Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Time to be Thankful and Stuff

It's that time of year again (at least for Americans... do American Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?). People are giving thanks shortly before acting like the rabid consumer society we are. I may not participate in Black Friday (maybe if you paid me to), but I still want to tell you all what I'm thankful for. I'll skip the givens - family, friends, etc. You know who you are and you know I love your faces. No, this year, I'm focusing on my geek love. This blog has increasingly turned into a geek one, and I may as well continue with the trend. Plus there were plenty of things to nerdgasm over this year.

So, without further ado, the four geek things I'm thankful for this year in no particular order.

1. Women in genre films

It's almost like filmmakers are finally starting to get it. Women can be smart, strong, independent, conflicted, sexy, make mistakes, and make your movie money all at the same time. Who knew that people would enjoy seeing women portrayed as people?

It all started this year with Katniss Everdeen. I hadn't read the Hunger Games books although I had been told countless times that I needed to. Spring Break was the week the first movie came out and I decided that's how I would spend my time off. Who knew I would get through the first book in a day? The movie is by no means among my favorites, but I did enjoy it and I loved how Katniss was portrayed in the film. Plus, huge box office numbers with a female lead in an action movie. This was a HUGE gamble (or so the movie executives thought) and it paid off, cause guess what? Not only do women make up about half of the movie-going crowd, but men enjoy watching female leads too. Crazy, right?

Then came Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow. Granted, she was introduced in Iron Man 2, but she was essentially a sex toy that could fight. Not very impressive. The moment I heard Joss Whedon was writing and directing Avengers, I knew this would change drastically. Remember her opening sequence beating three Russians while tied to a chair? Freak out! My favorite writer/director/creator/person did not disappoint. My favorite moment of hers was also one of her most vulnerable. She had just hid from a very angry Hulk and was understandably shaken and scared out of her wits. She's sweaty, shaking, and huddled in a corner. Barton, controlled by the Cube, is on the helicarrier and someone needs to stop whatever shenanigans he's up to. Natasha rises to the occasion and proceeds to beat the crap out of a possessed Hawkeye and knocks his head so hard against the metal railing that he regains control of himself. Then she knocks him out for good measure. She's strong when she needs to be, not when it's easy.

I want to give a shout out to Merida here since her movie came out after the Avengers. Brave doesn't exactly fit into the same category as the other three, but it was a unique movie that deserves a paragraph. Cause, come on. She's a Disney princess who fights and doesn't end up with a man. Plus it was all about her relationship with her mother, who isn't an evil step-mother. It's about communication and understanding where the other person is coming from. I'm sure it resonates with me because I'm a feminist and I had a complicated relationship with my mother as a teenager. Still, I think it's an underrated movie and she's by far my favorite Disney princess now.

Finally, Selina Kyle. Freaking Catwoman, y'all! Who didn't love her growing up? I admit, I was a little nervous about Catwoman in the Dark Knight Rises. Not because of Anne Hathaway (I don't get why people hate on her so much), but because of Christopher Nolan. Don't get me wrong, the man is a genius and I love his movies. However, like most filmmakers, he doesn't have the best track record of writing women very well. Just about all of his movies involve a beautiful woman dying for the sole purpose of creating a plot for the male protagonist. Again, I'm not asking that filmmakers never use this method, but I'd say it's getting a little cliche for him. Enter Selina Kyle. Even her ridiculously impractical heels have a functional use.

2. Joss Whedon

Buffy, Angel, Firefly/Serenity, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrble's Sing Along Blog, Cabin in the Woods, Avengers, and now everything Marvel will do in the next few years. The man can do no wrong. And he's not a one-female-character kind of guy. Rumors of Wasp being introduced in Iron Man 3 are abundant, and he always said he would have put more female characters in Avengers if he could have. I love Wasp, and I'm expecting to see her full-fledged fighting in Avengers 2. Really, if I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be Joss.

"'Why do you write these strong female characters?'
'Because you're still asking me that question.'" -Joss Whedon

How do you not love someone like that?

3. The Hobbit

Technically I haven't seen it yet, but there's no doubt in my mind that I am going to love it with everything inside of me. Plus stuff I didn't know I had. First of all, just look at Bilbo. I may not have agreed with all of Peter Jackson's casting decisions in LOTR (18 year old Frodo, anyone?), but Martin Freeman IS Bilbo Baggins. No one else would have been able to fill his fuzzy, wooly toes as well as Freeman. I may be a little biased since I have a major crush on the man, but I know I'm not the only one who thinks the same.

Second, who would have guessed that dwarves could be sexy? When I heard Richard Armitage was going to be Thorin Oakenshield, I was super excited. The guy is a phenomenal actor and one I have a mild crush on. But I didn't expect them in a million years to make him attractive! And look at Kili! He's got those sexy eyes down!

4. Jeremy Carver

I still maintain that Supernatural should have ended after season five. It was the perfect story arc and ended beautifully. Six was okay... it had one phenomenally funny episode, another pretty funny episode that kind of branched off from the typical mythology that didn't sit all that well with me, and maybe one other stand alone episode that stands out in my mind as pretty good, but overall it was meh. They struggled with the story arc and it doesn't end up making a whole lot of sense. When I start buying the seasons I'll buy one episode from season six, but that'll probably be it. Seven was abismal. The only redeeming quality it had was Felicia Day in one episode. Besides that, I think I chuckled once and was impressed with what was going on twice. It starts out with potential, but that quickly dissolves and the big bads for season seven are not even a little bit intimidating. Very forgettable and a complete throw away season.

Enter Jeremy Carver. He worked on previous seasons but left for a while after season five, since that's all Eric Kripke planned for. Carver is the new show runner and has a three season story arc planned, as opposed to wandering around in the dark for the last two years. It shows. Season eight still doesn't compare to four or five, but I'm interested. It's good. Better than six. Not great, there was a found footage episode that was completely worthless, but other than that I've been enjoying it in general. Plus, not only does Felicia Day come back later in the series, but the next episode is a funny one. We haven't had a funny episode since season six!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Once Upon Another Great Show

Once Upon a Time. If memory serves (and there's a good chance it won't), this and Grimm started right around the same time. At the time I knew I wouldn't keep up with both and I felt conflicted about which one to watch. A couple of the writers from Buffy were writing for Grimm, but Once Upon a Time had a stronger pull which I'll get to in a minute. Anyway, started watching Once Upon a Time and I've done a pretty good job of keeping up. Especially now that I'm not in school and have way too much time on my hands.

On a scale of 1 to 10 of shows that I've seen at least one full episode of, with 1 being Big Bang Theory and 10 being Buffy, I'd say Once Upon a Time is about a 7 overall. I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite shows (although I'm liking it more and more), but like I said, I follow it pretty well for several reasons.

First, Ginnifer Goodwin. As Snow White. A crazy-awesome-and-kills-trolls Snow White. Come on!

Second, Jennifer Morrison as Emma, Snow White's daughter. Time stopped for Snow but not Emma, so it makes sense. These two are the Jensen Ackles/Jared Padalecki of ABC. It's almost laughable how beautiful these two people are. 

Third, Red Riding Hood/Ruby. My favorite non-main character. Her story is freaking awesome. For real. 

Fourth, Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold. Characters who are on their own side are always among the most interesting. 

Fifth, and the main reason for writing this post, all of the main characters are women. Snow White/Mary-Margaret, Emma, and Regina/Evil Queen. There are some almost main characters who are male, Charming/David, Henry, and Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, but the story mainly belong to the women. And even though they're all fairy tale characters, they're real women. They have complicated personalities and motivations and no one is all good or all bad. Plus, in general (maybe with the exception of Cinderella and Aurora so far), they're all super awesome.

A couple episodes ago, Emma and Snow/Mary-Margaret were walking to a beanstalk with three others to steal a magic compass from a giant to try to get back to our world (simple reason - Emma wants to get back to her son who she adopted out 10 years ago [Henry, who was adopted by Regina/Evil Queen] and her newfound father [Prince Charming/David] while Snow White wants to get back to her recently remembered husband [Charming/David] and newfound grandson [Henry]. Just watch it). The three others traveling with them were Aurora, Mulan (!!!), and Captain Hook. Besides the later seasons of Buffy, how often do you see a group make-up like that? Usually you get the smurfette principle and see one woman with four men.

Like every feminist, I like to see gender equality in general. (Oh, and just so you know, if you think both men and women deserve to be treated as human beings, you're a feminist). Women may get more screen time in this particular show, but it's so incredibly rare that this happens in television and film. It just keeps enthralling me when I watch a scene like the one above. It's just so cool!

If what I've written thus far hasn't convinced you to watch it yet, this last thing will.

Red Riding Hood is a werewolf.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Let's Talk Politics

It's voting day. Not only is it voting day, but it's the last day I have to read everyone's incessant political posts on Twitter and Facebook (theoretically). To mark this momentous occasion, I'm going give you a couple of my thoughts about presidential politics. And please keep the "presidential" thing in mind. That's what I'm talking about here, so don't assume I think the same thing when it comes to state and local elections. Cause I don't.

First, sure. Go vote.

Second, it really doesn't matter who wins the presidency, so don't complain tomorrow.

You may call that cynicism, but I like to think of myself as a realist. Even so, living my life in Utah as a democrat has taught me a few things about being cynical and having "one person, one vote" (that's a complete joke in a state like Utah, by the way. And most states are states like Utah).

Here's my rationale.

First, Congress. They're the ones who pass laws, who control who gets taxed what, how big or small government should be, and they've increasingly shown us their inability to compromise over the last 12 years at least. Probably longer, but I don't have a memory of paying much attention to Congressional politics before then. Here's a tip for anyone who isn't a fan of compromising with the other side: STOP ACTING LIKE A BABY. There's no way people of your frame of thought are going to get enough seats in the House and Senate as well as the presidency, so as long as you are uncompromising in your values (that match way less than half of the country's, by the way), nothing is going to get done and you'll go down in history as an idiot who refused to do anything for the country.

Second, everyone's talking about the economy and here's a juicy little detail for you: the president has a negligible effect on the economy. No one's going to raise the taxes on the middle class (unless they really are that stupid to shot themselves in the foot and, let's be honest, with "compromise" being the four letter word it is these days, that might just happen), and I don't see tax cuts being a big job creator anyway. Job growth in the Bush years really wasn't all that great. And if you look at all the programs FDR put in place during the Depression, sure they made a lot of families some money and made individual lives better (which was needed), but the economy didn't bounce back until manufacturing went way up with WWII. It was the private industry that started the Depression, the current recession, all recessions, and that has brought the economy back every time. There's really not much government can do, so does it really matter who's taking the helm? The course is going to be pretty much the same either way.

Third, a lot of people are talking about the national debt. I don't think anyone says that we shouldn't worry about it, but a lot of economists say that we don't need to worry about it quite yet. It's not at critical levels, and there's not much you can do about the debt without the economy at full potential anyway.  And for anything to get done here, both sides have to give something up here. Spending has to go down, and revenue has to go up. End of story. For spending to go down, we have to tackle both Medicare and Social Security, which is political suicide for any candidate because the electorate are morons, so wait a few decades and we'll go the way of Greece. If by some miracle a president actually wanted to do something about those programs, do you really think Congress would pull together to get anything done? Again, it doesn't matter who the president is. It's Congress. Bottom line, let's end the Social Security tax cap, raise the age limit by a few years, have the government be more hands on to negotiate medical prices to help lower Medicare spending, lower military spending (cause that's not even in the budget) and raise taxes on the middle class. Everyone hates something, but it needs to be done. See how impossible that is for on person?

Fourth, social issues. This might be the only place I see a president making any kind of difference, yet they still rely on Congress to make those changes. Whether you're pro-choice or pro-life, pro-marriage equality or pro-traditional marriage, pro-amnesty or pro-deportation or somewhere in between any or all of those, it's Congress that makes the difference. Judges too, I suppose, but the Supreme Court has become so polarized as well (remember how that wasn't supposed to be an issue when they wrote the Constitution?) and no judge is going to retire until a president of their political persuasion is in power, so the makeup of the Supreme Court seems unlikely to change any time soon.

So really, everything goes back to Congress. It doesn't matter how hard a president tries, nothing will get done without compromise. Compromise won't happen until the primary and convention processes become more inclusive, and that won't happen as long as the partisans are in power of state politics. 

Congress isn't likely to change much this year. It's looking like dems will keep the Senate (maybe lose one seat) while reps keep the House (maybe lose three seats). All those a**hats who refuse to compromise will stay put.

Thus, doesn't matter who's in the White House. Nothing's gonna change.

So stop being so dang optimistic about the future! (That part is a joke, by the way)