Hollywood’s Hypocrisy Spoils Oscars’ Message.

Hollywood had a clear message that they wanted to express during the Oscars. They beat every viewer over the head with it for three hours.

Diversity emboldens us. Empathy and tolerance bring us together. Fear only serves to divide us. And that we must resist.

Last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the rise of President Trump set the stage for tonight’s award choices.  A  concerted effort was made to nominate diverse people and films. A record-setting number of black people won an Academy Award. The winner of Best Picture was not the heavily-favored and heavily-white La La Land, but the queer and black, Moonlight.

The same message was echoed in the speeches made by the Academy Award winners.

“This goes out to all those black and brown boys and girls and non-gender conforming who don’t see themselves, we are trying to show you, you and us, so thank you, thank you, this is for you.” said Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer of Moonlight.

The director of The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi, chose not to attend the Oscars due to the travel ban but left a statement to be read from him:

“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy which we need today more than ever.”

Strong words that no reasonable person could find fault with. Not could they find fault with the message. But in some brief moments last night, Hollywood’s true smug elitist nature bubbled to the surface.

The first such moment came during actor Mark Rylance’s introduction for the Best Supporting Actress category.

“Opposition is really good in society… Sometimes, the most supportive thing is to oppose. Something women seem to be better at than men, is opposing without hatred.”

This was a sexist blanket statement. If the roles were reversed, people would be up in arms. The purpose here was to empower women which made it a good lead for the award, but he bashed men too. This statement was contrary to the message of the night.

Another brief lapse came during Viola Davis’s acceptance speech.

“People ask me all the time, ‘What kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola?’ And I say,’“Exhume those bodies.’ Exhume those stories — the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist, and thank God I did because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. ”

The speech was impassioned, raw, and inspirational. But she also essentially that only she and her artist friends celebrated the human condition. She set herself above the common person. Struck me the wrong way.

And finally, during a long horrendously unfunny bit, Jimmy Kimmel brought out unsuspecting tourists to meet celebrities sitting in the front row. All the stars were laughing at the normal people showing up during their big award show.  As if the average person was something worth laughing at. The skit had no punchline to it other than that.

As the tourists awkwardly made their way past the celebrities,  Kimmel asked a young Asian tourist what her name was. She had to tell him twice as he struggled to pronounce it.

He then joked that it wasn’t a real name like her husband’s name, Patrick.

On a night when diversity was being celebrated.

 

Antihero Protagonist: Louis Bloom

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Louis Bloom

Antiheroes come in shades of grey. Lou is the darkest of dark grey. He would be black in any story that didn’t feature him as the protagonist. There is not much redeeming to him. He is willing to manipulate and harm people to justify his own ends. Dan Gilroy, the writer of the film, describes him as a sociopath and refers to the film as an antihero success story.

The introductory scene brings Lou’s darkness out in a quick two pages. It is not available on YouTube unfortunately. So here is the scene in screenplay form.

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In two pages, Lou gets established as a creepy man who shouldn’t be trusted by people. Common story convention says to introduce your main character doing something that shows us who we are. So we begin here with our sociopathic antihero cutting a chainlink fence. As he notices that he is not alone, he turns and gives this charming yet unsettling smile.

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It’s not in the screenplay but it gives us our first impression of Lou. This is the first we actually see of him as the shot prior to this had him in the dark. Jake Gyllenhall killed it with his starved coyote look.

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He seems so feral in both appearance and in how he moves. When the security guard’s light hits him, he reacts like a nocturnal animal caught in headlights.  He gives his first words, a lie to get the guard’s defenses down. He feigns not knowing what he’s doing. We can tell he’s done this sort of thing his whole life. There is no worry nor tremble in Lou once he’s caught.

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He smiles wider and advances toward the officer, where he can get a better look at what he’s dealing with. His confidence grows once he sees that his opposition is only a security guard. He takes out his ID, continues his lie until he’s close enough to pounce.

We are given this image to close out the opening sequence.

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The fate of the guard is left up to our imagination. After seeing the entire film through and see what Lou is capable of, it’s scary to imagine just what he could have done to this man.

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Antihero Protagonist: Light Yagami

Audiences have grown tired of the traditional heroic story. A virtuous person rising up against the forces of evil and darkness is saved for children’s stories nowadays. Adults are bored with idealistic heroes. They want flawed individuals at the center of their stories.

What is it about antiheroes that audiences love?

I have been watching films and television shows about antihero protagonists to find out the answer to that question.

DEATH NOTE

Light Yagami

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Every story needs the right protagonist. Death Note has a money one in the god of the new world, Light Yagami. A story about a high school student that finds a notebook that can kill people is a novel concept by itself. When that high school student is a genius sociopath with a god complex, you get the intriguing cat and mouse game that is Death Note.

The Character:

Under other circumstances, Light would be a traditional hero. He has many heroic qualities. He is highly intelligent. Determined.  Battling against the evils of society. His major flaw is his hubris. That same flaw is shared by many ancient Greek Heroes.

However, Light Yagami is a sociopath who revels in the destruction of his opposition. He murders thousands of criminals over the course of the story. He is so driven to his goal that he will manipulate anyone to achieve his ends. He believes he has the right to judge the world and no one should dare stand in his way. Those who do deserve death.

Pivotal Scene:

After killing Raye Penbar and a team of FBI agents sent to investigate him, Light Yagami realizes he has left himself exposed. Penbar’s fiancee, Naomi Misora discovers a clue that could implicate Light in the murders. Light runs into her and finds out her discovery through idle chitchat. He asks for her name. With a name and face, he can kill anyone. She gives him a fake one. With his life on the line, Light slyly gets the woman’s real name and kills her.

I chose this scene as it shows all the facets of Light’s character. This woman is his first real challenge. If he fails, he will be arrested and executed. He acts out of survival. He gains her trust with subtle lies and compliments. Once he has won, he tells her he is the killer the police are looking for. By then it is too late for Naomi to do anything.

On the surface, this scene is a man killing a young woman and getting away with it, a villainous endeavor. But this scene is  a battle of wits. Two intelligent people go back and forth until one comes out the victor. Ultimately Light uses Naomi’s emotional attachments against her.

This scene is very well-thought out and logical, among the best in all of Death Note.

Things To Be Learned:

An intriguing protagonist only remains intriguing against strong opposition. The eccentric L. Lawliet is Light’s rival in this story. L is the world’s great detective. He is as ruthless and cunning as Light is. He has the support of the police force and applies immense pressure onto the wannabe god. The cat-and-mouse game between the two of them is the backbone of this story. The story drops in quality after Light defeats L.

It’s important to not try to force the audience to feel a certain way about characters. Death Note lets the audience decide on whether they want to side with Light or L. The story teller should be putting on a show, not trying to push morality onto the audience.

Closing Thoughts:

Death Note‘s Light Yagami is the reason this anime is able to appeal to people who do not usually enjoy animation. He draws the audience in. People want to see him caught. People want to see him get away with everything. No one would want to be friends with him, but we do all want to see how he gets past his next big obstacle.

I look forward to the upcoming live action adaptation of Death Note. There have been interesting casting choices made. The portrayal of Light Yagami will be the key to the success of the adaptation. If the writers and director accurately transfer his character to the screen, then American audiences will be in for a treat.

But that’s a big if.

 

 

Circle of Life

Under a punishing sun in the midst of Kenya’s vast grasslands, a zebra’s luck is running out. It has attracted the attention of three starving hyenas. The zebra is ahead of its spotted pursuers but the predators are gaining on their striped prey.

Out of the thirty zebras drinking and bathing at the water hole, this one drew the short end of the straw. It ran left when the other zebras went right. The wrong choice.

Were it not for the cut on its left thigh, this zebra could have escaped its drooling hunters by now. At top speeds, zebras leave hyenas in the dust. These hyenas are running faster than hyenas ought to. These starving pups are desperate for a meal. This zebra cannot be allowed to escape like the others.

But it seems that may happen. The zebra is beginning to pull away. The hungry hyenas are starting to tire. Days of hunting without a kill has weakened them. Their legs give way beneath them. Fortune is on the zebra’s side for today.

The hyenas growl and whimper at one another as yet another zebra gets away. The two bigger hyenas eye down their younger brother. The small one bares its yellow teeth and barks. It scurries away with its tail beneath its legs. Its elder brothers keep close.

As the calls of the hyenas grow silent, the zebra slows. The endorphins fueling its strength run out. The zebra moves aimlessly until it finds shade underneath a tree. The cool spot under the branches and leaves of the Acacia tree is a rare place of comfort in the Kenyan grasslands. The zebra lies down, exhausted.

Its comfort ends when the whooping calls of the hyenas return. The calls are louder and more frantic. A clan of twenty hyenas is converging on the zebra.

The hyenas fight with one another, snapping and cackling. One hyena bites the ear of its brother. They each want to be the first one to satisfy their hunger.

The hyenas are like a swarm of hornets. They’re biting, ripping at the zebra before it can make a sound. To the human eye, the zebra appears to be calm and at peace as though it has accepted its fate. But death for this zebra is as agonizing and painful as death can be.

The calm that human observers claim to see is the zebra’s body going into shock. The zebra feels each rip and tear of its flesh and bone as the hyenas wrench it open and pull out its organs. Its senses dull as the blood seeps out of it. Its vision will blur and its hearing will lessen, but its pain receptors stay intact until its last heartbeat. If the zebra is fortunate, it may die a quick death. An overeager hyena could bite down on its heart and ends its misery.

The sight of hyenas feasting on zebras is distressing for human on-lookers, but this is what becomes of animals on the losing end of the circle of life.

 

Cartoon Network to Reboot Johnny Bravo In 2017

Deadline has reported that Cartoon Network will move forward with a new version of their late 90s hit, Johnny Bravo.  The show is being retooled for modern audiences and will be released in 2017.

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Johnny Bravo debuted in 1997

We reached out to Christy Millhouse, president of Cartoon Network, for further details on the new show.

The show will be titled, Suzy and Johnny and is geared to be a more woman-friendly show. The Johnny Bravo character will be a sidekick to a young woman named Suzy. Suzy, a little girl in the original series will be the same age as Johnny in this new series and the new main character. The show will explore the dangers of street harassment and the struggles that the modern woman faces today.

The pilot episode will start with an apology to the audience from Van Partible, the original creator of Johnny Bravo. The rest of the episode will be Suzy explaining to Johnny why his approach to women is wrong.

During our online correspondence, Ms. Millhouse let us know what this new cartoon meant for the legacy of Cartoon Network.

“Johnny Bravo was a dark chapter in Cartoon Network’s history. We had this musclehead character harassing and sexually objectifying women for laughs. He was a symbol of the toxic masculinity that permeates our society,” stated Christy Millhouse. “He kissed a girl in one episode without her consent. We’re not proud of that. We influenced a generation of young men. We have Johnny Bravos out there now who think approaching women aggressively with bad pick up lines while flexing their muscles and dancing is okay. It is not. ”

As part of the modernization process, the old writing and animation teams will not be brought back for Suzy and Johnny. The new creative team is headlined by Andromeda Antony, a woman with a bachelor’s degree in woman’s studies, a master’s degree in gender studies, and a doctorate in woman’s gender studies.

We did not reach out to her for comment. She called us up. We still don’t know how she got our number.

“I’m loving this chance to change history. 2017 will have a new Johnny Bravo that women will love. I can’t share all the details now but expect a softer more feminist Johnny. The muscles and ugly yellow hair fin are gone. And with that goes the chauvinistic humor too. The influence of the old show is felt to this day. Some man tried to holler at me as I biked to work. He said ‘how it’s cooking, good looking.’ He objectified me sexually and assumed that I cooked. I do not cook. I am a strong proud independent woman who orders take-out every night. No woman should feel as threatened as I did when that man said that to me. Events like this occur because of shows like the old Johnny Bravo. ” said Ms. Antony.

With a new Johnny comes a new catchphrase. Fans of the show may remember Johnny Bravo would say “do the monkey with me”. His new catch phrase will be “fight the wage gap with me. ” We didn’t ask Ms. Antony for any more details, but she let us know the new show has had its conflicts behind the scenes already.

“One of the women on the writing staff said she found the old show funny. She said it was humorous for a muscly guy to be a dumb wimp who was terrible with women. She said she found the pick-up lines to be witty. I told her none of that is ever funny. Johnny once got in a woman’s view, moved in close to sniff her and then said ‘You smell kind of pretty. Want to smell me?’ That is not funny. She had to be let go. She thought the misogynistic comments were funny because society pressured her to find that funny. The poor girl had no mind of her own.”

Suzy and Johnny is expected to be shown on Cartoon Network in fall of 2017.

To Snap Or Not To Snap?

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy are responsible for dark reboots we’ve been getting of classic characters. Nolan is a good director. Memento is still his best. The Dark Knight is a close second. I liked the trilogy. Batman Begins is a reintroduction to Batman and an establishing of the gritty realism that would permeate the rest of the trilogy. The Dark Knight is a legitimately good movie. Heath Ledger’s Joker deserved that Oscar. The Dark Knight Rises is a follow-up that Nolan’s heart was not into. The theme of rise is redundant and I could not get into the stakes of the film. It had a weird commentary on the 99 percent and Occupy Wallstreet movement. I felt that was out of place. His take on Batman toned down the supernatural more comic-booky elements and focused on the crime drama of Gotham. I appreciated Nolan’s vision but not every hero should be dark like this.

If only someone told Zack Snyder. Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel is an attempt to do for Superman what Nolan did for Batman. I don’t want to talk the movie. I saw it when it came out. The movie tries to portray what life would be like for Superman if he was real? What would it be like for him growing up? I think there could be a good story here, but Snyder’s take was not doing it for me. He was trying to tell too many stories at once. Alien Invasion. Superman’s Origins. The Legacy of Krypton. Should the government trust Superman? Pa Kent is crazy. Will Superman have to kill? It wasn’t hard to keep up with them. It was that none of them were executed well. The fights were cool the first time around, but I barely remember any of them.

The one scene I do remember is the climax.  Superman is put in a moral dilemma. General Zod won’t stop until he kills every person. So Superman snaps General Zod’s neck. He violates his moral code and takes a life to save a family. This scene encapsulates everything wrong with this movie.

It’s an attempt to bring Superman out of his black and white comic book morality and into world of grey. Snyder wants to ground Superman from being a symbol for truth, justice and the American way into a person like us with more power. We’d make the same choice that Superman does. We’d snap General Zod’s neck too.

It’s a depressing as hell scene. Superman is mentally bothered by his murder. He’s on the verge of the tears The family he saves is not grateful. I don’t think they’re seen again.

There is no triumph to this. And I think triumph is a part of Superman. People should be excited when they see him flying through the city. He’s an ideal to live up to. People may not be able to fly and be strong like Superman, but they should aspire to be moral like him. That’s what I always got from the Superman side of the character. He needs to triumph and the people in Metropolis should be there to celebrate his fights against evil.  The human side is that he’s a corny boy scout from Kansas. Humble and wants to help people. He takes a job as a journalist to keep up appearances, hit on Lois and keep his ear close to trouble.

I don’t hate the idea of Superman murdering Zod, but I hate it in an origin story. Superman needed to triumph in the first story.  This movie should have been about learning who Superman is. He needs to be established. Snyder jumped the gun. He wanted to have this Superman kill scene in this movie. Maybe in a Man of Steel 2 this scene would work. It’s too early for Superman to kill. In my opinion.

In this movie Pa Kent commits suicide in front of Clark. Metropolis and Smallville are decimated. Superman has to kill Zod to stop him. Give the character a bone. Let him have a moral victory to ride off into the sun on. I watch the ending of others superhero movies like The Avengers and The Dark Knight and it feels like the heroes were super heroic.

The Avengers put aside their differences and save New York from an alien invasion. It felt like without the Avengers, the world would have ended.  Batman proves to the Joker that everyone is not like him and that he is alone. He does kill Harvey Dent but the appreciation for his sacrifice is there from Commissioner Gordon and his son.

Man of Steel‘s Superman never feels like a hero to me.