Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Special Guest Post By THE DOG

To the one that is not Mom,

I wish to file a formal complaint with the way that you have been running the establishment heretofore known as "Home."

There are certain things that one comes to expect from the people he hires.  Premium customer service is one of those things.  As my employees, I expect to have my needs met in as prompt a fashion as possible.  In exchange for the various services that I require, I continue to pay you in the privilege of being in my presence.

There is a long standing tradition at Home in which I am attired in my finest neckware and detachable accessories and ride in the Mobile Couch to the Store. Although this is supposed to be the sole purpose of the Mobile Couch, I do allow you to indulge in your little day-trips as long as my trips to the Store are regular and result in tasty snacks.  However, it is a breech of trust in that very agreement that I must address today.

Recently, I was presented with my collar, as per usual, and positioned myself in the back window where I could gaze out upon my kingdom.  However, I was dismayed to find our trip cut short when we did not continue on to the Store, but instead arrived at a new destination not previously suggested for the itinerary.  I bore this interruption with as much grace as can be expected in the situation, but let's not mince words--I was rather out of sorts with yours and Mom's choices.

Things were compounded when this place was quickly exposed as the malicious establishment it is.  A foul woman spoke to me in the most grating gibberish I've heard uttered in my presence in some time--and I still haven't forgotten the Christmas Sweater incident of 2012 and neither have my lawyers.  Soon, this horrible woman was ushering me into a dingy room in the back of the building where atrocities were committed that I will not detail explicitly here lest impressionable pups be reading this, but let us say that things were done to my bottom and the odorous leavings in your shoe are a present offered in the same spirit.

Not-Mom, you and Mom have been loyal employees so far, and I want to keep you around, but your performance in this situation was most unprofessional.  If any of the above grievances are repeated, I'm afraid I may have to seek someone else to fill the position.

Please understand that these criticisms are to help you grow as an employee and take them in the spirit they are offered.


Sanford Barkhaus Ruffington the IV

P.S. Please remind Mom that I require more apples as I am out.  You know how I enjoy my post-urination apple.  Honestly, Not-Mom, you're getting sloppy.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Confused By WTF "Male Gaze" Is?

Whenever people get to arguing about sexism, one thing that can really bring out the ballyhooing by cisgendered, straight white men about their fee-fees getting hurt is the concept of "male gaze."  They complain that male gaze is ridiculous or make excuses about why male gaze is appropriate in some situations and generally, just derail the conversation at hand.

That, or, if you're like I was when I started reading into feminism, you're just straight up confused by what male gaze is, why it might be a problem, and how you can avoid it.

Well, the fantastic Rantasmo of the Blip show Needs More Gay has a wonderful explanation.  You can check out more of Rantasmo's work on his Blip channel here, or his hosting home at Chez Apocalypse.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Thoughts on the New Doctor

In case you haven't heard by this point, BBC decided to something completely unheard of with the character of the Doctor in the hit show Doctor Who.

See, the Doctor is a Time Lord that has a special ability originally conceived for plot convenience, namely that he can transform/shapeshift into a new person when he's dying.  This is what has allowed the show to continue for so many years--old actor retires, get a new one.

BBC decided to go against decades of tradition by older white man for the part.

Way to break the mold, guys.

Now, you may have heard the buzz all over the internet because there were many people that were really upset by this.  See, people have been campaigning pretty hard for a female Doctor or a PoC Doctor for many years, but most especially since Matt Smith announced he was leaving.  This was a prime opportunity to try something new with the series, to really shake things up.

There all sorts of terrible reasons people give for why the Doctor should stay white, male, cis-gendered, and heterosexual, but all of those reasons are stupid--sorry, but they are.  They don't stand up to scrutiny.  It's been mentioned before that Time Lords can change races--River Song--and genders--The Corsair.  This opens up so many cool new ways to allow exploration of the Doctor's character, particularly in relation to his companions.

While the Doctor used to travel with people of all stripes, since his revival with Eccleston, it's mostly been young, attractive women that are instantly in love with him and want to jump his bones: Rose, Martha, Amy, Clara.  This is especially true under Moffat, who's even gone on record to explain why he feels the Doctor does that, but it mostly seems to be a justification so he can keep the Doctor the male power fantasy that he currently is.

I've mentioned before that I'm tired of the young, attractive, smart, quippy companions that flirt with the Doctor.  None of those things are bad individually, but when you constantly get the same type of character, it gets old.  I'm tired of the females flirting with the Doctor.  Donna Noble was my favorite companion because she and the Doctor were just great friends--best friends.  Sure they quipped, they fought, they constantly tried to outsmart each other, but it was in the awesome brother-sister way that made their relationship so endearing.

Bickering, snarking at each other.  They were awesome!

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that Peter Capaldi will be great.  And it is an interesting choice to make. Since the last three Doctors have been young, relatively handsome men, it'll be interesting to see what an older Doctor will do, especially after the more goofy, effeminate Doctor that Matt Smith played.  However, it was sort of bogus to cop out of the decision.

From what I've read online, Moffat comes across as a bit of a douchebag.  I mean, maybe he's completely different in person, but all of the interviews always make him seem incredibly smug, and his handling of this situation is just awful.

When Matt Smith decided to leave, BBC was careful to say that a woman had not been ruled out to replace Matt Smith.  However, Moffat has gone on record saying that the only person he considered was Peter Capaldi.  Boob Tube Dude (@TVMcGee on Twitter) said it better than I can:
Had Moffat come out and said, "You know, I heard all of those suggests for a female Doctor. And they bring up a good point! Changing things up is part of this show's DNA. Had I thought of a good way to bring that into the story organically, I would have leaped at the opportunity. But instead of change for change sake, I went with an actor who filled my idea of the next Doctor." Those that wanted change would have grumbled, but at least felt as if the showrunner heard and understood cries for a Doctor that was different from its predecessors, even if the show ultimately went a different way. Instead, Moffat chose to actually attack those that suggested that a female Doctor would be a good thing. Singling out Helen Mirren, who told him once that it would be good to have a female play the role, he said, "Well, I'd like to see a man play The Queen."
You should read that whole article I linked to, as it has loads of smart things to say about why his comment is problematic.

(For no small amount of irony, a man actually did play the Queen.  Queen Elizabeth I, that is, in the 1992 film Orlando.)

Thankfully, there are rumors that Moffat will only be around for one more season (or, for the British--"series"), which, honestly, is probably for the best.  He has written some fantastic scripts, but as a show runner he has completely driven me bananas.  He has absolutely ruined one of my favorite characters (River Song), and when he ran out of mystery for Amy and Rory, it was like the show just dried up and became this boring slog.  You can have married characters be interesting.  I don't know what it is with serialized writers thinking marriage makes characters boring, but people in DC have echoed similar things.  It's why Spider-Man is no longer married to Mary Jane, and why the DC reboot has pushed all the characters back to younger versions of themselves with no kids or marriages or anything.  Bo-ring.

To be somewhat fair, Neil Gaiman has commented on this.  His responses are at least fair, and they make me wish he were running the show rather than Moffat.
And here, for what it’s worth, are my other thoughts: Do I think it’s time to cast a woman as the Doctor? Not yet. Not quite. And lord, if and when they ever do that, I want them to keep it the biggest secret in the world until we see it happen on our screens during the regeneration. Would I like a person of colour as the Doctor? Absolutely. Paterson Joseph was the Marquis de Carabas in Neverwhere, because he aced the auditions, and beat all the other actors, mostly white, who tried out for the role. I’d want that kind of performance at the audition for the Doctor. And there are certainly actors good enough out there that it feels like a missed opportunity. Does that mean I’m disappointed by Peter? No, just excited to see what kind of Doctor he makes. He’s an Academy- Award winning director, an amazing actor and I really liked him when I worked with him before.
[I]f I were show-running (I’m not) I wouldn’t cast a woman as the Doctor yet, and it would absolutely be on my list of things to do in the following regeneration. (I was the one who wrote the line about the Corsair changing gender on regeneration, in “The Doctor’s Wife" after all, and made it canon that Time Lords can absolutely change gender when they regenerate.) 
Some of that is stuff I’d find hard to articulate, mostly having to do with what kind of Doctor you follow Matt Smith’s Doctor with: someone harder and much older and more dangerous and, yes, male feels right to me, as a storyteller. Where you go after that, ah, that’s a whole new game…
I was rather disappointed that Paterson Joseph didn’t get it last time, although I’ve loved Matt’s Eleven.) And yes, I have no doubt there will be [an actor of color]. (I know one black actor who was already offered the part of the Doctor, and who turned it down.) Just as there will be a female Doctor.

If Moffat's response had been something like that, I wouldn't have been happy necessarily, but I don't think anyone would be as pissed off as they are.

The most frustrating thing about this is not that there wasn't a female Doctor, or a black Doctor, or a combination of the two.  It's that there was never a chance.  His comment about a man playing the Queen was annoying because he's essentially saying, "What an absurd idea.  That'll never happen."  It completely writes off any hopes we had as a bunch of silly fluff.  It's doubly hurtful when you learn that Capaldi was the only person that Moffat even considered.
Asked whether the list of potential actors to play the Doctor was a short one, Moffat told The Mirror: “Yes. The list went ‘Peter Capaldi’. It was a very short list.”
I understand Capaldi was considered for last season's run, but it was decided that Matt Smith was the better fit,

And I also want to stress that this has nothing to do with Capaldi.  He seems really nice, and I'm sure he'll do a brilliant job.  But Moffat seems determined that there won't be a female Doctor, especially not during his run.  And that is just so sad.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Weekend Movie Round-Up: Fruitvale Station and The Wolverine

As you know, I go see a lot of movies. I've only met a handful of people that like movies even a teensy bit as much as me. I saw some movies this weekend. I will now talk about them. This is:


Whenever you hear that someone is doing a biopic, it's almost always some huge story spanning decades that touches on the various events in the life of some famous person.  Lincoln, 42, and the forthcoming Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom are just a few recent examples.

Fruitvale Station is not that.

In 2009, Oscar Grant was fatally shot in the back while being held, face-down on the ground, by police.  His death sparked a massive controversy and tons of protests in the Oakland area.  There isn't a lot of shaky ground on the events, either, because the shooting was captured on lots of cellphones.

This movie is an intimate look at the last day in the life of Oscar Grant--the good and the bad.  It is a beautiful, moving, sweet film builds towards one of the ugliest, and meanest endings I've seen.

By the way, none of this is spoilers.  Not only is this film based on a true story--so you should already know--but the film begins with actual cellphone footage of Oscar Grant being shot.

It is a fucked up and incredibly effective way to begin the film.

The film is super short--just under 90 minutes--but it will stay with you for days afterward, man.  I'm still thinking about it.  As the events build, you feel this sick feeling in your gut start to grow.  You know what's coming, and you know it's going to be horrible.

And the whole time, Michael B. Jordan is putting his all into this performance.  He's an amazing actor, and if this film doesn't get him the push he needs to be cast as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four movie, I'm going to call all kinds of bullshit.

There was one other person in the theater when my wife and I saw it.  Go see it.  Go.  Please.  But be prepared to cry.

The other movie that the wife and I saw this weekend was The Wolverine.

I love Hugh Jackman as an actor.  I've always enjoyed him in whatever I'm watching, and everything I've seen seems to confirm him as one of the nicest people in showbiz.

Hugh Jackman is pretty much iconic as comic book character Wolverine at this point.  Jackman is pretty much the only person I can think of that can do the job.  He is great.

I also love the X-Men movies--except The Last Stand.  I'm even somewhat of a X-Men Origins: Wolverine apologist.

That's why it pains me to say that The Wolverine is a bit of a dud.  I enjoyed it.  It was a fun movie.  It didn't necessarily suck as much as it was just incredibly forgettable.  Which is sad.  Hugh Jackman was fantastic--as always.  He's said that he loves playing the character, and in all honesty, I love to watch him.  But there was a something hugely lacking in this film.

Don't get me wrong.  It's waaay better than Origins.  But it still felt lacking.

Interestingly enough, the film takes place after X-Men: The Last Stand, making this the first film to further that plotline in 7 years.  At the end of that film *SPOILERS*, Wolverine was forced to kill Jean Grey, who had been completely taken over by The Phoenix.  This film begins an undetermined amount of years later, with Wolverine having shunned all of humanity, living in the mountains, trying to deal with the emotional impact of having killed the second person he loved.

This should have made for a fantastic movie.  However, the film tries to do too much and too little at the same time.  One of the recurring themes in this movie is how Wolverine's long life means that everyone that means anything to him will die eventually--and as a particularly poignant combination, both people that he has grown to love have been killed because of his particularly dangerous lifestyle.

When Wolverine meets a young, beautiful woman and finds himself unexpectedly attracted to her, it should have been an interesting movie as he tried to deal with having feelings for someone in spite of his fears that they will be taken away from him.  However, that isn't the case, because this is a comic book movie, that means we have to constantly have explosions and chase scenes and action sequences.

Jackman has a few moments of pure, unadulterated awesome--beating up an animal abuser, beating the shit out of a bad guy to get information that culminates in one of the most WOLVERINE moments I've ever seen on the screen--but most of the action sequences feel kind of pointless.

I left to go refill my popcorn and drink and use the bathroom.  I was gone probably five minutes.  I came back, the action sequence was still going, and I hadn't missed anything.  My wife said:  "They got on a train."  That's it.  Action sequences need more than that.  It's why the light saber fights in the original Star Wars movies are so good.  They have emotional depth to them.  There's more than just two guys bashing swords.

This should have been way more awesome than it turned out being.

This movie also suffers from fetishizing the Asian culture.  I don't know anything about Japanse culture, really.  I've gleaned a tiny sliver from having watched some anime and read a bit of manga in college, but I wouldn't even begin to claim that I know anything, really.  So the fact that this movie is set in Japan bothers me for two reasons:

1) With the exception of having some set pieces, being set in Japan does nothing for the film.  I mean, sure, Wolverine having saved someone from the Nagasaki bombing is the catalyst of the film, but tweak that to him saving someone from a bombing in England during the blitzkrieg and you've got essentially the same idea.  Nothing about Japan is particularly necessary to the plot, and no themes that seem relevant to the Japanese culture that might have benefited by the setting are explored.  So, it's mostly just: look, exotic, eh?

2)  The Japanese culture that is shown in the film is incredibly cliched, stereotypical Japanese culture.  It's almost like the producers sat around and said, "What's Japanese? it.  Let's do this!"

JAPAN!!!  GET IT??!!

I'm not kidding.  They constantly reference "honor" throughout the movie, but not in a way that hinges on the plot or could really drive the plot in anyway.  But it comes across as if that's all Japanese people care about.

Also, the excuse for everything having a sort of feudal Japan feel to it is because Master McGuffin that calls Wolverine in is a "traditionalist."  They don't explore what that means.  We see several times when they're out wandering the streets that Japan looks pretty much like every other capitalist place, except for some weird hotels.  But it's never remarked upon.  It's just, "this guy likes it traditional" so that we can have a whole bunch of Japanese stereotypes shoved into our faces.

And don't get me started on Wolverine's love interest.  She is so incredibly bland.  She speaks in the same, soft, monotone throughout the movie, and does basically nothing.  The girl with the red hair in the film, Yukio, is way more awesome, but she gets side-lined so we can make room for the incredibly forced romance between The Wolverine and Mariko.

Would've preferred more of these two, less of the boring love interest.

All that said, you know what was nice?  To see so many PoC actors getting work.  I mean, it's sad that it has to be in a movie that relies on cultural stereotypes so much it might as well be a Japanese Medieval Times restaurant, but, hey, at least it's better than The Lone Ranger.

But, if you take out all of my complaining about the representation of Japanese culture, which I freely admit I'm not an expert on, the movie still isn't great.  The plot is nonsensical.  That in itself is not a crime: so were The Avengers and The Dark Knight's.  But those had nonsensical plots driven by nuanced interesting characters.  Even if, when the pieces were all put together it was convoluted and silly, you didn't care, because the people were so interesting.

In this one, while it starts with promise, after Yukio gets sidelined, the movie has a tendency to annoy and bore.  As I said, Jackman's good, but the romance is so incredibly forced I was afraid my eyes would roll so hard they'd pop out of my head.

I mean, I still say go see it, but don't really expect a whole lot.  It's fun, it's enjoyable, but it won't blow the doors of the genre.  It definitely wasn't as good as First Class.  Just enjoy what little screen time Yukio gets, Hugh Jackman being badass, and Hugh Jackman's incredibly-muscled-shirtless-most-of-the-time physique.

Daaaaaaaamn, Hugh!

And stay through the credits for a scene that sets up for X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Which is shaping up to be incredible.