Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oz is colourful and perhaps even powerful - but definitely not great

It was a good friend of mine who urged me to start a blog. "You always have so much to say" she gushed. Although I'm fairly certain she was also suggesting I talk a little more than is strictly necessary, her words got me thinking about how, like many people, I have an opinion about most things in my life. And my life could certainly be said to revolve around film. Movies, television shows, glossy-and-not-so-glossy actors - all are able to command my attention and I am consistently accused of overanalysing a text. So it really should be a no brainer to use at least some of my rambling blog posts to put my film reviews to paper (metaphorically, of course).
With any luck, by next year I will have finally fulfilled the quest I have been attempting to fulfil for the last few years: by the time the Oscars roll around and I ensconce myself on the couch for excessive hours of glitz and glamour, I will have seen every film nominated for Best Picture.
As dreams go, it's not exactly life changing and it may not even be that difficult. What is difficult is finding other films to fill the time between the viewing of Oscar-worthy ones, for those days when you just feel like going to the movies.
It was this desire, (coupled with a desperate need to fill four hours between uni classes) that saw me scaling three frighteningly steep escalators to reach a showing of Oz the Great and Powerful.

The opening credits impressed me with their early-days-of-film feel with black and white 2D animations of dancing couples and carnival sideshows. This introduction to the film was sparky but not overdone, elegant but not long winded.
But, as they say in the classics, it all went downhill from there.
Since I left the session, I have used a variation of the same advice each time someone has asked me for a recommendation: see it if you will, marvel at the (almost) seamless special effects, gaze in awe at the stunning colours and costumes and if you are that way inclined stare dreamily into James Franco's eyes. Just don't listen.
Yes you heard me. Take earplugs. An iPod. Hell, take earmuffs. But my advice to you is to find a way to avoid the hammy, nonsensical dialogue and the storyline it dictates.
I am of the perhaps misguided belief that a principle character, particularly in a family film, should grow as the film progresses. They need not go from a manic serial killer to a kindly Santa Claus-figure. But if they began in a selfish form we should notice a character progression to one a little less jarring. Particularly if all other characters claim that there is a new messiah.
I have never been a particular fan of James Franco. I find him weasel-y and have rarely seen in him the prodigiously talented actor some journalists rave about, and my opinion was certainly not changed by his sojourn in Oz. Even the five diehard fans left to him following his disastrous turn as an Oscar co-host will likely find little to love in his portrayal of the deeply flawed would-be Wizard.
I could forgive the deeply unpleasant lead character. I am a Game of Thrones lover after all and am therefore used to characters you would really rather see falling down a well succeeding in their endeavours. But in Westeros no-one legitimately claims that boy-king Joffrey is becoming a better human being. Franco's Oz inspired in me only a desire to push him smartly off whichever cliff he happened to be closest to and at first it seemed that all but the excessively naive, later embarrassingly over acted Theodora, the young witch who would turn a rather sickly colour by the last third of the film, could see what I could. (No, it isn't a spoiler to say she turns green, not if you have read any review of the film to date. Whatever happened to leaving the third act reveal as a surprise? If you had not in fact heard that little titbit of information I apologise but you really should be reading more film reviews.)
As I said, Oz is a conman of the worst kind - a slimy, lying cheat who somehow manages to get young women with far more looks than sense to fall for him. That he is perceived to be the prophesied saviour of the titular magical land only made me feel greater sympathy for the doomed residents. That he manages to complete the task (again, not a spoiler - this is a kids movie after all) was only believable due to those behind the scenes choosing to utilise his penchant for tall tales blown out of proportion to fool some disappointingly foolish witches. A shame really, as I was truly hoping that Rachel Weisz's Evanora would emerge victorious, if only so the wider Oz community could learn the merits of sparkly green ball gowns. But no, the wizard wins, and as per the requirements of a film marketed as 'feel-good', he gets the girl. And here is where the storyline particularly smarts.

So he snogs Glinda. The good witch. Michelle Williams. The glowing princess of frou-frou who up until this point has pulled no punches when letting him know he is being an ass. Which he still is. Just with added castle. So why does she kiss him? Because the script told her to. Honestly, it felt like a cop out. But he saved the land! He defeated the witch! He finally thought of others before himself!

Well, no, he didn't. He just realised that being the effective king of Oz, with access to whatever he wants at a click of his fingers (and what he wants is shiny, gold and smells like money), is a far better offer than a life as a small-town conman with a trifling talent for slight of hand and pissing people off.
I hate seeing people rewarded for being a tosser and the fact that the film was beating me over the head with its assertion he was so much better now only served to make me want to shoot all involved more.

So if you really feel you must see the film, if your rugrats need entertaining or you refuse to believe that anything related to your beloved Wizard of Oz could ever be less than wonderful, then be my guest. But don't go talking smack about it later because I did warn you.

And don't forget those earmuffs.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's like the songs say ~ Love really is all around

The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.

                                                                           ~ Noah Calhoun, The Notebook

I want a love that consumes me

Making Friends...from a distance


  It could be said that all social networking websites are simply electronic replacements, admittedly with a few shiny extra features, for traditional means of communicating and archiving. Blogs are online diaries, Twitter posts are notes passed in class. Facebook is no different. As a form of communication it is like a town or youth group meeting: it connects us with others in similar circles we may not necessarily have met before, expanding one’s friendship groups far beyond those previously available.                                                                  
  Not only does it widen communication possibilities, Facebook is like an online scrapbook of memories. Textual and visual communication techniques are combined to allow us to post and catalogue photographs, share ideas and comment on events. In this way a Facebook user is not simply displaying elements of their life but also having them stored on the internet much like an online annotated photo album.                                                               
 The style of Facebook, that of being a website which allows for networking as well as sharing media, can be seen to have been inspired by the early social networking website Friendster as well as the colloquially named ‘face book’ for Harvard students. The former also allowed for the uploading of photographs along with communication between geographically separate individuals. Its influence, as well as that of the previously mentioned Harvard University student phonebook, can be seen in Facebook’s focus on extensive profiles and ability to find and interact with widespread users.                                                                                             Facebook’s simple, easy to use design is perfect its user base. As the website is in theory open to anyone over the age of 13 the need to present a format everyone can understand is vital. A single search bar allows for wide searches for people, places, games and discussion pages without the confusion of multiple search routes. The constant flow of reports coming from the newsfeed also plays to a user’s laziness as it presents almost all new information about the people and pages subscribed to without the need to actively search for any of it.                                                                                                                                               Social networking websites represent a colossal shift in the way people communicate and interact generally. With sites such as Facebook as a mediator there is no longer a need to meet people in a traditional sense as two people can have entire relationships over the internet without ever needing to converse in person. We use Facebook, superficially, to communicate and share information about ourselves like a public diary yet perhaps we also use it to hide. On Facebook, you can have thousands of friends. And at the end of the relationship, after finding out everything about each other through dated timelines of statuses and photos, the ‘friendship’ can be terminated without mess or fuss with the click of a single Unfriend button. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

All that glitters is not gold...but maybe we can dream it so

I was thinking the other day about how the character narrators in books so often muse on the beauty of the things around them in life. I had just finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Protagonist Charlie spends much of the novel describing his surroundings and attempting to find beauty in some of the most surprising things.

So I decided to look out for the beautiful things in my surroundings. 

When I walk home from the bus stop after uni I walk past this large vacant lot. Its on the corner of two main roads and is completely overgrown with grass. I mention this place because to walk past it I have to walk along a narrow path and i have discovered that if you walk staring at the ground your field of vision is restricted to a thin strip of concrete hemmed in on both sides by tall grass that sways in the wind. If I block out the noise of the nearby traffic I can imagine myself walking along a path in the middle of an overgrown field, perhaps on the banks of a river.

As I stared at the ground while walking home that afternoon I was struck by how easily such a simple thing had transported me into another world; a world far more quiet and tranquil than the one of the busy road just a few feet away. 

And I think that's a kind of beauty.

The overgrown path is an oasis in a desert of car noises and exhaust fumes. And yet the oasis itself is largely a mirage brought on by my almost desperate desire to see a classic and romantic kind of beauty amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life.