Category: Movies


Universal Studios has made a movie which re-imagines Snow White as a warrior woman. Strangely, the main character of the film seems to be the Huntsman, which makes me skeptical to the “empowerment” of Snow White that the trailer promises. I have a bad feeling that the movie will ultimately make the Huntsman the hero and Snow White will just be pretty. However, “See first, judge after” I always say. Here’s the trailer:

The Blogger “Fangs for the fantasy” takes on the evolution of Snow White in a pretty good article here.

My question, why is every modernization and re-telling of fairy tales focuses on Snow White, Cinderrella or another princess? Naturally its good to critique the old saga of a distressed damsel whose only goal is to get married, but instead of constantly high-lighting the distressed damsels and attempting to make them badass warriors, perhaps bringing one of the first fierce heroines to the modern screen would be more interesting? Gretel, from the saga “Hansel and Gretel”, is to my knowledge one of the few females who save the day in ancient western story telling. She’s portrayed as smart, caring and strong. She’s also not royalty, which makes her an empowering female character that can appeal to everyone – she’s the “everywoman”! I would love to see a film titled “Gretel” make its way to the movie screen. It would be great to see a film that acknowledges that strong female characters have existed in literature for a long time. And instead of making the helpless Snow White more of an icon of our culture, maybe we should start seeing Gretel as the new icon for our cultural heritage?

Update: A commenter just pointed out that there is a upcoming film where Gretel as well as Hansel are re-imagined as fierce warriors! The film is titled “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” and it’s premiere is in 2013. Here’s the films IMDb page. I’m hyped now! Is anyone else hyped as well?

Hi Everyone. This moth I have two exams coming up, so unfortunately I wont be able to publish any post until June. Sorry for that, but luckily, I can say I have a lot of ideas for blog post. So come summer, it’ll be raining post at this blog!

Before I leave for a moth, here’s some articles you guys and gals should check out!:

At The Daily Kos, contributer theothermaven wrote a splendid critic on DC comics New 52- series.

At Guardian, Emer O’Toole defending body hair and bravely argued why women should stop shaving. You go, sister!

The great writer Maurice Sendak just passed away this week. May the man rest in peace. As a memorial, here’s a clip of Stephen Colbert interviewing Mr. Sendak.

Jezebel had two interesting essays this week. One was about Hillary Clinton boldly going before cameras without any make up. And sorry for reputation, but I have to say it: You go, sister!

The other was a reflective piece on whether men are attracted to what they think other men approve on or not.

Lastly, if you haven’t heard of the fantastic film critic Mark Kermode, let me introduce you to him by the following three (short) videos with three of his most funny and insightful reviews:

Mr. Kermode’s famous “Sex and the City 2” (2010) rant (love this review!):

His review of the mockumentary “Pimp” (2010):

And finally, his negatively loving review of “Mamma Mia!” (2008):

Peace and love/ Maaretta

First, some two to three weeks old, but still worth a read, essays and articles:

At Feministing, Chloe Angyal pondered if Facebook is enabling eating disorders.

At the same blog, you can read about Guatemala launching a femicide unit.

The blog Racialicious had a good article on racist fans of “The Hunger Games” series.

Also at Racialicious, Andrea Plaid made a tribute to Nichelle Nichols, who’s most famous for portraying Uhura in the original “Star Trek”- series.

Feminist Blogger Kelsey Wallace wrote a short, but spot-on and brilliant, critique of George Clooney’s film “The Ides Of March”. Like Ms. Wallace, I was also highly disturb by the films nearly anti-abortion message, as well as the way the female main lead was written as well.

Alya Dawn Johnson at The Angry Black Woman talked about the Bechdel Test and race.

At Bitch Media, Caroline Narby wrote an article on girls and Asperger’s.

At Colorlines, Hatty Lee posted some statistics which show that thousands of young black men die in gun crimes every year.

Since March is ending, which means the end of “Women’s History Month” is near, the team at Gender Across Borders recommends us to remember Marie Curie.

Second, the new:

Glenn Greenwald wrote about three congressional challengers worth supporting.

Blogger Arturo R. Garcia, who’s works focus often on race and popular culture, explored how Felicia Day and Chris Hardwick reinforced Geekdom’s whiteness.

Rest In Peace, Adrienne Rich.

Update: As Maya Dusenbery (feminist blogger and activist) noted perfectly, a win for abortion rights has been made in Argentina! (Article written by Edurne Cárdenas)

And lastly, something fun!

The Lonely Island’s songs haven’t often thrilled me much. However, “Like A Boss” is a hilarious song. Watch the video below!

The Welsh artists “Marina And The Diamonds” song “Oh No!” is witty and colorful social commentary, with a great melody. View the video below!

“Valentine’s Day is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap” – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Ah, the 14th of February! The day is slowly, but surely, coming upon us with all that it entails with its meanderings and commercially tinted vocabulary of love. Usually we are fed the most mundane and conservative of loves: predominately focused on the heterosexual, circulating around the material gift as its expression, and, usually, one sex seen as passively accepting the honors of the day. Not to mention the holiday’s neglect of love that isn’t “successful”; i.e. the holiday’s depiction of romance that is blissfully ignorant of the times when love falls far short of happy endings. Valentine’s Day uplifts the beautiful, harmonic side of love, which no doubt is important. On the other hand, the sad and dark parts of love are a major part of romance and relationships. Therefore, it is my pleasure to contemplate those most unhappy of love tales which I invite the curious reader of this post to watch, read, or listen to on Valentine’s Day.
(Note: I will talk about the tragic parts of the tales and stories of love and betrayal, so this post will harbor the most conclusive of spoilers).

The series “Powerpuff Girls” was a children’s cartoon about three kinder garden aged girls with superpowers which ran for six seasons from the years 1998 to 2004. The episodes were filled with irony and amusing reconstructions on the superhero and the story-telling around them. The series was also a delightful blending of action and cuteness, featuring very bold and strong heroines who never drifted far from their adventurous and comical personalities: Blossom-the intelligent, but slightly vain leader, Bubbles-who’s naïve and passive-aggressive, and Buttercup-the rough and tumble tomboy (who despite being a tomboy always wears a dress). Most of the episodes concentrated on the girls solving the mysteries, and actively fighting crime and the criminal. Still the episode “Buttercrush” which aired on season one as its fourth episode, found the tough and unsentimental Buttercup embroiled in her first crush. She falls for Ace, a bully and mean leader of a criminal gang, who manipulates Buttercup by sweet-talking himself and his gang out of trouble. After successfully getting Buttercup to believe he returns her affections, Ace sets out a plan to use the situation as a chance to kill off Blossom and Bubbles. However, Buttercup finds out about Ace’s plan and doesn’t take to the attempted murder of her sisters kindly.

“Buttercrush” portrays two different types of love. Firstly we are presented with Buttercup’s blind infatuation with the bad guy Ace, which is exploitive and manipulative. This theme is extremely universal, for haven’t we all sometimes been taken advantaged of due to our emotions blinding us? The second form of love is that which we find between siblings. This love is demonstrated by Buttercups ultimate loyalty to her sisters and her sisters understanding and forgiveness to their sister’s misguided crush. The girls share an unconditional love to each other, which strength saves Buttercup from the deceitful Ace. Even if it is sad to see Buttercup get her heart shattered, it is still extremely touching to see how important the bond with her sisters is to Buttercup. Bad love and good love, both demonstrated in this fine episode!

Greek Mythology is known and regarded for its near soap-opera like tales of the gods and god-like creatures. When I was young, I read all the myths I could come across, and at the age of ten I read the myth of “Apollo and Daphne”, which details Apollo’s first love. Humorously, it was the first love story I enjoyed (and the only one I would enjoy till recent years), so much that I read it out loud to the grownups around me. In the legend, Apollo enrages Eros by claiming he’s too much of a boy to handle his arrows. Eros decides to prove Apollo wrong, so he shoots one golden arrow into Apollo and one blunt dart into the nymph Daphne. Thus Apollo falls violently in love with Daphne despite Daphne not wanting anything to do with Apollo. This leads to Apollo obsessively chasing Daphne, begging her to marry him. While Daphne sees Apollo as an ultimate terror, Apollo can’t stop thinking about how wonderful Daphne is, even when she runs from him. The nymph tries to escape Apollo multiple times, and in her most desperate hour pleads the earth goddess Gaea to destroy her beauty. She is then transformed into a tree. However, Apollo loves Daphne even in this form, and concludes: “Since you cannot be my wife, you shall become my tree”. The love sick god takes the tree to his heavenly garden where he intends to keep it eternally. After his last soliloquy of love he embraces the plant.

“Apollo and Daphne”, famous statue by Bernini

This legend is an intense take on obsession, unrequited love and despair. Daphne is a woman who can’t escape her stalker and not even as a tree finds freedom. Apollo is a lost, immature man struck with feelings he can’t handle. The ending is bittersweet in the realization that Apollo didn’t love Daphne for her looks, but for who she was and how she expressed her being. Daphne having her beauty destroyed couldn’t alter the feelings which Apollo felt for her. Even though we find the stalker Apollo as unsettling in the extreme in this story, we still find ourselves oddly moved by the tragedy which unfolds. Apollo, as immature in his emotions, doesn’t have the means to handle unrequited love and reacts to it as a child would, making his actions sympathetically tragic in hindsight, while still overdone and horrific in his refusal to accept her wishes (no means no). In short this could also be a cautionary tale of what happens when you refuse to take no for an answer. If you can get your hands on a collection of Ancient Greek legends, make sure to read this tale of woe.

“Futurama” is an animated series created by Matt Groening. The series centers on Philip J. Fry, a delivery boy who is accidently frozen in 1999 and thawed out in the year 2999. There he befriends a scoundrel robot named Bender, a warrior-spirited Cyclops named Leela and starts working for an absent minded professor Farnsworth, who is Fry’s last living relative. Due to Fry’s situation, many episodes explored the things Fry had left behind back in his 1999. The most famous, or infamous as some would say, was “Jurassic Bark” (season four, episode seven). Fry uncovers the remains of his late dog and learns that 29th century science will be able to resurrect his beloved pet, Seymour. Fry is thrilled, but his best friend Bender grows painfully jealous, disliking the fact that Fry is paying more attention to Seymour’s remains then he is to their mutual friendship. The plot portrays Bender’s jealousy leading to near disaster, but Bender redeems himself in the end, learning to sympathize with Fry’s wishes. The episode at that point seems upbeat and will end happily, until Fry learns that his dog died at the age of fifteen. He then decides not to resurrect Seymour. The last scene takes the viewers back to the 21th century. Seymour is shown patiently waiting for Fry, year after year, in summer sun and in pouring rain. He dies of old age while still contemplating the return of his human friend Fry. Fry’s decision to leave the past as it is and not resurrect the long dead friend makes the episode a complete downer, since Seymour will now never get to be with Fry again.

“Jurassic Bark” is perhaps the saddest episode from “Futurama”, and as one of the most powerful and touching one we find in the series. Bender learns to become a better friend to Fry, which is an uplifting plot point. However Seymour’s love for Fry is devastating, and he uncompromisingly waits for his owner to return to him in a past without mercy. Fry will never return, and love and loyalty is depicted in a dark, bitter light. This episode is a must see. However, a fair warning is that you should have many boxes of tissues beside you while watching this utterly depressing, striking episode.

“Pokémon” is a Japanese children’s Anime show which takes place in a world filled with so-called pocket monsters. People in this world collect these creatures by “catching them”, maintaining them in small magical globes and then training them to fight each other (i.e. this world is a member’s of PETA worst nightmare). Ash, the show’s star, is a young boy who travels this world finding and pursuing a multitude of adventures with his favorite Pokémon, Pikachu, and his two friends, the feisty Misty and the caring Brock. The team of friends is constantly chased by Team Rocket, a criminal trio who steal Pokémon’s from others. The members are Jesse and James, and the talking Pokémon Meowth. Meowth is a cat-like creature, who is the only one of his species who can speak and walks on two feet. This is a mystery many characters in the show ponder about aloud, but it’s not until the seventy-second episode, “Go West, Young Meowth!” that an explanation for this phenomena is given. Team Rocket decides to go to Hollywood, which awakens painful memories in Meowth, causing him to reveal his past to the viewers. Turns out Meowth started out as a hungry homeless Pokémon, who couldn’t talk and walked on four paws. After seeing a block-buster film, Meowth decides to traveled to Hollywood in search of glamorous food, ending up in a thieving league of other Meowths and a Persian (another cat-like Pokémon). Finally having and abundance and grand access to food, he comes to longed for love as well. His craving for love is fulfilled in his becoming smitten with Meowsie, a female version of a Meowth. His love will never be returned since, as she is more than boldly willing to tell him, she is rich and he is not, and she values beyond measure her rich owner who will give her constant love in the guise of expensive gifts. Meowth becomes determined to win the love of his heart through making himself as human-like as possible to emulate the owner and master of Meowsie. Throughout a torturous process, Meowth learns to talk and walk like a human. Yet, Despite this massive effort, Meowsie still turns him down, telling him, in no uncertain terms, that though he has achieved these behaviors, he is a street-cat. Meowth leaves the pain of unreturned love to seek out riches, hoping he then would finally win Meowsies heart. After this past is revealed in the story, Meowth finds himself returning to Hollywood with Team Rocket, where he meets his lost love Meowsie again, only to find that his ex-love has been abandoned by her owner and need to be with Meowht’s old criminal gang to survive. Meowht promises Meowsie to help her leave the gang and he fights in order to gain her freedom from the gang, only to have Meowsie reject him again and stay with Persian. Meowth, at last, realizes he’ll never win Meowsie’s heart and is shown at the end of the episode devastated.

This episode is the only Pokémon episode I’ve re-watched since my early childhood, and it made a bigger impact on me now than when I was seven. The episode brings up a painful, yet solid truth about love: sometimes you will make great sacrifices and deeds for the one you love; only to find rejection and denial. All the pain and forfeit will be for nothing. This happens to everyone at least once in their lifetime. It’s nearly shocking how honestly Pokémon is able to portray this fact, considering the love martyr being a talking cat-like creature. The issue of class is also brought up nicely. A strong recommendation for anyone who has sometimes felt used!

Ang Lee is a Taiwanese-born director who has made a number of great films, many which have love as a major theme. He’s two most famous films are “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Brokeback Mountain” (2005). The Latter is an adaption of the short story written by Annie Proulx, and follows the literary works plot to the letter. The film stars Health Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who do stunning portrayals of star-crossed lovers in the 60’s Wyoming, capturing all the heartfelt wonder of two guys who, despite loving each other, never really get to be together. The film is beautifully shot, the characters are complex and the ending brutal. Few romantic films are this well done. Proulx’s short story is also a great read for those who haven’t examined it yet, too.

Nancy Sinatra’s song “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” is a beautiful song about falling for your friend in early childhood, only to be horribly abused and abandoned by that friend once you’ve grown up. Listen to the song below. (The Clip features the lyrics!).

Kraftwerk’s song “Sexobject” deals with feeling emotionally neglected and used. View video below.

Jack Off Jill’s song “Vivica” depicts friendship, abuse and repressed feelings. Lyrics and song exist below.

These sagas of woe and misfortune all depict harsh realities that come with loving another person, despite the stories varying from cartoons to mythology to grittier down-to earth films and songs. All of these tales are exquisitely interesting takes on love, friendship and devotion, and all are handled with care and marvel.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Take Care/ Maaretta

What can you say about Detective stories and novels? That they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle not invented his iconic character Sherlock Holmes, that’s for sure. The first detective story of the modern genre type was written by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, in 1841.* And even if the detective and its archetypical form of narrative detective structure as formulated in Poe’s short story was an inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his character Holmes is by far the one that set in motion the beloved rules which became the detective story: a strong, outstanding personality, the importance of details, the use of deductive reasoning applied to the material of the world, the righting of social (and personal) injustice, and a loyal (and documenting) sidekick.

Edgar Allen Poe

Sherlock Holmes is the most recognizable detective in Literature. He is well-known and loved for his wit, ability to notice minor details that crack cases wide open and his love for lingering around in his morning robe, as well as smoking a pipe. Sir Conan Doyle’s detective stories also featured Holmes’ loyal friend Dr. Watson, who provided the narration for all but a few of the stories, and who has become one of the most famous of sidekicks. Among the famous and infamous characters which line the hall of fame of personalities which inhabit the Holmesian canon are the characters Irene Adler, an actress who is the only one to outsmart Holmes, and Holmes’ archenemy Professor James Moriarty. These two particular characters find glad residence at the heart of Sherlock Holmes Fandom and discussion, and have been portrayed in various films by various actors. In fact, they too have found themselves being re-invented countless number of times along with the principles of the case Holmes and Watson.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The two most recent and popular re-inventions of the Sherlockian Genre are Guy Ritchie’s two “Sherlock Holmes” action packed films starring Robert Downey Jr. and, now, BBC’s modernization “Sherlock”, a Television series created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Both of these adaptions are pretty well done as well as being interesting interpretations of Sir Conan Doyle’s creation. Ritchie’s films move more towards the comedic while BBC’s series land a bit more in the realm of the dramatic. In this post I will analyze how both these Adaptations’ portray their re-invented characters, as well as their tone in the story telling.

Portrait for Strand Magazine, by Sidney Paget (where the famous “detective hat” first appears!)

Let’s start with the chief anti-hero himself: Sherlock Holmes. In “Sherlock”, he’s portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who represents Holmes as a very cold personage who is often beyond the merely cruelly blunt. He openly shows great delight in murder cases, especially very elaborate ones, like serial killings. Holmes in “Sherlock” seems to not care for many people, except for very few friends. And even towards his friends he can be, what can only be labeled, a jerk. The interpretation of Holmes in “Sherlock” is a quite brutal one; He is often mean, but always is largely talented. Downey Jr.’s Holmes is portrayed less as mean spirited, but lacking and devoid of social skills. He is largely obsessive, but more affectionate towards Watson in this version. His erratic behavior is more bizarre than cruel, and Ritchie uses the peculiar personality for laughs. However, even Downey Jr’s version of Holmes can come off as rude at times, but it does feel less malicious than Cumberbatch’s version. Both Holmes are shown to be experts at detection though attention to details and extraordinary fighters.

The Holmes which gets more character development is Cumberbatch’s. During the first season of “Sherlock”, Cumberbatch depicts Holmes as not caring about anyone besides Watson and seemingly doesn’t care about the murder victims whose cases he is attempting to solve. However, in the last episode of season one, he is briefly shown panicking when a child is endangered by Moriarty and his detection solution (which he has counted on to save the child) is shown to be lacking a key point. In the second season, Holmes apologizes to people he says vicious things to and shows more concern for his friends. Even committing himself to heroic sacrifice to protect those close to him.

Moffat’s Sherlock Holmes

Downey Jr’s character doesn’t develop much in either film, be it “Sherlock Holmes” from 2009 or “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” from 2011. The only change we see is his growing acceptance of Mary, Watson’s fiancée/wife. So, in terms of a character, Cumberbatch’s Holmes is more interesting as well as probably how Holmes is suppose to come across in Sir Conan Doyle’s stories. But Downey Jr. depiction in Guy Ritchie’s films is hilarious and often lightly and springingly entertaining. Both Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch bring their obvious talents to the character of Holmes and believe in the passion of their roles and its spirit. So my conclusion is that Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the detective is more serious and complicated, therefore more superior to Downey Jr’s. But both make excellent Homes.

Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes

The two versions of Watson also differ greatly from one another. In the Guy Ritchie’s version, Watson (Jude Law) is a soon to be married man who grows impatient with Holmes and the wild situations Holmes sucks him into. In the BBC version, John (as he mostly goes by, played by Martin Freeman) is fiercely loyal and quite enjoys the “adventures” Holmes gets him into. The BBC version of Watson as character additionally functions as a conscience for Sherlock, calling him out when he is rude or insensitive. John, in both versions of the characterization also dislikes Holmes butting in on his dates and mating habits, for example where Freeman objects to Holmes showing up on a date he has with a fellow doctor (“Watson: Actually I’ve got a date. Holmes: What? Watson: It’s where two people who like each other go out and have fun.”) in “the Blind Banker” or Law’s Watson who shows a marked distain of Holmes intervening on his honeymoon trip in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”. While Freemans Watson is more serious, Law’s portrayal of Watson is quite snarky, often throwing sarcastic comments here and there, for the purpose of creating comedy. Law’s line deliveries are quite good and I specifically enjoyed the scene in Ritchie’s first “Sherlock Holmes” film, where after getting thrown in prison Watson says: “I’ve been analyzing why I do all the things you ask me too. And my conclusion is: I’m psychologically disturbed”. This remark while being funny on its face also becomes a meta-comment on the Sherlockian writings which have questioned Watson’s strange unstoppable loyalty in the original stories, making a pretty funny reference to a second tier of literature about the writings of Doyle in the Sherlockian stories (Both series use the “Sherlockian Writings” from the Sherlock Groups to make in jokes to this faction of the Holmes Fandom).

Guy Ritchie’s Watson

Freeman’s version of Watson is, like with Cumberbatch’s version of Holmes, more dramatic and played more seriously. It is also made more clear in “Sherlock” why John and Holmes are such close friends: he is shown to be one of the rare people who truly thinks Sherlock’s gift in crime solving are amazing, vocalizing it pretty honestly, which flatters Sherlock. He’s also a fan of adventure, like Holmes, which makes it easy for them to bond. This makes the friendship between the two men seem more understandable and deep. The friendship is depicted more through bickering in Guy Ritchie’s films, with a few very tender moments. All and all, I find John from the BBC’s “Sherlock” to be a more interesting Watson, since he functions as both a faithful sidekick as well as a voice of reason, while Law’s more of a conflicted friend who becomes a devoted helper in solving crimes when needed.

BBC’s Watson

I will be blatantly honest and say that I’m not fond of either Guy Ritchie’s re-interpretation of Irene Adler, nor Steven Moffat’s. In Guy Ritchie’s films, Irene Adler is a spy for Moriarty who does do some impressive manipulation, but is just suddenly (spoiler!) killed by Moriarty in “A Game Of Shadows”. I wouldn’t have minded Ritchie killing Adler off if she would have died while putting up a fight. Instead, she’s declared too weak by Moriarty since she’s in love with Holmes, and dies by getting “poisoned” by an extreme form of tuberculosis.

Guy Ritchie’s Irene Adler

In “Sherlock”, Adler is introduced in the second seasons premiere episode “A Scandal in Belgravia”, where she’s over sexualized and is ultimately de-powered by needing Sherlock to save her. As Jane Clare Jones wrote at the Guardian: “Not-so-subtly channeling the spirit of the predatory femme fatal, Adler’s power became, in Moffat’s hands, less a matter of brains, and more a matter of knowing ´what men like´ and how to give it to them”. Jones’ whole article really spells out perfectly what was wrong about this characterization of Adler, so do read the essay on it here.

Strangely, both versions of Irene Adler are weakened by their attraction to Holmes, making it seem like all powerful women can be weakened through (superficial) emotion. Also, both Adler’s are somehow working with or helping out Moriarty, which is peculiar since the two characters never even met in the original stories. But none the less, it was nice that the BBC version hired a woman, Lara Pulver, around her forties (“Older”, as known in cinema and TV) to play Adler. And Rachel McAdams was pretty energetic in the 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes”.

BBC’s Irene Adler

Professor James Moriarty is perhaps one of the earliest archenemies to appear in fiction. Andrew Scott, who portrayed Moriarty in the BBC adaption, and Jared Harris, who plays Moriarty in Guy Ritchie’s films, had a difficult task: to live up to all the expectations from viewers. Now, Harris did an excellent job on portraying a sophisticated, intellectual villain who does pretty gritty stuff. He is convincing. However, he doesn’t come off as memorable as the deadly and controlling Moriarty. Scott’s first performance as Moriarty in the episode BBC “The Great Game”, the final episode in season one, was far too flamboyant and giggling to be truly frightening (and a bit of overacting further diminished the feeling). But, come “The Reichenbach Fall”, the finale of season two, Scott changes his performance tremendously. He depicted Moriarty as being wildly intelligent and Machiavellian, but bratty, arrogant and childish as well. His combination of the different character traits blended well. Not to mention making him quite unsettling, as well as probably what a person like Moriarty would be like. A criminal mastermind, but immature – which are a pretty scary combination. Harris, as the deadly and devious Moriarty, had the misfortune of starring in the second film in Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” franchise, which previous film had already featured a memorable and great villain, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who had a noxious charisma.

Guy Ritchie’s Moriarty

Considering how Moriarty, the archenemy of Sherlock Holmes, ends up in the shadow of another villain in Ritchie’s franchise, one can say Harris ends up a little weaker in comparison to Scotts. Scott was a wonderful surprise in “The Reichenbach Falls”, being the perfect deadly brat.

Moffat’s Moriarty

And lastly, on both franchises on a whole. Guy Ritchie’s both films are highly entertaining and a lot of fun to watch. BBC’s “Sherlock” is also entertaining, but a lot grittier and darker in tone (though “A Game Of Shadows” did have nasty bits as well). As the BBC is practically the Shakespeare of Television, it’s pretty obvious why, with its archetype-characters and the historical nature of the literature Holmes springs from, this adaption becomes firmly the better of the two.

In the Moffat-BBC version of this canon the characters are more fleshed out and complex, the writings more interesting and perhaps more alike the original stories. But all is not lost for Ritchie. The 2009’s film “Sherlock Holmes” did follow the tradition from the original stories in that Holmes gets to prove that the “supernatural phenomena” happening in the film aren’t really supernatural in the least and can be explained through reason and a insistence in the actuality of the lived world. This was a common theme in the original stories, for example in “The Hound of The Baskerville” and “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”. Ritchie’s films also had some nice scenes where Holmes figures out how to win fights through wit and thought. The Ritchie movies would have done well, and served the humanistic traits of the character and stories better, to highlight the scientific methods Holmes is known for using to solve cases. Oddly enough (as well) during “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” Ritchie seem to be implying that the world his Sherlock Holmes was living in was (some form of) the perfect world; Watson and Holmes, for instance, dance a waltz together in a major Ballroom scene among politicians and diplomats. The year is supposedly 1891, But not a comment is made about this behavior (remember Oscar Wilde had been convicted and sent to prison in 1895 for the “Love that dare not speak its name”). So when Moriarty makes a speech about humans natural desire for conflict and fights, I felt like saying: “No, Moriarty, you’re the only one who’s mean in this universe. Everybody else is perfectly fine”. The point being that films, while taking place in the 19th century, are neither terribly nor historically accurate in this regard and the dance would have meet, at the least, with revulsion by the crowded participants of the dance. Yet this may be a mote point and the film doesn’t have to meet this historical standard since Ritchie’s take on both Sherlock films is in the sphere of the action comedy. Within this Genre who can argue with the Ritchie take? Both films are satisfying in this regard and are funny with good fight scenes and become, in this way, more than decent Sherlock Holmes adaptations.

The BBC/Moffat series “Sherlock”, in distinction to the Ritchie interpretation, is a lot more similar to the original stories, with Sherlock’s wits and talents, his interest in science and logic, his humanity and glaring faults, being a driving force in the series. The murders are a lot nastier and gruesome in the BBC outing and cleave more to Doyle’s sense of the uncanny which permeates the crimes that inspire Holmes’s interest. The Series characters, as well, have a sense of identity to the ones peopling Sir Conan Doyle’s works, even if the character of Sherlock is made a bit crueler and lacking in humanitarian compassion in this adaption than is found in Doyle’s writings. So in my humble opinion, this adaption of Sherlock Holmes is the better of the two.

Re-inventing Sherlock Holmes seems to be hip right now, which should be meet with no surprise. Holmes is a historically significant character for not only literature, but other Medias as well. His and Watson’s friendship is an interesting portrayal of team work and loyalty, Holmes’ skeptical attitude towards supernatural things is still one which should be grappled with in a world which forgoes reason for hate, and accurate subject for our consideration is given us in the Bravery of Watson and the Contemplation of Holmes. What better means to explore ourselves than through a Holmes as a character one can interpret in different ways and so make us wonder what might make us worthwhile.

Ritchie’s and BBC’s interpretations are both interesting takes on the character and now that the doorway has been newly opened to reconsider the dual character of Watson and Holmes it only remains to see what other adaptations will emerge next?

____________________________________________________________

*Poe was to write three stories informing the structure of the Detective Story and following the adventures of the “deductive” detective, C. Auguste Dupin. The most famous of these three tales is Poe’s, “The Purloined Letter”, a story which shares some slight similarities of tropes and narrative structure with “A Scandal in Bohemia” in which Irene Adler makes her famous appearance.

I recently, and finally, saw one of DreamWorks’ newest blockbusters, “Kung Fu Panda 2”, which according to Imdb is, since September this year, the biggest box office success for a film with a female director, that director being Jennifer Yuh. Ms. Yuh is one of the few women who have directed major animated blockbusters films, which I have mentioned in my older post “Rise of the Damsel”. I didn’t like the first “Kung Fu Panda” film, as a mentioned as well in my previous post. However I didn’t really explain why. I will do so here before reviewing the sequel: I strongly disliked that the panda Po was cast as the quintessential and main hero in the narrative arc of the story. His attitude in the story seemed to be that everything should just be handed to him, without working for it (as the other characters have done exclusively). He dreams of becoming a master of Kung Fu, but when he is given the chance to learn martial arts he doesn’t show up to classes or at least try to do anything (Spoiler!: until his teacher withholds food from him). I also disliked how Tigress, a fierce warrior who had devoted her whole life to Kung Fu, was pushed aside and replaced by the distracted Po merely because the storyline posits him as “destined to be the great heroic warrior”. It felt like the writers of the screenplay were stating that even if women (or anybody else for that matter) can be great fighters, men (as the chosen of society) are just automatically better (even if all common sense would say otherwise) because, hey, they are males after all. Luckily, the sequel gives a much better treatment of Tigress’ character and even Po’s character development handled in a much better fashion this time around. The villain is deliciously enjoyable and the animation is ten times better, as well as the themes brought up being a lot more interesting.

The film starts with giving us a brief back-story to the villain Lord Shen, a peacock and son to two powerful monarchs who ruled over Gongmen City. After the invention of Fireworks, Lord Shen sees the potential in the explosives for powerful weapons and uses this in his attempt to take over the whole of China and subjugate it to his will. However, Lord Shen learns from a prophecy that he will be defeated by a warrior of “black-and-white”, which leads to him nearly exterminating all Pandas. His parents, horrified by this act, banish him from the kingdom. Lord Shen leaves, swearing revenge. The film then focuses on Po, who is now a celebrity hero in his hometown and good friends with his fellow Kung Fu masters. However, his relationship with his father becomes troublesome when he finds out he’s adopted – which is no surprise to anyone else, considering he’s father is a goose and he’s a panda (a reoccurring joke which is peppered throughout the film). Po is struck with identity crises, but gets little time to resolve it as Po and his warrior friends must travel to Gongmen City to stop Lord Shen, who threatens Kung Fu with his new weapon.

The film addresses adoption and parent-child relationships well. Po’s father is loving and supportive and proud of his son, while Po on the other hand is confused about his emotions, constantly seeking out answers to his past. This makes Po act quite cold and diffident towards his affectionate father. Usually, in children’s films, the parents are portrayed as unreasonable and/or unable to understand their children, however in this film it is the child, Po, who is in the wrong here, not being able to appreciate the love he has gotten and still receives. Naturally, Po wants to know where he comes from and what his roots are and he is constantly bedeviled with worries that he might not have been loved by his “natural” parents prompting them to abandon him in his infancy. Po’s identity crisis is pretty well portrayed; the viewer can sympathize with his situation, but he’s unable to express his problems to others, which causes major problems during his and his friend’s mission to stop Lord Shen. My only complaint of the portrayal of this conflict is that the way Po resolves his problem is a little simple, and he never seems to realize how his attitude towards his adoptive father did, well… kind of sucked. But kudos to James Hong who voiced Mr. Ping the goose father, he did an excellent job capturing a loving and kind parent’s voice. Especially the scene where Mr. Ping tells Po how he ended up raising him as a son, which no doubt was one of the most heart-warming scenes in the film.

One of the overriding and major themes played with in “Kung Fu Panda 2” is usage of advanced weapons. The film is highly critical of the usage of these weapons of “mass destruction”. The message of the film seems to be against using gunpowder, which holds the position of a trope of the indiscriminate killing device, as a form of fighting, which is good admittedly in regard to our age of drones and cluster-bombs. However, the main critique seems to come from the idea that usage of weaponry eliminates martial arts. And here’s where I’m a little conflicted; I don’t believe in fire arms or other advanced weaponry which distance ourselves from our killings and destroy without consequence, and think it’s nice to see a film with a anti-weapon message with this in mind. But is it truly better to say martial arts are much better? The “karate” technique (which is staple action used in the movie) is still positioned as a battle technique and a way to, frankly, beat the crap out of each other? I am not sure saying that technological weapons are bad , but combat in the sense of “hand to hand” resolves the question of violence which is meant to be raised here. Then again, perhaps the film just wants to highlight the fact that weapons of mass scale and indeterminate distance cause a lot more meaningless damage and therefore are used in more “dirty”, unfair and brutal ways in battles, while martial arts are more about clean fights where one has to experience the person on who the violent act is done to. I don’t necessarily agree, since I often hope people could come to agreements by discussions and compromise, but I guess there are situations where that is not perhaps possible. (Interestingly, this is almost always the case in children’s films. Huh…)

Lord Shen, the evil power-hungry pale white peacock villain, is an excellent bad guy. Gary Oldman provides the voice for the mad bird and I have to say he has a real talent in voice acting. Lord Shen is sinister, arrogant and commits crimes pretty vicious for a children’s film. He’s unsettling and a master of manipulation, but also pretty funny at times. Mr. Oldman’s way of delivering his character is perfect and was a perfect casting. Also the design for Lord Shen was brilliant: a pale white peacock with grim red eyes that uses his feathers like sharp knives. According to Ms. Yuh, the character of Shen was extraordinarily difficult to animate and became like animating six characters all at once. Great work was beyond a doubt, and with good effect, put into Lord Shen’s design, for he was by far also the most beautifully animated character and it was a wondrous thrill to see the character in his fight sequences.

Fun fact: there do indeed exist white peacocks, whose colors apparently make them look quite elegant. White, however, is the color of death in Chinese culture; this is why having white feathers marked Lord Shen as the antagonist.

Gary Oldman wasn’t the only one doing impressive voice acting. Michelle Yeoh, who was brilliant as a strong warrior in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and as one of the determined scientist in “Sunshine” (2007), did a great job on voicing Shen’s former nanny, Soothsayer, combining wise with comically caring. Angelina Jolie was, once again and much better utilized in this sequel, also an outstanding voice for Master Tigress, getting her character to seem both compassionate as well as in charge and sturdy. Kudos to both of these fine actors!

I will quickly give a thought to the films prevailing message regarding the quest and attainment of “Inner Peace”. I am usually quit skeptical of such philosophies, yet I found myself actually liking how inner peace was interpreted in this movie. Basically, what the writers seem to be elaborating in this concept was that a person should attempt to let go of anger and hostility and struggle and see things from a more positive angle in life. Without this one will end, on the perplexing road of existence, by being engulfed in a shallow and dysfunctional bitterness which wreaks havoc on oneself and others. This is what happens to Lord Shen, which ultimately results in a predetermined spiral to self-destruction. Po on the other hand is able to see that things from outside of resentment and, as a consequence, achieves inner peace making him able to function better as a person (meaning warrior in this case) and becoming more “human” in the journey.
Of course, it is sometimes good to be angry. But, who can argue, it is best not to let bitterness and anger control one’s person and life.

“Kung Fu Panda 2” was a pleasing movie experience. Worth a watch definitely.

Whether we like it or not, we see bad films once in a while. There’s nothing we can do about that. But on the up side, sometimes the horribly made films get one thing right, in most cases a good character that got stuck in the wrong plot. Usually, in my opinion, these unfortunate characters are villains. So I will list a few villains which I enjoyed tremendously despite the otherwise unpleasant context in the films.

The Kingpin from “Daredevil” (2003) – A adaption of Marvel’s comic books, “Daredevil” is one of those films that have a interesting premise but due to unfortunate casting and some weak storytelling fails to deliver. The plot centers on Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who also is a ruthless vigilante at night. Since Murdock was blinded by toxic waste as a child, his remaining senses were enchanted and greatly enhanced, with his hearing becoming particularly powerful, helping him in his fight against crime. While on his crusade against crime, Murdock goes on to meet the attractive and equally skilled martial artist Elektra Nachios, whose wealthy tycoon father is trying to bring down The Kingpin, a powerful crime lord. As Murdock and Elektra become romantically involved, The Kingpin hires an overly proud and sadistic assassin to get rid of Elektra’s father.

The movie’s biggest flaw is Ben Affleck, playing the main hero, who’s plain and bland expressions make it hard to buy the character of Daredevil. This flaw in the film is truly a pity since having a disabled superhero is a very out of the ordinary idea, as well as having the hero actually try and fight for justice in his more “normal” life as well (Murdock being a lawyer who only takes clients who really need help). Jennifer Gardner as Elektra is painstakingly dull as well in her characterization of the supposedly strong and independent warrior woman. I did enjoy this film the first time I saw it (at the age of twelve), but now I think the only thing that works in the film are the two villains, Bullseye, played by Colin Farrell, who is enjoyable hammy. And The Kingpin, played by Michael Clarke Duncan.
The Kingpin is a huge man with a smug attitude. Like Daredevil, The Kingpin is ruthless, but in his case in his criminal schemes. In the fight scenes, Duncan is more than able to come off as intimidating and the casual violence of The Kingpin’s motivations are, in his words, strictly professional, makes him more than heady stuff . If he can gain power and profit by killing, he’ll do so, which in his mind proves he’s no worse than other power-hungry people. There are many similar kinds of villains with similar motivations, but Duncan’s performance is so spot-on that you won’t forget it. Even if the rest of the film you will.

Loki from “Thor” (2011) – This film is another adaption of a popular Marvel Comic book superhero, but with a less appealing premise than “Daredevil”. The protagonist in this film is the arrogant and hotheaded god of thunder Thor, who after jeopardizing diplomatic relations between the Gods and their former archenemies the Frost Giants, gets sent to earth by his father Odin as punishment. There he meets Jane, a scientist studying storms. While on earth he learns to become more humble, yet at the same moment at Home in Asgard (A different section of the Galaxy?? I guess?) his brother Loki learns that he isn’t one of the gods, but actually an adopted Frost Giant Odin raised in hopes of gaining diplomatic leverage with the Giants. This news breaks Loki’s heart, and after his father falls into a deep sleep he becomes the new king of Asgard. Pleased, with these turn of events, Loki starts plotting…

“Thor” as a movie is a complete mess. The lead character is totally unlikeable, even if he supposedly “grows up” later in the films process. Even if he learns to control his temper, which is good because his anger problem was nearly psychotic, he still seems arrogant at the end of the film. Jane, portrayed by Natalie Portman, is one of the most offensive portrayals of women I’ve seen in years: even if she’s supposed to be a determined mature scientist she behaves like a bratty teenager throughout the film. Which include numerous scenes of her whining, placing blame on others when she fears she’s done something bad and giggles stupidly around Thor, plus helping him do “chores” that no normal human being would consider a good idea. Her female assistant is similar in many too many ways, which made me wonder if the writers of this film hated female intellectuals*. The dialogue in this film made little sense. The only thing that worked in this film was the antagonist, and luckily it worked extremely well.

Loki is a somewhat unusual villain in that he is quite sympathetic. It is impossible to not feel sorry for him, despite the utterly awful things he is thinking of carrying out (which may be one of the most evil thoughts in Cinema, and which this film gives you no sense of in its mess of writing), and some parts of Loki’s speeches and, at times, mere line-deliveries, tug at the heart strings. From the very start of the movie, Loki is shown to have always been the quiet one in his family, outshined by Thor. While Thor is surrounded by friends, Loki stands quietly in the shades, rarely being addressed. When he realizes his father has been lying to him his whole life and thought of him mostly as a politically chit instead of raising him out of love, he becomes desperate to prove himself to Odin at any cost. He loves his “father” despite all the lies; as well as believes what he is doing is ultimately the best for Asgard, which makes him an anti-villain as well as a sympathetic one. At the near end, when Loki explains his actions to Thor, you can see Loki’s eyes tear up, and his speech of a life lacking love and acceptance, and being put continually in the shadows, was expressed so skillfully and powerfully that it nearly tugged a tear out of me. Tom Hiddleston puts a lot of energy in his performance as Loki, making one of the more relatable villains in Superhero movies in a while. Too bad the rest of the movie is pure crap.

Ursula, the sea Witch, from “The Little Mermaid” (1989) – The film that is often seen as the breakthrough for Disney’s renaissance and well-loved, but personally this film rubs me the wrong way completely. Ariel, the main protagonist of the film, is a sixteen year old mermaid who has a deep fascination for humans and longs to become one herself. Her Father, King Triton, a merman and head leader of the merpeople, strongly dislikes Ariel’s interest in the world of humans. As Ariel becomes infatuated with a human prince, King Triton’s patient reaches its limits and he and Ariel have a rather intense quarrel. Ariel finds out there is a way for her to become human: she must strike a deal with Ursula, the sea witch, to gain what she wants. Which she does; she exchanges her voice for a pair of legs and has three days to get the prince to give her the kiss of true love so she can stay human permanently.
Ariel as a heroine is annoying and a pretty bad female character. She puts her friends in danger, she sacrifices everything for a guy she barely knows, incessantly harps on a world she has no real information of (and others try to tell her how violent that world really is, but to no avail), and continually puts herself into dangerous situations for no reason. I also dislike how the film more or less teaches girls to center their life on men and that they have to choose between their father’s world and their husband’s world, no in-between world being possible, as well as the main character not really ever learning from her mistakes. For better critiques on this film, go here for a feminist critique or here for a video debate on the film.

However, the half-human half-octopus witch Ursula is perhaps one of the coolest cartoon villains ever drawn. Ursula is unapologetically ambitious, snarky and unashamedly thirsting for power, using Ariel to get to her father’s throne. Ursula may be merciless and cruel towards the merfolk who make deals with her, yet at the same time she surprisingly and truly cares about her two eel henchmen, Flutsum and Jetsum. This characteristic makes Ursula seem more human and three-dimensional: she is evil, but not to the point where she can’t feel empathy and love. Also, having a villain actually display affection towards someone is very unusual in Disney films. Ursula is probably best known for her villain song, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, one of the best songs written for children’s cartoons ever, as well as showing off the films villain in all her manipulating glory. “The Little mermaid” is a problematic film, but the villain is awesome and pure joy to watch.


“Poor Unfortunate Souls”, with the fabulous villain Ursula!

Hades from “Hercules” (1997) – This film is very loosely based on Greek Mythology, but in all its perplexing glory is really a rambling telling of Disney’s own version of Hercules. Born a god-birthing to Zeus and Hera, Hercules has become a mortal, though one with super-strength, through the failed mechanism of a kidnapping which leaves him stranded on the earth far below Olympus. He is raised by loving mortal parents, but after discovering he’s is in actuality the son of Zeus the hero, as is their station, goes on a quest to earn back his place at the side of the other gods as well as his immortality.

The film is a bad mixture of lame modern day references, plot holes and underdeveloped characters. Hercules is a dull hero, who also comes off as stringently uncaring for the confines of friends and family and we find him quite casually abandoning loving parents for another more “famous and powerful” dad, and constantly bathing in his own idea of his “greatness”.
The songs are annoying in this film, but luckily forgettable. I did really like Hercules’ cynical love interest Megara, and her song about not wanting to fall in love, but other than that the only thing I really enjoyed was the villain Hades.
Few comical villains are done just right, Hades being one of them. James Woods is perfect as the voice talent, imitating the stereotypical car sales men. Like Ursula, Hades likes to make “deals” with the films protagonists that are highly unfair, while all the while making sarcastic remarks regarding the protagonist certain and inevitable doom. However Hades, as a character, is persistently motivated by his evil to abuse his henchmen, which makes him more “pure evil” than Ursula. Hades, even with this slight drawback, delivers many rich, memorable lines, and is pretty powerful, almost winning in the film (which may have improved the film).

Dr. Jonathan Crane, AKA Scarecrow from “Batman Begins” (2005) – As I have mentioned in my Inception review, I am not a fan of Nolan’s Batman movies, mostly due to Christian Bale’s performance of Bruce Wayne/Batman, who is annoying as Bruce Wayne and not at all intimidating or sympathetic as the vigilante. Katie Holmes as Bruce’s childhood friend and “love interest” Rachel does such a horrible acting job that it was near comical. Batman makes big speeches about how it’s wrong to kill, but three times in the film commits acts that would most certainly take lives (driving in a fury to the Batcave, flipping over police cars on the way in the middle of the film; blowing up a building in the near beginning of the film; tying a man up on a huge light, which all science would say would have fried the man alive) making that rule (not to take life in his vigilant role) seem like a joke. Which it shouldn’t since it’s a darn good rule.
And as a mild spoiler, I can say that the main villain is a dull, tedious bad guy. Liam Neeson, who plays that villain, nearly put me to sleep, making me question whether or not he was even doing an effort in his role. Frankly, the reveal of the big bad was what killed the movie for me.

The savior for this film is one of the “minor” villains Dr. Jonathan Crane, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who helps powerful mobs by “diagnosing” their caught hit men as insane, thus sending them to the Asylum instead of prison. This way the mob can (somehow) keep their strong position. However, Jonathan has a more selfish reason for his help: he has developed fear-inducing toxins, and likes to use his patients as human guinea pigs for his experiments, where he takes on his alter ego “Scarecrow”. Crane is a strong believer in the minds power and ultimate influence over the body, and uses his toxins to paralyze people with fear; he is also able to drive people permanently insane with his toxins. Even if not a very strong person or physically threatening, Cranes wits and weapons are far more terrifying than any brutish personality would ever be.
Cillian Murphy, who plays Scarecrow, perfectly embodies the creepiness and sliminess of this villain. Throughout the film he speaks in a calm, gentle tone, dressing in sharp suits even when going out to do evil biddings, portraying this villain as a poster boy for the term “sophisticated evil”, as well as making him a bit of a seductive monster. Dr. Crane does what he does, it seems, mostly because he can; which perhaps is the most unsettling thing about the character. He is evil merely because he can be. His character is evasively clever and decidedly smart enough to manipulate, as well as have the devilishly creative genius to form the toxins which drive others mad, yet lacks empathy, which as his motto states: “Sucks to be you, Gotham!”. Murphy apparently read a lot of Batman comics featuring Scarecrow while discussing with Nolan how the villain should be formed and function, and it shows: His interpretation of Scarecrows personality is similar to the ones in the comics, but less theatrical. I have absolutely no complaints about this villain, except for the fact that he is not the main villain. I would probably been able to over look all the other flaws in this film if The Scarecrow would have been just that: The Major Villain, and the Focus of Fear (and the actor which does it right out of the whole thing).


Scarecrow makes a powerful crime boss one of his victims. I’m Scare-roused**!

It’s hard to summarize what all of these villains do just right (inside of the evil villain gig), since they are all very divergent characters: some you feel sorry for despite the evil things they do, some you fear with great viewer satisfaction due to the fact that they steep in a seductive evil just for the sake of it. However, inside of the films in which these villain antogonists are featured, they hold a presence and become a singular point sense in the nonsensical context of the movies in which they, sadly are made to appear. They are the succulent and subtle treat you get along side of a direful mass of a tasteless dish!

*Just want to say that Sigourney Weaver played a much better example of a female scientist in James Cameron’s “Avatar” (2009). The movie is very mediocre, but Weavers character is more of how Blockbuster films should portray of a female scientist.

Weaver in "Avatar"

** “Futurama” reference, the main character says this about some women he encounters in the episode “Fry am the Egg Man”

Update: I just realized today is the 11. September. For this tragic day I’ll say: My heart out to all those innocent people who lost their lives, as well as to those people who helped out and made it possible for some to survive the attacks. Regards to all those living you in New York City, filled with the most amazing people and of course to those in Washington DC, a extraordinary place as well. Love and Peace, Maaretta.

Furthermore:

Times change and so do norms and expectations. Unfortunately not always for the better. As a feminist, I think it’s important to critic and discuss the many unrealistic and unfair expectations waited from women, and how old norms may still linger in today’s world, however I do think it’s also important to talk about how men may experience the world and to talk about what pressures men have in our society. So, this post will have links to articles about men, masculinity and other “male” issues!

Here’s a article from Bitch Media about The Cult Of Muscularity, written by CristenConger. A real eye-opener article that really made me think!

Maya Dusenbery at Feministing did a very good book review of “Deep Secrets: Boy’s friendship and the crisis of connection”.

Chloe Angyall at Feministing wrote a very short attack on how a offensive ad from Australian TV portrayed masculinity.

Here’s a negative and comical review of Nolan’s “Batman Begins” from Ruthless Reviews. A real funny read about everyone’s currently favorite male superhero!

Below is a video that is a year old, yet still highly accurate, critic on Liquor ads from Feminist Frequency.

And finally a Monty Python sketch: The Lumberjack Song! Listed below.

“Babe” is an Australian family film made from 1995. The hero of the film is a young, sweet pig named Babe, who after losing his mother to the slaughter house, is himself packed off to a local country fair and there put into a competition to be won by the odd and gentle farmer Mr. Hoggett. During the daily routines of the farm Hoggett discovers that Babe has a talent for working with his flock of sheep. Babe slowly but surely earns respect as a “Sheep Pig” and becomes, eventually in the course of the narrative, a bit of a hero and celebrity to the community and the farm where he resides.

“Babe” as a family film is simultaneously cheerful and colorful, but also has a myriad of dark undercurrents which deals with a number of fairly adult issues. The film constantly critiques humanities disregard and mistreatment of animals, making strong claims against eating meat. One could also see Mr. Hoggetts vision and belief in making his pig a great “sheep dog” as a metaphor for an artist’s passion and personal oddities which go into the act of art-making.

One of the most interesting parts of the movie is the representation of the Sheep Dog Rex; who´s character is first presented with all the typical negative traits usually associated in our society with overly macho masculinity. “Babe”, as a filmic morality play, depicts these characteristics as horrible, yet even if it is interesting to see such a clear critic of macho behavior, what is most interesting in the film is that Rex is given a back-story to explain his behavior and personality and also allowed to grow and develop in a tender, yet subtle way.

Rex (voiced by Hugo Weaving) is introduced into the film as a frightening patriarch. He dislikes that his mate, Fly (voiced by Miriam Margolyes), comforts the newly arrived Babe. He makes it clear to Fly that he wants Fly’s kindness towards Babe to be temporary. Rex spends little to no time with the cubs he has sired with his mate Fly, and wishes to spend no time in communicating with the newly arrived Babe. Fly on the other hand is a devoted mother and at once feels sympathy for the new pig. Fly is portrayed as caring, as females often stereotypically are depicted, while Rex is shown as cold and threatening. He never is seen around the kids or shows little care or concern for them. Rex is also overly proud and wants to be able to be the most dominate animal at the farm.

The first time Babe gets into trouble at the farm, Rex holds a meeting to make new rules to constrain a unruliness and subversion to the “law of the Farm”, demanding all the animals to be present to hear the new regulations. Later on, obviously feeling helpless in his the lack of control to the events occurring around him, he snaps at his wife Fly for letting Babe participate in herding sheep. As Babe becomes an expert on the matter of sheep herding and control, and Mr. Hoggett’s new favorite, Rex becomes jealous and angrier. Fly tries to go and comfort Rex. She explains that she knows it’s hard for him to swallow the fact that Babe is the farmers “Sheep Pig”, however she wishes he wouldn’t be so mad on “such a beautiful night”. Her loving remarks are met by rage, and violence, as Rex assaults Fly. The scene is gritty, showing a pretty graphic (for a family film) scene where Rex basically abuses his partner. He is luckily stopped by the farmer.

Domestic violence is a major, global problem. Men’s violence to women has been dealt with in movies, television shows and literature, but is rarely mentioned in children’s/family films. That Rex’s attack is not sugar-coated despite the scene being in a family film is very brave and important, and is a means to discuss one of the more unfortunate sides of world with this age group (though this should be limited and done delicately, and using the animal of “Rex” is a good distancing mechanism).

After the audience sees Rex as the typical male bully, Fly tells Babe the story of why Rex became who he became. Actually he used to be highly skilled at herding sheep. The tale of Rex’s tragic past tells of a horrible event which occurred directly before an important Sheep Dog event. Rex and Mr. Hoggett were going to participate in a major Sheep Dog trial, a sporting event where farmers and their dogs compete against one another by herding sheep through different obstacles. And Rex was no doubt going to be a great champion, but for the calamity which befell him before the event he did terribly at the sheep trials.

Rex and the farmer had tried to herd some sheep to safety during a storm, but lost a large amount of the sheep during the process. Rex had bravely returned for the lost sheep, located them in the torrential weather and attempted to save them from rising and deadly waters. Rex fails to save the confused and lost sheep and he himself nearly dies in the attempt becoming almost deaf through exposure. Rex has ever since had to deal with the bitterness of failing to save the sheep, of not being able to become the champion he so strongly wanted to be, and of having to accept he no longer is as “strong” as he used to be. He bottles up all these emotions, making him aggressive and overly controlling of others. He uses his anger as a way to deal with his disappointments, and to still prove to himself he is a strong and powerful animal.

Shortly after this reveal of Rex’s almost deafness, Babe also makes the discovery that pigs have no other function on farms than to be eaten. Babe, in utter disgust and shock, runs away from home. When Fly discovers that Babe has run away, she fears that something bad will happen to him and asks Rex for help. Rex realizes then that since Babe is so important to the farmer, Rex decides to help since he himself deeply cares for the farmer and wants his “boss” to be happy. When Babe is brought back to the farm, Rex tells Babe to pull himself together as Mr. Hoggett needs him, since Mr. Hoggett has just recently signed himself and Babe up for the upcoming sheep trials. Unlike his previous speeches to Babe, where he is demanding Babe to “stay in his place”, this speech is encouraging, informing Babe of his importance. Rex for the first time isn’t trying to just be in control. He is showing concern.
Rex goes from being the stereotypical “alpha” male who that has little empathic feelings to an emotional creature trying to connect with the community of the farm and its inhabitants. We see, before change is foisted on Rex, that his attempt to contain and control his own feelings and personality has lead to a seething and uncontrollable anger becoming a pool of oppressive emotion and frustration. As the film nears its climax, Rex’s character transforms from the bully he once was into a honest and kinder animal.

Fly asking Rex for help in the search for Babe

Lastly in the narrative of growth, communication, and compassion in the tale, Rex, in order to assist Babe during a sheep trial, turns to the Farm’s sheep for advice. Since they speak so softly, he says: “You have to speak up. I’m a hard of hearing”. Rex finally, as a final growth in his character, confesses his disablement. The Sheep do not ridicule him for his hearing difficulty. Rex learns here there is no shame in admitting weakness. He also comes to terms with his past, but decides that the most important thing is to not focus on the tragedies that took place long ago. He decides to try and help Babe, since once again he can’t deny how important Mr. Hoggett is to him.
The representation of Rex is interesting in the way the film allows Rex, as a macho and dominate male, to develop and transform into a more understanding and honest character. To grow he must alter his relationship, and thoughts on Babe and finally, in this changed attitude to the gentle pig, come to admit his weakness and let go of the past. Rex is freed from his stereotypical role as the dominant male by first explaining his actions through past traumas and letting Rex himself realize he should change his views and relations to the world. Rex goes from a potential antagonist to an important protagonist, giving an interesting idea of masculinity which can grow into a strong empathy and communication.

Rex becomes truly a powerful male when he decides to admit weakness and has concern and love for others around him.

Fly (left) and Rex (right)

I saw Martin Campbell’s “Green Lantern” a few days ago. On first note I can say this: “Green Lantern” was an okay superhero movie. There have been quite a few much better ones, but also a quite few worse ones as well. The special effects were great, despite the 3D being horrible. The Actors (Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Saarsgord etc.) did pretty well. And the character development of the protagonist is done well. But the presentation of women was problematic.

The film tells about the origin of “Green Lantern”, whose real name is Hal Jordan. Hal is a test pilot, and despite being good at his job is sloppy with his schedules and can be reckless at times. Hal has a bit of a different sense for danger and rarely feels fear when he should. It is perhaps for that very characteristic he is granted a mystical ring with unbelievable powers, and finds himself as the newest member of an intergalactic squadron, “The Green Lanterns”. They are powered by will, which the color green represents. Hal is the first human to be granted a green lanterns ring, and therefore not very welcomed by the leader of the leader of the Green Lanterns, Sinestro, since he believes humans are vulnerable to fear. Hal takes Sinestro’s critic seriously and informs he will not join the squadron. However, he uses his powers to save lives on Earth. As he soon finds out his whole home planet is in danger, he must reconsider his choice of not joining the Green Lanterns…

Even if I found this film entertaining and the characters somewhat interesting, I have to say that my biggest complaint of the film is the lack of female green lanterns. During the film, we are told that the squadron consists of many different alien species from many different planets. Despite some of the posters of the film presenting female aliens among the green lanterns, we never get to hear a single word or fighting sequence from a female alien. The film gives us a glimpse of some female aliens cheering as the leader gives the gang inspirational speeches, but otherwise than that the film concentrates solely on the male aliens. When I saw the advertisements and posters for the film which featured a group of Green Lanterns, I recognized more than one female alien that was portrayed as heroically as the males. I was utterly disappointed in the film maker’s decision to neglect showing any of the female warriors, since it gave a certain feel that even if they know women can be good warriors, they just aren’t as important or as good as men.

The female human characters weren’t that good either. Carol, the love interest of the film, is shown in the beginning of the film as a competent and smart woman, but at the middle and end of the film she becomes more of a distressed damsel and muse. The first time Hal has to use his powers on earth to save the day, he not only has to save a senator, but Carol, who gets knocked out and is positioned laying unconscious where something big is bound to hit her. So Hal, dressed up as a Green Lantern, first must save an important politician and then the damsel. The scene was bit overkill with Hal having to worry about Carol as well; the scene would have been fine without Carol being knocked out. Also, Hal mentions at the beginning of the film that Carol is a good pilot and should not hold herself back as just a “secretary”. Having Carol become a pilot and allow herself to go further than she has would have been an interesting subplot that could have been dealt with very lightly in the film. But as soon as Hal mentions this aspect it is forgotten. Carol does fire some missiles at the villain towards the end of the film, which was nice. But despite that one minute of awesomeness Carol became very passive person and mostly a prize to be won by the hero.

“Green Lantern” was a letdown when it came to the portrayal of women. But Hal Jordan, as the protagonist, was written in a sympathetic and touching way. He is shown to be a bit of a screw up in the beginning. But after getting his new powers, he learns to take responsibility and grows up at the end of the film. A major theme of the film was that even a tough person must admit that sometimes they are afraid, and instead of denying it or letting it control oneself, even the strongest warrior has to learn to face fear and defeat ones fears by courage. It was great to see a film which specifically is targeted at men which major moral was: “It’s okay to be scared. Just don’t let it get the best of you”. At times, our society demands men to be strong, without fear or sorrow or other strong feelings. So “Green Lantern” was a refreshing it it’s portrayal of manliness: admit your feelings and learn to deal with them in a good way. Brilliant moral!

“Green Lantern” is an okay superhero movie one can watch once for the fun of it. That’s about it.

The Planet Oa, where the Green Lanterns live