Pacific Rim (2013)

I went fromm knowing nothing about this movie to being all about it. Seriously. 

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Back in October or November when the first trailer or teaser was released I wasn't in on it, but all of my twitter stream were about it. Their lives had changed, they all had boners (I happen to follow a lot of dudes... why are their dicks the first thing to respond to stuff??) so I finally decided to watch it to see what the hubbub was was. My interest was piqued. 

I liked G Gundam. It's the only Gundam series I watched, but I'm cool with the idea of mecha anime so I was kind of jonsed for it, but as the release date rolled around I did what I always do, I didn't look at anything. I'd kind of forgotten things. i wanted to see it because Idris Elba, mechas (jaeger) and giant monsters (kaiju).  In the theater I fell in love with Mako Mori, Charlie Day got a resurgence of love from me, as did Burn Gorman (whose name I always forget. I want to call him Simon, was that his name in Torchwood? I just feel like his name should be Simon...) and Ron Perlman. I was cool with the lead white-dude (Charlie Hunnam), I have a new love for Clifton Collins Jr, but Idris has my fangirl heart is a death grip from his sympathetic squint - fantastic!  Also, Black Dude as a lead hero in an action movie like this.

I feel like Ramin Djawadi did a great job with the score, and whoever mixed the music into the movie did a great job of not calling attention to it. One track sounded a little Iron Man-y, but I might have been too into the movie to notice that after a while, but I think it mostly had it's own flavor as a score.

Going back to people of color, since a lot of this movie took place in Hong Kong I loved the global aspect to the cast. There were some Russians, Americans, a lot of English/GB/UK, Australian dudes and a lot of Asians. Many were nameless and filled in crowd scenes, I feel there could have been more women mechanics in those scenes (never enough women in movies but better than most). It fails the Bechdale test but the women are portrayed as being strong even when emotional. Mako has drive, she has her own motivation and agency. The Russian female, we don't get to see her as much as it seems like some people online would have liked to have seen her, but she was also cool. I've heard a rumor that more was filmed and shown the Chinese and Russian pilots than ended up in the movie. I hope it's true and that it ends up on the Blu-Ray/DVD. I also would have liked for there to have been more black people, but it's a condition with me. I like gender and racial diversity.

Addressing the women in the movie, I liked that there's never a glamour shot of them. Mako is shown as being emotional, enraged, confident, enthusiastic and shocked, but there's never a slow pan  of her in skimpy or sexual clothes. We get to see Charlie Hunnam like that - twice even - all shirtless and muscular. Fully suited or in their casual clothes Mako and the other woman (I forgot her name, she piloted the Russian Jaeger) aren't reduced to being T&A for the audience. Hell, the movie has the thinnest whisper of a romantic element but it mostly focuses on the fact that these fucking kaiju are trying to tear shit up.  

I've been looking at collateral damage in spectacle movies a bit more and paying attention to it more recently. Here the jaeger pilots initially seem to try to avoid fighting the kaiju in the cities and try to save as many lives as possible. I can't imagine how much structural damage has happened over the extended timeline of the movie (there is one major time jump, but kind of 2 because the first 10 minutes set up everything else.) you'd think after battling the kaiju for about 10 years they'd stop building skyscrapers but you need to punch through a building and avoid a Newtons Cradle somewhere.

Some other stuff i liked: there's not time spent explaining the jaegers, at all. The first one was built in 14 months and we're told why they need 2 pilots. No time is extended to how they work, or the mechanics of them. There are some small - not quite throw away- lines about what they're made of, but it's kind of just there was the need and then they were. I don't really care how they work, they exist and they have crazy-mecha magic-weapons. I'm happy at that.  

I don't remember who I saw comment on this but it's true, there is more heart than I expected. It is about stopping the kaiju from destroying everything and taking over earth, but there is believable emotion baggage on the main dude, Mako and with Idris Elba. The support scientists played by Day and Gorman both get their moments to be right and wrong and support one another on their wacky side adventure. This movie is about teamwork and supporting people. Countries put aside ages old disputes to defend the planet from an intruder. Each jaeger is piloted by a team, then there are the numerous crews below them keeping them alive.

I think the last thing I'll bring up that I loved it that there was humor. It wasn't so much 'ha ha irony!' it was 'this jaeger is being this kaiju with a ship'. There were some small visual gags, and some humorous quips but it wasn't like Iron Man (especially 3) where they went out of their way to have levity. It was a bit wry, kind of like 'this is our life and if we don't try to laugh a little we'll never stop crying because this is fucked'. I might be explaining it wrong, but I do want to see it again. There are things you pick up on during subsequent viewings of a movie, I want to see those things.

I was so into this movie that when the theater got dark and it got going I was leaning forward the entire time. I didn't need anything to keep my hands entertained, which happens if things feel slow for me. I laughed I cheered, I felt my heart race with the drama and action. I was game for it all. I even told someone to put away their phone and was prepared to fight about it, but he acquiescenced and I was able to just enjoy the movie.

Was it perfect, of course not, but it was really damn good. And I want to see it again. I'm glad I have the art book because the kaiju and jaeger designs are amazing and I just want to look at them and love the people who worked to make them look so fucking cool.

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Addendum: July 16

I want to issue an addendum to what I had to say about Pacific Rim because I was letting certain biases I have cloud my ability to accept some things as being different from so many other spectacle movies. 

Over the past few days Coelasquid has been arguing against the criticisms that people have had about Mako and Raleigh's characters. She has explained why Mako, a character I liked, was a strong character and more importantly showed how Raleigh isn't a shitty cliche white hero.

That was my bias, I thought he was just a boring white hero-dude because so many movies revolve around the Young-ish White Hero who just comes and and heroes it up everywhere. I did notice and like that he defended Mako and she was never reduced to a Damsel in the movie, or an object. But I thought he was bland because he wasn't an asshole, but it shouldn't be revolutionary for a hero to be a hero to everyone. Many other characters in many other pop culture pieces go through a traumatic experience and fall into depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, sex abuse or whatever self-flagellation the character feels they deserve. Raleigh starts off as a jaeger pilot to be a rockstar but more importantly to help people and even after the accident he's still trying to protect and help people by building the Wall that's supposed to block the kaiju from the American west coast. 

Coelasquid, or someone she reblogged said it: Raleigh isn't a brash asshole (Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne), he defends his female partner without seeing her as a sexual object, (Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, James Kirk, a lot of movies...most movies tbh), and he admits that he's fucked up which is commendable for hero white dudes who are always right (hey there Tony and Bruce! You two are the same dude in so many ways but that's another essay).

I wasn't just not giving Raleigh a chance to be a Good Dude, which he is, I was also too excited to cheer for the characters played by actors I liked. I want to see Idris Elba in more stuff, I liked the comedic dynamic between Charlie Day and Burn Gorman i really want to see their drift slowed down to understand them better, I loved Rinko Kikuchi even before I read her credits and remembered she was in The Brothers Bloom. I was excited for the kaiju and the jaegers and the stronger depictions of characters who so often fall into bad stereotypes that I didn't give the the main character the same joy. 

Some of coelasquid's posts and reblogs on Pacific Rim, they're more spoiler-y than what I think I've said and they address why Mako's not a weak character, something I didn't need my mind changed on.

Raleigh's Not Boring

Intentionally Corny

Raleigh's a Good Dude pt2

Sequel/Prequel some additional information about Pacific Rim

Why Mako's Not Weak

Mako and Raleigh respect one another

Explaining why Raleigh's character arc isn't shit

 

Black Actors and the Academy Awards

Incomplete, but i don't feel the passion i generally need to really finish this and I'm not in the place I need to be for it to have the energy it deserves. i lost that while writing and I hoped it would return, it never did. I feel I made some good arguments and mentioned some valid points on American culture and society with entertainment media, I just never wrapped up either that i thought the problem was or how to fix it. A real writer wouldn't post this. Thank the god I don't believe in ii'm not a real writer and I can post whatever the fuck I want on my website. 

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I unashamedly and unapologetically love  much of what JF Sargent writes, I tend to agree with his opinions and I enjoy how he discusses race and gender issues in media and pop culture. I appreciate that someone is talking about this and it's not just the social justice posters on tumblr, it's not written from rage and hate, these articles are written from a point of view of 'this is what's going on and we as a society need to acknowledge and change this'. That said, I was right there when I read a recent Film School Rejects  article on the Academy Awards having issues with slavery and awarding black actors for their performances in these types of period pieces. 

I think there is a deeper underlying issue to address in conjunction to his statements on how rare black actors are awarded for their performances as slaves, I think we need to look at the types of roles that black actors are nominated and awarded for to begin with. I'll be honest, I'm using wikipedia for this information, I haven't seen many of these movies but I do believe that there have been respectable actors and performances that have been overlooked because of unacknowledged racism in the judging of these films and their performances. I have been critical of the parts that black actors have in movies, they're often terrible stereotypes that do nothing to improve the public opinion and status of black people in this country. 

Sidney Poitier, one of the greatest black actors from film history who worked in a hateful system and did the best he could to present a respectable black man in every part. He has been criticized for being 'castrated' and never really having a sexuality in his films. He happened to be black and that was the basis for many of the problems in his movies where he still delivered fantastic performances. He played educated men in many films, delivered fantastic performances and ended up winning one award fro his performance in Lilies of the Field in 1963 as an unpaid worker for some nuns and it's religious. His only other Oscar was an honorary life time achievement award. 

The next black man to with an Oscar was Denzel Washington for Training Day in 2001 in  a part that I sometimes consider questionable given his character was a crazy drug addict.  

There have been 4 black actors to win the Academy for best male actor, and Denzel is up again, I never saw Flight so I can't compare his nomination to Foxx's for Django, but this is another character of ill rebuke. Most of the best actor nominations have been for negative portrayals of black people, I feel this says a lot of the parts presented to black actors in American movies that they're so often nominated for being successful negative characters.

Looking at black women for best actress in a leading role Halle Barry is the only one to win, for Monster's Ball, a dark dramatic performance. The other performances that black women have been nominated for vary in the respectability of the characters but still seems to run dark and with negative depictions of black characters. 

There are 4 wins as best supporting actor. 5 for best supporting actress, one win for short documentary, 2 for original score, 5 for original song, 4 for sound mixing split between two men, one for best original screen play then a few special awards. 

The low number of wins and in conjunction low number of nominations stem from different causes and unconscious racism cannot be the only cause of this. Looking at how black culture considers the arts and types of arts that are acceptable for their children and what they encourage is someone that needs to be taken into consideration. But looking at the nominations, 16 for best male lead and 15 for best female lead since 1959 when the first black actors were first nominated in pitiful. How often were black performances looked over because they were by black actors? How often was the race of the character important to the narrative? It feels wrong to nominated and award black actors so often for performances where the crux of the narrative is on them being a black person. 

I'm not arguing or discounting what Sargent presents and his argument in how uncomfortable the Academy is with slavery but I'm also looking at the types of roles that black actors so often are presented with and how they reflect on so larger a part of American culture. The same considerations and criticism can be discussed with the television portrayal of black characters.

I Love Bad Movies*

*This entire post is my caveat to that statement. 

This is a fitting first post for 2013, my watching and reading lists of 2012 are posted on Tumblr and the other day I posted a few tweets back-to-back on why I hoped a movie called Cooties will be 'delightfully bad'. I've recently started reading Nathan Rabin's My Year of Flops the printed version, where he talks about if critically panned movies are really bad or if they were maybe a secret gem. I haven't seen many of the movies he's discussing but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy and appreciate what he's  doing in this book. 

I think about my love and obsession with movies, even when I don't always debate and argue them and talk about their worth and value. I will. I mean, I have a blog where the sole purpose of it was so I'd have somewhere to be obsessive about movies and review them and postulate what-ifs and write about imaginary casts that wasn't my main blog. It's been quiet for a while, I haven't seen too many things where I felt the immediate need to write about it. Or I haven't had the time and whatever other terrible excuse I have for not writing about movies and television I like. But I do, I love most movies I see. I love the weird things, I love the bad acting, I love how silly things are, I love the unrealistic drama and I love criticizing the overreactions. I compare how I'd act in a depressing dramatic scene and I enjoy doing these things. 

I also love bad movies. I love the no budget big monster movies of the 40s and 50s. I love the weird little indie skits posted on YouTube, filmed in personal apartments where costumes are the actors clothes and the effects could be better. I love the men in rubber suits as aliens and monsters. I love seeing where the wire it attached to the actor and how they're flying, awkwardly fulcrumed at their waist. I love it so much. I also love critical darlings, I love the things audiences rave about and (well, not always) and I love the award winners. I'm in it for the drama and the suspense. Even when i can predict how a movie will go based on genre, I still love it. Even when I want to punch a character for being an idiot, I find things to love.

At it's core it's an escapist fantasy. Movies are a way to explore a world a bit different from the one we live in and I like to believe in that dream. 

I think about the things I like about 'bad' movies and it's not just that it's bad. It's that it tried. It tried and it failed but it has heart. In every bad line delivery and every weird cut, there was someone working on this movie that loved it and believed in what it could be. Any time an actor changes because they got mad at every else, or they realized what they were in was terrible, I love that the creator decided that the film has to be finished and released. The crew on the side of the frame and in reflections, the robot effect that failed and was still used. It's the creative dream and vision. The passion that drove that creator to bankruptcy and infamy sometimes. I also love the spirit, usually the sets sound like they were fun as everything was ridiculous and it was an experience for all involved. It's more than just putting a narrative together to share, it's expression without pretension and the drive to create even if it's not ultimately what you envisioned and it's what you desired. It's the heart of it. Someone believed in it and not just because of the money, they believed in something else. 

When I say i hope that something is delightfully awful, the premise sounds ridiculous and that there's no way this movie could be good but it also seems so ridiculous it has to be fun to watch. It's a movie to get drunk to, to watch with friends on a Friday night and yell at a the screen and laughing at the characters. I'm not laughing at someone's dream, I'm enjoying it so much I have to laugh in general. It becomes more than a movie, it becomes a shared experience, in-jokes and quoted monologues.

Dear Blank

Dear Hollywood (Television and Movies)

Give me a black person who speaks like a normal fucking human fucking being. Give me black people who aren't there as the magical black person, who doesn't do voodoo and doesn't speak English like they're from a fucking island. Give me black people who aren't from the 'hood' who don't speak like they're uneducated and don't have a real vocabulary. Give me black people who aren't characterized by the non-american aspects of their nationality. Give me black people who look and speak like normal black people. Maybe give them a bit of Africa and cultural pride. Maybe give them distant family members who were poorly educated and don't speak English right. Maybe give them a weave, afro or short cropped hair (if they're female) or dreads. 

Just stop making all black people either mystics, god fearing baptists, creole speaking witch doctors, illiterate, illegal gun having, illegal drug crazed, sexual beasts or well hung med. 

Just take all of the characteristics of a white dude and cast someone with more melanin. Want to know why Troy isn't the most annoying black dude even though he's not the smartest person in the study group? Outside of having been a football jock and therefore falling into that stereotype, he's a a developed and rounded individual. And Shirley, could have just been Christian sweetness and vengeance but she has other attributes that could be applied to any other race. Are they perfect and do they completely break out of racially constructed bounds? No. But what they are does not include being a laundry list of hokey stereotypes of accent and tomfoolery.

Hell, look at John Luther from Luther. He's not great because he can be a big scary black man, he's great because he's a fucking genius who thinks differently to solve cases and happens to be black which is virtually never mentioned as a derogatory for his character. 

Black characters can be written and understood without painting them black with bright pink lips and the whitest of white eyes and teeth. Black character can be people without being tinted with the hate and misunderstanding of the past. Black characters can be written as having aspirations and being successful and you don't have to be black to write them well. 

I'm ready to see black people coming from the suburb who didn't have problems in school, were well liked and well educated and have high hopes. We have fantastic people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson who show that black people are that smart, have the drive and potential to do the things that change the world for the better and our media needs to reflect that more often. So a homogeneous mixed race group of friends who don't fall into historically hurtful stereotypes, mix up people's strengths and flaws. Have a lead who's not a 'perfect' white dude and work to reflect more of the real America. Not the weirs country, southern conservative version of America where everyone's xenophobic, but an America that's growing and working on it's problems with Others. We need to work to a world where it's not an 'us' and 'them' mentality, just an 'us' and we understand that everyone's the same no matter what their skin color, sexuality, orientation, gender, occupation is. People desire to love, succeed, many reproduce, leave a legacy and enjoy our blip of existence as starstuff. 

In thinking about it that way, it's wholly possible to write characters of different races as being strong capable individuals without falling on old, unintelligent habits that work to only hurt.

Birthdays Are Great!

I say, with no irony, that I like my birthday

 like I'm a 5 year old.  I like everyone's birthday, it's a great thing to actually celebrate someone. Not everyone lives to whatever age you are and the older you are the fewer people there are who are your age. Celebrate life every day, but making a day yours to celebrate you and to engage in things to you like is a wonderful thing. 

All that said, I had a fantastic birthday on Friday. I am now 24, I have self printed mini-comics and my life is pretty good, albeit stressful and taxing, things are good. I got to do a lot of things i enjoy for my birthday. 

I started my day with breakfast, which is rare for me, and watching the first half of Monster Squad. That is such and 80s kids movie, it's so bad in many ways (i love Shane Black but I'll account the short comings to youth...even though it was done after Lethal Weapon) a silly rental is always great though. I couldn't be a movie aficionado if I only watched high brow film and documentaries, I believe an appreciate of the dregs and the Ed Woods works to round it all out. I then spent some time talking comics and art with my friend Ragan. She didn't know it was my birthday but had purchased Alias The Cat by Kim Deitch for me, I am fond of underground comics so i'm excited to have the chance to really get into this. I like his line work so I'm pretty jazzed about it. 

I left Ragan's studio and rushed to the mall, almost hitting some jackass who doesn't understand how to make a right on red and just stopped halfway in my lane, and bought a ticket to see Argo. I really loved that movie. I have this thing for 'based on a true story' films (I also love reading biographies and such so it makes sense) and this was such a dramatic story. I was there the entire time for the drama of the situation. I was there for the tension when they thought they were going to get caught. Skin of their teeth. Ridiculous. I loved it, it was such a good movie and I'm so glad I got to see it on my birthday. 

On my way out of the mall i stopped by Au Bon Pain and bought a soup and a cupcake. the soup was really good, it had mushrooms in it which I wish I had known before buying it but I fished all but the smallest slivers out. I finished Monster Squad and kind of took a nap. My father and sister arrived after 6, I showed them my show and books, they were proud of me. We went out to dinner and that was fun, I tried some tilapia tacos, enjoyable. They left, and i went back to the mall to await Glenn and some of his friends and we went to see Skyfall.

As goofy as that movie was, I did see 3 movies on my birthday which was pretty great. i did enjoy it in the moment but in retrospect I have no idea what happened and what the point was, I'll be nice given it's still opening weekend but I am thinking about writing a thing about it to criticize it's flaws. I believe I have made some new friends to talk movies with, something i sorely need. I love talking about, analyzing, criticizing, mocking and loving movies and I really wish i had people to talk movie with. 

I went to sleep in a pretty good mood, even with the drunk army/navy asshats yelling and marching outside. My Saturday was fun, I hung out with another old college friend, watched some glass blowing with my father and sister and tried mahi mahi. I realized while writing this that with the salmon I'm making for dinner tonight I've had fish for dinner all weekend, i'm okay with that. 

Everyone who wished me a happy birthday, thank you, I had a pretty great one. A combination of things i like, movies, reading, spending time alone and with people but not too much of either. It was a mellow low stress day. For me, it was a perfect day, I would not have liked a big bar - drinking thing, but a series of quiet times with people and laughter was what i liked. I hope this was an omen about my 24th time flying around the sun, it's been a chill, good time. I'll hang out with friends, make new ones, see a ton of movies and things will be good. i can only hope.