012. Wonder Woman

This post may take a couple of days to create, as I want to do this movie justice, so I’ll endeavour to keep the normal posts going and just backdate this one, but we all know my resolve has the structural integrity of a house of cards.

So my first thought when I saw that The AV Club’s Alex Dowd was reviewing Wonder Woman were “well, here we go”. There are two possible explanations for the fact that within the last three to six months, A.A. Dowd has provided just one film a grade higher than a B+, and I don’t think the most plausible is that “he is provided with the shitty movies”.

But don’t get me wrong, I understand the compulsion to nitpick, it’s a more valid and clinical way to treat reviews, right? You emphasise what you hate in order to elevate the status of your approval. Because if you abhor everything, then simply by approving, your respect is more profound. Of course, I get it, I’m hip to the groove of young white boys on the internet. I know how this works.

Largest eye-roll ever.

Of course this review is not about Alex Dowd, it’s about Wonder Woman, but as the premise of the film is built on a trusting and optimistic disposition, I believe it benefits the viewer to also be a little open minded. Although I also really don’t believe you need to be to be impressed by this film.

One final note about reviewers and not this review: I have not found a single female-written review of this movie, although admittedly so far my search has been confined to preferred media discussion providers (holla AV Club, New Yorker and Isolated Nation). While this would not normally bother me, and I prefer the unbiased account of film for equality’s sake, I feel that taking into consideration the importance of the first high grossing comic-book movie starring a female protagonist, as well as the impact of Patty Jenkins as the first female director, is a significant step in discussing this film, because while it was not made primarily FOR women, it’s sure as hell going to help us.

So, I don’t pretend to be on a similar level to any aforementioned reviewers because I am brand new at this and there’s a high chance I don’t know what I’m talking about. But if you wanted a girl’s opinion, you’re gonna get it.

EDIT: I have since found a review by The Guardian’s Wendy Ide, which is well written and unspecific on gender politics but does address that this film is great for further female protagonists. You can read that review here at The Guardian’s film review.


 

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Wonder Woman (2017)
Released 2 June 2017
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, DC Universe
Starring Gal Gadot & Chris Pine
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Written by Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg
& Jason Fuchs
Based on the Original DC Universe
Comic by William Moulton Marston


I want to start this review by talking about the negatives, partly because they are the minority, but essentially because I want this post to culminate in positivity and optimism, just as I believe the film does.

CONS:

The stylistic approach to special effects in this movie, in particular the pacing changes throughout fight scenes, seemed gratuitous and distracting. It’s not a novel approach, but in this case it was poorly rendered, and reminded me of pumping power-up bars to build for a boost in video games. The fighting itself also seemed inefficient and clunky, however I could be projecting because I don’t “get” fight scenes. Like, honestly, Game of Thrones could be so much shorter??

PROS:

With the possible exception of Captain America, Diana of Themyscira is our first superhero with something more important than physical strength or expensive weaponry, she has empathy. It is that, more than any other characteristic which will make this DC Universe movie stand-out above all others, especially among women. Patty Jenkins et al. have provided the world with not only our first significant female superhero, capable, strong and feminine, but the first superhero with primitive humanitarian instincts. To put it another way, they have provided us with a mother.

Rhys Tarling, of Isolated Nation, put it best when he said: “Part of what makes Wonder Woman the best, most distinguished DCEU film yet, is that its protagonist, unlike say Ben Affleck‘s Batman or Henry Cavill‘s Superman, is somebody who’s not an angry boring dickhead.”

Now, I can talk about how the colouration and costuming during the “the war is that way” scene was perfectly created to convey a sense of depression and anxiety, that grey is used to inform the audience that the characters on screen are experiencing a bad time. I can describe a multitude of ways that pacing and camera angles are used to connote and impress certain notions and feelings into an audience. I can use words and pictures to explain film techniques until the cows come home.

But that’s not what this blog has ever been, it’s not who I am and I have no interest in convincing someone to watch a movie because the white balance is on point.

My posts have always been about stories, either those told by someone else, or myself, and I believe that Wonder Woman is a story that we needed to see. She’s not “an angry boring dickhead”, she’s the first superhero to, however naively, care about the inherent good in humanity. In a time when we see and experience so much negative press, in a time when it’s entirely conceivable that maybe humans are the root of all evil, we were given a feminist movie that portrays the necessity and sincerity of synergy between the genders.

While moviemaking involves a myriad of technical skills, storytelling is about making people feel a certain way, and Wonder Woman did just fine at that. It is a movie that made me feel empowered, strong and just maybe as though hoping for more strong female leads was not a hopeless task.

x The Girl Who Loves Stories

PS: in case this review is not technical enough for you, or if it seems disjointed – which it is because I wrote it across two nights and completely lost my train of thought – here’s what my friend Mick had to say about it:

“My first sentence last night was ‘It’s easily the best DC film since The Dark Knight Rises, if not since The Dark Knight.’ I really like the period setting and the fact that it’s not as cheesy as Captain America’s scenes around the same era. The length of the movie isn’t for everyone, but I liked how there was time for plenty of character development, it covers so much at a good depth compared to so many other superhero films, that spread it over a series of films and crossovers.”

– the ever logical, Mick Hawkins

008. Natalie Port[beach]man Black Swans

Last weekend to celebrate W[estern] A[ustralia] Day, my favourite hockey people and I dressed up as the Natalie Port[beach]man Black Swans, which informed my choice for this week’s “Friday #the1001project” movie. I also read about four of Aesop’s fables, but don’t worry, I can predict that tomorrow will be the wind-up post for that one finally.

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June 9, 2017

BOOK: Complete Fables, by Aesop

Tomorrow, I promise. Seriously, because it’s already “tomorrow” and I’ve finished it.

MOVIE: Black Swan (2010)

“See also: ‘Mental illness in film'”
Wikipedia

“Black Swan is a 2010 American psychological thriller-horror film directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Mark Heyman, Andrew Heinz and John McLaughlin, and starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis and Winona Ryder. The plot revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet by a prestigious New York City company. The production requires a ballerina to play the innocent and fragile White Swan, for which the committed dancer Nina (Portman) is a perfect fit, as well as the dark and sensual Black Swan, which are qualities better embodies by the new arrival Lily (Kunis). Nina is overwhelmed by a feeling of immense pressure when she finds herself competing for the part, causing her to lose her tenuous grip on reality and descend into a living nightmare.” Thanks Wikipedia for a more concise synopsis than I am capable of currently.

Black Swan has always been a movie that, considering my … concerns … with anxiety during the past few years, has seemed like a bad idea to watch, basically. Despite my infatuation with Mila Kunis, and my appreciation of Natalie Portman in movies that don’t include Star Wars, no attraction has counteracted my fear of the subsequent mental breakdown. But lately I’ve even been able to watch Freaks and Geeks without a panic attack, so I’m obviously growing as a person.

That’s not to say I had an uninteresting response to the film as this morning I woke up ready to kick life’s ass and didn’t even eat any carbs today. Emotionally I think Portman’s Portrayal of Nina struck a chord with me, the first person to admit that I am meek and timid in regards to self-confidence. You cannot be a boss-ass-bitch if you are concerned with being in control 100% of the time and even though that’s not entirely the point of this movie, it’s my personal moral for the week. Also: be hot and crazy and you’ll get everything you want, basically.

Cinematically, I thought this movie was well done. I grimaced in several places and that’s how you know a psychological thriller-horror movie is horribly thrilling, I guess. I once saw Red Shoes in a small hotel room in Kalbarri, and Black Swan recalled similar aesthetic and thematic motifs and, similarly, communicates the leads’ anxiety well. Aronofsky used camera angles and movement to simulate the movie’s rhythm of dance, and the striking colour palette well represented the shifts from naivety to proactivity on the protagonist’s part. And it’s pedantic, but the use of phonetic similarities in Nina/Lily – much like Odette/Odile – make the word-nerd in me happy.

Overall I really enjoyed Black Swan, wasn’t freaked out at all and woke up this morning ready to achieve anything. Let’s hope the similarities between myself and Nina end there.

x Casey

001. Casey Causley Media Diet

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Indiana Jones: I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go along.

– Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Each year Steven Soderbergh, producer of movies such as the Oceans series and Magic Mike, publishes a list in January of all the media he consumed in the last 365 days, a concept that has become referred to as his “media diet”. As someone who enjoys not only consuming but creating content, I’ve become interested in knowing what my media diet would be. In addition to that I’m also interested in keeping track for reasons of productivity tracking, mood insight and particularly having a record of #the1001project media, particularly during times when it becomes difficult to create comprehensive reviews of all 4000+ items, and that doesn’t even include the non-related content.

So I present to you from now on, daily posts about the books, movies, television, podcast and live performances I experience.


June 2nd, 2017

Podcast: Gilmore Guys Present Bunhead Bros 116 ft. Jason Mantzoukas

This is where the inspiration for the Causley media diet came from as I liked the idea of a stimulus for daily creative/reflective writing for a year. It also has the benefit of being a written history of the productivity of #the1001project over time as well as the opportunity to highlight certain experiences and their connection to media – for example, as I’m going through an emotionally turbulent period at the moment, I end up watching more The Big Bang Theory than normal.

In terms of this podcast, it’s my go-to work podcast, particularly the Gilmore Guys era as the content is based on a show I’ve experienced so often that I can follow the discussion. The entertainment value, including the report between Kevin, Demi and their guests has in the past has been a source of inspiration considering their particular involvement in a side of media and performance that I really enjoy. The only podcast I’ve found to be more stimulating has been, of course, Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show.

Side Note: This media diet project is also probably the most efficient way for me to keep track of quotes I want to collect too. My Twitter bio doesn’t claim me as the “Queen of Reference Humour” for nothing.

Movie: Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark – the original Hannah Montana.

After growing up without exposure to most movies, including Star Wars and Indiana Jones, catching up on Harrison Ford as an adult is a magical experience I do not underestimate, and Raiders is the perfect escapist movie after a taxing week. Adventure, humour, and that perfect venn diagram of “adventurous” but “nerd” that’s like some kind of me kryptonite.

Speaking seriously though, Raiders is among the genre of movies I have trouble critically analyzing for blog posts such as these. It’s fun, funny and the Nazi’s lose. Add to that Harrison Ford’s haircut and Indy’s badass attitude and you have a crowd pleaser. To match with my emotional state this week, it was the ideal escape from stress and anxiety and I gave it a five out of five on RT. It’s not exactly thought provoking apart from the “girl wears inappropriate clothes while defeating bad guys, but not actually defeating them, just making an effort to defeat them while Indiana Jones is really the one who saves the day” trope. Early 1980’s special effects were on point too, and now I really want an Indy inspired costume to lurk at zoos in. A e s t h e t i c.

Side note: Doctor Jones, Jones, calling Doctor Jones.

x Casey

 

Jasper J-owns the Big Screen

Directed by Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue DaeRedfern Now) and based on the 2009 novel by Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones is a movie about fleeting innocence, first love … and institutionalised racism in small Australian country towns.

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The movie opens on two main characters, schoolboys Charlie Bucktin (Levi Miller) and Jeffrey Lu (Kevin Long) engaged in what is becoming an increasingly prominent debate in popular culture: is Superman the best comic book hero, or is it Batman. While Jeffrey defends Superman based on his inherent supernatural powers, Charlie maintains that it is Batman’s courage in the face of his own fallibility which makes him the superior character. It is this theme, of courage in the face of adversity, shared in a light-hearted and juvenile tone, which permeates the movie and inspires the events that follow.

When Jasper Jones knocks on Charlie Bucktin’s window that night, shows him the dead body of his girlfriend Laura Wishart and begs for his help to clear his name, Charlie has a choice to make: who does he trust, and can he summon the courage to find the truth about the death of his first love’s sister.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.” – Mark Twain

Throughout the movie, Charlie encounters several examples of racism in Corrigan – some of which is explained by Australia’s concurrent involvement in the Vietnam War as the movie is set in 1969. Tension between his best friend’s family, the Vietnamese-born Lu’s, and members of the community are conveyed through hesitation to accept a gifted Jeffrey to their cricket team as well as several violent xenophobic outbursts during the film. However these issues act as accessory to the main plot to the movie: the titular character, the half-caste Jasper Jones’ struggle with prejudice when Laura Wishart goes missing and he is the leading suspect simply because “he always is”. It is Aaron McGrath‘s genuinely emotional portrayal of the tormented Jasper Jones, in addition to the commentary on institutionalised racism that makes this a particularly strong message film, but despite this, the A-story of sleuthing teens solving a mystery still stands strong.

When Charlie first encounters Jasper Jones, our main character is simply an introverted adolescent, dealing simultaneously with feelings of exclusion and suffocation, the trademark symptoms of being a big fish in a small-town pond. After his interaction with Jasper however, Charlie not only gains a confidante, but also a task and his purpose is brought into proper focus. Levi Miller‘s performance as the awkward yet determined Charlie was the stand-out for me in this film. The ability to combine juvenile confusion with emotion and confidence was a large feat for such a young actor.

Hugo Weaving is almost physically unrecognisable as Charlie and Jasper’s main suspect, the reclusive Mad Jack Lionel, but provides an emotionally charged performance that I’d really like to spoil by comparing it, right down to dialogue, to another fictional character, but I won’t. The cast also includes the consistently flexible Toni Collette as the stifled and frustrated mother, and Dan Wyllie who gave yet another performing confirming my belief that he is currently topping my favourite Australian actors list – Puberty Blues, anyone – played the socially cognizant and calm father. Kevin Long provided the much needed comic relief and goofy fun throughout an increasingly dark movie, and Angourie Rice brings stunning maturity mixed with girlish charm, and is a choice which actually has me interested in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is a phrase I never thought I’d type.

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For me, this period film is an aesthetically nostalgic call-back to country life. The imagery and colouration switches with tone, where bright blues and yellows reflect happy, jovial scenes between friends, while all the mystery, tension and most overt injustices happen under cover of darkness.

If I had one complaint about Jasper Jones as a film, it would be several poorly executed plot devices throughout the film, coupled with a particularly abrupt ending. Presumably this is to suggest the impossibility of a completely satisfying outcome for certain characters, but combined these inconclusive scenes resulted in a confusing conclusion to the film.

Technically brilliant and emotionally charged, the talented cast and dedicated production team of Rachel PerkinsCraig Silvey and Mark Wereham with sound/editing by Antony Partos and Veronika Jenet have brought this best-selling novel to the screen in spectacular fashion. An Australian masterpiece, this film is both haunting and sweet, a coming of age story with both courage and charm.

Jasper Jones is out in cinemas today, March 2, 2017.

x Casey