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Rachel Anne

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Everything posted by Rachel Anne

  1. I have to say, that I don't think that Disney's project to set up Star Wars as a second cinematic universe alongside Marvel is going to succeed. Star Wars was showing signs of serious creative exhaustion even before Disney picked it up, and Disney has done nothing since to suggest that they have any ideas as to how to reinvigorate it. If we look at Star Wars, the first and second movies (episodes IV and V) can claim to be really fresh, but even the third (episode VI) was showing signs of creative exhaustion, recycling locations and events from the original even as it struggled across the finish line to complete the story. The prequel trilogy, of course, suffered necessarily in that its main story line was known to us before it started, but beyond that they showed a tendency to recycle and re-use even when it seemed perverse to do so (as examples, the strange decisions to have had C3P0 built by Anakin and to have Boba Fett be a clone of the same original as the clone army). By the end of the prequels, the Star Wars Universe looked a lot smaller and more inbred than it had before. Far be it from me to fault the commercial calculations behind episode VII, but creatively, it doesn't so much continue the original story as reboot it. When Han, seeing the newest Death-Star-like-object, remarks "So, it's bigger, so what?" I said to myself, "Great question!" and left the theater. For me, as an audience member, the sense of déjà vu was simply overwhelming. There was just no reason for me to be there. Since then, Disney has launched Rogue One, an interstitial that leaves us with exactly nothing that we didn't have before, and is soon to release another interstitial, that looks to have the same problem. These two interstitial movies are not parallels to the various Marvel single-superhero properties because they can't go anywhere or do anything: they are in a narrative vice between a known past and a known future. If we look at the Marvel cinematic universe, whatever its faults, it is a toy box full of toys from which new stories can be constructed, and each new Marvel movie adds more toys and opens up new possibilities. Star Wars isn't like that. At its best, it has been a single linear story, and at its worst it is just a recycling and gap-filling of places and events in that story. I believe that, from a story-telling perspective, the Star Wars "universe" isn't Marvel, it's Pirates of the Caribbean.
  2. Rachel Anne

    The Matrix

    Whatever that means. There's a reason he chooses to identify as female rather than male. If there were no difference, he wouldn't bother. Given that Lana has not personally chosen to expand on her meaning here, I am at some risk in attempting to do so on her behalf. But generally, denying the gender binary is used to endorse two ideas: (1) that many traits treated as two wholly separate points, one "male" and one "female" actually exist as a line, where people can be found anywhere along it. (2) that people often embody a mix of "male" or "female" traits; that statistical or cultural distinctions are often mistaken for absolute or natural ones. Obviously there is a lot of ambiguity at this level as to what traits we're talking about, and even if I suspect I understand Lana's meaning at this general level, I don't think I could guess her positions on a more particular level. A denial of the gender binary, however, is not the same thing as an assertion of universal androgyneity, so yes, it could still make a difference. Finally, I would note that trans people generally regard it as offensive to refer to them by pronouns that deny the reality of their transition, and Lana has made herself clear that she shares this general feeling. If you wish to show respect: "she", and not: "s/he" or "he", is the way to do it. If you wish to show disrespect, well, frankly, you have many options available to you. No doubt she will have heard all of them before. No doubt I will have too.
  3. Rachel Anne

    The Matrix

    I would agree of course that Alien is very much of an ensemble movie. The a priori assumption that "the Captain" was going to be the lead is itself interesting in that it reflects ideas based on the sf side of its heritage, as opposed to the horror aspect of its heritage, which would actually make the Captain/authority figure a pretty near certain corpse. None of this has any bearing on my general argument about the way women are handled in sf/action movies, obviously. But that doesn't mean it can't be an interesting subject in its own right.
  4. Rachel Anne

    The Matrix

    And I am saying that even in the act of catering to an audience largely made up of young males, male and female storytellers will think differently, write differently, direct differently. The logic is much less "male audience" = "only the male characters actually count" than it is "male storytellers" = "only the male characters count." I have no argument with SDG's reply, but I would like to add to it. It does not seem to me that putting the responsibility on the audience or the genre for the way female characters are often handled by filmmakers holds up very well. Ellen Ripley was the lead character in Alien and Aliens. Sarah Connor was the lead character in The Terminator. These are iconic movies of the sf/action genre. They were beloved by the young males in their audience who never, as far as I have ever been able to tell, ever voiced the slightest objection to the movies having had female lead characters. Further, female characters do not have to be lead/action characters to be successful as characters in sf/action movies. Carol Marcus is an important character in Star Trek II; she is both the lead developer of the Genesis Device as well as Kirk's former lover and (as is revealed) the mother of his son. In Blade Runner, the terrible plight of Raechel makes her far more in the movie than just Deckard's love interest. Finally, as a general observation, talking about who is the audience for a genre and what the audience's wants are as things that exist prior to the actual works of the genre and which are therefore responsible for the characteristics of those works does not seem like a sound line of thinking to me. The Hunger Games movies are clearly sf/action but have a lead female character AND a primarily female audience AND have been huge commercial successes. If other sf movies have had mainly male audiences, it clearly is not because female audiences have some natural antipathy to sf, that gosh-darn-it-hard-as-they-try-male-filmmakers-just-can't-overcome.
  5. I agree with the above explanations about the ending. I would add that:
  6. Short answer: California hadn't reported in yet. Long answer: Different states report their results at different rates. Generally speaking, states with later poll closings and later time zones turn in their results later. The result is that early popular vote results are not necessarily representative of the whole country. Particularly important was California, which was on Pacific Time and had a late poll closing time and which favored Obama over Romney by almost 2 million votes, none of which were counted in early popular vote results.
  7. The problem with effects studios, though, is that they don't really generate much in the way of profits, and the benefits of effects studios' technology is available for rent anyway, so there isn't that much reason to own one.
  8. Does Lucasfilm actually consist of anything valuable besides a set of rights? What does the full-time staff of Lucasfilm consist of?
  9. Rachel Anne

    Cloud Atlas

    An excellent speech, I thought. Very inspirational to those of us, who, like her, have struggled with gender dysphoria their whole lives but have always been afraid of coming out, afraid of transitioning. The fear of losing everything you care about is an awesome and terrible thing.
  10. Rachel Anne

    Brave

    There is one point about arranged marriage in Brave that is worth noting in the context of feminism: It is as much arranged for the sons of the tribal leaders as it is for Merida. Arranged marriages in this context aren't a problem of feminism per se, but of social order: nobody gets to choose. That's why the end of the arranged marriage for Merida is celebrated by the sons of the chieftains: her freedom is their freedom. I will point out that in the history of arranged marriages, that it has by no means been true that only daughters suffered from it. I had a male coworker and friend from India who returned home to discover that his parents had (unbeknownst to him) found him a bride, and when he returned to the U.S., he did so as a married man. if we look at Jane Austen's novels, we don't see the institution of arranged marriage in its full-blown form, but there is frequent parental pressure exerted against sons and daughters to make a suitable match: Edward Ferrars, Henry Tilney, Eleanor Tilney, Anne Elliot, Frank Churchill, Fanny Price, and Fitzwilliam Darcy are all characters who had the screws turned on them to choose spouses suitable to their parents (or parental figures). Also, in European history, generally speaking the higher the rank, the less personal preference has to do with marriage: Frederick the Great of Prussia, for example, was forced into a marriage by his father that he regarded as so dire that he considered suicide. None of this is to say that the society in Brave (or in European history) is in any way gender-neutral, nor that the gender differentia were not heavily weighted against women in a broad range of areas. Only that arranged marriage, as an institution, had far less to do with men having control over women than parents over children.
  11. I guess Taylor Kitsch can't star in everything.
  12. That may be the worst thing I've ever read.
  13. For your next birthday, you need: Link Ryan IS awful young to be an old fogie. Some people do age fast though:
  14. Rachel Anne

    Brave

    This is a terrific essay: http://thenewinquiry...princess-movie/ [edit]Terrific is really an understatement. I've called lots of things terrific that weren't nearly as well done as this.[/edit]
  15. Not nearly as unpleasant as the possibility of a third movie in the same vein. As you noted, the first two were remarkable in their awfulness. Not since Joel Schumacher had we seen so thoroughly determined an effort by the captain to scuttle his own ship.
  16. Hah. It is well known that for maximum pathos, the owner must kill the dog. After it saves his life. The Old Yeller gambit was last used, to my knowledge, in I am Legend. To like Moonrise Kingdom for killing the dog is absurd; they didn't even do it right.
  17. I saw this movie, and didn't like it. Now, generally speaking, when I don't like a movie, I know why, but in this case I don't. What makes it even more puzzling is when people whose opinion I respect (see above) are in love with it. Further, I don't even understand any more why they love it than why I didn't care for it. Of course I understand what is being said above on a descriptive level. For example, the sentence "Sam and Suzie's flight directly confronts the staid diligence of its 60s era New England liberal tendency to trade freedom for the comfort of security." is perfectly sensible as description, but I don't see how it translates into liking, much less loving the movie. I have seldom been more puzzled.
  18. Rachel Anne

    Brave

    Spoilers, spoilers I just got back from a family trip, during which I saw Brave — finally. The movie looked good, and showed technical advances over previous Pixar efforts. (Merida's hair is particularly striking, and was visually quite the star of the movie.) However, looks aside, the movie had two major flaws that I thought weakened it greatly. First, even at just 93 minutes, the movie felt long. If we compare it Finding Nemo, Pixar's previous parent-child conflict story, Nemo gets to its pivotal separation scene quickly, and the main story that follows is constantly enlivened by new characters and new locations. By contrast, Brave introduces all its characters and all but one of its locations early, which both delays the arrival of the pivotal transformation scene, and leaves the movie with little in the way of novelty to energize the rest of the movie. Second, the movie tries to get both humor and pathos from the transformation of Elinor. This is a tricky thing to do — the one can bleed into the other, with the unintended effect weakening or destroying the intended effect. While difficult, it is not impossible: Finding Nemo does it with Dory's memory, which is played for comedy almost the entire movie, until it turns and plays it for pathos and drama near the end. Turning the audience response, however, is done only once in Nemo and is done at a critical point in the story — and after viewing Dory's plight in a more dramatic way, we are never asked to view it again as pure comedy. Brave, however, keeps going back and forth between the two, and at almost random intervals. We never know from moment to moment whether we are supposed to find Elinor's situation funny or sad, hindering our ability to feel either way. There is one area where I think Brave is worth defending: It has a real moral issue at its heart, and isn't just another example of that familiar family film, the story of the child Who Wants to be Herself vs. the Parent Who Just Doesn't Understand (or, more grandly, the Society That Just Doesn't Understand). In that familiar template, conflict creates a crisis, which the child resolves through skill and courage, earning the understanding and acceptance of the parent (or society). Essentially, the standard template is all about gratifying the desires of the child — a story that is obviously, well, gratifying to those identifying with the child. Brave isn't about that. The story is much more even-handed because it doesn't put all the right on one side and the wrong on the other. The central conflict is between Elinor's efforts to install in Merida the sense of responsibility to others that Merida will need to be a mature adult (and need even more to be a good ruler), and Merida's desire to define the shape of her own life. The first act is driven by the rigidity of both Elinor and Merida, setting a pattern of escalating conflict between them. What brings things to a head is the attempt at an arranged marriage that has been the traditional means of keeping the peace in the kingdom. This attempt brings out all the worst in both Elinor and Merida. Elinor simply attempts to force the matter through, with no finesse or consideration of alternatives at all, and Merida sabotages it in the most public way possible with no thought whatsoever of the consequences for the kingdom. As the adult in the story, it is fitting that it is Elinor who is the first to climb down and look for a way out. Where force of personality failed, imagination succeeds and she comes up with a way to preserve the peace of the kingdom without forcing Merida into marriage. Merida's concession, although later, is the more profound in that it meant accepting her mother's primary point, that she had to accept responsibility; not, as she comes to learn, in the sense of an onerous moral burden, but as the natural result of what love as an adult, rather than love as a child, is all about. Overall, Brave is a good example of what is known in ethical philosophy as moral optimism: the belief that everyone can pursue their own happiness without conflict arising as a necessary result of that pursuit. (This doesn't mean that conflict doesn't occur in fact, only that such conflict is evitable, and the result of error or failure of imagination, rather than a necessity.) The conflict between Elinor and Merida is evitable: on Elinor's side it is caused by lack of imagination, and on Merida's by her failure to account for the importance of the happiness of others as indispensable elements in her own happiness. In this, Brave is certainly a Good movie, it is just a shame that it isn't a better movie.
  19. I'm traveling with my family, making anything like a full reply impossible, but I do want you to know how much I feel the compliment of this suggestion, not to mention the subsequent personal message. I will be very happy to post at greater length when circumstances permit. (And thanks to Peter for his kind remark in another thread.)
  20. SPOILERS GALORE! Just got back from seeing it. The movie periodically delivers some wonderful visuals. But in terms of story? What. a. mess. The problem isn't that it takes liberties with the original fairy tale. The big problem is that it keeps writing checks and not cashing them. And it is far from clear if all the checks can be cashed within the framework of the same movie. Let's start with the main thread and describe how it unravels. The movie gives us Signs and Portents that Snow White is much more than just another person (or even just another princess). The red rose in winter for which she is named. The fact that she is named as the one whose death will give the evil queen eternal life. The birds who she sees in her childhood and which reappear to show her the nail she will use as a weapon to gain her freedom. The white horse that suddenly appears to take her away from the castle. Her ability to ride said horse over the course of a long chase after being imprisoned for ten years. The raging troll that finds itself unable to attack her and turns away from her. Her ability to heal sickness and injury without even realizing it. One of the dwarfs identifies her as Life, catapulting her into deep mythic status against the evil queen who has been identified with death. She is led into fairyland and is given unprecedented recognition — an event that has never happened before. OK. The first sign that things are going to go seriously wrong in terms of story is that the stag is there to give her his blessing. No. Too many checks have been written at this point for that to be the reason for the stag's appearance. At this point, the stag has to be there to pay her homage. Nothing less will do. She has been set up as Life, even if she doesn't realize it yet and is not yet Life fully manifest. Next, the dwarf dies, and she doesn't heal / raise him. In terms of story logic, she needs to do that, even if she doesn't yet know how she does it. She rises from the dead but seems to manifest no more of her supernatural quality than she did before — in fact, as the third act develops, she exhibits less. The people and army need to follow her because she is Life and, having risen from the dead, she needs to manifest this more powerfully than she has before. She shouldn't personally need to wear armor or wield a sword or shield because she is beyond such things. She needs to defeat the queen not because she has been taught a knife trick, but because she is Life triumphant over Death and is simply more powerful than the queen. It may seem that I am writing a different movie, rather than critiquing the movie they made, but I firmly believe that symbols have their own rules and logic that is inherent in them, and you just can't invoke them and then not follow those rules, without simply being wrong as a storyteller. There is absolutely no requirement that the movie makers invest Snow White with so much Christology, but if they do they simply have to follow through if the story is to be True. If they don't, well, what they have is a mess. And if you're going to make Snow White a Christological figure in a mythic context, it makes absolutely no sense to have her recite the Lord's Prayer. If you're going to have her recite the Lord's Prayer, you've established the world not as pagan/mythical but as Christian and thereby embedded it to some degree in history — at least to the extent that the stories of King Arthur are embedded in history. If you do that, you're welcome to make Snow White a Joan of Arc figure or some such, but you can't just forget that you've put her in a Christian world — you have to follow through on it. And yet the filmmakers do forget and don't follow through on it. The two male leads are both messes, in terms of story. Both are given backgrounds to make them Snow White's love interest, but neither is given any romantic development to follow up. William's kiss fails to revive Snow White, so he can't be her love interest, and the huntsman's does, but it simply seems to be a forced move from the original fairy tale (a kiss has to revive her) rather than the climax of an actual romantic build up between the two of them. (In this, the filmmakers reverse their general habit of writing checks and not cashing them for the opposite fault of trying to cash a check they haven't written.) The two potential male romantic leads are given some reason to be aware of each other as romantic rivals, but they don't actually do it. Maddening. The huntsman kills the man who raped and killed his wife, whose death was the cause of his decline. This has to mean something in terms of character. And yet it doesn't. Do I think all these set-ups can be paid off in the same movie? Hard to see how. The Christological arc of Snow White pretty much takes anyone out of the running to be her romantic love interest, as far as I can see. And I don't see how both male potential romantic leads can pay off reasonably in the same movie. It may be that a really good writer could make it all work in ways that I don't see. I freely admit that. What is beyond dispute, I think, is that THIS movie doesn't do it and as a result, after several wobbles in the first and second act, everything just comes crashing down in the third. Now, I think that paying off Snow White as Life is the most interesting route the movie could have taken, although the huntsman can't merit being in the movie's title as a result. I will say that transcendence is certainly a difficult thing to handle in movies: Neo becomes transcendent at the end of the first Matrix movie, even if the filmmakers had no idea how to handle a transcendent Neo in the sequels (and so made him not-transcendent, denying the sequels any hope of working), but in the original at least, they realized that Neo HAD to become transcendent in the third act because what they did in the first two acts of the movie REQUIRED that that's what he become. My most charitable reading of Snow White and the Huntsman is that there were just multiple people involved, pulling the movie in different directions, and they "compromised" by including ideas from all of them, without regard to whether or not they all made sense in the same movie. There were times in this movie when I really had hope. To have everything fail in the end so badly was more disappointing by far than never to have had my hopes raised at all.
  21. Rachel Anne

    Brave

    Not that it matters much, but as an item of Pixar trivia, A Bug's Life was at 92%, not 98% and was the lowest-rated Pixar movie prior to Cars.
  22. If the goal is to find someone who can make a more violent Jesus pic than Mel Gibson, they've found their man in Verhoeven.
  23. Basically, in stories about young protagonists, there is frequently a dramatic need to remove them from parental protection so that they can experience adventures without that safety net. There are several ways the filmmakers have of doing that, which are not particularly generative of positive parental characterizations. (1) Kill the parent. Snow White's mother and father, Bambi's mother, Cinderella's mother and father, Wart's father and mother, Mowgli's father and mother, Ariel's mother, Belle's mother, Aladdin's mother and father (and Jasmin's mother), Simba's father, Pocahontas's mother, Quasimodo's mother, Tarzan's mother and father, Lilo's mother and father, Tiana's father, Nemo's mother, Hiccup's mother. Generally the parental death is either long before the start of the movie or near its beginning. (2) Make the parent MIA. Some parents are just missing with no explanation given. Dumbo's father, Quasimodo's father, Remy's mother. (Andy's father from Toy Story comes to mind as well, but he isn't really in this category because Andy isn't the protagonist.) (3) Make the parent oppositional. Ariel's father, Mulan's mother and father, Remy's father, Russel's father, Hiccup's father. Of the natural parents, Russel's father from Up is different from the others in not being a parent Who Just Doesn't Understand, but is instead a parent who Just Doesn't Care, and is worst natural parent in this whole list, I think. (4) Make the parent ineffective. Belle's father, Jasmine's father, Mulan's mother and father, Tiana's mother, Russel's father. (Mulan's parents pull off being both oppositional AND ineffective.) (5) Overwhelm the parent. Dumbo's mother, Aurora's mother and father, Patch's mother and father, Hercules' mother and father, Rapunzel's mother and father, Nemo's father, Russel's mother, Po's mother and father. Dramatically, this fits between killing the parent and having them be ineffective. The overwhelmed parent, however, need not be entirely defeated. Patch's mother and father and Nemo's father are initially overwhelmed, but regroup and become actively heroic. It can also be argued that Rapunzel's and Hercules' parents are difference-splitters here, in that their efforts to help their child don't come entirely to nothing. --- Of course, the above is just a list of natural parents. Adoptive parents, step parents, and other kinds of parental figures can also fit into these categories. Bagheera and Baloo, for example, are both parental figures to Mowgli, and fit into the overwhelmed-but-regrouping category. Non-natural parents can also take the oppositional role much farther than natural parents ever do in Hollywood animation, to the point of outright villainy. NOTE: the sad fate of mothers in Disney animation has long been noted by many authors, but for Disney fathers and these categories in general I am of course lifting a very great deal from SDG's writings on the subject, although I am not strictly following his categories.
  24. Actually on-topic: If we're going to mention Finding Nemo, we can't forget its spiritual ancestor, 101 Dalmations: Pongo and Perdita are pretty awesome parents. Also, it wasn't a success, and was based on a Japanese source, but Astro Boy had a positive father-son relationship at its center. (With a rather dark twist, of course, in that the son was a robot reproduction of the father's deceased natural son.)
  25. The dumb husband / smart wife trope has pretty deep roots. I think The Honeymooners is probably the archetype for this in the world of television, although maybe somebody can come up with an earlier example. The Berenstain Bears has been flogging it to death for fifty years in the world of children's books. Partly this is seeking humor by inversion of social roles; like Jeeves being the real master of his employer, Bertie Wooster. However, in the TV world, I think it is more importantly about the traditional comedy duo of wacky vs. sane, and in particular putting together a vehicle for a star comedian. In The Honeymooners, Jackie Gleason may have played the fool, but he was the star of the show. Home Improvement was a vehicle for Tim Allen. Everybody Loves Raymond was a vehicle for Ray Romano. King of Queens was a vehicle for Kevin James. A star comedienne, however, can make the pairing work just as easily for a wacky wife and a sane husband, as Lucille Ball demonstrated in I Love Lucy, where she was both fool and star. Men numerically dominate in the wacky/dumb starring roles because comedy has generally been a male field. There is nothing inherently male about it though. Lucille Ball wasn't the only woman who could do it: Gracie Allen played wacky/dumb against one of the rare sane/smart characters who actually was a comedy star in his own right — George Burns. In movies, Katherine Hepburn was a success when she turned her hand to wacky characters, as was Myrna Loy, and Carole Lombard built her career on it. Further, it isn't even necessary that the characters in the wacky vs. sane duo be different sexes; same-sex pairings can provide the same comedy dynamic, as The Smothers Brothers and Martin & Lewis demonstrated. Pairing a character who is dumb and wacky with one who is smart and sane has been such a fruitful source of comedy across the generations that it seems beyond cricitism as such. Where it doesn't work (and yes, I'm looking at you Berenstain Bears, you multi-generation children's book blight), it isn't the idea that is at fault, but the execution. (And sorry — a little anyways — for being off-topic.)
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