Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Yeah, I Liked It More Than The Avengers

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There, I said it…and I loved The Avengers! You all know my Loki love and I would put this film, The Winter Soldier, on top of my Marvel  movie list. Chris Evans, who I praised after seeing Captain America: The First Avenger, is the ideal performer for the role and reminds us, yet again, of this fact with his most recent, and evolved, portrayal of Steve Rogers – Captain America himself.

He is Captain America, dang it!

He is Captain America, dang it!

Now, The Winter Soldier has been in theaters for over a week, and I have no intention of giving any spoilers away here. I figure if you haven’t seen the film by now, you either are going to soon or have read/heard enough to know that a lot of things happen in this film that move towards Avengers 2. The Hail Hydra memes are a pretty big clue at any rate. What I would like to focus on is the story and what makes this movie the best of the Marvel films to date.

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Hey, Little Girl on the Boy’s Team..

…show them how to play!

I have to admit I’ve rewritten this article about four different times over the course of the last two days. I’ve written paragraph after paragraph trying to tie the Nine for IX films on ESPN to my own experience as a female athlete in a post Title IX world.
Title IX, for those not in the know, was passed to ensure equal athletic opportunity for women/girls. (You can look at more specific details about Title IX here http://www.titleix.info/ .). For simplicity sake, it’s basically you can’t discriminate against a player just because their gender.
Thankfully, my parents never had a problem with me playing sports – even playing on boy’s teams. Upon reflection, I don’t recall anyone ever trying to convince me that playing with the boys – football, basketball, baseball, our brief attempt at soccer – was something I shouldn’t do because I was a girl. In fact, from home to school, it was a given that no matter who you play, you will give it your best and aim to be better than them. I guess that is part competitiveness, part feeling like I needed to prove I belonged. At any rate, aside from a girl in second grade calling me a tomboy (which I had no idea what that meant and I got pretty upset saying “I am NOT a boy!”) I don’t recall anything negative coming with excelling in a male dominated game.

Give me the ball Dad!

Give me the ball Dad!

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Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock Bring “The Heat” Back to the Buddy Cop Genre

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My dear friend, co-conspirator, -blogger, and all around initiator of great ideas, D3Z, mentioned over dinner that she wanted to see the new comedy by the creators of Bridesmaids called The Heat. True to form, I had a moment of reluctance. Apparent to many of those close to me, this moment is my customary exhibition of what I like to refer to as “Resistance to Awesome.” To paraphrase what I was thinking in my moment of hesitation while watching the trailer: “Well… I
don’t usually like to laugh or have a good time at the movies. I may have really liked Bridesmaids and I may have only been waiting my WHOLE LIFE for a well-done buddy cop movie starring two strong female characters but…. I surely won’t like this obviously good time, right?!” Like I said, that was a bit paraphrased. All I have to say now is thank goodness I have friends with better instincts than my own or I’d never do anything worthwhile.

If I tell you The Heat is a buddy cop comedy brought to you by the director of Bridesmaids Paul Feig, written by the up and coming female writer Kate Dippold starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, I’ve pretty much told every child of the ’80s what they need to know to put a movie ticket and a box of overpriced popcorn in their hands. The Heat has gotten a lot of attention for gender bending the rules of the buddy cop genre and rightfully so. But what I really want to know is “What the Hell Took So Long?!!!”

It is the first buddy cop movie featuring two female leads I can think of. There is precedence on the small screen dating back to Cagney and Lacey and maybe Charlie’s Angels. Recently in comics, an all female teams has been coming into its own in Brian Wood’s The X-men and the team-up and friendship between Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) and SpiderWoman (Jessica Drew) has been growing in popularity but even it is mostly within the context of The Avengers. Many female teams in popular literature, Nancy, Bess and Georg(ia), The Friday Society, The Finishing School are all well done but often restricted to young adult fiction.

One trope that we get to see a lot in buddy cop fiction is the “I would die for my law enforcement partner/queen/country/career/American Way” dynamic. Examples are rampant in Hot Fuzz, James Bond, my husband’s Warhammer Novels, and cowboy fiction. We also definitely get this in The Heat, no problem. However I don’t often find this quality in traditionally female literature. More often the female protagonist is fighting to save her love interest, child, or family in general, no doubt highly worthy motivators but this exclusivity is suggestive of a more worrisome disturbance in the female force. It’s almost if women are blatantly viewed, even in their own fiction, as people who, after puberty, can’t form the same bonds men do in bromances with other adult women. If that’s the case, it’s really really lame and disappointing and I for one would like to see this trend bucked further in the future.

Finally, one obvious reason we haven’t previously gender bent the buddy cop genre is ridiculously simple: Hollywood doesn’t like to mess with moneymaking formulas. They do not believe women (or men) are willing to pay to see strong female characters not driven by family or romance in an action setting on the big screen. While it pains me to tell you to continue feeding money to a broken machine, the best advice I can give on how to generate more movies like this one is to go, pay the money, eat the overpriced popcorn. But then come home and open the dialogue. Tell them with money and buzz what we want to see. And don’t forget to let me know in the comments what you thought and to recommend any movies, books, or graphic novels that contradict my sweeping generalization of women’s lit because I would love to be more wrong than I think I am.

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Morning Lessons

While watching the film War Horse, I couldn’t help but think of the following quote by George Santayana:

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I’m not the oddity I believe I am.  There are people out there who are similar to me in thought process, aesthetics, interests – well, you get the idea.  The fact that the movie War Horse was even made is a testament to the fact that in the great big world, there are people who are interested in, or even fascinated by, World War I – the Great War, the War to End All Wars.  Looking back, how naive could we be? More

The Adventures of Tintin — In which the author overcomes great ignorance and is reminded of her love for pulp

“I seek above all to tell a story…and to tell it clearly.” -Hergé

Stephen Spielberg must have been chanting this mantra while directing his first animated film and homage to the pulp comic strip of the same name “The Adventures of Tintin.” Tintin, a gallant young reporter, and Snowy, his faithful canine sidekick, become entangled in a quest for treasure and redemption when they fortuitously purchase a clue-concealing model of the good ship Unicorn. The plot of the film was driven by action sequences  as quick, crisp, and convoluted as is expected in the pulp genre. Tintin makes for a fun hero who uses his wits, investigative instinct, and often his strong right hook to solve his problems.

Do not be mistaken. I held many prejudices, all of them as unfair and unfounded as prejudices tend to be, walking into the theater to see this movie. It was animated.There was an animated dog I assumed to be the main character (I mean really, what kind of name is Tintin? Of course it must be a dog’s name, I presumed.) And worst of all in my mind, it was attached to Nickelodeon.  Recalling my personal disappointment in and generally lukewarm feelings toward Nickelodeon’s movie adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, I arrogantly refused to place faith in the folks that introduced me to three engrossing seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender. How ignorant on all accounts.

My husband did not understand my reluctance. “It’s kind of like if Superman comics were told from the perspective of Jimmy Olsen.” And he was kind of right. Instead of a character traditionally driven only by his reaction to a greater being’s initiative and orders, Tintin catalyzes all of the action. From his impulsive purchase of a model ship concealing clues to pirate’s treasure to his uncanny ability to know who to punch when, the storyline progresses like a freight train. In contrast to modern action icons who tend to be portrayed as more rugged (think Daniel Craig as James Bond) was a little jolting to see such a baby-faced hero pull a gun so instinctively, but it was appropriate to the source material. There were other nods to Herge including framed newspaper articles detailing Tintin’s adventures from the comics and the use of Herge’s likeness to depict the caricaturist in the opening of the film. From these tributes and the preservation of the spirit of pulp adventure, it was evident that Spielberg, Wright, and others working on the film were fans of the source material.

I ended up loving the animation in the film and the convoluted plot of the story. I have had a long time appreciation of pulp elements in book series including Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, classics like Around the World in Eighty Days, and television shows such as The Lost World. Of course the appreciation depends on not demanding too much from the genre. Pulp adventure is not particularly known for character development, so don’t expect too much here and you’ll never miss it. If you like pulp adventure, globe hopping, and quests for treasure, or as Brad put it “an hour and a half long episode of Duck Tales,” you should make a point to see The Adventures of Tintin. Or in the words of Thompson and Thompson: To be more precise, you should make a point to see The Adventures of Tintin.

It’s been a while…

Shirt I'm using for new artwork

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve sat down to write or do anything beyond go to school, teach, coach, come home, but I’m trying to get back on track.  Hopefully, if I can get my mind to where I want to be my life will get back to where I want it to be (I hope that makes sense to you reader…sometimes I believe I’m making perfect sense when really, I’m not).  But I’m getting off topic….

I really want to work with the idea of using t-shirts as a base for paintings that don’t reflect my family or friends, like most of my art does.  I’m starting off with a Darth Vader shirt with the words “The Empire Wants You” written in red across the front.  My goal is to use gesso to attach the shirt to a piece of plywood (instead of canvas) and then paint a scene around it based on the t-shirt used.  Now, this isn’t a one-off deal – I have many t-shirts that I can use for some pretty neat paintings.  Yes, I have a confession to make: I’m a t-shirt junkie.

I LOVE fun t-shirts.  Comic shirts, Star Wars shirts, Monty Python shirts, University of Kentucky shirts, movie shirts – I LOVE LOVE LOVE them.  I wear them under my “work” shirts (aka: button up).  Being an Art teacher, I get a little leeway.  It also doesn’t hurt that the most awesome principal ever, Mark Leet, is a Star Wars fan and doesn’t think my Boba Fett hoodie is a problem.  ANYWAYS….

I’m using the t-shirts that I know I need to clean out of my closet BUT can’t really give away.  I’m sorry to those of you who wait knowing I’ll eventually clean out my closet – I’M KEEPING THEM ALL!!!! hahahahahahaha!

This is ONE of my shirts

Sorry.  That wasn’t very mature.  I’m just excited about this new project – a new start on something.  Now, despite my depression about things beyond my control, I haven’t been completely out of the loop or trapped in my Dark Hole of Questioning My Future.”  Besides time with family, friends, and good, quality time with Doug, I’ve been coaching a 6th grade boys basketball team AND patiently waiting for The Muppets.

If you are not aware that there is a new Muppet movie out there in the world – THERE IS A NEW MUPPET MOVIEOUT NOW!!!

To be Amy Adams in this film....*sigh*

It is a blast!  Written by Jason Segel (who also stars as Gary) and Nicholas Stoller, the movie is, in brief, about a young Muppet Walter who, with his brother Gary and Gary’s girlfriend Mary, go to L.A., discover an evil plot to destroy the Muppet studios, and help round-up the original Muppet lineup to do a telethon to save the studios.  There are many cameos (Jack Black’s is awesome but Dave Grohl’s is my favorite) and the story is very self-aware.  I love the fact that while the film acknowledges that the Muppets are popular with an older generation (the now 30 year olds of while I’m included) and that television is not as wholesome as it once was, it shows that funny is funny.  The Muppets are FUNNY and this movie is well worth the watch for ANY generation.  It would probably be great for as many younger children to watch it as well.  Still, that’s only my opinion and while I’m not an expert….it’s the Muppets! (PS: Chris Cooper is AWESOME as the villain)

Thank you all for your patience and understanding with the lack of posting on my part.  I’m trying to swim out of my pool of self-pity and doing some art for myself and not for teaching or the hallways (Christmas decorations for the main hallway is KILLING ME!) is my life saver.  Still, I appreciate the support of my family, friends, and Doug.  No matter what, I know I’m loved and at the end of the day, that’s good enough for me – and more than I ever expect.

Now, GO WATCH THE MUPPETS and if you see Jason Segel out there somewhere in the world please tell him Staci Gilliam said “hi.”

A 99.9% Chance You’ll Like This Film

I just love the tag line - that's part of what sold me on seeing this film

I’m a nail biter and yes, I realize it’s a disgusting habit that I should quit.  I really only do it when I’m nervous…it just happens that I’m nervous an awful lot of the time (especially of late).  So, when a movie starts with a main character who just happens to be a nail biter as well, I’m interested.  That’s how the movie, 50/50, began for me this evening.

Initially I wanted to see this film because I had heard it received good reviews and I happen to enjoy the work of both Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt.  I didn’t know much more about it than it was a dramedy that was based on someone’s life (Seth Rogen’s friend, and writer of the film, Will Reiser) and battle with cancer.  Yes, it’s not your average, well-worn story – and it never feels that way.  It feels exceptionally real.  Okay, you could argue that “Staci, it’s based on real life events of course it seems real,” but a lot of movies based on real life events are easy to relate to.  This movie does and kudos are due to the cast for bringing a fantastic script to, for lack of a better work, life.

I haven’t felt this much of an emotional connection to a film in a really long time.  It is both funny, sad, and, at times, out right tragic.  Gordon-Levitt is phenomenal as the lead character and Seth Rogen is a wonderful counterpart.  Angelica Huston plays Adam’s (Gordon-Levitt) mom and does a wonderful job of being both overbearing and loving (things we adult children have to deal with from time to time).  In the end, it’s not just about one young man’s struggle with cancer – it’s about how he and his relationships evolve due to this unpredictable, unrelenting attack by the body against itself.

At the end of the day, just like with Art, it’s how we, the viewer relates to the image/story/piece.  We all bring so much of our own background/baggage to what we see.  When movies like this that are so realistic and so well done, it touches something that maybe we don’t even recognize – or want to recognize for that matter.  I have never had to deal with a close friend or family member having a 50/50 chance at surviving a disease that strikes without warning and doesn’t discriminate like cancer does.  Still, I have lost friends – I know what that is like.  I’ve lost family – watched them succumb to Parkinson’s and dementia.  Everyone has had some type of loss…we have also laughed with those that were sick….we have made bad jokes to ease the tension….we’ve all told them to look at the bright side…we’ve all LIVED with them.  Life is like that – good with bad.  All we can do is keep going forward and not give up – not on ourselves, not on each other.

At least that’s what I took from this film….. and while I can’t guarantee you’ll like this film – I think the majority of you out there will really dig it and feel a connection to it.

Go watch this film – take a friend to this film (a real friend, someone you can love whole heartedly but still acknowledge what an ass they can be from time to time) – and enjoy it   *SPOILER ALERT!!!! There is a happy ending which also happens in real life from time to time*

Here’s to living and loving…and maybe, MAYBE, not biting our nails any more.

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