollywood moguls ranging from studio executives, to producers want their films to be well made (I hope), and also want to make money.  This combination of elements does not always align, so often times quality is  sacrificed.  In this film it looks like this film, which is based on a true story, but through a fact finding mission I have come to find out that real life people were from Spain and did not remotely resemble the films stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor.  Ironically the film has a Spanish production team, and has the same director as The Orphanage, Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona.  So why the white washing?  Does this film, which will be released in Spain first need an Anglo cast?  In this global film economy films are forgetting diversity, and placating to a white washed American audience.  The one problem with this is that middle America is not going to run out to see this film, and it probably will not make much money in the USA domestically.  In fact I predict the foreign market to be quite larger than the domestic.

Going back to the beginning, why have Hollywood studios decided to pick the journey of these vacationers instead of the actual residents.  Whether that be the those from the Asian or African part of the globe.  Films about either of this continents are few and far between or we show them as exotic foreign lands in an action sequence.  That's on a shoot with a global focus.  If you look at Asian Americans in film today they are almost invisible.  There are few popular Asian actors who have "made it big," I can barely name five Lucy Lui, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, these three are household names, and have had few major roles in films.  Jackie Chan was the new mentor in the update of The Karate Kid franchise, and Jet Li has been in The Expendables franchise, but he is marketed as supporting.  People think including foreign actors means subtitles in a film, it does not have to, but even if it does, sometime reading through the emotional journey would be worth it!

To boil things down, I am disappointed that this film contributes to the constant cultural cleansing within the mainstream film world.  Today's films are so concerned with making money they are forgetting the fact that people will pick up on this aspect, and will once again lose faith in the industry.  Hollywood has become an isolationist world, especially films.  Films cost a lot of money, and taking a risk in today's economy can make or a break a company.  That did not stop production companies from making films like John Carter or Battleship.  I want the Hollywood machine, to pause and think before they put together a movie about an important cultural experience.  Hollywood has been churning out films, in a bland mechanized process for years now.  I want to explore the story of this without major stars, the extra were part of the Tsunami, use people who experience this, and can give audiences a more natural free flowing film.  Use those whose culture we often forget instead of trying to bring the white folks to the movies.  Every now and again like when we little children people have to try something they think they may not like, but actually end up loving.  Now is the time to explore and become more innovative with film.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Daytime Dramas Continue to Lose Steam with the Loss of a Grand Dame

Susan Flannery Picture
After 25 years The Bold and the Beautiful's Susan Flannery will bow out as the matriarch or the Forrester clan.  Show runner Bill Bell will have Flannery on a limited contract to wrap things up, but as soon as her story ends she will leave the runway.  This comes right on the heals of Ron Moss who plays her son Ridge Forrester in the show announcing he was leaving the show over money.  Flannery and Moss were two of the original four characters still remaining on the show, leaving Katherine Kelly Lange (Brooke Forrester), and John McCook (Eric Forrester).  Lange has signed a recent deal.  Moss leaving the show is not a major loss, in fact I am excited for a potential recast, but Flannery leaving is another sad sign that the Daytime Drama or Soap Opera.

Flannery has been a staple in the Daytime community for an incredibly long time; she started out on Days of Our Lives as Dr. Laura Spencer Horton from 1966 through 1975; she also won the first Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in Daytime Drama for her last year on the show. Flannery's most memorable role has been as Stephanie Forrester in The Bold and the Beautiful.  Susan Flannery originated the role in 1987 and has received 8 nominations for this role from 2000-2011, and won the award three time in 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Susan Flannery is one of the only grand dames of Daytime still on the air, and her departure from B&B will be a massive loss for the industry.  From her famous fights with Brooke, to her loving protection of her family, Stephanie Forrester is force to be reckoned with, and will be missed on Daytime.

Few women like her on the air still, and many relegated to a supporting status.  Stars like Jeanne Cooper, Deidre Hall, and arguably Melody Thomas Scott are just a a few left today.  Although Hall and Scott bounce on and off their programs.  Even Cooper has taken time away for health reasons.  Soap Opera's are continually dying, and losing Susan Flannery from B&B, is another nail in the proverbial coffin.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

'Bourne' does not live up to the Legacy

The Bourne Legacy (1 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Duplicity)
Written by Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Ultimatum) Dan Gilory (Reel Steel)
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, and Edward Norton

While waiting for the movie with my friend, I had two headlines waiting in the wing 'Bourne' lives up to the legacy, and 'Bourne' does not live up to legacy.  I got to use the latter.  In today's world of reboots, and re-branding of franchises The Bourne Legacy takes the franchise down numerous pegs.

Batman Begins started the popularity of the trend.  Christopher Nolan's version of Batman was a solid start, and its sequels to follow were even better and have made massive amounts of money.  There have been other films, mostly super hero films, which have followed this trend: Superman Returns, X-Men: First Class, The Amazing Spider-Man, and even Casino Royale is proving that James Bond is trying to keep up with the Joneses.  Studios are playing things safe rebooting or re-imagining  franchises for popular characters so that they do not have to take a major financial risk.  Only one problem fan exhaustion is setting in, and people are not showing up in massive numbers to see these films.  Some of these films are better than the original, but Bourne is not one of those films.

Bourne centers on Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) who is one the projects along the line of Jason Bourne from the original series.  Cross has been sent off because he did follow protocol 100 percent, while in the wilderness he stumbles upon another guy who was part of the same experiment.  Aaron is curious about this experiment, but the man will not talk.  As Cross is proving his 'Bourne' like qualities climbing an impossible to climb mountain, the folks at Langley are realizing Jason Bourne has put them under a microscope.  Retired Colonel Eric Bayer (Edward Norton) decides to take control an terminate the project along with the agent; he also goes after the scientists within the lab one of whom is Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz).  Cross and Dr. Shearing manage to escape and somehow end up teaming up and go on the run from Langley.

The plot sounds somewhat interesting and there should be some semblance of a solid story, but this film is a massive misfire in the franchise.  Tony Gilroy the screenwriter of the first three Bourne movies is the culprit of the problem within this film.  Gilroy not only wrote but directed this film in the franchise.  The other films in the franchise were directed by Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass two visionary directors who utilized their script to not only create an action packed world, but a world full of emotional heft for Jason Bourne.  These two men's visionary direction helped catapult this series into more than just a mediocre action franchise.  Gilroy does not have the foresight within this film, especially with his direction; his action sequences prove he was not up to the task.  

Gilroy and his brother Dan Gilroy's script makes the problem even worse.  The script made me feel as though I was trying to prep for my AP Chemistry test from high school.  The film focuses on the technical more than any of the other films did trying to provide a backdrop to the story when all the pair do is convolute the history of the Bourne Legacy, which is something they do not seem to understand.  Who is Aaron Cross?  Why do we care about his past, what he has gone through, or about this project and the agents connect to him from Langley? In this film you do not, and the attempt the edit the story from the first three films into this film miserably.  The Gilroy's mention Jason Bourne several times, mentioning the chaos he has added to the world, but their shoe string connections never hold up to make you care about our protagonist, Aaron Cross.

Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz do their best in this poorly written film, but there is even a lack of chemistry between them, which could have almost saved this movie, but acts as another hinderance.  The characters in the film are one note, and Gilory banks on the cliche.  In the previous films Tony created complex characters, that even faded into the background of Bourne's life.  This film sidesteps explaining any character, especially the antagonists like Edward Norton's one note villain,  There is also an Asian man chasing Aaron and his lady at the end, the man has no name, does not speak, but Aaron Cross recognizes he is about the kill him. How?  Poor writing running a muck, that's how.

I was baffled by how poorly things were setup, and how the writer of the first three quality films in this series could mess up so bad. The Bourne Ultimatum even stunned Oscarologists by winning the Best Editing award at the Academy Awards, an honor typically reserved for Best Picture winners or nominees, but the editing is so poorly done within this film you notice the jarring movement during transitions.

I felt even more jarred when the credits rolled and the end scene Bourne music played signaling it was time to leave the theatre.  Did I just watch a movie connected with the rest of the franchise?  How did the person who wrote the first three construct this monstrosity?  Too many questions posed and no reasonable answers. This film challenged one of the longest running franchises, the James Bond franchise, the change things up, shaking the simplistic nature of the spy thriller action flick, and just ruined the legacy of its own dynasty.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Expendables and the Evolution of Masculinity in Action Films

No, this is not a review, merely a commentary on the current state of the action films, and their evolution throughout time.  The Expendables 2 stars some big names, most so famous you can recognize them by their last name: Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Stratham, Lundgren, Van Damme, Norris, Willis, and Li.  These guys have made names for themselves starring in films from the 70s until the present in films that not only star them, but star the explosions that center around them.  From The Terminator to The Transporter these films rarely rely on their dialogue.  Although their films did tell us "I'll be back" and have provided some great quotable moments.  Today's action films center on something different, sure the action/explosions are there, look at the Bourne series or the evolution of the James Bond franchise, and how can you forget the massively successful Transformers, but is the action hero different?  Are these men truly an expendable icon today?

What happened to that big macho beefy guy who "picked things up and put them down." Sure they still exist, and when I watch an action film I almost have to wipe the drool from my chin because of Ryan Reynolds or Hugh Jackman's glistening abs, but there is something different about these two guys.  At times there is something more complex about the role of an action hero today, which sometimes involves a back story or makes the guy stand out.  Today action films star Lebeouf, Damon, Depp, and Bloom.  What an interesting combination of names and while some are recognizable by last name Lebeouf, Damon, I doubt many would categorize them as "action" stars.  

One of my favorite lines about Damon comes from Paul Rudd's character in 40 Year Old Virgin  "You know, I always thought that Matt Damon was like a Streisand, but I think he’s rockin’ the shit in this one!" Most guys do not define Damon as an action star because he dares to take roles that men would not define as "masculine" films like We Bought a Zoo, or The Talented Mr. Ripley.  While most of Damon's roles are "masculine" they miss the hyper masculine mark of the 70s, 80s, and early to mid 90s.  Damon has emotional connections, there is no detachment. 

The same can be said for Lebeouf; he may be the male lead in the Transformers series, and he gets the "hottest" girls in the franchise, but he doesn't done a uniform like Tyrese or Josh Duhamel, but yet he is billed as the largest star, or the central character in the film.  I do not remember seeing much about Tyrese's characters family; he is the the one you see detached from the outside, but yet he would represent the more typical representation of masculinity.

The same can said for Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom.  These two men starred in one of the most successful trilogies of the 2000s, and Depp went on to star in the fourth film, and there is not a hard edge to be found in either of these two characters.  Jack Sparrow could be considered weak, while he is out for himself; he is also the modern representation of the "action hero."  More films are being made with a character like this than with a guy like the Terminator these days.  Will Turner (Bloom) is another mold for action heroes today; he is the lover and the fighter.  What's different?  A lot of the guys above had lovers, the difference is that Bloom's style is more feminine he is a romantic/poetic fighter.  Sure Sly had Adrien in his rocky films, but that was "man's" love and he was just a simple guy, but also in control.

Together these four different actors represent versions of the current male action star, something new, something different.  What happened to the old guard?  Why do we we need a special engagement or one film to represent that old school action hero?  Times have changed, do these older guys, or style of film fit within today's world? Yes, no, and why do they to?  A lot of questions posed, and different answers from different film theorists.  Even men like Vin Diesel have done films like The Pacifier and their action status has faded.

In my opinion a film like The Expendables, and Expendables 2 has its place in the film spectrum because it represents a snapshot of film history.  While these films may not be Hamlet, or any other classic work of art they represent a time stamp, which proves that there is room for a variety of films.  I represent the more "modern man." I am sensitive, queer, and smile, have emotions.  I like films like Easy A, Mean Girls, and to go cliche old school Beaches and Steel Magnolias.  On the flip side I like to see things get blown up from Die Hard and T-2, to Bourne and the most recent Bond films.  Today's "modern man" seems to be able to reconcile variety, we like all different kinds of films, and sometimes the cheap action does not work for us, we want a story.   I speak for this non statistical group of men, with whom I am defining as "modern." 

The "modern" men are guys like Damon, Bloom, LeBeouf, not many are like Johnny Depp, but there are enough.  Men used to be defined in the same style as these action films tough or fag.  I say say fag because most men thought/think this.  Male celebrity has evolved throughout the ages.  From John Wayne to Depp there has been a more diverse representation.  Producers are willing to go out on a limb because a character is popular.  Film studios are not in the game of reinventing gender norms, they just follow the financial trends.  Something changed the action star, whether that be societal norms, or audiences wanting more with their action.  Studying gender in action films could be an entire book, or even a couple volumes one book studying each decade.  

The release of the Expendables and its sequel this Friday prove nostalgia is never a thing of the past, and there are audiences craving for that hyper masculine representation once in a while.  Variety is the spice of life, and while I think a mass production of films within this vein would be a big mistake, there needs to be something for everyone.  I am kind of looking forward to this film, it does not fit into my standard repertoire of film taste, but there is something about embracing my masculinity ever once in a while.  Ironically I am sure most men don't discuss their masculinity, but someone needs to.  I can see Bloom and Damon starring in a film about that next, entitled "The Sensitivity of Being Male."

A Tribute to Great Television: Gilmore Girls

About a week ago I started re-watching Gilmore Girls for probably the seventh or eighth time, and continued my love affair with Lorelai and Rory.  After watching Amy Sherman-Palladino's (the creator/writer/director) latest creation Bunheads, I decided I needed to head back to Stars Hallow.  This small town had all the charm and wit, and fast talking of an old school movie.  One of my other favorite parts of this show is the massive amounts of pop culture references ranging from obscure films like Pippi Longstocking to political references like effectiveness of Jimmy Carter's presidency.  While I did not watch this show from the start the end surely made me incredibly emotional.

The show started in 2000 on the fledgling WB network and was the first show funded completely by Family Friendly Programming Fund, which involves most of the countries leading advertisers.  The reason I never started watching the show during the first season was because it was on opposite my favorite show at the time Friends, in the Thursday at 8 pm time slot.  In the second season the show moved to Tuesday at 8pm replacing Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Buffy moved to UPN.  I started to fall in love with the series when ABC Family started to rerun the show.

Throughout the years creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino ran the show with quick witted dialogue, until they left after the fifth season.  The show launched the careers of Lauren Graham (Lorelai) and Alexis Bledel (Rory).  Lorelai had Rory at 16 and the premise relates to the concept of this great mother daughter relationship, where their relationship is more like friendship.  The show highlights a different relationship with Lorelai and her parents specifically her mother Emily played by the amazing Kelly Bishop.  Throughout the show tenure I always felt as though the Palladino's not only understand unique family dynamics, but the could tackle so many humourous, and and dramatic moments beautifully.  

Although the show lost some of its spark within the last two years with new show runner Phillip Rosenthal the Gilmore Girls remained a steadfast treat.  Watching Lorelai stumble through her love life, the way I often feel as though I stumble through mine.  Although I wish there were a guy like Luke (who owned a diner) pining after me.  The show had heart, and has many similar characteristics to Aaron Sorkin, which is another reason for my obsession.  The show's quick dialogue mixed with the style of shooting that allows the viewer to follow the characters as they walk shows that "walk and talk" style.  This style is fairly unique to a small number of shows, but highlights some of the great elements within the Gilmore world.

One of the the other truly Gilmore elements is the use of "la-la" music transition, and the music within the show.  Sam Phillips composed the music throughout the entire run of the shows seven seasons using her own voice to create the transitional music for the show.  Music was an important of this show, and Sherman-Palladino using Sam Phillips as her musical guide was a telling venture the musical world of Stars Hallow.  Phillips had several of her own songs play throughout the the shows history, and in fact played over some of the most emotional moments of the shows history.  One of my favorite moments was the use of Phillip's "Reflecting Light" when Luke and Lorelai first dance, simply beautiful.

I can't forget one of the other great musical connections with singer/songwriter Carole King who wrote the original theme song.  An interesting fact about this song is that King stopped playing this song because she got a lot of flack during its release because of it's "anti-feminist tones" the song came back for this show when King sang with her daughter and focuses the "following" to the connection between the mother daughter relationship.  I love this story and it shows just how much of an impact this show had on popular culture, and how much popular culture affected this show.

While I am not a daughter this show speaks to me on so many levels, and as I watch Lauren Graham I see myself in Lorelai, her humor and realistic sarcasm makes me smile.  The show was never an Emmy magnet, but is a true classic.  The Palladino's created a great world with amazing characters.  I want to take a journey to the fake Stars Hallow drink coffee at Luke's and have fun teasing Kirk.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Flashback Music of the Week: Outkast and their "Roses"

Certain interactions I have on a day to day basis make me wish I was part of a movie and there was music playing in the background.  Last week John Mayer and both our stupid mouths got us in trouble. Ironically both the musical montage moments happened on a Tuesday.  Today's musical montage had to do with an obnoxious boy.

As I walking back with my dinner past my gym I ran into a guy I have met at a house party, and run into several times while i have gone out.  We have also talked at the gym.  This is one of those hey how are you acquaintances with whom you stop and talk to for a few minutes catch up, and move on exchanging pleasantries.  Today was the first day I got the brush off.  This guy runs hot and cold, mostly friendly though.  Today he acted like I would expect him to act if I had not met him at a house party; he acted and I have seen him act "like his shit don't stink" and he's the hottest guy ever.  Mind you he is an attractive guy with a beautiful body but personality matters.

In the moments after I had the Outkast song "Roses" playing in my head and was singing "I know you like to think your shit don't stank, but lean a little bit closer, see roses really smell like poo-oo-oo"  Every time I meet someone like this or have a chance encounter with a guy like this this is one of the songs that plays over in my head.  This goes out to all the boy's who think their "shit don't stank."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Did you Know They Played Gay

Today I discovered a couple of fun things, first Queer as Folk the BBC version is on Netflix watch instant, and second there were a few actors in the show who have since become major characters in television.  There are a lot of people who played LGBT characters that people, mostly heterosexual audiences do not know about.  I would say most LGBT folks know these faces, but there may be a few surprises in the mix, which range from screen to stage.

Aiden Gillen played the "Brian Kinney" character in the UK version of Queer as Folk, his characters name was Stuart Jones.  Since Queer as Folk Gillen has since taken two different roles from Stuart one of HBO's The Wire as Councilmen/Mayor Tommy Carcetti; he also plays Petry Baelish in Game of Thrones.

Charlie Hunnam played Nathan the Justin type character in the British version of Queer as Folk.  Watching Hunnam play the naive/innocent Nathan and then grow up to play Lloyd in Undeclared was fun, but watching him transform into Jax on Sons of Anarchy is nothing short of brilliant.
Billy Crystal played a gay character at the beginning of his career of the television sitcom Soap.  While Crystal was never seen as the typical leading man this never stopped him from getting any major roles in fact he is one half of one of the most famous film couples in When Harry Met Sally, and a lot of the time played somewhat of a ladies man.

The first few people on this list are people a lot of LGBT folks may not know, but the rest of the list falls under the surprise realm because of either the roles in small LGBT films or incredibly popular within the LGBT community.

Dean Cain, Zach Braff, Timothy Olyphant, and John Mahoney (The Broken Hearts Club).

After Dean Cain was Superman in Lois and Clark; he move on to play a shallow gay man, based on watching him the reality series where he tries to pick a date, the shallow part may not be far off, but playing gay was an interesting choice for him.

Before Zach Braff was seeing images in his head of what might be in Scrubs as a doctor, or before he wrote, directed, and starred in Garden State, he played a bleach blonde obsessed with "gym bunnies."

Timothy Olyphant may be known as the killer in Scream 2, or two different tough guys one in HBO's wild west drama Deadwood or now the bad ass Raylan Givens on Justified, but before any of these he was the romantic lead in Broken Hearts Club.

John Mahoney played the cranky non cultured dad on Frasier, but took on the complete opposite as the guide to his boys in Broken Hearts Club.

Chris Meloni made all gay men melt when he played Chris Keller in the HBO prison drama Oz.  Keller's character could easily be defined as queer because he slept with both me and women on the show, but it was his relationship with Tobias Beecher that made us swoon, about two men in prison ironically.  He broke that mold playing the bad ass Detective Elliot Stabler, and those without HBO never knew otherwise.

The same can be said for Michael C. Hall and his first major role as the funeral director David Fisher.  David was an insecure man who struggled with his sexual orientation even though he identified as a gay man.  Hall has transformed into an incredibly different character in the Showtime series Dexter where plays a forensic blood spatter expert turned serial killer who enacts vengeance on those commit crimes, these two characters could not be more different and I think many of his Dexter fans would be surprised.

Emmy Award's Drama Series Submissions (2011-2012)

I posted the Comedy Series submissions over a week ago, but the drama categories have not fully released their episodes.  I am tired on waiting to hear what Mad Men has submitted in the Drama series category, so here I go with my thoughts/predictions at this moment.

Best Drama Series

Tape A: "21" & "Ourselves Alone"
Tape B: "Peg of Old" & "Two Boats and a Lifeguard"
Tape C: "Under God's Power She Flourishes" & "To the Lost"

Tape A: "Box Cutter" & "Salud"
Tape B: "Problem Dog" & "Crawl Space"
Tape C: "End Times" & "Face Off"

Tape A: "Episode 1"
Tape B: "Episode 6"
Tape C: "Episode 7"

Tape A: "What is Dead May Never Die" & "Garden of Bones"
Tape B: "The Old Gods and the New" & "A Man Without Honor"
Tape C: "Blackwater" & "Valar Morghulis"

Tape A: "Pilot" & "Grace"
Tape B: "The Good Soldier" & "The Weekend"
Tape C: "Marine One"

MAD MEN * Season 5 * AMC 

Tape A: "Signal 30" & "Far Away Places"
Tape B: "At the Codfish Ball" & "The Other Woman"
Tape C: "Commissions and Fees" & "The Phantom"

I grew tired of waiting for Mad Men's tape submissions, but this four time winner is in the game no matter what they submit.  While I agree Mad Men is the most accessible of the shows  I do not think it will become the most winning show of all time after an underwhelming season.  Breaking Bad is currently airing, and the episodes are on fire, Mad Men used to have this during the Emmy voting, and it help them incredibly.  I think Breaking Bad or Downton will take the crown.  Downton is an an incredibly impressive show, and feels so important, the same way Mad Men does.  This is a tight three way.
UPDATE: Mad Men submitted incredibly well!!  They truly have a great shot at breaking the record and winning their fifth trophy in this category.

1-Downton Abbey
2-Mad Men
3-Breaking Bad
5-Boardwalk Empire
6-Game of Thrones

Hugh Bonneville - Downton Abbey ("Episode 7")
Steve Buscemi - Boardwalk Empire ("Two Boats and a Lifeguard")
Bryan Cranston - Breaking Bad ("Crawl Space")
Michael C. Hall - Dexter ("Nebraska")
Jon Hamm - Mad Men ("The Other Woman")
Damian Lewis - Homeland ("Marine One")

Walter White PhotoCranston for the fourpeat with a great episode, and no Kelsey Grammer I think he has this one locked up again.  Damien Lewis could be a spoiler; he has a great tape, and could carry the popularity of one of the few shows in their first year to be successful.  The rest of the men have outside shots, last year's winner Kyle Chandler was a shock, although his tape was great and won the writing award. Everyone but Hall has a shot because he submitted the worst episode of Dexter EVER!

1-Bryan Cranston
2-Damien Lewis
3-Steve Buscemi

4-John Hamm
5-Hugh Bonneville
6-Michael C. Hall

Kathy Bates - Harry's Law ("Onward and Upward")
Glenn Close - Damages ("I've Done Way Too Much For This Girl")
Claire Danes - Homeland ("The Vest")
Michelle Dockery - Downton Abbey ("Episode 7")
Julianna Margulies - The Good Wife ("Parenting Made Easy")
Elisabeth Moss - Mad Men ("The Other Woman")

I think Danes submission is a weak one, and she has always been the favorite to win this award this past year, in my opinion.  Look out for David E. Kelley's Emmy machine to potentially steal Kathy Bates her first ever Emmy.  Kelley produces Emmy magic for his stars, but her show was cancelled, which can work against her.  The only other threat to Danes is Marguilles, but this is not her year.

1-Claire Danes
2-Kathy Bates
3-Julianne Marguilles
4-Glen Close-Damages
5-Elisabeth Moss
6-Michelle Dockery

Jim Carter - Downton Abbey ("Episode 2")
Brendan Coyle - Downton Abbey ("Episode 7")
Peter Dinklage - Game of Thrones ("Blackwater")
Giancarlo Esposito - Breaking Bad ("Hermanos")
Jared Harris - Mad Men ("Commissions and Fees")
Aaron Paul - Breaking Bad ("End Times")

A fight between the Breaking Bad guys and Jared Harris.  Of the tapes I would say Aaron Paul has the best tape, one interesting statistic stands in his way, no person has repeated a win in this category in 16 years!  Do the voters know this, probably not as well award show gurus.  Esposito was the talk of the season and he has a great tape as well, so I think he has a better shot than Paul, but there is one other factor, Jared Harris.  Harris is a first time nominee for the show, and has a much better story line than John Slattery ever had.  It would be ironic if Harris were the shows first win because he is no longer with the show.  

1-Giancarlo Esposito
2-Jared Harris
3-Aaron Paul
4-Brendan Coyle
5-Peter Dinklage
6-Jim Carter

Christine Baranski - The Good Wife ("Alienation of Affection")
Joanne Froggatt - Downton Abbey ("Episode 7")
Anna Gunn - Breaking Bad ("Cornered")
Christina Hendricks - Mad Men ("The Other Woman")
Archie Panjabi - The Good Wife ("The Dream Team")
Maggie Smith - Downton Abbey ("Episode 1")

After watching the tapes (which help) look at Margo Martindale's win this race is down to two women.  Joanne Froggatt, and Christina Hendricks.  Factor in the other anomalies of this category like Blythe Danner winning two years in a row, and Diane Wiest winning, and you have to throw in Maggie Smith, and Christine Baranski.  How do the dice shake up?  Will Hendricks score Mad Men's first win?  This is one of the tougher categories on the drama side to predict, with so many variant factors.  Smith is great, and she did win last year I could see this counting against her; she also never shows up, which does not effect things most of the time, but watching Froggatt's excitment she will be campaigning. Hendricks has one of the best tapes she has ever had.  Right now my gut and heart is going with Hendricks, but Froggatt and Smith (by name) are nipping at her heals.

1-Christina Hendricks
2-Joannne Froggatt
3-Maggie Smith
4-Christine Baranski
5-Anna Gunn
6-Archie Panjabi

Dylan Baker - The Good Wife ("Marthas and Caitlins")
Jeremy Davies - Justified ("Coalition")
Ben Feldman - Mad Men ("Dark Shadows")
Michael J. Fox - The Good Wife ("Parenting Made Easy")
Mark Margolis - Breaking Bad ("Face Off")
Jason Ritter - Parenthood ("Politics")

The Good Wife men will square off in the battle of who will win this award, my money is on Michael J. Fox, I think he will win here (Fallon in Guest Comedy).  Look out for Dylan Baker he is nipping on his heals, and Mark Margolis could be a spoiler.

Prediction: Michael J. Fox-The Good Wife

Joan Cusack - Shameless ("Can I Have a Mother")
Loretta Devine - Grey's Anatomy ("If Only You Were Lonely")
Julia Ormond - Mad Men ("The Phantom")
Martha Plimpton - The Good Wife ("The Dream Team")
Jean Smart - Harry's Law ("The Rematch")
Uma Thurman - Smash ("Tech")

Patricia Clarkson is the only actress who has won this award for playing the same character, and her win came 4 years a part from each other.  Can Loretta Devine break this pattern; she has a great shot.  Truth be told as a Good Wife junkie I would love to see Plimpton and Fox win together, but that won't happen.  David E, Kelley is an Emmy machine so look for Jean Smart another Emmy favorite to be a strong possibility, in fact I am predicting her at the moment.  

Prediction: Jean Smart-Harry's Law

Tim Van Patten, "Boardwalk Empire" - "To the Lost"
Vince Gilligan, "Breaking Bad" - "Face Off"
Brian Percival, "Downton Abbey" - "Episode 7"
Michael Cuesta, "Homeland" - "Pilot"
Phil Abraham, "Mad Men" - "The Other Woman"
Despite the fact that "Blackwater" from Game of Thrones was snubbed, I think that this is a fight between Vince Gilligan's "Face Off" and the Homeland "Pilot."  Mad Men has shockingly never won this category, but this is not going to be their year here.  I think I am going to give the slight edge to Breaking Bad, but watch out for Homeland, this is a tight race.
Prediction-Breaking Bad "Face Off"
Julian Fellowes, "Downton Abbey" - "Episode 7"
Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, and Gideon Raff, "Homeland" - "Pilot"
Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner, "Mad Men" - "The Other Woman"
Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton, "Mad Men" - "Commissions and Fees"
Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner, "Mad Men" - "Far Away Places"
Mad Men had won this award for its first three seasons, but lost last year for one of their best written episodes ever, The Suitcase.  "The Other Woman" has the best shot here the help them reclaim this category, but I think Fellowes will claim the writing category again this year in the drama series race.
Prediction-Downton Abbey "Episode 7"