Johnny Depp and Other Fantastic Beasts

Johnny Depp is an extremely talented actor but I never liked him for Grindelwald. I expected Grindelwald to be a bit more like Malfoy. A bit delicate, attractive in a pretty way, but understated despite obvious charisma. Something more akin to Ben Whishaw with a heart of ice. Even if Depp wasn’t my choice, I knew his incredible skill as a character actor would be a boon to the franchise. But that was before.

All I needed to see were the bruises on Amber Heard’s face and I knew I could never help that man’s career. Reading iO Tillett Wright’s article on Refinery 29 solidified my resolve. No level of talent, charity, or money could justify Depp’s despicable behavior. Adding in his money problems, I was and am disgusted. It was another privileged celebrity feeling entitled to the entire world and resentful of consequences.

Earlier today, J. K. Rowling said she was limited to what she could say but was “happy” Depp was still attached to the next film. This is a film for families about acceptance and good triumphing over evil. FFS, the first Fantastic Beasts film really hammers home that violence isn’t the answer. In a franchise for children, we shouldn’t be casting a real villain in the role of the bad guy.

It’s 2017, the Person of the Year are the silence breakers, and a lot of women are saying #metoo. Powerful men everywhere are finally going down for assaulting women and minors for years. The women who have been hurt by domestic violence deserve better. Children who are learning this behavior is OK (*cough*Mel Gibson shouldn’t be employable*cough*) deserve better. I am disappointed in Depp, Rowling, and every overpaid executive who are tainting this universe. The wizarding world brought comfort and solace to literally millions of kids and adults. How dare you rich morons take that away.


Nerdy 30 Activity 16: The Movie and The Book

A while back, I read The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. It was a fascinating take on a zombie apocalypse with a fungus taking over humanity. Children who were somewhere between human and infected were kept and studied which is how we meet Melanie. I’ll stop there because surprising little info has leaked about this book and the less you know, the better.

I don’t know if that was why the movie was never screened in America but it may have been a factor. The trailer was the spoiler for me in that it concerned zombies. It only got a theatrical released in Europe and I don’t think it was very big over there even then. It is available on DVD which is how I managed to see it.

One of the starkest differences between the film and the movie are that Melanie and Miss Justineau swap races. How pale Melanie is and Justineau’s dark skin are regular things she makes observations about in the book. Another big change was how much of the activity at the base was condensed or cut out entirely. Little details were squished in like a tube of gel on the ground or a side conversation about squad changes. I still think it didn’t do the stories any favors.

There was a scene where hungries needed to be distracted. In the book, it was a wild fox who hadn’t learned to fear humans. In the movie, it was a dog that used to be someone’s pet. It was a small terrier that didn’t have a prayer of outrunning the hoard of hungries. As a crazy dog lady, this was very upsetting for me.

Overall, the movie did a good job but I hated how they changed the ending. It went from facing a harsh reality to making a choice. The end result was the same but how you get there matters, especially with the message of the movie. It was a decent representation and an enjoyable movie but the book was a lot better. 4/5 for the book and 3/5 for the film.

I’ve done this particular challenge multiple times. It creates added pressure and, much like this time, the movie winds up being a faster but shallower than the original. I’ve started thinking about what next year’s challenge might be and I don’t think the movie/book combo will be on it.

Strong Female Characters

One of my casual challenges involves a work with a strong female character. This term has become problematic in recent years because so many creators misinterpret what it’s supposed to mean. Too many see it as:

Strong Female Character – A character who is physically or emotionally strong (tough/badass) that happens to be female. Generally underwritten AF with minimal development over the course of the story. See Halle Berry’s Catwoman or any woman who is the mediocre hero’s ‘prize.’

This has become the new ‘Nice Guy’ or ‘Good Christian.’ Pro-Tip: If you have to tell people you are a ‘NG’ or ‘GC,’ you’re probably not. If you feel compelled to tell people you wrote a ‘SFC’ and expect praise for it, you probably failed. Hard.

What it used to mean and should mean is a female character who is well written, well developed, experiences change in as her story goes on, and exists separately from the male hero. Badassery is entirely optional. Think Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight. Her character is an intelligent and capable lawyer who is doing her best to take down the mob on her own terms. Any of the women on Firefly have their own personalities, skills, and motivations. They aren’t there to further someone else’s story or be someone’s prize.

Gamora toes a very fine line on which type of SFC she is. She has her own relationship with her sister and her own motivations but she’s also Quill’s love interest. It wasn’t until the second movie we also got more women on screen in the GotG franchise so it’s easy for her to feel a bit like a token. We get Quill’s backstory but don’t know details about what Gamora went through or where she came from. She’s a badass but needs more development and history for her character to be strongly written.

I just finished The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. There are three strong female characters in this book: Melanie, Ms. Justineau, and Dr. Caldwell. All of these women get POV time, have a mission, are well written, and are disinterested in other people’s bullshit. This is one of many reasons this book is fantastic and deserves a read (4.5/5). All female characters should be so well-written. Carey has some great SFC and gets it right in every sense of the word.

When looking at women in fiction, don’t just ask if she’s strong or a badass. Ask what her story is and does it matter in the context of main story line. Is she a person or a plot device? It’s not enough to just get representation; we need to get it right.

112 Weddings

A documentary filmmaker shot over 100 weddings on the side to make stable income. Over time he thought about what happened to some of those couples. Some he couldn’t find, others didn’t want to talk about it, but he found several who were willing to partake in his latest documentary.

It’s a great example of how life will throw unexpected things at you. Children, career changes, health problems. I was glad that many of the couples had found struggle but stayed together like the couple whose daughter had cancer or the woman with depression.

The depressed couple made me so sad because I could really understand how she felt. She didn’t see the good moments or how her daughter loves her or their bond. She saw herself as a burden on both of them. She thinks she’s a bad mother, a bad partner, and a bad person. Where she’s at, her options are keep fighting or lay down and die. I hope that when I have a kid and if/when I get back to that place, I will not lay down and die. Not because I deserve better but because my family does.

I see so much of Boyfriend in her husband. You can see from his body language that he loves her and wants her back. He doesn’t want to go through this life with anyone else and is willing to do what he has to do to get her to a better place. I can only hope that when Boyfriend and I get married and if/when I get The Bell Jar dropped on my head, my marriage will look like that.

Life isn’t always pretty so this is a hard reality of marriage. Another couple who I was glad agreed to be interviewed was the divorced couple. She was so happy to marry him then and many years later, he was so happy to be rid of her now. I think a big part of their split was not just leading separate lives but his ego. He lost weight and had professional success and “was growing and growing” while his wife stayed the same.

Maybe she stayed the same because she was raising the kids. Maybe she was changing and he wasn’t as interested in her life anymore. Her revelation about his infidelity was so powerful. I can appreciate things changing but if you’re unhappy in your marriage or relationship and you say nothing, that’s a choice. If you become unfaithful to your partner, that’s a choice. Once you get beyond the age of youthful stupidity, I have no respect for infidelity. Rather than face the problem and deal with it, he chose to take the coward’s way out. I had a lot of respect for her and very little for him.

I absolutely adored the couple that had a commitment ceremony 13 years prior. They seemed like such fun and interesting people back then. Looking at their life now, middle age and a pair of kids, the legalities of marriage make complete sense. Jointly filing taxes, ICU and ER rights should something happen to their partner, POA should something happen to them mentally, transfer of assets in death. In a situation like that, it’s less about tradition and more about protecting your family. I love how they did a tiny living room wedding as well.

My favorite line from the movie was from the rabbi: “A wedding is a day and it’s easiest day to make happy. You’ve just thrown a ton of money at it. And liquor. I mean, come on. A wedding is easy to make happy. A marriage is hard to make happy because when you throw a ton of money and liquor at it, it often makes things worse.”

I like to think that because I’ve had hard life experiences and relationships and friendships go wrong, I’m more prepared for bad things to happen. I’m likely more prepared than someone who has had an easy life but you never know what life will throw at you. This film did a good job of showing you how unexpected life and love can be without depressing you. Definitely worth a watch.

If Rom Coms Got Real

Everyone gets this warped idea of what love and relationships really look like from pop culture and movies. Here’s what I think some famous romances would look like if they happened in the real world.

Pretty Woman
Erring on the side of optimism, these two get married. However, their class backgrounds start to tear them apart. Vivian beings to feel insecure because Edward reads the New York Times and discusses books reviewed in The New Yorker. Edward begins to resent how little Vivian blends into his world. She doesn’t know this composer from that artist and on several occasions, embarrasses him. Eventually, they engage in a bitter divorce that is the talk of the New York social scene and Vivian is featured on Real Housewives of New York.

Theodore winds up dating a socially awkward computer programmer who worked on creating the OS system. It is his attempt to seek out Samantha again. They live together but never marry. Samantha has given Theodore unrealistic expectations for a relationship so the pair split. Amy marries again to an easy-going man and has one child. Neither has a deep relationship with an AI again. Lots of therapy abounds.

Knocked Up
Ben enjoys living a successful adult life with Allison and their daughter. The two have a long engagement but never seem to marry. Ben drifts further and further away from his friends. Allison, still career driven, enjoys many successes. Allison resents Ben for not doing enough around the house and not being more ambitious. Ben resents her for thinking she’s better than him. Eventually they split, realize they’re better for it since they had little in common, and raise a lovely daughter.

With some help from Helen, Annie becomes the assistant pastry chef at a country club. She is well trained and eventually becomes the head pastry chef for that club. Due to Annie’s influence, Helen becomes more honest with her husband and it improves their relationship. Annie and Nathan eventually marry and have a son. Lillian and Doug have three children. Lillian, Annie, and Helen still have biweekly sushi. Megan gets along well with Nathan and is a frequent baby sitter. Rita is the same as she ever was but is fun on the occasional girl’s night out. Becca and her husband open a BDSM club.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Ben and Andie give their relationship a real shot since they have many things in common and she loves his family. They start of with several trust issues since the foundation of their relationship is a complete sham. Because they’re both very career driven, they have several rocky patches but ultimately it works out. They get engaged but never marry. No children.

10 Things I Hate About You
Kat and Patrick date through the rest of the school year and summer but have an amicable break-up when she goes east for school. Kat goes on to found a successful nonprofit and work for NOW. Patrick becomes a semi-famous indie rocker. The two rendezvous in Manhattan to catch up when they’re in their 30s. It’s pleasant. Cameron and Bianca date for the rest of high school. Bianca is less popular but happier for it. They go to separate colleges, have a tear filled break-up, and go on to lead productive lives. Joey’s modeling career flounders and dies while he’s in his early 2os.

The Notebook
Allie and Noah have a lovely summer fling. Allie grows up, moves on, and marries Lon. When she learns that Noah wrote her every day for a year and built her a house, she becomes very creeped out. When Noah visits her begging to call off her wedding, Allie calls the police. Noah becomes very bitter. Allie and Lon go on to have a nice life more about appearances than actual happiness but no one is totally miserable. Except Noah.

The Proposal
Margaret Tate didn’t listen regarding her immigration status so she goes back to Canada to work in a field office and remotely until the issue is resolved. Andrew is finally given an opportunity to be heard during her absence and the book he wants to get published finally is. Andrew meets a compatible woman now that Margaret is not ruling his life and gets engaged and married. Margaret gets a new assistant to terrorize once she obtains dual citizenship. She never fully respects Andrew an an equal but does respect his choices of books.

Never Been Kissed
Josie realizes she’s wasting her talent in journalism at a newspaper and gets a position doing a column and human interest stories at a woman’s magazine. Sam is suspended as a teacher due to his relationship with Josie when she’s a student. Because of PR, no charges are pressed. Josie uses her connections at the magazine to get Sam hired as a teacher at a fancy prep school. The relationship flounders because of Josie’s career success and Sam’s damaged career as a teacher. The two eventually split.

Cher’s dad initially doesn’t approve of the relationship with Josh but begrudgingly accepts it since he figures it won’t last too long. All the couples break up when they go to different schools. Dion and Murray find each other after college and get back together. He’s a sports manager, she’s a fashion buyer. They marry and have 2 children. Cher becomes a designer while Josh becomes an environmental lawyer in Washington state. Cher marries a sculptor and Josh marries an urban homesteader. They send each other Christmas cards. Tai becomes a graphic designer while Travis goes on to work with Tony Hawk’s company.

What Women Want
Nick and Darcy move into Darcy’s house. Darcy keeps her job at the advertising agency. Nick goes on to use his knowledge of women to work for a Chicago based company that sells female oriented products. His daughter grows up well. His relationship with is ex continues to be amicable.

Hitch continues his business but also helps plan romantic proposals and anniversary celebrations. He knows people well and Sarah offers valuable insight. She continues in her gossip column. They attend couple’s therapy for their trust issues. They eventually marry in a planned elopement. No kids but a few seriously cute dogs. They are an excellent aunt and uncle and become godparents to Allegra and Albert’s second child.

Movie Books of 2016

PopSugar has given me a handy list of books becoming movies in 2016. I resolved to read the book, see the movie, and compare. There are actually several good candidates for me to choose from.

The 5th Wave
Sci-fi, aliens, action. I’ve even seen other grownups reading it on the train. I’m pretty sold.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The captivating mystery/thriller that was everywhere in 2015. Strangely, I haven’t gotten any spoilers about it yet. Please keep it that way.

The Taliban Shuffle By Kim Barker
Tina Fey starring in it has some serious pull for me

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
I’ve already read the book and enjoyed the other films. I just feel like it’s cheating to not actually *read* something and that book was pretty awful.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A unique love story and was everywhere in 2015, including with one of my future sisters-in-law. She was reading it.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates by Mike and Dave Stangle
The book sounds pretty funny but I worry this might be a slightly less obnoxious Tucker Max equivalent. Plus, I’d actually have to pay to see a movie I’d rather watch on TBS.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I’ve been wanting to read this since I heard about it. I like dark and creepy and since it’s kid friendly, I should be able to enjoy it without nightmares.

Inferno by Dan Brown
I haven’t read this one yet and I’ve found all the other Robert Langdon stories to be entertaining. However, this movie will be big and I have to deal with the crowds.

Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling
I love Harry Potter. My first book of 16 was the first illustrated Harry Potter. Reading another book of that world and seeing a movie in the universe I might finally like? Solid contender.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I’ve heard amazing reviews and I like weird.

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
It’s been in by TBR for a while so it would give me an excellent excuse to read it.

Looking For Alaska by John Green
Green is a phenomenal writer. Occasionally I feel bad he wastes his talents writing about teenagers. I hated Margo in Paper Towns and didn’t find Quentin overly sympathetic either. Although I wonder if it’s fair to expect teenagers to not be so self-absorbed.

Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
Interesting premise and YA books tend to go quickly. Although I fear as I age, I relate to the characters less and the genre loses some appeal.

The Fandom Awakens

I saw the latest installment of Star Wars on Friday. I had grown to loathe this movie by viewing time because of the inescapable hype. I then made a snarky comment on reddit that blew up enough to make the front page. I knew which character died within an hour.

This didn’t help since I’m highly critical of this franchise. The writing on the first 6 films sucks. While there are some funny moments, most of it makes on the smallest amount of sense necessary to keep the series afloat.  The character development is nonexistent. Leia’s planet is blown up and we hear no more about it. Luke’s entire family is flambeed but when he goes into battle, he wishes Ben/Boo Radley was there instead of the people who raised him. Anakin and Padme have no chemistry. When she said “I love you,” I thought, “Are you sure?” Padme loses the will to live after seeing her babies born? That is the stupidest, most indefensible shit I’ve ever heard in my life and I’ve seen Trump at the Republican debates.

I went in prepared to hate this movie. I left with a new appreciation for the franchise. Contrary to what the previous paragraph would have you believe, I don’t hate the franchise. I respect what it has done for popular culture but I saw it as an adult when you can’t unsee plot holes and bad acting. The Force Awakens fixed most of the issues I had with Star Wars. It even passed the Bechdel Test!

The cast was diverse and talented. The story was interesting, made total sense, and ended in a way that had resolution and left room for the other 2 films we know are coming. The characters had motivations and desires that worked and they grew and changed as the story progressed. It was a good movie. I’d give it a 6.5 out of 10.

Why didn’t I rate it higher? I want to give it a 7 but I have 2 major problems with this film and explaining those requires SPOILERS. You have been warned.

1) Cheap CGI

The new cantina scene was great. Maz (Lupita Nyong’o) was an excellent use of motion capture. However the junk dealer on Jakku? He looked ridiculous. I’ve seen enough episodes of Face Off to recognize the fat suit, foam, and paint that went into this character. It was very half-assed and again, took me out of the moment.

The worst offender was Kylo Ren’s mentor. If you can nail Star Wars FaceTime in the prequels, Space Gollum should look better in here. For a big bad, he looked like the forgettable villain in a fairy tale cartoon for little kids. I don’t care if he’s 20 feet tall (you should call tech support about that BTW). If the Sith leader can look creepy and menacing on video conference, so can Space Gollum.

2) Derp Vader

Someone kill the casting director. They nailed every character except Kylo Ren. Why did every other character work so well? Because they were either  already established in the universe or the new kids were played by unknowns except Derp Vader. He’s played by Adam Driver, better known as Hannah Horvath’s boyfriend on Girls.

The second I saw him without the mask, I couldn’t take him seriously as a villain. Driver has gotten to much exposure as this weird idiot on an insanely popular show. FFS, one of the Obama kids interned on it! People associate him with this role. I couldn’t unsee it and it took me out of the moment. Even his rage tantrums felt like Derp Boyfriend instead of Unstable Bad Guy.

While I’m on the rant, why does he have such nice hair under a freaking helmet? It’s like he’s out of a damn shampoo ad. Can you at least pretend to make him look different than Derp Boyfriend? Give him a military cut? Anything? How about a vague attempt to make him look like his parents? Derp Vader is a walking joke about the milkman.

Did Driver do a good job? Yes. Had I never seen him before this, I’d think he was OK. A milkman joke but good. But I have seen him and it’s like watching Rob Schneider as the bad guy.

Those two issues are going to be mostly my issues. Unless you’ve seen Girls, Kylo Ren hasn’t been tainted for you. If you love, like, or merely tolerate Star Wars, go see this movie. It’s the best in the franchise. The nerds were truly blessed this holiday season.