Friday, November 20, 2015

Art & Indie Corner - Brooklyn

Wow, two posts up on Reel World Theology this week! But I couldn't help myself with Brooklyn. What an absolute independent gem. See everything I had to say about this lovely movie by clicking this link... 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reviewing the Classics - On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront was one of the first movies I wrote about on this blog, but I have now rewritten and expanded my review/analysis for Reel World Theology's Reviewing the Classics series.

On the Waterfront is one of the most influential and personally significant films I’ve ever seen, and a “contender” for my favorite classic film. It was also a cornerstone in the career of one of my favorite actors, Marlon BrandoRead my post by clicking the link below and be sure to check out all the posts in the Reviewing the Classics series!

Reviewing the Classics| On the Waterfront

Monday, November 9, 2015

Light in Dark Places - FOX's Gotham

I was excited for this show when I first saw the trailer last year, but as usual life got in the way and to the back burner it went. Finally made time to watch the first season over the past few weeks and I'm so glad I did! Gotham has been an absolutely delicious surprise.

Though the Pilot, and even the first couple of episodes following, were a little uneven and on-the-nose, I still liked the premise enough to keep going. At first there's just a lot of winking at the audience with introduction to the iconic characters and of course the rocky stage of learning to walk as a series (which ALL shows go through). However, shortly after the start line, Gotham found it's legs and ran like the wind. Over time the story became subtler, the pacing slower and more deliberate than other shows (a quality I personally admire), and the character development absolutely superb. By episode six I was hooked and in the second half I could barely take myself away from the screen. 

So why is Gotham such a delicious surprise? Well, aside from just being fantastic and addicting, Gotham does three very important things that most shows miss entirely these days. 

Carmen Bicondova is a perfect young Selina Kyle. 
The first thing, as I just mentioned, is the pacing. Slow, deliberate, purposeful. I often refer to our society as the ADHD society. There is some truth to the claim that people's attention spans are shorter and we as people in the Western world (especially the United States) have become extremely distracted. However, I do not agree with the entertainment world's method of catering to this problem by rushing through stories and substituting character or story development for action and relational gimmicks. 

Gotham does not cater to this mentality, and it's working in its favor. Instead of blazing through the plot, they take their time with each character's journey and purpose in the story. Gotham is a very complex world and it would be very easy to just jump from thing to thing, but so far it's been an enjoyable unraveling. I havent started season two yet (which isn't that far along at this point), but in season one they stuck with one major overarching story and many little subplots beneath and they stuck to it well. I felt satisfied and ready for the next stage in the journey by the end of the finale. There were a couple of things I would liked to have seen done a little differently in the end, but nothing so terrible that it ruined the narrative or viewing experience. 

Gordon and Bullock, a new favorite bromance.
The second thing that leaps to mind is subtlety. In our contemporary entertainment arenas, violence, gore, and sex are on a gratuitous level by expectation. So it is indeed remarkable to see a program where that is not the case. The violence, gore, and sex in Gotham is done in a very Hitchcockian way, and for this I give a standing ovation to the writers and cinematographers. Gotham doesn't ignore violence or sexuality, on the contrary, it fully acknowledges these things in an adult way without having to be explicit. Alfred Hitchcock firmly believed that what you can imagine is just as, if not moreso, vivid and terrifying than reality. Gotham takes on the Film Noir philosophy which leaves things to the imagination. I think this is something audiences have been gravely missing, even if they don't yet realize it themselves. 

When I watch Gotham, I don't feel I'm being robbed of sexuality or realistic violence and circumstance, I feel as though I'm seeing everything I need to. The violent situations are done tastefully, and yet I completely feel the gravity of the events. One thing that sticks out is a scene in which two men are in a car, one of them shoots the other. All we see is the flash of the gun from outside the car, then a blurred image of the man's head against the window with a splatter of blood. We don't have to see the pieces of skull and brain to get the point, it's just as effective without all the gory details. Additionally, with sexuality, there is a scene where Fish Mooney has a man tied up in her bed beneath silk sheets. Though we don't see a full on sex scene or any nudity, we get the point. Just seeing the silk sheets and watching her untie his ribbons with her mouth, is enough to show us she is a very sensual woman and often uses this as a measure of control. When you can handle violence and sexuality in a respectful yet realistic way, I'd say you've earned your badges as creative masters. 

The mesmerizing Fish Mooney.
The third thing is diversity. We all want to see more diversity of ethnicity, gender, age, and dare I say SIZE in film and television. However, most shows or movies approach this in a very preachy way or in a way that suggests they are simply checking traits off a list. In Gotham, you see a variety of humanity and they don't make a big deal about the differences these people have. You won't see characters getting on soap boxes about being a woman, or Black, or Hispanic, or whatever! The characters just are what they are without singing a song about it and THAT is true diversity. This show presents gender, race, and sexuality just as is. Though certain things may be pointed out as making a character different or special at times, it never becomes a Politically Correct dialogue. I love seeing all the different faces in Gotham, all different skin tones, all different ages. It's absolutely beautiful. Additionally, we see women in power. Sometimes the men make sexist remarks... because that's realistic! Not everyone is going to be an accepting angel of society, especially in a show where there are more villains than heroes. The women of Gotham are wonderfully interesting and strong for different reasons. I hope the show continues this pattern of authentic character diversity.

Something else I want to point out because it needs to be discussed... What is up with all this Alfred Pennyworth hate? I know there are purists out there who want to see the same kindly old man we see in every other version, but I must say I find Gotham's Alfred refreshing and bad ass. What people seem to be forgetting is that we are also seeing Alfred in the beginning of Bruce's journey. Most versions are well after Bruce is a grown man, but the child who just lost his parents is something we rarely see. Alfred is younger here too and suddenly the task of not only managing Wayne Manor, but also the responsibility of raising Bruce as his own child, is thrust upon him. Of course he's going to have struggles, hiccups, and screw-ups, he's basically a new father and of a grieving boy old enough to have his own opinions on things. Talk about work! 

This moment...  
I adore Sean Pertwee's Alfred. He comes from a hard life, an honored veteran of the British military among his many admirable traits. He's rougher around the edges than we're used to seeing the character, but it's an original take. I think an Alfred who pretty much grew up on the streets and has tactical military experience makes a much more believable choice on part of the Wayne's as guardian for their son, rather than just some poncy stereotype butler. He helps Bruce to fight and at times showers him with very tough love. The only time I thought he did something awfully out of character was when he encouraged Bruce to bully his own bully, but so far it seems it was an isolated incident. 

Though Pertwee's Alfred is less refined, he LOVES Bruce and his devotion to him is what makes the character in the end. Alfred gives his life daily serving him and does so with all of his heart. Laying down your life is the ultimate love, and that doesn't exclusively mean dying for someone, it means living for them too. 

Gotham nailed it with all it's characters. The villains are delightful and deep. They aren't just cartoony people with shallow motives. They have true desire and drive to be who they are and chase after what they want. It's easier to make villains interesting and a pleasure to watch, and it's far more difficult to make your heroes that way. Yet again, Gotham breaks the mold by making it's lead character, Jim Gordon, the most awesome straight-man hero I've seen in a long time. 

There's nothing more dangerous than an honest man.
Ben McKenzie's Jim Gordon is a fighter. Though he believes in rules, justice, and order he is willing to break those rules when it comes to the truth. A lot of times heroic characters can be predictable or flat, but Jim keeps us on our toes by never wavering from his convictions. Like Alfred laying down his life to serve Bruce, Jim lays down his life daily to serve Gotham. He is utterly unwilling to sacrifice the truth to play the game or to make things easier for himself. He calls out every villain, every crooked cop or corrupt politician. This isn't to say that Jim is perfect, he's flawed just like everyone else. He often acts first and thinks later, or struggles with cooperation with others when they rub against the truth or justice. What makes Jim a hero worth rooting for is that unshakable devotion to justice, truth, and love for the people of Gotham. 

When you take into consideration that it's a Fox show, a network with a history of cancelling good shows or having cheesy production value, Gotham is a nice balanced medium. It lies somewhere between the highly stylized Tim Burton Batman films and the gritty, realistic Christopher Nolan films. You get glimpses of gargoyles and Gothic architecture, but in a mostly contemporary backdrop. I like that the time-period is nuanced and indistinct which helps you stay focused on the world, rather than being distracted by it's relation to our own. Sometimes if feels like a modern crime drama, other times it feels like a classic Noir flick. No matter the case, it's a delight to watch. The writing, too, is capital, especially in the second half of the season when the story really finds it's footing. 

If you are a purist, this show is probably not for you. It's not the comics, it's a specific retelling of comic lore. However, if you are open-minded to looking at a new take on Gotham and Batman's origins, then definitely give this show a chance to tell you it's story.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Quantum of Solace - #BondWeek at Reel World Theology!

In preparation for this week's upcoming Bond film, Spectre, my friends at Reel World Theology have BONDED together in #BondWeek. This is an online event where a bunch of us have posted reviews or analysis of Bond films over time.

To be honest, I only like Daniel Craig's films, and while Quantum of Solace definitely was the least awesome of his franchise, it's still worth writing about. Check out my post by clicking the link below and be sure to check out all the posts on the site during #BondWeek!