Anl. Swiss Army Man and its Themes

I knew I would love Swiss Army Man from the moment I saw the trailer. Granted, I adore Radcliffe and Dano, but I also loved the tone of the story in previews. What I didn’t expect was a movie  that was so moving and heartbreaking.

Freedom and Innocence

Essentially, the film communicates plenty of messages regarding freedom, as symbolized by farts. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes, we need simple ways to convey deep messages.

The way Manny is unrestrained and open is admirable. It’s what literally gets him places. While I partly consider Hank is projecting a bit onto Manny, I do think that his friend reflects his conflicts regarding freedom of expression.

Openness is reiterated throughout the story as Hank teaches Manny about various aspects of life: relationships, emotions, sexuality, pleasure, and self awareness.

Sexuality

Speaking of which, I loved how sex was explored in this movie. It was not a shameful, gross, or primal thing. I am torn regarding how Manny’s penis was used as a compass, because it can be foreshadowing for  Hank’s attachment to Sarah.

On the other hand, the relationship between sexuality and Hank’s stalking relates to innocence because I don’t find Hank and Manny creepy as people. They don’t fetish-ize Sarah or women in general. They don’t turn Sarah into a fantasy. It’s more of a coping mechanism for both of them.

Friendship and Acceptance

Through Manny’s questions, Hank is able to unfold different issues he has. For instance, he talks about his mother’s death and his inability to do things that pleasure him (through the masturbation and sex symbolism).

Hank tries to teach Manny about what is acceptable and what is not as Manny posits that perhaps it’s okay to feel caged by these expectations.

Montages depict their developing friendship, particularly when they reenact the bus scenario.

Not so Much

However, what it boils down to is that while we may think of these things, they can be punishable by society. It pains me to see that ending, but I didn’t expect Manny to survive in a world where his farts wouldn’t be accepted and, by extension, his innocence wouldn’t be accepted.

The closer Manny and Hank get, the closer to civilization they find themselves.

Ultimately, it is a fun and thought-provoking story that I am glad to have on DVD to rewatch and analyze.

Your Turn

What is the latest most challenging story you have been exposed to? How did you come to terms with it? Please share in the comments!

 

For More:

 

–“Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe” 

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I read Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close a few years ago and it moved me tremendously. So, when I saw the movie on sale for 5 bucks (!!!), I picked it up, certain of its awesomeness. In particular, I thought of its mystery aspects and its exploration of human connections and love.

The story offers a much needed message: you should love people for who they are, and tell them you love them (often) because you never know when you could lose loved ones. Be it catastrophic events like 9/11 or just a dwindling health, nothing is certain.  Oskar loses his father for the terrorist attacks in New York City. William Black’s father gets ill and dies.

Another interesting theme in the story is connection. People connected with Oskar even if they never knew him or his mother. He discovers that even though he didn’t want any friends, he got them anyway. This blindness, tunnel vision, of just a goal and nothing more is very typical. We zero in on a tangible logical thing while forgetting that there’s more to life than just checks, high fives, and happy dances. There’s love to ground you and remind you that your loss fits in a larger context.

The thing is, Oskar isn’t the only one who lost someone. Abby did. William did. His grandfather did. Everyone has an inner battle and turmoil. They fight it the way they feel fits. Is it perfect? Do they pick the best way to do so? You may not think so. All you can do is try to understand where they’re coming from.

Finally, you sometimes find things when you stop looking in the “logical” places. Oskar found out what they key meant after he let go and let the universe unfold. When he went up to the swings and found out that his father’s quest was much simpler than he expected. Scary, but when your loss is great, you sometimes become braver and stronger than you expect. It still hurts, though.

Your Turn:

Have you seen the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? Or maybe you’ve read the book? What did you glean from the story? How was it communicated throughout the tale? Share your reflections in the comments!

 

For More:

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Anl. Women in Sherlock’s World

I love the way women are portrayed in BBC’s Sherlock. It is refreshing to see women presented as equals, worthy of the men in the story. In particular: Molly Hooper, Irene Adler, and Mary Watson are wonderful women who are strong and clever. They play major roles in the story. 

Mrs. Hudson

Before I begin, I obviously have to talk about Mrs. Hudson. Without her, Sherlock says, “England would fall.” While she is often dismissed, however, she still manages to be central to the story. For instance, she embodies the show’s audience through her assumptions about John and Sherlock’s relationship. Often, she is surprised by John’s attempts at finding a girlfriend.  She provides commentary on Sherlock’s mess. Yes, she is sometimes comic relief. But, she is also the voice of common sense.

Molly Hooper

Molly is interested in Sherlock romantically at first, and her attempts are thwarted. She comments on his actions, seeing right through his ways of hiding his impending death. She whispers, “You look sad when you think he can’t see you.”

Sure, Sherlock thinks she can replace John. But, she is surprises the audience often. In the Abominable Bride, she is part of the revolutionary body of women. Even in the series itself, Molly is powerful enough to introduce Jim Moriarty to Sherlock.

She is crucial. She helps Sherlock so much, just to help humanize him, so much that she helps make him “dead” and then “alive.” He trusts her with his secrets–from his awareness of the necessity of his death, to the way he is hidden from John and everyone who knew him.

Irene Adler

Adler is the dominatrix who brought England to its knees. She is “The Woman.” She is presented as everything Sherlock is unaware of: sexuality and manipulation of people’s insecurities. She flirts with Sherlock openly, discomforting him with her recorded moans on the phone as text alerts.

I think more importantly, like Hooper, Adler presents a powerful connection to Sherlock’s humanity. She makes him care about her through their dialogue and connection over intellect. Unlike Molly, Irene successfully makes Sherlock uncomfortable. She threatens Mycroft, who is presented as the “clever one” (in series 3 and in the Christmas special). The Ice Man and the Virgin are manipulated by her and she almost wins. Her emotions, like Molly’s, give her away, but she is still respected and protected by Sherlock as seen in series 2.

Mary Watson

What the creators of the show have done with Mary’s character is also very inspiring. It’s awesome to see her have her own back-story, where she is a “very bad girl.” She is a capable and strong woman, who confuses Sherlock throughout their encounters at first.

He doesn’t know what to make of her, just like Irene and Molly. All he knows is that something is unsettling about her. But, that’s more intuition than cleverness. She is strong enough to shoot him, to spy on him, to hack into Mycroft’s carefully gated cyber world.

“I’m taking Mary home,” John says in the Christmas special, and then, “Mary’s taking me home,” which is rewarded with a “Better” from Mary.  She stands out as a woman who is able to help John “come around” when he is mad at Sherlock for his faked death (and she succeeds).

Like the other women in the series, she is often the voice of reason while Sherlock and John bicker. Do they need her? Yes! A resounding yes over and over.  She is a clever woman, anchoring John, who, in turn, anchors Sherlock.

What’s not to like?

Your turn:

Have you seen Sherlock? Who are your favorite characters on the show? Why do you like them?

I watched The Force Awakens and I have been a fan ever since that late
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Anl. Feminism in BBC’s Musketeers

Another show with fantastic female characters is the BBC’s Musketeers. At first glance, one would assume the show would have weakly portrayed women because of its name. The series is focused on the relationships between the main four Musketeers.  However, this adaptation does things differently through its portrayal of: Constance, Milady, and Queen Anne.

 

Constance Bonacieux

It’s fascinating that Constance in this show is married. She is unhappy about the marriage, it is slowly suggested, as she goes on adventures with D’Artagnan and the Musketeers. For example, she helps with the escape of young Prince Henry, Louie’s nephew. She even helps fight men throughout the series.

She takes charge of her own destiny when she openly asks D’Artagnan to, “Teach me how to shoot.”  And, she is not a beginner, either. She is shown as strong and capable. She kicks butt.

But, it is not just her physical abilities that are impressive. I love that she longs for adventure. She tells D’Artagnan, “Things were quiet before you got here, monsieur.” When he apologizes for this, she says that she doesn’t miss it for a minute!

In fact, D’Artagnan understands that part of his charm is that he can help her have a life full of adventure.

Milady De Winter

The most obvious feminist figure on this show is probably Milady De Winter. She is unattached to anyone, and focuses on her own wellbeing. She is a rogue agent for the most part. Sure, she follows the orders of the Cardinal, but she also has her own way with the Musketeers, particularly Athos and D’Artagnan. Plotting for revenge, she is often shown as an angry force to be reckoned with.

From her attempts to get Athos killed to her assassination of various political figures, it is impressive to see such a remarkable strong woman at such an old time.

She is a fascinating figure as she somehow built her image, her rank, and networked her way through royalty. What can you not love about Milady?

Queen Anne

Anne takes charge of her world through her ruling. She is very sensible, and often clashes with Louie and the Cardinal. She is analytical and clever, questions Louie’s mother, and in general grows into her own reign with strength.

I like that her love life reflects this strength. While infidelity is not synonymous with strength, I do think she has more control of her life than the average woman at the time did. She chooses to be with Aramis and chooses to keep his child. She chooses to be a strong-willed queen and not be ruled by her husband, who says that “I have never seen a woman with so many opinions.”

Your turn:

What do you think of the presentation of women in BBC’s Musketeers? Do you have any favorite characters on the show? Favorite relationships? Share in the comments!

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Anl: Paper Towns and Coming of Age

Paper Towns is one of my favorite stories. Like many of John Green’s works, Paper Towns involves a lot of complicated themes. In it, there is a discussion regarding analysis, imagining people complexly, and accepting the diversity of people.
Wheels are Turning

I find the beginning of Margo and Quentin’s friendship telling regarding the theme of analysis and its importance. When facing the dead man left in the park, she openly investigates the case. Margo Roth Spiegleman is already displaying analytical skills.

Rather than dismissing the death of a man, she imagines him, his life, his struggles, and says, “All the strings inside him broke.” Not focusing on his outward appearance, she thinks of  the “strings” inside him.

She lives with this skill in mind. From not understanding the basic approaches to adulthood through Q, she diverts from traditional paths to happiness.

When Q tells her, “Duke in the fall, go to med school, and become an oncologist,” she replies, “Isn’t there something that can make you happy now?”

As Q tries to understand her better, he finds her own copy of Leaves of Grass by Whitman, a piece all about the complexity of person-hood and individuality. She circles, “I contain multitudes.” Don’t we all?

Through her adventure with Q, she is humanizing the popular kids by providing Q with background information on them. From Jase cheating on her with her friend, to Lacey confronting his perception of her and sharing the rumors people say about her, to the myth of Margo, John Green brings a sense of realism to the way people perceive as “better”

“Everything is uglier up close,” she tells him. By the end of the story, he realizes how true this statement is. Lacey doesn’t think Margo is that good of a friend. Q wonders if she ever left him any clues to find her, or if she was simply telling him she’s okay.

 

Unattainable Love

Part of the story’s charm is the focus on unattainable women. From Ben’s infatuation with Q’s mother, to his growing affection towards Lacey, and then finally to his maturity as someone fairly comfortable with being single, Paper Towns is ultimately the story of demystifying the manic pixie dream girl. This image of a girl so out of reach, so perfect, so complicated, is given a more realistic form.

The same idea applies to Angela, a girl that Radar hides a huge part of his identity from. He doesn’t talk about the black Santas in his home and doesn’t let her come over. Furthermore, he doesn’t let her talk to his friends that much.

When she does find out his secret, she talks of how Santa is a construct, much like every perception we have about others. And, constructs are meant to be challenged.

Perceptions as Constructs

It begins with Q assuming that his “miracle” was Margo Roth Spiegleman. He assumes that, “Margo always loved mysteries. Maybe she loved them so much, she became them.”

But, by the end of the movie and novel, he realizes that she is just a girl, not a mystery to be solved or a myth to be followed. In fact, he realizes that the story is hers to tell, not his. He says, “what a treacherous thing it is to believe that  a person is more than a person. Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventurer. She was not some fine, precious things. She was a girl.”

Not only this, but she also tells him that she felt just as papery as the paper town she lived in–past and present.

In addition, he realizes that his miracle is his friends and the experiences they shared.  He understands that the lesson is to notice the miracles as they come in life, “that doesn’t mean we won’t have amazing adventures, meet exceptional people, and make indelible memories. The trick is to notice before it’s too late.”

Being stuck and sad makes reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, praying difficult. Everything is hard then.
1.What is a popular book or series that you didn’t like?  Maze Runner,  The Gemma
Today, a box of books appeared on our front step, which is probably the most

Anl. Talking Tolkien

Having just revisited Middle Earth in movie form, it’d be fitting to talk about Tolkien’s work a bit on this blog. His work is valuable and offers great commentary about good and evil, temptation, and grace.

The Ring

The One Ring represents seduction to the evil of this world. Through it, Tolkien uses allegory to convey the importance of resisting temptations of evil.

Galadriel comes to mind, as she fights the ring’s call. She talks about how she could be a strong and terrifyingly effective queen if she had the ring. “All will love and despair.” It’s fear-based love, painful and anxious. Another example is Gandalf. He is pained when he tells Frodo that he’d not be able to control the ring. While he would be trying to use it for good purposes, it’d warp his power and produce negative outcomes.

Boromir falls into this trap. He is so sure that he’d use the ring to end the upcoming war on Middle Earth. Certain and confident in his own ability to resist it, that he doesn’t even see that thinking this way is a form of falling into temptation’s embrace.

Those who don’t try to hold the ring are rewarded for their actions. Aragorn become a great king. Gandalf becomes Gandalf the White. Sam becomes a hero and gets the girl. Merry and Pip become great warriors.

And, those who hold on to the ring are ultimately destroyed. Frodo and Bilbo are emotionally exhausted. Gollum is literally no longer in this world while the two Bagginses go to “heaven” in this world.

Heroes

Unlike everyone in the story, Sam is unchanged by the ring, by the journey, and by the peril he encounters. He is the light for Frodo’s growing darkness. Resourceful and hopeful, he practically carries Frodo to Mount Doom.

He never has any desire to try the ring, no intentions or plans with relying on the ring at all.

The question is of whether you think it’s better to be unaffected or worn. Part of me admires Frodo for his brave decision to carry a burden on behalf of so many races in the story: Men, Elves, Dwarf, Hobbit, Wizards.

Good and Evil

Ultimately, this story is about temptation and its relationship with good and evil. Somewhat simplistic as an approach, but Tolkien relates goodness with the avoidance of temptation, or at least resisting it. However, to his credit, Tolkien still allows for a complex view of the nature of redemption. Ultimately, Frodo redeems himself by taking the burden and ridding the world from an extreme evil.

Your Turn:

What do you think of Tolkien’s depiction of temptation and choice? Share in the comments!

 

Being stuck and sad makes reading, sleeping, eating, drinking, praying difficult. Everything is hard then.
1.What is a popular book or series that you didn’t like?  Maze Runner,  The Gemma
Today, a box of books appeared on our front step, which is probably the most