Tag Archives: realism

The Magnificent Seven vs. The Historical Negationism of Westerns

Yesterday marked the North American premiere of The Magnificent Seven, a movie that I’ve been looking forward to ever since I saw the trailer some months back. The reason for that is far more simple than you might have guessed: I’m a sucker for Westerns. A large part of that can probably be traced back to my playthrough of Red Dead Redemption back in college-

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-but even before that there had always been something appealing about the clink of spurs, the arid desert heat, and towns that weren’t big enough for two particular individuals. That being said, I did with The Magnificent Seven what I do with everything I’m excited about, which is research it obsessively.

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Eventually my search led me to a thread in /r/movies sharing the new poster for the film, which you can see on the right. Clicking on the image should help you get a better look at the titular cast of characters, and reveal an additional reason for my interest you might have expected me to be more upfront about.

Of the seven men four are people of colour.

Denzel Washington, emphasized by the number that outlines him, is bounty hunter Sam Chisholm and leader of the group. On his far right is Martin Sensmeier, of First Nations descent, playing Comanche warrior Red Harvest. Skipping past Chris Pratt on his left are Byung-hun Lee as assassin Billy Rocks and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez, a Mexican outlaw.

Now if there’s anything enthusiasm likes it’s company, and as I scrolled down through the thread seeing if anyone else shared my excitement for the film I came across this comment:

multicultural7 Continue reading

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Why Hillary Shouldn’t Be President

At the time of this writing, the results of the New Hampshire primaries have yet to be tallied. While it’s generally predicated that they’ll reflect a sweeping win for Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, following weeks will see the battle carried on to Nevada and South Carolina, where Sander’s rival Hillary Clinton is polling much stronger.

The war for the White House is far, far from over, but in the Democrat’s camp it’s still surprising that there’d be such a struggle to begin with.

After all, it was supposed to be a cakewalk.

Former first lady, former New York senator, former Secretary of State, former presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton was supposed to have this in the bag. With her extensive political career, her chosen-one status among the party establishment, her global reputation, her nomination was so certain many had dubbed it a “coronation“.

Months into the campaign, and barely scraping by after a virtual tie in Iowa, Clinton’s hopes for an easy win have been obliterated- and yours truly couldn’t be happier about it.

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Am I a Sanders fan?

I’m not sure yet. Continue reading

Ms. Marvel, #14: A Comic Book Review

msmarvel14Before we really delve into this review, can we please pause for a moment and gush over its cover? Jake Wyatt returns after providing art duties for issues 6 and 7 last year, reminding us that if he wasn’t doing his own thing with his creator-owned Necropolis we would fully welcome him back with open arms. No offence to Alphona, of course, but Wyatt’s about as great a fill-in artist as you can get for whenever the Canadian needs to take a break.

Which of course isn’t to deride current artist Takeshi Miyazawa, because he is likewise killing it. We’ll get there when we get there, though, because this latest arc, “Crushed” is a ride.

Yes, the very handsome Kamran is very much still a factor, and yes, he is also an Inhuman. Just in case it wasn’t a big enough deal that he is also a nerdy Pakistani-American it just so happens that he too was given powers by the Terrigen Mist that gave Kamala the ability to embiggen, etc. How his story intersects with our heroine’s and proceeds is fairly straightforward, so I thought I would draw your attention to two parts of the narrative that can be told given who Ms. Marvel is, specifically. Continue reading

Old James Bond Vs New James Bond

I have not seen Skyfall– I’m gonna kick things off by stating that right here and now. Nevertheless, I have been following the movie’s development for a while, and the apparent consensus from both the critics and the fans is that “at long last” Daniel Craig’s Bond actually gets back to the spirit of the rest of the series.

Let me break that down a bit.

See, the issue voiced by many Bond fans regarding Craig’s version is that the gritty realism often feels too much like something from the Jason Bourne universe. Many argue that Craig’s Bond lacks the feeling of the older movies, which were (comparatively) more lighthearted and glamorous than the darker and harsher installments we’ve seen over the past few years. This complaint, I’ve noticed, seems to come a lot more from older generations, usually from the 80s backwards, while my own generation seems much more comfortable with Craig’s version. It’s not that it’s about familiarity- after all, there were Bond films while we were growing up, however, I think the whole “New JB VS Old JB” contention really comes down to a shift in values.

I mean, let’s take a look at some of the old James Bonds.

They were off sipping Martinis, flirting with enemy spies, and driving classic cars that turned into planes or submarines or shot lasers and rockets. And all of that was a reflection of the time. The Space Age, where new and innovative technology was bringing us ever closer to a Jetson family standard of living. Those Bond movies were simply a reflection of that era. The same goes for the hedonistic Brosnan Bond of the 90s. The crazy (nearly to the level of cartoonish) villains and schemes, the deus-ex-machina technology (I’m looking at you remote-controlled muscle car) all reflected the materialistic culture that dominated the time.

In the same way, the new James Bond films are a reflection of our own age. The glamorization that marked earlier films would, if applied now, just look condescending. As the economic crisis drags on and as we become more and more acclimated to the issues of unemployment, poverty, and constant warfare, sympathizing with slick government agents in tuxedos driving luxury cars and infiltrating Mediterranean cruises gets pretty dang tough. The bloodied and battered, and ultimately more realistic, Bond that Craig gives us simply appeals more to us. He’s not so much a tour guide for us into the wild and fascinating world of espionage as he a full, tragic character struggling in a lousy situation. The whole divide is demonstrated beautiful in this clip from Casino Royale.

Even the Bond villains are demonstrative in a shift in values. Back in the 70s and 80s, the audience lived with the idea that all life on earth could be ended by a nuclear war. Madmen with doomsday devices simply made sense as the natural Bond enemy. Despite the hype over Iran and, a while back, North Korea, today the idea of a nuclear holocaust is relegated more to survivalist compounds. What are we worried about today? Shadowy cabals of wealthy warmongers manipulating our lives from inside our own governments. Even though Quantum of Solace was less popular as a Bond movie, it’s a perfect example of this similar shift in worldview. What were they bad guys after? A military coup in Bolivia in order to secure the rights to 90% of the country’s water. Even if it’s not too exciting, it’s still believable.

Now none of this is to knock any of the movies (barring A View to Kill, which was freaking awful), it’s simply to explain why there’s been a bit of contention over Craig’s incarnation. The simple fact of the matter is, Bond is going to evolve with time. Surely that’s something to be admired, not complained about…

Nolan, Jefferson, and The Batman

Keep on reading, this’ll make sense.

In the year 1820 Thomas Jefferson shared with a number of his friends a book
he had put together entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. It was, in essence, the four gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John] in chronological order. What truly differentiated it from the Bible was the omission of all references to angels, prophecy, references to Jesus divinity and resurrection, and miracles.

In the year 2005 Christopher Nolan’s film Batman Begins made its way into theatres, spawning a trilogy and getting the ball rolling for dozens of “grim and gritty” remakes. In an interview with The Guardian the director said that he “[tried] to do it in a more realistic fashion than anyone had ever tried to [do] a superhero film before.”

The parallel I’m trying to make should be obvious to any Batman fan, either of the comics or the animated series. Having finally seen The Dark Knight Rises this Tuesday and finishing the trilogy, I can finally say this with confidence that Nolan has done to the Batman canon what Jefferson did to the Bible.

These two men have something against the improbable.

To make things clear, I like Nolan’s Batman movies. He took a concept as seemingly ridiculous as a vigilante crimefighter who dresses up like a bat and somehow grounded it. On top of that he forced us to accept the fact that comic book movies can be more than entertaining, they can be awe-inspiring as well.

An issue that I had with Christopher Nolan and his films was the staunch inability to embrace anything even vaguely fantastical. The problem with that being that the concept is, as I just mentioned, a vigilante crimefighter who dresses up as a bat. With that in mind, maybe the imagination can be stretched just a little more to accommodate a psychopath whose makeup can’t wash off, or a badly scarred man with a deeply split-personality.

Furthermore, by thinning the line between reality [that of the audience] and art [the film being watched] questions are forced to arise. If this is the real world, why didn’t the kidnapping of a Chinese national from his homeland spark an international debacle [The Dark Knight], and <SPOILERS> how is Bruce able to make the jump to escape the prison given the damage in his legs [The Dark Knight Rises]? The films lower our suspension of disbelief, and with our guard down we become quick to ask why.

In his film Captain America fought pseudo-Nazis with energy weapons and tanks as large as houses. The audience never questioned this because although the film had some sort of anchor in a real-life event [World War II], we still understood that this was a world with one foot in the fantastic. If we can believe that a scrawny kid from Brooklyn ingesting a “super solider serum” can help the Allies win the war then we can just as easily believe that Hitler’s “deep science division” is led by a man whose face looks like a red skull.

Taking the “magic” out of the Batman mythos was no easy task, and Nolan threw a lot out when he decided what his approach to the canon would be. Scarecrow’s fear gas got the go-ahead, but not the Joker’s laughing gas, or the Venom that Bane uses to grow stronger. Batman could be called by name, but not Catwoman. Batarangs can be seen, and used, but the Batmobile must be free of any visual associations with the character.

Nolan was free to pick and choose what he wanted, and in many ways simply used Batman and his world to tell the stories that he wanted to tell. This is somewhat lost in the third film due to its connections to actual events in the comics [Knightfall and No Man’s Land, though that’s a post for another time], but for the most part he co-wrote the stories and screenplays for all three films. In another interview he states that “I don’t think our Batman, our Gotham, lends itself to that kind of cross-fertilization,” in response to a question about heroes co-existing between films akin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Having stated that, I must admit that I have to view Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films as- something else. Something not Batman. Batman would never kill purposefully [letting someone die, Batman Begins], accidentally [tackling Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight], or not react to the deaths of others [all throughout The Dark Knight Rises]. I guess I view them as Batman movies about as much as I view the apocrypha part of the Bible. They can be good, and even beneficial, but ultimately miss the mark somehow.