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photoI am going to try very hard to say more than, “This film is absolutely fantastic, everyone should see it because it is wonderful, you have no idea,” because I definitely feel that way about this film, and that’s a very big deal to me.

Originally, this was not on my list at all. Actually, as you can see from photos, what was originally a 3-film plan, became a 5-film plan. Actually, even before that I only planned to see one film, but apparently, this is what film festivals are like. Anyway, this film wasn’t on my list because I personally avoided it because of Keira Knightley, for no reasons other than the fact that I do not like her acting.

I am glad that I gave it the benefit of the doubt, regardless of her presence.

To start, the film has a simple premise:

Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Catherine Keener star in this soul-stirring music industry drama about an undiscovered young singer and a washed-up producer. These lost souls meet, see something special in the other and ultimately make beautiful music together in this latest film from Once writer-director John Carney (from Tiff.net).

At first, it almost sounded cliche to me, and as someone who was not familiar with Carney’s work, I went in face first with no clue. In the end, going at it that way was the best thing ever.

The movie is about making beautiful music in the streets of New York. And I don’t mean being in New York and recording in a studio there, they actually made music on the streets and recorded an entire album. A love-story to New York that was beautiful, and whimsical and inspiring. The film was frank, witty and fantastic, and I fell in love with every single character, up to and including Greta (Knightley).

Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Greta is a wonderful character through and through. She was beautiful written and executed perfectly for the audience. She is poised without being stuck-up, and smart without being cocky. She writes songs for her own pleasure and hates seeing her face on the camera. She is shy, but confident, and loves her work. She is vulnerable, and real and everything that we all are when we are down on our luck, and how we are when things are finally looking up. She was cursed with a love for a guy (Adam Levine) who was too quick to draw, too much of a rockstar, and blessed with a best friend (James Corden) who is there for her through it all. Knightley and Corden’s on-screen BFFness was probably my favourite part of the whole thing. They had such wonderful rapport and chemistry, and Corden’s presence made Knightley so much more human and real than her former period-movie counterparts. In the end, with his initial help, and later on Dan’s (Ruffalo), Greta finds her place in a city where she felt lost and alone.

Dan, a washed-up producer that was recently fired by his partner (Mos Def) and was about to off himself, until he heard Greta’s song. This first encounter was a beautiful one. While everyone heard Greta’s song as something that was boring and whining, Dan heard something else entirely. His (drunken) mind completed the song, and you just have to see the film to see what I’m talking about when I say that it is magical. Yep, that’s definitely the word for it, magical. He is cantankerous, vulgar and fantastically smart, and when he first meets Greta, they bash heads, almost immediately. Like Greta, he is lost, cursed by love and forgotten by love, but it definitely gets better for him. He finds his roots back into what made him who he was, both in terms of who he is as a person and as a family man. His side of the story have such a realistic end, and it definitely makes me want to say that this is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time.

The film is funny, quirky and real. I think those are the best three words I can associate with it. Regardless of the fact that there are big musicians in it playing, well, musicians, it still had such a everyday life feel to it that didn’t make it absurd. Like the film before this, I definitely recommend that everyone see CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE? when it gets a full release. Because why wouldn’t it? It’s bloody brilliant.

Q&A portion included John Carney, who is hilarious and brilliant. I laughed so hard the whole time, and he definitely said a lot of gold throughout.

“Adam Levine is so good looking, it’s fucking annoying.

“At the start, he was at Douche 2, and then four. By the end, he was on Deftcon Douche.” (On Adam Levine’s character’s beard progression of douchery.)

It was amazing because among the audience were the three songwriters of the film (which had mostly original songs), and Carney exclaimed, “These are the three assholes that are going to win the Oscar!” and I definitely agree. All the songs were fantastic, and the producers are such a delight to listen to. Now that I think about it, one of the songwriters laughed the loudest in the theater, and that’s just adorable. Also, there was a lot of Irish love in the room; Carney was feeling homesick.

So yes, definitely see the film. It’s worth it, and the best I’ve seen so far. Tomorrow I have a double feature of Under the Skin and Don Jon, so look out for reviews of those films!

IMG_2280Well, it’s been way too long.

This year I decided to do the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time, and let me just say, it is off to a fantastic start, and I’m here to tell you all about it.

Today I saw ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE by Jim Jarmusch, and starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wosikowska and John Hurt.

This was really exciting for me because I’ve been waiting for this film since it was announced.

The film was fantastic. A perfect, beautiful and very different homage to the tirelessly beaten vampire lore in today’s pop culture.

It was definitely my kind of film, and very different from a lot of films I have seen in the past. It was my first Jim Jarmusch film, so I was unfamiliar with it. It took a couple of minutes to get used to the pacing, but by the end, it was just perfect, and I found myself just admiring how beautiful the film was on every level.

Adam and Eve, played by Hiddleston and Swinton respectively, were the perfect partnership. Not just because aesthetically, they are very beautiful people, but their nuances just fit, and I found myself falling in love with them as a whole, together. I can only hope that I will have the kind of love they had for each other in my own life one day.

Hiddleston’s character was so…layered. Beautiful, I think is the word I would use. As a whole, he was the representation of helplessness, of the frustration that comes from being human, even though he himself is an immortal vampire. He had bad days, he had good days. He loved, cherished and felt weak. He was strong, and he was vulnerable, and he was so very human on that regard. Adam was real, and tangible, and just absolutely fantastic.OnlyLoversLeftAlive

Eve was lovely, strong and compassionate. She loved, and loves deeply. She valued her husband, and adored and loved him in the way she does best: by being there for him. By giving him the space he needed, while always reminding him that she is always there upon his reach, and being there when he needed her the most. She was such a strong presence in his life, and together, they made perfection.

Aesthetically, Jarmusch showed this through their costumes. Ying and Yang, with Adam constantly in black, and Eve in white. They created harmony and balanced each other, while Eva (Wosikowska), Eve’s little sister and the bane of Adam’s existence, was the firey presence that set them aflame for a moment, before burning out and away from their lives, again. She was the spark that reminds them, from time to time, that no matter how hard, no matter how contemptuous they can be for everyone and everything, especially those fucking zombies (read: humans), they will always have each other. 

The film, I believe, was about the love these two characters have for each other, and how they exist in their world today. Eve in Tangier, Adam in Detroit, then together and away. They dealt with loneliness and death, and they conquered it. They overcame, and continue to overcome their vulnerabilities. They maybe vampires, but all of this, everything made them very much human amongst the sea of zombies. Not only does this film critique the world we live in, but it also invites the viewer to examine their own vulnerabilities, and their wants, needs and desires to feel, love and cherish.

A definite recommendation.

PS: Since this was at TIFF, it had a short Q&A session with Jim Jarmusch, Tom Hiddleston and Anton Yelchin. Such wonderful gentlemen, and Yelchin spoke about Detroit as if he left a part of his soul in it, my heart wrenched for him.

As always, I am a day late viewing this episode, but that’s alright. Before my viewing, I saw a bunch of mixed reviews when it came to the episode, and for once, I didn’t let it deter me. I knew nothing of what was going to happen, and I didn’t even know the title until I saw some tags on tumblr. So this episode? Totally new and refreshing for me.

I didn’t do a review of last week’s episode, ‘As Time Goes By.’ So, brief recap: In another time-travel episode, Sam and Dean meet their ancestor from their father’s side this time — Henry Winchester. As it turns out, the Winchester side of the bloodline had their own supernatural connections, which makes all the allusions to Cain and Abel, make a lot of sense now. The Winchesters are basically elite from the get-go, as the Men of Letters, and Dean and Sam were meant to be the successors. Instead, they become hunters, the more “primitive,” and Campbell counterpart of the whole operation. Long story short: this not only affirms the whole bloodline thing we’ve been hearing about for the last eight seasons, but it also gives another Sam is more like John, and Dean is more like Mary comparison, which made me really happy.

Anyways, this most recent episode is a somewhat continuation of this, where we find out about the Judah Initiative, which is another ancient group of do-gooders working with/for the Men of Letters. Basically, Hunters made of Rabbis during WWII. And the Thule Society, is the Nazi-counterpart and therefore bad guys. All in all, good, creative episode as a whole. (Obviously, Ben Edlund penned it.) It was very interesting, if not for the slight annoying queer-baiting at the beginning, and the constant ‘college girls = bimbos’ trope that the show tends to do.

But I am not here to talk about that! Right now, I am here to talk about Sam Winchester.

I know right? Sam Winchester. Mariel is talking about Sam Winchester in a positive manner.

Alright, so continuing on with the Brains vs. Brawns idea, here we see Sam in his zone. He was leading the episode with his brains, and his curiosity, and that was refreshing to see. I know it is like that for almost every episode of all eight seasons, but there was something different about this.

All of his life, Sam has felt like an outsider. He just wanted to go to school, and go to college and not be a hunter because he’d rather read books than shoot a bow and arrow. And he was always revered as the black sheep because of it. In S3, we see Sam trying to be more like Dean in order to survive in a world where he believed that he is truly alone without his brother. To him, the only way to survive was to become more like him, to become more like a Hunter. And we saw that, really. For the past few seasons now. We saw a revenge-driven, demon-screwing Sam, guilty Sam and no-soul-to-ever-have-guilt Sam. Then we had broken Sam.

Which was all very boring, bad variaties of Hunter Sam. It was like the writers had no idea how to deal with his character, and now they’ve finally found it.

Sam is a Man of Letters while Dean is the Hunter.

Together, they make a perfect team, and that’s how it’s been from the very beginning of this show. Except before, he was just the smart brother. The Winchester geek. This time, he actually belongs in the family in a way that he has never been before. Dean has always known that he had a family because the family he has known his whole life is full of Hunters. And let’s face it: Dean is a Hunter, through and through. He’s always belonged in a family of Hunters while Sam never did. Dean was John Winchester’s right hand man, Sam belonged because he was his brother.

Now he actually has a family line he can be compared to other than the fact that John and him are both revenge-driven psychopaths. (I mean, he’s still a psychopath–he was warming his hands on a burning corpse!) He makes sense within the Dean-Sam dynamic because they’re not only brothers, they’re a partnership. Not only do their skill sets match, but what they like to do compliment each other. Dean will always doing what he does because that is who he is; he needs to always be doing right and saving people. And Sam will always be the scholar, because he is a man the strives for that.

Together, in a world of demons, monsters and Nazi Necromancers, they are the Hunter and the Man of Letters, descendants of the Campell-Winchester line.

And that’s all good.

PS: If the series doesn’t end exactly the same, or similarly to how this episode ended, I may get really upset. Because that was good, man. They find their places in a world that needs heroes in denim, with their own roles to play.

Let’s start with an anecdote.

(I’ll italicize this part so you can skip down to the actual review, if you wish.)

Back in the last PCA/ACA conference, I attended a paper on Becky Rosen, Supernatural creator’s once love-letter to the fans that turned sour, gross and downright ugly. Becky, who represents the fans, tied Sam Winchester onto the bed and took of his pants, after drugging him and basically taking advantage of him by making him marry her. Luckily for him, Dean stepped in to correct it all. If I remember correctly, the paper argued that Sam’s body represented the text,  The paper argued that in this case, Sam’s body represented Supernatural as a text, and Dean represented the writers of the show. The fans, fans like Becky (note: a straight female who wants nothing more but to get into Sam’s pants), are unstable and have no concepts of boundaries. She, the paper argues, is a threat to Sam, meaning the fans are a threat to the text. Basically, the whole thing was a big screw you to the fans. 

When Charlie was first introduced as a character, she was introduced as a fan. The good kind. Hermione Granger, Wonder Woman fan, smart cookie and a social liberal hacktivist who donates superpacks to charities. She also takes on almost a little sister role in the Winchester’s life, especially Dean, making her a Winchester ally (at this point, I was thinking she was going to die, because what woman ever survived being a Winchester friend?).

Over all, what’s not to like? Compared to Becky, she was a refreshing, and non-pejorative representation of the fan in the show. 

Then she was revealed as a lesbian. Ah. I see. I see what you did there, SPN writers. Becky is bad, and Charlie is good, because one wants to get into the boy’s pants, while the other doesn’t want anything to do with that crap at all. Lesbian? You’re not a threat. You’re a fan, but you’re not a threat, so you’re OK. 

Anyways, those are my first thoughts about our dear Charlie. 

===

This episode was very interesting. Let’s start with good things I really liked. Tons of popular culture references. The boys geeking out (Dean especially). LARPing. Somewhat representation of geek culture. Good ol’ classic throwback to monster-of-the-week. Felicia Day.

These things were pretty self-explanatory.

Now down to the nitty gritty.

Check out my title. I laughed when I wrote it, because really. The queen wants to bang the fairy. Hah. *snort* Anyways, one of the things I liked about Charlie when she was first introduced was the fact that her queerness did not make her who she is. She was this awesome, tech-savvy cute little nerd girl who just happened to be gay. I adored that about her. This episode was definitely different. At every turn, it was like, “Charlie is gay, viewer. See that, she is gay. LOOK, she is totally shameless about it, wanting to screw people in her tent. She’s sexually liberated and gay! Did I mention, TOTALLY GAY?!”

Seriously. It kind of reminded me of Route 666 way back in first season, which was SPN’s TOTALLY NOT RACIST EPISODE, because look, black people! And, and, and Dean is dating one of them. Seriously, not racist. Except for the fact the MOTW was a ghost of a white man that’s killing all of them. 

Again, I digress. Basically, this factor of the episode was what irked me the most. Representation of queer characters in the media, even now, are few and far between. Most of the time they are stereotypically, or too problematic, or the character is just the gay character and nothing else. Charlie’s introduction on show was good because her queerness did not make who she is, but this episode definitely erased that for me.

Now, one can argue that this representation is totally not problematic in that Charlie is just doing what any heterosexual male in the show (ie: Dean), would have done. And why should be any different if she’s a lesbian? Lesbians can look and oggle at girls and be sexually suggestive as well! Your argument makes no sense, Mariel, get a life!

Yeah, maybe. Maybe this argument is not sound. What I am trying to point out is this: regardless of thinky thoughts of what Charlie represents for the writers, her character started as a concrete person who just happened to be gay, and that’s fine. The fact that she sleeps with women did not make who she is. And that was how the episode started, with her and Dean being in sync of knowing a female porn star was a good little quirk that was reminiscent of her first episode. Then after that, it was like she was almost predatory. Every turn she was propositioning sex to every female LARPer, and the ending? Seriously. The Queen just saved that Fairy because she thought she was going to bang her.

Sigh. Ultimately, I felt like Supernatural did it again. They took something that first turned out to be good, then splatted all over it. Becky was a love letter to the fans that got burnt in front of the fans faces, and Charlie was the character who just happened to be gay ginger, and now she’s just a ginger lesbian.

Ah well.

This blog is still happening.

I mean it.

swear.

However, it’s hard to run a blog dedicated on reviews of popular culture when you haven’t seen a lot of popular culture lately. However, I am getting back into it. Work has just been taking over all my time. I intend to have this blog be full of in-depth analysis and observation.

But today is not that day.

Meanwhile, I make the following observation. I caught the latest episode of Big Bang Theory recently, “The Bakersfield Expedition,” where the guys, dressed as Star Trek characters get stranded after Leonard’s car was stolen.

This observation is not about the lead guys. (Shocking, right?)

No, it’s about the girls in their lives, who were all back home, trying to figure out a way to become more involved in the things their husbands’ love. Most notably, comic books. So they go to the comic book store.

Now, it is pretty obvious that Stuart’s comic book store is pretty Marvel-lite. Every other time before this episode, except for one mention of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, every comic book and superhero discussion in this show has been pretty DC centric. So imagine my surprise when the girls walk into the comic book store and Stuart starts naming some Marvel superheroes instead of just DC ones.

It gets even more interesting, when Penny only becomes interested because of Thor, for in her words, “Oooh, he’s hot.”

Immediately, I felt like it was a stab on the idea of a female comic book fan, or even a stab at movie-turn-comic book fan. That the only way a girl will know a comic book character is through the movie, and only if that character is hot enough to catch said girl’s attention.

Because, as we all know, Chris Hemsworth is a fine specimen of humankind.

Either way, it definitely brought back thoughts of the whole “fake geek girl” kerfuffle a few months ago, and with BBT’s continuous sensationalization of geek, nerd and fan culture, I definitely felt like that they were poking at this idea of the “fake geek girl” quite blatantly.

Anywho, did anyone else watch this episode and saw this? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

1

Hawkeye – Fraction, Aja, Hollingsworth

If you’re not reading this, you’re definitely missing out. Not only is it fantastically written, but it features both Hawkeyes – Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. Interestingly enough, if you’re not a classic comic book reader, this is the best jumping point. It specifically starts after The Avengers and shows Barton’s life when he’s not being a super awesome Avenger. It’s hilarious, smart and the art has such a nostalgic feel that I enjoy very much.

It’s currently on its 6th issue (which I still need to pick up), so I will start doing reviews after this issue, hopefully.