Category Archives: Discussions (Shooting the Shit)

Let’s talk about Joker

Sean and I both saw Joker at TIFF last month, at back to back screenings. We met up for lunch afterward (I believe we had a slight pause before seeing the Harriet Tubman movie) because boy did I have thoughts, comments, and questions, which I tried not to yell too loudly because: spoilers.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck in a totally new but not entirely unfamiliar way. He works as a professional clown (semi-professional, maybe? – he gets sent to hospitals or going out of business sales by a central booking agency that employs many other clowns besides) but dreams of becoming a stand-up comic. He’s not a great clown – he gets complaints a lot. Maybe it’s because he breaks clown rules with the way he does his makeup. Real clowns prefer to paint in large circles because pointy-ended makeup gives kids a subliminal fright. As you can see, Arthur paints both eyes and mouth with sharp ends, normally prohibited in the clown community. But there was another rule-breaker, historically. His name was John Wayne Gacy, and Joker’s makeup is likely a subtle nod toward this man, a serial killer who entertained kids on the side as Pogo the clown. He raped, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys  during the 1970s.

Arthur has a complicated relationship with his mother (Frances Conroy), with whom he lives. She’s not well, and depends on his support, meager as it is. She may be somewhat delusional because she writes long-winded letters about her poor living conditions to one-time employer Thomas Wayne, hoping his outrage will be enough to improve their circumstances. Until such a time, mother and son alleviate their suffering by cuddling up every night to watch their favourite late night talk show, Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro).

Arthur is dangerously thin, but people aren’t just uncomfortable about his physical self. There’s also the laughing. He laughs often, and inappropriately. It’s a neurological condition, and he hands out cards to strangers to ease their discomfort when his laughing goes on just a little too long. Still, it gets him into trouble. Joker’s laugh is iconic, and Phoenix taps into something so deranged, so haunting, it’ll nail your feet to the floor. The laugh alone justifies casting him. It is at distinctive, different, perfect. Unforgettable. Scary as hell. It sounds almost painful for Phoenix and it sent shivers down my spine.

Meanwhile, Gotham City is a total shit show. Garbage is piling up everywhere, home to super rats that terrorize the city. It’s never explicitly stated, but I’m guessing it’s 1981. The clothes are very late 70s/early 80s, you can still smoke indoors, and both Blow Out and Zorro The Gay Blade are playing at the movies. People are starting to agitate. The city’s becoming increasingly dangerous. There’s an undercurrent of discontent. It isn’t safe. Arthur gets robbed, jumped, beaten. There’s a certain electricity in the air. We all know Joker to be a villain, but the way things are going, these people may see him as more of a hero. Kill the rich – that’s their slogan. Not a great time to be the Wayne family. But is Joker the symbol this rebellion needs?

Arthur Fleck is nobody’s idea of a hero. He’s a mentally unstable man. He’s been in psych wards. He takes 7 different kinds of meds but still feels bad all the time. He keeps a joke diary filled with suicidal thoughts. “The worst part of having a mental illness,” he writes, “is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” I’ve lost count of how many Jokers we’ve seen on screen now (feel free to help me out in the comments section if you can), but it truly feels like Phoenix doesn’t fuck with any of them. Truly, he and writers Todd Phillips and Scott Silver have created Arthur/Joker from the ground up. He is an amalgam of childhood trauma, torment, debasement. You really get the sense that if anything had gone even just a fraction differently, you’d end up with a different guy. Arthur’s natural reaction to the world isn’t insanity or violence or evil. He genuinely seems to want to bring joy to the world. He wants to make the people laugh. He is searching for a way in. He is searching, I suppose, for identity. For something that makes him real, makes him feel like there’s a reason why he exists. But for one reason or another, this guy just keeps slipping through the cracks. There’s nobody to help him. If one person had reached out when he needed it, this would be a very different story. And I suppose that’s why this movie is so good. It doesn’t feel like a comic book movie, it feels more like Taxi Driver. It’s a character study. This man feels unpredictable, and yet we know his ending. There is a surprising amount of tension for a movie that can really only end one way. But director Todd Phillips creates this constant sense of swirling stress and anxiety, this emotional tautness by repeatedly having Arthur reach out. He doesn’t want to be a weirdo, or a loner. He wants that same connection that we all do. But society is keeping its distance. He’s isolated. He’s forgotten and ignored. We have countless opportunities to save the world from the Joker but we never do – we fail Arthur Fleck. Does the film show empathy toward him? I suppose it does, in many ways. Or at least to people who fall through the cracks, who get left behind. Personally, I had a hard time feeling empathy toward his first victims. Arthur is a complex man living in some complex times. There is no single reason that tips him over into villainy. There are just an awful lot of cracks in the pavement. A chasm is bound to open up, which is maybe the scariest way to look at it. There is no vat of acid. Joker’s descent into madness, or crime, or evil, or whatever you want to call it – it’s grounded in reality.

Comic books and super hero movies tend to deal in quite general archetypes of good and evil. This makes the characters instantly recognizable as hero or villain, but it also serves to put a distance between audience and character because there is little to relate to. Todd Phillips’ Joker is much more layered, which means at times you’ll root for him, and other times you’ll be disgusted by him. It’s a push-pull that few actors could pull off, and it’s why Joaquin Phoenix, already one of this generation’s biggest and truest talents, deserves an Oscar nomination, and as of right now, I’d say even the win.

Joker, however, is not just a great performance. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful film, a send up to gritty character studies of another era. Todd Phillips has said “The goal was never to introduce Joaquin Phoenix into the comic book movie universe. The goal was to introduce comic book movies into the Joaquin Phoenix universe.” Goddamn I love that quote. I think it shows great appreciation for Phoenix’s body of work. This isn’t just another origin story, this is a deep dive into a man’s psyche. Phoenix tends to gravitate toward the broken and tormented, but they’re not one-dimensional. They are faceted individuals. Different actors have interpreted Joker in many ways: a fiend, a terrorist, a thug, a psychopath. But Joaquin Phoenix goes with something else: human.

 Edit:

So I wrote all of that last month, after seeing Joker at TIFF. Since then, certain media outlets have tried to whip up a story about possible violence at Joker screenings and whether this movie sends a terrible message. I have wondered whether I should contribute to that noise at all but find that I do have something to say about it. Feel free to debate.

  1. Does the movie treat the Joker too sympathetically? In a word: no. This is not the Joker from Batman comics. That Joker doesn’t exist yet. Arthur Fleck is a sad man with mental health problems. When he kills, he has a reason. None that justify the violence of course, but it’s not senseless or diabolical or insane.
  2. Is Joker gratuitously violent? Actually, no. There is some violence, of course, but compared to other films, relatively little – in fact, probably relatively little even compared to other Batman movies. This is primarily a character study, so a lot of the interesting stuff is introspective, in his head, as his character transforms.
  3. Is the film inviting violence from incels? Of course not. An incel, if you haven’t heard, is a man who believes himself to be INvoluntarily CELibate – ie, no one will sleep with him, and he blames it on some big female conspiracy. Incels have found each other in chat rooms and encourage each other to be nasty and wrong and gross, and angry toward women generally, and perhaps even violent toward them. They somehow think they are owed sex and even more confusingly, plot revenge for all the sex they aren’t getting. And somehow no one stops to think: this is why. This is why no one wants to date me. I am a creep. Women get a creep vibe from me, and they stay away because they sense I am an angry, dangerous dude. Maybe I should try…being nice? But the situation in the Joker movie doesn’t apply. There’s a woman he fixates on but even a criminally insane Arthur Fleck doesn’t blame her for his failures. He’s not an incel and I don’t think they even tread into that territory, so people trying to associate that with the movie are just being deliberately inflammatory.
  4. Let’s remember that this movie is only the Joker’s birth. He’s a Joker fetus. He isn’t a criminal mastermind. There is no Batman yet; Bruce is still just a boy and Arthur is just a man finding his identity on the dark side. Where society has rejected him, the underbelly accepts him and raises him up. Of course it’s intoxicating. And of course it’s wrong. But if we’re talking body count, he’s responsible for only a fraction of Blade, or The Bride, or Rambo, or Walter White’s. And if we don’t protest every instance of violence, why are we targeting Joker? Especially when we could instead read it as a plea for early intervention, as a workbook for reaching out to the Arthur Flecks instead of merely condemning the Jokers.

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Ed Norton’s Best Roles

We are very shortly headed to TIFF where one of the many movies we’ll see is Ed Norton’s passion project, Motherless Brooklyn. While not his first time in the director’s chair, it IS the first one he also wrote, and of course stars in as well, because what the heck. He’ll play a Tourette’s-inflicted private investigator charged with solving the murder of his only friend (Bruce Willis). It looks good, and it’s had me thinking about Ed Norton’s other famous roles, of which there are actually quite a few, though he tends to be a bit under the radar (by which I mean: he’s always been more of an actor than a movie star).

Born in Boston circa 1969, Edward Harrison Norton became an actor because his childhood babysitter starred as Cosette in Les Miserables, and he caught the acting bug from her. He went to Yale as an undergrad where he was friends with Ron Livingston and Giamatti, and though he took some theatre classes, he graduated with a major in history. He was working on the stage, in New York, when he auditioned for a role opposite Richard Gere in Primal Fear; DiCaprio had passed on it, and Norton was chosen out of 2000 hopefuls. At the audition, he claimed that, like the character, he came from Kentucky (he grew up in Maryland), a lie that went undiscovered since his twang was evidently convincing. He picked it up watching Coal Miner’s Daughter, and threw in a stutter for good measure.

Lest you think that Primal Fear (1996) is his first IMDB credit, let me assure you that he wasn’t a complete noob – he’d previously appeared in a plethora of roles (including The Museum Guard) in an educational video designed to help newcomers learn English.

Before Primal Fear was even released, his test screenings were causing a Hollywood sensation, and he was soon offered roles in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, and The People vs. Larry Flynt. You may remember that Norton went on to win the Golden Globe for his supporting role in Primal Fear, and secured his first Oscar nomination as well: not bad for his first attempt.

Next he did Rounders (1998) with Matt Damon, and the two bonded by playing cards together (or, I suppose, against each other) in the World Series of Poker.

And then he earned his second Oscar nomination before the age of 30 for his transformative turn in American History X, in which he somehow extinguished the twinkle in his eye to play a Neo-Nazi, yet somehow keeps his humanity. And perhaps you’ve heard of his follow-up, a little film called Fight Club (1999)? Yeah, not to make Matt Damon jealous or anything, but he bonded with Brad Pitt by taking soap-making classes together. Hopefully with all safety precautions strictly followed.

And next we’ve got Keeping The Faith (2000), which is actually his directing debut. He plays a priest, and he and his rabbi friend (Ben Stiller) both fall awkwardly in love with the same woman (Jenna Elfman) even though neither of them can have her.

I took to Twitter to poll people’s favourite role, and American History X had a resounding win with 45%, including a vote from The Telltale Mind, and Fight Club pulling in a respectable 34%. Birdman took a surprisingly small slice with only 6%. Write-ins included Primal Fear, The People vs. Larry Flynt from Reely Bernie, 25th Hour from Matt of Armchair Directors, and even The Italian Job, this according to FilmGamer.

His more interesting roles this century include Death To Smoochy, The Illusionist, Moonrise Kingdom, and an astonishing supporting role opposite Michael Keaton in Birdman, for which he received a third Oscar nomination.

Motherless Brooklyn is his first writing credit but he’s done uncredited script work for 2001’s The Score, 2002’s Frida, and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.

He lost a role to buddy Matt Damon in The Rainmaker. He turned down Damon’s role in Saving Private Ryan. He was the runner up to Jim Carrey for Man on the Moon (in which he played Andy Kaufman). He turned down the role of Bruce Banner in 2003’s Hulk but accepted it in 2008.

He’s had an incredible career but it feels like Motherless Brooklyn is a new frontier for him, and very likely a successful one (watch for the review – coming soon).

What’s your favourite role of his?

 

Yearbook: Star Wars Edition

So we’ve run through both Marvel characters and Disney princesses, I guess it’s time we take a look at our Star Wars pals and vote on who’s most likely to succeed. The only problem is that Sean was a nerdy little kid who loved Star Wars while I managed to avoid it for most of my life. So my votes are going to very basic in comparison to his since I don’t know who the heck Boba Fett is even though Sean talks about him (?) all the time. I will probably struggle not to say Chewie every time. God help me. No, YOU help me. Chime in!

Best Hair

Well holy hell. This is hardly fair! And could it really have gone any other way? Chewbacca for the win, but his hair is no joke. Maria Cork was the supervisor of the hair department in creature effects on The Force Awakens, and it was her job to make sure his locks were glossy and gorgeous every single day. Mostly yak hair with a bit of mohair around the eyes, you can read all about his preferred hair tools and products here.

Cutest Couple

No shame, but we’re on the same page again. Is there such thing as being TOO partial to droids? Nah. C3PO and R2D2 are more like an old married couple who bicker all the time but ultimately have a deep and loyal bond. Poe and BB-8 have more of a bromance. We should all be so lucky as to be cherished and valued the way Dameron feels for his droid.

Best Dressed

Samesies again? And I’m not even mad about it! Lando Calrissian is the obvious, and perhaps only choice. He’s stylish and debonair and has a cape collection that an entire galaxy envies.

Most Badass

I was startled and impressed with General Leia’s power, her temerity, her cool, her commanding presence. But ultimately I think Sean will be proved right – Rey ain’t nothing to fuck with.

Most Ambitious

Sean went with Emperor (Palpatine – I think), and I’ll believe him. I can’t really remember the bad guys so I googled Domhnall Gleeson Star Wars guy and the internet reminded me that he was called General Hux, who seems reasonably upwardly mobile.

Biggest Flirt

Sean thought Han was the flirtiest but I went with Oscar Isaac because that boy was eye fucking me the whole movie.

Class Clown


Sean went with Jar Jar Binks and I kind of don’t really know who that is in the grand scheme of things. I chose Anakin Skywalker because that shit WAS funny, even if it wasn’t intentional.

Life of the Party

Sean went with Wicket, the Ewok, and to be honest, I don’t know my Ewoks. Is this something I should look into? I went with Finn because I bet there ain’t no party like a storm trooper party.

Best Car

In a move surprising no one, Sean goes with Han and his hunk o junk, the Millennium Falcon. I wanted to pick those AT-AT things but I don’t know who drives them. So I went with Jabba’s party boat, which if course I couldn’t remember what it was called so again I had to ask google: what do I mean by that barge thingie with sails that picked them up in the desert and the internet spit back: Khetanna. It’s like a cruise ship for space villains. Sure it has a blaster cannon but it’s also got room for live music and 500 guests.

Most Likely To Become President

Again the vote goes unanimously to General Leia Organa for president, though let’s be honest – she’s already pretty much attained higher rank than that. President would probably be a demotion.

Most Likely To Get Catfished

Of COURSE it’s Kylo Ren. This emo dweeb probably has a dating profile littered with My Chemical Romance lyrics, and his profile pic is of him shirtless wearing high-waisted mom jeans, and he still wonders why everyone’s swiping left. He’s probably teetering dangerously in incel territory.

Most Accident Prone

I guess I don’t have any specific memories of C3PO being clumsy, but it sounds right. I went with Luke because the dude is missing a hand!

Most Opinionated

Sean went with Anakin. I went with L3, Lando’s droid from Solo, who was smart and woke and ready to lead her own rebellion.

Most Upbeat

Sean gave most upbeat to Yoda, and I’m glad to see him get some love, especially for his zen philosophy. I went with a young Han Solo – I connected more with him than I ever did with Harrison Ford’s character, which is probably blasphemous, but there it is.

Most Likely To Make Millions

Sean went with Lando for most likely to make millions, and as a chronic smuggler and gambler, he’s a hustler baby, and Sean’s probably right. But I went with Rose Tico. She’s got an impoverished background, having been forced to plunder her own mining community for the First Order her whole life, so I think she’s got the proper motivation to rise to the top.

Most Likely To Star In Their Own Reality Show

I knew you’d have Boba on here somewhere! I went with Sam Jackson, and I guess I mean that literally. I had to google his jedi name: Mace Windu. I’m really in this for SLJ (the L is for Leroy!).

Mostly Likely To Be Famous on Instagram

Sean thought Finn would do well on IG but I picked Admiral Holdo because she seems more into hair and fashion and getting her angles right, plus she’s important and well-connected so she’s got lots of famous friends.

Brainiest

Okay fine, we’ll give this one to Yoda, who has an advantage, being a 900 year old jedi master all-seeing ghost.

Who You’d Most Like to Eat Lunch With

Sean wants to eat lunch with Obi-wan because he’s a big nerd. I want Oscar Isaac FOR lunch.

Disney Princess Yearbook

Disney has recently announced that Halle Bailey will play Ariel aka The Little Mermaid in its live-action remake, because that’s apparently a carousel we cannot get off of. I don’t really know who she is, but director Rob Marhsall assures me that she “possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice.” She sounds like a slam dunk. Of course, the internet had immediate thoughts based solely on the colour of her skin.

MUST Ariel be a pale-skinned redhead. Of course not. Just to be clear: Ariel is a mermaid, which is a thing that does not actually exist, and therefore cannot have an inherently ‘right’ race or hair colour. She’s made up! Disney animators based her appearance on Alyssa Milano, who is not a redhead, and they drew her flowing underwater hair based on Sally Ride in space, and she’s not a redhead either. In fact, the only reason Disney made Ariel a redhead at all was to distinguish her from Daryl Hannah in Splash. That’s it. That’s the whole reason. It was a frivolous choice, one that can easily be changed with absolutely zero consequence. I’m more perturbed by the rumours of Melissa McCarthy playing Ursula – and no, not because she isn’t purple, though I do hope the infinite wisdom of the collective internet sees fit to protest that as well. Ursula was based on Divine, a drag queen who did indeed live up to her name, and wouldn’t it be nice to keep up that tradition?

Anyway, Disney princesses skew heavily to white bread and wouldn’t it be nice to add some colour to the lineup? Still, Disney doesn’t take any risks with its bottom line. They’re not going to throw us a token POC bone, even if it is the right thing to do. They’re going to cast the absolute perfect person for the role because Disney wants to get paid. And if they’ve cast Bailey, it’s because she’s the best.

And now for the rest:

Best Hair

Rapunzel has 70 feet of hair; at 100000 strands per head, her hair weighs over 10 pounds!
Pixar developped a software program specifically to animate Merida’s hair.

Cutest Couple

Aladdin throws an apple to Jasmine several times throughout the movie, including when they fly over Greece on the magic carpet ride. In ancient Greece, throwing an apple to a woman is considered a marriage proposal.

Although Vanelloppe and Ralph are not a romantic couple, they are BFFs, as evidenced by their necklace.

Best Dressed

Belle’s blue dress and white apron combo were inspired by Dorothy, in Wizard of Oz. She’s the only villager to wear blue. Gaston, the villain, wears red – as does the Beast when she first meets him (his cape). But as he softens he wears purple, and finally blue and gold, which reflects both of her dresses.

According to art and fashion historians, Cinderella’s dress that the stepsister tear apart is thought to be inspired by the designs of Salvador Dalí and the magical gown is in the then contemporary style of Christian Dior.

Most Badass:

Sean goes with Fa Mulan, a strong choice since Mulan was the first animated Disney film to deal with warfare. Her fight choreography was done by real-life martial artists Mimi Chan and George Kee. Mulan has (by far) the highest body count of any Disney hero – or villain.

Jay’s pick is not exactly Disney princess canon, but we think Gamora qualifies, and she’s definitely a badass – the deadliest woman in the galaxy, in fact.

Most Ambitious

Sean’s pick, Ariel, wants legs and love – possibly in that order. Princess Leia on the other hand wants to save the galaxy. Again. She wants peace, and she wants hope. But then again, she already has legs.

Coolest Sidekick

This one might be too close to call. Sean’s pick, Mulan, has a tiny dragon named Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy!) while Jasmine has a motherfucking pet tiger, bitches!

Best Car

Sean goes with Cinderella’s pumpkin coach – sure Fairy Godmother pimped her ride, but it’s still got an expiry date. Jasmine, however, is riding in style on a SENTIENT magic carpet.

Biggest Flirt

Sean goes with Cinderella yet again, and yes, ho is hustling. You might even say she’s gold digging. But Snow White’s in bed with 7 men!

Class Clown

Sean goes with Tangled’s Rapunzel, while I went with Frozen’s Anna, who just has big goofball energy.

Life of the Party

Sean knows he can’t go wrong with Merida from Brave. Her clan seems to celebrate in style. I went with Elsa since she has plenty of what every good party needs most: ice!

Most Likely to become president

Snow White clearly has the constituents but I think Moana’s got the political ambition.

Most likely to get catfished

100%, in ever sense of the word.

Most accident prone

I concede that even with 16 years notice, Aurora manages to snag her finger on that damned spindle, but Merida accidentally turned her mother into a bear. This might be the saddest contest yet.

Most opinionated

Interestingly, I think Sean and I are after the same thing here: Moana holds her own against Maui, while Gamora never lets Starlord get a word in.

Most upbeat

Upon reflection, none of the princesses are as carefree as you’d think. Cinderella is overworked, Jasmine’s trying to avoid an arranged marriage to an older man with unfortunate facial hair, Belle is a kidnap victim, Pocahontas is being colonized, Mulan has been conscripted…it’s not all tea and crumpets. Sean and I both chose Snow White, perhaps for her ability to sing under any circumstances.

Most likely to make millions

Sean went with Jasmine, who, granted, does come from oil money. Probably. But Tiana has the makings of a celebrity chef. Or she could franchise!

Most likely to star in her own reality show

Truthfully, most of these princesses could probably be on 16 & Pregnant about 5 minutes after their movies end, but aside from that, Sean goes with Mulan, and I’m not sure why. I went with Rapunzel because she’s thirsty enough to be a desperate housewife.

Most likely to be famous on instagram

Sean’s choice, Cinderella, is definite Insta-worthy. She’d be a big hit on the gram: she’s got the dresses, the cute pets, and those step-sisters could certainly teach her a good duck face. But I think Ariel’s got too much hipster potential.

Brainiest

 

Thor’s Endgame

First: if you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to read Sean’s spoiler-free review. What follows below is filled with spoilers and you should stay the heck away.

As many of you know, I am generally not a big fan of super hero movies. I think they contribute to the dumbing-down of culture. That movies and comic books meant for boys are being consumed by men. That some of these men turn positively vitriolic over the most trivial deviations, which often represent change in the world that they themselves are not comfortable with and don’t want to see reflected in their little comic book bubbles. And now the extreme serialization of the MCU is shouldering independent cinema out of theatres and onto Netflix, which feels like a loss.

But Marvel has also given us something to feel passionate about. In a world that often chastises men for expressing excitement, glee, and attachment, Marvel’s shared universe has given them something that they can vocally and publicly acclaim. Which is not to say that women aren’t also fans of the MCU, just that it’s always been more socially acceptable for them to cry at a screening of Titanic than it has been for men.

But for the most part, it just wasn’t for me. And that’s okay. I still see every single one of them because I’m married to a little boy trapped inside a handsome, strapping body. He read this stuff as a kid and it’s fully exciting for him to see it come to life on the big screen (Spider-man in particular, it seems) – and then to share it with his brother and nephews, who are discovering it for themselves. And I dutifully fill in the seat beside him, very occasionally surprising myself by liking one of them (Black Panther. That’s the one. I also really liked Wonder Woman, but I do know that’s not Marvel, thankyouverymuch. Both these movies were cultural touchstones that transcended the comics. Both studios were careful to do things right, to get exactly the right actors and the right script and the right directors – to serve more than just the fans. Perhaps even to serve history).

Until: Taika Waititi. Waititi has been my favourite director for as long as he’s been directing movies. When I met Sean about a decade ago, I made him watch Eagle vs. Shark as a litmus test: was he cool enough and funny enough and subversive enough? He was. Barely. But he has a big penis so I let it slide.

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As you may know, Taika Waititi came on board to direct Thor: Ragnarok and is largely responsible for turning an arrogant god into a thoughtful and affable leader. Thor was transformed. Thor is fun! Plus Waititi gave Thor a haircut and suddenly I was thinking: Thor is hot?

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So Thor has since been my favourite character, which is why I was so sad to see his trajectory in Endgame. Thor is suffering from (is it too much to say?) PTSD. He’s been at constant war for years and has somehow internalized the Snap, blaming himself for failing to “aim for the head,” taking responsibility for Thanos’ humanity-shearing snap. Five years later, the movie finds Thor hidden away with his Ragnarok friends Korg and Miek, playing video games and inciting trolls, drinking too much and letting himself go. His physical self reflects his internal turmoil: he isn’t caring for himself anymore. Which is really sad, and surprisingly realistic for Marvel, but then they ruin the whole thing by playing it for a laugh. As Thor walks into the room, the camera goes to his beer-bloated belly. The audience laughs. He is shirtless so we can see the extent of his mortification. This man is hurting and Marvel wants us to laugh.

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So it dilutes the very worthy and valid message about mental health and how we all struggle with it. If we took away the fat suit punch line, we’re left with a deeply conflicted man who is really suffering. He lost his family twice now – The Avengers were his family, and not only are half of them turned to dust, but he has exiled himself from the rest. And when he finally does rejoin them, Tony Stark doesn’t ask him how he’s doing, he makes a joke about his appearance (he calls him Lebowski). True enough: often even our close friends and family miss the signs of depression. And who would think of it of such a strong man? And yet we are all fallible. Pain and trauma are the great equalizers of men.

Let’s remember for a moment that Thor’s other family, his real family, are also dead, but every single one of them – mother, father, brother Loki, that pesky half-sister Hela, even his best pal Heimdall – died before the Snap. So they’re not coming back no matter what happens in Endgame. And he’s lost his home, Asgard literally blown to smithereens, along with much of the population, which is then halved again during the Snap, which also took Valkyrie, his one remaining link to home and past.

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So it’s nice that Thor gets a moment with his mother, who immediately knows that she is being blessed with a visit from a future-version of her son. She doesn’t waste time asking about his appearance or about her own safety, she wants to know about his pain. They talk about the true nature of a hero. She gives him strength. He begins to heal.

Chris Hemsworth brings a lot to a role that he’s had to stretch and adapt over the 8 years that he’s played him. You wouldn’t expect a comic book hero to be the role that shows an actor’s versatility, and yet here we are. Hemsworth has compassion for Thor. Even while the audience is invited to laugh on him, Hemsworth doesn’t want to make him the joke. Thor puts on a show for his friends, unwilling to let the mask slip and show his true vulnerability. But we see it. Sometimes just in the pain the flashes across his eyes, or the defeated slump of his shoulders, formally so square and erect.

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This is a movie, so Thor’s arc movies quickly, as it must. But it’s not shown to be a quick fix, nor complete. These wounds take time to heal but they can heal, even if Thor will never be the cocky god we knew before. Not that we’d want him to be. This new Thor may be fat, but he’s also grown so much. He knows that other people’s worthiness does not take away from his own. He can share in the heroics comfortably, and even pass the torch. And that’s why I liked the scene as he’s preparing to fight Thanos: he calls on the  gods to ready him for battle. They do, but not by restoring him to his former glory. They outfit his new body. They braid his unkempt beard. It is THIS Thor who defeats Thanos when the old one could not, so let’s not laugh at his body, let’s celebrate his accomplishments, let’s shore up his mental health, let’s rejoice in his triumphs and share in his loss. He is finding his way through trauma. Thor is a god, but he’s having a very human response, and I wish ours in turn could be just a little more humane.

Oscars 2019 Recap

What to lead with?

a) The Oscars were boring as hell without a host.

b) Green Book is NOT my best picture.

Although the Oscars did see a modest bump in audience this year, it is not likely to 91st Annual Academy Awards - Showhave converted any of the first-time watchers as the show felt listless and low energy without a host or opening number. Many of the presenters were good – I like the John Mulaney-Awkwafina pairing, and of course Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey, though I think the win goes to Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry who really went balls-out in paying tribute to costumers (and kudos to the costume designer in charge of her cape who actually got every single one of those bunnies to stand up).

It was a great night for women, and for women of colour in particular. Rachel Carter and Hannah Beachler became the first ever African American women to win in their categories – costume design for Carter and production design for Beachler. They’re the first African American women to win in a non-acting category since 1984, when91st Annual Academy Awards - Press Room Irene Cara won for cowriting Flashdance. Both wins come courtesy of juggernaut Black Panther, which may be the actual best picture of 2018, trophy or not. “Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king,” Carter said in her speech. “It’s been my life’s honor to create costumes. Thank you to the academy. Thank you for honoring African royalty and the empowered way women can look and lead onscreen.” Beachler, meanwhile, paid it forward “I give the strength to all of those who come next, to keep going, to never give up. And when you think it’s impossible, just remember to say this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman: I did my best, and my best is good enough.”

Regina King, Mahershala Ali, and Rami Malek all earned the Oscars they were expected to in the top acting categories. I have trouble calling Ali’s performance a 91st Annual Academy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019supporting one since he has pretty equal screen time to Viggo, but his award is deserved – not only was it the best and only good thing in an otherwise shitty movie, he ran a very gracious and thoughtful campaign. So did Malek, which is probably what pulled him out ahead of Christian Bale, who probably turned in the more effortful performance as Dick Cheney in Vice but didn’t campaign at all. Olivia Colman pulled out the night’s biggest upset (well, one of them) with her best actress win over the favoured Glenn Close (clearly not The Favourite though, haha, movie puns). Close is great in The Wife, which is not a good movie. Colman is great in The Favourite, which is an exceptional movie. Again, you can’t and shouldn’t really call hers the leading performance above Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz when all 3 ladies get equal screen time, but thanks to wonderful editing, her story line acts as 91st Annual Academy Awards - Backstagethe emotional anchor. And oh boy is she emotional! It’s such a forceful, impassioned performance. Truly deserving, even if poor Close has now lost 7 times and won 0 – a dismal track record, and she’s the got the dubious title of most nominated but never winning actor – male or female.

Spike Lee finally won his Oscar, for BlackKklansman‘s best adapted screenplay. A tough category, which makes it exciting. You could have had heaps more in there spike-lee-1-1for sure. I think If Beale Street Could Talk and Can You Ever Forgive Me? were just as good (and so different!) but I’m glad Lee won, and super glad that pal Sam Jackson was there to tell him the good news. Their on-stage celebration was one of the highlights of the night. So, by the way, was Barbra Streisand telling the audience the many things she and Spike have in common – including (but not limited to) their love of hats. God bless her!

Alfonso Cuaron won best director, as he should, from great friend and last year’s winner, Guillermo del Toro, who got out of his sick bed to do so. And Cuaron accepted Roma‘s award for best foreign language film on behalf of Mexico. And he won best cinematography, the first DP to win who also directed the movie. 91st Annual Academy Awards - Governors BallInterestingly, the American Society of Cinematography gave its highest award to Cold War’s Łukasz Żal, but that’s because Cuaron, a director, is not a part of this guild. Cuaron is the first person to be personally nominated for 4 Oscars for a single film (best foreign language is not personal, but awarded to a country), the fourth being for his original screenplay, which he lost in a tragic incident I don’t even want to get into. Anyhow, in presenting the award for cinematography, Tyler Perry noted it was a pleasure to do so “live on 91st Annual Academy Awards, Governors Ball, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019camera, not during the commercial break. Thank you, Academy.” You may recall that just a few weeks ago, the Academy said it would hand out several awards, including this one, during commercial breaks, but had to rescind its decision due to the wrath of nearly everyone.

It used to be that best director and best picture often went hand in hand, which makes sense. But in the past 10 years, since the Oscars opened up the best picture category to a potential 10 nominees, things changed. Now it uses a “preferential ballot” system, which means the most liked movie wins – but not necessary the most popular, which could explain the now 50% 91st Annual Academy Awards - Showdiscrepancy between best picture and best director wins. Members are asked to rank the best picture nominees from best to worst. This year there were 8 nominees, so the accountants made 8 piles and sorted all the ballots according to their #1 choices. If no movie has more than 50% of the votes, and with more than 5 nominees that’s practically impossible, then the smallest pile is removed. Let’s assume that Vice had the smallest pile. Now all the ballots that listed Vice #1 are re-sorted into piles according to who their #2 pick was. You can see why canny members are now voting strategically, and how the movie with the most #1 picks won’t necessarily be the winner. The win could easily go to the movie with the most #2 picks, which is weird, but that’s also how Americans pick their presidents, and we all know how well that turns out. So Green Book is the Donald Trump of best pictures.

Green Book shouldn’t have been nominated. At best, it’s a pretty pedestrian movie. At best. But it’s also a movie about race relations that’s written and directed by white ABC's Coverage Of The 91st Annual Academy Awards - Press Roommen. Solely by white men. Which is why so many of the Academy’s old white men felt comfortable voting for it. They could pat themselves on the back for being ‘diverse’ while still rewarding the status quo – for reframing the story of a black man’s experience into the perspective of his white driver. Never mind that director Peter Farrelly has a history of consulting his penis during meetings. And that writer Nick Vallelonga has said some weird Islamophobic shit, agreeing with Trump of all people, tweeting “100% correct. Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down” – and that was still on his time line when he won the Golden Globe this year. Gross.

Meanwhile, Roma is a work of art from start to finish. I’m so proud that a black and white movie, with subtitles, with no stars or recognizable names, about society’s less visible women, is such a huge deal, so gorgeous and relatable. What a win for 91st Annual Academy Awards - Governors BallNetflix, and for taking chances. And If Beale Street Could Talk is also completely worthy. It’s visual poetry. I was electrified, from the colours to the dialogue’s flow, and the story’s timeliness and timelessness. Perfection. And there are many other terrific movies besides: The Favourite is funny and incisive and beautifully acted; BlackKlansman is galvanizing wizardry; Sorry To Bother You is risky and bold; Blindspotting is culturally significant; Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse is ground breaking; Eighth Grade distills a moment in time, taking us back while pinning us in place with its precise observation; Black Panther elevates the super hero game and asks more of us as an audience and a culture; Can You Ever Forgive Me? is funnier than almost any comedy released this year but the humour comes from a dark and interesting place, a true voice for society’s losers; Leave No Trace is heart breaking in its truth and simplicity; First Man is cold and wonderful and ambitious and intimate; Crazy Rich Asians is visually stunning and a cultural milestone. I’m going to stop there, but you get my point. 2018 was a great year for movies. I was moved, I cried in utter delight, I was horrified and invigorated. I think Green Book is a step back. I wish it didn’t win. But instead of complaining about Green Book, I’m going to keep pushing forward the movies I love, because that’s what’s so great about cinema. You don’t have to like them all, but if you keep watching, you will find something to love.

 

Marvel’s 10th Anniversary: A Yearbook

I feel a little bit dirty even saying this, but Marvel Studios has recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary, which began with Iron Man back in 2008 and culminated with Avengers: Infinity War only recently. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has comprised 19 films in the past decade, which has made it the highest-grossing film franchise, bar none.

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For those of you who maybe got a little lost along the way:

Phase One – Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Phase Two – Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Phase Three – Captain America: Civil War (2016), Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Nineteen! Anyway, Marvel thinks 15 billion dollars is worth celebrating, so they’ve gathered all the actors responsible for our comic book fetish into this class picture, which you’ll need a magnifying glass in order to appreciate (luckily, with not one but TWO Sherlock Holmes among the cast [Robert Downey, Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch] those should be easy to get your hands on).

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In order to do a little celebrating of our own, the 3 Assholes got together to vote on yearbook superlatives for our favourite super heroes.

Best Eyes:

besteyesHey, we all picked from the same movie!

 

Best Dressed:
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 Class Clown:
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Most Athletic:
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I wondered who really had the edge here, so I took to Twitter to find out what popular opinion is. Out of 41 people surveyed, an overwhelming 76% agree with Matt. 12% side with Jay. Nobody sided with Sean, as usual. And the rest wrote in Black Widow, Spider-Man & Black Panther.
Quietest:
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By unanimous decision, and likely unsurprisingly, we’ve got Groot!
Cutest Couple:
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Most Ambitious:
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We probably should just concede the point to Matt, as Thanos clearly wants to rule the entire universe – but Nebula wants Thanos, so isn’t that one better?
Teacher’s Pet:
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Matt went with the ultimate brown-noser, Sean went with the know-it-all, and I went with the guy who seems like he’s still living in his parents’ basement, working on his 3rd PhD just to avoid the real world for another decade.
Best Smile:
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Honestly Matt, if Googles Images is to be believed, Black Widow has NEVER smiled!
Best person to be stranded with on a desert island:
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Sean says: “Because he’s a magician! He could get me anything i wanted!”
Biggest Gossip:
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Most likely to be found in the library:
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 Biggest Drama King/Queen:
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Who’s the most fun at recess:
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Most likely to have perfect attendance:
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We all know Captain America’s a real goody two-shoes, but I think War Machine is just a little insecure, and he wants it more. Poor Rhodey.
Most likely to get the teacher off topic:

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 Best bromance:
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Worst driver:
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Sean, I have a feeling  you’re being very literal with your pick. Too soon? Matt’s vote is actually for “the driver in the first scene in Iron Man that gets Tony captured.” And I went with Hulk because they don’t let people drive if they have seizures…surely whatever Bruce has is worse.
Most Likely to be catfished:
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Biggest Flirt:
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Most likely to be late to graduation:
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I realize that his chronic lateness is part of Peter’s charm, but may I remind you that a) it takes time to look as good as Valkyrie does and b) she woke up hungover.
Most likely to star on a reality show:
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Life of the party:
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Ned & his party hat!
Biggest Nerd:
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Most likely to own too many cats:
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He just seems a little lonely to me.
Best Hair:
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Really, guys?
Most changed since freshman year:
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Talk about a glow-up!
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I’m definitely into the haircut. Thanks, Taika!
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I was feeling more inclined to remind us of this.
And finally, which character in the MCU would we personally most like to eat lunch with:
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There’s little doubt you’ll find we go a lot wrong, so be sure to correct us in the comments!