Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's Not Like There's Actually a Following Here: Hiatus Notice

I'm aware that most of the people that visit this site to actually read are a handful of friends of mine, and the odd person who accidentally stumbles upon it by the luck of the internet. Isn't that nice? I like to think so.

Regardless, as the new university semester begins in less than a week, I regret to say that posts shall be few and far between for the next few (sometimes known as "many") months.

It really is just a fun, extra hobby of mine to keep this up, but sometimes you have to prioritize the things in your life as we all know. So for now, I salute you all, and keep on surfing the interwebs for those things that snag your interest.

I leave you now by blowing a kiss with a song in my heart! (Or at least, this eye-candy suggests as much):

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Can I Coax You to See "Cabin in the Woods" With This One Sentence?

Cabin in the Woods comes out on DVD on September 18th. It's one of those movies that kind of blew away my expectations, since it looks like it's going to be just another generic horror film. But trust me when I say, it is way more than that, and I want to try and peak your interest in it enough by using just one sentence.

Now, it might be considered a spoiler, but I think it's mostly more confusing than anything. Anyway, all I have to say about this movie is:

Someone gets stabbed by a unicorn, and if that doesn't intrigue you as to what happens enough to want to see it, then you aren't the kind of person I like hanging out with.

Well, maybe I could have cut out that last part but still... If this hasn't interested you, then I don't know what will. But here, have this Hemsworth too:

But What If Your Convenient Ending Waters Down the Happiness You're Trying To Achieve?

I’m not a Grumpy Gus who hates happy endings; not a Debbie Downer who wants nothing more than to make every situation sad. I just don’t like it when a story ends happily because of large conveniences.

I’m talking the “not having to make a choice between two men I both love and can’t decide between, because something happens which makes the choice for me” kind of thing. Especially when both the men get to stay in the person’s life in an amiable fashion. You know what kind of story I’m talking about? Yes yes, the most obvious example being Breaking Dawn in the Twilight series, but I’m not really here to criticize that right now. And of course there are many other scenarios that can be considered examples of this as well, but let’s not dwell on considering all of those.

Conveniences can happen: I see them in everyday life, but not huge ones that make or break your happiness, your relationships, or your life. Making everything work out in the end without struggle makes a story come off as cheap and unrealistic.

Of course, some people have big breaks, but for the most part, they work hard to achieve them. Is it karma? I’m not sure. I’m not even sure karma exists. But for the most part, in real life, hard decisions and sacrifices are made on a regular basis. Happiness is not just achieved without work, making choices, or a little pain. It’s the things that hurt which make the good things worth enjoying. Without pain we couldn’t know happiness, isn’t that what the saying is?

And yes, people make fluffy, optimistic books and movies and stories as a way to get away from the harshness of the real world. Escapism is why we indulge in fictions, is it not?

I don’t know, I mean I can somewhat understand wanting to get away from your own life, but sometimes it seems like building your expectations of life up to an unreasonable, perfect level might be a little counterintuitive. Or maybe it’s just my personal preferences.

This is the part where William Shakespeare pops up and says, "Excuse you!" at me, isn't it? Because of how his comedies typically end? Well that's different, I mean I'm talking modern day stories, you know? Only the Bard can get away with that kind of thing in my books.
All I know is that ending your stories in an ultra convenient manner always seems cheap to me. But what about you?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Olympic Enthusiasm Reminded Me That I Just Can't "Do" Sports, Even Though I Sometimes Love Them

With the London 2012 Olympics now officially over, I can go back to my life of decided ignorance in the field of sporting events.
Of course, there are those few that I will look into and enjoy watching, such as Figuring-Skating and Curling (oh, you have no idea how jacked up I get when the Briar is happening), but in general, I do not follow sports. Some people love them, some people not so much, just like some people love reading whereas others don’t. As far as Canadians go, I’m probably the least likely to know anything about hockey at any given moment, and while some may find this frighteningly unpatriotic (seriously? Come on, now), it is a choice that I make purposefully.

Every single time the Olympic Games occur (especially the Winter ones), I get swept up in an absolute frenzy of backing players, watching sports, and getting generally excited and worked up over the games. While it is fun for those few weeks that the games are on, I always become exhausted. The Olympics remind me as to why I can’t “do” sports. I stay away for the protection of my own mental state.

I’m not saying that sports enthusiasts are insane, or crazy, or anything like that. No more so than movie aficionados (guilty as charged) or intense music lovers, but being the kind of person that gets emotionally invested in things really easily, I find that sporting events often bring me more pain than they do happiness. Happiness is reserved for the closing ceremonies when everyone is celebrating. Then again, that’s a whole other sort of spectacle in itself, isn’t it? But I’m getting off track here…

I can understand why people get excited about sports: The rush of picking favorites, backing a team, having a little community of support, and reveling in the joys of victory!
But even when people I adore win at their sporting events, I always seem to latch on to the sad as well. With every win, there are so many more losses. Ridiculously close calls that make or break a triumph. We’re talking a centimeter, a hundredth of a second, a nose-length. The people that train to be athletes put themselves through grueling work regimens for ten seconds, or one round, that is over in a flash. It drains the body and it drains the emotions, having to feel like everything was on you and your performance alone; having to feel like you let all the people supporting you down, if not a community or nation backing you. This is especially evident in team sports! Every now and again, you might make that one wrong play that decides a game, and have to deal with feeling like you just ruined the dreams of a dozen other people.

On top of all that, there are injuries that can occur, destroying outcomes and dreams. There are referees and judges that make questionable or biased calls, once again determining the outcome of a match. It’s all just so close all the time, yet being close counts for nothing in most of the sporting world: it’s all about the end result, the final time, the final score, and not the effort you put into it.

“What happened out there?,” the reporters ask, thirty seconds after an athlete just lost a race, still trying to process the fact that they did not achieve the outcome they wanted, still panting  heavily from exertion.
What are they to say? The other athletes performed better than I did? The other athletes finished faster than me? Give them a minute to understand what just occurred. The whole thing is trying enough without reporters and cameras constantly flashing in their faces.

To top this all off, even when people do win, they are so overcome with emotion that they often cry when they receive their awards or their anthem is played. And when people cry, I cry. I cry happy tears, yes, but I also cry sad tears for all those others on the sidelines who look broken and defeated. I get too involved and it’s too exhausting. I can last the two weeks that make up the Olympics every time around, but if I were to be interested in sport this intensely all the time, I would likely be an absolute mess.

You say that athletes should know what they are getting themselves into, getting involved in competitive and professional sports? Well yes, they probably should, but some of them just love these games and don’t need all that pressure put upon them. And in the end, what I’m trying to say here is that maybe the athletes can in fact handle it all: a lot of them have been trained to deal with these emotions. But me? I just can’t do sports. 
Oversentimentality at it’s finest, I have.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Musings on Generational Differences, as Spurred by the Work Place

Now, I reckon people are going to jump down my throat for generalizing these age groups in this post. But no, I am not in any way saying that all members of these populations are the same. It’s just some observations I’ve noticed in regards to trends in the upcoming generations of young people, and this has in no means been written to offend.
That being said, feel free to sound off in the comments in regards to how you feel.

But now, with that out of the way, I think it’s safe to say that as the years have gone on, young people have become more and more dependent on each other, and even more so, on their parents. I mean, my own generation, (I’m 21, just for the record) is far more dependent on their parents than say, my parents’ generation. By this I mean that I still live at home while attending university, though I do pay a large portion of my own tuition, and have supplied myself with various jobs ever since I was 15 years of age in order to do so. If I wasn’t going to school, my mother would have me paying rent, and out of the house after a year of living there and not attending school. It’s a far more assisted living situation than say, my mother’s who was out on her own and working at about the age of 19.

However, even though I recognize this degrade in independence from my parents’ age to my own, I look at people who are even just a few years younger than myself, and see them as being even more lost on their own. And that is a little bit disconcerting.

I started noticing this because of where I work. All I will say is that I work in the bakery of a chain grocery store in Canada, wrapping products and dealing with customers. In the past six months, we have hired two different young ladies (one just a year younger than myself, one two years), and both have surprised me with their marked apathy towards everything. One was whiny and had a sense of entitlement towards what shifts she received and what jobs she had to do, while the other seemed to not really care if she received any hours, was lost as soon as she was put on her own, and only half-completed all her duties. It’s as though neither had a sense of urgency in their work or took very much pride in it. I'm going to be honest and say that what I do is not a hard job by any means, and it may not be the best, but in the scheme of things, it’s really not that bad. I don’t understand why these people can’t seem to handle or keep this position that came easily to me (albeit, with a bit of a home-court advantage, having worked in a bakery for a few months before). I was kind of thrown into it after not very much training, and I just figured things out for myself when in doubt. These girls couldn’t improvise or self-teach if their lives depended on it. Okay okay, so maybe that was a little harsh, but it’s hard for me to imagine, you know?

It strikes me that this sense of entitlement in regards to the jobs and duties young people get --as well as always expecting others to pick up their slack-- has to do with the age-group that they are in. [And yes, like I mentioned before, I recognize that not all young people are like this, it’s just a bit of generalizing on my part at the moment.] Even in my Spanish classes at University last year, I noticed that many of the students who were one or two years younger than myself didn’t try very hard, and seem confused as to why I was so energetic and enthused in class all the time. They also seemed confused as to why they didn’t receive higher grades in the class, which made me in turn confused as to why they thought they deserved them.

It seems to me that a lot of children and youth these days have everything handed to them. Is it the parent’s fault? Possibly. You can see this kind of thing in a lot of reality television these days; you know, “Toddlers and Tiaras”, etc? It’s almost as though we are applauding bad parenting by watching and making these programs which show parents that are so forcibly entwined in their children’s futures that they have all the decisions about their lives already made for them. Do the children have to do anything? Well, to an extent, but not really. Their pageant mothers will lead the way, tell them what things to wear, what pageants to attend, and where their lives will go because of it.

You also see all kinds of stories coming out about how parents protest the subjects their children learn in school and the books they can read these days. Not only does this lessen the scope of their child’s education, the parents also once again lasso their children into a specific course as they have decided. I remember reading about one mother in the United States who was aghast that their child was reading an annotated/translated version of Romeo and Juliet in school, as it mentioned that the characters have sex. The school then banned the book and went back to a non-translated edition. The mother who spurred it all claimed that she would “now read everything first before putting it in her child’s hands”. This bothers me for a few reasons: First of all, all the same things happen in the plot of the original Shakespeare play, so not using a translated book won’t stop Romeo and Juliet from having sex. All it takes is one kid asking what a word in those choice phrases means and they will find out all the same. Secondly, if my mother decided she had to read everything I wanted to read first before she would let me, I wouldn’t have read pretty much anything growing up. Not because she doesn’t approve of anything, mind you, but because she reads incredibly slowly.

So what am I trying to get at with all of this? I guess all I am thinking is that years of progression in some respects have led us humans to regress in others. We are far too dependent on not only each other, but other things as well, and maybe it’s time for people to recognize this. 
Learn something on your own. 
Let your child make their own mistakes so that they can learn from them as well. 
That’s how we become adults, isn’t it? By messing up and having to put things back together?
With such strong parental intervention and guidance these days, I don’t think young people are as adaptive as they used to be. 

But then again, what do I know? I am only 21 after all.
And maybe I’m just rambling once again? It is indeed possible. What do you think about it all? Are young people these days generally apathetic and more dependent than they used to be?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

That Nasty Glint in Your Eyes. I Like It: Superior Villainy

It’s easy for actors in the role of a villainous, evil, or psychotic character to take things really over-the-top. It’s easy for things to get lost in translation and result in the character not connecting to the audience, or resulting in pure hate for the person. What I like, however, is when these characters are portrayed in a way to really make your skin crawl: the ones you love to hate. Or even, the ones that have some charisma to back them up, thus transform them from just the chackling, moustache-twirling vaude-villain into something more complex. Character complexity is the name of the game, it is (at least nowadays).

It’s hard because I recently saw Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and although I love him as an actor, something was lacking from his role. Maybe it was that his face was half covered or his voice was mixed too loud, I’m not sure. Also, upon seeing Jared Harris as Professor James Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, I also found him to be lacking in a certain sense. Maybe I just didn’t feel all that intimidated by him, or maybe I just thought someone like Alan Rickman could have slayed the role (not that Harris did a bad job, mind you).

Of course, there are certain portrayals from the past that will just resonate throughout time and be considered classics for years to come. For example, Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, Louise Flethcher as Nurse Ratched, Kevin Spacey as John Doe, or Malcolm McDowell as Alex Delarge.
These performances, however, have had a lot of accolades over the years, and I find it is now time to mention a couple of more recent villainous performances that just stuck with me and I could watch over and over again.

And so, I give you this list of 9 Superior Villains of the past few years (in alphabetical order):

Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon - “Game of Thrones”
I’ve heard Jack Gleeson is one of the nicest young men in real life, but you’d never guess it from his brilliant portrayal of the privileged, hotheaded, and also somewhat psychotic little snot that is Joffrey Lannister Baratheon. I may hate him, but I love to hate him, and I know I will be quite upset when the time comes for him to die on this show (which I don’t think is a spoiler, given that for all characters in “Game of Thrones”, it seems like more of a “when” than an “if” kind of thing).

Tom Hardy as Charles Bronson – Bronson
Who says the protagonist can’t be a vile and villainous human being? Well alright, so that’s up for debate with Charles Bronson, being a real-life person and all, but given that he is often referred to as “Britain’s most violent criminal” I think you can give me this one. Now despite the (slight) shortcomings as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy impressed me with this one, as his performance was less like acting and more like performance art.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki – Thor and The Avengers
What’s a list without Tom Hiddleston? It might not have been the craziest of performances, but Loki could easily have been turned into nothing more than a static, cackling villain. Between Thor and The Avengers you can see a real progression of the character, and Tom Hiddleston handled the sentimental and saddening aspects of the character so well, he became one of the favourite characters of the whole Avengers cast. Now that you don’t get by just being the moustache twirling villain, as Tom himself might tell you.

Heath Ledger as The Joker – The Dark Knight
If it wasn’t hard enough to watch Heath Ledger’s chilling performance as the Joker on it’s own, the sad reality of his death soon thereafter makes it all the more striking. I don’t think anyone could ever forget it, and he truly deserved that Academy Award he received for it posthumously. Even my mother watched his performance in awe just the other week, and she had even seen the film before! Yet it still resonated with her as being absolutely remarkable.

Ezra Miller as Kevin Khatchadourian – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Especially with such a young actor just learning the ropes of film performance, it might be easy to go over-the-top with a psychotic character such as this. Yet Ezra Miller’s performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin is so subtle it just made me shiver. Although I’ve been told that the book from which the tale is based is all the more disturbing than the film, a friend of mine that both read and watched it was incredibly impressed by Ezra Miller and said that he absolutely terrified her with his calmness.

Denis O’Hare as Russell Edgington – “True Blood”
Now, “True Blood” might be a very silly and campy show, but it’s places like that where characters like Russell Edginton can thrive. He is literally my favourite character on this show, and Denis O’Hare holds nothing back with him. From his sass to his commanding nature, he just steals every scene he is in. And given how distracting the rest of the cast might be physically, that is certainly saying something.

Matt Ross as Alby Grant – “Big Love”
I mostly put Matt Ross on this list because I always found his character of Alby to be the most interesting character on “Big Love”. No matter what he was doing, it was always somewhat sinister, and yet I was drawn to him, despite his disgusting relations. No, not drawn to him in “that” way, just in terms of being interested and wanting him to get more screen time. If you can become a favourite character despite how awful you can be, then obviously you are doing something right!

Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty – “Sherlock”
Definitely part of the inspiration for this list, Andrew Scott’s BAFTA winning performance will stick with me for a long time. In the first season of “Sherlock” he was onscreen for about 15 minutes in total and yet stole the show for me! The man is a star, with his little quirks and mannerisms, to his silly yet terrifying voice and delivery. Plus those eyes! Insanely talented with charisma to spare, I was so upset when (SPOILER!) Jim killed himself in the last episode of season 2. Why? Because that meant no more Andrew Scott on the show! And given how memorable he was on it, despite having so few scenes, I think it’s safe to say that  “Crazy Jim” (as I like to call him) is one of my favourite villains of all time.

Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa – Inglorious Basterds
And last but not least, who can forget Christoph Waltz’s Academy Award winning performance in Inglorious Basterds? First of all, the man did it all in four different languages, which would be tough for anyone. And secondly, he seems like one of the most genuine and well-spoken men ever to grace the screen, and yet comes off as absolutely sinister and unyielding in these antagonistic roles. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him the entire film, and thought he was also quite hilarious as well as terrifying. So there again, you have the charisma aspect coming into play! The man just knows what he is doing, and I can’t wait for more of him in the years to come, as I’m sure he will continue to produce flawless performances. 

Of course, these are just my personal preferences, and I just love the bad guys all the time.
Do you have any favourite villains that you love to hate?