Spoiler Alerts

I’ll try to keep this post as spoiler free as possible, but it’s going to be tricky because that’s pretty much all I want to talk about. What exactly? TV show finales (and t.v. shows in general).

(If you don’t want the endings to How I Met Your Mother and Dexter ruined you should stop reading the post now. Fair warning.)

Is it just me or do the finales of some of the best shows, shows with nice, solid track records of quality writing tend to be duds? It sure seems that way to me. One could easily reply that perhaps my standards are too high and no ending these producers come up with could ever somehow make up for the terrible knowledge that I will no longer be whisked away to the fictional world to visit for a brief time with my fictional friends.

Well, I think that’s bullshit. They’ve just been sucking, plain and simple.

Take How I Met Your Mother as a prime example of one way not to do it. Terrible, terrible, terrible ending. Did I mention it was terrible? Oh, and I wasn’t the only one booing the screen when the credits rolled. Apparently a lot of devout viewers were less than thrilled, especially over the divorce of Barney and Robin. The fact that Barney had spent an entire season learning he could love another person apparently meant nothing.  After the backlash, the writers shrugged their shoulders and said hey, sometimes in real life people break up, there aren’t always happy endings in “real life.” Maybe the womanizer Barney wasn’t able to commit because deep down, that’s just who he was …a womanizer. Blah blah blah.

Well, no duh, Einstein. We’re all well aware that couples break up all the freakin’ time. We know there aren’t always happy endings in “real life” because we live it. I think I speak for us all when I say, we’re hit in the face every day with the realization that sometimes life sucks. It’s an inescapable truth. I mean, hell we can open up our respective windows and watch it all day long all around us, if not have it going on in our own homes.

Do you really think we want the suckiness of life to play out on our favorite shows!? The very shows we watch to escape said suckiness of life?  No. We want the happy endings damn it! At least I do. I want to temporarily forget the unsavory parts of life and get away from the suckiness for just a little while. That’s the whole point of escaping to a fictional world. From the outpouring of HIMYM fans, obviously I’m not the only one. And these producers seemed shocked that people were disappointed in the writing of their finale. Hmmm.

And what about Dexter? Yeah, sure he was a serial killer, but come on…he performed a civic duty that should’ve won awards. His fans loved him. Underneath it all, he was a good guy. I know that’s twisted, but it was true. He was never caught doing any of his serial killer-y things and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief each time. He spent 8 seasons evolving from a person who could not feel emotions into a man who wanted a family (and indeed had one within his grasp). The writers led Dexter’s followers on a roller coaster ride of thrills and through it all, Dexter remained true to his “code,” until finally it seemed as though Dexter would finally have everything he had ever dreamed of – life as a lumberjack. Yep. According to Dexter writers, that’s apparently what passes as an acceptable ending for a historically top-notch show. Shhhh.  Don’t even get me started. Okay…breathe…

Entertainment is supposed to allow us to step into a fantasy world where, depending on what you watch, things can be better than in real life. The womanizer can be reformed. The marriage can last. The killer will be caught (or not, as in the case with Dexter). The child will be rescued. The mother doesn’t die. The earth won’t blow up (although I still feel sorry for Marvin the Martian’s lack of an Earth-shattering kaboom).

TV is like a multi-purpose drug. We figure out what kind of high (or low) we want and adjust our dosage accordingly. If we want to be excited there are crime dramas and political espionage series. If we want to swoon a little, love stories are sure to be found. If we want to be goofy, comedy cures. It’s a sliding scale. I don’t want to speak for you, but I personally know that I am not interested in watching a version of my life on the small screen that simply mirrors the crappiness I just ran indoors to get away from.

When are writers going to get this? I should make my own series to show them how it’s done. In mine, the couple we’re all rooting for stays together. The “good guy” serial killer gets his family. Everyone lives happily ever after. Thank you for at least making sure Ross and Rachel happened. If that didn’t work out I would’ve been pissed.

Bad Guys?

Marvel Studios has been getting it right lately. I don’t know if you’re following this expanding and intricate universe they’ve been creating in phases over the years (including Iron Man 1/2/3, Captain America 1 & 2, Thor 1 &2, Avengers, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) but the quality and care that has gone into the franchise has been great — not just for other superhero movies to take note of and try to emulate so we, as an audience, get better crafted stories, but they’re at such a high-caliber that even non-superhero movies could possibly learn a thing or two as well.

For instance, the creation of a believable villain. I’ve said in the past that I fawn over the villains that have a twisted view of reality that was a slow evolution of injustices and misfortunes that accumulated over the course of their life. I hate the villains that just do evil because they want to be bad. That makes no sense. I don’t believe anyone wakes up thinking “Gosh, I would love to be a horrible person and do things that are terrible to others.” Maybe there are some people like that, but in movies I just can’t buy into it. It’s infinitely better when the backstory of the villain is laid out so you can see how they got to the murderous path they set upon.

The Thor films have done it exceptionally well with Loki. While I obviously don’t condone anything he does in that movie (cough, cough),  I can understand why he might think what he’s doing is right. That’s the important ingredient: the empathy. Marvel Studios has done it again with the latest Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier.

Sidenote: If you have not seen the movie yet, stop reading. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

The “bad guy” that Cap, Black Widow, and their team has to take down seems amazingly sinister in the beginning. Just a brutal force with no stop button on the terror he wreaks. No small talk, no petting a white cat as he demands money from the UN via Skype from his secret lair, no MWAHAHAHA laughing, no grandstanding. He just destroys things, silently and quickly. Pretty standard badass stuff. And also pretty forgettable. But as the movie unfolds and his backstory is slowly revealed, the character gets depth and intrigue and you start to see how he got to be this unstoppable storm of homicidal rage. He was given a chance to be empathized with as we saw how his tormentors brainwashed away his humanity and turned him into a dehumanized zombie. It was just awful to watch (in a good way). I felt so bad for him. Yes, the villain. I felt so bad for what he had to go through. And once again I find myself on the side of the “bad guy.”

That’s the type of villain I think movies (or stories in general) should always aspire to. A story that can be viewed from all sides, rather than just the lens of the hero, makes a much more compelling plot and really engages me as a fan. Bravo, Marvel! Your ability to make the villain “not so bad” has been getting stronger as time goes on. It’s getting harder and harder to really hate the villain anymore since they’re not all born with black hearts. They’ve just had some horrible experiences that really messed up their heads and I’m glad the movie studio is taking the time to put that much thought into the “bad guys” now.

captain america

 

An unexpected role model (Or, Ode to Deadpool)

My daughter loves Deadpool. No, that’s not a Metal band from Scandinavia. He’s a comic book character far, far removed from the popular canon of superhero icons.  I’ve let my nerdy side out on this blog previously with an Ode to Loki.   Well now I feel the need to address the badly maligned character of Deadpool.

deadpool banner

In the world of comics, A-Listers are the ones we all know by heart; your Supermans, Batmans, Spider-Mans, etc. The B-List are those whose names you still recognize but might not know their secret identity’s name or what planet they come from. These are your Green Arrows, Martian Manhunters, Silver Surfers. They get some credit every once in a while, but rarely do you see a kid on Halloween rocking a Dr. Strange costume. Then, below that you have your C-listers. They don’t get a lot of love and only really show up when the comic needs to 1) fill in the background space during a huge war, 2) find a convenient way to move a story along without having to explain too much or 3) have someone die. These are your Firestorms, Quicksilvers, Luke Cages, and Inhumans.

This is sort of where Deadpool hovers; a C-Lister with cult status. Where the cult status comes from is also the reason he’s probably not going to ever crack into the B or A lists. First off, while he’s not a villain he’s far from being a hero. He’s a killer. It’s sort of in the name. If that very short description has you thinking his character is some dark, brooding antihero with an insatiable bloodlust borne from a lifetime of sorrow you’d be wrong. He’s actually quite funny. Comedy is a huge element of his character. Very sarcastic, very dead pan, very witty. He’s a quirky comedian. And while he’s routinely breaking the fourth wall by talking directly to the readers during huge gunfights, he’s also just as critical of the people writing his character. Often times Deadpool will express annoyance at how the writers of his comic have portrayed him in a certain storyline. All with biting humor, that is.

deadpool

He’s perhaps one of the first if not the best meta-character that strays far, far outside the lines of what a typical comic is, all while still retaining the mainstays of a typical comic (guns, explosions, blood, action, tragic backstory continually juiced for carnage fodder, etc.). While I don’t read him all that much, I can understand why my daughter and others like him. He doesn’t hesitate, he doesn’t take anything seriously (even when face to face with almost certain death), he doesn’t always do the right thing, he’s definitely no boy scout, he takes advantage of things and people so they work in his favor, and he pretty much gives a middle finger to anyone who doesn’t agree with him.

In many ways he’s the stereotypical morsel of psychopathic perfection we’ve come to expect in quality comic anti-heroes. However, I argue that in many ways he’s also something to aspire to. Okay, so I’m not recommending we become assassins plying our trade to the highest bidder.  But so many of us take ourselves too seriously because we’re worried how other people will see us. Will I fit in? Will they like me? Will I sound dumb if I say this? We let our fears overwhelm us. Deadpool pushes past his insecurity and while horrible things happen to him, he strives to live life on his own terms.  Despite his emotional scars and fears, he does what he wants and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I believe that’s worth emulating.  Yes, yes, I realize that he could probably benefit from having just a tiny bit more compassion and empathy, but seriously, after what he’s gone through what can you expect?  Still…everyone should have a little more of his “I’ll do whatever the hell I want and who cares what they think” attitude.

deadpool on game

Where have all the vampires gone?

Maybe I’m old school, but I just can’t buy into the new trend of vampires that are everywhere on TV and in movies these days. You know what I’m talking about. The sexy, brooding bloodsuckers that wear designer clothes like skinny jeans and leather jackets. Or no clothes at all to better show off their hairless pecs and abs. Their hair is all shiny from the Shisheido mousse they’ve slathered all over their head to get that spiky just-out-of-bed-and-oh-so-handsome look perfected.

Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries…they may be entertaining, but they’re all posers as far as I’m concerned. “Hip” is not a word that should be used to define vampires. Sure, the characters in these shows are charming and sexy, but they’re supposed to also be fierce, narcissistic, predatory, and dangerous, just as vampires are meant to be.  Vampires aren’t meant to be shallow shells of an Abercrombie commercial with fangs thrown in.  Following a vampire should be unsettling and titillating, not just the latter.  Who does this best? In modern-day, it’s Anne Rice of course, the Queen of the Damned (See what I did there?  Nice reference, right??)

Lestat and Louis, these are the archetypes I always return to when I think of the perfect portrayal of this mythical and terrifying species of monster. Rice keeps these two more closely related to the characteristics held by the legendary Dracula and vampires from past eras. By that I mean that the focus of their identities is placed more on their malevolent charm, their perspective that humans are just prey to be taken down like how a lion stalks weak gazelle on the Serengeti.

Louis leans a bit more on the side of brooding, which many of these new Emo vampires rely heavily on to make hearts flutter (the damaged soul syndrome that high school girls are helpless to resist) but he still embodies what a vampire should be. And Lestat…well… he is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate vampire. He is always on the hunt, always seeing fresh meat when he eyes a human, always ready to kill, whereas the majority of True Blood vampires (for example) are only truly fierce when they have to be. When they’re not hungry they’re just hanging out at the bar playing pool, mixing with human society, and shooting out smoldering gazes left and right as if their blood lust is a switch that can be turned off and on with ease.  Indeed, Eric Northman is the only one in True Blood with the characteristics worthy of a vampire.

I desperately want a t.v. series or movie that harkens back to the age-old vampire legends. While I don’t hate Twilight, I also don’t count it as part of the vampire genre. I mean, come on. And True Blood, while enjoyable, is more like a soap opera that often runs off the rails (werewolves, shape shifters, goddesses, fairies, they pack in a lot). The movie Interview with the Vampire was decent enough and I truly enjoyed watching Lestat leap off the pages and onto the screen. But in the book (and we all know books are so much better than their motion picture counterparts), Anne Rice’s artistic combination of Lestat’s fierce, predatory charm and the despondent, soul-searching nature of Louis (who was himself capable of great violence) sparked an epic vampire tale. Now if we can just get that translated to an HBO or Showtime series, I’d be in heaven.

What I’d love to see is a return to this ruthless vampire archetype. I want the danger of being in their presence. I want to understand the despair of immortality. I want to see ferocity again. The genre is getting neutered thanks to this YA trend and it needs to grow its fangs back.

a must read for vampire fans

a must read for vampire fans

Stranded (I wish)

You know that old phrase, “If you were ever stranded on a desert island…” Meh, I’m not a huge fan of that. It’s not like I have anything against beaches or sunshine or lounging in the sand. I just happen to have a better place in mind to be stranded should the next polar vortex or zombie apocalypse rear its ugly (and rotting) head. Put me in a bookstore before any place else. It’s the one place I know of that never gets boring. A desert island, yeah, it sounds nice but I think I might get tired of eating coconut every day and seeing the same damn horizon day in and day out. In a bookstore nothing remains the same. Around every corner and on every shelf is a new landscape to traverse, a different perspective to consider, a unique set of lives to explore. It’s a sanctuary of endless possibility and I revel in the impossible task of trying to find that nonexistent end. I can’t think of anything better than being stuck to while my days away in a Barnes and Noble…especially one with a Starbucks in-house. Throw in some pastries and caffeine and that pretty much sums up Nirvana for me….even if zombies are knocking at the door.

stranded at bookstore

Those sad, celebrity blues

Brooke Burke-Charvet, a model, host, former Playboy Playmate, and general low-level celebrity who rose to stardom mainly because she had a nice face and a surgically enhanced body, was just recently fired from her hosting gig on Dancing with the Stars.  She was apparently devastated and was “blindsided.” This news story has been all over the internet the past few days and I’m sorry but I don’t exactly know why any of us should care.

When a celebrity gets fired from a job, my empathy towards them is non-existent. Let’s take Ms. Burke-Charvet as an example. I don’t want to speculate, but I’m sure she got paid a little more than $20/hour for the time she put in as co-host. A lot more, actually. She won’t have to worry about paying the mortgage next month, let’s just put it that way. Plus, she gets fired and all this PR is instantly stirred up letting the world know, “Hey, there’s a pretty woman looking to get back in front of a camera.” If you think she doesn’t already have her pick of new jobs, given how well-publicized her recent availability in schedule was, then you’re crazy.

Now I do feel  for the average Joes out there who get blindsided by a pink slip after putting their blood, sweat, and tears into a thankless job for 5, 10, 20 years. After providing much-needed services — for peanuts compared to celebrities — people in this country routinely get booted because cheaper work is available. Or the job is no longer necessary due to automated processes.  Or the fat cats upstairs want more money in their pocket and to do that they eliminate a position, figuring that someone else can handle twice the workload. Whatever the reason — those people I feel sorry for.They are thrown into a tailspin without any sort of media campaign letting the world know they could use some work. It’s very possible that the fear of not being able to make the car payment or mortgage becomes reality.

But what about that baseball player who got cut from his team because he was juicing himself full of human growth hormone? ESPN will debate about his merits for hours on end, but he (and this is just an anonymous player) just made $13 million last year alone. I’m sorry, but someone who gets paid a ludicrous amount of money to hit a ball with a wooden stick, or introduce dancers onto a stage… I just can’t feel bad for them when they’re kicked to the curb.

Then there are supermodels that pout and complain about how difficult their lives are when they’re forced to put on a bikini and stand in cold water or, vice versa, wear a parka when it’s a balmy 85 degrees on the Santa Monica pier on shooting day.  I mean, that’s horrible! They should call the labor board for such atrocious treatment on the job!

Recently I read an article featuring today’s “It” girl Kate Upton. For unknowable and ludicrous reasons, Sports Illustrated put her ass in a bikini and shoved her into an anti-gravity chamber. First off — what!? Models floating in space in swimwear for a sports magazine? None of those things go to together. Secondly, in the article she was talking about how hard it was for her to do the shoot. Really!? It was hard to float? It was hard to look at a camera and smile? Was it hard to do all that rigorous, back-breaking work with the six figures they paid you?

A couple of things right off the top that I think may just be harder than putting on makeup and getting my picture taken: pouring hot tar in the middle of the summer for a highway construction project 50 hours a week; breaking up knife fights in juvenile detention centers; going around house to house at 6am every morning  emptying the festering trash out of garbage cans into the back of a truck; storming into a building that is on fire to save people; taking a call to the scene of a crime with no idea  what you will be facing. These are just a few examples of jobs that might, just might, be a little more difficult than Kate Upton’s daily regimen. And something tells me those workers aren’t getting even a fraction of what she’s making.

This goes for celebrities too whenever they complain about the trials and tribulations of their job when they’re being paid millions of dollars to do what they do (i.e. memorize lines and say them). Are you kidding me!? They not only complain about how hard it is to do their job, which is ridiculous enough, but then they also denigrate the movies or the movie franchises that made them household names. Or they sign up for and complete a movie only to complain about the end result (namely a bad movie) as if it had nothing whatsoever to do with them. I wonder if, in those cases, they return the money they were paid? Since they obviously are sooo sorry they were ever associated with the film. Somehow I doubt that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love movies and there are certain actors and directors that I have a lot of respect for — but it’s usually for their philanthropic activities and the fact that they are always “classy” and dignified when it comes to interviews, comments, or criticizing others (as in, they don’t). It’s the whiny, bitchy celebrities that get on my last nerve. I have no sympathy for them…at all. Seriously, we should all have such things to complain about.

I feel for firefighters who have to risk their lives or police who could get shot at any moment — all for paltry sums. My heart goes out to the single parents who work two minimum wage jobs just to keep food on the table.  Those people—they can complain, deservedly so—I get it.  Celebrities not so much.

Oh, to be Auntie Mame

I love my cable provider.  I know not too many people say that…and while I hate paying for it (who doesn’t, right?), I like the channel line-up I’ve got going.  I can always count on Turner Classic Movies to replay my favorites.  My absolute favorite of all time is Auntie Mame. The one with Rosalind Russell from 1958.  It’s the only one as far as I’m concerned.  Rosalind Russell nailed it.  (As a side-note, Rosalind Russell also starred in the original Broadway play.)

Auntie Mame Title Sequence

Auntie Mame is definitely a classic, at least in my eyes, and it’s always going to rank as #1 on my personal list. If you haven’t seen it, you really should.  It’s done in the style of a play….with gorgeous costumes and in your face characters and each scene fading out to black on a dramatic note.  There’s an excellent cast of actors with each one perfectly portraying their character.  Please tell me if you hate Babcock as much as I do or if you cringe each time you hear Gloria speak!  Trust me, if you want some good clean fun and laughs, it’s definitely worth your while to watch this movie.

One primary reason I love this movie so much is because the titular character is a type of female that I’d love to see more of (or hell, even be), yet when I watch today’s movies these strong yet eccentric female characters simply don’t exist. Auntie Mame is a shining example of how to be outspoken, caring, loyal to friends, accepting of different lifestyles (and how!), independent, and strong; all qualities I think that are imperative for today’s young girls to know.

Auntie Mame

If you’re not familiar with the movie here’s a brief synopsis that will hopefully show why Auntie Mame is a laudable silver screen icon. Right from the start she’s friends with a rogue’s gallery of characters. Elitists of the time would have called them “beatniks” or “bohemians.” Nowadays perhaps they’d be called “hipsters” or referred to as some sort of alternative and eclectic subset of the caste system. Auntie Mame just calls them friends. And they take care of each other. While she does eventually fall in love with Beauregard Burnside (deliciously played by Forrest Tucker) she never loses her vibrant sense of self in the process. That tends to happen a lot in movies. The girl needs “saving” and suddenly a knight in shining armor appears, swoops in to do the saving, and the girl dutifully surrenders her life to better serve his. Bullshit.

Auntie Mame retains her uniqueness and shows that it is possible to let someone else into your life without transforming into something else entirely. At first, she tries really hard to fit in with Beauregard’s family, even trying to learn how to ride in a hunt although she’s never been on a horse in her life.  But she fails miserably and then she realizes that it’s just not worth it….it’s not who she is.  As it turns out, Beauregard is a one of a kind guy who loves her independence and quirkiness. I think her failing like that can even be viewed as a “moral to the story” kind of statement – in other words, this is what happens when you try to be something you’re not.  You fail.

Auntie Mame and Beauregard Burnside

What’s interesting too is that, as unlikely as it may seem, Mame, in all of her madcap glory, is the freaky glue that binds her friends into a solid familial hodgepodge.  She’s magnificently sophisticated and glamorous, yet she insists on being kind and taking in the odd stray friend here and there, and she does her absolute best to spread good wherever and whenever she can.  As crazy as it sounds, she’s definitely a character worth emulating.

The best bit….and I guess I should’ve started with this – because this is how the movie started – Mame’s nephew Patrick (who eventually wrote the book this movie was based on) lost his parents when he was a small child at which time he was summarily dropped kit and caboodle at Mame’s Manhattan party shack….umm….I mean brownstone.  Well.  It was love at first sight.  And a completely non-maternal, cocktail swigging bohemian suddenly became a mother….a good one.  Albeit still bohemian.  But more than being just a financial support or providing the basics, she imparts on Patrick the heart-felt lessons of how to remain open-minded, to be kind, to truly love life, enjoy experiences, and be tolerant of all types of people.  She instills in him a sense of wonder and a sense of joy, encouraging him to make the most of life, and to embrace everything life may throw at you.

Auntie Mame and Patrick Dennis

I could really get used to seeing more women like this lifted up as an example to our impressionable teens and tweens out there. I’m looking at you Hollywood. Where did all the Auntie Mames go?

Auntie Mame Poster