Tuesday, June 03, 2014

If Game of Thrones "The Mountain and the Viper" was Pee Wee's Big Adventure

I finally caught up with this week's Game of Throne's episode, "The Mountain and the Viper" last night. I more or less woke up thinking about the final scene. But then I began thinking about the similarities the whole episode shared with one of my favorite films from the 1980s, Pee Wee's Big Adventure. It made it all a little less traumatic.

The similarities grow as it goes along, starting with the blooming but must be doomed romance between Grey Worm and Missandei. Grey Worm is bathing and thinking thoughts you didn't think unsullied thought. He watches Missandei and she notices and covers herself but not after standing up to give him a full view. Dany and Missandei talk about those thoughts everyone thought unsullied didn't think, but Missandei says no I'm pretty sure he was thinking what you're thinking.

Then Missandei and Grey Worm share a moment. It's clear these two have the hots for each other. Everyone can see it. But Grey Worm isn't just unsullied. He's a loner-- a rebel.

Meanwhile, Ramsey Bolton uses Theon to convince Moat Cailin to surrender (and get flayed). Will this be the trick that finally gets this particular bastard his dad's approval?

Dad asks him...


He says Ramsey Stone, but dad says, "Ramsey Bolton!" It is a tender moment.


Back in the Vale, Little Finger is getting questioned about the mysterious decision of his new wife to jump out the moon door. He's like, "I loved her but she was mixed up," and they are like yeah whatever let's see what Sansa says.


Then Sansa shows up and says she's going to tell everything and Little Finger is worried but then Sansa backs up his story and he's like YES!


Also, Sansa now has cleavage.

Nearby, sister Arya arrives in the custody of the Hound who has brought her to get a ransom from her Aunt Lysa Arryn. But then he finds out he came all this way for nothing--Aunt Lysa is dead!

There's no basement at the Alamo!


 Arya laughs, and the Hound is more like "Doh!"


Finally, it's time for the event we've been waiting for all: Oberyn vs. the Mountain. Oberyn is drinking and dressed light. The Mountain is the Mountain. But Oberyn says he's not going to die today, he just has a gymnastic routine that doesn't allow for wearing armor.

For a while, he spins around while the Mountain chases him around the ring.

Oberyn makes it clear he is out to avenge the death of his sister and for a while the fight is really going his way.

But then Oberyn's mouth gets him in trouble. The Mountain grabs him and with a gentle squeeze...

He makes Oberyn's head look something like this:

Tywin Lannister jumps to his feet and gloats, pronouncing the verdict of the trial by combat. Finally, he gets to execute his son!

The end.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Column on Portlandia as Slacker Therapy

I wrote about Portlandia for the Baffler Blog. I'm a fan of the show, and I think it's interesting to think about how it satirizes its own audience, to some extent. It's a short piece, but here's a quick excerpt anyway:

In the late 1980s, ABC’s Thirtysomething turned Yuppie Baby-Boomers’ struggles with marriage and parenting, and their hand-wringing over how they’d compromised their 1960s ideals, into primetime melodrama. Portlandia, which airs its season finale tonight, is the Gen-X analogue, gently satirizing the cultural pretensions and political preoccupations of its audience throughout its four-season (and Peabody award-winning) run. This “slackersomething” satire is therapeutic to its audience at home; it works less to directly criticize or promote change than to help the audience “work through” what they’ve become.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Watching a Movie - Elite Eight Playoffs Edition

This week in my introduction to film studies course (COMM 1305 Film & Culture), I switched things up at the last minute and had my students conduct a playoff to determine the best way of watching a movie. The idea was to get them talking about how they like to watch movies and the advantages of different devices. The students (about 50) are not film majors, and only a few I would characterize as hardcore film fans. About 90% of them are 18-19 years old, with a few under the mark and a few over the mark.

I came up with this playoff bracket literally about 15 minutes before the start of class. The idea was that they would talk for a couple of minutes with their neighbors about the pros and cons of each pairing, then we would vote and discuss as a class. They loved this, and it was definitely successful at getting the students to talk about the different ways they watch movies and what they value in different ways of watching movies.

Here's a screen grab of the bracket I put together:

The big takeaway for me was that the students very, very much valued the traditional going-to-the-theatre way of watching movies much more than I anticipated. Even better, the kind of "movie watching" that probably elicited the most dramatic response was...wait for it...DRIVE-IN MOVIES. This blew me away. About half of the class had gone to the drive-in, and the other half expressed jealousy at not having the opportunity.

Game #1: At the theatre vs. on TV "live": this conversation got the basic dichotomy of movie watching out: the community, public "doing something" vs. the comfort and choice of personal viewing. Going to the theatre was the overwhelming favorite, with only 3-5 saying they preferred watching on TV live. By that I meant watching whatever movie might be on without the ability to fast-forward through commercials, etc.

Game #2: DVD vs. DVR. DVD was the big winner, with students saying they like the choice of being able to choose different versions and watch special features, but also the idea that this was portable: they could bring the DVDs to a friend's house, etc. Also, about 75% of the class said they still bought DVDs. I told them this would make the movie companies very happy.

Game #3: Phone vs. Tablet. Most of the class was outraged that anyone would choose phone over tablet, though there were a couple of passionate evangelists for the intimacy of watching a movie on a phone...that is, holding it close in bed, or surreptitiously when they should be doing something else. Only one person pointed out the greater ability to stream through the phone when not on Wifi. Tablet won, but pretty soon lost.

Game #4: Laptop vs. Desktop. I knew laptop would win but I needed eight "teams." This wasn't even a contest worth talking much about. Maybe "drive-in" ought to go here?

Game #5: Theatre vs. DVD: Theatre won. Knowing that they had laptop to cover personal screenings, there weren't too many siding with DVD. More and more they emphasized the quality of the "cinematic experience" of the theatre, referring to the better image and sound--what I would call it's more immersive qualities--in addition to the public components.

Game #6: Laptop vs. Tablet. The consensus was that the tablet was a luxury, and far less desirable than a laptop. With a laptop, you could multitask more easily. In both cases you could watch with friends, but viewing in general was more cumbersome than on a laptop. Also, you could download movies with a laptop--but this really came up at the very end when it came down to...

Game #7: Theatre vs. Laptop. By this point, it was obvious that we were talking about two very different kinds of movie-watching experiences (and class time was almost up!). The class was split, even when I said if they had to choose only one of these ways for the rest of their lives.

Bottom line, students love the activity of going to the movies more than watching a particular movie. They spoke highly about how going to the theatre could really be a great experience, but also how if it was dirty and lousy, it wasn't worthwhile. They want experiences, and it was clear to me they would keep paying to go to the theatre (or the drive-in!) rather than just stay at home.