July 4th Movie Post

Since it’s the week of the Fourth of July, I figured I’d start the month with a post about my favorite US government focused films and TV shows.   I’ve come up with a list of movies and TV shows that I feel are good and also happen to have that theme.  Hopefully you’ll agree with me.   I’m sure there are many films and shows that should be on the list that I don’t include.   Some of this is because I simply haven’t watched them.  So feel free to suggest other films and tv shows in the comments area.  I know I’m missing quite a few of the classics.

West Wing (1999-2006)
West Wing was a liberal slanted TV show that showcased the inner workings of an Administration and written by Aaron Sorkin whose known for fast witty dialogue.  It starred Martin Sheen as President Jed Bartlet, and included many famous faces over the years including Alan Alada, Jimmy Smits, Ed Begley Jr., Rob Lowe,  and many others.  This is one of the best written shows in my opinion and remains one of my favorites.  While it is liberal slanted (The administration is democrat) I feel they try their best to portray the Republican characters with dignity.  I do feel I should warn you – the finales tend to hit you hard with feels.

Designated Survivor (2016-?)

Designated Survivor is a show that explores the contingency of the Designated Survivor.  When an attack on the capital leaves the President and most of the government dead, Tom Kirkman is sworn in as President as he was the designated survivor for the State of the Union speech.  He must deal with conspiracy and rebuilding his nation after such a severe attack.  IT has an excellent cast led by Kiefer Sutherland  and excellent writing for the most part.  While it has been cancelled by ABC, I still hope it gets renewed by another distribution company.

Independence Day

You can’t have an Independence day theme without mentioning the movie with the day in the title.  This sci-fi thriller has aliens attacking us, and the world meeting the challenge.  It has an amazing Cast (Bill Pullman, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, Brent Spiner and Judd Hirsch) and a good script.   The sequel is also pretty good, although I prefer the first movie.

The American President

This is more of a romance film then one focused on the US government.  It is also has Aaron Sorkin (who wrote the majority of West Wing) on the writing staff, so maybe that’s why I liked it.  In this film the President (played by Michael Douglas) falls in love with a lobbyist played by Annette Bening.  It’s a cute romance, which brings us to our last selection.  Also features Martin Sheen as the Chief of Staff before he would go become the President himself in Sorkin’s West Wing.

Dave

Dave is a romantic comedy featuring Kevin Kline as Dave, a temp office employee who has a side job as being President X’s double.  This comes in handy when the actual president has a stroke while having an affair.  The Chief of Staff brings in Dave to act as the president for a while so they could hide the president’s condition.  And he manages to convince everyone, including the President’s wife (Sigourney Weaver) for awhile.  But the COS is up to no good, and Dave has to decide whether to go along with the plan or  change things.  Also this movie has Ben Kingsley as the Vice President and Frank A. Langella Jr as Bob Alexander the corrupt Chief of Staff.

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Movie Review: Thor Ragnorak

Title: Thor Ragnorak/ Thor 3
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Superhero
Release Date: November 3, 2017
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum,

Once again I’m here reviewing a Marvel film.   Thor Ragnorak was available through Netflix so I happily choose to watch it.  I love the Thor series of films.  For those of you who follow my twitter account or know me outside of WordPress, you’ll know that Loki is one of my favorite Marvel characters.  Jeff Goldblum is also a draw for this movie because he’s from my hometown and is awesome in his own right. Continue reading

Movie Review: Deadpool 2

Title: Deadpool 2
Rating: R
Genre: Action/Adventure, Superhero, Comedy
Release Date: May 18, 2018
Director: David Leitch
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Morena Baccarin

I was able to see Deadpool 2 in theaters a week or so ago,  My friends and I try to see the Marvel movies in the theater, although I can’t say I’m up to date on them.  However, I did manage Deadpool 2, so I’m able to review it for the blog this week.

Deadpool 2, as you probably know, is not for kids.  Lots of violence, langauge and sexual humor.  This movie also has an undercurrent of suicide and depression.  That being said, it also was very funny.  Lots of outside references, and you can tell the cast had a blast putting this film together.  The references to the comics are good, although I admit I had to look to my comic-fan friends to explain a few.

The music editing in the film is excellent.  I loved the ode to James Bond in the opening credits to Celine Dion’s song Ashes which also happens to be an awesome song.  The rest of the movie also has really good music-to-film sequences.

My grade for this movie is a B,   The cast did a great job, and it was hilarious.  I felt there were some points of the plot that didn’t quite fit, and I felt I was missing something for not being a comic book fan.  I do not recommend this as a family movie.  You have to be okay with a certian level of violence and humor, and like the first movie, you can probably watch the trailer and already see that its not for kids.  Some adults as well.

This movie also has some awesome cameos.  I won’t mention who as that would spoil the surprise.

Women of History: Katy Jurado

Authors Note: I apologize for any horrible Spanish used.  Most of my translations are either US Titles provided on IMDB or use of Google Translate as my Spanish is rusty.

Since it is May, and May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) is tomorrow we are going to have a theme of Mexican (or Mexican-American) Women of History for this month. Our first woman featured is Katy Jurado. Katy was a Mexican actress who eventually had a Hollywood career. Continue reading

Ship & Let Ship

This post is actually linked to my last writing post.  The villainization of characters is a common trait among ship wars, and that is a part of today’s post.

Fandom in general is a fun, happy place for people to join together and enjoy something.  Be it a sport, a book, a movie or a TV show. If it’s a collection of fans of something, its a fandom.

However, particularly in the fictional work driven fandoms (Tv, books, movies etc) there is a dark element that pops up from time to time.  It’s called a Ship War. A ship, for those who are wondering, is a term for a pairing you prefer to see in a relationship. Most people have ships and have no problems letting others have their own ships.  Some, however, do seem to have a problem and make fandom less friendly, less happy and less enjoyable.

My first experience with a ship war was in the Doctor Who fandom.  I was late to the game, having watched but not been sucked in till I rewatched season 1 of the second series (or Nine’s tenure if you prefer) after catching an episode of Torchwood and Season 2 of Doctor Who.  I found myself really enjoying it, and immediately started shipping Rose/Doctor. I found that the Doctor Who fandom is thriving and has many little niches and sub fandoms. There was a lot out there, from fanfic, to fan made videos, and academic meta.  You can find a lot.

But one day, while surfing through various social media and fanfic sites, I started noticing something.  A strange undercurrent in the fandom. It turned out there was a division in shippers who prefered Rose and those who prefered Martha, his next companion, as a romantic interest.  I personally love Martha, though I found her season a little hard to watch. I found fanfics where either Martha was downgraded to a women who clung and became obsessed with the Doctor, totally ignoring the kickass character you saw on-screen or Rose likewise turned into a caricature of her characterization.  It just depended on what the author/video editor decided was the ship of choice. People took it further than that, and it made me back off for a while and want to rant about the fandom.

Sherlock, a television series based on Sherlock Holmes, was another fandom I saw this in.  However this fandom war made me completely drop the fandom. It made me uncomfortable enough that I have yet to go back and watch the show after season 2.  In particular one following of a ship decided to not only be horrible to other fans, they were horrible to actors whose character had, in their point of view, got in the way of their ship.

More recently I have come across a shipper war in The 100 fandom.  I came into the show, enjoying it. I liked the show, liked the books.  I was (and still am) a Bellarke (Bellamy & Clarke) shipper. I could argue why I felt they were the endgame couple.  On the screen, Clarke and Bellamy both had various other love interests. In particular, Clarke fell in love with Lexa, a character I didn’t care  for that much due to some writing issues. However I saw shippers on both side go to extremes to fight each other on it. Bellarke fans would exaggerate Lexa’s bad qualities, and Clexa shippers would state that Bellarke shippers were homophobic (whether they are or not as individuals can be debated.  It’s a poor generalization of a ship following however). They threw petty insults towards each other, but not in a fun “we all love each other anyway” sort of way. To the point I avoid the main 100 threads and tags because I’m always finding something happening.  And I’m not alone. I have heard stories from various fandoms where someone choose to leave or just stick to very specific tags because of overall tension due to a ship war.

There is a difference between good-hearted debate between shippers and shipper wars.  I have had conversations with my friends who have had different ships. For example, one of my best friends and I often disagree on shipping Jack & Gwen in Torchwood.  It’s good-natured debate. I have several friends who ultimately hate Trip/T’Pol from Star Trek: Enterprise. Yet when I write it/talk about it, they shrug and it’s the same when they talk about their prefered ship (Trip & Hoshi is a popular one).  The point is – we ship and let ship. We have our ships, our OTPS, our crackships and our “they are cute, so maybe” ships. They aren’t always the same. But we enjoy the same fandom, enjoy our friendships and our mutual love for whatever it is we are fanning.   We don’t go warring against each other over a disagreement with a ship. We don’t attack the actors who are just doing their job for getting in the way. We don’t let our shipping take over our lives, and our fandom enjoyment.

If you do not like a ship, do not read it.  Don’t write it. Treat your fellow fandomers with respect, and let others ship what they want to ship.  Yelling at them won’t change their mind, abusing them certainly won’t, and abusing characters in your writing will just make people avoid it.  It can also make people just peeking into the fandom run away from it.

If you don’t like a type of ship (be it slash, femslash, or het) don’t click on fics that use it.  Don’t target authors who write a ship you hate and give them bad reviews. I actually had this happen to me as a writer.  I saw a review, and got excited that someone had taken the time to leave one. When I opened the review up, I found a rant on how my couple was disgusting and how I should be ashamed to ship them. I was bewildered, and I know of others who have gotten similar reviews.  Once a friend and I decided to do a fic exchange. I wrote (well, am writing as I never finished it….meep!) a Jack/Ianto fic while she wrote a Jack/Gwen fic. She got a review that called her a homophobe for writing a bisexual character with a woman. Beyond the fact that it wasn’t even changing the sexuality of the character, it was confusing as to why this person took the time to seek out a Jack/Gwen fic and berate someone.  

So in the end, enjoy your ships and let other people enjoy their own.  Fandom is supposed to be fun, not somewhere someone is made to feel uncomfortable, or berated.

 

Movie Review: Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle

Title: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Release Date: December 20 2017
Genre: Action/Adventure & Comedy
Rating: PG-13
Director: Steve Beck

I saw this via Amazon as it has just recently been put on DVD/Blu-ray & Digital.   Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a sequel to the 1995 film Jumanji starring Robin Williams.

This film has a great cast to draw you in.  I wanted to see it for Karen Gillan, who I know mostly from Doctor Who but who is also in the MCU as Gamora’s sister Nebula.  Dwayne Johnson leads the cast that includes comedy headliners Jack Black and Kevin Hart.  Nick Jonas makes an unexpected (for me anyway) appearance in the movie.  Also making a brief appearance is Colin Hanks, the son of one of my favorite actors, Tom Hanks.  He wasn’t in the film long enough to showcase if he has inherited the talent, but I’ve been seeing him on things a lot more, so it seems we will have the chance to see.

The two films are not very similar.  There is a jungle theme to the game, but outside a reference to Alan Parrish (RObin William’s character in the 1995 film) and the outside of the game packaging, the stories seem completely different.  In the sequel, the game has updated itself to be a video game to interact with 1996 Alex.  Later in modern days (possibly 2016 or 2017), four students in detention end up sucked into the game like Alan had been, and later Alex.

I have to admit there was a part of this that started to sound like someone was making a mash-up of the Breakfast Club and Jumanji rather than a true sequel.  Which I still had an impression of at the end of the story.  It was funny, and the movie wasn’t as horrible as I thought it could have been during the trailers.  I just feel like for a sequel it really has very little to do with its predecessor. There doesn’t seem to be enough connections.  That being said, when I looked up the novel that the movie was based on there was mention of an animated TV show based on the same idea, and it seems to have some of the same concepts.

I also learned that the children’s book Jumanji had a sequel called Zathura, which was also made into a movie and I plan on watching it sometime this year.

My final grade for Jumanji 2 is a B-.  I feel like it missed a few beats and should have had more continuity within the Jumanji universe.

Women of History: Hedy Lamarr

One of the people I wanted to write about when I started this essay series was a classic film star named Hedy Lamarr.  In fact I had to check to make sure I hadn’t written about her before.  ​

Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1914 in Vienna, Austria.  She was born into a jewish family, but was raised as a Catholic by her mother Gertrud.  Her mother was from Budapest and her father was Ukrainian, but she grew up in Austria in the years following the first World War.  She was an only child, adored by her parents, although her mother tried to be stricter to balance things out.  Her father inspired an interest in learning how things worked, while her mother inspired her artistic side, which focused on Acting rather than musician as her mother had been.

Early on, Hedy decided that acting was a career she was interested in, and worked purposely to get it.  She worked as a script girl (forging school absence slips so she could get the job), and small background parts before getting her big break in a 1933 film Ecstasy.  The film was controversial in the US, but seen as artistic in Europe.  For Hedy, it was a disillusionment of the shine of an acting career.  She had been only 18, and was tricked by the director and other crew members into close up nude scenes.

For awhile she considered not continuing, but the film got recognition and other roles were presented to her, and it had always been her dream to be an actress.  She continued to do stage work, which brought her to the attention of Friedrich Mandl, an Austrian arms merchant.  He was quite wealthy and charming and won Hedy over.

Hedy married Mandl on August 10, 1933.   He was 33 to her 18.  She found herself often attending parties and business meetings with her husband, who took to being overly protective and prefered to keep her at his side.  He had strong ties with the fascist government of Italy, as well as the Nazi government of Hitler.  Hitler and Mussolini would even attend parties thrown in the couple’s own home.

While acting remained her career, it was during this time that Hedy was introduced to applied sciences.  She would listen and learn during the business meetings and parties, her interest in how things work developed into learning as she listened to the others speak about weapons and the science that went into the development.

However, in 1937, Hedy decided she had enough.  She did not appreciate a life as a trophy wife for Mandl, and had become disillusioned with her own country.  She left her husband and Austria behind and fled to Paris.

It was in Paris that her life would change.  While she was there, she met MGM Studios head LB Mayer.  Mayer was impressed with her acting, and convinced her to join MGM, although with a stage name.  Hedy was no longer Hedy Kiesler – She became Hedy Lemarr.

Her first film in the United States was Algiers in 1938 opposite Charles Boyer.  She won over crowds with her talent and her beauty.  Unfortunately this also made it hard for her to get a variety of roles.

She was called the ‘Most Beautiful Woman in the World’, and her roles often relied on that reputation. She became the inspiration for Snow White and Catwoman because of her beauty. It did however leave Hedy bored, as her roles often came with little challenge to the actress type-casted into the role of the stunning foreign woman.  When not on set, she was able to focus her intellect on her hobbies-including inventing.

Hedy had no formal education when it came to inventing, just what she had learned from observing her first husband’s business meetings and what she had later taught herself.  However, she had caught the bug for inventing.  Some were flops – like a tablet that would make a glass of water into a carbonated beverage.  In the end it wasn’t much different then Alka-seltzer.

However, some of them were successful, and even well-known.  During the second war, Hedy had heard about issues that the military was having torpedo frequencies being interrupted by the enemy and sending their missiles off course. She already knew that her husband and other arms dealers supplying the Axis had been developing ways to jam the frequencies before she left Austria. She decided to work on the problem, and got her friend George Antheil, a music composer, to help her.  The two of them had been friends for several years and shared a strong need to help out the war effort.  Antheil was a composer, and was known for experimenting with different instruments and mechanical devices to create sound.  It was through the use of a piano roll that the two developed the idea for spread spectrum radio.   The idea was that sending out a signal that would ‘hop’ across several frequencies – known to the sender and receiver – would prevent someone from turning on the same frequency and jamming the signal from reaching its target.  They called this  “Secret Communications System.”​

They were successful, and patented their designs in August of 1942.  At the time, however, the importance of this invention was unknown.  Technology made it hard to implement and it was ignored or put on the back burner.  In fact, George Antheil, who died in 1959, would not live to see it in action.

However over the next few decades technology started to catch up with Hedy & George’s idea.  In the 1960s, the military had taken the idea and developed a version to use in their ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, twenty years after Hedy & George had patented the idea.  The full impact of spread spectrum radio would not be felt till a few more decades past and the internet started to grow.  It allowed for faster internet connections, and was the underlying work on which GPS, Bluetooth and Wifi were based on.

So you can thank Hedy Lamarr for many of the communications technology that we use every day, such as cellphones, the GPS in our car, using Bluetooth to talk handless through our phones or vehicles, and being able to have mobile internet available to tablets, laptops and phones without the need to have wires dragging behind us.

Hedy’s contribution to science and communication technology was not really recognized until the late nineties, when she received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer award in 1997 for her invention.  SHe was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014, four years after her death.

In her personal life, Hedy found more obstacles than success at times.  She would marry five more times, have three children, and even write her own memoir.  But she would also deal with increasing agoraphobia, discord with her children (in particular her eldest), and public scandals.  At one point she was rumored to have an addiction to prescription pills as well.  THe various depths of her problems depend on the source of the information. Hedy herself was a very private person, and even admitted later in life to not writing a truthful memoir.

Hedy died on January 19, 2000 at the age of 85.  She had lived long enough to see herself become a “classic film star” and see her invention finally be put to real use.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Hedy Lamarr 

Biography.com: Hedy Lamarr 

Women Inventors: Hedy Lamarr

The Official Hedy Lamarr Website

Anna Couey: How “The Bad Boy Of Music” And “The Most Beautiful
Girl In The World” Catalyzed A Wireless Revolution–In 1941
  (1997)

Women in STEM: Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr: Inventor of Frequency Hopping

Orlando Sentinel: Court to Weigh Plea of Lamarr’s estranged son

Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy the Lamarr, the most beautiful woman in the world – Richard Rhodes (via Google Books)

Vanity Fair: How Inventive “Genius” Hedy Lamarr Became a Hollywood Tragedy

Smithsonian:  Team Hollywood’s Secret Weapons System

The Marketplace: The Story of Hedy Lamarr

The Atlantic: Celebrity Invention: Hedy Lamarr’s Secret Communications System

 

To read more in this series, see the Master list