Super Hero Hype

This past Sunday, David Ayer, director of the upcoming 2016 film Suicide Squad, tweeted a photo of the cast of misfits known as the Suicide Squad including Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and Deadshot. The film has slightly over a year before it’s released and a trailer hasn’t even been made yet however, with the release of this photo and the prior photos of Jared Leto transforming into the iconic character, The Joker, for the same film, it is clear that we are being hyped.

I used to enjoy the hype, the marketing, the press. In fact, I have always maintained that guerilla marketing is the most entertaining marketing and can be even more exciting than the actual film. It’s not always the film’s fault, the marketing team that creates the campaign is just far too talented for their own good. So when a film like Blair Witch or Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters gets the advertising but doesn’t deliver in the box office, the hype machine can force people to question if they like the film or the advertising.

It is great when it works (See The Dark Knight or Gone Girl), but for the great mass of film lovers, its hard to tell if it is going to be beneficial at all to one’s psyche to see the marketing. It’s similar to a friend recommending a film: they tell you it’s the best movie they’ve EVER seen, you have to watch it, if you don’t, you’re missing out. Then, you see the movie and it was good, but not the best movie EVER. So the next film your friend recommends, you take it with a grain of salt. Sure, if you are a casual film goer, it’s not a deal breaker to be disappointed but if you’re a “filmie”, it can ruin the fun.

I will be in the theater for both Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad (BvS is set to release a few months ahead of its counterpart Suicide Squad) but I will hopefully be there with little to no knowledge of the plot. Just so that I can have that moment when a film is brand new and nothing has tainted my love for it.

Gendered Toys & Forced Norms

There’s been a big argument recently against the common practice of gendering toys and books in order to appeal to a particular audience. For years, I never really paid very much attention to the argument. Honestly, if you don’t like something just stay away from it and do what you need to and be happy. However, I read an article on the Huffington Post about gendered books that really got me thinking of my own childhood.

I like girly things. I wear dresses, heels, I love makeup and I know how to sew. But I also like comic books, video games, baseball and boxing. Just those sentences show what I was taught as a child in terms of gender norms. It shouldn’t make someone feel different just because they like certain activities that aren’t considered “usual” for their gender. Things like comic books and video games appeal to certain people who have a certain cerebral perforrmance, not because they have certain sexual organs. And the same thing goes for dresses, heels and makeup.

In the article, written by Caroline Bologna, they point out some of the harmful gender stereotypes listed on the front of books called The Big Book of Girl Stuff and The Big Book of Boy Stuff. While the boy book implies boys need to know how to build rockets and what books to read, the girl book gives advice on how to start babysitting and how to give the perfect compliment. Another major issue is that the boy book says “how do I tell a girl I like her” and vice versa on the girl book.

Nobody is claiming that its not ok to include these things in the books, but the issue here is that a whole subsection of children are being alienated. I know there are those out there who believe that we are far too sensitive toward gays, transgendered individuals and gender queers, to which I affirm and understand. However, we should be sensitive to them because that’s what they deserve after years of having to remain in the closet. To hand a child a book that includes “how to tell someone I like them” will not at all make them say “Someone? That means I can like someone of my own gender! Suddenly, I’m gay!” Nope. Just like wearing heels doesn’t make a man want to be with another man or how playing sports doesn’t make a woman a lesbian. Unfortuately, that is not at all the way love works and kids are much smarter than we may think. By including the OPTION, we are opening the doors to children who will be proud of who they are and more accepting to people who like different things from them. The gendering of toys and books does not need to happen anymore because we should be able to be whatever definition of our genders that we want it to be.

The Oscars’ Special Guest Star: A Conversation About Suicide

Watching the Academy Awards this past Sunday, I noticed that the word “suicide” was a lot more prevalent than in any awards telecast before it. We had Dana Perry, winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject for her film “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1″, dedicate her award to her son, a suicide victim, and told us how we needed to talk about suicide out loud. Winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay award, Graham Moore, talked directly to those like him, who attempted suicide at age 16, and told them to “stay weird, stay different”. These people are the kinds of people affected by suicide. The saddest thing about the subject of suicide is the fact that it has always existed, it isn’t a new thing.

A little history about me, I attempted suicide at 22 and 23, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. Since surviving my attempt, I’ve tried to make the people around aware that it is something that exists. Most people don’t believe that murderers will invade their home in the middle of the night, or that the brakes on their car will go out and cause a horrible pile-up. They also don’t believe that someone in their lives could feel so lost and alone that they would want to take their lives.

And this is why we do need to talk about suicide out loud. A key icon of the struggle of suicide, in modern times, is the late Robin Williams (it feels strange to say that, late) and as a child of the 90’s, I saw him in every comedy and thought the same thing that everyone thought, he’s happy. But I also didn’t see his personal struggles, probably similar to things that I experienced in my darkest times. Saddness, loneliness, and just a complete lack of a strong ego that most people have to prevent those dark, self-loathing thoughts from creeping up. People like to claim that suicide is for the weak and that it is selfish. And unfortunately, these are the stereotypes that survivors of suicide endure from those who choose not to understand or listen. It really takes a great amount of strength to hurt yourself and some times all that could pull you away from it is one person to say “I understand and I’m here for you”. However, the stigma of it and society’s constant pressure to keep it silent from our every day converstations make it easy for someone like Robin Williams to hide and put on a smiling face just because it makes everyone else feel better.

We all need to take responsibility for every suicide that happens in the world. That is not to say that we can prevent each one (my experiences as a bipolar sufferer have told me that if someone is determined to kill themselves, they will do anything to find a way) but our fear of just speaking about it makes it harder for people to find help. This is why I, as a survivor of suicide, appreciated every mention of the word suicide on Sunday night. Not only did we have someone who was very directly affected by the suicide of another, but we also had a suicide survivor. I truly hope that even after the post-Oscar glow disappears at the end of the week, people will still talk about Graham Moore’s call to the weird and Dana Perry’s heartbreaking dedication. I hope they talk about people they know who have attempted or committed suicide. I hope people will talk about their attempts or thoughts. I hope people will talk, and I hope soon we can all sit down and, at least once, talk about suicide seriously.

Humility & the Grammys: Song of the West

I recently watched the Grammys ( I don’t have cable so I always watch things after the fact) and I was a little confused by the whole Kanye West fake out that occurred when Beck won for Album of the Year. After, I reasoned, much as everyone else had, that he was making a joke out of his ridiculous moment six years before at the VMAs with Taylor Swift. I thought to myself, maybe he is changing, maybe he is becoming a much more calm and much more reasonable man now that he is a father and husband. I thought that until he came out and said it wasn’t a joke.

Shirley Manson’s response to his disgusting display is, by far, my favorite. My favorite line would be “you disrespect your own remarkable talents and more importantly you disrespect the talent, hard work and tenacity of all the artists when you go so rudely and savagely after such accomplished and humble artist [sic] like BECK”.

This response, not Buzzfeed articles comparing Beyonce to Beck, is the most appropriate in terms of what happened. I would never say that one artist is better than another. Each artist is different. Yes, Beyonce has other artists sharing the writing credits on her album, but how does that make her any less of an artist than Beck? I’m sure he was inspired by several artists as well. Sure, Beyonce doesn’t play instruments but that doesn’t mean she isn’t talented. To compare two artists who are so vastly different is not the way to stand up against such oppression as Kanye.

Beyonce seems like a classy, intelligent woman who doesn’t need the rude acts of a fellow artist to stand up for her. Artists lose, they get nominated and then, they lose. That’s how awards shows work. No one is saying that Beck is far more talented than Beyonce, but her album just didn’t win. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross didn’t win the Oscar for best soundtrack for Gone Girl, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. Kayne’s outburst doesn’t help anyone notice Beyonce’s talent. Instead, it just makes a mockery of the awards ceremony and makes it seem like he’s a sore loser when he wasn’t even nominated! I feel sorry for him that he has to pout and stomp his feet to get the attention he needs. It has nothing to do with race, talent or recognition. It has to do with Kanye wanting to be noticed for something. He had a mediocre performance, wasn’t nominated and just had to be the center of attention so this is the only way he can get that attention. Maybe his wife told him he shouldn’t make an ass of himself so he stopped himself before going onstage and played it off as a joke but we all know tigers can’t change their stripes.

A Korean Import turned American: Oldboy

For many who actually saw the original film, Oldboy, back in 2003 when it was released, the idea of a remake was simply upsetting. The movie’s twisted background and psychological connection with the audience is just “unredoable”, in my opinion, and putting the name Spike Lee on anything just makes it seem like its a ploy to get more buzz around the film. However, after seeing the movie myself today, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

It wasn’t that the movie was done exactly like the previous film, in fact, it was done differently in a lot of aspects of the plot line (which I won’t give away here). The fact that the movie was adapted into a version that was much more Americanized than the Korean version was refreshing. I didn’t feel like I did with The Eye or One Missed Call. Those films just tried too hard to be like the original because of the Asian version’s strong followings. Instead, Oldboy decides that it can never be like the original and does its best to try to make due.

This brings me to the idea of remaking movies, which I absolutely despise. There are millions of writers in the world yet we are still making movies over again. There’s no imagination left in Hollywood anymore and when we take Asian movies and remake them, we make ourselves look like idiots once again. I say this as a writer and a movie fan. I don’t want to see all of my favorite Asian horror films remade, I don’t want to see all of my favorite manga or anime made into feature length films starring American actors pretending to be Asian. I want something new, but the problem is, if screenwriters do make something unique, it flops. But instead of allowing themselves to flop, they decide to take other, more successful movies, and remake them to ensure they make money for the big studio heads. But what will happen in the future when we run out of movies to remake? Then we have the silly reboots like Superman, Spiderman, Incredible Hulk, Batman….

I could go on, wage a war against Hollywood and their films, but I will always be willing to pay money to see a movie, even if I hate it. And that is why Hollywood will always win. There’s always someone somewhere who has never seen the original and probably won’t see it if there’s a new one on the horizon. And so we continue, but at least I can say to Spike Lee and other film makers that take a film and at least try to make it new, you’re kind of doing it right.

American Music Awards = Devoid of Talent?

Honestly, when the recent polls went out for the AMAs, what were the voters thinking? To place Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers in the alternative rock category was painful enough but giving the Icon award to a young artist like Rhianna was just unbearable. Its unfortunate that the categories only had three nominees because I just wanted to see if there was any type of reconciliation for the misguided choices like Mumford and Sons. Music isn’t what it used to be (previous winners in the alt rock category: Pearl Jam, Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins) and the AMAs show all of us over the age of 20 how different it is. As the years tick by, music with actual genres and categories become more blurred and genres, like the illusive industrial and heavy metal, disappear with their famous bands and devoted fans. Dubstep reduces the need for actual singers or musicians and auto tune allows former untalented artists to be successful album vocalists. The rare musical talent that acts like Fleetwood Mac, Nine Inch Nails, Queen, etc had in their time is unmatched by the Katy Perrys, Lady Gagas and Miley Cyrus‘s of today. There’s no actual talent being churned out in record labels anymore unless they come in the form of young female vocalists. Lorde and Ariana Grande make the future seem, at least, somewhat brighter because of their aversion of traditional teen bop music and trashy attire. If only we could see good bands develop and change the landscape of the music world and bring back the lost musical genre called alternative rock. Until then, we wait, watching mostly vocal lead bands like Imagine Dragons win alt rock awards because that’s all we have left to represent our taste in music.

Fall Programming Fails & Successes

I had intended on writing this post after I had watched ALL the new fall programs, however since many shows have still yet to be shown and I am impatient, I am reviewing the current releases.

I’ll start with Dads starring Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi. Individually, I don’t think that these actors could hold a show together for any length of time. Luckily, the producers paired these two and created an interesting and funny premise. I’m sure there are nay sayers that think this show is terrible, but in my opinion the issues between both son-dad pairs are real and intelligently executed. The Pot Brownie episode was a great way to have drug use in primetime television and its racist and sexist comments are most likely directed to bring attention to the fact that RACISM AND SEXISM ARE STILL PREVALENT! There’s been so much talk about how the show is offensive but the fact is, its realistic. I’ve never met anyone that is concerned with political correctness during everyday conversation and Dads makes sure that we know that.

Mom is another show that risks offensive-ness for the sake of reality. The cycle of teen pregnancy within the family is real, and so is the issue of alcoholism and boss/employee relationships. My opinion of this show was low at first upon seeing Anna Farris on TV but the humor is perfect for her talents and the first episode really forces the viewers to connect to her broken down life. As a sitcom, I think the premise is new and refreshing, and like Dads, the show finally brings real life to primetime television. If I didn’t feel as pathetic as Anna Farris’ character, Christy, I would feel sorry for her. Allison Janney also contributes to the fantastic talent in this show as Christy’s mom, Bonnie, a recovering alcoholic who “did the best she could” as a mother. I think turning a show with such a sad background into a sitcom really makes the characters so much more love-able and hopefully long lasting.

Now to the worst, which I don’t have much to say about.

The Goldbergs. Ugh, I get it, you’re trying to be like The Wonder Years. The problem is, you can’t be like The Wonder Years. I find the show to be lacking in some major things, like Comedy or general interesting dialogue. I have a feeling that the show will be canceled soon, and if it isn’t I’m not really sure who would want to watch a show about the ’80s through the eyes of a family with  no really dynamic. Adam Goldberg, who narrates the episodes, is no Kevin Arnold and because of that, his character is not interesting enough to keep audiences attention on what is happening to the family.

Another lacking show is The Michael J Fox Show. I want to like it, I really do. That’s why it’s still scheduled to record on my DVR and it’s because I love Michael J Fox as an actor. However, the lighthearted look at a Parkinson’s sufferer in the public eye is not as lighthearted as he probably intended it to be. I feel as if there is too much centered on being inspiring AND funny at the same time when the show should have been much more about the humor. I love that Michael J Fox is trying to come back and make his suffering less saddening, but the problem lies in the script and the dialogue. Perhaps we will have a turn around after the first few episodes, perhaps it will get canceled, who knows?

I know there are several other shows needing reviews (Agents of Shield, Season 3 of Once Upon a Time, The Blacklist, Hostages, etc) but this post is only so long so I’ll review them after we find out who gets the cut at the end of the season.