Thursday, April 26, 2012

Joss Whedon and blue pyjamas - The Avengers movie review.

I have been a Joss Whedon fan for more years than I care to remember. I can easily say that his wit, characters, and story arcs are a large reason as to why I wanted to be a writer (with honourable mentions to Aaron Sorking and the West Wing).

As a fan of the Buffy/Angel/Firefly verse for many years, Joss Whedon has characterised his stories with sharp wit, mixed with characters that have actual depth – this is all the more true for The Avengers.

Yes it’s hard to believe that a guy running around in blue spandex, a dude in red and yellow armour, a bicep bulging Australian who lacks certain pro nouns, and a green CGI Hulk could evoke such description – well believe it Joss Whedon has managed to deliver characters with purpose and depth. 

Marvel studios, bankrolled by Merrill Lynch, have bet the farm on The Avengers, with a budget of $220 million - and rightly so. Never before has a single movie been preceded by such an extensive plot arc covering 4 years of story telling and 5 different films. Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America (2011). Each of these films has elements and small story line snippets that culminate in The Avengers.

The Avengers manages to tell a stand-alone story with no need to have a familiarity to the preceding Marvel Studio films. Whilst the five previous films have certain plot elements (it’s worth checking them out before you go, but you'll be ok if you don't) the Avengers starts off primarily where Thor and Captain America finishes.

Thor’s half brother, Loki, comes to earth in search of the ultimate energy power, the same energy cube that appears in Captain America. Tension and hilarity ensues, as Thor, Tony Stark, Dr Banner and Captain America, have to put aside their own ego and work as team to, you guessed it, save the world from an ultimate alien invasion.

The action sequences are both breathtaking and thrilling and, refreshing to say, make sense and add to the plot. What makes this film shine is the screenplay and Joss Whedon’s ability to make you laugh one minute and feel genuine compassion the next. Comic book characters can have such depth, preceded by decades of story telling in print, that spans generations.

With an impressive ensemble cast of Robert Downey Jnr, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner, The Avengers delivers all the hype that you would expect with such a huge studio investment. Gwyneth Paltrow and Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) make great brief supporting additions to the cast.

In a year that will see the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman, the new Spiderman and Superman franchises, The Avengers has set a new benchmark on the comic film genre that shows that even if characters wear spandex you can have a film with depth. (I still can’t get over Captain Americas pyjamas – but hey I digress).

Joss manages to bring his trademark wit and humour that fans have become accustomed to with Buffy and Angel – at one point, the audience cheered and clapped with laughter.

Even if comic book films are not your thing, take the opportunity to see a great film that, at the very least, will thrill you. Even if you just go to see Chris Hemsworth’s bicep’s or Scarlett Johansson in black leather, The Avengers may very well inspire you to take a trip to the video store to check out the preceding five films.

Now that Adelaide’s whether is shit, and we are all about to go into the post Fringe winter hibernation, head to the movies with popcorn in hand and check out the Avengers, Joss wont disappoint you.

Avengers Assemble.



Thursday, March 8, 2012

I clicked ‘share’ – Slactivism, Kony and hating Justin Beiber

I clicked ‘share’. I clicked share because I am not an activist. I don’t attend rallies, or march or paint signs or scream in the face of those who disagree. I don’t give money to charity organizations with terrible logos, and I don’t particularly feel so passionate about third world issues to travel overseas to see it first hand. Truthfully it I had a chance to go overseas it would be to follow my own hedonistic pursuits, than to gain an awareness of all of this world’s seemingly rising injustices.

I do however think that I’m a good father. I teach my children, Preston (8) to always tell the truth, to look after his younger sister, Charlise (5), to work hard at the things he loves. And I tell my daughter that she has beautiful ideas, and thoughts, so she grows up understanding that beauty is not just dependant on her appearance.

I do work with young people everyday, trying to the best of my ability within a highly conflicting political environment, to advocate on youth issues and try to direct resources and service to teenagers who need it.

I do read national and international news websites everyday, because I think having an understanding of what is going on in the world, as a global citizen, is important so if there is something I feel passionate about I can act – and also to sound more intelligent than I am at dinner parties!

I am a long way away from being an activist, and so I will gladly take on the term slactivist. This week I watched the Koni video (along with 11 million other people) and felt, justifiably, appalled and because I was appalled and moved by their cleaver use of rhetoric and film making I clicked share.

I went to the website; I liked the paged, and shared the video but I won’t buy a pack or go to a rally. Oh shit….I is the problem with Western Culture.

Bloody slack ass me.

I won’t get up at midnight and plaster stickers all over the place, not because I don’t believe in the cause, but because I’m 34 and I don’t graffiti with stickers – plus, I like my sleep and I kind of think that idea is sort of lame.

Needless to say, I had never heard about Kony before. NEVER. Honestly I had no idea any of this shit was going on in Africa, and I would consider myself a reasonably informed global citizen. Today I have. I have read all the info and feel a little more aware. Will that make me give my cash to get rid of him, maybe not, but why does a movement like this (yeh I said movement, deal with it) have to always be about giving up your life, selling your shit to be completely sold out for a cause. There are words for people like that, they’re called Christians – they actually do it really well so ill let them get their Jesus on and try to change the world.

Now does a video on YouTube that gets over 11 million views equate to actual social change. Hell no, Justin Beiber has over 11 million hits – I hate him and his weird flaccid fringe.

But one thing I won’t do is critique for critique sake. I won’t let my infused popular cultured brain, be ignorant at something that obviously needs awareness. Yes the video uses emotional manipulation, yes it doesn’t address the broader geo political issues, and no the US can’t be the world police just invading willy nilly – see Iraq.

But I will admire one man’s passion to try and change his world and to make it better. I will admire his energy to garner support, and to do his best to generate followers and I will take the time to write about it.

And fuck yeh, I’m gonna hit share, because quite honestly as one dude in little old Adelaide, that’s all I feel I can do.

But I would rather hit share, and then lean back on my reclining desk chair and start to research about this whole mess not because I’m an activist, but because I’m curious and I want to learn.

Does this make me a slactivist, hell yeh, but I’d rather be a believing western slactivist than a cynic.

Oh and if you want to read more about the Invisible Children click HERE.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I want to be Clementine Ford – Except for the Ryan Gosling obsession.

I first met Clem on Twitter. Yes I said it. I met Clem on Twitter - and then strangely we ran into each other at a local café and only realised we were each other until we both hit up Twitter ten minutes later.

Clem is a freelance journalist, boner killer (her words not mine) and notorious trouble maker out of Melbourne and an exception writer. I say exceptional because when I think of being a good writer I think of being a good truth teller. Essentially writing, whether it is fiction, journalism, or birthday cards, is all about telling the truth as you see it.

Clem writes about what she sees, how it makes her feel and the rest is well, a big case of deal with it. What I like the most about her writing is her feminist social analysis. Some of her articles are exceptionally well thought out, researched and basically spot on when discussing social issues to do with women in our society.

I like Clem’s work because she writes regardless of the haters and I wish that I had the vagina to do the same. Clem receives quite a bit of angst for her thoughts none more so than the barrage she received below on Twitter. This tosser was promptly deleted by Twitter, but none the less Clem took it on the chin and well the rest is beautiful history.

If you want to read some thought provoking truth then hit up Clem, like, yesterday. Facebook search “Clementine Ford” hit up her blog HERE and follow her on Twitter @clementine_ford.

Clem also writes for the Drum and you can find some of her articles HERE..

Get on it…oh just look past the Ryan Gosling obsession. I think she has a Ryan Gosling blow - up doll.



Thursday, January 12, 2012

One for the Nerds - What is the purpose of Genre?

Here's my last Uni Assignment. I'm still trying to get my academic writing on, but i really enjoyed researching this essay. For those of you who love your genre films or just a decent film in general, you'll like parts of this essay.

Go on get your nerd on, and have a read.



What is the purpose of genre?

            When discussing the purpose of genre in film, we must first analyse what genre is, and the various elements that constitute a genre film or filmic product. Most films will broadly fit into a genre category, or type of genre but determining what these genres are will largely depend on the interpretation of the texts that constitute the definition of genre. As Stadler and McWilliam state genre can be defined as “…a type or kind…one way that films and television programs are classified into recognizable groups and sub-groups by privileging particular similarities to (and dissimilarities from) other films and television programs.” (2009, Pg 218).
            A genre film could broadly be defined as possessing at least some or all of these elements to make the genre identifiable to another. Pramaggiore and Wallis state “…a genre refers to a group of films that share a set of narrative, stylistic, and thematic characteristics or conventions. While not every film in a given genre will exhibit all of the genre’s conventions, every film in a genre will exhibit at least some of them.” (2008, Pg 374)
            Genre is a style of film in which the viewer can come to expect certain elements consistent with that genre. As Neale states, “Genres do not consist only of films: they consist also, and equally, of specific systems of expectation and hypothesis that spectators bring with them to the cinema and that interact with films themselves during the course of the viewing process. These systems provide spectators with a means of recognition and understanding.” (1997, p160). But what are the elements or texts that make up a particular genre and how are they interpreted? As Stadler and McWilliam state “…the most common conventions around which genre texts are classified are: a formulaic plot; setting; style and structure; and iconography.” (2009, Pg 219).
            These texts are the defining elements in which a viewer can identify a certain genre different from another. For example a viewer can identify a western movie by its iconography. Western films will have a cowboy who wears a cowboy hat and uses a “six shooter” and rides into town on a horse under the backdrop of a setting sunset, while off in the saloon the antagonist, or outlaw will be drinking whiskey or playing poker and usually be dressed in all black. These are all iconic elements that identify the film as being a western genre film.
            In this instance the western genre creates predictability in the narrative and serves a purpose to allow the viewer to know what kind of film they are seeing. By having these conventions it serves a purpose of identification with these elements that assist the viewer in knowing what to expect from the film. So when someone goes to see a western film they know that at some point there will be a shootout with the sheriff and that he will need to rescue someone, usually his unrequited love.
            A particular genre text however, is only defined in that genre of film as it conforms to those particular genre’s conventions. As Stadler and McWilliam state, “This process is both contextual and intertextual, because it is an articulation of one texts relation to the other texts, in terms of their shared features.” (2009, Pg 219). So when in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS) another film is quoted like Star Wars and a character says “I’ve noticed you have gone to the grumpier side of the force” another text is referenced linking the two.
            Some films or filmic products will not strictly stay to one particular genre but indeed be a hybrid genre. Stadler and McWilliam state that “…hybrid-genre texts are not only common, but also much more common that than single-genre texts.”  (2009, Pg 221). Using BTVS as an example it could be broadly categorized as horror, but it also has elements of adventure, fantasy and also romance as all genre texts from these genres make an appearance in some form or another thorough out the course of a season.
            Genre can be intrinsically linked to popular texts and the production of such genre films or filmic products can be dependant upon what is selling in Hollywood at the time. Gibson states “…Hollywood is surely a cinema of genres, a cinema of westerns, gangster films, musical, melodramas, and thrillers. Indeed, in early reflections on Hollywood cinema, it was this very quality that generated antagonistic criticism, with generic structures being deemed an impediment to artistic achievement.” (1998, Pg 327). In recent years the “Vampire” genre or resurgence in vampire iconography that makes up a vampire film (pale colored characters, violence, blood, biting, crosses, werewolves) has had a resurgent not just in film genre but also in the literary world which has fueled more vampire orientated films and filmic products.
            The purpose of genre however, is not be used as a mere definition or tool to categorize a film in terms of whether it is different or the same as another, but to provide an expectation with the viewer for what film they are going to see. Individual genres might be difficult to define in themselves, as the elements that make up that genre are important in defining a film for the audience. Lacey states, “Despite the difficulty in defining genres, it is obvious that genre is a potent concept because both audiences and institutions use genre to define texts, and producers use genre to generate and articulate meaning.” (2005, Pg 59)

            It is the strength of the texts within the genre themselves that can give the film strength and meaning. Whilst a genre film might provide a certain element of predictability in narrative, it can also be strengthen by adding different texts from other genres to enhance the film – this would be another purpose of genre and the sum of its texts. Lacey states that “…genres, while essentially formulaic, thrive on difference. Hence if we have a clear idea of what a particular genre consists of, this can be contrasted with how the generic conventions are sued to individual texts. Such differences may simply be in the mix of ingredients, such as a film start appearing in the genre not associated with her or him.” (2005, Pg 59). As an example, an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS) in its sixth season saw a particular demon come to town and turn everyone’s life into a real life musical. It was an entire episode of music where characters would go from talking in normal dialogue to suddenly breaking out into song and everyone dancing. Whilst the texts in BTVS could be broadly categorized as horror, and fantasy by adding a different text from a completely different associated genre such as the iconography of a musical, it created a completely different genre or hybrid genre by creating a horror musical with similarities to the Rocky Horror Picture show - but with less distortion guitar. These mixing of texts in genre creates hybrid genres as previous discussed and the formation of subgenres
            Genre does serve a purpose however in how a film is communicated and indeed marketed by film companies and Hollywood. Cinema goers want to see a certain kind of film, or might be in the mood for a certain film, and genre has now been an element to serve a purpose of brining people to the movies by appealing to our need for formulaic plot and narrative construction.
            Genre has also provided a medium for people to view the changing nature of culture as the genre changes. Whilst some genres will still reclaim the tradition of certain elements, they can develop and change over time as culture changes thus creating a reflection on certain elements of the changing nature of our society. Pramiggiore and Wallis state, “Another mode of criticism measures how genres gradually change, or evolve. While on one level genres retain their basic conventions, over time certain conventions will give way to others. An obvious example is the horror film’s depiction of monsters. The more obviously grotesque products of nature or science have been replaced by serial killers who appear perfectly normal.” (2008, Pg. 393).
            These subtle changes are both a reflection on the changing nature of our culture and filmmakers are changing the elements within the genre to make sure that the particular genre still applies and is believable to an audience. Some elements of a western film made in the 1950’s would be drastically different because of the social atmosphere as apposed to a western film today. Brokeback Mountain, which could broadly be categorized as a western still had some of the traditional elements of a western film. The iconography of the cowboy on the land and the costume they wore, however by making both the male characters gay made a significant impact on the genre of the film by reflecting views of gay rights, as was the time when the film was made in 2005. Obviously having two gay cowboys in a John Wayne film in the 1950’s would have significantly altered the predictability of the narrative with the western genre and would most certainly not reflected the American culture of the time. 
            In conclusion genre serves a purpose to give the viewer a point of reference of what kind of film they either want to see or are seeing. By containing elements and texts that confirm a particular genre a viewer and a filmmaker can rely upon the stylistic nature of the genre. But further than that, genre serves a purpose as to comment on the changing nature of our society and culture. By having predictable elements such as iconography and narrative with a certain genre, change even slightly, this tells us that our culture is demanding more of the cinema and asking filmmakers to provide a more believable and up to date reflection of that particular genre, its elements and how it relates to the audience. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Street Preachers v’s Street Guardians. How The Green Team is balancing the crazy.

My first exposure to the Rundle Mall hate preachers was at the 2010 Fringe when, upon entering, I heard a barrage of messages from some smelly guy, in yesterday’s clothes who was in desperate need of a shower and a spiritual lobotomy – it was Fringe time so I didn’t think it was anything strange.

He was on a box (although I don’t think it was a soap box) screaming into a megaphone that created only fuzzled muffled tones. But within the first few minutes I was able to decipher that these guys were all about preaching their gospel of hate and intolerance. It took me about five minutes to realize that it wasn’t in impromptu Fringe show. Anything on the streets of Adelaide in Feb and March could be considered a Fringe show – I was so disappointed that I wasn’t watching some street theater but actually fervent “Christian” dudes believing the crazy they were trying to sell.

Since then the Rundle Mall Street preachers have been creating quite a stir, especially in the media, and with the inability for the Adelaide City Council to stop them from screaming at unsuspecting shoppers, and now with recent reports of them now “preaching” on Adelaide trains.

These guys give me a shudder to the very core of my non-committal, non-practicing, recovering, pseudo Christian spine.

What disturbs me the most (other than their intolerance and crazy talk of God and hate) is that the minority is screaming the loudest. These crazy’s are giving a wrong impression about Christianity to many people.

Most (I say most because I have met some that have embraced the crazy side of the Christian force) Christians are people with a genuine faith and determination to leave this world better than what they have found it.

Enter The Green Team.

In stark contrast to the Rundle Street Preachers, if you continue to mozie on down to the west side of the city and head into the darker edgier parts of Hindley St you may see a bunch of young people cruising around in bright Green Hoodies.

These guys are The Green Team – a group of committed young people from Adelaide Churches coordinated through Encounter Youth (visit HERE.) who wander the dark corners of Hindley St to assist Police and those young people who have got on the sauce a little too much.

I had the pleasure of working for Encounter Youth a couple of times and I still remain impressed. The first time was a genuinely enjoyable experience….the second….was….well…..i digress.

Starting about 10 years ago at the Schoolies Festival in Victor Harbor, The Green Team is an example of what Christianity should be about – less CD purchasing, and less megaphone preaching, and more helping of those who need it.

So next time you are wandering in the City on a Friday and Saturday night, head down to Hindley St and say hi to a Green Teamer. They’re there to provide an extra presence for Police and help those drunk 19 year old girls who stagger out of Red Square get into a cab safely, and to help Police nab those wanker 21 year old guys who feel the need to get their testosterone on with some fisty cuffs.

So next time you see a bunch of hairy, smelly, weird looking dudes shouting their crazy about how God hates fags, and girls who have sex before marriage go to hell, remember these two things…:

They use the bible like a Selleys no gaps filler. They just use it where they need too.

And most Christians would rather wear green than stand on a soapbox. Me on the other hand will do neither and continue to just sit on the fence, point and go…”What is that…?”

If only there was a way the Green Team could make music CD’s and sell them to make millions….oh sorry hang on, that’s not the point.

My bad…



See a promo video below...its a little lame, but you get the idea. Sorry Jess...