Tag Archives: not-entirely-unrelated-to-batman

Non-Binary Building Blocks

26 Feb

This article about the girl from the 1981 Lego print ad is great. But it’s too simple to state that “children haven’t changed. We have.”  The people making advertisements today are the children that were being advertised to in 1981, so if it wasn’t the advertising that changed them, what did? But that’s not the point. The world has changed.

Lego has changed tremendously in the past few decades. They now have licensed toy lines, video games, TV shows, and a movie. They still sell the generic stuff too, but it’s hard to find. They have a huge number of different product lines, some of which are targeted at old stereotypical gender roles, and these just look awful.

However:

1. Lego has always sold kits that come with instructions that are basically just snap-together models.

2. Lego still sells building sets that do not come with instructions and are just a bunch of pieces.

Look, so you understand where I’m coming from: I want a world where everyone is free to be who they are. That means they do not feel any pressure to be anything that they are not. There’s a lot of negatives in that sentence, but the point is that I want the world to be a place where a person can grow up without feeling cultural, physical, or any other kind of pressure to conform to any sort of standard in regards to who they are. Everyone is unique, and that complexity is what makes us human. If we as a whole can embrace that complexity, humanity will be powerful (and peaceful). I want that.

So in as much as pushing for a fluid non-gender binary world is a step in that direction, I am all for it (by all means, go ahead and petition the White House). But I do not understand what the purpose of “gender” would be in such a world.

If “gender” (a thing not related to biological sex) is fluid and limitless, what’s the point of it? What is its purpose?

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The Three Movies I’ve Seen Most Recently

12 May

– Crazy Heart
– Children of Men
– Ironman 2

Crazy Heart was about what I expected. Jeff Bridges won an oscar for it, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is just as good as he is. It’s about an old and aging country star, who is drunk all the time, finding his muse (a young pretty girl, naturally) and as a result changing his life for the better. In other words it’s very predictable and you’ve seen it before and I really didn’t care all that much. But it’s very well done in terms of performances, writing, cinematography, editing, etc. Perfectly enjoyable movie, but nothing spectacular.

Children of Men is still genius. Still one of the most brilliant end-of-the-world movies. It is, however, largely devoid of hope, save for the metaphorical aspects of bringing the key of humanity into Tomorrow. This time I was also keenly aware that it’s (nearly) completely absent of any kind of spirituality or religion, a lack which is made more noticeable by the fact that the end-of-the-world movie I’m currently writing is largely driven by spirituality.

Ironman 2 is, well, it’s Ironman 2. It makes sense that Marvel Studios is the one place in Hollywood that can make, over and over again, movies which feel precisely like comic books. Robert Downey Jr. once again manages to play a guy that should be entirely loathed, but is incredibly enjoyable instead. While Tony Stark and his incredible (and admitted) narcissism is the most entertaining part of the movie, the villain is the least interesting (and over-the-top) part (just like the first movie) but the hints and glimpses into the larger Marvel Movie Universe are both more frequent and exciting, particularly the scenes with Samuel L. Jackson. They’re trying to pull off something with The Avengers that I don’t think has been done before in movies. I hope they manage to do it. Oh, and just like the last one, be sure to stay until the end of the credits for the final scene.

Juno’s Top Nine Movies of the Decade

20 Dec

Filmmaking has really turned a corner this decade. Special effects are truly at the point where absolutely anything is possible. The first movie on the list attests to this amazing fact. While being able to produce any imagined image can be freeing, the story is still king. Several new directions were explored in this arena as well, from Memento telling a story backwards, to Primer telling a story in, uh, whatever order Primer is (or isn’t) in.
Movies on this list are not just supreme examples of movie-craft, they are also entertaining and enjoyable narratives. Enjoyable, for this list at least, is a key word here. Many many movies came out this decade which are, technically speaking, brilliant. Many of them are, critically speaking, better than some of the movies on this list. Movies like Pan’s Labyrinth, Tsotsi, Babel, Brokeback Mountain, Traffic, or City of God are technically excellent movies, worthy of becoming classics. But they are not on this list because the stories they tell are not enjoyable. They’re told magnificently, yes, but I don’t anticipate revisiting them. I don’t long to sit through them again. All the movies on this list I enjoy watching, and enjoy re-watching (and with one obvious exception I have seen each one at least twice). I should also note here, in the interest of fairness, that I have not seen even half of the movies that were made this decade. Particularly recently, I’ve been very remiss in my movie watching. Many critically acclaimed movies are not on this list because I simply haven’t seen them. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Everything is Illuminated, or Monsoon Wedding (to throw out a few random ones) could very well be deserving, but I don’t know.

That out of the way, let’s get on with the list that I know you’ve all been waiting for (as well as a list of some runners-up).

9. Avatar (digital 3d version) – written and directed by James Cameron:
Avatar validates movie theaters. Seeing this movie in digital 3D is an experience like nothing else. Now, to be clear, this movie will not change the world. The story is as derivative as Star Wars with characters no thicker than stereotypical cut-outs. It’s Dances With Wolves. It’s Dune. It’s Pocahontas in space. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Yet you’ve never seen, or experienced, anything remotely like Avatar. I actually wonder how they pulled off some of the visual effects in this film (like Jake’s withered legs), and that’s rare. The action is clear and easy to follow and incredible. This movie, when seen in proper digital 3d, is a glimpse into the future of cinema where screens become not just moving pictures but true windows into vast (and in this case beautiful) new worlds. Also: dragons.

The rest of the list

With Eyes Unclouded – Dangerous Minds

11 Jun

Dangerous Minds was recorded on DVR so I must say that I didn’t really see the movie properly. I missed the start and there were commercials and all the swear words were dubbed over. Maybe the scenes that were cutout for the commercials would have made a difference, I don’t know.

Disclaimer aside, this is a movie that I felt had a very strong beginning and a predictable and weak ending. The story involves Michelle Pfeiffer (who is great) as a young teacher looking for a job. I missed the start so I’m not sure how, but she ends up at this school applying for a part-time substitute job and ends up with a full-time teaching job at “the Academy program” a “school within a school” for the “special” children. If only it were as good as Brookline’s actual School Within A School.

Turns out she’s been hired to teach a group of seemingly unruly kids from poor homes, bad neighborhoods, and violent homes, etc. Short of calling her “white bread” they ignore her when she first walks in, opting instead to continue dancing, talking, drumming on desks, being loud and unruly, etc.

At this point in the movie the problem is that I know exactly what happens next. This underestimated small woman is going to succeed against seemingly great odds. She will inspire these kids, change their lives, the audience is going to feel good about it and the potential of humanity, etc. That the movie doesn’t deviate at all from this old formula is the biggest weakness I think. It tries to. It puts in some tragedy. It tries to make us think that the poor small underestimated teacher, despite making great headway by bribing the children and using Bob Dylan songs as poetry, is going to give up. Yet I never really thought she was going to because, well, it’s a movie.

When the kids start to bluntly state out loud what should be subtext by saying things like “we come from poor neighborhoods,” and “you don’t understand our world,” I begin to see through the already paper-thin premise to the underlying underdog-makes-us-feel-good structure. It’s not a bad exercise in a movie, but it isn’t a great one either.

I guess that’s why it’s as remembered as it is, or isn’t. I remember it being talked about a lot when it was out, when Coolio’s song was on the radio, Michelle Pfeiffer was famous, etc. It was perceived as a really important movie at the time. I’d forgotten the movie existed until it showed up on TV and my DVR recorded it.

If you want to see a movie with this plot structure I enjoyed Stand and Deliver more (Lean on Me is another one, but I don’t remember it as well).

[Previous With Eyes Unclouded: Into The Wild]

Academy Awards

22 Feb

It’s come to my attention that tonight is the Academy Awards. In years past this would have been significant. In this year? Not so much. I haven’t been able to keep up with movies, so I don’t know if they nominated the right ones, and I haven’t seen the ones they did nominate. (Except for Wall-E, which they should have had the courage to nominate for Best Picture, and not just relegate it to Best Animated Picture.)

In fact, in a lot of ways it just feels like more of the same. They haven’t gotten Best Picture right since American Beauty, and even the Visual Effects category seems boring this year. Still, I’ll probably watch just to glimpse footage of the ones I haven’t seen yet.

Speaking of movies I haven’t seen yet, I’d really like to see Coraline in a 3D theater. I imagine the experience is something like being shrunken down and allowed to walk around in and explore a miniature hand-built world. Probably there’s a story too.

A bunch of things, for the sake of an update

6 Sep

The white iPod is dead, but the iPhone is cheaper and the “classic” iPod now holds more media than my powerbook. Seriously, who owns 40,000 songs and has had an unsatiated desire to carry them around?

Here’s this entry’s not-entirely-unrelated-to-Batman news bite: Maggie Gyllenhaal is now posing in lingerie. Yes, she could stand to eat more food, and yes, she still looks hot in handcuffs.

Led Zeppelin is getting back together.

Saving the world is an out-dated notion. Escaping the world is where it’s at. Some people spend almost half of their living hours immersed in a digital world.
In fact, roughly one third of gamers reported they could be ‘more themselves’ in the game than in real life. (And by “gamers” they mean “people we asked who play games online”)

Which leads to this entry’s un-technological (meaning there are no buttons to click, you have to comment with your answer) poll:

Do you hope to:
A: Save the world
B: Escape the world
C: I reject your false dichotomy! Instead, I _____(fill in the blank)___.