Posted in Teahouse Rambles

Teahouse Rambles #2 – Rankings of Speiled

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The stumbling block of television for years has been that, while its storytelling is serialized by nature, the inevitability of missing episodes and not being able to keep all viewers on the same page limited its application. Detailed, multilayered, call-back heavy storytelling wasn’t an option due to this harsh reality, and shows that dared to push towards “you-have-to-see-every-episode” territory (Twin Peaks) ended up losing a lot of their potential audience and getting cancelled before their complexity had time to pay off.

Thankfully, this has changed in recent years. DVR recordings, DVD collections, and streaming services have changed the face of how we consume television. Instead of a myriad of disconnected nuggets for light entertainment, larger stories are now broken into manageable chunks. The possibilities for targeting niche markets, expanding character or story arcs, and creating a more in-depth world are all being taken advantage of already.

It was inevitable that this revolution in television would expand into other mediums, but one of the most unsure was the arena of film. Films, perhaps more than any other artistic format, are expected to be self-contained, especially in the producer-driven summer blockbuster scene where most audiences just buy a ticket because they need something to do for 120 minutes and don’t care about pre-established continuity. What large crowd could possibly be interested in seeing a bunch of interconnected stories with reoccurring characters, setups and mythos?

The comic book crowd, of course. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has often been called a daring experiment, and it is, but it wasn’t a nonsensical leap of faith. For decades, comic books have provided the vibrant connectivity and large-scale storytelling that television and movies have lacked, so to have the groundbreakers of this type of franchising be superhero movies makes perfect sense. When Marvel started producing content with fellow serialization pioneer Netflix, everything fell into place even more nicely.

So, to celebrate the arrival of season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil (which I should probably be watching instead of writing this), I’m going to rank Marvel’s output from my personal least favorite to my personal favorite. This is all opinion, blah blah blah. All the movies, season one of Daredevil, and season one of Jessica Jones will be included, but not Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. or Agent Carter because I’m not familiar with them. This list is spoiler free, so you don’t need to hide your children or anything. So let’s get avenging!

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Posted in Teahouse Rambles

Teahouse Rambles #1 – Pretentious Quill

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I’m not a Star Wars fan. That’s not to say I dislike Star Wars, that’s ludicrous. I grew up with all six movies on DVD, I played LEGO Star Wars to death, I had lightsaber battles with friends, I discussed my favorite fights and characters and scenes and whatnot, and I can pop in any of the movies and watch them just fine, including the prequels. I don’t claw out my eyeballs at “I don’t like sand”, I don’t fall asleep during the political scenes, and I don’t twist my panties into funny shapes over Jar Jar Binks. I can, and have, forgiven Star Wars of grievous things (General Grievous, for example).
It helps that a chunk of the movies are actually pretty dang good. A New Hope is an exuberantly entertaining revolution of moviemaking, though it shows its age in parts, Empire Strikes Back is one of the best science fiction movies I’ve ever seen, even Return of the Jedi, watered-down commercialization aside, brings satisfying closure to the engaging themes and conflicts of the previous two films. I also got a lot more enjoyment then I expected out of The Force Awakens, which succeeds as an entertaining blockbuster, an affectionate deconstruction of A New Hope, and its own earnest, emotionally engaging story (despite some lost opportunities and frustratingly half-realized arcs). So why am I not a Star Wars fan? To be blunt: I will never, regardless of my moderate enjoyment of them, cast any sizable lot on a series half (soon to be a third) taken up by some of the most embarrassingly unengaging and incompetent sci-fi blockbusters in recent memory.
The Star Wars prequels are bad movies. That’s not an objective truth, given the subjectivity of art, but from where I stand that’s a statement as obvious as “Citizen Kane is a good movie.” As much as I encourage nuance, difference of opinion, and agreeing to disagree, no nostalgic media trend of the last few years has (pettily, admittedly) gotten under my skin more than people in my age bracket gushing about the “unappreciated genius” of the Star Wars prequels. In second place is the trend of fanboying Gen Xers attempting to explain how these obviously incompetent movies are incompetent…and completely failing at it.
These anti-Prequel orators often fail because they don’t point out flaws effectively enough, but even more deadly is the practice of dwelling on and exaggerating flaws that either don’t matter or are only nibbles of the basic problem with these movies. The Star Wars prequels aren’t atrocious disasters, after all. They rarely dip below 4/10 territory for me (not that they ever go above 5), and the obviousness of their badness comes less from the gravity of the flaws and more from the fact that they’re so front-and-center. But since the overwhelming views of these movies are that they’re either underrated masterpieces or the worst thing to ever happen to film, and neither side takes into account the nuance that criticism needs, I feel the need to sound off about my take. Fair but probably unnecessary spoiler warning for both trilogies. Let’s get Plinketting!

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