My Week With Kate and Spence

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This month has been a down sort of month. Finals are enough to choke every last bit of energy I have left. Life has become an overwhelming barrage of things, one right after the other. I’m out of time. I really don’t have time to be writing this blog post.

Oh well. I’ll make time.

For the past week or so, I have developed an extremely strong obsession with Katharine Hepburn – arguably the greatest actress to ever grace the American silver screen. Kate Hepburn has been like a friend to me in these difficult past few weeks, particularly because I’ve spent the past four or five days watching nine of her films. That’s right, nine of them.

Not just any nine, though. No, these particular nine were the films she did with Spencer Tracy, with whom she had a famous relationship, both on-screen and off. These nine films, most of which I had never seen before, are the best, clearest example we have of their sizzling chemistry and deeply complicated relationship.

Through the entire journey, I made sure to take plenty of gifs of Katharine’s best moments, because I love her so. And while I certainly can’t say I loved every film they did, I never didn’t love Katharine. She gave a fantastic performance every time. So did Tracy, whom I now have an immense respect for as a film actor.

So…let’s get started. This is my week with Kate and Spence.


Here be spoilers.


Woman of the Year (1942)

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Woman of the Year is by far the most romantic of Kate and Spence’s films. The film is all about finding new love, and boy do these two find it. If you watch it with the knowledge that the two actors got together sometime during or after the filming of this flick, it makes the experience of watching it even better. You can just see how deeply, genuinely intrigued they are by each other.

Why do I say it’s the most romantic? Well, it’s definitely the most physical. They have a total of – and I may be miscounting here – seven or eight full-on kisses, some of which barely get away with the 3-second rule (during the time this was filmed, kisses could be no more than 3 seconds long). And, well – I don’t know how else to say it, it’s just sexy. 

I have a major problem with this film, but I’m willing to postpone discussing it in order to gush about Katharine’s outfits. Can we just talk about this for a second?

WOMAN OF THE YEAR, Katharine Hepburn, 1942

I want this

Okay…done being distracted.

Apart from the last fifteen minutes of the movie, which is what I have a serious problem with, Woman of the Year is wonderful to watch, mostly for the scene at the bar/taxi/Tess’s apartment. It’s the most romantic part of the film, and it features the most kisses. One thing I really love doing when watching old movies is looking for implications of sex – not in a dirty or creepy way, but because I love seeing how much they try to imply without being totally out there because they can’t be totally out there.

In Woman of the Year, for instance, there’s a scene where Kate’s character Tess has Spencer’s character Sam take her home. They have a very romantic taxi ride and then they walk into her dark apartment, and the music swells very romantically but with a hint of foreboding. Watch the scene closely – he knows where this is going and she knows where this is going and it’s only because Sam’s “a bundle of nerves” that it doesn’t happen.

I think Woman of the Year is looked down upon in modern times, at least the last fifteen minutes are, because it’s the story of a remarkably strong and independent woman who feels guilty for being strong and independent and by the end resolves to quit her job so she can clean and cook for her husband. It was a different time, of course, but it still bothers me. This movie could have been very progressive and if I remember correctly, they changed the ending at the last minute because Tess Harding was just too powerful for a woman. This was apparently against Katharine’s wishes, though, so console yourselves with that.


Keeper of the Flame (1943)

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Keeper of the Flame is a strange one. I haven’t quite put my finger on how I feel about it yet. For one thing, it’s the only Tracy-Hepburn film that doesn’t feature a romance of some sort, and it’s a drama. It’s also incredibly slow. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely more dialogue than action.

In Keeper of the Flame, Katharine Hepburn plays a recent widow of a man named Robert Forrest, who was a national hero to many people. In a lot of ways, the film is about Robert Forrest, or uncovering the man that was Robert Forrest, without actually showing Robert Forrest because well, he’s dead. It’s Spencer Tracy’s character’s job to write a bio on Forrest, and he meets with Forrest’s widow (or tries to) to gather information. Eventually he discovers that Robert Forrest was not a very good man at all but a member of some sort of fascist cult. He died by driving over a busted bridge – a bridge that his wife had seen and neglected to tell him about, because she hated the fact that he had betrayed his country but was too ashamed to ruin his public image.

Oh yeah, and she dies. It’s kind of gruesome, actually. I was not expecting that.

Keeper of the Flame is so radically different from, well, most of their other films (well, apart from The Sea of Grass but we’ll get to that one later), that, like I said, I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. It certainly isn’t bad, but it is a little slow and I can definitely see a lot of people finding it quite boring. Spencer Tracy is the real star of the show here, playing what I must say is a really noble and genuine character. I felt that Robert Forrest’s secret was revealed much too late and all at once. I felt the movie would have benefitted from maybe fifteen or twenty more minutes of snooping around by Tracy’s character.


Without Love (1945)

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Without Love is my least favorite of their comedies. That being said, I still liked it very much. I suppose its crime is that it’s too predictable; we all know how it’s going to end the minute the formula is set in motion. Katharine plays a(nother) widow whose husband tragically died in a horseback riding accident. A strange scientist, played by Tracy, randomly moves into the basement of her house to work on a secret experiment for the military. They decide to team up and get married “without love” because of the benefits marriage offers – though in the process they end up falling in love anyway.

Without Love is definitely benefitted by the presence of Lucille Ball, who plays a terrific supporting character, and there’s some funny comedic moments between Kate and Spence as they get ready for bed (in separate rooms). There’s a hilarious scene where Tracy’s character sleepwalks and he gets into her bed by mistake. Katharine comes back and falls out of the bed in surprise when she realizes there’s someone there. Tracy’s dog – whom we now discover is a service dog supposed to prevent him from sleepwalking – rushes into the room, and Tracy delivers my favorite line of the entire film – “Where were you in my hour of need?”

Katharine sometimes gets accused of playing the same character over and over, but I don’t see how anyone can say that, at least not judging by these nine films. In Without Love her character has a subtle naivety that Tess Harding didn’t have and certainly wasn’t there in Keeper of the Flame. She’s smart, but she doesn’t really know a damn thing about, well, anybody. She’s constantly misjudging people and Kate pulls that off perfectly, as Kate often does. Not their best film, but still worth checking out.

Also it has probably the best implication of sex in the whole bunch:

Kate: Th- There… One thing though. I, um…

Spence: Madam, you would never have to give that a thought. 


The Sea of Grass (1947)

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It’s bizarre to think that The Sea of Grass did the most well commercially of any of their films because it is without doubt the worst of the bunch. It’s slow, cheesy, and melodramatic in the worst possible way. The director really wasn’t pleased with the final result, and as far as I can tell the film hasn’t really stood the test of time.

There’s one thing that saves the film, and that of course is Katharine Hepburn. Spencer Tracy is fantastic – I’m starting to think it was physically impossible for the man to give a bad performance – but it’s Katharine Hepburn who held my interest the most. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it very much, because there’s a huge chunk of the film where she’s not there.

Katharine plays a woman in the late 1800’s who marries a cattle rancher, leaving the big city life she knows. She is constantly torn between wanting to be noticed, loved, and desired and her love for her husband, who spends more time thinking about his cattle ranch than he does about her. She eventually has a child with another man, causing Tracy to kick her out. Her son, the illegitimate child, grows up to be kind of a stinker and gets himself killed for it. Then she comes back and all is right with the world.

That’s a real bare-bones summary, and of course I’m leaving out a lot of subtleties and plot points. What I liked best about Kate’s performance was how naturally she pulled off a woman struggling in an environment practically alien to her. It almost reminded me of Emma Bovary (though she wasn’t nearly that despicable). And she looks gorgeous, so hey.

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State of the Union (1948)

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loved Katharine Hepburn’s character, Mary, in this movie. Again, she was the best part of the film. I find it difficult to discuss this one because I just want to go watch all of her best scenes. But there are SO MANY.

Spencer Tracy’s character, Grant Matthews, is an unfaithful turd (sorry, but he is), who has cheated on his wife Mary with Angela Lansbury. This is a point that is never expressly stated but everyone knows it, including Mary. And to get back at him, she makes him sleep on the floor. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you think about how powerless women were back then, at least in terms of doing anything about their husbands’ infidelity (especially if they had children), it’s great fun to see Mary do one for herself and make Grant get on the floor.

My favorite scene is when Mary is drunk. It’s reminiscent of Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, and produces some wonderful dialogue. Much to my chagrin I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube. But here’s the tweet I made watching that scene.

[tweet https://twitter.com/knifeink/status/596153749015375872 ]

All Hail Katharine indeed. OH and also – here is the world’s greatest gif, courtesy of yours truly, Katharine, and this movie:

Katharine


Adam’s Rib (1949)

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Ah, here’s their famous one. Most consider Adam’s Rib to be Hepburn and Tracy’s best film. I can definitely see why. Here their banter is sharpest and the premise is by far the smartest. Plus, let’s face it – they’re just adorable in this movie. When they look under the table at each other I found myself squealing out loud.

I’m going to leave the feminist analysis of this film for another day, but needless to say I loved seeing Katharine Hepburn take a stand for the woman. She does it hilariously and sincerely all at the same time. And I love (love) how they go at it in the courtroom but when they get home try and act perfectly married, like nothing has happened.

Poor Spencer Tracy. He really gets kicked in the pants in this one (literally). From dropping glasses to being lifted by strong women, you sort of wonder when he’s going to lose it. He kind of does twice, once when he slaps her and once when he threatens to shoot her with a licorice gun. What a lovable asshole.

What can I say about Adam’s Rib? It’s a classic in every sense of the word, and it couldn’t have been done by anyone else. I read somewhere online that they better not touch Adam’s Rib if they know what’s best for them, and I agree. I have to say it’s not my personal favorite of their set but I can definitely see the argument for it being the best. “Best” and “favorite” are not the same.


Pat and Mike (1952)

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Move summary: Katharine Hepburn is a badass.

I mean, I already knew that, but I can’t tell you how many times I shouted “Yessss, girl!” while watching Pat and Mike. Here Kate gets to show off her athletic abilities, which she really and truly possessed. And she wears the cutest tennis outfit in the history of everything.

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What I liked best about Katharine’s performance in this one was her struggle between her own lack of confidence and her self-knowledge. Let me clarify. Pat, in this film, knows damn well that she’s an incredible athlete, but is constantly doubting herself, especially when her fiance (not Mike) watches her play. I know what it’s like to be nervous performing in front of people even though you know you have the ability. It’s incredibly frustrating, and Kate is incredibly frustrated in this one, even though she can swing a golf club like a pro.

This, thank heavens, was on YouTube, so enjoy and try not to watch it on loop for an hour.

“You know what you can do with your gluteal muscle? Give it away for Christmas!”

Oh, and let’s not forget the part where she saves poor Spencer Tracy from two guys, all on her own, without even swinging a punch or batting an eye.

That’s my girl.


Desk Set (1957)

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Of all these nine films, the biggest surprise was Desk Set. I absolutely LOVED this movie. It might be my favorite.

One of the things I loved most was seeing how much they could get away with in this film as opposed to the earlier ones. This film has the word “sexy” in it and no one bats an eye. Although I was extremely disappointed that we didn’t get to see Katharine in that green dress.

Katharine is older in this film but you don’t get the sense that she’s past her prime (when has anybody ever gotten that sense?) and she still looks stunning. I think what I love most about this movie is how much fun it is, and how much fun she is. Sure, she was fun in her other comedies, but comedy is tragedy, as you know, and most of her other movies have her go through a little bit of pain. There’s very little pain in Desk Set, it’s just one big fun romp. And Katharine – oh, Katharine my love. She…she has fun too. Here are some more gifs for you.

KatharineOOH

“OOH, they had a baby!”

KATHARINEWHYY

KatharinePerfection

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Somebody, thank the heavens, put the entire movie on YouTube, so if you just search “Desk Set 1957” you should find it (seriously, go watch before it gets taken down by the copyright gods).


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Guess_Who's_Coming_to_Dinner_poster

Their last film, and Spencer Tracy’s last film of his career. He died only a few weeks after it was finished filming.

This film is a lot more than Kate and Spence, but since this post is about them, I want to focus on one moment in the film. But first some background.

A lot has been speculated, and unfortunately never verified, about Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s romance. It was a 26-year long “affair,” but it was an unusual affair. Katharine was completely devoted to Spencer, and he didn’t always reciprocate. Spencer had serious drinking problems and was probably depressed. His failing health was due to his years of drinking and inner struggles.

Throughout the filming of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the cast and crew knew that Spencer was dying. Kate knew it too. They had to be very careful not to put too much strain on him, only letting him film for about three hours each day.

And even though Katharine must have been scared and grieving the whole time during filming, she still manages to pull off what is, without a doubt, the single greatest verbal middle finger in the history of everything:

YESSS KATHARINE!

Katharine always said that Spencer was a locked door, and never really let on how he felt about anything. He was married and never got divorced from his wife Louise, though they were separated for many years, before Spencer even met Katharine. He had a deaf son, John, whom Louise was completely devoted to, and had always felt guilty about John and because of his Catholic faith that wouldn’t let him divorce his wife. Katharine never asked for marriage – she knew that living was painful for him. He was a brilliant actor, and could become anybody, but outside of the studio, he drank and needed constant care and attention, which only Kate would give him. And he wasn’t always nice to her. He had affairs on the side of his affair, and there have even been reports of him drunkenly striking her once (though I don’t think that’s ever been confirmed).

But Kate never left him. For the last six years of his life, she moved in with him to make him more comfortable. It was during this period that they filmed Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Here’s what Kate said about Spence in her autobiography:

“I have no idea how Spence felt about me. I can only say I think that if he hadn’t liked me he wouldn’t have hung around. As simple as that. He wouldn’t talk about it and I didn’t talk about it. We just passed twenty-seven years together in what was to me absolute bliss.

It is called LOVE.”

Excerpt From: Katharine Hepburn. “Me.”

And, because I like to torture myself, I also watched this video, of Kate reading a letter she wrote to Spence years after he died.

Knowing all this, I went into Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner looking at every interaction they had as more than acting, because it is. Especially his last speech, when both their eyes get misty. Spencer wasn’t a crier, and guess what, I’m not either…

But I couldn’t fight back tears when I watched the scene in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner where Spencer says:

“And if it’s half of what we felt – that’s everything.”

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THE END


This post was made specially for Margaret Perry’s The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, which I was thrilled to find out existed. Here’s a banner and a link to Margaret’s blog where you can read all the submissions. 

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Margaret Perry’s Blog

Movie Review – How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

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DreamWorks has never been a studio I’ve been particularly interested in. The only DreamWorks movies I’ve seen I’ve watched passively, almost out of a sense of obligation. I am of course referring to their computer animated movies and not The Prince of Egypt, which is fantastic.

The first DreamWorks movie I ever saw that I thought was really clever was Megamind. That movie provided an interesting twist on the hero vs. villain formula, and made for a very entertaining and enjoyable film. However, I’ve only seen Megamind once. It was good, but since I’ve seen it I haven’t had the urge to watch it again.

But I would watch How To Train Your Dragon over and over again, let me tell you. In fact, I think I’ll watch it after I’m done with this review. That’s how good it is.

This has got to be one of the most charming, good-natured, well done kids’ films I’ve seen in years. And yes, I realize that it came out in 2010 and that’s pretty much old news. Apparently I have been living under a rock.

This movie takes a formula that has been done over and over and over again and uses that formula to create an almost perfect film. It seems as the formula was made for this movie, and not the other way around. It is one of the only instances I’ve ever seen what most consider to be a tired formula that didn’t bother me. I liked every character in this movie. I liked that they added several complex emotional issues. I liked that they created the perfect balance between entertainment and true storytelling. I liked THAT DAMN DRAGON.

I almost hate Toothless because I have a feeling that if I was legitimately trying to be angry or serious about something, all anyone would have to do to turn me into a complete and total flailing mess is show me a picture of this thing. I mean, just look at him.

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If you do not think Toothless is cute, you are not my friend. You also probably have fewer emotions than I do and are therefore most likely not human. This dragon could make Scrooge burst into fangirly giggles. He could make Voldemort go “AWWW.” He could make the Grinch give back Christmas before he even steals it.

I promise, though, that the reason this movie is good does not have to do with Toothless (at least, not entirely). Like I said, we have a very familiar story here – a character that feels like an outcast in his community befriends a special creature that is also an outcast in its community and the two form a bond and the character reconciles his/her differences with the community by either saving the day, demonstrating why differences are important, eliminating a prejudice, or in this movie’s case, all three. It’s a story you’ve seen a million times, but for some reason it feels so fresh and new here.

I think much of that has to do with just how likeable all the characters are, as well as how dimensional they are. Hiccup’s dad isn’t just an all-controlling father that is ashamed of his son. He loves his son, and legitimately tries to connect with him. Every time Hiccup does something his father doesn’t want him to do, you can see how much it hurts the father. This isn’t easy for him. He doesn’t want to have this kind of relationship, but he wants more from Hiccup than Hiccup is able to give. And Hiccup, for his part, isn’t just a misunderstood short kid. He has problems, too. He also wants to connect with his dad and other people, but lacks the confidence with which to do so. Hiccup gives up easily, and never really tries very hard. Until he meets Toothless.

When Hiccup meets Toothless, it seems at long last that he has something unique to look forward to – something he can change and influence and use. Helping the dragon, learning how to fly, creating the special bond with Toothless that he hasn’t created with anyone else – all this gives Hiccup a certain confidence that he’s never had before, and at long last he is able to stand up for himself and reveal the truth to his father.

Naturally, his father doesn’t take it very well – after all, Vikings and dragons are sworn enemies – but after a battle with a big dragon and a surprisingly touching scene in which Hiccup’s father thinks Hiccup has perished (even though the audience knows full well he hasn’t), all is well, and Vikings and dragons live in harmony, just as Hiccup is now at peace with his daddy.

What makes this effective is that even though we know all will be right in the end, the characters don’t know that. When Hiccup’s dad thinks his son is dead, he actually thinks his son is dead and you can see the pain and remorse he feels.

I’ve always said the best part to any story are the characters, and if you make the characters interesting, you can turn any story – no matter how overused and cliche it might be – and make it something worthwhile. How To Train Your Dragon might be the best example of this I have ever come across. If I ever doubted DreamWorks’ ability to make an excellent movie before, I certainly won’t now. This film is absolutely a must-see.

Book Review – The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers galore. Do not read this review if you haven’t read the book. And don’t see the movie before you’ve read it, either! That’s right, I read your mind.

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The Fault In Our Stars is a book I had mixed feelings about from the moment I read it. On the one hand, it is a cancer book, but on the other, it’s a love story. It’s a book with a teenage girl as a narrator, something that, needless to say, is not uncommon in this day and age, but a teenage girl with an unquestionably unique voice and personality. The story is laced with issues (particularly the end, as is typical of John Green), but is somehow compelling all the same. What is it with this book? More importantly, what is it with John Green?

I can successfully say that I have read every single one of John Green’s books, at least the ones that most people seem to have heard of, and find myself scratching my head every time. They are books that draw large audiences among the youth of this generation, and are generally marketed as such. It isn’t any sort of coincidence that the movie was set for release in June, when most young people are out of school. John Green’s books are for teenagers, or at the very least their loudest fans are definitely teenagers. But despite this, they are more than teenage novels – at least I think they are.

Take The Fault In Our Stars, for example. It doesn’t take a degree in English Literature to know good writing when you see it, and if you don’t think some of the passages in The Fault In Our Stars are well written, I would greatly beg to differ. Here are a few examples.

My response is being written with ink and paper in the glorious tradition of our ancestors and then transcribed by Ms. Vliegenthart into a series of 1s and 0s to travel through the insipid web which has lately ensnared our species, so I apologize for any errors or omissions which may result.

His every syllable flirted.

Much of my life had been devoted to trying not to cry in front of people who loved me, so I knew what Augustus was doing. You clench your teeth. You look up. You tell yourself that if they see you cry, it will hurt them, and you will be nothing but a Sadness in their lives, and you must not become a mere sadness, so you will not cry, and you say all of this to yourself while looking up at the ceiling, and then you swallow even though your throat does not want to close and you look at the person who loves you and smile.

And, my personal favorite, which technically even isn’t the part of the book:

This is not so much an author’s note as an author’s reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up.
Neither novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species.
I appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

 

In this sense, John Green has a very similar issue with that of Laini Taylor, whose book I criticized for being better written than it was an actual story. And by “written,” I mean that quite literally. The construction of sentences. The way words are put together. John Green is very good at that.

I’m not so sure how good at putting together a story John Green is, because every single time I’ve read one of his books, I have always preferred the characters over the story those characters are put in. The Fault In Our Stars is the same way. Hazel and Augustus are two very distinct people with two very distinct personalities, but their story, while it is meaningful, does not leave many impressions on you beyond the climactic plot points, like their first meeting or Augustus’s death. What I mostly remembered about this book after I read it was Hazel’s voice, not what happened to Hazel. I actually had to skim through it again just to remind myself what took place before writing this review.

Is that necessarily a bad thing? I don’t know. It’s not like the story was bad, far from it; it’s just that, by the end, which was much too abrupt, as most of his endings are, I felt that it hadn’t impacted me as much as it should have. Plot-wise, it didn’t take a lot of risks, and John Green was dropping hints from the beginning that Augustus was going to die, which most readers would probably have guessed anyway. I sure did. It’s incredibly difficult to kill off a first-person narrator. I’ve only read one book that even tried, and it was so unmemorable apart from its attempt that I don’t even remember what the title is.

I don’t read so-called “cancer books” that much; the only other one I’ve sat all the way through is My Sister’s Keeper, and goodness knows there were a slew of problems with that one. Even with that said, I think The Fault In Our Stars tries to be more than a cancer book and succeeds to a point – then it just stops. I’ve heard arguments from critics of the book that Augustus Waters loses all his charisma after he reveals he’s dying, and I’ve heard supporters of the book argue that was intentional, because that’s exactly what happens to people in real life. And while I agree with both opinions, I think it’s really the book that sputters and dies after that point. But is that a bad thing?

Another criticism I’ve heard is one I’ve often raged about: that The Fault In Our Stars is a gold mine for false profundity. But I’m not sure I agree. Here’s why. I’ve become practically allergic to statements of false profundity. If I come across one, I feel it. In my gut. But that didn’t happen this time around. Maybe that’s not a very trustworthy test, but at the same time I feel that The Fault In Our Stars is very genuine. I do.

There’s just a place I feel the story could have gone that it didn’t go, and although I’m not exactly sure what that place is, I can’t shake that impression all the same. Cancer is a very serious subject, and this book didn’t leave nearly as much of an emotional impact on me as it should have. I suppose it was just too predictable.

So, in conclusion after that incredibly scatterbrained review, is The Fault In Our Stars good? After much deliberation – yes. I think it is. Is it a great book? Of that I’m not so sure. But to call it another “teenage novel” or “cancer book,” I feel, is not right. It is more than both those things. But it is less than it could have been.

 

P.S. – Seeing the movie later today. Expect a review soon.

Movie Review – X-Men Days of Future Past & Series Wrap Up (VIDEO REVIEW!)

Thought I might try something different! This is my video review of Days of Future Past as well as the series as a whole. The audio is kind of bad, and I apologize for that.

This probably won’t be a regular thing, but I will try it from time to time just to shake things up a bit.

Oh, and one more thing I forgot to mention in the video: Yes, I’m fully aware that there are technically two more X-Men films that focus on Wolverine, and no, I’m not going to review them. Or watch them, for that matter. Sorry. I just don’t care enough.

Spoilers as always.

Movie Review – X-Men: First Class

This is a film. And I am going to spoil it. If you wish to see this film someday, I suggest you go no further.

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After the horror of X-Men 3, this film is very much a breath of fresh air. In fact, I think this might be the best X-Men film in terms of how it works as a film. Meaning, if I were to choose out of the X-Men films a representation of what good filmmaking can do, then I would pick this movie. But that’s only out of the X-Men films, which really doesn’t say much.

I feel that First Class would have been a better prequel if the characters in the original trilogy were more clearly defined. There’s not much of First Class’s Charles Xavier that I see in the original films’s Charles Xavier, and the same goes for Mystique and Beast. The only exception to that is Magneto, whose character traits I could recognize in both films, and he was by far the best character in First Class in terms of being a prequel character.

On their own, though, the characters are much better than the ones in the original movies, even if their superpowers aren’t quite as cool. Even though the movie was total shit I still enjoyed seeing Jean Grey wreak havoc on the world in The Last Stand, and Wolverine is always very much a badass, even if he is put in the spotlight too much. I’ll talk about the prequel cast vs. the original cast more in my next review, but the prequel cast is much more complex, even if the superpowers are kind of lame.

I especially like what they did with Mystique. I didn’t at first, but now I think it adds a very interesting dimension to her character, as well as makes The Last Stand all the more reprehensible. Seeing the relationship Mystique formed with both Charles and Magneto makes Magneto’s casual dismissal of her in The Last Stand even more terrible than it was on its own. But I digress.

The reason I didn’t like all this characterization for Mystique at first was because we don’t see enough of her personality in the original films to have any context with which to witness this character’s growth. But I realize now that may be the point. First Class does what the original X-Men films didn’t do – actual characterization. And, after seeing this movie, I love what they did with her character. Plus, Jennifer Lawrence = yes.

The casting is very good, too, especially in the case of Magneto. If I were to look at the old Magneto and wonder what he was like in his younger days, the Magneto in First Class would probably be very close. One thing I wish they had done more of, however, was establish a stronger friendship between Magneto and Charles. In the original films, it was hinted that the two had been great friends divided by opposing goals. I still felt a great divide between them in First Class, and I would have liked to see them closer. In addition, I would have liked to see Mystique establish a clearer, more defined relationship with Magneto.

First Class’s other problem is that besides Charles, Mystique, and Xavier, the other characters are rather boring. I wasn’t a fan of Emma Frost, and I can’t even remember anybody else’s name. Oh, Beast was fine. He was cool. But not as much as the first three I mentioned.

All in all, First Class is definitely the best movie in the franchise so far. But I do wish they hadn’t ruined the original cast’s chance at a good movie. Despite the lack of characterization, I do think the original cast has a lot of potential, in particular the whole Jean Grey/Phoenix thing, which they should have explored WAY more than they did (see Confused Matthew’s review for the reason why). But there’s no denying that this prequel film is by far the smoothest in the series.

Movie Review – X-Men 3: The Last Stand

This review WOULD have spoilers if the movie hadn’t spoiled the franchise.

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Oh, it hurts. It hurts so bad.

I was just starting to get into the franchise, and then they roll out a piece of shit like this.

God, where do I even start? There were so many problems – SO MANY FREAKING PROBLEMS. I can’t review this. I just can’t. I disliked this movie so much, I don’t even want to give this review any time. This movie is that worthless.

Fortunately, thanks to the internet, I don’t have to. Somebody else already did it for me.

If this is being lazy, then so be it, but I’m also doing this because I don’t want to be repetitive. There’s nothing I could possibly say about this movie that Confused Matthew, one of my favorite internet reviewers, already said in his review, which I watched shortly after seeing this piece of shit film. To review it now would honestly be repeating everything he said, because, honestly, he hit every problem with the film right on the money. So, I’m going to provide a link to his review and go suffer by myself in the corner. Oh, it hurts. It hurts so bad.

Watch Confused Matthew’s review here. This is everything I thought of the film and more.

Upcoming Reviews

Hello invisible audience, I just thought I’d give everyone an update on what my plans are for future reviews and stuff, since I’ll have a little more time now and because you really, really wanted to know. I can tell.

I thought I’d just go by category, since I’m crazy enough reviewing a bunch of different entertainment mediums anyway.

Books – this category has been pretty stagnant for a while now. Books are the most time-consuming things I review, since they take the longest to get through and I usually don’t bother writing a review for one if I don’t have much to say; it’s just not worth the effort. That’s why I rarely read books solely for the purpose of reviewing them. If I happen to read a book that I think warrants a review, I’ll go ahead and do one, but you really can’t tell which books those will be until you, well, read them.

That being said, I am going to do a review of The Hobbit pretty soon, mainly because I am planning to watch the movies, which I haven’t seen yet, and I’ve been rereading the book in order to prepare. Since I’m going to post reviews of both the movies, I figured I might as well do one for the book too. So keep an eye out for that sometime soon.

Movies – Like I said above, I’m planning to watch both Hobbit movies and do reviews on them. I’m a little scared based on what I’ve heard about them so far, but I will try and ignore all other opinions in order to form my own.

Aside from The Hobbit, I think I might try to do all the X-Men movies, or at least watch all of them, sometime this summer. That’s right, I haven’t seen any of the X-Men movies, and I really hope I don’t have to have much background in terms of the comic books or the TV show because I really don’t have that kind of time. It may or may not happen depending on my schedule and how much time I want to give the series, but I’m curious about the franchise, especially about this new movie that has just come out and is supposed to be very good. We shall see.

Music– Music is the easiest and most flexible category simply because it doesn’t take as much time (apart from the Top 10 list, which took forever). I literally do music reviews whenever I feel like it, and I will review anything, except for rap, since I don’t know anything about it.

Everything Else – Short stories are whenever I have time. Random stuff is whenever the spirit moves me. X-Files reviews are also on a whenever-I-have-time basis, although I think I might try and start a regular schedule with those. We’ll see.

Oh wait, one more thing– This is my second shameful attempt at self-advertising. If you happen to like something you’ve read in this blog, share it! Help a writer out, will ya?

Thanks everyone. Hope to review lots more soon! 🙂

Movie Review – Her

Yeah, yeah, yeah, there is going to be much spoilage. Do not read the review if you haven’t seen the movie.


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Movie in three words: Siri has sex.

Okay, there’s a lot more to it than that. Her is making me a little bit mad, because it has overthrown Gravity as the most original movie of 2013. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Gravity to death, but…yeah. This was pretty damn original.

However, having literally just watched it, I find myself a little disturbed by my own reaction to this film. Not my reaction to its originality, but rather my reaction to the movie itself. I liked this movie, but at the same time I feel kind of empty after watching it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe reviewing it will help.

Her is a story about a guy named Theodore who falls in love with his operating system, named Samantha. The story seems to take place in the future, but in a future that is believably real. In fact, I think the setting of this movie may be its greatest strength. There are things about the movie’s world that are strange and new, but seem achievable, and closely achievable. Artificial intelligence has always been a fascinating and oft-explored subject, and right now in 2014 it seems to be getting more relevant than ever. We all carry Siri around in our pockets. We talk to her and she tells us what we need to know.  But what if (and this is the question this movie poses) she could actually respond to us by her own volition? What if she could grow and learn and feel?

That in and of itself isn’t what’s original about Her.  Rather than taking a science fiction approach to the artificial intelligence story, Her takes a very human approach, directly addressing the implications and emotions that could occur if such a being existed. Because when you couple a thing that’s willing to learn, grow, and wants to experience feeling with someone who’s desperate and lonely and depressed, what do you get? A love story.

Theodore finds himself needing Samantha because she reminds him of what it was like to enjoy life. Samantha is experiencing everything for the first time; Theodore feels like he’s experienced enough. There’s a scene towards the middle when he says something to the effect of that he’s afraid he’ll never experience an original feeling again, that his impending divorce has caused him to wonder whether or not every new emotion is just a shadow of another one felt in a happier time.  That’s a really profound and thought provoking question, and it still has me thinking about it.

It’s just hard for me to explain what my feelings are concerning this film. The ideas brought up in it are original and excellent, and the dialogue is excellent. It’s probably the closest thing I’ve seen to what real-life conversations are like and how people interact, and it isn’t even set in the present day.

The movie is also gorgeous. There are some beautiful, very cleverly done shots (although towards the end I was getting a little sick of the constant close-ups).

I suppose my issue with Her is that it felt like a very original and memorable story that just happened to be a film. I’m not even sure if that’s necessarily a bad thing, but Her could have been a play or a book or a song, even, and it would have been very similar. It’s hard for me to talk about this movie as a movie because it’s not trying to be a movie, it’s trying to be a story with original ideas and profound, thought provoking subjects. And while the profundity is very genuine, I’m still wondering what makes this work as a movie. Because if I had one complaint about the whole thing, it was the acting. It was good for about the first thirty minutes and then it was just the same (with the exception of the ending, which was very well done). Amy Adams is fantastic (and underrated) as always, but Joaquin Phoenix started to bore me after a while, and at times I began wondering what on earth all these women, including Samantha, see in Theodore at all. He’s kind of pathetic. To the film’s credit, he does admit as much, but it’s at the end and not long after Samantha decides to leave and it’s never brought up again.

But it’s not like I can sit here trying to persuade myself or my invisible audience that Her isn’t good, because I would be a fool and a liar. Her is good. In some respects, it’s fantastic. Maybe it’s a film that appeals to some people more than others, but for me, I’m not sure I would give it another watch anytime soon. Not because I didn’t like it, but because while it’s thought provoking and original and clever and well written and beautifully shot and deep and profound, it is all of those things without feeling very much like a movie. But if you don’t care about that and want to see a damn original story, give this one a watch. You definitely won’t be disappointed.

Random Stuff – Reaching That 2048 Tile

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Every few months or so along comes that game everyone around you seems to be playing. Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Temple Run, Flow Free, Flappy Bird…I’m sure there are many others, but those are the ones that come to mind. Now, the big thing (at least where I live) is 2048, a number-tile game with a simple yet frustrating goal: reach the 2048 tile.

I’m not going to go into any details about the game itself, because that’s not what this post is about. Rather, this is a post about these little game apps that somehow take up hours of your time. And it’s also a post about life. Because those two things are completely related, right?

I got this game a few weeks ago when it was starting to be a really big thing, and I tried like hell to beat it. My friends around me were solving the puzzle left and right, and every time someone did win it would be this huge deal: “I GOT TO THE 2048 TILE! THIS IS LITERALLY THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!”

These games, whether we want them to or not, do take up a lot of our time. They’re less demanding than video games, quicker than movies, and more interactive than listening to music (forget books; what’s a book)?  They’re all we have when we’re tired of looking out the car window or waiting for that damn doctor’s appointment to start. And, try as we might, we can’t seem to keep ourselves from latching onto the next “in” game. Everyone around us is trying for this goal. How will we know how we compare to other people if we don’t try too?

These games might as well be physical proof of what people do every day. People love to have goals, and they love to reach their goals before everyone else. And if everyone has the same goal, it makes it all the more easy to feel really, really elated when you reach it because, well, you’re on the same playing field. Unless your friend is playing a hacked version of Temple Run, you’re still running around the same track, being chased by the same strange, unidentifiable monkey things.

And, despite where you might think this post may be leading, I don’t actually think that’s a bad thing.

I’m at a point in my own life right now where the advantages and disadvantages of myself and the people around me are painfully obvious and play a huge role in our day to day lives. Competition is there, even though most of us wish it wasn’t, and everyone judges everyone else, even though most people don’t want to judge or be judged. It places an enormous amount of stress on a lot of people, including me.

So it feels kind of nice to play a game that, for the most part, doesn’t demand anything from me that I feel I have to possess before I even begin playing it, or makes me constantly compare my strengths and weaknesses to everyone else’s strengths and weaknesses. Sure, some people might have better puzzle solving skills than other people, but for each and every person who plays the game, success is still a very real and very possible outcome. Getting that 2048 tile isn’t so far-fetched after all. There aren’t any monetary or physical limitations, no life experiences you need to have under your belt to win, no commitments or promises or schedules you have to keep. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that.

So, in conclusion: keep trying for that 2048 tile. It is, somehow, a noble goal. And it is one you CAN achieve.


Here is a link to 2048, just in case you’ve been living under a rock 🙂 : http://gabrielecirulli.github.io/2048/

 

Book Review – Zoo by James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge

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James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge have created a true masterpiece with Zoo. They have made what is quite possibly the world’s easiest writing instruction manual, a guide so simple that it only has one rule: if it’s in Zoo, it’s wrong.

Let me go into more detail so I can properly explain this book’s genius. First, we have a brilliant example of how to write a stupid premise. Animals going crazy and attacking humans left and right, causing a global crisis? Yep, that’s pretty much as dumb as it gets, so don’t make a premise like that for your novel. Then we have a main character as likeable as diarrhea and about as believable as the special effects in 60s television. Even though he speaks like a fifth-grade boy, the novel still tries to convince you that he was, in fact, a student at Columbia. Oh, also, he has little to no character development or redeeming qualities that make his story worth anything. What makes this ingenious, of course, is that if someone were to write a character with the exact opposite approach, they’ll end up with a multi-dimensional, interesting, tolerable character who gives meaning to his story and makes the reader want to read the book.

A huge aspect of Zoo – probably the biggest aspect, in fact – is that it targets only one specific group of people as its audience – sterotypical straight males. There are so many elements that stereotypical straight males love that it’s almost impossible to name them all – a lot of shooting, explosions, wild sex, bacon, lesbians, rescuing hot French girls in the middle of the African savannah by shooting alligators with a gun, dirty apartments, disrupting political meanings by climbing a tree and then getting tasered…the list goes on and on. If you write your story with multiple groups of people in mind, you will appeal to a universal audience and make your book more accessible.

Zoo also offers invaluable advice on how to write sentences. There are many lines in Zoo which warrant recognition for their unbelievable use of the English language, but for time’s sake I’ll only mention a few:

“Before I get ahead of myself, my name’s Oz. My first name is Jackson, but with a last name like mine, no one uses it. Unfortunately, my father is also known as Oz, as are my mother, my three sisters, my uncles, and all my paternal cousins. Which gets confusing at family reunions, but that’s neither here nor there.”

“I threw down my pen. I was pissed, pissed, pissed. Skin itching, heart going like a hammer. Was everyone asleep? Under hypnosis? High? Was everybody frigging stoned?”

“The enemy was us. You and me. People. Man, man.”

“Or, to put it in other terms, something was driving animals to go haywire, and the time to do something about it was running out quicker than the plastic wand supply at a Harry Potter convention.”

“Take off your shirt, leave the pants. I want to undo the belt with my teeth.”

And that is only from the first seven chapters!

And then we move on to the brilliant glob of vacuity that is the plot –

Okay, ENOUGH. I can’t do this any more.

To conclude, I’ll just say this: I was not familiar with James Patterson before reading this book. I guessed I missed that phase. Actually, it was probably because I’d heard he was a complete sellout of an author, slapping his name on books he has very little to do with but mentioning every product from Oreos to Red Bull so that his books can be properly positioned in their place at your local Kroger. He is the summer action movie of books, except that his horrible tree-destroying lack of talent plagues us year round. Not convinced? Check out this little gem from Wikipedia:

Patterson has written 95 novels since 1976. He has had 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestselling novels, and holds The New York Times record for most bestselling hardcover fiction titles by a single author, a total of 76, which is also a Guinness World Record. His novels account for one in 17 of all hardcover novels sold in the United States; in recent years his novels have sold more copies than those of Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown combined. His books have sold approximately 300 million copies worldwide.

Yeah. James Patterson? Here’s what I have to say to you.