Author Topic: Wonder Woman  (Read 405 times)

Offline MH

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #30 on: June 14, 2017, 06:21:13 am »
I doubt it started with Lethal Weapon.  I'm sure there are interracial buddy-flicks that predate Lethal Weapon.  I'm sure there's lots of other movies with social messages-- I mentioned Godzilla, for example-- that predate Lethal Weapon.  I'm sure there's lots of movies featuring black characters poking holes in racial stereotypes that predate Lethal Weapon.  I think that Trading Places, with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd, probably did the same sort of thing long before Lethal Weapon did.

Of course, but I'm submitting that the way Lethal Weapon did it was so covert that it was almost imperceptible. 

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I made an attempt earlier.  If something gives me a genuine experience-- be it a genuine belly-laugh, or the visceral thrill of Fury Road, or the powerful range of emotion that Schindler's List provided, that's quality.

If something leaves me feeling like Philadelphia... "well, that was nice, I guess, and I agree with their message, but it didn't really grip me..." then that's not quite in the same league.

And if somebody sets out with the noblest intentions and the most laudable message and the most important subject, but just doesn't hit the target, then that's not quality...  no matter how much one might wish they'd succeeded in their goals.

You can go ahead and try to define it for yourself.  I think that if you write all of the reasons down, your humanity will find an example that delights you that meets none of the criteria.  Dumb and Dumber was one such film for me.  It went against all my rules but I eventually was broken down by the sheer silliness and started laughing.

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For you, perhaps Jurassic Park was a silly fantasy story with an outlandish premise.  For me, when they get to the part where they unveiled the dinosaurs, that moment was etched on my brain forever.  Seeing that, in the theatre as a little kimlet, that was the most wondrous thing I had ever seen and I cried tears of joy it was so beautiful.  For me, that moment was more valuable than any socially-conscious message a director might put in a movie.

I liked it too, and I thought it was well-made.  I certainly think that there's a place for escapist films in the same way that I order desert from time to time.  But not every single meal.
 
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Which cultural conflict?

Really ?


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Some people believe that every cultural conflict manifests itself in the arts. Some people have proposed that the post-WWII environment in the US-- McCarthyism, fear of communists in every closet, and that sort of thing-- found an outlet in alien invasion, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, etc type entertainment.  Similar analysis has been done regarding the effect on the arrival of AIDS on US cinema in the 1980s, and I'm sure there are numerous connections that could be drawn.   Popular culture says something about the audience that made it popular... and that goes not just for what you term "real art", but equally for what is transitory.
  Yes, that's what I'm saying.  I don't know about 'every conflict' but major psychic issues do manifest themselves in popular art, as you have illustrated.

Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #31 on: June 15, 2017, 02:20:27 am »
You can go ahead and try to define it for yourself.  I think that if you write all of the reasons down, your humanity will find an example that delights you that meets none of the criteria.  Dumb and Dumber was one such film for me.  It went against all my rules but I eventually was broken down by the sheer silliness and started laughing.

If your "rules" didn't allow for the possibility that a silly movie could give you a genuine laugh, your rules may need to be reexamined.

A really simple "rule" I believe in... did the movie accomplish what it set out to?  If so, then it's quality.  A comedy that makes you laugh?  An action movie that provides thrills and excitement?  A speculative fiction film that makes you think about the future?   It's unreasonable to evaluate a story by standards it never intended to meet.  If you're watching a Jackie Chan movie and you're upset because the movie didn't provide thought-provoking social commentary, you missed the point.  That's not Jackie's fault, it's your fault for watching the wrong movie.

I personally have very little interest in horror movies. However, I'm willing to consider that there could be quality horror films. I'm simply the wrong person to evaluate whether a film in that genre has achieved the goals it set out to.  And I'm open to the idea that even though a horror film has little to no value for me personally it could still have value to someone else.  Those movies have been around for a long time... they must have value for somebody. 


I liked it too, and I thought it was well-made.  I certainly think that there's a place for escapist films in the same way that I order desert from time to time.  But not every single meal.

I'm not suggesting otherwise. I'm just saying that that sense of awe and wonder was a "real" and "valuable" experience for me, and that a movie that can provide me an experience like that is worth my time.  It doesn't matter to me whether the movie will be looked on by critics as a masterpiece of high-brow entertainment, and it doesn't matter to me whether in 25 or 50 years the movie will still be remembered.
 
 -k
« Last Edit: June 15, 2017, 02:22:27 am by kimmy »

Offline MH

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #32 on: June 15, 2017, 05:13:49 am »
If your "rules" didn't allow for the possibility that a silly movie could give you a genuine laugh, your rules may need to be reexamined.

I have no set 'rules' per se, but my point is that you can't imagine what you might like as you are a human.


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A really simple "rule" I believe in... did the movie accomplish what it set out to?  If so, then it's quality.  A comedy that makes you laugh?  An action movie that provides thrills and excitement?  A speculative fiction film that makes you think about the future?   It's unreasonable to evaluate a story by standards it never intended to meet.  If you're watching a Jackie Chan movie and you're upset because the movie didn't provide thought-provoking social commentary, you missed the point.  That's not Jackie's fault, it's your fault for watching the wrong movie.

I like movies where you don't know what they were trying to do.  I'm thinking of 'Holy Motors' right now.

 

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I'm not suggesting otherwise. I'm just saying that that sense of awe and wonder was a "real" and "valuable" experience for me, and that a movie that can provide me an experience like that is worth my time.  It doesn't matter to me whether the movie will be looked on by critics as a masterpiece of high-brow entertainment, and it doesn't matter to me whether in 25 or 50 years the movie will still be remembered.
 
 -k

Here's the test of the escapist-lover.  If they feel that a movie made them uncomfortable, sad or somehow didn't delight their senses then they think the movie is 'bad'.  It doesn't matter if the story affected them, or stayed with them - they just don't want to be affected in any way except trivial amusement.

Offline MH

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #33 on: June 15, 2017, 05:16:01 am »
This is my beef with escapist culture: not that it exists, or that it's unnecessary, but that some consume it like they consume sugar.

I like Coca Cola once in awhile but it's not all I drink.  I drink water, milk and bourbon sometimes.  I have read comments online that people didn't like a movie because it was 'sad'.  That's sad.

Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #34 on: June 17, 2017, 11:14:19 am »
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trivial amusement

I think that a lot of movies that people think are "serious" or "real" are actually trivial.  A trivial story isn't made less trivial by putting it in a real-world setting or a historical setting.  Conversely I think that a fantastical premise can be a very effective tool for exploring themes that are non-trivial. The original Star Trek TV series of the late 1960s used science-fiction premises-- alien cultures, astounding technologies, and the like-- as a springboard to create commentary on human nature and a wide variety of social and cultural topics.  And between trivial and "serious" is a whole range.

Jurassic Park-- may have been primarily an excuse to put CGI dinosaurs on the screen (which was in itself a wonderful thing) but was also based in part on real-world science (as Michael Crichton stories tend to be.) It provided an eye-opening look at the possibilities and perils of the research being done in genetics and might be the reason that genetic engineering first appeared on the radar of public interest. 

Field of Dreams-- a farmer hears voices that tell him to build a baseball diamond in his corn field so that ghosts can play baseball.  Trivial?  Well, maybe, but if you start thinking beyond the literal about what the field represented for him, why he needed to do it, what he accomplished... maybe it's not trivial.

When Harry Met Sally... a romantic comedy/drama that I gather created a lot of conversation back in its day by exploring the question of whether men and women can be friends without sex becoming an obstacle. Trivial? Serious?  I'm not sure. It concluded with the idea that you can solve the dilemma by marrying your friend and having sex with them, I recall.

How about Forrest Gump?  Was that a "serious" movie? I think it was primarily escapism and an appeal to baby-boomer nostalgia. It glanced through a number of social issues-- racism, Jenny's abusive home... but I don't think it actually had anything very significant to say.

Aren't most of the tea-and-crumpets period-dramas that were all the rage among "serious" movie fans in the 2000's basically just trivial amusement for highbrow audiences?  Escapism for snobs?

I think there's an element of prejudice involved here... the assumption that a movie that isn't set in a "real" setting will inherently have nothing "real" to say.


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Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #35 on: June 17, 2017, 11:15:19 am »
Gal Gadot and her proud husband:


 -k

Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #36 on: June 18, 2017, 04:11:58 am »
I think that a fantastical premise can be a very effective tool for exploring themes that are non-trivial.

On this front, another one that comes to mind is American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.   I've not yet seen the new TV series based on the book, but the book was quite interesting.  The premise is as escapist as could be...  figures from legend, myth, and folklore exist and interact in modern-day America.  The plot, such as it is, is primarily an excuse to explore the premise:  an ex-con named Shadow (who is probably Baldur of Norse mythology) has been taken on a cross-country road trip with Mr Wednesday (who is most certainly Odin of Norse mythology) for reasons that only Mr Wednesday really knows. They interact with a number of other characters who are obviously (and sometimes not obviously) symbolic of figures from mythologies from around the world. Also present are the New Gods... representing aspects of modern culture that have take on mythological importance-- technology, media, finances, and a group of "Men in Black" symbolizing the neverending obsession with conspiracy theories.  The old gods are slowly dying off or are just a shadow of their former glory-- because people no longer believe in them. While the new gods become stronger.  Mr Wednesday has a plan to rally the old gods together to do battle with the new gods and reclaim their place or go out in a blaze of glory.

But that's really kind of beside the point, because the book is mostly about man and myth and our need to create mythologies and the role of mythology in our lives.  A number of times the book completely leaves the main story to tell other stories that have nothing to do with the main story.  In one of them an ancient tribe of nomads has crossed the land bridge into North America. In another, a superstitious woman arrives in America, inadvertently bringing fairies and pixies with her. In another, a badgered salesman from the Middle East has arrived in New York and encounters a cab driver that might be a jinn of Middle East folklore. These diversions could be stand-alone short stories, but as part of American Gods they serve to build on Gaiman's premise and to express ideas he has about the subject matter.  So again, the premise is pure escapism but the story ends up being more.

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Offline MH

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #37 on: June 18, 2017, 03:17:58 pm »
I think that a lot of movies that people think are "serious" or "real" are actually trivial.

Agreed.

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And between trivial and "serious" is a whole range.

I don't think trivial and serious are opposites.

If you have an example of a fantasy story that is deeply affecting or even disturbing please tell me.  I think it would be difficult to put those two attributes together.

 
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How about Forrest Gump?  Was that a "serious" movie?

I don't think so.
 
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Aren't most of the tea-and-crumpets period-dramas that were all the rage among "serious" movie fans in the 2000's basically just trivial amusement for highbrow audiences?  Escapism for snobs?

Yes.

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I think there's an element of prejudice involved here... the assumption that a movie that isn't set in a "real" setting will inherently have nothing "real" to say.
 

No, I think that fantasy films can have something to say but it's still escapism.

Offline jmt18325

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #38 on: June 18, 2017, 11:16:06 pm »
I don't know about all of this, but as a movie, Wonder Woman was very good.

Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #39 on: June 19, 2017, 10:05:13 am »
If you have an example of a fantasy story that is deeply affecting or even disturbing please tell me.  I think it would be difficult to put those two attributes together.

I don't think I've ever watched anything more deeply affecting and often disturbing than the Game of Thrones television series.  I'm still processing the program and haven't decided on its merits as anything beyond entertainment, but its ability to be deeply affecting is matched by almost nothing I've ever watched.


I think the Watchmen comic book series is probably the best example. It's a 12 issue limited series that transcends the medium and stands as serious literature.
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It's rare when a comic earns critical mainstream recognition, but Watchmen is no ordinary comic. The October 24 issue of Time magazine features a list of the top 100 novels since 1923. The only graphic novel to make the list is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen.

Book critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo created the list, which includes J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Grossman calls Watchmen "A work of ruthless psychological realism."
http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/10/17/watchmen-distinguished-in-time

I read it when I was a teenager when my little brother purchased it.  I was pretty blown away... I bought my own copy, and read it again about 10 years ago when the movie adaptation was released.   And I read it again last winter. Each time I have read it I have found something new... themes and ideas that went over my head the previous time I read it. There is simply so much in the book to chew on. I'd often find myself in idle moments wondering what Moore meant with something he wrote, or why he made some of the choices he made.  The movie adaptation made an effort to highlight some of the main themes but wasn't able to do justice to it... there's far more in the book.  It's a study of humanity and life and the view of humanity it presents is actually very bleak and sometimes disturbing. It's definitely a deeply affecting work, often disturbing. It's almost haunting.


This is hardly an exhaustive list, it's just the first two that came to mind, and the two I'm most emotionally invested in.  Fantasy and science fiction can be powerful vehicles for presenting ideas that are unsettling or disturbing, and to make something "deeply affecting" is just a matter of creating characters and situations that the reader/viewer is emotionally invested in.


No, I think that fantasy films can have something to say but it's still escapism.

Google says escapism is
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    the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.

But I think that science fiction and fantasy can actually be an effective way of presenting unpleasant realities for an audience, and conversely many "real" films are just fantasy.

 -k

Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #40 on: June 19, 2017, 10:06:27 am »
I don't know about all of this, but as a movie, Wonder Woman was very good.

Thanks, I still haven't been able to get to the theatre.  I wanted to go see it with my friend but she hasn't been able to get to town.

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Offline MH

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #41 on: June 19, 2017, 10:36:45 am »
I don't think I've ever watched anything more deeply affecting and often disturbing than the Game of Thrones television series.

I find that very surprising to hear.
 
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to make something "deeply affecting" is just a matter of creating characters and situations that the reader/viewer is emotionally invested in.

yes... 'just'... LOL


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science fiction and fantasy can actually be an effective way of presenting unpleasant realities for an audience, and conversely many "real" films are just fantasy.

We're getting into the realm of personal taste again, which isn't a productive conversation, but I would say objectively the less you have to suspend disbelief the less escapist the genre is.  I just thought that up now, but let's try that idea on for size.

Offline MH

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #42 on: June 19, 2017, 10:41:41 am »
Also, to drive the point that we are discussing and not arguing I want to clarify a few things and set up an example of mine that undercuts my own points:

- My feeling is that the culture is nursing too many audiences with escapist trivia
- I also feel that escapism is limited in the spectrum of affecting experiences it can deliver, maybe in the same way film itself is
- I don't deny that there is quality escapism, or that any genre can deliver affecting and excellent art

And to undercut my own point, The Leftovers is a deeply painful long form cable series on HBO that is based on (religious) fantasy.


Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #43 on: June 20, 2017, 12:11:33 am »
I find that very surprising to hear.

Why would that surprise you?  Is it because it's set in a fictional kingdom instead of a fictional advertising firm?

The artistic merit of the program is top-notch.  It's consistently among the top contenders at the award shows and several members of the cast have received awards or nominations for their portrayals.  The production values are among the best ever put on television... a season of Game of Thrones is comparable to a ten-hour long Hollywood blockbuster. The characters are complex and richly drawn, and we've watched them grow and evolve over the course of six seasons.    The writing delivers unmatched suspense... the series has shown that they're completely unafraid to kill characters that you're emotionally invested in, and when characters find themselves in perilous situations the audience is fully aware that the cavalry might not arrive to save them.

Game of Thrones didn't develop a huge and almost obsessive fan following by being lukewarm.    Several episodes of this program have become infamous for the intense emotional reaction they caused viewers.  Some episodes I have watched almost entirely without sitting down, instead pacing anxiously around my living-room, dreading the outcome.  Some events on the show have left me so stunned that I felt hollow for hours afterwards. And just once in a while, something incredibly beautiful and wonderful happens.

Yes, absolutely it's one of the most deeply affecting and sometimes disturbing things I've seen.  It can deliver an emotional punch in the gut like no other program I've ever seen, and only a few movies compare. Without question.


And yet I  have this hunch that you feel all of this could be greatly improved if it was set in an advertising firm.


Perhaps it could be called "Game of Ads" or  ... "Corner Office". How about "Corner Office".  Ned Stark and Cersei Lannister could be reimagined as rival Vice Presidents instead of medeival lords and ladies. Rather than Cersei Lannister plotting to get Ned Stark beheaded, Sarah Lancaster plots to sabotage Ed Stark's big ad campaign and cost him that big promotion that he's been angling for. Is that the thinking?  That this would be more compelling, because it's a Real Situationtm?  Except it's not very compelling, and it's not very real either.

yes... 'just'... LOL

My point is that it is a matter of execution, completely independent of genre.

Why would I, as a viewer, be more likely to empathize or identify with a fictional advertising executive than a fictional lord?  Why would I as a viewer feel more emotionally invested in a fictional drug-lab operator than a fictional lord? 

We're getting into the realm of personal taste again, which isn't a productive conversation, but I would say objectively the less you have to suspend disbelief the less escapist the genre is.  I just thought that up now, but let's try that idea on for size.

I disagree. 

I think I've mentioned before that I do creative writing. More as a hobby than in any hope that I'm going to ever get published. Regardless, I've got hundreds of pages of work in various unpublished novels, novellas, short stories, and so-on, in several different genres.

The first major epic I embarked upon was a tale of supernatural and the occult set in London in the 1870s.  I posted chapters to a creative writing group I belonged to for feedback from other writers.  I got excoriated for mistakes in English slang. I got reamed for anachronisms. I got roasted for getting London geography wrong. I got not a word of criticism for having a narrator who is a cat (actually a woman's mind trapped in a cat's body, not that that's any more sensible) and no complaints about the depiction of the occult.

Another of my efforts is about a 20-something woman who dreams of becoming a big rock star, and her struggles with her family and her band and a stalker... it's the closest thing I've attempted to a "real" setting. Once again, lots of complaints that I've screwed up geography (I set it in Phoenix AZ for some reason) and complaints about inaccuracies regarding music equipment and technique and what practicing with a band is actually like.

Your audience is willing to cut you plenty of slack when it comes to depicting a fantasy or science fiction setting.  Trying to depict "real" is real hard. If your audience is 6 seasons deep in Game of Thrones, they're not going to stop and say "hey, come on, dragons aren't real."  If they're watching the show at all, they've already bought into your premise and they're ok with it, as long as you stay consistent.   

As a viewer, I strongly feel that the shows that push your willingness to suspend disbelief the hardest aren't science fiction or fantasy.  It's shows that purport to depict realism but utterly fail that are the toughest to suspend disbelief.  The computer technology fails on espionage shows that depict "hacking", or the science fails on forensic dramas like CSI, for example. I have never tried watching an episode of House MD in a room full of doctors, but I have watched an episode of CSI with engineers. They would have let Doc Brown talk about his Flux Capacitor all day, but the howls of laughter as the CSI guys discussed the possibility that the dead guy might have been electrocuted by his TV remote control made me feel quite silly for even watching it.

There's no such thing as magic or dragons, so you can't "get it wrong", and your audience knows that and they're willing to buy in to the story you want to tell them.  But if you're setting out to depict "real", you can definitely "get it wrong", and when you do fail, it is immersion-breaking for your audience.


 -k

Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #44 on: June 20, 2017, 12:31:53 am »
- My feeling is that the culture is nursing too many audiences with escapist trivia

The audience gets what the audience wants. Escapism, be it musicals or beach party movies or frat-house comedies or whatever, has always been popular in movies.  And plays and books and stories and myths going back for a very long time.

- I also feel that escapism is limited in the spectrum of affecting experiences it can deliver, maybe in the same way film itself is

I guess I really need to know what you mean by escapism before I can really respond. To me, the word "escapism" has a connotation of lightheartedness and inconsequentiality. Seeking refuge from things that are complex or stressful or scary.

To me, something like "Friends" or "Sleepless In Seattle" are escapist, even though they're set in a vaguely realistic setting.  Whereas to me, something like "Game of Thrones" or "Watchmen" isn't escapist, because even though they're in fantasy settings they're presenting things that are complex and unsettling and upsetting.

But, if by "escapism" you mean anything that's not in a "real world" setting, then I disagree.  If you feel that movies like "Gattaca" are escapist because they're in settings that aren't "real", then I think that movies like that actually have a far greater potential to explore ideas that simply couldn't be presented adequately in a "real" setting.

 -k