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The Kansas Setting of “Looper”

The movie Looper, written and directed by Rian Johson and staring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, came out today.  It’s fantastic!  I really liked it, I will definitely go see it again and probably post about it again at least once, (maybe deciphering the ins-and-outs of the time travel), but–I do have a nit-picking criticism.  I almost feel like I should apologize for insisting on pointing out this flaw, because I really truly loved the movie otherwise, but this is probably the only negative thing I will say about it, and it is a topic that I am passionate about–the accurate portrayal of my beloved home state in film.

*Very insignificant and mild spoilers ahead*

Text overlaying an opening scene tells us that Looper is meant to take place in “Kansas, 2042.”  Wikipedia claims  the city that the main character lives and works in is Kansas City, which I don’t remember hearing specifically mentioned in the film, but I would agree it’s a likely hypothesis.  (It pretty much has to be Kansas City or Wichita).  You may remember from this post that I am proud to have been born and raised in Kansas, and still enjoy living here to date.  I’m always excited when people in Hollywood remember that my state exists, but I feel compelled to point out that what you saw in Looper was not an accurate representation of Kansas.

screenshot of city from the movie

Kansas City, 30 years from now? It’s possible.

I’m referring primarily to the stuff growing in all the fields that border roads and that several characters escape into at different points.  At first glance, I assumed it was corn.  That’s not what Kansas is primarily known for, it’s not what I think of when I picture the local farms, (wheat!  It’s endless fields of wheat!), but yeah, corn grows here.  (We produce more wheat, grain sorghum, cattle, and sunflowers than corn, as you can see in this official 2011 Kansas Agriculture report.)

The fields featured as a prominent backdrop in Looper.

However, upon closer inspection, it turns out the fields are sugar cane.  Emily Blunt’s character, Sarah, refers to “my cane fields” more than once, which is the main clue, but if you compare these screenshots I captured from the trailer with images of both corn and sugar cane, you can clearly see that they are the later.

Top: Sarah in front of her field in Looper, Middle: sugar cane field, Bottom: Corn field. Which does Sarah’s resemble?

It’s harder to tell in the close-ups, (top image is of young Joe in a field), but note the broader leaves on the corn (left) than sugar cane (right).

Notice how many of those stocks are leaning; according to LSU AgCenter, “Because of the heavy tonnage, the new variety [of sugar cane in Lousiana] has a tendency to fall down or lodge.”

So, it’s sugar cane.  The reason that is problematic is sugar cane does not grow in Kansas.  (See p. 21 of aforementioned recent Kansas Agriculture report.  Sugar Cane needs a warm, frost-free climate, and Kansas temperatures swing between extremes, over 100˚F in summer and below 0˚F in winter).  It is, however, grown in Louisiana, which makes sense considering that’s where most of the movie was filmed.  What doesn’t make sense is filming a movie in one state, prominently featuring crops that could not survive the climate of a second state, but then labeling the setting as the second state.  I know movies aren’t often filmed where they are actually supposed to take place, and I know those decisions are often based on what locations offer the best tax incentives, but I wonder how much of this kind of mistake is just laziness.

When Rian Johnson wrote this (excellent) script, why did he choose Kansas as the setting?  Was there a significance to it, or was it just a random Midwestern state?  The height of the crops (being tall enough that people could run and hide in them) seemed important since it was featured more than once–did Johnson realize that most of the crops in Kansas don’t match that description, or did he not actually research the area after he decided this story happened here?  Was Kansas even considered when they were scouting production locations?  Once they decided to film in Louisiana, with sugar cane fields, why not just change the setting?  (I suppose the expectation of regional accents might complicate that a little).

Look, I’m thrilled that Johnson chose to set his story in Kansas, and I feel like I can claim it in some way, the way that some Hutchinson residents feel like they can claim a special connection to Superman.  But it appears to me like there might have been other script changes made based on the location they ended up shooting, specifically the exchange between young Joe and Sarah, when he says she might as well burn her fields since they are dried up anyway, and she counters, “not gonna happen.”  I wonder if those lines were in the original script in that way, or if they were added on site based on how the fields happened to look while they were filming.  That leads me to another question, though–did the script originally call for Sarah to refer to her farmland as “cane fields”?

As I see it, there are a few possible explanations.  Firstly, perhaps Rian Johnson originally wrote the script with another type of crop or a non-specific crop in the fields, and they changed it or specified to “cane fields” when they ended up shooting in Louisiana.  Perhaps he just didn’t do any research on what Kansas is actually like, and based the imagery for his story on an amalgamation of rural America informed by geographically scattered references.  Perhaps, perhaps, Johnson knew that sugar cane cannot grow in Kansas’ current climate, and the inclusion of it in this futuristic Kansas setting indicated that significant climate change was another thing to set the 2042 world apart from our present one, along with limited telekinesis, hovercraft technology, and of course time travel.

I did think Sarah’s automated crop duster was pretty cool. I assume it’s spraying pesticides, that makes more sense than fertilizer or irrigation in this case I think.

You might think it’s unreasonable for me to spend so much time and energy harping on a seemingly small detail like what kind of crops are in a fictitious movie.  Believe me, I’m very aware that I’m nit-picking, but hear me out on two things–First, farming is some people’s entire life, many people that I know personally, and we all benefit from it.  I can’t count how many times I’ve driven past the billboard that reminds, “One Kansas Farmer Feeds More Than 128 People + You!”  I didn’t grow up on a farm and the incorrectness of the crops still jumped out at me on the first viewing.  I just think making an effort to portray Kansas’ agricultural landscape accurately would be more respectful of the people who spend their lives putting food in your grocery stores and restaurants.

Second, I know it is a fictitious story, but if you’re going to set your story in a real place, why don’t you research that place and make it an accurate portrayal?  The internet makes this ridiculously simple to do.  Like, I didn’t know that much about growing sugar cane when I sat down to type this post, and now I know all the interesting things in this article, and how it was introduced to the South, and I’ll definitely be able to spot it right away without a google-image comparison next time I see it.  That education took less than an hour.  There’s really no excuse to make a major mistake like featuring a plant that doesn’t exist in your supposed setting!

Okay, having concluded my factual and reason-based rant, I have to reiterate once again how much I overall really, really loved Looper.  I mean, I won’t be able to help noticing the out-of-place sugar canes every time I watch it, but they really aren’t very important to the story itself.  The story could have taken place anywhere, as far as I’m concerned, which is part of the reason why I’m still so confused as to why they didn’t just change the setting to suit the footage better.  What special connotations or meaning does setting a story in Kansas have to the general public?  Or is it really that people who don’t live in the “fly-over states” can’t tell them apart?  It’s *possible* that the inclusion of sugar cane was intentional, to hint at the climate change I theorized about earlier, but it requires assuming that everyone knows enough about agriculture to pick up on that.  I have too deep a mistrust of movie accuracy, (based on too long a history of blunders, particularly when it comes to Kansas), to believe this was not a mistake without more definitive evidence.

You know, this is actually not the first film with a Kansas setting to star Joseph Gordon-Levitt!  A few years back I netflixed The Lookout, and as I recall it’s also a really good flick.  I didn’t take notes at the time, but my memory is that it looked, for the most part, very much like Kansas, (especially the highway scenes), but the dialogue made clunky over-reference to the fact that that was the setting.  It’s not natural to refer to an everyday given, like the name of your state, so often and so obviously in conversation.  I’ll have to re-watch it to get specific quotes.

Oh, and one more thing about Kansas and Looper–Joe’s safe combination is “6742.”  Those are the first four digits of a handful of ZIP codes in Kansas, so was that an allusion to the fact that Joe’s character was originally from one of the small towns with a 6742- address?  If so, that would be really cool, but it would also indicate that somebody did do some Kansas research, so then why the inaccuracy of the sugar canes?  Unless the “climate change” theory is right, but if that were the case I think they would have mentioned it more explicitly.

Still a great movie!

**update** Saw the movie again last night and noticed several little futuristic things that were not explicitly mentioned, like solar panels on the roof of the farmhouse and on the hoods of several cars, and a tube connecting the exhaust pipe and gas tanks of cars like they had some way to re-use the fuel.  So, it’s possible that the sugar canes growing in “Kansas” were supposed to be another unspoken piece of this futuristic setting, (although I’m still not sure whether people who don’t live around here would pick up on it, and I’m not wholly convinced, without some sort of indication to the contrary, that this isn’t just another example of Hollywood getting Kansas wrong).  If it’s on purpose, that has to mean, as I said, extreme climate change.  And another question would be, who’s growing the food?  What are people eating?  Or is a lack of food one of the reasons there’s so much cavalier violence and so many vagrants?

If the sugar canes are intentional, I think it might make a case for the unnamed “city” to be Wichita rather than Kansas City.  It’s further south, so the climate would be a little warmer and less likely to frost, (deadly to sugar cane).  Also, if we go with the theory that Joe’s safe combination is a partial zip code, the small towns that it could refer to (Beloit, Bennington, Beverly, Brookville, Bushton, or Canton) are all either west (or just barely east) of highway 135, which could be followed south straight to Wichita.  The safe combination could be a reminder of some happy memory, of one of the places Joe and his mom stayed before she gave him up, or maybe the last place they were together.  Fun fact–Canton, KS has two water towers humorously labeled “hot” and “cold”; that might be something a kid would remember!  Wichita might also fit better with the story in the film, since it is more immediately surrounded by farmland whereas Kansas City is surrounded in suburbs.  (But it could be they just never showed Joe driving through neighborhoods to get to his designated kill spot.)

I’m curious what other people think: is the sugar cane in Looper a mistake, or was it intentional?

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Prometheus: Second Viewing

Things I Noticed This Time:

  • the barren planet that the Engineers seed animal life on in the opening sequence already has plant life.
  • the earthworms that somebody steps on in the big room swim into the black ooze, and get morphed into the bigger worms that kill Millburn.
  • It’s David that notices that the giant stone head is “remarkably human.”  Like himself.
  • I think David sprayed the canister with liquid nitrogen or something while in the cavern in order to be able to handle it without it oozing all over everything.  when he goes to retrieve the single drop later he has to break apart the ice.
  • David’s fingerprint has the Weyland logo on it.
  • David never smiles except:
  1. when he sits in the Engineers’ Captain’s chair
  2. When he’s standing in the middle of the Engineers planetary projection
  3. When he hears the heartbeat of the Engineer in stasis
  4. When the Engineer places a hand on David’s head, right before ripping it off of his body.

Things That Annoyed Me:

  • the music is unoriginal.  it sounds so familiar, like i’ve heard it before in another movie.
  • Why do i care that there are 17 crew members? we never learn most of their names. they all die.  Shaw ends the movie by saying she’s the last survivor.  Why do we need these meaningless statistics typed across the screen?
  • Why does everyone on the ship drink from sippy cups?
  • Vicker’s push-ups are wimpy
  • Chalier is such an a-hole , the entire time. I hate him.  I think even his death is selfish, he knows he’s dying and wants it to be over faster.
  • They spend two seconds flying around the planet before deciding where to land.  They explore only one location.  Why didn’t they fly around the world once before landing?  Why did they assume the Engineers were all dead based on such limited data?
  • Why would they assume a carbon dating device would render accurate results on a specimen on an alien planet?  They don’t know if the rate of carbon decay is the same here.  Too convenient to get such a fast answer.  Same with the DNA-human match.  “Their genetic material predates ours.” oh really?
  • How does Fifield get lost?!  He’s the one with the readout on his arm from the scanner “pups.”  Earlier they ask him, “which way?”  So why suddenly when he and Millburn split off does he start wandering in circles?  (other than the fact that the script needed them stranded so they interact with the aliens and ooze and die.)  Also when they are supposedly “lost” Millburn tells the captain their exact location.  So…why are they lost?!
  • When Fifield and Millburn find the huge pile of dead Engineers, Fifield warns “don’t touch!” but forgets his advice when dealing with the worm/snake.  (maybe it is arrogance that a non-humanoid creature can’t possibly be a threat to superior human intelligence?) in any case it’s stupid. “here hissing and hostile alien, let me pet you!”
  • Why are there different styles of spacesuits?  The first expedition they wear plain blue, but later they have blue with orange stripes or tubes, and there are some random crew members in orange and silver suits that are more bulky (who are just in the scene to be killed by a raging, morphed Fifield anyway)
  • Why did they try to make the “Weyland is Vickers’ father” reveal such a big deal?  It was pretty obvious.
  • It’s really stupid that Vickers and Shaw don’t just run sideways to avoid being crushed by the ship.
  • It’s really stupid that there’s such an impractically-shaped axe on board the lifepod.
  • It’s really stupid that Shaw spits out a “you have no idea what fear is” retort to David’s “I was afraid you were dead.”  that expression doesn’t usually denote literal fear anyway.  He’s just communicating with normal human language usage. there’s no need for everyone to keep hammering him over the head with the fact he’s a robot. unless it’s actually a defense mechanism the humans are using the elevate themselves above him.

is the captain in on the secret Weyland agenda from the beginning? Is that why he lies to Fifield and Millburn about their feeds not streaming through?

Things I’m Interested in Analyzing Further:

  • David’s humanity
  • David’s motives
  • David’s and Shaw’s similarities
  • What motivates Shaw to keep her ‘faith’?

(see also my other post analyzing Prometheus).

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“Avengers” Is Awesome, And Totally Quotable

I have now seen Joss Whedon’s Avengers twice, once in 2D and once in 3D.  (The 3D is absolutely worth it, by the way).  I absolutely loved it, as I do pretty much all thing that Joss Whedon creates.  In the hands of another director this might have been a very clunky storyline with superheros crammed in together for no reason, but Joss weaves everyone together naturally and keeps it fun and exciting and badass and hilarious.

If you’re confused about the tag scene after the credits, this is a great article explaining who appears.  If you’re wondering how the Hulk was suddenly able to control his Hulk self, it’s a matter of debate but here is one explanation.  If you are and have been a Whedon fan like me, then you probably already know this but here is a letter Joss Whedon wrote to his fanbase and posted on whedonesque.com.

Really my main complaint with the movie is that Thor should have left a freaking postcard for Jane Foster.  She’s gonna know he was on earth, it’s all over the news!  And if I were her I’d be pissed he didn’t take the opportunity to message me.  Also I wish they would have explained how Banner was able to control Hulk better, but even so Banner/Hulk was probably my favorite character in this movie.   I hope there is a director’s extended edition, though, and that it shows Thor taking 5 seconds to leave a memento or note or something for Jane.  Also, I totally want to see a Hulk movie starring Mark Ruffalo, written and directed by Joss Whedon.  Because then we would finally have a good Hulk movie.

I love that each character in The Avengers is partially defined by his or her dialogue style–Capain America uses outdated phrases that would have been modern for him back when he was frozen in ice (“this guy packs a whallop!”), Thor verbally stomps around in “thee”s and “thou”s, (“I do not look to be in a fighting mood!”) while Stark is of course flippant, sarcastic, and constantly running his mouth, (“That man is playing Galaga!  Thought we wouldn’t notice–but we did.”).  There are a plethora of great, quotable lines in this movie, and I probably haven’t caught them all yet, but after two viewings here is what I have so far (spoilers, totally, obviously):

Professor Erik Selvig: “The teseract is misbehaving”

.

Hawkeye: “The cube is a doorway to the other end of space, right?” *shrugs* “Doors open from both sides.”

.

Loki: “I am Loki, of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

.

Loki: “Freedom is life’s great lie.  Once you accept that, in your heart, you will know peace.”

.

Black Widow: “We’ve kept our distance, but now we need you to come in.”

Banner: “And what if I say no?”

Black Widow: “I’ll persuade you.”

Banner: “And what if the…other guy says no?”

.

Black Widow: “We’re facing a global catastrophe.”

Banner: “Well those I definitely try to avoid.”

.

Nick Fury: “The world has gotten even stranger than you already know.”

Captain America: “At this point I don’t think anything would surprise me.”

Fury: “Ten bucks says you’re wrong.”

(later, when the ship flies and becomes invisible via high-tech reflection panels, Captain silently hands Fury a ten dollar bill).

.

Pepper Potts (to Coulson): “Phil!  Come in!”

Stark: “Phil?  His first name is ‘Agent’!”

.

Stark: “I’m gonna pay for that percentage comment in some subtle way later, aren’t I?”

Pepper: “Not gonna be that subtle.”

(…later…)

Stark: “Y’know, I thought we were having a moment.”

Pepper: “I was having 12% of a moment.”

.

Coulson: “When he’s [Banner] not that thing though he’s like a regular Stephen Hawking.”

Captain: *blank stare*

Coulson: “He’s like, a really smart guy.”

.

Coulson, to Captain: “It’s an honor to meet you, officially.  We’ve met before, I watched you while you were sleeping.  I mean, I was present while you were unconscious.”

.

Black Widow: “Gentlemen, you might want to step inside.  It’s gonna get hard to breathe.”

Captain:  “Is this a submarine?”

Banner: “Really.  They want me in a submerged, pressurized container?”

(it turns out to be an airship)

Banner: “Oh no.  This is much worse.”

.

Hawkeye: “I need a distraction, and an eyeball.”

.

Captain, to Loki: “Y’know, the last time I was in Germany I met a man like you.  We ended up disagreeing.”

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Stark, to Loki: “Make a move, Reindeer Games.”

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Stark, to Captain: “You mighta missed a couple things, y’know, doin’ time as a Cap-sicle.”

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Captain: “Stark–we need a plan of attack!”

Stark, jumping out the plane: “I have a plan–attack.”

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Captain: “There’s only one God, ma’am.  And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”

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Thor: “Do not touch me again!”

Stark: “Then don’t take my stuff.”

Thor: “You have no idea what you’re dealing with!”

Stark: “Uh, Shakespeare in the park?  ‘Doth mother know, that you weareth her drapes?'”

.

Jarvis, after Iron Man’s suit absorbs a lightning bolt from Thor’s hammer: “Power at 400% capacity.”

Stark: “How ’bout that.”

.

Thor: “Loki is of Asgard.  He is my brother!”

Black Widow: “He killed 80 people in two days.”

Thor: “…he’s adopted.”

.

Fury: “I’m interested in knowing how Loki turned two of my men into flying monkeys.”

Thor: “I do not understand.”

Captain: “I do!  I get that reference.”

.

Captain: “Is everything a joke to you?!”

Stark: “Funny things are.”

.

Captain: “Big man in a suit of iron, take that away, what are you?”

Stark: “Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist.”

.

Thor: “You people are so petty.  And tiny!”

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Banner: “Sorry kids, I guess you don’t get to see my party trick after all.”

.

Captain: “It seems to run on some sort of electricity!”

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Random Farmer: “Are you an alien?  From outer space, an alien?”

Banner: “No.”

Random Farmer: “Well then, son, you’ve got a condition.”

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Stark: “Loki, he’s a full-tilt Diva.”

.

SHIELD pilot: “You guys aren’t authorized to be here!”

Captain: “Son-just, don’t.”

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Stark: “Actually I’m planning to threaten you.”

Loki: “Should’ve left your armor on for that.”

Stark: “Eh, it’s seen a bit of mileage, and you’ve got the glowstick of destiny.”

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Stark: “If we can’t protect the earth, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it.”

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Hawkeye: “Wanna give me a lift?”

Stark: “Right–better clench up, Legolas!”

.

Council Member: “Directory Fury, the Council has made a decision.”

Fury: “I recognize that the Council has made a decision, however given that it’s a stupid-ass decision I have elected to ignore it.”

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Loki: “Enough!  You are all of you beneath me.  I am a god, you dull creature!  And I will not be bullied by–

(Hulk thrashes Loki around like a rag doll)

Hulk: “Puny god.”

.

(Stark is lying on the ground, unresponsive.)

Hulk: “RRRRRRRRROOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!!!”

Stark: “Whaaaaat the hell?  What the hell just happened?!  Please tell me nobody kissed me.”

Captain: “We won.”

Stark: “Hey, all right, yeaaaah, good job guys!  Let’s call it a day, not come in tomorrow.  Ever heard of shawarma?  There’s a shawarma joint two blocks from here.  I don’t know what it is, but I wanna try it.”

Thor: “We’re not done yet.”

Stark: “And then…shawarma after?”

.

Chitauri leader (tag scene): “Humans–they were not the cowering wretches we were promised.  They are unruly and therefore cannot be ruled.  To challenge them it to court death.”

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Things That Annoyed Me About Fincher’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” Movie

*SPOILERS BELOW*

  • the opening sequence.  so weird and unrelated (except in tone) to the rest of the story.
  • dissonance between written and spoken language.  because it’s an English adaptation but it’s set in Sweden, so, like, they pretend they’re speaking Swedish and it’s coming out English, I guess?  But the signs and cat food containers are still in Swedish?
  • why is Daniel Craig doing a British accent?  I guess he might as well, in light of the above complaint.
  • ((do they have Marlboros in Sweden??  This causes me to doubt everything I learned from Die Hard, in which John McClaine can tell that the terrorists are “mostly European, judging by their clothing and…cigarettes.”))
  • wth, Blomkvist, that’s very ineffective highlighting!!  you don’t highlight every single word but one or two on a page, that negates the purpose of highlighting which is to mark key words or important bits out of the whole thing that your eye will jump to next time.  Now your eye is going to jump to the whole damn page, in other words, no particular part, in other words, why the hell are you even bothering to highlight?!
  • why are Blomkvist’s glasses perpetually dangling off his face under his chin?!  Gross.  Put them on top of your head when they’re not on your eyes like a normal person.
  • how does Blomkvist immediately recognize that super-grainy black-and-white photograph as being Anita?! to speed up the story i suppose, (fine by me, this movie is too long as it is), but then the picture isn’t really that important later so who cares?
  • seriously! the language thing is so jarring! they’re spelling out a bumper sticker from an old photo in an effort to track down a lead, “K-something, R-I-F, oh, it’s carpentry!”  They are spelling in Swedish and speaking in English.  RIDICULOUS!
  • is it even possible to stitch a wound using dental floss?!  that doesn’t seem like a good idea.  why not just use super-glue?
  • why do people in movies do stupid things like break into the houses of people they suspect to be serial rapist murderers, without waiting for backup or telling anyone where they are going, especially when said house is full of glass windows through which you are easily visible as you snoop through their house?!

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Things That Annoyed or Delighted Me About MI4: Ghost Protocol

*SPOILERS BELOW*

Annoyed:

  • Too much verbal rehashing of the same situations, by robotic “your mission” voices and the team. Pick one or the other.
  • Agent Hunt is right next to the building as it explodes and only gets a “minor concussion”?
  • Hunt thrice demands “Pen.  Pen!  Pen!” from Agent Brandt but draws on his palm rather than think to ask even once “does anybody also have a piece of paper?”
  • Hunt and Brandt should have at least attempted Russian accents when they met with Moreau, right?
  • Bad guy reveals his face to Hunt complete with “dun dun dun dun DUN” music.
  • Agent Carter codenamed Venus and given seduction role.  Of course.
  • Hunt’s arm doesn’t break when he falls violently onto the car elevator?  Yeah right.
  • Hunt’s “intentional 100 meter drop” in a car straight down doesn’t leave him incapacitated?  Yeah right.

Delighted:

  • Subtitled translation of Russian cursing written as “M@%#*$!!”
  • Simon Pegg! (Agent Dunn)
  • This line: “Gameface. Gameface. Kremlin gameface.” (-Agent Dunn)
  • Subtitled Russian in Russian when knocked-out Agent Dunn wakes up, only switching to English subtitles as his head clears enough to make sense of what he is hearing.
  • Brandt: “Your line’s not long enough!” Hunt (dangling from Burj Khalifa): “No shit!”
  • Cultural detail of call to prayer in background of Dubai scene
  • Russian bad guy has Russian keyboard
  • Agent Carter allowed to change back into pants.

Questionable:

  • Do flares really light underwater?
  • Wouldn’t people in the other rooms of the Burj Khalifa see this guy climbing up their window?
  • Don’t some countries have missile detection technology and a response plan to fire back if fired upon?  I’m pretty sure if a nuke actually launches the mission to stop world destruction has failed.

Noticed:

  • Agent Carter must have gone to the bathroom and re-did her ponytail first thing on the jet, because before boarding her ponytail has a part and while talking to Hunt on the plane it doesn’t.

Conclusion:

I guess my annoyance and delight were pretty even.  I enjoyed watching, it was definitely entertaining, and also dumb.  What do you think?

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Dialogue from “The Help”

I didn’t really like this movie.  I haven’t read the book that it is adapted from.  I have read multiple articles criticizing the book and movie, as well as several articles in support or defense of them.  I think both sides have some valid points.  I think anything that sparks this much discussion and analysis is at least useful, but I also think that most people spending money on tickets to “The Help” are probably passive movie-goers who aren’t involved in the conversation of whether this is an accurate, historical, positive portrayal of black maids in the 60s south, or is a racist, condescending, stereotyped, revisionist tale.

I’m not ready to weigh in on exactly where I stand yet.  I think I should do some more research first.  But the main reason I didn’t love the movie was it felt very simplified, and kinda fake.  Every single white person is a a shallow snob.  Except Skeeter!  She’s the only one calling black people by their names and saying “thank you” when they serve her dinner.  She’s even offended on behalf of the LGBT community when her mother is afraid she might be a lesbian, and suggests “there’s a pill for that.”  Skeeter’s reaction to that felt pretty anachronistic to me.   And when she’s super-offended that Hilly asks if Yule Mae asked for money, I just thought, that reaction wasn’t really justified from Skeeter’s actual perspective, it is from the audience’s because we’ve seen the previous Hilly/Yule Mae encounter, but Skeeter hasn’t.  Her indignant “of COURSE not!” doesn’t make as much sense as a simple “no…why?” would.

So much of it seemed forced or cliched to me, story-telling-wise.  I didn’t really connect to most of the characters, a lot of them were one-dimensional, (maybe they are more complex in the book?), and I felt very aware that Emma Stone especially was acting all throughout the film.  The character that I connected with the most (and that I think was the most skillfully portrayed) was Aibileen, (Viola Davis.)  I also really liked Jessica Chastain’s Celia.

Anyway, here’s some of the dialogue that I wrote down while I watched it.  More analysis on the maids’ dialect to come in a follow-up post.

Skeeter’s Mother:

You’re eggs are dyin’, would it kill ya to go on a date?

‘Scuse me a minute, Rebecca, my daughter’s upset my cancerous ulcers.

It was a colored thing and I put it behind me.  [on firing Constantine]

You’re not leavin’ the house in those awful Mexican man shoes.

Love and hate are two horns on the same goat, Eugenia.  And you need a goat.

Courage sometimes skips a generation.  Thank you for bringing it back to our family.

Eugenia, my health’s been on an uptick these past few months, and I know the doctor says it’s some sort of last strength nonsense, but I have decided not to die.

Hilly Holbrook:

It’s just plain dangerous.  They carry different diseases than we do.  [on sharing bathrooms with the help]

You ought not to joke about the colored situation.

You are FIRED, Minnie Jackson!

Believe it or not, there are real racists in this town.

Celia:

I just want him [her husband] to think I can do this on my own.  I really need a maid!

Ms. Stein, Skeeter’s publisher:

And for god’s sake, you’re a 23 year old educated woman, go get yourself an apartment.

My advice to you is to write it, and write it fast, before this whole “Civil Rights” thing blows over.

Constantine:

Ugly is somethin’ you feel inside.  It’s mean and hurtful like dem boys.  Now you not one-a dem, is you?…Am I gonna believe all dem bad things dem fools say about me today?

Minnie Jackson:

I got some bidness to attend to so y’all just mind ya’ own.

What law’s gonna say you got to be nice to yo maid?

We gots ta get some more maids!

You got a squeaky do’ hinge? Crisco.

Yep, he dead.  [referring to a chicken]

Minnie don’t burn chicken.

We livin’ in hell, trapped.  Our kids trapped.

Eat. my. shit.

She [Miss Hilly] goin’ go to her grave convincin’ people that book ain’t about Jackson!

Then she [Hilly] done beat me, then she done beat you.  [to Celia, who wants to give up and go back to Sugarditch.]

Aibileen Clark:

You is kind, you is smart, you is important.  [repeated often to the white child she nannys for]

She [Jolene] havin’ bridge club right now, may I take a message?

[in response to Skeeter saying “a book like this has never been written”], ‘cuz they’s a reason!  I do this with you I may as well set my own house a-fire!

Whatchu did? [to Minnie regarding the “terrible awful”]

You gon’ have to change my name.  [to Skeeter, when agreeing to help with her book.]

Ain’t no diff’nt then writin’ down my prayers.

[one of her white charges was] always axin’ me how come I’s black.  I told him one time it was ‘cuz I drunk too much coffee.

It hard.  You go try and see.  [on recruiting more maids to tell Skeeter their stories.]

Every year on the anniversary of his [her son’s] death I can’t breathe, but to y’all it’s just another day of bridge.

I gots to [leave], baby.  I am so sorry.  [to the white child, when she is fired.]

Lines from Aibileens narration:

Oh lord, was the ladies of Jackson havin’ babies.  But not Miss SKeeter.  No man, and no babies.

Minnie my best friend.

God don’t pay no mind to color once he decide to set a tornado loose.

Once Minnie got to talkin’ ’bout ta food, she like to never stop.

That table of food gave Minnie the strength she needed.  She took her babies out from under Leroy.

No one had ever axed me what it feel like to be me.

My boy Treelore always said we goin’ have a writer in the family some day…I guess it’s goin’ be me.

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The Preacher’s Dialogue from “Cowboys and Aliens”

This was not the best movie ever.  It wasn’t the epic I was hoping for, given the casting.  But it wasn’t the worst movie ever, either.  I’ll be putting a review up on Digest Movies soon. Here is my formal review.

In the meantime, here is some of the dialogue, mostly centered around the Preacher.  (The credits say his name was Meacham,but I don’t remember anyone in the film actually calling him that).   I went back and saw the first half a second time in order to catch what he said, because on first viewing I wasn’t sure how theologically accurate he was.  Knowing the lines more clearly now, I think I would mostly agree with him, that humans have free will to choose their destiny, and that God is willing to wipe away your past and let you become “a new creation”, (2 Corinthians 5:17), but the Preacher fails to ever mention that this is only possible “in Christ.”  Oh, and he’s either forgotten about or never read Psalm 139 when he tells Doc that he has to “earn” God’s presence.  Maybe he thinks it’s more comforting this way, to say no, it isn’t that God doesn’t like you, it’s just that he’s not paying any attention! rather than, yeah, he’s everywhere, but he let this happen anyway.  I guess I don’t know what would have been a better answer to Doc’s dejected outburst, but I think ministers have a responsibility to be Biblicaly accurate.

Scene where Jake Lonergan (JL)  creeps into an empty room and washes up, then discovers a gun to the back of his head, (it’s the Preacher, P):

P: Palms ta heaven, friend.

JL: Easy now.

P: Alright, turn around nice and slow.

JL: I been shot.

P: Only two kinds a’ men get shot, criminals and victims.  Well, which are ya?

JL: I don’t know.

P: You got a name, friend?

JL: I don’t know.

P: Well, what do ya know?

JL: …English.

a little bit later in the same scene, the Preacher is stitching up his wound:

P: Well, I can’t rightly absolve you of your sins if you can’t remember ’em.  But I’ve seen good men do bad things, bad men do good things.  Whether you’re gonna end up in heaven or hell, it’s not God’s plan, it’s your own.  You just gotta remember what it was.

When the aliens are raiding the town, sheriff’s son Emmet (E) wonders what they are:

E: Is it demons?

P: Demons? Can’t rightly say, I mean, it does fit the descriptions, but, uh…

Doc: Are you sayin’ it’s demons, demons took my wife?!

P: I ain’t saying nothin’!  Now you just need to calm down…

When they are riding out to track the “demon”:

Ella: If it’s all the same, I’d like to ride along too.

P: Yes ma’am.  (muttering) We’ve got a kid and a dog, why not?

When Doc is trying to learn how to shoot, to save his wife, and sucks at it, and is frustrated and doesn’t think there is a God:

Doc: What am I doin’? It’s my fault she got took.

P: You just gotta have faith.

Doc: Faith, yeah, God’s been real good to me lately.  Now either he ain’t up there, or he don’t like me.

P: Certainly you don’t expect the Lord to do everything for you, right?  You gotta earn his presence, and then you gotta learn to recognize it, and then you gotta act on it.

To Lonergan, when he (P) is dying:

P: You go get our people back.  God don’t care  who you were, son, only who you are.

After they have buried the Preacher, and Dolarhyde (D) wants to ride out, and Doc thinks they should stay and say a few words:

D: Only one that knows what to say is in the ground.  Ain’t it enough that we took the time to put him there?

Doc: No, no it’s not enough.

Everyone except Doc and Lonergan ride out.  The two men take off their hats and look at the mound over Preacher’s body respectfully, then sort of look at each other hoping the other will talk. Finally:

Doc: Uh, Lord, uh, if there is such a thing as a soul, please protect this man’s he had a good one.  Made me feel better, world was a better place for havin’ him, dust to dust amen.  How’s that?

JL: Good words.

They put their hats back on and rejoin the group.

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Nerdy Harry Potter 7.2 Criticisms

I finally saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2, for the second time yesterday.  I have decided it is probably nearly as good as it could have been.  I think I may have enjoyed it more at the second viewing, being prepared for what was to come and less distracted by my disappointments, but I missed the enthusiasm of the crowd at the midnight viewing.  This dumb audience yesterday hardly laughed or cheered at any part, and they smelled of nachos and loudly crunching popcorn and a large group wandered in forty minutes after it had started.  Muggles!

Anyway, even though I would say that overall this movie is “very good,” there are still several things that I didn’t like or that just bothered me as a fan of the books.  Some are more trivial than others, and this post will probably not include every criticism I have for the movie adaptations.  Nor am I including praise for the hundreds of things I do love about the films.

Okay, one of the things that really irked me about HP7.2 was McGonagall’s lines to Filch after Pansy Parkison cries out, “What are you waiting for?!  Someone grab him!” (Harry, whom Voldemort has just demanded).  Filch comes running in yelling “Students out of bed!”, which, yes, is funny, and an exasperated McGonagall informs him “they’re supposed to be out of bed,” but then she continues, “As it happens, your arrival is most opportune.  If you would, please lead Ms. Parkinson and the rest of Slytherin house out of the hall.”  Filch asks where he is supposed to take them, and McGonagall replies, “The dungeons would do.”  Her remark is followed by cheesy cheering from the rest of the students.

I really dislike this exchange, mostly because it undermines one of the great messages of the Harry Potter series, one which is even included in the epilogue concluding the entire saga.  When little Albus Severus Potter is worried he might be sorted into Slytherin house, his father reminds him “You are named after two headmasters at Hogwarts, one of them was a Slytherin and he was the bravest man I’ve ever known.”  When Albus is still unsure, Harry says if it happens, “Then Slytherin house will have gained a fine new wizard.”  It echos back to what Dumbledore tells Harry at the end of Chamber of Secrets, that “It is our choices, Harry, not our abilities, that define who we truly are.”  I’ve always really loved that message, and McGonagall’s line and everybody’s stupid cheering sweeps it aside, glossing all the Slytherin’s together just because Pansy Parkinson is a dumbass.  Yes, probably (definitely) there are other Slytherins who would rather join the Death Eaters than fight against them.  But they should be given the dignity to choose their own side, just as they and all the students are in the books.  And let’s not forget that this is the installment that finally reveals what a hero Snape of Slytherin house is!   The movie gains nothing from a line like this except comic relief.  Well, shame on you, Steve Kloves, you should have been able to come up with something funny that wasn’t so Troll-ish.

Second major criticism: child Lily’s eyes!  ALL of my Harry Potter friends that saw the movie had this same complaint.  When the dying Snape asks Harry to “Look at me,” and the movie even added the line “You have your mother’s eyes,” just to make it super-ultra clear why he wanted Harry’s eyes to be the last thing he saw, (which is one of my favorite parts of the book), you would think the producers would realize that it is very important that Lily’s eyes actually match Harry’s!  But in the very beginning of Snape’s memories, there’s a close-up of her eyes, and they are BROWN!?!!  It is already a great annoyance to me that Harry’s eyes are blue in the movies instead of the green from the books, but very well, you’ve decided to go with blue, so, then, you damn well better make Lily’s eyes blue as well.  Did you not have the budget for contact lenses or CGI?  You know this movie is just about to make a billion dollars worldwide, a billion, and no money could be spared on this very important detail?!  I wouldn’t be quite so annoyed if you hadn’t specifically called attention to it mere moments before!  In the dialogue, not subtly!  I cannot fathom how such an obvious error was made.

Another obvious (to me) error was when Ron spoke Parseltongue to open the Chamber of Secrets, (so he and Hermione can get some Basilisk fangs and destroy a horcrux.)  He’s supposed to say “Open.”  In the book he has to try it several times before getting it right.  In the movie, it works for him the first time, and he turns to Hermione and explains, “Harry talks in his sleep, have you noticed?”  The problem with this scene is that Ron most certainly does NOT say “open”.  I’ve seen Chamber of Secrets and Deathly Hallows part 1 (when Harry opens the locket) enough times to know that “open” sounds like this: sh::::ai::::::ah-hae:::suruh.  (Colons mean you hold out the sound.)  Anyway, that’s not what Ron says.  Go watch it.  It’s not even close.  And again, I just don’t understand how the hell a movie with a budget this big, and with so many people involved, doesn’t get something like that right.  How did they manage to have Harry say it the same way in movies 2 and 7, and not get this?!

Additionally, I think they really should have explained the Deathly Hallows more, or at least mentioned them again at the end, because it’s quite an important detail that when Harry goes to face Voldemort in the forest, intending to let himself be killed, he is in fact master of all three.  He’s wearing the invisibility cloak, (of course he’s not wearing it in the movie, because he hardly every does, and it’s such a shame, especially when they’ve demonstrated in the Gringotts escapade how marvelously it can be done on film), he’s got the resurrection stone and he is the proper master of the Elder Wand.  I guess people can figure it out, if they think about it, but I bet people who haven’t read the books don’t pick up on that.

Speaking of people who haven’t read the book, I don’t think Snape’s memories were very clear, either.  I’m glad they are at least included, I’m glad we saw him conjure his patronus and say “Always,” I’m willing to accept that they filled up time we could have been seeing his actual memories with clips from previous films to help revise his history in the audience’s mind, but there is still something lacking.  I dislike the line at King’s Cross station when Harry says that Snape and his mother both have a doe patronus, “Curious, isn’t it?”  and Dumbledore just says, “Actually now that I think about it, it doesn’t seem curious at all.”  This feels out of place, and I mean, it shouldn’t even be necessary because if Harry has seen all of Snape’s memories it should be obvious that Snape loved his mother.  And furthermore, the movies never did mention that your patronus could change if you were in love, because they never talked about Tonks and Lupin in great detail.  One of my friends who has not read the books asked after this movie ended, “So was Snape Harry’s real dad?”  See what I mean?  Not clear enough.

I’m so over the wand cores connecting every time Voldemort and Harry face off.  It is supposed to be this very rare thing, that only happens because their wands share a core, and only happens once, at the end of Goblet of Fire.  I’m sort of resigned to the fact that they love doing it in the movies because it is a visual medium and it has become an iconic image.  But this time I saw a glimpse of Arthur Weasley with his wand connected to whomever he was fighting, and I just sighed, like, really?  I enjoy movies, I love books, it’s fun to see a movie based on a book I’ve read, but it’s always a cheaper, blander universe.  It’s like talking to someone who has read the book, and liked it, but can’t really remember everything that happened, and gets quotes and names wrong, and would probably say “Wingard Levosa!” instead of “Wingardium Leviosa.”  It’s just annoying.

I don’t like that Voldemort disintegrated when he died.  I’m sure that was probably to help keep it PG-13, somehow, but then again there were dead bodies strewn about the entire castle.  Is it to show that he (and Bellatrix, who also disintegrates), are really “gone”?  Because I thought it had the opposite effect; the way that it lingered on the tiny floating pieces in the wind made it look like he was temporarily beaten but his soul might still be hanging around in the ether somewhere, waiting to posses another bald person and live on the back of their head.  I mean of course he’s not, they destroyed all the horcruxes, he is clearly dead for real, but I could see the visual representation of his demise leaving doubts.  Because at the end of the first movie he becomes a dust cloud, and obviously that isn’t the end of him.

Okay, last thought, and this one is really more of a question for the book that I only just realized when I saw the movie again–why isn’t Dumbledore one of the dead that Harry brings back to walk through the forest with him?  Is it because he is still uncertain and unsettled about their relationship, still feeling betrayed about all the things he didn’t know?  (I said before I that didn’t think the films made Harry have to face any of that, by the way.)  Of course it would take the punch out of the King’s Cross scene if Harry had just seen ghost Dumbledore in the forest, but still…it’s curious.  He certainly knew Dumbledore better than his parents.

Alright, enough whining.  Some other time maybe I’ll post about all the things I liked.  (Neville! Snape! Molly! Piertotum Locomotor! The music! The Gray Lady! Bellatrix-Hermione! The dragon! Neville again!)  Oh, and I’ve changed my header to include a fantastic line from Dumbledore at King’s Cross: “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon notes

I wrote 11 pages of notes while watching the third transformers movie. that was partly because i had to space everything out so i wouldn’t write over things accidentally–it’s always a little hard to see in a theater and it was especially dark with the 3D glasses. anyway, here are some of the things i jotted down. if you haven’t seen the movie they might not make much sense. if you plan to see the movie, there might be some spoilers below. these are unedited, rough thoughts; if you want to read my official review check it out here.

  • my eyes hurt 5 minutes in from the 3D. not a good sign.
  • there is some real, historical footage from the space race in there, right?
  • hello, rhw’s butt.
  • sam and i are both looking for a job!
  • how secret could that be? transformers secret ops. oh really?
  • revisionist history!
  • (so is it [InErd3an] or [InErgan]?) Energon reading, sir. it’s strong. it’s fast. it’s coming below us!
  • nice transformation, optimus semi!
  • ‘first job after college is critical. you either take a step on the right career path or you fall into a lifesucking abyss.’  gee thanks, john malkovich.
  • is that really buzz aldrin? (yes, it was)
  • why would ‘the honor’ be optimus’ to meet buzz?
  • what the hell is rhw’s job?
  • oh, collecting cars? then why was she at the white house?
  • oh, she was working at the british embassy? what an obvious career change.
  • um, is megatron gonna hunt some zebras?
  • okay no, he’s just hanging out in africa i guess. recycled footage again i bet.
  • sam is an a-hole, unsupportive/jealous boyfriend
  • um, why ‘suicide’ wang if you are just going to blow up the whole office totally NON undercover next anyway?
  • maybe should have taken sentinel’s sword before re-energon-izing him
  • ‘you’re home’; uh no, you’re on earth?! this isn’t your planet!
  • ‘that woman just called me a messenger. after everything i’ve done. d’you believe that?” YES sam, now sit DOWN and shut UP!
  • Wash! i love him. he’s…uh…french?
  • ‘a double tap to the cerebellum’, wtf?!
  • when he calls her angel, is that a victorias secret reference?
  • sam: i just want to matter! carly: you matter to me! sam: (eh, no thanks, that’s not enough, i still need to run around blowing stuff up and being called a hero by people that i think matter.) idiot.
  • isn’t it her house, though? why’s she leaving?
  • is ‘dutch’ (wash) german? “shtup”
  • hey sam, way to tell random russian astronauts (oops, i mean cosmonauts) about the super secret space bridge
  • it’s definitely [InErd3an], but josh duhamel said [InErgan] once.
  • mid-air transformations are pretty cool/funny
  • what is the decepticon blood stuff?
  • ‘i am a prime. i do not take orders from you!’ -sentinel prime to lady leader
  • ‘take a look, optimus! this is all on you!’ -lady leader refusing to accept responsibility for her behavior/choices. just like sam
  • sam, you are so annoying. wth was that convo w/ your parents, and it ended so abruptly too. ‘get as far away from here as possible,’ with no explanation.
  • so, do space bots care about human (american) historical symbols? (destroying lincoln memorial statue)
  • and, why do they want to come to earth?
  • oh of course, everybody is in on this supposedly super secret transformer stuff
  • ‘no more aliens shootin’ at my ass, i got a dream job’, -epps.  actually good line! only person to appreciate what he has so far.
  • okay, so, the autobots weren’t a secret?
  • sam’s ear wiggles when he tries not to cry as bumblebee says goodbye
  • why the heck would people be useful slaves to machines? we’re way less efficient
  • why bother explaining eveything, including how the cells work, to carly? (well, so the audience knows how to tell when/how we’ve won)
  • if you want to use humans as slaves, why blow them up? dumb. just more Bay explosions
  • geez, people get vaporized!
  • ‘for today, in the name of freedom, we take the battle to them’ -optimus prime. (whatever. that’s the fourth-of-july-release-weekend part, i guess.)
  • but there are only like 8 autobots, and they are going to help save earth? by defying diplomacy?
  • oh, don’t give this kid a gun! come on.
  • HAHAHA! yeah right sex symbol can fight off her goon guard and outrun him in heels to the window ledge
  • why is lady leader nodding and taking notes on obvious suggestions from conspiracy theorist guy? stoopid
  • hmm, maybe sex symbol is wearing flats? yep, flats. nope, HEELS.
  • danke schoen=german, right? so ‘dutch'(wash) is german?
  • those wing suits are cool, but i’ve seen them before, in tomb raider 2.
  • ‘target! decepticon!’ o rly?
  • air surfing, AGAIN? hmm
  • take the parachute off once you land, dummy!
  • OPTIMUS! you’re busy fighting, but i’mma yell at you!
  • it’s probably a good thing they talk while they fight because otherwise there wouldn’t be much dialogue
  • hmm, no mercy from optimus for sentinel even when he begs (says, ‘no, optimus!’)
  • i guess that really was buzz aldrin (credits)

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