Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Bajoran with a chip on his shoulder

That's me. Ry Arlnan, brother to Ry Emeras, a recurring character on Pendant Productions' Star Trek Fan Show: Defiant. Pendant Productions produces original 'radio' dramas for the web. A while back, they had a casting call for their Batman show and I tried out for several new villains. I was cast as Maxie Zeus, a villain who thinks he's a Greek god. Then I tried out for Ry Emeras on Defiant, which has been a great deal more fun, and more challenging as well. I've been doing the lines for a few months now (actually only one per episode so far - I'm currently a "stardate" style epilogue, but I'm told the character is going to get more involved).

I always wanted to be a voice actor, and people have said I'd do well at it, but I'm focused on my Master's right now - trying to get into professional voice work would be one more distraction. But doing it for fun -- that's completely different. So, if you're interested, check out Episode 15 of Defiant over at Pendant Productions when it's released on August 3rd! The Batman episode I appear in will be out on August 15.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Leia in the lurch: Lucas' lightsaberless ladies

In the introduction to Misfit Sisters: Screen Horror as Female Rites of Passage, Sue Short makes the incisive statement about contemporary media that “while the male journey from adolescence to adulthood is relatively commonplace, the female passage towards maturity has been virtually ignored” (4). As an example, Short cites George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, pointing out that while Luke Skywalker grows from “simple farmhand…to a man equipped…to battle the forces of evil and earn his places as a true hero”, his twin sister Princess Leia “has no equivalent claim to Luke’s destiny” despite their shared parentage (4-5). As Short notes, Leia “shows no propensity towards using the Force and even seems to diminish in her assertiveness as the trilogy develops” (5).

Lucas has stated in interviews that Leia was intended to be a different sort of fairy tale princess, not simply a damsel in distress, yet aside from being a crack shot with both blaster and her tongue, Leia is continually relegated to the role of damsel in distress. There is a reversal of this when she attempts to rescue Han, but the success of the rescue is ultimately in Luke’s capable fully trained Jedi hands. Leia goes from successfully infiltrating Jabba’s palace to metal bikini clad slave girl before her twin brother shows up to rescue her. And while she is given equal opportunity during the battle for Endor, one wonders how the final chapter of the Star Wars saga might have been different if Leia had been given the same tie to the Force earlier on in the series, rather than simply stating that she always felt it was there?

What if, during the opening moments of Empire Strikes Back (rather than at the end), Leia senses Luke’s call from the frozen wastes of Hoth, and begins to wonder at how she could have such a link? Her sudden awareness of Luke’s location on the outside of Cloud City would be a further clue to her Force sensitivity; then, at the beginning of Return of the Jedi, we could thrill to Leia’s Force abilities in tandem with Luke’s, her teacher while they scoured the galaxy in search of Han. Imagine the speeder bike scene if both Leia and Luke had been wielding lightsabers against the Imperial troops. Imagine the final moments between Vader and Luke completed with Leia there; otherwise, there’s really no narrative point to their being twins in the films (the books carry this legacy on, but these books are largely apocryphal for marginal fans of the series). Return of the Jedi could have carried more weight in its title alone if Leia was Jedi as well; the damsel in distress completely inverted when she successfully rescues Han in the opening moments, and Luke at a crucial point in his struggle with Vader, reversing the roles these two heroes played to her heroine in New Hope.

Lucas had the opportunity to redeem himself in the prequel trilogy with the next damsel in distress, Amidala/Padme, and in Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones it seemed that Leia’s mother would indeed be given the opportunity to be a stronger female figure than her daughter. She is instrumental in the rescue of her planet; in the thick of battle, not merely watching an electronic read out while Annakin flies into the Trade Federation’s Droid Control Ship and wins the battle with a perfectly aimed photo torpedo. Yet by the third film, she is a pregnant mother, mainly existing as fifth business while ostensibly she is the twisted motivator for Annakin’s final step to the Dark Side of the Force. And what is arguably one of the most powerful feminine moments her character is granted, her birthing of the twins, becomes a moment, not of self-sacrifice, but of a sort of passive suicide (one wonders how Leia had any memory of this woman at all).

I know that the die-hard fans will argue it’s George’s movie, not mine. I would argue however, that as a modern fairy tale, Star Wars exists not only in the original literary visual performance by Lucas and crew as bardic communal, but also as an oral tradition in the imaginations of many children who played with the action figures, the video games, and imagined themselves on Hoth when at recess on grade school playgrounds in the dead of winter. The books and graphic novels extended the universe, but have not had the right to play with the original text, as though the six films are somehow scripture. Perhaps Lucas, in the spirit of play would consider allowing some of the best writers and filmmakers genre fictions to reinvent his trilogy in various mediums. Who wouldn’t want to see what Peter Jackson or Guillermo Del Toro would do with the visual landscape of that galaxy far, far, away? I can imagine that Joss Whedon might give Leia a little more room to kick ass with a lightsaber.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I told you they were called dubes!

I've been asking people if they remember condoms being referred to as "dubes." I recall this being common parlance in the 80's when I was a teen. Everyone I ask says, "No! Doobs are joints!"

Which I knew. I'm not a complete moron.

So I googled it today on a whim. And the urban dictionary online says this of its fourth "doob" reference:

4. dube
condom...used by adolescents in Northern Canada

I looked in my brother's wallet and I found a DUBE!

So there.

Movie Reviews and the fine art of making enemies

So I dropped by Ain't It Cool News to see what the gentlemen over there thought of Transformers, given how much I enjoyed Neil Cumpston's hilariously colloquial review of 300 back in February. As it turns out, Harry of AICN didn't like the movie; in the comments section, people agreed and disagreed in a comment bipolarity war, the detractors casting personal slurs about Harry's weight and his residence as his grandmother's basement, also citing his like for Spiderman 3 as a reason they couldn't trust him as a reviewer.

This is why I trust the tomato. Rottentomatoes.com will tell you in advance whether this film is loved by all, or hated by as many who loved it, or hated by all. Transformers got a 57% on the Tomameter. This is not, in my mind, a bad thing. It means that it's a "love/hate" film, like "300" was earlier this year. It's like Nine Inch Nails. Or Red Hot Chilli Peppers. There are people at polar extremes about how they feel about those groups because they're distinct - they have their own style. They contain tried and true elements to be sure, but they work them in their own way. Michael Bay has a distinct style. Some people like it. Some hate it. And let's face it, Giant Robots as a genre is not as popular as say, Romantic Comedy. But if everyone who beat the shit out of Harry for his negative review had just sauntered over to Rottentomatoes, they could have read some reviews that agreed with their viewpoint and salved their bruised aesthetic sensibilities. They'd have seen that there was an even split on who liked the film and who didn't. The logical conclusion from such a split would be that Transformers isn't the modern classic they thought it was. It's a great genre movie which will likely be loved by some and hated by others.

At the end of the day, it must be remembered that reviews are opinions. The people who get them published are sometimes professional critics(like Ebert and Roper), people who went to school to study film and journalism and therefore have a greater gravity with our own opinions. We trust them because they bring a certain amount of objectivity to the table. However, having sat in rooms with other literary 'scholars' I know that even amongst the ivory halls of academia, there are disagreements which inevitably boil down to opinion. As a professor of mine was fond of saying, "there is no such thing as a completely objective viewpoint. Everyone has a bias, and will show it sooner or later." Some of the published are bloggers like Harry, or me for that matter. Some of us are trained, some of us are just fanboys. Our opinions count less in the greater public's eye, though in Harry's case you might make some money doing it. But in the final estimation, Harry and I disagreed on Transformers. He has his blog and he said so. I have mine and I said so. Our subjective opinions have been logged on the web for all to see.

This is why I rarely, if ever comment on other people's reviews. I think the rule on comments should be "If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all" when it comes to film reviews. At the very least, keep your comments to the film, not the reviewer. Taking personal potshots at the critic is juvenile. Unless they've misquoted Herodotus or made a claim about the original Transformers cartoons that isn't true, you likely won't be changing their mind by calling them fat or arrogant. Here's a thought; get your own damn blog. You can set one up for free at Rottentomatoes.com and then you can feel other people's derision when they don't like your opinion. Might change the way you comment on other people's sites.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Review: Transformers

If I only had one sentence to sum up Michael Bay's bombastic live action full length feature film adaptation of the popular Mattel toy line from the 80's, it would be this; a highly entertaining long-form advertisement for the new Camaro...that, or the only convincing reason I've seen for the United States spending as much on their military as they do (let's face it, giant robots are really the only thing some of the U.S. arsenal is designed to kill).
Did I like it? Yup. Did I love it? Well, the price of admission was justified in the moment Optimus Prime takes out one of the Decepticons (I really couldn't tell who was who when they were robots) on the freeway...one of the coolest effect scenes ever, I'm sure, but to be fair, I wasn't a huge fan of the cartoon, and I was too old to play with the toys.
That said, it's a helluva summer thrill ride, the sort of movie popcorn should be eaten in. This picture rolls along like a freight train, with plot holes the size of the All Spark Cube and doesn't really hit its stride until all the Autobots show up; the first hour is sadly plagued by a subplot involving a hot blonde code monkey who cracks the Decepticon's code...or something like that. At any rate, completely pointless given that Megan Fox is seven shades of scorchingly hot brunette, and you really don't need another piece of female eye candy in this film. The whole hacker subplot was a waste of time, given that the film has obviously been subjected to some ham handed editing.
I can't say it has something for everyone, because I doubt my parents would find much to enjoy here, but it has appeal for the original fans, who run from my age down to the early 20's, something for people just looking for a fun night at the movies, and something for all the kids who are getting turned on to the Transformers for the first time. Shia LeBeouf is capably funny, Josh Duhamel is a great action hero, and Hugo Weaving makes a way better voice for Megatron than the original.
And in the final evaluation, let's just remember how many crap movies have been made about really great stories...this is a really great film based on a premise for a line of toys. To not screw that up (which would have been far too easy) is a major accomplishment. Especially when one considers what Bryan Singer did with Superman.
But don't take my word for it. Just ask Vampire Nomad, one of those original fans what she thought (you'll have to scroll to get her review, but it's worth it for the sheer zeal). 8/10