Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Desolation of Smaug: A Devastating or Delighting Edition to the LOTR Films?

Just saw “The Desolation of Smaug” with my family. I have two conflicting reactions; one as a film student and the other as a Lord of the Rings fan.

The cinephile in me say that Peter Jackson did well. He could have done lots worse. This installment of “The Hobbit” was much better than the first. It flowed better and had a sound ending in comparison to “An Unexpected Journey”. As much as I enjoyed the film, there were a few details that urked me.

I hate movies made for 3D. I believe that part of a movie’s true value is reflected in the number of generations it is enjoyed by. Citizen Kane, Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Star Wars (“Episode IV”, as some of you call it), Hitchcock’s Psycho, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. These movies, as well as many more, have stuck around not just because of their content and story, but because of their content and storytelling techniques. The animation of Snow White is still adored. People are still fascinated with the special effects in Star Wars (though, Fox needs to stop re-re-reediting the films). The montage style of Hitchcock will forever be appreciated. But 3D… Because technology is rapidly changing, I predict the 3D techniques used today are becoming outdated too quickly. In fifty years, it will be the LaserDisc of this generation. LaserDisc was a great concept, but it needed a lot work. As the home video industry moved along and introduced the VHS system, LaserDisc got shoved to the side. I predict that this same chain of events will happen to RealD. When filmmakers choose to create footage specifically for 3D, they are taking a huge risk. Their content and story better be good, because once their technique is forgotten about, that is all they are left to rely on.

Well… that was a longer rant than I planned. There’s a lot more to my theory, but that’s not the point. “The Desolation of Smaug” did not have a ton of “made for 3D” scenes. The few that it had were pretty terrible. It would have been better to keep them out. “Made for 3D” scenes look very low quality in 2D. Footage quality was questionable in some scenes, but overall the 2D was expecceptable
(ex·pec·cept·able  /ik-ˈsept-ˈsep-tə-bəl/ adjective, 1: a cross between expected, acceptable, and exceptional 2: when something is better than expected, but not anything special, but really not bad).

I strongly believe that, in most cases, when there are realistic characters with serious motives and intentions in a movie not meant to be satire or comedy, it is unethical to create humorous killings. There are exceptions to this rule, but in “The Desolation of Smaug”, there were a handful of killings in the movie that were meant to be funny, and the film would have been just fine without them.

There was also very little blood in the movie, and I have a problem with that. Blood is more important to us humans that we realize. Try living a day without blood- you’ll see what I mean. Our minds automatically link blood to death, making a movie scene where a man is stabbed by a sword and bleeds is much more realistic than a scene where a stabbed man does not bleed. “The Desolation of Smaug” includes massive battle scenes. Few of the killings and injuries portrayed "realistic" bloody death. It is unhealthy, especially for younger viewers, to see so many killings without having the chance to process them as actual deaths. It is not so much about the gore or the content, rather, it is about the need for filmmakers' awareness of their content. More creatures died in ten minutes of “Smaug” than in the Boston Massacre of 1770- there is really no way any viewer could have processed all of those killings.

Now, I was partly joking. Yes, only five were lost in the Boston Massacre. But the other part of me is serious. There is this stupid, constant argument of “do video games make kids violent?” or “are slasher films to blame for murders?”. The truth is, media content affects whoever consumes it. It is food. Some people can eat junk food all day. They can enjoy it and it does not harm their body, but it is still gives their body calories and energy (in this comparison- a nonthreatening effect). But some people eat junk food all day and it even though it gives them calories, they gain weight and destroys their health (a negative effect). When we “consume” so many killings at once, we don’t register them as a life being lost. Whether it is through blood or not, I believe filmmakers need to better communicate to the subconscious mind of their viewers what is happening in their films (though I am preaching to the choir, per se. Rather, it is my fear and concern for the future generation, for the four year old in the theater today- for their understand of death and dying, and for their mental and emotional well being). We live in a world that takes death far too lightly. In the context of this fantasy world, I do not believe death is something to joke about.

Though I strongly disagree with many of director Peter Jackson’s decisions, there was a lot of good in “The Desolation of Smaug”. The cast is incredible. The sets are flawless. The music is captivating. It is not my favorite film of 2013, but a DVD copy will eventually find its way to my movie shelf. Overall: expecceptable.

The Tolkien fan in me has a hard heart. A very hard, black, clumpy, angry heart. I just want to sit in a corner and curl my knees up to my chest. Where are my Tolkien allies?! Few now remember them, yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless…

There may be few of us true Tolkien fans left, but the few of us have really been protecting you silly Peter praisers. Just kidding (I hope at least one person gets the reference…). I know I shouldn’t be dishing out so much hate to Peter. But all opinions are not equal, and Peter Jackson’s opinion on how to turn “The Hobbit” into a film was not as robust, sophisticated, and well supported in logic and argument as it could have been. Bad Choice #1: Three films. I am glad most of us can agree that Bilbo should have gotten there and back again in the duration of one movie. And with that said, I am sick of sitting today. Time to get off the computer. Overall, it was worth a watch as a movie lover and a Lord of the Rings fan. Not movie of the year and not a must see, but worth a watch if you have the time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Meet Kiki and Rainie!

We have two little rat additions to our pet family!

Kiki and Rainie

It's kind of a hard story to tell. After my Emi died (08/20/10 - 03/03/13), my boyfriend and I decided that we were going to get two rat babies home when I'm home for the summer. We picked out the names Cubby and Kiki.

On the 3rd of May, we picked up two sweet little rat babies. Kiki quickly adapted to her new home- her cuddly  adventurous personality came out soon after we got her. Tiny Cubby was adorable, but she was shy and timid. When we put her in the cage, she didn't move, but when we held her, she opened up a little and enjoyed being pet. 

We struggled to get Cubby interested in food. From yogurt to fresh peppers, we put several different foods in her cage to try to entice her. Her eyes were bright, she was social, but she wasn't interested in food or water.

On the evening of the 4th, Kareshi and I came home from the store to find Cubby frozen, no longer breathing. My mother thinks that because she was so tiny, she may have not been growing from a heart condition. Kareshi suggest that she may have had something wrong with her digestive system. She was not apparently sick at all. 

We gave our little Princess Cubby a proper burial instead of taking the body back to the pet shop. We didn't think Kiki should be alone, so we picked out another member of their litter and named her Rainie.

It's a tradition to name the next rat we get after the rat that recently passed away. Kiki was named after Emi- they both are Japanese names. Cubby was not named after a rat, rather, an Adventure Time character.

Cubby is the name of the little bear in the episode "Belly of the Beast" (Season 2, Episode 21).

Rainy (we changed the spelling for our rat) is from the episode "Another Way" (Season 3, Episode 23).

Rainie has adapted pretty well to our place. She is a wiggle worm and loves attention and exploring. This Friday, May 17th, we will be introducing Kiki and Rainie to the older rats, Charlotte, Mazie, Mollie, and Rosie. I think they will all get along well. XD