November 2013


(This is spoiler free for Thor 2, but I do mention important plot points from the first Thor movie. So, if you haven’t seen that, then get thee to Netflix…)

A week after the rest of my friends, I finally got around to seeing Thor 2. While it was not quite as awesome as the first film, it still had a lot of things going for it. Mostly all the Thor/Loki scenes, all the Loki feels, and the addition of Zachary Levi.

I’m not interested in revealing any of the huge plot points from this film or reminding you to stick around during/after the credits (it’s a Marvel film… you stay until that screen turns blue to remind you of the MPAA rating of the movie you just watched). I mean, you know the drill – there was plot that revolved around some fantastical evil entity and the “good guys” had to save the day. But, I did want to share some of my opinions about certain characters and aspects of the film.

Thor 2 continues the tradition of the rest of the Marvel movies (as well as the recent Star Trek franchise reboot) in being an action-filled Chick Flick. Yes, these films are marketed toward the ever-popular demographic of young men in their teens/early 20s (surely you’ve noticed all these films are PG-13), but they are practically tailor-made for women who like action movies as much as a solid bromance.

Yes, bromance. Not romance.

Sure, Thor’s got a lady friend (hello, Jane Foster), but his biggest relationship drama comes from his interactions with his (adopted) brother, Loki. And THIS is what us ladies love – aesthetically pleasing men hashing out their feelings via talking, bickering and fight sequences. (Plus, there were a couple minutes of shirtless Thor for pretty much no reason except to gawk at Chris Hemsworth’s immaculately built upper body. I’m sure it was to appease those who were “dragged” to the film by their man friend, but let’s be real… I personally know more women who have seen this film than men. And we went to see the film for Loki.)

The Thor/Loki (or “Thorki”) scenes were definitely among the most entertaining and/or heartfelt sequences in the film. These brothers were enemies during the first Thor movie and in The Avengers, but Thor 2 finally brings them together as allies to take out an even more problematic foe.

It was established in the first Thor film that Thor and Loki are not related by blood. As a baby, Loki was left to die and he was taken in by Thor’s dad, Odin. Odin and his wife, Frigga, raised Loki as their own, but it was Thor who was being prepped to take over as King or Asgard. This did not sit well with Loki both before and after he found out he was adopted (which was why he acted out so much in Thor and The Avengers). He gets this information thrown in his face (especially by Odin) quite a lot and you can almost understand why he’s so petulant and sassy.

I’m sure you noticed how sassy was Loki was in Thor 2. If you didn’t, you must have been sleeping during the film because Loki was sassing up the joint like it was his job. Witty barbs, constant bickering with Thor, and smug remarks were flying around more than that Aether was.

It was all an act, people.

Yes, Loki is sassy. But all that sass was a façade to attempt to cover up the pain he is obviously in. Having rewatched the first Thor film recently, I realized Loki’s sass stems from both jealousy and insecurity. At the end of the first Thor film, Loki is legitimately concerned when the Rainbow Road portal thing separates Thor and Jane because there is a likely possibility that Thor will never see Jane again. Loki feels for his brother, but it’s not just one feeling and the feelings are conflicted. Loki feels bad that Thor might not see the woman he loves again. But at the same time, Loki (at least from what we’ve been presented) has never had that kind of relationship with someone to lose. No one has ever loved him unconditionally with the exception of his mother… and she’s not even really his mother. So, even though Loki calls Frigga his mom, that familial tie is wholly artificial and he feels that with every breath he takes. He shouldn’t be alive, but he is because of Odin and Frigga’s charity. When that love is compromised or taken away, Loki basically has nothing going for him except for his relationship with Thor – and that is shaky, at best.

Watching Thor and Loki interact is great. They have the brotherly bickering down (that scene when Thor is trying to fly that plane thing while Loki is taunting him is a stitch), but there are also moments when you can tell they want to trust and respect each other but they aren’t sure if that is the smartest thing to do since they have had a bit of a rocky past the last couple years. Watching them work through their differences and fight alongside each other instead of against each other is rewarding and makes for good, emotional drama. Watching them do that while they are fighting bad guys makes it good, emotional, entertaining drama.

Also entertaining – Zachary Levi as Fandral. He obviously did not play Fandral in the first film, but according to IMDB, he was supposed to, so it made sense that when they had to recast for the sequel to bring on the guy who was supposed to be in the film to begin with. The part is small, but I couldn’t help but smile when I saw him on screen. (My first introduction to Zachary Levi was with Broadway’s First Date and now I’m watching Chuck because it’s finally on Netflix. [No, I have not seen Tangled. Stop asking.] Having briefly met him, I think he’s one of the nicest people on the planet and will continue to support his artistic endeavors because he is the bee’s knees.) He definitely looks better with his natural brown hair as opposed to Fandral’s blond coif, but Zachary Levi is Zachary Levi and the man has solid comedic timing and a welcome presence.

I’m glad I saw Thor 2 in theaters. It’s a spectacle of digital effects and handsome actors/pretty actresses who can actually act. It’s a popcorn movie. Not the best Marvel film, but certainly nowhere near the worst either. If you have Loki/Thorki feels, definitely go see this.

I have been reading a lot of YA books as of late (a loooooot), as I’m writing a YA book and am trying to read a wide variety of books within the genre. In the last 24 hours, I read The Spectacular Now (which was recently made into a major motion picture). It was definitely a good read. Tim Tharp’s writing style is, in a word, spectacular. His dialogue was great, his descriptions were interesting and unique to other books I’ve read, and I was intrigued by his protagonist (Sutter). I say that I have mixed feels because as much as I loved reading the book, I saw the ambivalent ending coming a mile away and I sincerely wished he would have gone a slightly different direction.

One thing I found interesting about this book was the lack of adult supervision. Yes, there were adult characters and they did pop up every now and again to say (or not say) parent-y things. A majority of this book is Sutter interacting with his friends and ex/girlfriends. They are seniors in high school, which to young people is about as adult as you can get without legally being able to buy alcohol. But that’s the thing, though… Sutter is basically an alcoholic and has zero troubles acquiring alcoholic beverages throughout the whole of the book. He usually seems to have a buzz going, but strangely enough you (the reader) still kind of like him. He seems charming, and when you read the dialogue with Miles Teller’s voice in mind (as he played Sutter in the movie), you kind of get why he does what he does. His life isn’t perfect and he’s been through some shit – but haven’t we all? Sutter just deals with his through drinking and falling for someone he never thought he would actually fall for. It’s kinda sweet, in a backwards “life sucks” way.

I didn’t see the movie, but based on the cover of the book I got from the library with the movie characters on it, they glammed up Amiee pretty good. (Ain’t that always the case?)

I’m super glad I read this book while I’m in the middle of writing my book. It’s definitely inspiration to make the description in my book more colorful. 

And with that, I’m gonna get back to my book. I’m on Chapter 11 🙂 

I went and saw 12 Years a Slave today after hearing phenomenal reviews and seeing the trailer. The film has Oscar Bait written all over it and I wanted to see if the hype was warranted. It was and it wasn’t.

 

Yes, 12 Years a Slave is a powerful film. It tells the story of Solomon Northrup and how he, a free man living in New York, was forced into slavery in Georgia where he spent 12 years surviving on the different plantations he worked on. His story is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, but while watching the film I felt like I was being told exactly how I was supposed to feel. Of course I felt terrible for the situations Solomon and the other slaves lived through – NO ONE should have had to gone through that. As our government’s documents say, “all men are created equal,” so there is no excuse for how poorly slaves were treated. (People are not property. No person is worth more or less than another person, nor should s/he be treated as such. Basically all the rhetoric Brad Pitt’s character said in the movie…) But, at the same time, I thought some of the sequences and specific shots in the film were wholly self-indulgent and were put in for the shock-value they provided. At times, this was used well (the scene were a hanged slave is barely surviving by standing on his tiptoes for almost an entire day), at other times, I was put off by the in-your-face nature of it all (I’m all for close ups of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s beyond expressive face, but the camera hung on him so long, I became distracted by his contact lenses that he was obviously wearing…). The film has graphic depictions of violence (Remember The Passion of the Christ? This film was way worse than that, lashings-wise. I had to look away a few times.), but it’s sadly necessary to drive home the point that slavery was one of the stupidest and inhumane things our country ever took part in.

 

The cast for this film was amazing. Ejiofor continues to amaze me with the amount of emotion and character he is able to display with his facial expressions and body language. He is graceful on screen and is an ideal protagonist. You root for him because you care. You care because he should never have had to live through that. And honestly, it’s amazing he did. (That’s not a spoiler… the movie is based off of the book he wrote about being enslaved for 12 years.)

 

Another standout performer is Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Patsey (a slave woman who works alongside Solomon at Edwin Epps’s plantation). This woman goes through hell and then is repeatedly dragged back through it. She’s a hard worker who is on the receiving end of unwanted affection and detestation from the Epps patriarch (Michael Fassbender – beyond creepy and a total asshat) and matriarch (Sarah Paulson – oh my god, I wanted to smack her so hard and/or scratch at her face). Patsey asks Solomon for a favor in one scene and it breaks your heart, but not as much as her lashing scene. (Also not a spoiler – basically anyone who is a slave in the film gets beat at one point or another because slavery was a terrible, terrible, terrible thing that hurt a lot of people who didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of such intolerance.)

 

And then there are the slave owners/overseers. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Solomon’s first owner and was the “nicest” one of the lot. He didn’t actively beat his slaves, but he didn’t treat them as equals either. Conversely, Michael Fassbender portrays a borderline maniacal slave owner who states on multiple occasions that slaves are property and he can treat them however he wants. (If I could have reached through the movie screen and ripped his nuts off, I would have.) Brad Pitt’s character confused me. He seemed like a wanderer who was just kind of there. He was one of the few white characters in the film that saw that slavery was wrong and spouted all sorts of equality-driven dialogue at Fassbender’s character. I am not a Brad Pitt fan, but I obviously had to like his character because he was one of the only people who spoke out against all the wrongdoings that were going on.

 

The cinematography for the film was gorgeous while the editing left something to be desired. There were some shots and short sequences of scenery that dragged a bit. I get that they were meant to establish location, but I cared about Solomon and would rather have had a few less water shots to keep his story going.

 

I knew Hans Zimmer did the music before the credits rolled. My favorite bit of music was a sequence that sounded like it might have been lifted from Inception – a series of loud, long, ominous tones to heighten the drama and cause unrest. I dug it.

 

Before the movie started, I tried to scope out what other people were in the audience – whether people came alone or were with others. I heard a child or two somewhere in the theater (this movie is NOT appropriate for little ones… holy hell). There was a wide variety of people, which I thought was good. I went to the movie by myself, but ended up seated near a group of black women who were my age or a little younger. The woman seated closest to me handed me a wad of tissues part way through the film. I wasn’t crying (my nose is just always running), but I accepted the tissues and thanked her just the same. I did tear up a couple times (there is a scene with Solomon and his violin that symbolized him finally losing hope and that really got to me, as well as the ending… oh, that ending), but I didn’t cry. I did let out a few curse words during scenes where Solomon and/or other slaves were treated poorly, or when Solomon had the courage to stand up for himself/others. But then people clapped at the end of the movie… I hate it when people clap at movies. Ugh.

 

12 Years a Slave is a good movie. It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen ever, but I can see it getting nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and perhaps some production awards. However, I think that critics and awards voters need to think about the quality of the film, though, and not just the message. I mean, yes, obviously slavery is beyond wrong and the film’s message is inspiring, but giving this film a slew of awards it might not deserve when compared to other worthy films is not going to change the fact that slavery existed. Handing 12 Years a Slave a bunch of trophies will not make up for the terrible things slaves went through. Instead, people should look at this film and vow never to let anything like that happen again. (Yes, I’m talking to YOU, people who still treat minority/disenfranchised groups of people with less respect than they deserve…)

 

Awards season is just beginning. 12 Years a Slave is a contender, but I wouldn’t push it to the front of the Oscar race just yet since we still have two months of releases to go.