When Did Joy Become the Enemy?

Okay, full disclosure.  I really can’t stand the Oscars.  Don’t ask me to explain, because I’ll cut the person that keeps me from watching the Tony Awards.  But the Oscars?  They’ve never done it for me.  I can watch clips later out of context (loved Anne Hathaway’s acceptance speech, she is an amazing woman), but I can’t sit through the entire production.  I don’t know, something about the whole thing just rings false for me.

So I missed Seth McFarlane’s hosting, missed the pretty dresses and the nice suits, missed the frazzled acceptance speeches.  Even turned off my Twitter feed, because while I can’t stand the Oscars my friends are into it. And that’s cool, but I don’t want to hear about it every few seconds.

So I missed The Onion calling 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, nominated for her work in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a cunt.

I sure heard about it this morning, though.  The event was burning up my Twitter feed, all over Tumblr and Facebook.  Heck, most of the blogs I follow have already made comment on the issue, coming down on one side or the other.  That’s right, there are sides, because as hard as it is to believe there are folks that feel calling a child the c-word in a public forum is justified.  They make a lot of arguments about context and satire, and how The Onion was just trying to draw attention to the conduct of others.

Okay, maybe.  But, The Onion, and I’ll admit I’m having trouble moving passed this, you called a 9-year-old a cunt.  I’m not sure if that comes off as satire, or more like verbally abusing a child.  Now at this point some The Onion apologist will point out that it was on Twitter, and they only have 140 characters to work with and so they had to be concise and junk.  Sure, I get that, it’s not like The Onion has an entire website where they could write expansively on the subject, really dig into…they do?  Like a real one, not just a Livejournal account?  Yup, look at that, banner ads and everything.  Hoo-boy, this just keeps getting worse and worse for you, The Onion.

Look, I love a good satire as much as the next fella; Swift’s A Modest Proposal is like candy to me.  But calling someone a bad word isn’t satire.  If it were, every drunk dude-bro I pass on a Saturday night would be considered a brilliant literary mind.  And that is not the case, because I could not live in that world.

What I get from reading about last night is this: yes, there was a lot of condescending and dismissive behaviour towards Quvenzhané Wallis and her presence at the Academy Awards.  A lot of which seemed to be centred around her name, which may take the blue ribbon at this year’s Stupidest Reason Ever to Dismiss Someone’s Work Regatta and Pony Show.  The media felt her first name is hard to pronounce, but instead of doing some (dun-dun-DUUUUN!) journalism, decided to go the ridicule and belittle route.  For the record, it is pronounced kwuh-ven-jah-nay.  Know how I found that out?  Ten seconds with Google.  Know how I would have found it out if I were interviewing her? “Excuse me, but just before the interview starts, and I’m really sorry about this, could you tell me how you pronounce your first name?” Boom, done, nail the interview and walk away.  Breakfast Club fist pump optional.

But the young Miss Wallis was obviously there to enjoy herself.  She’s nine-years old, for crying out loud.  And she was nominated for a pretty prestigious award for something she obviously enjoyed doing.  Never mind she got a Best Actress nom for the first film she ever did; why wouldn’t she be excited about that?  Excited in a way that only a 9-year-old can be, in a way we all wish (even me deep in the recesses of my cold, metallic heart) we could still be about, well, everything.  But the just about anyone she talked to, or who talked about her, seemed intent on spoiling that for her somehow.  Up to and including the host, Seth McFarlane, who I guess…I don’t know, spoiling things was his job or something?  Whatever, I wasn’t watching.

So I can understand the impulse to step in and call everyone on their bullshit.  I’m getting all of this second hand and I still want to waste the day firing off rant after rant at these jerks, in between punching the wall in anger.  But, The Onion, you chose…poorly.  While you may have intended to be the Satirical Knight protecting the honour of young Miss Wallis, you came across as making a seriously over-the-line joke at best, and piling on an already bad situation at worst.  Which even you acknowledged with your apology this morning.  For which I have to give you respect.  Of course, the better solution would have been not to need to apologize…

My take-away from all this?  I think the folks in the industry that is Hollywood as well as the media, need to pause for reflection.  What was it about Miss Wallis, a 9-year-old taking joy from her accomplishments, that bugged you so much you needed to pull her down?  And why would that be your go-to instinct?  Why can’t we just let a little girl have her day?  Have we really reached the point where happiness is something worthy of ridicule?

Tao, I hope not.  Because I’d rather live in a world where drunk dude-bros are satirists than that one.

What about you guys and dolls?  What caught your eye at the Oscars last night, and what did you think of the goings on?  Comments are just down there…


Returning to the Shire

I’ve read The Lord of the Rings annually for the past 27 years, and usually The Hobbit along with it.  I’m one of those guys who liked The Silmarillion, though I agree it is a dry read for the most part.  I’ve read Tolkien’s essays on the books, I’ve read other people’s essays on the books, heck, I’ve read Tolkien’s letters, most of which had little to do with anything he wrote.  This is all to say I’m a pretty dedicated Tolkien bibliophile.

That said, I loved Peter Jackson’s movies.  Were there things I wish he’d kept in? Of course.  I won’t bore you with the list, but there were definitely parts I wished had stayed from earlier in the book, especially in light of the drawn-out ending to the third movie.  But unlike many of my fellow bibliophiles, I understand a faithful adaptation would have been much too long and, well, boring.  Some things needed to be cut, some things needed to be shown and not talked about, and bits had to be added because folks want to see some awesome in their fantasy action movie.

I’m seeing the first Hobbit film in about ten days.  I’m taking someone to it on a date, and I want to see it for the first time with her.  So I am subjecting myself to a very specific flavour of internet black-out; basically, any review that contains spoilers will be ignored between now and then.  Not that I’m not familiar with the story, but I’d rather see it fresh, without anyone’s voice in my head while I’m watching.

In some of the non-spoiler reviews I’ve read, though, I hear some criticism of additions Peter Jackson made to the story.  Many folks assume The Hobbit was written to tie in with The Lord of the Rings.  Actually, edits to The Hobbit to bind the two stories more closely came later, and only a few similar characters offered a connection.  In reviews I’ve read it seems that Mr. Jackson has woven elements from The Silmarillion into the film, in order to tie the story closely with LotR.  Most of those reviews have expressed varying levels of disapproval, with a few coming out cautiously in favour.

Obviously I don’t want to sound off too strongly before I’ve seen the film.  But I will make two points.  First, based on LotR I think Peter Jackson has earned a fair amount of latitude from fans.  I could understand some of these issues being raised if this was his first kick at the material, but I’m fairly certain he has shown he has the chops to present Middle Earth by now.  Second, I’m actually glad to hear that some Silmarillion is making it into the movies. I was a bit leery when I heard The Hobbit was being stretched to three films.  I trusted Mr. Jackson to make the call, but given the relative lengths of the books I did worry that a Hobbit trilogy would be, as Bilbo says, “Sort of stretched, like… butter scraped over too much bread.”  So I’m glad to hear additional material was added, and I look forward to seeing how the back-story was woven into the main.

Of course I reserve the right to take all that back once I see the film.  As I also reserve the right to crow about how right I was.  I guess what I’m saying is, I’ll write a review once I’ve seen it, so that is one future post in the bag.

What about you?  Have you seen The Hobbit yet?  What did you (spoiler-free) think?  Feel free to leave comments about the film and/or books in the comments below.  Always happy to talk Tolkien.

Some Nerd Subjects in Brief

There have been several things of note going on in the nerdverse recently.  While I didn’t want to devote an entire post to these, I felt they deserved a bit more than a sentence in the Humpday Links.  So enjoy these, and fire off your comments; I’ll be around and we can talk back and forth about them.

Headline: New independent climate study confirms global warming is real – Penned by Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame, this article is a frank summary of a recent independent study on global warming.  In short, yes, global warming is real and yes, it is our fault.  I am constantly confused by people that deny this very simple and observable fact.  Perhaps it comes from living in Alberta, arguably the province that is an ongoing severe environmental impact.  Yes, yes, I’ve seen the commercials, the oil and gas industry is cleaning up their act.  But that is sort of like a company claiming the sludge they are dumping is “Now 40% less toxic!”; “cleaner” is not “clean”.

But this article makes a very good point about global warming debunkers: the hard-core debunkers will not be swayed.  To quote the article:

I know this new study won’t sway climate change deniers. It can’t, because nothing can. The reason for that is simple: This isn’t about the science. If it were, the conversation would have been over years ago. Instead, it goes on, because it’s about ideology, not facts.

Personally, I am offended by ideology getting in the way of doing what is necessary.  Refusing to do something about the sorry state of our environment because of ideology is like a fireman refusing to enter a burning Conservative building because he/she is a Liberal.  It doesn’t get much simpler than this: this is our home.  We don’t have another one, and currently, we don’t have anywhere else to go.  Even if you think that global warming is a crap idea, wouldn’t it make sense to err on the side of caution?  Maybe keep the fresh water flowing, make sure we have enough food, try not to poison the animals living with us (not to mention us animals)?  Species survival is not ideological.

Headline: A PSA for Shy People – Thanks to Jessica Mills of Awkward Embraces fame for this PSA, it raises a good point regarding geeks with social anxiety.  Her points are especially important to remember if you are meeting someone in person that you have previously only met online.  It can sometimes be confusing, especially since most people with social anxiety will not mention it.  So you can go from a lively, friendly exchange over the Twitter and email, to a terse and awkward in-person conversation.  So keep social anxiety in mind the next time you are meeting your online friends IRL.

Something I wanted to touch on as well; the person in your group who is brash and loud may also have social anxiety disorder.  Mine tends to manifest this way.  Somewhere in my brain it occurs to me that, if I can keep everyone laughing with/at me, then obviously everyone loves me and I have nothing to fear.  Never mind that the rest of my brain is often, “Why did you say that!? Are you $%&@ing out of your @%$&ing mind!?”.  Now, I rein that in a lot, especially compared to years past.  But keep that in mind the next time you are at a party: the loud jackass and the aloof snob may have something in common.

Headline: Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing – This has blown up all across geekdom since Sunday, but yes, Mr. Whedon and a few friends banged out a movie version of Much Ado About Nothing, and managed to keep that hidden from the world.  I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to live in a time-line where I have this to look forward to.  I mean, seriously?  Arguably one of the best directors around, armed with some of the best writing mankind has been able to produce, and supported by an immensely talented cast (no, really, read the press release, it’s crazy)…how is this not going to be amazing?

I think what I love about this the most, is that he just did it.  No fanfare, no asking questions.  He wanted to do it, he had people that trusted in him to help him, and he went for it.  There really needs to be more of this going on in the film industry, in my not entirely humble opinion.  Yes, movie studios want to research and study things to death before committing hundreds of millions of dollars to their next blockbuster, and I can’t blame them.  But not everything has to be safe.  Create a part of your company that has the resources to say, “We believe in this, we have a great script, we can get good actors and we can put this out right now.”  For the cost of one blockbuster which may not do well (I’m looking at you, Immortals), how many of these projects would get out the door?  Ten? Twenty? A hundred?  And if only a fraction of them have monetary success (while a fraction flop and the majority break even), you come out further ahead than you would with your, “probably won’t break even except on paper” blockbuster (yup, still looking at you, Immortals).  Is that a bit optimistic?  Sure.  Am I wrong?  Well, we won’t know unless someone has the brass ones to try it, will we?

Okay, I’m done sounding off.  If you have an opinion to share on any of these, please comment below.  Until next time, my lovely nerds!

Short and Sweet: Captain America Review

I’ll post a longer spoiler-rich review later, but in the meantime have a Captain America horsd’oeuvre.

Saturday I went to a matinee screening of Captain America: The First Avenger.  I had high hopes for the film based on the trailers I watched going in.  Those trailers told me I would enjoy an action-packed super-hero ride, and for the most part those trailers were correct.  And as it turned out, I even dug the parts in which those trailers were incorrect.

First visual impression: Wow!  I have to admit to being a sucker for the look and style of the 1940’s wartime era, and this film did a super-swell job of capturing that for me.  Nothing seemed out of place; even the obvious “future science” moments maintained the style of the time while looking suitably futuristic.

I also think the movie did a great job of capturing Steve Rogers’ strength of character, pre- and post-procedure.  Beyond the physical abilities he gains, that character has always stood out as the most important part of Captain America for me.  Actor Chris Evans did not disappoint me on that score, giving me the Captain America I’ve come to know and love.

Other actors turned in great performances as well.  Hugo Weaving was fantastically nasty as Red Skull, providing a great, if somewhat stereo-typically obvious foil to Captain America.  Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter with equal parts bad-assness and grace.  And both Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones turn in memorable supporting roles as Dr. Abraham Erskine and Colonel Chester Phillips, respectively.

All in all, I loved this movie.  I cared about the characters, there was tons of the hard-fisted, bullets-flying action I came to see and I went away really excited to see more.  If there was one sour note for me, it was that last.  I do want to see more Captain America, but I would like to see more of him in his own era.  Other may disagree, but I think Marvel missed an opportunity to slip in 2 or 3 WWII Captain America films before syncing up with The Avengers.

That’s it for my short and sweet look at Captain America. Tune in next week for a more in-depth (and spoiler-filled) look at the film.

*     *     *

While I have you, I just wanted to talk a  bit about 2D versus 3D.  I specifically sought out a screening in 2D, for a number of reasons.  A very important reason was that a few of the friends watching with me cannot watch a 3D film; they fall in with the roughly 10% of people for whom 3D is nauseating and headache inducing.  Also, I’m on sort of a budget these days, so paying out the extra money for a 3D screening made no sense (although, since it was my birthday I ended up not paying for my ticket anyway; thanks Sheelagh! But the point in general stands.)

But the main reason?  3D does nothing for me.  Too often these days it is used in a film simply because that is what you do now.  And I will admit to being suitably impressed by it on a number of occasions when it was used with purpose.  But too many times it is an afterthought to the filming process, or thrown in at moments when it is just jarring.  Instead of feeling like I’m part of the action, I end up noticing all the 3D seams in the film and that serves to pull me out of something I’m trying to enjoy.  And then there are the times that it just mechanically doesn’t work; something is wrong with projection so the 3D is fuzzy or dark. And now I’ve payed extra to “enjoy” something that is partially or wholly unwatchable.

So this is my plea to the film industry, which I expect to go largely unheeded: Stop filming in 3D.  It is no less a gimmick than it was in the 1950s, and most of you are not using it right anyway.  To show you how serious I am,  I make this promise right now: I will not see another film in 3D.  Ever again.  And I invite all my film-loving friends to join me in this boycott.  The only way 3D will go away is if it hits Hollywood in the pocket book.  If enough people shun 3D (and I think it is starting to happen) this fad can go away again.

What do you think?  Did you see the Cap in action?  What do you think about 2D vs. 3D?