A Stupid Opinion about The BFG Movie

3 Jun

Over the last 18 months I’ve read a lot of children’s literature while teaching English to Korean children. More often than not I’m bored to death with the Captain Underpants, the Arthurs and the Katie Kazoo Switcheroos to the point where I water down literary theory and writing techniques and watch a classroom of blank faces as I give the most rudimentary explanation of allegory or metaphor solely for my own amusement. But I get a little more interested every few months when I get to read a Roald Dahl book. It’s not just me though, the kids seem to perk up more too. The students try to understand the story more and one class even grasped the concept of similes while reading one of his books.  Thus, proving a universal truth that children everywhere love Roald Dahl. His imaginative stories tickle the children’s minds in ways much different from CGI films pieced together by slightly different sight gags and word play. Then combine Dahl’s stories with simplistic style of Quentin Blake’s illustrations and there is a nice uniform feel to his books that instantly puts children of any age, from any country at ease and piques their interest in creative fiction. As a teacher, I’m a fan of the books. Which is why I’m a little upset that Steven Spielberg is going to direct the feature version of The BFG.

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The BFG is a story of a Big Friendly Giant who takes an orphan, Sophie, to giant land after she accidentally sees him blowing dreams into the room of a kids on her street. It’s a fun little book that has some nice world building and plays with language in an especially whimsical way, even by Dahl standards. And being a fan of cinema I would usually love to see a beloved book come to the silver screen, but not a Dahl book and not by Spielberg. He’ll make a fine movie, but I don’t want to see his version of a Roald Dahl book. Well, at least not one as fantastical as The BFG. This book is going to require a lot of special effects and at this point of his career he’s just going to make The BFG into The CGI. And I don’t care how much Andy Serkis enjoys wearing spandex and ping-pong balls, but I don’t want to see more motion capture giants. Or anything thing from the mind of Spielberg or his team of creative mercenaries. 

I feel not every book needs to be turned into a film. The trend of seeking out properties that already have a built-in audience is miserable. By making movies and TV shows from books, comic books, articles and twitter feeds it is just a step toward discounting the original creations. There is the argument that adapting brings a new audience to the original, but for every one person inspired to read a the original because of the movie there will be a hundred who will come to think of the film as the only variant of that story. Which isn’t a bad thing, but without understanding the nuances of filmmaking, cinematic techniques and the same type of filmic grammar as there is taught about the written word the film versions will just be empty intellectual calories and delegated to the snack shelf in the pantry of pop culture. I’m glad there is going to be more of Roald Dahl in the world via Spielberg’s The BFG, but I’m sad that now the unlimited reach of children’s imaginations will be lassoed in to contain the CGI world portrayed on-screen. Every generation will produce its own great art, but this constant piggy backing, remaking and rebooting seems to be society saying “Everything’s been done. Nothing is original. Might as well not try.” Which could very well be a product of the unlimited access we have to information. Every good idea can be found before and therefore it’s just easier to draw TARDIS in a thousand and one different ways or relaunch Star Wars, Batman and everything that already has a loyal audience. It is a sad era. Can art change or are future generations just doomed to continue to paint Darth Vaders helmet and call it art? Jonathan Franzen is right when he says “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” And without good fiction not only will there continue to be no new properties to adapt into movie trilogies, but it also means that I will have suck it up and find some new way to teach Korean children English.



X-Men Past and Present Movie Review

31 May

You’re probably expecting me to rant about how much I hate comic book movies just on principal. Then go into nit-picking detail about how parts of X-Men Days of Future Past make no sense. Assuming I have a bias against all comicbook movies is fair, because I do. Except, Surprise I actually like the X-Men movie franchise. I proudly admit to never reading a single comicbook (too busy reading real books) but I loved the ueber 90’s X-Men cartoon. That’s what introduced me to the characters and the themes of X-Men, so while I’m most definitely not an expert, I know more about the X-Men world than some.

Xmen 2000

The first two X-men movies were directed by Bryan Singer and they gave me almost everything I wanted out of an X-Men movie. After that Brett Ratner came along and took a big douchey piss all over the only comicbook movies I liked with X-Men The Last Stand. Seriously, how could someone screw up so much? The first two movies made bank, were loved by fans, and spoon fed a perfect set-up for how the third X-Men should go. Instead our favorite characters die needlessly or lose their powers and the Phoenix we expected was grounded and subverted, then killed. The Last Stand ruined the X-Men name so much they stooped to doing prequels under the rebranded “Wolverine” title. Those movies were pointless and awful too, even for people who appreciate Wolverine as a main character. I respect Hugh Jackman and all but five Wolverine movies was too much, Logan is a much better side character. That’s why when X-Men First Class came out I delighted in how it wasn’t about Wolverine. That was one of many things X-Men First Class finally got right. I liked how the X-Men tied into historical events. The recasting was spot on with James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon was outstanding. First Class had flaws but it turned the franchise in the right direction.

Bryan Singer returns to direct X-Men Days of Future Past. If anyone can save this franchise it’ll be the director who built it. The title is the dumbest part of this movie, “But Carl that’s what the comic is called.” Well, then it has a dumb title too. Bryan Singer further breaks X-Men’s film continuity and gets away with it. For example there’s flashbacks containing scenes from the first three movies. That means Days of Future Past acknowledges that those movies are valid parts of the whole story and thus accepted canon. Then why does Magneto have his powers back? Hell. Why is Professor X even alive? Answer: Continuity Schmontinuity, I’m just happy to see Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart onscreen. The X-men film continuity was already wrecked anyway, it’s almost a defining feature of the series. It would be strange if Days of Future Past didn’t have its own continuity quirks.

Xmen days of future past

Unfortunately this movie is Wolverine’s perspective again, this time in two time periods. The first; a post-war future where a squad of X-Men fight and evade the sentinels trying to exterminate them. To people who’ve only watched the movies, some of these new mutants are unfamiliar and we’re spared their origin stories (thank God). I really enjoyed seeing them all use their powers to work together as a team and fight the upgraded sentinels. There’s this girl Blink who creates these wormhole portals to teleport people, those portals look so cool in 3D. Looking through them you see different angles, vanishing points, one character in 2 different locations, they look amazing. However Blink doesn’t seem to notice she’s the best weapon against the unstoppable sentinels. A sentinel reaches an arm through a portal, and it closes, severing the arm. All Blink has to do is create portals around the sentinels then close them around their waste or neck, poof, dead. Well that’s too easy so they resort to having Kitty Pryde use her power to go back in time a couple days to avoid defeat.

That’s where Wolverine, repowered Magneto, and resurrected Professor X come in. They decide to send Wolverine back to the 70’s to stop the war before it begins. It’s nice to see how the young characters contrast their future selves. Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is angrier at humanity. While Professor X is walking around with lots of hair on his face. Speaking of hair, Peter Dinklage is rocking some epic 70’s hair and porn moustache. He’s the target of Mystique who’s gone rogue, shape-shifting all over the place, only showing her true self when she’s about to kick some ass. Her legs are her main weapon and of all the ways to die, being killed by Jennifer Lawrence’s legs aren’t a bad way to go. The 70’s are just more fun, there’s pop culture references like Star Trek and making fun of Nixon and his tape recorder. There’s a super speed mutant named “Quicksilver” who steals every scene he’s in. It’s nostalgic going back to the school for gifted students and hearing the door to Cerebro unlock with a “Welcome Professor”. But it’s not all sunshine and lollipops in the 70’s there’s plenty of fighting and the climax of the 70’s storyline coincides with the climax of the future storyline and is very well edited to maximize the action.

X-Men Days of Future Past might be the best movie I’ve seen all year and could be my favorite film in the X-Men franchise . There’s always something people can gripe about, like how it left out an important character, or realizing that Kitty Pryde would’ve had to sit motionless for days on end to keep Logan in the past that long. I’m sure fans of the comics have loads of issues with it. Nevertheless, the movie’s 131 minute run time is so entertaining it’s easy to overlook these little snags. Best of all, it negates Brett Ratner’s abysmal X-Men 3 like it never happened and I know we all can appreciate that.


Carl Wells

Look it’s GODZILLA The Movie Review

26 May

When I discovered a reboot of Godzilla was being made, it triggered a flashback. Suppressed memories of that wretched movie Roland Emmerich sold as “Godzilla” resurfaced. I recalled the childish Siskel and Ebert insults, the scientist testing an asexual mutated lizard with home pregnancy tests, the Puff Daddy theme song, it was awful. That’s the first Godzilla movie I’d ever seen in theaters, so upon discovering there was soon to be another, I groaned in disappointment. Then I realized there’s no way this new movie could possibly be worse than that 1998 atrocity, and kept an open mind. I’ve seen the last half of the American black and white classic Godzilla, as well as clips and segments from various Japanese movies, like Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla. So I am familiar with the lore and have come to expect certain things. This was my first opportunity to see Godzilla in 3D, so I ponied up a couple extra bucks for the 3D, since it was a cheap matinee show during the week. This is how I go to movies, middle of the day, middle of the week. There’s only ever like 11 people there so you can chat with friends without being shushed by the people around you.

Godzilla movie poster

At this point someone seeing Godzilla outta know what it’s basically about. I don’t feel like I’ll be giving anything away but I’ll try not to spoil the few pleasant surprises the movie has. This incarnation of Godzilla has just enough awesome moments to pull you through the illogical nonsense that constitutes the bulk of the film. Like any good monster movie Godzilla starts out by addressing the problems of nuclear radiation. Bryan Cranston works at a Japanese nuclear power plant, his readouts indicate there’s trouble a coming. Who knew Bryon Cranston speaking intense Japanese would be so funny? His wife played by Juliette Binoche works there too. She’s in the wrong place when the shaking starts and they seal up her section to contain leaking radiation. She dies in the first 5 minutes, this movie coulda used more Juliette Binoche, hell most movies could. Having an earthquake cause a meltdown at a Japanese nuclear plant might cause people to grumble “too soon”. Remember it’s just a movie, at least there isn’t a tsunami sequence showing debris of cars, buildings, and people being washed up the coasts of Japan…that happens in Hawaii. Bryan Cranston sneaks back to the quarantined site decades later and learns that there’s a giant cocoon “feeding on radiation” in the remnants of the old plant. The scientist studying it cause it to hatch and a giant surprise comes out. Breaking Bad fans hoping for a showdown between Heisenberg and Godzilla better brace themselves. Cranston dies and with him goes the last interesting human character of the film, that’s okay this movie is about huge monsters.

We’re left with Bryan’s grown son Ford (actual name) if you close your eyes Ford has the voice of an old lady. Ford is in the military which is fighting the monster, sort of. The whole way this movie handles the military is very confusing, they don’t know what to do about Godzilla and when they do it makes no sense. Nuclear bomb tests in the 50’s were actually failed attempts to kill Godzilla. The scientist now says a new monster called “Muto” is the real problem, Mutos feed on radiation and Godzilla preys on Mutos. It’s nature’s way of maintaining balance, that’s why we couldn’t kill Godzilla in the 50’s. So Navy ships are escorting Godzilla to intercept the Mutos, when they do the military plans to bomb all three at once, or something I don’t care about. I just want to see monsters destroying things. On the list of impossible things that would never happen, I do hope if there was some mythical creature that eats up radiation, humanity would have the good sense to not kill it. Instead the military plans to detonate a nuclear bomb to kill three radiation fueled beasts. I don’t know if the movie is trying to be funny with this ridiculousness, same goes for when Ford points his pistol at the 300 foot goliath staring him down, sure buddy that’ll stop it. The worst part is when Ford the “bomb specialist” can’t defuse his own bomb because of a piece of cracked glass mounted over the timer.

Godzilla Bridge

Despite its many problems I still enjoyed Godzilla, here’s why. Godzilla stories are supposed to be over the top and silly. Godzilla is about destruction on an epic scale, we got that, especially since the monsters have their own special weaponry. Godzilla has got some really great suspenseful moments, the beginning scene in the nuclear plant kicks up the pace nice and early. There’s a great scene in Hawaii where Ford is on a train and the power goes out, after a while the lights come back on and Muto is on the tracks ahead of them, everybody is already panicking, then the train starts moving forward again, I thought “Here we go”. There’s just enough fun scenes that are so well put together, and look spectacular that it holds your attention through all the petty human drama. The real strength in this movie is that for all his power and terror Godzilla is who you cheer for. By the end I thought Godzilla was more like a big overgrown kid who didn’t know his own strength. The film only skipped two monster movie clichés I really wanted to see; Japanese people fleeing in horror yelling “Run, it’s Godzilla!”. And having a scientist look up, slowly take off his glasses, and dramatically say “My God”. Other than that Godzilla delivers everything you could want. My interest in Godzilla is renewed and am actually watching Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah on cable as I type this.


Carl Wells

The NBA Conspiracy Theory Minute 5-25-14

25 May

I do not believe in conspiracy theories. There are way too many factors, individuals, egos and money involved in all circumstances to say there is an overarching shadow agency running the show. Just the notion of such is a bigger leap of faith than any religion has ever asked of its followers. No, no, no, conspiracies are just a way for people to force connections which add meaning to the mundaneness of life. I don’t just actively ignore them, I go out of my way to shine a light on the stupidity required to believe any event has someone pulling the strings behind it. Conspiracy Theories are stupid and I don’t have time for a single one of them. Except when it comes to the NBA. NBA Conspiracy Theories are Faaaaaaantastic!

My reasoning is that, sure, large-scale conspiracies are nearly impossible to pull off, but inside one association? That could go down. There are too many things that don’t add up, breaks that seem too convenient, and luck never felt like Lady Luck and always had the hint of the smug condescending ways of David Stern. And the added bonus of conspiracy theories just being fun to ponder. Now, I love the NBA and I have no doubt that it will become the most popular sport in the world within the next 20 years, but to get to that level of popularity there’s got to be some bodies buried somewhere. And spring and the early summer are the P-R-I-M-E time for conspiracies, so this is going to be the first post exploring NBA Conspiracy Theories, both recent and up coming (there will undoubtedly be some shady officiating in the Eastern Conference Finals). So, get out your foil hats, pour yourself some florid-free water and feast your eyes on this NBA Draft conspiracy:


Cleveland won the NBA lottery for the third time in three years, well, let’s be fair, they won the number one pick three out of four years, but they also moved up a spot in they year they didn’t get the number one pick. So, they’ve had a lot of lottery luck since LeBron James left Cleveland. Which is the sole reason for their luck. When Cleveland lost the greatest player in the league, who will one day be considered the greatest in the history of the league it was more than just another a tragic day in Cleveland sports history, it could have been the day the killed Cleveland, not just the franchise, but the whole city. The NBA didn’t want the blood of an American city on their hands so they rigged and continue to rig the NBA Draft until Cleveland gets back to championship contention. The Decision was the worst possible outcome for the NBA and Cleveland. As much as they placed prodigy in the loving arms of his hometown team in 2003 by fixing that draft, the NBA did just as much to drive him out in 2010. If the NBA didn’t allow its players to play in the Olympics, Lebron, Bosh and Wade would have never realized that they could play together, coexist, have fun and win while maintaining their elite identities. Allowing NBA players to participate in the Olympics is great for the NBA brand as a whole, but actually hurts the individual teams in the league, if they’re not in a large market and don’t have the draw of weather, celebrities or no state tax. So once they joined forces in Miami the NBA knew it had to offer retribution for this tragic displacement of talent to overly tan, ungrateful hands of Miami “fans.”

It was a no brainer that the Cavs got the first pick in 2011. That was obvious retribution. They lost their star unfairly and were embarrassed along the way. Sure, we collectively agreed they deserved the first pick. Here’s the thing, they were never supposed to be this inept at running a basketball team. I believed that the NBA agreed to do whatever it could to get the team back to something that wasn’t a laughing stock, but with the combination of poor drafting and even more poorly running the team the NBA is stuck. They can’t admit they played no part in allowing James to jump ship in such a scandalous fashion, so they have to keep giving the Cavs number one lottery picks until it is no longer a place players flee after their rookie scale contract. Which probably means that Cleveland will keep getting lottery picks until the team is moved Austin and renamed The Strange.


What’s Going On In Late Night

18 May

For many years I always felt the best TV was on late at night, no not that skinamax crap, I’m talking about the talk shows. Maybe it’s because (until recently) I‘ve been a night owl all my life, I feel a certain kinship with the late night host who’s trying to keep the attention of viewers, who should be asleep. As a lifelong late night fan I’ve been saddened by recent announcements regarding CBS’s Late shift and feel compelled to comment on the current Network Night scene.

Gotta get this off my chest. Jay Leno is an empty shell, in the shape of a TV personality that’s been filled with programming written by corporate bean counters. He had the best staff and doing his show in L.A. made it easy to book higher profile guests, so it was simple to mask what an untalented sell out Jay is. I first realized this, not when that whole debacle with Conan O’Brian went down (more on that later). But way back when Jay Leno was hocking Doritos. You weren’t getting enough money, fame, and spiritual fulfillment being the host of The Tonight Show Jay? So you sold Doritos to fulfill your artistic and comedic dreams? You high voiced hack! That’s when Jay committed to being a shill. I could make this post entirely about bashing Leno, because it sure is fun, but I digress. Let’s hope he’s gone for good this time.


The first time I watched David Letterman on The Late Show he was throwing stuff off the roof for the sheer pleasure of watching unwarranted destruction, I was hooked. Back in those days they had some great bits; Dave working at a Drive-thru, Rupert Jee annoying people. It was edgy for its time and has been repeatedly copied by others. But beyond his bits Dave’s real power was his attitude. He was dry not snide, sarcastic without being condescending, and self-deprecating instead of whiny. He’s just grumpy enough to be interesting and that came through especially in his interviews. He always kept them spontaneous and unrehearsed. For me Dave was always the king of late night and when he bows out it will be the end of an era.


Dave’s old show Late Night was given to Conan O’Brian who infused it with his own wacky cartoonish sense of humor. As a life-time Simpsons fanatic I’m partial to Conan O’Brian. Early on there was no competition for Conan and his side-kick Andy Richter so they got away with awful stuff that was neither funny or entertaining. Occasionally they’d hit on something so ridiculous it was funny like Pimpbot and The Masturbating Bear and slowly developed a repertoire of immature comedy for immature people like me. Conan’s biggest weakness is interviewing, he frequently interrupts to steal the spotlight and that only got worse when Andy left. I supported Conan when he took over The Tonight Show, he was in his element and loving every minute of it. We all know what happened next, so all I’ll say is that what NBC and Leno did to Conan was more fucked up than a soup sandwich. Once Conan had the Tonight show kicked out from under him, I went and saw his touring show which was amazing. After that he’s never been the same, even with Andy back, his TBS show lacks something undefinable, it just can’t recreate that same old feeling.

The Jimmys; Fallon and Kimmel get a lot of press and praise but I never watch them. They’ve both done a lot to advance the future of Late night talk shows into a new area, the 4 minute viral video the morning after. Hate to say it, but this is the new trend, and will ultimately end with hosts being known for their youtube clips that you can also watch on old TV when your smartphone dies. The Jimmys know this and nightly present 5 minutes of online content and 50 minutes of TV filler. Also, Hey Jimmy Fallon I’ll give you $1000 dollars if you can stop smiling for 30 seconds and $10,000 if you go a whole show without saying “Oh wow, that’s great, really great.”


My favorite is The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Because Craig’s meticulous deconstruction of the genre bends it into an alternative late show. His early sketches were atrocious but the writer’s strike ended those and forced him to just wing it and the show has never been better, although I do miss Michael Cane in Space. Unlike most shows Craig’s comedy is a slow burn of inside jokes not conducive to internet clips. There’s jokes that call back to his first night in 2004. Once viewers learn why the running jokes are funny you feel like you’re in a special club. It’s all just him improvising with his robot skeleton side-kick Geoff and chatting. He’s not afraid to get personal and share stories about his life, his past addictions, his opinions, all the while reminding us that him and his show are crap. The big reason I love this show is they play with the same themes so much that if you watch one night and like it you’ll like it every night. But sadly Craig is leaving the show in December.

The future of late night looks grim. Letterman is being replaced by Stephen Colbert. Stephen is known for the character he plays on cable. That won’t work on an hour long network show, he’ll have to be genuine. Only the public doesn’t know the real Stephen very well, so what should we expect? His persona is extremely full of himself, if that continues I won’t tune in, part of why I like Dave and Craig is that they’re self-deprecating. As for Ferguson’s replacement it has yet to be officially announced but the leading guess is Joel McHale. The best thing I can say about that choice is that it is still unofficial, we’ll find out soon.

Good thing I’m not a night person anymore.

Carl Wells

Stupid Opinion About Almodovar’s View on Body vs Mind

17 May

The line between mind and body isn’t as thin as it once was. At a time when the link between the body and the soul should be examined even more thoroughly, it is instead being used to sell underwear and Weight Watcher point programs. However, master filmmaker Almodovar examines what everyone seems to neglect: our relationship with the body. But instead of looking at universal examples, such as changes in puberty or when I first felt my back fat jiggle when I ran down a flight of stairs, he looks at the obscure, unique and extreme examples of our mind’s relationship with our body. Live Flesh, Talk to Her and The Skin I Live In all dive head first into the once sacred, now exploited relationship between body and soul.

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Live Flesh is the story of a love triangle, or a love hexagon, or whatever the shape is where all the corners are having sex with each other, and all of the characters undergo physical transformations during the film. The most obvious is the contrast between the living flesh of Victor (Liberto Rabal) and the dead flesh of David (Javier Bardem). Victor, a scrawny twenty year-old kid, shot and paralyzed David. The story really begins to pick up when a very beefed up Victor is released from prison after having watched David rise to fame as a now paraplegic basketball star. David finds success after his body becomes half as efficient as it was. Though both of these characters have drastically different circumstances and bodies in the second act of the film than from the first, they are spiritually still the same characters. The physical change for David has only led to an upgrade in women and change of career, but he’s still the same jealous, insecure asshole, but now he doesn’t have a gun and authority from the state to back him up. Implying the physical change of the body, even in extreme examples, has little effect on the intangible spirit. Victor, despite his prison body, has the same sweet, hopeless-romantic, optimistic spirit he had as a youngster even after he’s been released from prison where he gained the strength and mass to be able to do clap-push-ups. The arch of his story is transforming his body to match his mind. After being released from prison, he seeks a mentor to help him become the best lover in the world. He needs his physical body to support his internal ideal of himself. The film is about dealing with how the two characters’ spirits change. Victor is willing to change spiritually as well as emotionally, while David, even though he’s faced with a bigger physical change, refuses to change himself at all. How the characters change fortunes, lovers and bodies suggests that it isn’t the physical element of the person that is the most valuable. Live Flesh preaches the unity between the two and champions the character who has the ability to physically and emotionally adapt, and the stubborn character is left cold and alone. 

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In the 2002 film, Talk to Her, two very different men become friends after the women they love go into catatonic states, leaving behind a physical body without a trace of a spirit. In the film Benigno (Javier Cámara) is madly in love with Alicia (Leonor Watling) despite only watching her from afar and having a single conversation. His urges and infatuation are based primarily on her physical appearance and dwell exclusively in the realm of his thoughts, emotions and spirit. After she goes into a coma, he becomes her primary nurse and takes care of her while discussing and projecting all types of feelings and ideas on her un-animated body. Her body and the ideal he’s created of her in his head consume his whole world. Surely, if this film was set in Tokyo instead of Spain there would be no story because Benigno would have already married his Nintendo 3DS character, but in the land of tapas and perpetually-unfinished La Sagrada Familia he has to project his image of perfection in true analog fashion on a catatonic ballerina.  This projection of spirit warps his reality to the point where he engages in the idea of marriage with Alicia, and unfortunately, lets his perceived spiritual connection lead him to force a physical connection. In the film it is the projection of spirit that gets Benigno in trouble when he commits a monsterly act against Alicia, but the same projection of spirit allow for the gracious friendship between Benigno and Marco (Darío Grandinetti). Marco doesn’t understand the depth of Benigno’s infatuation with Alicia when they first meet, but since they both are taking care of women in comas he finds out more about Benigno. At a point in the relationship Marco begins to relate to and project on Benigno his own thoughts of love and emotions towards a loved one. Marco would never hurt someone in the way that Benigno does, but the thoughts and connections he projects on Benigno are so embedded that his view of Benigno isn’t changed when he learns of the horrific act. The projection of personal spiritual ideals onto another person allows Benigno to become a complete person in Marco’s eyes. Both Marco and Benigno are unable to separate their own projects of spirit from the physical reality. They both are unable to see how the reality of a body’s soul is different from the projection they created in their mind. The projection of soul on another person is vital to all human interaction, but it can lead to a warping of reality when the spiritual element is allowed to project onto disembodied entities. (See YouTube comment sections)

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The last film is The Skin I Live In (2011). In this film, Almodovar once again looks at the separation of body and mind. Here Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) is consumed with regret and rage over the deaths of his wife and daughter. The mother could not mentally handle her dramatic physical change after an accident and his daughter, who witnessed her mother’s suicide, never developed a stable mental condition and ends up committing suicide after a failed rape attempt. The doctor, who initially appears to be a sympathetic character, turns into a sadistic villain when his revenge spans from physical pain to psychological torture. He kidnaps the attempted rapist, Vincente (Jan Cornet), and gives him a nonconsensual sex change. Then the doctor keeps the victim as prisoner and begins molding his body to replace the lost bodies of his wife and daughter. This transformation was so complete that he renamed the captive Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya). Vera now becomes the victim who is a prisoner in the doctor’s home as well as in her new body. Vera, even in her unwanted skin, has the natural instinct to protect herself and refuses to give in to numerous rape attempts from a home invader and the doctor himself. The penultimate scene in the film is when she is so complete as a woman that the doctor attempts to seduce her. Vera admits that she no longer has the will to resist him and Dr. Ledgard appears to have created a subservient partner who is entirely devoted to him. However, the Doctor’s projection and manipulation of the physical body can not change the spirit. She becomes the manipulator when she takes the first opportunity to escape by fatal force. Vera, though completely different from who he was at the beginning of the film, in a physical sense, is still at the core the same person. A new perspective and identity is forced on Vera, but through examining the situation through journaling, meditation and longterm escape planning she’s is able to adjust to the situation. Thus, showing, again, that the connection between body and soul is malleable and the will can not easily be broken despite how temporary the physical state may be.   

Almodovar doesn’t seem interested with traditional concepts of the body.  In a nearly every film he’s made in some way he challenges the physical existence of his characters. To him their bodies are just the adaptable projections of their souls. These extreme examples and ambiguities in these films stand as a touchstone of that thin line that separates physical from spiritual. In these extreme examples of Live Flesh, Talk to Her and The Skin I Live In Almodovar embraces and explores the issue of body and soul, seeking truth from the most preposterous of situations. In the end, these uncommon cases of physical changes project just as much universal truth as putting on a few pounds after the holidays or a thinning scalp. The more different we are the more we’re the same. 


A Stupid Opinion about Spider-Man that Aimlessly Wonders Off Topic

8 May

Whoa, another month off, how nice was that? I didn’t have to bother the world with either my stupid opinions or my whining about nobody reading my stupid opinions for thirty days. It was truly an inspirational time for everyone involved with the hiatus; me, my carpel tunnel syndrome, the four people who follow this blog and everyone within earshot of my occasional whining. But I’m back again to wipe off the dust from the old keyboard and resume slangin’ stupid opinions written poorly. So, to get me back into the poorly written spirit I’m going to start with an especially stupid opinion about something I don’t quite get: Spider-Man.

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I know everyone loves Spider-Man the character, but live-action Spider-Man should’ve kept suing Facebook or have been content being a clone who drew and left the real spidey business to Nick Carraway. I’m not shocked when a character as beloved as Spider-Man keeps showing up in movies, but I do reserve the right to be shocked at why he is so beloved, especially when this movie does everything in its power to negate every reason for liking the web-slinger in the first place. Respectable folks like Patton Oswald claim Spider-Man as their favorite superhero. I see why; Spider-Man is just a teenager, he’s got to balance fighting crime and being a student. It’s fun to watch his day-to-day life as he kicks back, catches a few bad guys and drops some witty quips on ‘em before handing them over to the authorities. I get it. It all sounds great, but this “Amazing” re-boot zaps any joy from the wealth of built-in potential. But I don’t want this to be another review.

Comic book movies have such an established and built-in audience that it gives the studios the security to spend lavish amounts on them, but the financial freedom doesn’t translate to artistic freedom. The formula seems simple enough, cut and paste enough from the comics to make the diehards happy, put enough pretty, famous faces on-screen and hope more people like it than don’t. The character of Spider-Man is so popular that there’s no reason to take a chance or develop the character to reflect contemporary human nature. As far as I can tell, everyone loves Spider-Man for being an underdog, which is a timeless trope. But in Amazing Spider-Man 2 it’s an undeveloped cliché the audience has to accept just because we already know Spider-Man’s backstory. Now, Spider-Man is still an underdog, but it’s the franchise, not the character, that fills the role as it seems woefully mismatched when standing next to the Disney owned Marvel-verse. Even the potentially dreadful Thor 2 turned out to be a more complete and entertaining movie than this.

Was that film more artistically developed than a Spider-Man 2? Any of the Disney Marvel films? Not necessarily, but they don’t treat their characters with white gloves. And they can afford to, they have the rights to so many characters in the Marvel Universe, that they don’t need the super star Spider-Men and X-Men. The anonymity of their characters allows them to 1) get better deals on actors 2) portray the characters with more depth, because if they make a mis-step with a character they can just kill ‘em off and let another character take their place. But Sony isn’t as lucky. Spider-Man is only allowed to desire the girl and miss his parents. He has to have the most fundamental desires to keep this franchise rolling. The film touched on a slightly interesting themes of modern isolation and desire for attention, but in another “safe” move it was given to the villain of the film. Instead of investigating these themes the filmmakers damn them and discount them. It’s a sad state of affairs and as A.A. Dowd suggests in his review this film reeks of the less sophisticated 90s era super-hero films.

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There is more than enough in this film to write a positive or a negative review of the film, and that is what is going to happen. There are already a million and one of each, with another million right smack dab in the middle and I think what that really means is that this is a mediocre movie. It might be successful, but will be forgettable. The way of the modern blockbuster is such. It’s competently put together, but there is very little character-development to it. All movies are too safe for their own good and super-hero movie all the more so. There was a long time in my life when all I wanted was to see movies based on characters, but now in some kind of Twilight Zone irony the comic book characters are driving the show, but there is still no room for developed, unique characters.

-C. Charles