Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cinematic and narrative duality in Marc Webb's (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer, directed by Marc Webb, is one of my favorite films of the past couple of years. Released in 2009, and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the film tells the story of a relationship. This is a story of “boy meets girl,” but this is not a “love story”, as the narrator informs the audience at the beginning of the film. The main narrative plot of the film follows Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he meets, courts, falls in love, and eventually has his heart broken by Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Summer is the epitome of the “manic pixie dream girl,” as many critics and observers have pointed out. She loves to play games where she screams obscenities in the park, or pretend that the displays at Ikea are her house. However, despite Summer’s eccentricities, this film is about Tom. It’s his perspective we see this relationship in, as well as the famous “expectations vs. reality” scene, and it is him that the film follows right through the end and the promise of a new beginning with a girl named Autumn. This is very much Tom’s story.

Or is it?
Two people, with a void between them.

I think something that only becomes apparent about (500) Days of Summer one repeat viewings is how much it is about duality. Like the concept of a romantic couple itself, the film is focused on this idea of two. There are many prominent examples of there being two choices, two frames of mind, two perspectives, etc. Like the relationship, this isn’t a story about one person, it is the story about two.
                “You’re not the only one who gets a say in this! I do too! And I say we’re a couple, God dammit!”- Tom
In both the general story of the film and the way it is edited and shot, there is noticeable duality to the film, emphasizing the before and after of Tom and Summer’s relationship, their differing opinions on love, and Tom’s fantasy of summer being “the One” contrasted with the reality of their situation.

Two frames, one still: the cinematic nature of emphasizing duality in relationships

The opening credits to the film take place after the audience has been introduced to both the major characters, and have been told by a narrator that this a “boy meets girl” story. While the credits are taking place, the film shows two images on each side of the screen: one of childhood home movies of Tom, the other of childhood home movies of Summer. While this technique is used later in the film (most notably to show Summer and Tom both having restless nights after a heated argument), it is best utilized during the opening credits because it truly emphasizes what I think is one of the main points of the film: relationships happen between two people, and because of that, it means accepting a person’s past, emotional baggage, eccentricities, etc. Seeing the different early lives of these two characters who we already know are going to meet and fall in love helps the idea sink in that the very nature of romantic relationships and attachment is about duality.

These are two fully realized human beings who had entire lives before one another, and are hardly fated to be with one another. 

There is another sequence that focuses on utilizing two perspectives at once to show the different paths the characters have gone down. Tom is shown alone on a bus ride on one side of the screen, while Summer gets married (to a man that isn’t Tom) on the other.

When Summer and Tom share a kiss on the bed in Ikea, each of them takes up half the screen. They are together when they kiss, but then are separated as the kiss ends and Summer informs Tom she isn’t “looking for anything serious.” This is cinematic image that helps reinforce the concept that two become one briefly, only to become separate again, which could be a metaphor for the entire structure of the film itself.

The idea of two separate images running on each half of the screen also comes up in the famous “expectation vs. reality” scene which I will talk about later.

                Befores and afters: Mirror scenes

The film actually begins at the end of the movie. The first shot is of Tom and Summer on day 488 of Tom’s 500 days of Summer. This mirroring of various events in the movie that takes place further emphasizes the overall dual nature of the film. Most importantly the duality of Tom while he is in a relationship with Summer and Tom after the relationship has ended. Their breakup is actually one of the earliest scenes seen in the film, and does well to emphasize this topsy-turvy nature. The end is at the beginning, but both initially seem separate from one another. The beginning of the relationship seems different from the end because the audience has not discovered how one led to the other. Then, the audience sees day 1 of their relationship immediately after the break-up scene. Once again, this emphasizes the separateness of the beginning and end of their relationship. 
The character of Tom has two moments where he talk about Summer, while the same montage containing images of Summer plays. However, one scene takes place before their breakup, and the other one takes place after it. These scenes are mostly identicals. Tom is even talking about the same features on Summer, just in different contexts. Because the only difference is in what Tom is saying, and this serves as a mirror that emphasize the duality of how Tom feels about Summer during their relationship and after their breakup.

Before breakup:
I love her smile. I love her hair. I love her knees. I love this heart-shaped birthmark she has on her neck. I love the way sometimes she licks her lips before she talks. I love the sound of her laugh. I love the way she looks when she’s sleeping.
After breakup: 
I hate her crooked teeth. I hate her 1960s haircut. I hate her knobby knees. I hate her cockroach-shaped splotch on her neck. I hate the way she smacks her lips before she talks. I hate the way she sounds when she laughs.
Same images. Different contexts

A great cinematic example of this separation occurs when Tom has completed his fantasy dance sequence to “You Make My Dreams”, he enters the elevator. When the elevator opens again, the film has flashed forward in time to after the break-up, and Tom looks disheveled and haggard. 

Contrasted with how he was when entered the elevator...

There are also dueling scenes of Summer growing disinterested in activities she and Tom used to engage in, most notably pretending they live in the display house at the Ikea. The scene opens with Tom trying to engage Summer in playing the fantasy game, only to have her walk away. The film follows that with an immediate cuts to the original situation that inspired him to act like that.

In addition, Tom and Summer’s first conversation on a bench in a public park overlooking Los Angeles mirrors the conversation they have on the same bench at the end of the film (and the one that is seen briefly as the opening shot of the film).

Both endings and beginnings take place on this bench.

Love vs. disbelief in love
This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met the one. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of the movie The Graduate. The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief.
This mostly relates to the narrative, but there is a separation and duality between how Tom and Summer view the nature of love, respectively.
Summer: I just don’t feel comfortable being anyone’s girlfriend. I don’t actually feel comfortable being anyone’s anything… I like being on my own. Relationships are messy, and people’s feelings get hurt… 
Tom: What happens if you fall in love? 
Summer: Well, you don't believe that, do you? 
Tom: It's love. It's not Santa Claus. 
Summer: What does that word even mean? I’ve been in relationships, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.
A barrier exists between Tom and Summer that will come to define the rest of their relationship. Tom believes in love, Summer doesn’t. Their conversation actually ends not with a compromise on the nature of love, but with Summer stating “agree to disagree”, meaning that there will continue with these dual perspectives rather than compromise. What is separate will remain separate for the time being, and for the rest of the film.

In a cinematic perspective, there are a lot of cuts between Summer and Tom, emphasizing that these are two different people who view the issue of love different. There is a lot of shot-reverse-shot. However, most of the time when the other one is talking, it’s over the shoulder of the person they’re talking to. Here, the duality of their two opinions begin to merge as one is always in the shot as the other one is talking. Because of this, it could be argued that is supposed to symbolize the opinions of the other never being truly separate for their mutual feelings for each other.

Tom is always in the shot as Summer explains her feelings about the nature of love. 

Expectation (fantasy) vs. reality

“There’s no such thing as love, it’s fantasy.”- Summer

Ultimately, in both the story and cinematic analysis, I feel as if the most important thing is the duality that exists between fantasy and reality. It is this message that it is important because the film seems to be saying that the fantasy that Summer represents for Tom is better than the reality of realizing they are incompatible.

Earlier in the film, as the narrator introduces the characters, it is said that Tom got his belief in love in part from “a total misreading of the movie The Graduate.” The Graduate in this context is supposed to represent fantasy. Later in the movie, Summer and Tom go see The Graduate. It is Summer who has a very visceral reaction to the film, and this triggers their break-up. It could be argued that this represents a transfer of the concepts of fantasy and reality. Tom, who had been living in a fantasy world, comes to realize the problems of reality, while Summer could realize from her viewing of The Graduate that there is no way for reality to emulate the fantasy of what she just saw.

The film has a number of fantasy sequences. Most notable (and my personal favorite) is the now-iconic sequence set to the Hall and Oates’ song “You Make My Dreams”. Tom wakes up after a night of initial sex with Summer to check himself out in the mirror, only to discover the reflection looking back at him is that of Harrison Ford as Han Solo at the end of Star Wars

Oh yeah!

The dance sequence itself involves perfect strangers dancing and celebrating Tom’s accomplishment of bedding Summer. A marching band appears, as does an animated blue bird. There is no doubt that this is fantasy, and that it is supposed to represent Tom projecting his happiness by believing that the world celebrates his victory with him. On a cinematic level, the fact that most of the people in the dance are wearing blue emphasizes the dream-like nature of the sequence.

Notice all the blue?

Another fantasy sequence involves a time when Tom and Summer go to the movies, and Tom apparently envisions himself in the film-within-a-film. The sequence seems to have been inspired by the films of Jean-Luc Goddard and Ingmar Bergman, among others. This seems to serve a narrative purpose in that Tom is placing the “fantasy” of his and Summer’s relationship into the context of the “real” movie. The real world is starting to interfere with the fantasy of Tom’s construct of his relationship with Summer. This scene in which the character watches a movie is not unlike The Graduate scene.

However, in another impressive sequence, the film shows us a scene in which Tom goes to a party at Summer’s house he was invited to from the perspectives of “Expectation” and “Reality.” Like the opening credits of the film, the two perspectives are on either side of the screen. While the “Expectation” side shows how Tom wishes the events of the evening would go down (Summer greets him with a kiss, they talk all night, and they appear to get back together), the “Reality” side shows a disinterested Summer engaging with other party guests. The film then merges completely with the “Reality” side to show that Summer has gotten engaged. This merges the cinematic quality of the halved screen with the concept that the reality of situation has killed the fantasy. 

There is also an early sequence that seems to blind the two concepts of fantasy and reality together. There is a reporting by the narrator, who should be taken to be omniscient, as to Summer’s history. This includes information about her height, weight, and shoe size. However, then there are diversions about her past, such as the fact that her high school yearbook quote led to a rise in sales of a Belle and Sebastian album in Michigan that “puzzled industry analysts.” Another diversion is when Summer’s job at a local ice cream shop led to, as the audience is told, “a 212% increase in revenue.” Finally, the audience is told Summer averages 18.4 double-takes from men a day. Whether or not these facts and anecdotes are true doesn’t matter, but helps paint Summer as something grounded in the real (the narrator keeps stating how “average” she truly is) but yet able to take on larger-than-life characteristics, which parallels how Tom eventually comes to see her.

Conclusion: Two people, one story

Not every couple can be Romeo and Juliet...
Summer: You’re happy? 
Tom: You’re not? 
Summer: All we do is argue. 
Tom: That is bullshit! 
Summer: This can’t come as a total surprise to you. I mean we've been like Sid and Nancy for months now. 
Tom: Summer, Sid stabbed Nancy, seven times with a kitchen knife, I mean we have some disagreements but I hardly think I'm Sid Vicious. 
Summer: No, I'm Sid. 
Tom: Oh, so I'm Nancy... 
Summer: Let's just eat and we'll talk about it later. Mmm, that is good, I'm really glad we did this. I love these pancakes... what?
[Tom gets up and walks away from the table] 
Summer: Tom, don't go! You're still my best friend!

Ultimately, what makes (500) Days of Summer unique in comparison to other romantic comedies is that it very much emphasizes the duality that is the essence of falling in, falling out and being in love. It does this in both terms of the narrative structure of the film (the hopping back in forth in time emphasizing separation, the differing views on love, the ideas of fantasy vs. reality, etc. ) and the cinematic way it was filmed. (The framing of shots, the editing, halving the screen and having each side devoted to an individual character, etc.) This is not a film that shies away from the hard parts of falling and being in love. Our society always emphasizes “two becoming one” in terms of romantic relationships, particularly of marriage. What (500) Days of Summer teaches, and emphasizes through its witty screenplay and cunning visuals, is that train of thought seems to compromise the individual identity of someone within a relationship. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why 2012 was such a divisive year for movies

For the most part in 2012, the only big blockbusters that were both loved by critics and audiences alike were The Avengers, Django Unchained, and Skyfall. The reaction to the year's two most anticipated movies, The Dark Knight Rises (which, c'mon, EVERYONE thought would beat The Avengers at the box office) and The Hobbit have been more thoroughly mixed. Other movies that have divided movie fans critics include Cloud Atlas, Les Miserables, Looper, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Prometheus, Argo, Killing Them Softly, Seven Psychopaths, The Master, This is 40 and The Amazing Spider-Man.

I don't know if this divisiveness is unique to 2012, however. You still find people firmly in both the love and hate camps for Titanic, for example. But, it does seem like 2012 had a bigger influx of divisive movies. I think this shift is about a couple of things. First, the rise in social media makes everyone a critic via Facebook, Twitter, etc. So when the critics dislike something but your Facebook Feed says otherwise, it shows that this is something there isn't a lot of unanimous consensus on between critics and general audiences. Take Les Miserables for example. Most of the reviews on Facebook are widely enthusiastic, whereas a lot of the critics trashed the hell out of it, calling it over-the-top, corny, etc. Les Miserables seems like a movie the public has embraced, which contradicts what a lot of critics are saying about it, which means there is this illusion of more divisiveness than there really is.

But honestly, I think our movie critics have gone full film-snob, despite what Rotten Tomatoes tells you. Even when you read their POSITIVE reviews of blockbusters, it's like they like it begrudgingly, and it seems like they go out of their way to choose the most obscure movies on their end-of-the-year lists. Despite The Hobbit, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, etc. having "fresh" ratings on RT, the critics who don't like these movies are more vocal, so that also help to present this idea of more a divide.

I think critics have always been film snobs to a certain extent, but that's not a bad thing. But I think dismissing truly artful movies simply because they're big or "fun" does everyone a disservice. I also think that there's a jealousy factor, like critics are mad that something like Beasts of the Southern Wild (which is good in its own right) couldn't catch on with mainstream audiences, but something like Les Miserables does. (I hate to keep bringing up Les Miserables, but it's a movie whose critical thrashing I literally cannot comprehend.) Critics don't always get it right, but it just seems like their critiques are less fair observations about what didn't work and more like grudge matches against Hollywood and its establishment, which is isolating mainstream moviegoers. When there is something that is a fun, entertaining movie but also well-made, well-directed, acted, written, etc. like The Avengers, the film critics kind shrug it off like a teenager. "I like it... I guess." They're are entitled to their views as much as anyone, but while the average movie goer will remember fun experiences, it is like modern movie critics dismiss "fun" as a criteria for judging movies all together. Yes, film is art, but film can also be fun, and more and more frequently it seems critics are realizing one or the other, but not both...

This is just a theory I have, but I think 2012 will be a year remembered for a lot of good, and a lot of divisive movies, as well as a year where social media began to outrank the role of the critic.

Why "Batman Returns" is an underrated masterpiece

I can't help but feel that the earlier Batman movies are being pushed aside in light of the success of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. 
While the Joel Schumacher films are terrible, I like the first Burton-directed Batman. However, I don't love it. I love the visuals of Gotham City, and the movie actually feels like an old Batman comic come to life. Michael Keaton is a pretty good Batman, though his Bruce Wayne isn't very developed. I don't remember Kim Basinger doing a lot except screaming, which is a shame because she's a great actress. Nicholson, although memorable, kinda hams up his performance a lot. And the Joker's plot to destroy Gotham (hacking into the television, weird balloons with gas, etc.) is all very corny and silly. Also, Prince's "Batdance" song may be one of the worst things ever created by a human.
However, the Burton-Batman movie I absolutely adore is Batman Returns. It's so gothic, so twisted, so absolutely insane that it can't help but be absolutely fascinating. Whether you like it or not, you do have to admit that it seems like a much more personal movie for Burton, that he was working with his own vision of Batman rather than the studio's.
The bat. The cat. The penguin.
Danny Devito is riveting as the Penguin, and he's a much more realized villain than Nicholson's Joker. He has a tragic, almost Shakespearean, past. Also, despite being most well known for comedic work, Devito is creepy as hell, almost to the point of being frightening. (Remember when he bites that guy's nose? I dare you to find a moment as scary as that in The Dark Knight Rises.)
One of the best comic-to-movie translations of a character in comic book movie history

But at the same time, you sympathize with him. I also like that they try to make him more than a stereotypical "I'm going to destroy Gotham and/or take over the world" bad guy. His campaign to be mayor is one of the most interesting diversions for a villain in the history of superhero movies.
The rest of the cast is great. Keaton, I feel, is both a better Batman and Bruce Wayne in this film, especially because he plays Wayne as more vulnerable. Michelle Pfeiffer is completely sexy and engaging as Catwoman.
I love her transformation from mild-mannered secretary to Catwoman.
The moment Selina Kyle stuffs her stuffed animals down the garbage disposal is one of the most riveting parts of the movie.
I also liked that she was more of a feminist-superheroine, stopping crimes against women, than a cat burglar. As much as I liked Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises and as much as her performance might be in some ways better than Pfieffer, Michelle Pfieffer's performance is still the first thing I think about when someone so much as mentions Catwoman.
The one weak spot of the cast is Christopher Walken, but c'mon, it's Christopher Walken. It's hard to fault the guy for much of anything, even if his weird delivery of lines ridicules otherwise serious moments. ("Bruce WAYNE, why ARE you DRESSED up as BATMAN?")
The Gotham City of Batman Returns might be better realized than it's predecessor. It isn't just elaborate background like in the first movie, but intimate set pieces that inform a lot about the culture of the city. I even love the small details of the movie, like the fact that such a creepy, gothic movie takes place at Christmas.
They must have taken the whole action-on-Christmas bit from Die Hard.
Even if the Penguin's plan to destroy Gotham with missiles attached to penguins is freaking bizarre, it's so weird that it almost completely works. Almost.
It definitely ranks as both one of my favorite Burton movies and favorite superhero movies of all time. Hell, it might be my second favorite Batman movie after The Dark Knight. (Though The Dark Knight Rises is providing some strong competition.) And I think it's rather sad that such an epic, well-directed, well-acted, intriguing, gothic comic book movie has, I feel, not gotten the appreciation it deserves, even 20 years after it came out. Maybe the attention to Nolan's Batman movies will attract some newer viewers to it, and maybe they can learn the appreciate it the way I have. One can only hope...

The Indiana Jones series should have been more like Bond, or why I think people hated "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"

I love the Indiana Jones series. Raiders of the Lost Ark is easily in my top 10 favorite films ever. It’s hard to think of such a perfect action movie that balances action, adventure, thrills, exotic locations, ancient history, modern history, and a rather deep religious/theological goal. (I still think the fact that the Ark burns the Swastikas off the box containing it is a poignant scene that no one remembers, but say a lot.) While I’m not a huge fan of Temple of Doom, I love Last Crusade. Bringing in Indy’s dad, especially when he’s played by Sean Connery, was a stroke of genius, and helped to add another layer to the Indiana Jones character and mythos.
One awesome trilogy...

I also love the James Bond series. From Dr. No to Skyfall, Bond has been around for 50 years, and as one critic I heard say recently, he’s less of a franchise at this point and more of an institution. And honestly, part of the reason I like the James Bond series is because of quantity. There are a lot of phenomenal James Bond movies. (Most of the Connery ones, Casino Royale and Skyfall.) There are a lot of pretty good James Bond movies. (Some of Brosnan’s ones, some of the Moore ones, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and The Living Daylights.) Then there are the really not-so good Bond movies. (Most of the later Moore outings, License to Kill, and Die Another Day…) But honestly, with 23 movies, a storied past, and 50 years in as a prominent part of our cultural consciousness, the bad ones don’t really seem so bad. The Moore movies, particularly OctopussyMoonraker, and A View to a Kill, are pretty corny, over the top and filled with dumb moments. At times, they’re also kind of boring. But there are plenty of better Bond movies to help fill the void. I’m sorry Die Another Day wasn’t good, care to watch Casino Royale? I’m sorry Quantum of Solace was underwhelming, care to watch Skyfall? The Bond franchise is constantly reinventing itself and creating new and interesting scenarios for Bond. Yes, some of the movies are terrible, but a lot of them are pretty damn good, and that helps to balance out some of the lesser movies in the series.
23 movies and counting...

With that in mind, let’s get to my main point. You see, Indiana Jones was a trilogy until Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out. This isn’t unlike another popular 80s movie franchise that George Lucas helped create, Star Wars. But Star Wars kind of needed to be a trilogy. That series is much more in the tradition of something like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Like those stories, it follows the Joseph Campbell model of the hero’s quest. We follow the same characters as they rise, and eventually conquer, an evil threat. There’s a clear beginning and introduction to the universe and characters (A New Hope), a dark middle chapter (The Empire Strikes Back), and a climactic resolution (Return of the Jedi). Star Wars is like modern myth. The Star Wars universe is big, yes, but its scope is limited, as it should be. The original trilogy and even the prequels, follow certain thematic and character arcs, meaning that these are not stand-alone adventures. They are all connected as part of one larger story. The Palpatine revealed in Episode 1 is the Emperor that Luke confronts in Episode 6, and so on and so forth.
The mythology of Star Wars is well chronicled.

It’s this distinction I want to make clear, because I think a lot of people compare Indiana Jones and Star Wars as the “holy trinities,” when only one of them should have been. I’ve always thought Indiana Jones should have been something more like James Bond: a series of stand-alone adventures that, while having some of the same characters, tropes, and motifs, mostly follow the titular hero in a new mission. And yes, I am aware of The Young Indiana Jones TV show, but most people know Indy from the big screen, and Indy needed to be on the big screen more than he was.

You see, it is this idea of Indiana Jones as “The Holy Trinity” that I think made people judge KOTCS too harshly. It’s not a great movie by any stretch, but it’s good. There are movies far more deserving of hate, but Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seems to be one the Internet’s most hated movies ever, as well as one of the most constantly critiqued movies of the past decade. And while I can understand the criticism for something like the Star Wars prequels or anything Michael Bay has ever directed, KOTCS seems like it isn’t as deserving. Maybe its just me from my frame of reference as a Bond fan, where walking into the theater you don’t know if the movie you’re about to see will be stupid or fantastic, but I thought I was going to be happy if all I got was another fun adventure with Indiana Jones. And you know what? I wasn’t, and still to this day am not terribly disappointed by it! Was nuking the fridge dumb? Oh yeah. The gophers and monkeys were also pretty damn stupid. Aliens… eh. (Not as big an issue for me personally as people make it out to be.) But I got an entertaining Indiana Jones movie. I was never really bored watching it. It didn’t have Willie Scott screaming, or Short Round being annoying for two hours (looking at you, Temple of Doom). Was it perfect? Hell no. Was it flawed? Oh yeah. Were parts of it incredibly stupid? You bet. But was I entertained? Yeah…


You see, I think the built up expectation made people think the movie was going to be worth the wait. That’s why you see the hatred for KOTCS but not to the same extent for movies like Lethal Weapon 4 or Live Free or Die Hard, for example. (Both of those I picked because they were much delayed fourth installments of beloved action series from the 80s, like KOTCS…) But in my opinion, there should have never, and I mean NEVER been a 20-year gap between Last Crusade and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indiana Jones should have been like James Bond, making more movies that focus on standalone adventures. The “Holy Trinity” are essentially three standalone movies, connected only by the Indiana Jones character. There should have been more of these movies simply because the possibilities of the character, what situations he finds himself, what bad guys he encounters, etc. are limitless.

Now, part of the reason the series was left abandoned was because Spielberg wanted to move on to bigger and better things, and he did for the most part. (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, etc.) George Lucas also wanted to start working on those pesky prequels. Harrison Ford was the biggest star in the world by the time Last Crusade was released, and was getting a lot offers for a lot of exciting movies like The Fugitive and the Jack Ryan movies he was in. But Lucas/Spielberg should have done what Lucas is doing now with Star Wars: put it in the hands of other capable directors and writers. Spielberg and Lucas could have still produced and served as creative consultants for the series, but essentially give the reins to someone else. The only constant should have been Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones is much less like Batman, Jack Ryan or even James Bond in that he is identified by a single actor. Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones the same way Bruce Willis is John McClane, Clint Eastwood is Dirty Harry (ANOTHER precedent for what the Indy series should have resembled), and Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. You can’t imagine another actor playing that character ever again.

I just imagine Ford and whatever director coming together once every 5-6 years or so and doing another Indiana Jones movie, up until 2008 or around then. (More on that later.) And the good thing is the spin-off canon of novels, comics, video games, etc. had a lot of cool ideas for other Indiana Jones adventures. The Fate of Atlantis, a point and click adventure game, could have been turned into a really cool Indy movie, as is the same case with The Iron Pheonix and The Spear of Destiny comic books. The fun thing about the franchise is that it could have dealt with historical issues as time progressed (The main part of World War II to be sure, but also the beginning of the Cold War.) But it would also have all the standard bits of an Indy movie: Indy girls, exotic locales, important artifacts, references to Indy also being a professor, his fear of snakes, climatic action scenes, etc.
The Indiana Jones movie we deserved...

I could see someone like Frank Darabont, fresh off his success with The Shawshank Redemption, directing an Indy movie in the mid-90s, especially since he helped write some of the episodes of the TV show and a script that eventually became KOTCS, he had connections to the franchise. After that, I see someone like Jan de Bont, hot after Speed and Twister, directing a more action-oriented Indy movie in the late 90s. Finally, someone like Martin Campbell, who directed Goldeneye and Casino Royale, could do another Indy movie in the early-to-mid 2000s. However, these names are just what come to mind given the context of the times. Hindsight tells us we could have stuck in a newbie director that have subsequently proved themselves, like Kathryn Bigelow or Alfonso Cuaron. Think, dear reader, on the aborted possibility of a Christopher Nolan-directed or a Joss Whedon-written Indiana Jones movie.

If he could do justice to The Avengers, I would love to see what he could with Indiana Jones...

Now, let’s get back to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. One of the things I really do like about the movie is that it does seem like a conclusion to the series. You have the introduction, and implied passing on of the legacy to Mutt. You re-introduce Marion Ravenwood, the original Indy girl, and she and Indy finally settle down. Also, Harrison Ford is getting up there in years, and eventually, you would have to stop somewhere. So, in my hypothetical universe, I bring back Spielberg into the director’s seat to make things come full circle, revise the script, but keep a lot of the major plot points and have KOTCS be definitively the last Indiana Jones movie ever. That scene at the end where Mutt almost tries on the hat? Call me crazy, but I think it works remarkably well, and serves as both an end to the Indy character, as well as a wink to the audience about a future full of adventure for Mutt.

Passing the torch...

I never believed Indiana Jones should be just 3 or even just 4 movies. Like James Bond, Dirty Harry, or Star Trek, Indiana Jones should have been put into different, exciting situations, under the watchful eyes of new directors and screenwriters. How awesome would have been to actually SEE Indy fight in World War II and not just reminisce about it with Mac when he’s in his 60s? I understand the franchise was Spielberg and Lucas’ baby, but they should have quit for a while and allowed other directors to take risks with the character the same way Lucas is doing now with Star Wars. This would have allowed the possibility of the series growing over time. One can only dream about the possibility of more Indiana Jones movies at this point, I guess….

FIRST POST: A New Outlet, and the 5 rules of this blog

                I graduated a little over three months ago from a small public university in Virginia. College did me a lot of good. It was invigorating to be around a community of intellectuals with whom I could have serious discussions about a multitude of issues. I learned a lot about the nature of critical analysis from my English major and a lot about issues in culture and how to examine them. I served as a staff writer, and later, section editor of a school newspaper where I wrote many movie reviews, general stories about events and issues on campus, and opinion pieces about everything from collegiate issues to national politics.

                As I have started (key word there) to assume my post-collegiate life to prepare for a job and graduate school in the future, I have needed a new outlet to talk about the things I love to talk about most (film, literature, cultural issues) in a critical way. As such, I feel a need to distinguish this blog from what a lot of what blogging, to an outside observer like me, seems like, which is a constant cycle of reposts.

                The problem I have with reposts is the same one I have with song lyric Facebook statuses. The simple fact of the matter is no one can talk about you, the way you think, the way you feel, etc. the way YOU can. Rather than showing an image or GIF of a scene I like from a movie, I would rather discuss it in a critical way. My hope is that after I see a movie, I’ll come on here and write a review. Hopefully, once I start getting into the groove, this will have a lot of reviews of films I have seen both theatrically and on home video.

                While I hope I will be talking about movies quite a bit, I also hope to post about other topics that interest me, like history, literature, general society issues, etc.

Without further or do, here are the 5 rules I have established for myself for writing this blog:

1)      I will not use this blog as an excuse to rant or vent about personal issues in my life. While I hope to focus on issues of culture, society, film and literature, if I do write about something more personal, I will use it to talk about greater implications of issues I see in society based on my personal interactions with people.

2)      I will not name people close to me for any reason on this blog. If need be, I will use a pseudonym, but I hope to generally avoid using this as an outlet to rant about personal relationships and issues.

3)      I will not post just images, memes, GIFs, etc. This is only for longer essays. Everything else is what Reddit is for. I hope to post images as part of movie reviews, but that will be about it.

4)      If I do write about something political (which probably will happen at some point), I will do my best to examine all sides of an issue, and post knowing full well that people may disagree with what I have to say. However, I hope not to lose sight of the fact that people’s political beliefs are just as close to their hearts as my own are to me.

5)      This blog seeks to be full of informed, engaging, and analytical longer essays on a variety of topics. No jokes (but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to be funny once in a while), no posts that are only a sentence or two long, and no posts that are just communication to one person in particular.

So, that’s it then. I hope to post some of the longer reviews I’ve posted to Reddit uploaded here, and then a longer critical essay (which I’m thinking will be about my thoughts on the miniseries Angels in America) within the next couple of days.

Happy reading!