New Year, Newish Me

After a difficult six months or so for a variety of reasons I won’t bore you with here, I’ve plunged into 2017 with some new goals. In December, I joined a writing club – it sounds exotic – but basically it’s a FB group where members make a commitment and get support to keep it. Each person sets a goal to write daily and mine is to write 250 words each and every single day. Fourteen days into this year, and it’s working. I’ve completed a 3,000 word story that I had started and lost last year so had to rewrite. In addition, I’ve re/started attending to this blog a little more.

Writing 250 words is one goal. Another is about art. This is more difficult in a way because writing feels like second nature, but drawing (and painting etc) are more tentative for me and I’m less skilled too. Thus, with an open mind and a willingness to learn, I’m attending the National Gallery of Victoria’s Sunday afternoon drawing class it is running in January. It’s free for anyone to turn up to, while a different Victoria College of the Arts professional runs the event each time. Last Sunday was good start, and what’s more the NGV provides everything needed: pencil, paper, easel board and a stool, as we all sit in one of the main galleries and just have a go. What was helpful last Sunday was being instructed to ‘draw badly’. This was no problem at all, I may say:) In the end, I preferred my attempted portrait of a flautist kid as completed by my left hand rather than my usual right hand. These Sundays are basically me permitting myself to see whether I should pay for classes.

Arting about by tilting @ windmills, 2017 style.

Me, arting about by tilting @ windmills, 2017 style.

The original.

The original. Ye olde style. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing is also more personal. I can honour my mother (deceased) and also her mother, (my grandmother) who recently passed away, by pursuing what they were both so very talented at. If talent is at all genetic, just maybe I have more than my grandmother’s nose and height, and my mother’s skin tone, but also their keen eyes, and abilities to translate what they see into remarkable portraits, interesting landscapes and the odd still life.

We shall see.

And with this, I’ve reached my writing goal for today.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Only stories left alive

Avoiding space

Space is the ultimate void with which we fill with stories, because human nature abhors a vacuum. After seeing Rogue One and reading various articles about women and Star Wars (especially since the passing of Carrie Fischer) and after happening on a Twitter thread about symbolism in the Aliens franchise, space seems just like vast arena where all the usual beliefs, prejudices and biases crop up, not because of the limits of space or knowledge, or science, but because of the limit of our imaginations. For these stories, it is the realm of horror of the void, which is also the horror of pro-creativity, of birth, and also death – that old ‘womb-tomb’ idea of the European feminists. It’s interesting to think about, but is fairly old hat. Surely we know by now that Aliens (etc) is about the monstrous nature of childbirth?

This is what occurs to me…we do better with…

Boundary conditions

Perhaps we should avoid the void of space for our stories? It’s too big a canvas. It’s a truism that holds true for me: tighter rules and more difficult constraints make the work of imagination easier. Travelling through the empty vastness of space? Increase the drama but making the space ship smaller and smaller (hello Red Dwarf).

A bit like the universe, the marginalia code is forever, and readable too.

Space is so big we have to draw all over pictures of it to make it translatable with our limited human perception. 

Anywho, when there is a border around a picture we can test our limits… when there is none, our own limitations find us out all too easily. With this in mind I found myself recently enjoying both 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive and also The Words (2012), and realising how much they had in common, despite their style and genre differences. In terms of themes, they explore family, secrets and creativity – and secretive creativity. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two vampires, who are friends with Christopher Marlowe, also a vampire, and the secret author of Hamlet. Meanwhile, Adam’s own subterranean musical compositions are known, but he cannot be, given what he is. Daylight, blood and immortality are constraints on getting the work out.

In The Words, author (Dennis Quaid) reads from his book about a wannabe author Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) stumbling upon a manuscript that he presents as his own, making him a best seller, which is when he encounters the original author, who remains unnamed and unknown even as he reveals the back story of the manuscript to Jansen.

My work to a professional must look like 18th Century renderings of the Milky Way to NASA today.

There are no final frontiers. 

Both films feature characters with public lives and private demons, in words where they encounter their own and the world’s ethical, physical and emotional boundaries. This happens as they deal with death and messy relationships, survival, and difficult moral choices in small worlds.

Becoming individual

Each narrative makes clear that the constraints upon the characters give rise to conflicts that shape the stories. These films are about archetypes (writers, musicians, vampires) who become individuals through how they cope or fail to cope, with their worlds. In this way, whatever biases the writers and film makers may possess, remain more elusive than say in Aliens or Star Wars. If they are there, they form the texture of the background, rather appear upfront and loud and clear as the foreground as with Star Wars‘ dead mothers and daddy issues.

And a note on Darth Vader here, in the central he episodes remains a powerful archetype. He is iconic because he is commanding, but also shadowy and unknown. The prequels, in making Anakin an individual, remove his mystique in a way that say Lovers doesn’t with Adam and Eve, the original lovers and sinners, who, in this film are fetishistic about instruments and books, petty, and tender and selfish and curious about entanglement’s spooky action at a distance that Darth Vader actually commands (the Force). In a nutshell, Adam and Eve may live in the shadows, but are all too real.

Reality bites

In The Words, I was happy to see how an otherwise humdrum found ms narrative turned out to be three open-ended stories cocooned within each other, each with their own internal conflicts. In Lovers, I was happy to see immortal beings finally dealing with mundane passport and travel issues, as well as more aesthetic concerns about creativity, depression, and identity. I was happy to see Swinton’s Eve take control of  the chaos, and be erudite, and concerned about history and tradition, while also being subtly amusing (booking flights as ‘Stephen Daedalus’ and ‘Daisy Buchanan’). I mean Daedalus – the mythical dude who flew too close to the sun, and also the Joycean anti-hero. Then I appreciated how all of that is authentic, but also a facade – an important one – that falls as soon as survival is at stake (ah me stake).

Writing friction

If The Words ends in a slightly clichéd way, leaving us to ponder whether author Clay Hammond got close to revealing whether his book about a book was based on his own clearly messed up life, it doesn’t matter. While he says…

…at some point, you have to choose between life and fiction. The two are very close, but they never actually touch.

I think both films demonstrates life and fiction do touch. Fictional characters in both films are lovers of fiction, they are stories within narratives, becoming more real, and less fictional as the constraints they face simmer their experiences down into universal truths. We see this as a fictional Adam playing at being the self-indulgent, dramatic and depressed Hamlet, only by the end of the film to just quote the play that his friend Kit Marlowe purportedly wrote. In reducing Shakespeare’s work to a nub of a quote about quintessence Adam, like the other characters (especially the unnamed author) become irritants in the creative clams that gives rise to the pearls of new works in fiction and in ‘life’. We see it too in the ‘real’ base ball Clay Hammond inserts into the fictional story of Rory Jansen.

The fictions these characters invent and the lives they led are beautiful and terrible. Whether Hammond wrote the truth about his early career as a writer, or not, regardless it messes with his head when he is with the inquisitive Daniella, who is searching for the ‘story’ behind the story. The story Hammond can’t tell her, tells us what he is capable of. In Lovers, art and music are worthy pursuits and Kit, Adam, and Eve are characters in a family drama, or in an epic romance, but the base reality of their hunger undoes all of them. It destroys old Marlowe and properly reveals the predatory natures of Adam and Eve beneath the mask of their civility. In making it all up as they go along, Rory Jansen, Clay Hammond, Marlowe and the unknown author, and the only lovers left alive, do the hard thing in life and fiction by enduring the consequences.

Not sure how I got here, from Rogue One and Alien, but there you go.

Posted in Notes on Writing Related Stuff, Reviews, Stories, Stuff I Like, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Assassins Creed

If you are looking to support South Australian born and raised creatives you can read my stories, and/or, you can watch Assassins Creed, directed by Justin Kurzel, of Snowtown and Macbeth fame. How about that hey?

Anyway, Assassins Creed was a glossy and gritty and expensive looking first chapter of a story that looks like it will continue if enough people who play the game go see the film. While I almost guffawed out loud at the foundation statements of the Templars and Assassins, I liked the plot premise. Another positive, was the soundtrack was interesting and that is worth a second listen. However, the film did not bother to explain the Templars existence when they were arrested or burned at the stake in 1312, when their order dissolved and land and wealth seized. But whatever, the Templars exist and want to control everyone, apparently, but the Assassins, (in this), are defenders of humanity’s freedom. So the film ignores history, which is fine as it is not a documentary, but I would have preferred more of an alternate universe explanation of what went on – basically for those who know some history – to prevent their laughter.

We did not get written instructions, but if they dont involve turning into this, Ill be disappointted.

Many in the past were more about doodling than partaking in Templar vs Assassin Parkour. 

The past is odder, more diverse, funnier and more intelligent that we usually expect. Just look at Medieval manuscript drawings of snail battles. They are a real thing, people. Don’t expect that here though. This is grim in parts, and only odd in that people manage to somehow fly and shake off concussion.

Michael Fassbender was good, but his ancestor was kinda better, even if he only communicated in occasional monosyllables or one or two sentences of Medieval Spanish/Latin/?, mainly with a super Assassin woman with no name, as they played Ye Olde Parkour through the Alhambra. Cool, and all, but could he have muttered her name at least once?

So the main character's ancestor was kinda this.

The main character’s ancestor was kinda this. Because Justin Kurzel. 

Having said that regarding character names, you can look up them up, but it barely matters: Jeremy Irons did his usual thing of lending this cinematic effort gravitas, while Marion Cotillard did that emotive thing she does with her big eyes that look like she has allergies because at any point she is about to cry. Extra points to her for delivering scorn without saying a word. And thus, with Assassins Creed, the film hinge’s on the father/daughter relationship between Irons and Cotillard, which is fine, but by the end of the film, feels unresolved. Michael Fassbender gets resolution and purpose through using and surpassing the Animus, but if there is a further film Cottilard’s past needs exploration.

Shout out to Australian Essie Davis in this. Under-used, but good.

The film, about how we can’t out run our genes, and our history, while big semi-corporate organisations seek to control everyone, but can’t, is teaching us a very American thing about the power of individuals. Or, is trying to argue there is no accounting for the chaos small groups can wreak when attempting to overthrow Big Genetics. Or something about overcoming the influence of our parents, whether dead or alive. Conversely, it says something about the worth of turning to the past to find answers to problems today. It’s all in there if you want to find answers to questions you’re probably not asking. And there is also something in it about violence too and Daddy issues.

Anyway, if you like Hoodie Parkour across Medieval Spain, it’s ok, but please stay away if you are any kind of historian without a sense of humour or fiction.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Mysterious Super Who

Here be spoilers.

The Doctor Who Christmas episode, The Return of Doctor Mysterio couldn’t be and do all to justify an entire year of his absence. Looked at that way, such an episode never could, but it was still enough to whet the appetite. We want more Who, now, is my rallying cry since watching this.

In and of itself, this episode had heart and most of what it was about, wasn’t said out (too) loud or made too obvious. This will undoubtedly annoy viewers who wanted something more obvious and more obviously ‘Christmassy,’ but since I prefer much of my text to remain sub, I enjoyed it this way. The Doctor is, after all, a master at not revealing too much about himself and his motivations, except when forced to.

The Doctor's first attempt at stabilising New York's temporal issues.

The Doctor’s first attempt at stabilising New York’s temporal issues.

The Doctor, returning to New York to fix its temporal issues, encounters local kid Grant who manages to botch this and thus transform himself into his own heroic archetype. What I have left out of what one sentence precise is everything this was about.

Remember this episode is exactly after his final contact with River Song before she visits the Library. And what does the Doctor attempt to do? Go to New York and without saying it, find a way to visit/save/see Amy and Rory, despite knowing it won’t work, because he has read her goodbye in River’s book. Adrift in the universe, after yet another sad ending, the Doctor pieces together Nardole, and springs from River’s heart-break back to that of losing her parents.

Lesson: The Doctor is nothing unless pain is his primary companion.

In a Christmas miracle, the world has other plans, and instead gives The Doctor Grant. Yes this a handy play on a ‘wishes being granted’. Since the Doctor’s something something star thing magic mcguffin doesn’t grant his wish for Amy and Rory, it manifests in the kid, who gets his own wish granted, thus becoming what he reads. Yep kids, this is yet another call back to both Amy and River as authors (literal and symbolic) and also alludes to their deaths – since Amy and Rory’s death is written on their tombstone. It even alludes to Clara, as nanny recommending the book by author Amelia Williams. That the Doctor’s recent companions remain authors of their lives by their own choices should also be apparent here.

Lesson: Tis by reading we (re)create ourselves. Oh how I know that.

So, Grant gets comic book super-heroic powers, and the Doctor advises against using them. Such a square. In this way, the Doctor is the god of Genesis, who plants an amazing tree and nonchalantly bans Adam and Eve from it. Of course, they were always going to break the ban, in  the same way, of course Grant was going to use his super powers.  And from that stuff, happens. In between Grant as child and Grant as adult, there is the fateful gap of 24 years, which is the length of a single night on Darillium. We can view The Doctor’s relationship with Grant in the context of this, his last night with River. Grant is a kind of weird kid resulting from the union of The Doctor and River, and his life is a result of being adopted out to his unseen and absent parents, if you want to read a Superman theme through this.

Don Nardole

Which brings me to Matt Lucas as Nardole. I thought it was going to be a mistake to bring back a post-Darillium Nardole, but I was wrong. He worked. Frankly, Nardole’s quiet asides about The Doctor and Byzantine made the episode, when I could have been too distracted imagining Grant as the US son of Jarvis Cocker (it’s the hair and glasses and, you know, face). Anywho, Nardole offers a quixotic companion, who performed a narrator function to everyone unfamiliar with the Doctor’s time line (tenses are difficult aren’t they). And in the most obvious bit of exposition Nardole did mention his own unexpected presence, as a connection to River, and, as the Doctor’s familiar (when there are precious few about who get who he is). And it kinds looks like he may stay on for a bit, which I think is a positive.

I identified with the Lois Lane of the story, Lucy the journalist on the trail of the invaders. I appreciated her insights into The Doctor, and her method of questioning. She was smart and insightful, while being almost completely blind to Grant, who was a ghost to her, their entire lives.

In addition, I appreciated how each character had to balance dual identities: even the baddies as humans/aliens; Grant as Nanny and The Ghost, the madman in a box and Doctor ‘Mysterio’; Lucy as investigative reporter (Jessica) Fletcher and mother Lombard; and Nardole as robot/human or companion and narrator. Once again the invaders/bad guys are the background foils for The Doctor and his gang.

Holy-Day Spirit

Some viewers, I noticed, missed all the Christmas trimmings, so much a feature of previous episodes. However, Who has always been science fiction first. There never was an order to include ‘Christmas’ in every 25th o’ December special, however, there is all kinds of stuff going on in this.

The Ghost was like a clean shaven younger US Jarvis Cocker Jesus complete with glowy red heart...not subtext

The hero: a floppy haired, clean-shaven, young, glasses wearing US Jesus complete with glowy red heart…

Like with the array that looks like a Christmas tree in the early scenes, for starters. Then later how single dude Grant, mother Lucy and Baby form an unconventional familial triad, on a special evening…or how The Doctor (a grey haired, older Wise Man, is on the roof of a building at night, delivering a gift to a magic boy….come on. It’s all so obvious it burns.

Even the identity crisis/missing Dad theme is a shout out to the J-man and his relationship to god. The Doctor is god here, given he visits gifts upon Grant, and keeps offering patronising advice and delivering commands, and generally acting like he is doing all the work, but has been away the whole time…any who.

But if you missed all of that, there’s more, like Grant, a self-sacrificing type, who ‘suffers the little children to come to him’ – ok just one as a nanny but still. Then there is Grant’s code name The Ghost, (as in Holy Ghost) which, much like his bright red unmistakable glowy sacred heart really puts the emphasis on the first syllable in Christmas.

With the baby and Jesus symbolism it couldn’t be more yule-tidey.

Yeah – Nah

I think though, what critics mean, is they wanted snow and a touch of something magical that tastes like turkey, and tinsel. Basically, they sought the trimmings without the myth. This year, there were no stockings and silly hats, there was only a myth made manifest, and so for this reason, for some, it didn’t capture what Christmas is all about. So yeah.

A tree in New York, use your imagination to add baubles and tinsel.

New York tree:  imagine your own baubles & tinsel.

For me, I don’t require a rejigged Jesus birth myth to make it a Christmas episode, or tangerines, or Santa and sleigh bells, for that matter. No, this episode just required what it provided: a little bit of hope at a traditionally dark time (northern hemisphere solstice people, do I have to spell it out?).

Any way, Doctor Mysterio returned and while his return wasn’t magical, it was enough. I know I needed it to be.

Posted in Reviews, Stuff I Like | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Review: Rogue One

Warning – a lil spoilery.

Rogue One was everything Star Wars I, II and III should have been: personal, fast paced, emotional and powerful. It addressed a common criticism, that is how come the Death Star was so easily defeated, without being beholden to the familiar characters. While it spoke a lot about rebellion out of hope, it provided the cause of the hope in the context of the major arc of the stories in total, while spending its own entirely (I gave Hope to the world and kept none for myself, to misquote Tolkien – see below). Each of the characters gave their all for a cause greater than themselves and one that most of the audience already appreciates. This eases (somewhat), the denouement. Galen Erso’s work and sacrifice is understood and then repeated.

14765380395_df1c0287fc_z

There were HP Lovecraft influences in a couple of scenes. Tentacular!

Mind Games

In what felt like a long film I still wanted more of the relationship between Jyn Erso and Saw Gerrera. What could have been made more apparent is how Gerrara is cognate to Darth Vader: the father who goes too far, and loses himself to a cause. So yeah: as Vader is to Empire and the Dark Side, Gerrera is to armed rebellion, even against the Alliance. Looked at this way we can see their beliefs and actions balance each other as they are manifested physically through the use robotics and clothes, and psychologically through their use of torture – mostly on allies (Vader on Orson Krennic and Gerrera on rebelling Empire pilot Bodhi Rook).

BTW: was it me or was Saw’s truth detecting land octopus extremely Chluthlu?

All hail nuance

I like how no character was traditionally heroic in that they were all ‘good’. Both Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor were complex enough and their interactions and goals became more nuanced as their stories played out. Erso’s conversion into an Alliance ‘believer’ felt authentic, while Andor confronting how his cause shaped him was convincing. Their chemistry, as many noticed, also worked.

The action set pieces by Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe were spot on, with his character also providing the philosophical centre of the film, usually occupied by Yoda. There was a bit of the Mystic Ninja Asian going on, but at least Asian characters were cast. Yay for inclusion, nay for stereotypes.

Needless to say Imwe was more quietly heroic than the ancient backwards talking green Muppet. He lent every scene he was in the gravitas it would have otherwise lacked, even if he was sometimes the plot point ‘explainer’.

Ben Mendelsohn out-acted everyone as the main Empire operative. He achieved this playing against a wooden and obviously CGI character from the earliest films, so he had a lot more work to do. Also, most everyone else was wearing a face covering so his emotions were the ones most easily displayed. Thus, Alan Tudyk was more convincing as the comedic foil, with a better emotional arc as K-2SO than Tarkin’s digitally (re)animated performance.

Important Death Star plans.

Important Death Star plans

The Two Towers

Not sure if this was a negative or a positive, or what it means for George Lucas and everyone else’s reading, but this particular quest story felt very Lord of the Rings. Erso and Andor = Frodo and Samwise. Imwe is Gandalf and his buddy, Baze Malbus, Aragon. Mon Motha is boss of Rivendell while the Dark Lord is obviously always Vader, right down to the fact he is a servant of  a greater and older evil in the Emperor/Morgoth. Darth Vader’s main base, with its  massive black tower bestriding rivers of molten lava, was Baradur.  The fact that Erso and Andor had to retrieve an item and climb a communications tower of (Mt) Doom only to then contemplate a flood of fiery destruction made it all the more obvious. Was it just me who wanted the eagles to come their rescue?

All in all, this could be my favourite Star Wars film. There were women fighter pilots, there was a worthy heroine who found her purpose, there was her band of rebellious brothers, there was action, and pathos. There were familiar faces, and, as important stuff was at stake everything was made to mean something, even while politics were kept to a minimum, rather than extended into boring senate trading debates.

Rogue One is Star Wars meets Hackers meets Contact meets The Dish

Rogue One = Star Wars meets Hackers meets Contact meets The Dish

Reality Bytes

For a while Rogue One became Hackers circa 1995 with hard discs, data transmission issues and daring feats by pretty young people on sky scrapers being chased by the law. At other times, it  occurred to me there is something wrong if we are turning to films to watch such destruction as entertainment, when we could watch the news, or a Twitter feed, about Aleppo. Where is the Alliance for the children of Syria? Are Jyn and Andor the Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden of the Alliance, getting the truth out about illegal government activities, even as they break the law in doing so? Was Saw right to torture an Empire traitor, was it a comment on rendition? Am I thinking too hard about all of this, or is the news too difficult to escape? I can comfort myself with concepts of catharsis in fiction and performance, but I don’t see the release, I feel reminded.

In the end, I was relieved and surprised by Rogue One, but as ever, reality keeps letting me and the world, down.

Posted in Reviews, Stuff I Like | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Un/funny girl

I took part in a flash writing competition. A genre was decided, and certain items had to be included, all to be presented in a predetermined setting. Participants got a few hours to come up with a story under 1000 words.

Say no to quips and japes of ye olden days past.

Quoth nay to quips and japes of ye olden days past.

My group got comedy. While I came up with a story, or a draft, I’m not sure it was funny. Or not in the way I wanted it to be. Given almost every thing was provided bar the actual plot, I struggled. It felt forced and unnatural, as I crammed attempts at humour into something I hadn’t imagined.

Partly, I blamed the location – a school. Not such an inherently comedic place for me, I’ll be honest, unless tragi-comic. Or funny in a sad way. But that’s an exaggeration too. I had a situation comedy. I don’t think the situation I created was hilarious, but it at least it included the elements required and was the right length. It was a story. It attempted something. But of all the writing competitions and requirements I have attempted only this felt too constrained.

In the end, my lil story probably suffered from trying too hard within too short a time. A few more drafts, perhaps, and I might have made the next round.

What is it about comedy?

Ages ago, I watched Felicity Ward Live at the BBC (ABC iView if you’re in Australia and so inclined). Her show was full of jokes and witticisms, which worked, while her narrative arc was confused and jumpy, or it was initially. But it was also the point of her show. The magic of stand up is repetition (of ideas, gestures, and phrases) and the call backs to unrelated points. For an hour of comedy about anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome, amongst other issues, it was funny. And I could see her ‘working out.’ I didn’t mind that I could work backwards from her act to see how she pieced it together. It was satisfying.

Ward’s beats, meandering anecdotes, accents and explanations were well crafted. When it was jumpy and energetic it was a deliberate choice, when it wasn’t, it was also deliberate. The audience ‘fell’ for it, to quote Ward.

My judges were much like this: not amused.

My judges were much like this: not amused.

This is not just a long-winded attempt to say her routine was well-timed, although it was also that. Not every piece of it worked as well it each other bit, but it all contributed to the story she was telling about herself. It was odd and gross, and heartbreaking, a bit. But the funny won.

I had a few hours to come up with an attempt at humour. I am struck by the hours of writing and rehearsal to get a comedy routine like Ward’s polished and shiny. And thus, ever, am I dumbfounded at claims that comedy writing is easy or unworthy compared to other kinds of writing.

Posted in Reviews, Stuff I Like, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Passing Strange & another quarrel

Ok, so I went and saw another ‘super’ origin story where an emotionally flawed, but brilliant and successful middle-aged white American man hits a roadblock in life and collapses in a heap. After the inciting incident, he seeks redemption/healing and discovers a calling that’s bigger than himself, but apparently still all about him.

That the titular hero trails conceit in a broken wake of consumerist fantasy Bond-lite fast living as a commentary on the emptiness of the American Dream can be argued, but this is conveyed in speedy vignettes and one liners rather than as fleshed out scenes. And thus can be skipped over as the rest of the film endorses almost all his life choices.

Dr Strange, not the white knight you are looking for. Unless you want a narcissist with over achievement issues.

Dr Strange, not the white knight you’re looking for. Unless you want a narcissist with over achievement issues.

And yet Dr Strange wasn’t horrible. There was drama, action, and attempts at comedy. I don’t want to hate films, mainly because they take so much work to create – just watch the full credits. So I don’t hate this. Most of it worked, even if I question the basis of some of the mystical dualistic assumptions.

The film fulfilled its purpose and I was distracted from much about real life and was entertained enough. The effects were interesting and the Doctor Who time loop solution when Strange basically faced a giant Satan was clever.

And yet, such films go out of their way to invite the likes of me to ponder unanswerables, like wouldn’t it be great if girlfriend type characters weren’t just like convenience stores, full of helpful stuff (such as surgery skills and interpreting emotions), and always available (for aiding secret business at the super hero’s beck and call).

In the end, this film has the same criticisms as most of the Marvel and DC scripts…they are straitjacketed by their own comic heritage, given their genesis in much more colonialist, localised and sexist times. And I say that in full awareness of the current backlash against globalisation and ‘PC’ agendas.

I sit and watch a British actor play a US surgeon against a character who was originally Asian played by a British white woman with a supporting ‘minority’ cast and I am conflicted about that. Yay for Tilda! Boo for Tilda. And I’m conflicted about whether we need the bread and circuses of Hollywood more than ever or not at all. As an individual there is very little I can do against the political and societal systems that leave me vulnerable and devalue my humanity. And when, like many, I want to escape them through cinema, I am reminded of them. But can I blame Hollywood, since it is a part of the world and also thrives on this?

Real mystical document.

Real mystical document.

So yes, the film industry demonstrates the worst excesses of globalisation, but also the best. The fact that countless millions of people across the same week or month can experience the same story and be entertained across cultures and languages is frankly pretty cool. That it employs millions of people to tell stories is my jam. That Dr Strange turned out to be a commentary on the dangers of religious fanaticism was interesting.

However.

The fact that the entire film industry maintains gendered pay disparities, and complex accounting mysteries is concerning. That it standardises measures of beauty that are impossible for basically everyone is problematic, and that it misses the stories of entire populations is worse, all while exploiting vulnerable youth, underpaying creators, and often messing up the environment it works in.

So yeah…

And this happens while churning out the same types of movies with similar men as the same type of hero in a one-dimensional, mostly mono-cultural conga line of celebratory machismo. I’m not surprised.

But Dr Strange wasn’t going to change anything. It never could. Even if it portrayed the Ancient One as Asian, even if Dr Strange was a woman. As I said, it is still bound by its past and to jettison that is to present something that is not the Marvel its readers know and love. But not all movie goers are comics readers. I guess I will continue to wait for Marvel 2.0, or iMarvel 3000 or Marvel Redux.

Or something. Note to self: just watch the film.

Dr Strange: not as mystically weird as I wanted, and heroically familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of myth. Not the worst Marvel film, but not the greatest. Like Inception, with glowy lights and colourful costumes.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment