Sunday, July 29, 2012

Florida Trip: obnoxious teenagers and Hell's shopping mall

With utmost delight I report that I type this very post from sunny Florida!  What's true is that I've been drinking a fair amount tonight, but no matter; I decided a few hours ago (was there alcohol in my system then?  Oh, certainly) that I might every few days post about my vacation to the Sunshine State.  God knows there has been enough noteworthy things that have already happened, and we haven't even made it to the theme parks yet.  With a visit to Disney's Magic Kingdom tomorrow and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios on Monday, rest assured that Tuesday's entry will be an exciting one; for now, settle down with tales of my flight and the events of this day.

What I can start off with is some orientation: what has been labelled the "final family vacation," my parents finally relented and decided to bring my sister and to Orlando so that we could revisit Disney and - and this is mostly for me considering my sister has never read the books and is thereby not related to me from this point forward - visit the Harry Potter theme park for the first time.  I say revisit Disney because I've been once before to this location, back in 1999, something I know only because I can vividly remember a gigantic 2000 over the Epcot globe (what's the proper name for it?  Who cares, we aren't going back there), one of my few memories.  (well, aside from a story I'd rather not share) We ended up renting a house ten minutes outside of the Disney grounds with my parents' friends and their daughter who are technically my surrogate family anyways; higher ceilings than I'm used to, we've got something like two spare bedrooms, and I'm enjoying myself in the first floor suite I've claimed which by circumstance has handicap accessibility in the washroom.  Guess who gets to sit down during their shower?  My broken foot is thankful.

Ah, my foot.  The raincloud to my entire vacation.  The constant, painful reminder of my dumbassery - yes, dumbassery - of this past week.  The good news is that with every passing day I find a new energetic determination when it comes to standing up and walking; the swelling may have gone entirely but I'm finding it a little bit easier to limp around in my boot of an air-cast.  As much as I find this successful mobility I'm just as easily finding new bruises all over my foot, and I can tell you entirely that finding purple bruises on the bottom of your foot is scary business.  I fear that I'm putting unnecessary strain on my foot (and a consequential stunt to the healing process) when I force myself around, but I know if I don't, I'll miss out on going to the parks which I've weighted my entire summer thus far down with excitement.  On the flip side, though, walking feels okay (up to a point) because of my cast, and again, thank you thank you to my friend who provided it to me; I have some heavy duty pain meds for tomorrow; and the Magic Kingdom is the freaking happiest place on earth, right?  The moment I set foot in that place I should feel next to perfect.

Yesterday involved our lengthy but not-so-lengthy trek down to where I sit at this moment.  We left around noon due to an uncertain border wait - we flew out of Buffalo, of course - and we ended up at the airport hours early anyways.  What better way to pass the time than to stuff your face with chicken wings?  I don't usually fly well, and I can't say the bloated chicken food baby in my not-womb wasn't exactly a positive factor.  Regardless, hours later we took off, and hurray, I didn't puke on the airplane this time.  No in-flight movie - no screens to begin with - and no leg room for my casted foot.  Oh, and there were the most obnoxious kids I've ever seen directly in front of me.

I suppose it's helpful to first note that the male flight attendant, while extremely flamboyant, was kinda hilarious while over the PA system.  What's significant to note about this is that the three teenagers directly in front of me, my sister, and our friend is - and these are three teenagers of a group of about twenty as we soon discovered - that they are fucking annoying and would laugh the fakest goddamn laugh I've ever heard after every sentence the flamboyant flight attendant would utter, even if it wasn't funny.  I swear to god, if I ever hear this laughter again, I will hang myself on the spot.  And should my noose not prove successful, I'll hope that whomever the good god is in the sky will personally smite me so that I will never have to hear that grating, grating noise ever again.  What's worse about these children was that they thought it was funny to thrash - and I mean thrash! - around in their seats and pretend they were having seizures when taking off and then again when landing.  One then compared this thrashing to The Exorcist and lord knows I hate The Exorcist but congratulations to these stupid children, they comprehend the concept of comparison as well as successfully being able to identify a movie not made in the last two years.  Regardless, these kids were dummies, and by the cruelest fate we were stuck traveling from the gate and to baggage claim behind not just them but their entire insolent troupe of prepubescent shit-disturbing fuckers.  Excuse the french.

The heat hit me down like the hand of god and I wanted salvation from my cast when we finally touched down.  We played musical rental cars for a while before we finally set off toward our rented house, but one wrong turn led to an endless night of parents turning into psychopaths and yelling and constant U-turns and carsickness on my part all because the bitty of a GPS unit led us astray.  I wished for nothing more but sleep, but the excitement of exploring the house (hobble aside) was enough to keep us up well past 2am.  Oh, and I drank a lot too, because I could.  The handicap room became mine while my sister claimed the decked-out Disney princess room like the airhead Disney princess that she truly is.

Today brought about a late start, but when we finally decided to get moving, we drove straight to hell on earth: collectively we decided the late afternoon would be designated for shopping at an outlet mall, something my broken foot just begged for.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never in my life seen a place as busy as this outlet mall.  We drove around the extremely hectic parking lot for what seemed like an eternity, passing car after car parked on grass and halfway up a curb and practically on top of garbage bins and electrical lines.  Luck came to us after a harrowing search, and by then I thought screw this, I don't even feel like shopping.  The pain was most felt today walking around the outlets, and I only fear for the sort of strain I'm going to put on myself tomorrow around the Magic Kingdom, but T3s don't fail me now.  I came away from my crippled shopping experience with the greatest jacket I've ever laid eyes on, but damn, I can't wear it until the fall and I definitely can't wear it down here - I'd melt in a flash.

I never noticed how crippling (poor choice of words for my own situation, but I'll own it) not having a working cellphone is.  My dad and my sister reap the benefits of having unlimited data so la de da, they get to BBM the shit out of their contacts, while I'm stuck with a caveman-like sensibility where I can only use my surprisingly resilient Blackberry for checking the time or playing Word Mole when the world around me bores me.  I'm thankful for the unlimited internet - the people who own this house won't mind me downloading torrent after torrent, will they? - and I'm at least able to contact my good friends over the net, but it's seriously humbling and quite frankly oddly disturbing how much I actually depend on my phone.  The honest truth is I shouldn't even worry about my connectivity: I'm on vacation and my internet connection should be the least of my concerns, dammit!

Up next: tales about Disney and Harry Potter that will surely be published beyond the grave because I am a child and these amusement parks will be the absolute freaking end of me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

One foot down, one to go

So much for all that milk I drink.  Seriously, I must drink at least three glasses a day; a lot more than I drink water, anyways - so why the hell do I break so many bones?

The entire time that I wrote this post I was knocking on the wood table beside me - I don't need any more injury and I don't want this to jinx myself.

I broke my goddamn foot on Friday night.  What was meant to be a fantastic weekend out of town with some of my favourite people was plagued by my idiotic injury only hours after arriving - a trend you might realize when I divulge into my checkered past of injury.  A fantastic weekend it really was, though, don't get me wrong!  But the fact that I could barely even walk wasn't exactly fun.

The obvious thing to address was that I was very drunk.  When I'm drunk I'm still coherent enough that I almost never have problems with balance and walking, so it's not because I was too much of a mess.  Instead working against me was this deadly cocktail: a narrow hallway cluttered with large boxes, somewhere between nine to eleven beers in my system by eleven at night (we played a very grand game of King's Cup), and the song 212 by Azealia Banks.  I might've jumped, I could've tripped, though I definitely caught the edge of one of these boxes after getting excited over the song playing with my equally drunk good friend down the hall.  What did happen, though, as I remember the pain vividly, was that I collapsed entirely on the side of my right food.  I somehow dragged myself to the basement where I was to be sleeping amidst surging pain, I requested a beer, and I affirmed that I did not dislodge a bone since almost immediately after my fall appeared a massive bump.  I eventually passed out.  What came Saturday morning was a worse pain, a pain so bad I couldn't even deal with my nausea and headache from drinking twelve (the official count was twelve) beers the night before.

Here's a moment of candid confession: as I lay on the futon staring at the ceiling and knowing that I definitely fractured something, I cried.  I texted my mom who in her mom fashion proceeded to flip out and demand a call; she was extremely concerned and the reminded me of the very thing that made me cry to begin with - we're leaving for Florida in just five days, a vacation entirely centered around day trips to Disney and Universal complete with walking.  I eventually calmed myself down but I couldn't help and still can't help but feel upset with myself and my proneness to accident.  A visit to the walk-in clinic earned me nothing: the doctor was brisk and told me I broke the outermost bone in my foot but that there was nothing she could do for me and I should just go home and not walk - you think?  Walking is and was nothing but painful, but I managed to get myself to the theaters to see The Dark Knight Rises again, and my resilience continued as I took up the beers once again and made it out to the bar at night.  (sitting and ordering beers is not strenuous work) Today brought about severe bruising though slightly easier walking; I'm dragging myself around like a bloody zombie.

Thanks are in order for everyone there this weekend who were my personal brigade of service: I didn't have to leave my spot on the couch or on the rolling chair I used to propel myself around the house whatsoever, and I can only imagine how annoying waiting on someone might get.

I hate that I'm easily injured.  I hate that this had to happen before the upcoming ten days that require my walking ability, and I hate that my vacation will lack total relaxation as I need to grapple with this injury.  Another thanks to my friend who has given me one of those air casts that look like boots so hopefully that should at least give me some relief when walking.  I hate that my bones hate me, and I definitely hate that every injury I've had comes with an embarrassing story of cause.  Hey, remember that time I broke my foot when tripping in the hallway?  Yeah, it gets to join the ranks of that time when I fell on the stairs and broke my knee, or the time I fell off of my bike off of a boardwalk and broke my arm, the same arm I broke when slipping on plastic, and that time I broke my ankle when slipping on water.

This always happens.  (allow me to use this as a catharsis of self-pity, because shit happens and I have to deal with this because what's done is done and I need to focus on getting better now) This means, as I've already exhausted, that my Florida trip has now been somewhat damaged.  I can't go to Wonderland as I was planning to on Tuesday.  Can't drive.  Sure as hell can't work unless I can get to the point of standing on my feet for eight hours again, so I need to deal with calling that one in tomorrow about not being able to work the shifts I have this week.  And I definitely can't walk without strife, so don't take your ability to get up from your computer right now and go run a marathon or hell just even get to the washroom or fridge or your bed for granted.

Pray for me.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Before beginning I need to address the fatal shooting that occurred at the midnight screening last night in Colorado - there's no need to rehash the details because I'm fairly certain you've heard about it.  My thoughts are with the victims of the tragedy.  I am disturbed and disgusted to my core about the sort of evil that exists in the world, that something as exciting and honestly trivial as a midnight advance show for a summer blockbuster has turned into bloodshed for those involved.  At the risk of sounding cold, I wonder to myself what affect this will have on the movie's success this weekend, although the gravity of this situation is truly real and I only hope for the best for those who have survived and for those who have been affected.

I wish I could pull off standing on police cars.

The Dark Knight Rises is the most perfect conclusion to a nearly flawless film trilogy and is, frankly, the most intense and the most satisfying movie I've ever experienced.

I can remember being dumbfounded when walking out of the theater seeing Batman Begins way back in 2005 (has it been that long?) because I could have never expected the sort of quality and realism that Christopher Nolan had brought to a franchise that had been tarnished by the ridiculous Batman & Robin and its subsequent nipple-suits and Schwarzenegger madness.  I saw that movie twice.  I can remember waiting outside of the locked theater doors at 10am with my friend in tow waiting for the earliest possible showtime for The Dark Knight - my theater didn't offer a midnight showing for, because trust me, I would've been there - which was at noon.  I remember running in once the doors opened and body checking people to get to the theater, running to watch what would be the greatest comic book movie made.  I cried when Rachel Dawes blew up as a result of the Joker switching addresses; I was in awe at the late Heath Ledger's incredible performance as the deranged sociopathic clown; I hated Chris Nolan with everything I had for leaving me hanging, not knowing if there would even be a sequel.  (I might've been okay without one, actually) And four years later - we waited four years for this - The Dark Knight Rises is finally here, and I would wager that it comes close to entirely surpassing its near-perfect predecessor.


Scratch that.  Now that I remember the film's final hour, I feel like it's better.

To be honest I was initially wary about the film as it began.  The first forty-five minutes or so started on shaky and slow ground, though now considering the plot as a whole, I can see the need for such time to be devoted to establish what would become integral.  Set eight years after The Dark Knight and after Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent's death, we find Bruce Wayne as a recluse, his body deteriorating and his weight on a cane.  Events are set in motion immediately as he crosses paths with Catwoman, whose seemingly petty theft of his fingerprints begins a spiral of madness, orchestrated by the terrifying Bane, played by an almost unrecognizable and scarily built Tom Hardy.  The movie plays parallel to the one before in the sense that the first hour is devoted to a tangled network of confusion before the main villain rises about and assumes control of their plan: in The Dark Knight we had the business with the Chinese businessman and the emergence of the Joker, and here we find Bane's employer calling the shots with a plan set before Bane hijacks the control with his own agenda.  From thereon out we see absolute pandemonium: Gotham is turned on its head after a series of events triggered by Bane which honestly made my blood run cold - explosions, diversions, entrapments, a clusterfuck.  Wayne is forced to return to his suit, something he had lived without since the failures of the second movie, to combat Bane, a task made all the more difficult by Catwoman's involvement.

My fear before viewing involved the tall order that The Dark Knight entails - I would've admitted defeat and given up on topping it with a sequel considering it is, honestly, perfect.  The natural need to compare comes from the void left by the Joker, and Tom Hardy had huge shoes to fill in wake of the performance which resulted in a posthumous Academy Award for Ledger.  It would be impossible to compare Bane to the Joker simply because you can't; Bane is therefore terrifying and physically formidable - the first fight scene with Batman is brutal to sit through - he proves a worthy match for the Caped Crusader, and I honestly for the life of me couldn't figure out how Batman would even be able to win at the end of it.  Bane's entire plan, as it continues to unravel, gets increasingly horrifying and grand, and the intensity of the film-making put me in a cold sweat throughout the watching the film.  The action keeps going to culminate in a sequence where I literally could not breathe.

The other concern was with Catwoman.  I'm a huge fan of Michelle Pfieffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns and not so much of a fan of the Halle Berry incarnation.  I don't know how I feel about Anne Hathaway; sometimes I like her a lot, sometimes I don't, but I was afraid she wouldn't fit in with the cast and would simply just be Anne Hathaway in a Batman movie instead of the character.  I was wrong.  This movie is Catwoman's movie, and as great as Bane was as a villain, she steals the focus away from him to be the greater of the two additions.  She oozes sexuality without even trying, and her cool voice shooting off sassy one-liners made her memorable; I'm glad they played her off as being morally ambiguous.  Catwoman, the master thief, steals the movie.  (lame)

The most emotional part about this movie, though, is the investment we have in these characters.  I shook with nerves thinking of any of the veterans dying - specifically Alfred, Lucius, and/or Commissioner Gordon - and I won't say who lives and who doesn't, but there are a handful of scenes where I was literally squirming in my seat because I wasn't sure what was going to happen to any of them.  So too was the attachment to Bruce Wayne (obviously), and as the chaos grew darker I feared the Dark Knight might not triumph, let alone live.  (again, I won't say what happens) In addition to the characters we've grown to love came the additions - Catwoman, Bane, Joseph Gordon Levitt as a young and honest cop who becomes Gordon and Batman's ally, and Marion Cotillard as the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises and more eye candy for Bruce - but the movie never seems weighted down by their inclusion.  I was nervous that it might become too much of an Inception reunion, though everyone seemed so natural within Gotham City.

The conclusion to the movie was simply perfect: a perfect end to the events in place of the movie, and a perfect end to the trilogy as a whole.  For the last ten or so minutes, I cried.  CRIED.  I'm upset that the franchise has come to the end, and that we'll never see other characters from the comics come to light, but there's no more satisfaction I want from what we were given.  CRIED.

I'm glad that I saw the movie at midnight.  From the moment that I stepped foot in the theater it immediately felt like an experience.  I stood in my Batman t-shirt and Batman Converse high-tops (so tight that I could barely walk and they became part of my feet) surrounded by others in similar apparel.  A table was set up by a comic book store with a guy dressed as Bane, and we took a picture with him.  The hype kept building as the theater got packed with people who didn't care that they were seeing a three hour movie at midnight.  The trailer for Man of Steel was met with screams of "Batman's better!" and applause from the audience.  The movie received unanimous applause as its title came up on screen at the end, and rightly deserved.

A truly unbelievable viewing experience from start to finish.  Get to the theater now and see it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Peanut butter and summer jams

As promised: something not as serious.  I devote a fair amount of writing to my thoughts on various movies I've seen on this here blog of mine, but that's the be expected, no?  I call myself some sort of movie encyclopedia, considering I'm the go-to when someone asks anything related to random movie trivia; I've spent more time at the theaters this summer than I have at home; hell, I'm going to school for cinema studies, and the more I think about my future the more I realize I better be behind a camera, or at the very least, I better be the next Ebert.  And so with all of that digression in mind, my point is that I thought I might shift gears and give light on what I'm listening to in these last remaining summer months, for no reason aside from (well, changing gears) the fact that I can.

The last time I shed light on my musical tastes I got considerable backlash, but that's to be expected: there's so much music out there that one isn't defined to a handful of selections unlike, say, preference in television shows.  It's a lot easier to relate to someone over a love for Game of Thrones than it is over the most obscure underground indie band whose name isn't even in a writable language because of the depth of the medium's scope - there are only so many genres of TV or movies and only so many options to actually watch that common likes and dislikes are easily discovered.  Musical taste, on the other hand, is hardly definitive - why, even in just my own iTunes library, you could go from a Lady Gaga pop song (it's likely, I have hundreds) to a classic rock song to a showtune to some weird rap song.  That being said: I feel like when it comes to musical taste it's imperative that respect is kept in check.  There's a fair chance that you, my current reader, will hate everything I'm about to list - you might not even consider it music whatsoever - but that doesn't automatically write off what I've listed as universally "bad."  It simply represents a personal opinion, an opinion exactly what this very post is: I will at no point say that this is rule.  It's what I like, regardless of if you think it's quality at all - that's the fun of this though, isn't it?  You might walk away wanting to listen to anything I've suggested, or you might find yourself on the comments section of this post to tear me down and assume everything I've spoken out against in this overtly-defensive and largely irrelevant paragraph, you damn cliche, but whatever - I'm game!

Anywaaaaays.  Yes, the point of this is to write about what I'd consider to be good music to be listening to this summer in a time devoid of any new Lady Gaga material.  (good mood material, that is - I'm not usually up for listening to Princess Die when I'm hanging out with my friends but nevertheless check it out it's beautifully written) Forgive the fact that I'm not well versed in the language needed to describe music quite like I am with movies.

212 | Azealia Banks
This song is fire.  It's begun to grab traction on the radio although the censorship is a discredit to the song - the word 'cunt' is used so many times I can't even begin to count, but considering I've become too liberal with the word I've completely embraced it.  Azealia Banks just has this something that I can't even begin to describe, and it's what makes the song so incredible.  It definitely has to do with her spitfire rhythm and her near-apathy when rapping as if she could do it in her sleep.  As much as I've gone crazy over this song I realize that it isn't for everyone - any time it's come on my mom has said "please change this Nicki Minaj song" - but it's at least worth a listen considering the last two people I've shared this with (one of whom does not like rap) were hooked within seconds.  Should you become as enamored with this song as I have been, and if rap is sorta your thing, she recently released a free nineteen-track mixtape entitled Fantasea which, although quite unlike 212 in its grittier and heavier rap tone, is still very impressive.  It's also worth saying: Azealia Banks wipes the floor with Nicki Minaj.

Runaways | The Killers
Already have I proved my previous point about the huge scope in music: I'm jumping from a female rapper to an alternative rock group.  A few days ago came the release of The Killers' first single from their upcoming album Battle Born, and it's undeniably them.  I've always loved The Killers, and I'd wager that Mr. Brightside is probably one of my all-time favourite songs, if not the top.  There's no use in even trying to go on about what makes the song so good, namely because I think The Killers might be moreso recognizable to you than the previous song where, reading again what I've written, I seem like Azealia Banks' official distributor.  If you've ever liked listening to any song of theirs, you'll obviously like Runaways; it's similar enough to their previous work to make the song familiar, yet it's different enough to add a progression to what they've done.  The escalation throughout the song is immersive.

Electra Heart | Marina and the Diamonds
Thought I'd change things up and make note of an entire album itself.  You might not recognize the name Marina and the Diamonds, yet there's a chance you might recognize the lead single from this sophomore (yeah, this is her second, a conceptual follow-up to The Family Jewels) album called Primadonna.  While the name is suggestive of a band, we find instead just Marina Diamondis - the mentioned 'Diamonds' are her fans, as she's said, ala Little Monsters - a Welsh import with one of the more distinctive voices in my musical library.  (I think it's because she sometimes sings with her accent - it's tough to explain) While The Family Jewels was largely experimental with its alternative-pop songs, Electra Heart finds a shift to a more traditional pop sound made unique by her voice.  The album as a whole works in concert with her current image - that is, bleach blonde hair and an indulgence in the archetypical blonde - as it deals with the overarching theme of the blonde starlet, fame, and its consequential downfall.  Songs like Bubblegum Bitch and Homewrecker take stabs at the stereotype while Teen Idle and Living Dead deal with the break of that facade.  The album (and her voice) takes some time to adjust to, but she's worth a look.  Songs of note: Teen Idle, the obvious highlight; Primadonna, Power & Control, The State of Dreaming, How to be a Heartbreaker.

National Anthem | Lana Del Rey
I'd be lying if I said I didn't write that lengthy preface almost specifically because I knew I'd mention Lana Del Rey.  I've spoken before about how polarizing she is, considering - even though I call myself a pretty big fan - I sometimes think she can't even sing; live performances tank more often than not and I don't overly appreciate the reliance on production to make songs enjoyable.  Regardless, National Anthem is the highlight to what I honestly think might be one of the strongest albums of the year, Born to Die.  (my misgivings aside, I'm not exaggerating when I say there isn't a single song that I don't dislike, it's that good - although you really need to be in a mood to listen to fifteen tracks with the same somber tone) With National Anthem we find her almost-rapping throughout the verses which lead up to a catchy chorus.  Worth mentioning is the video where she portrays Jackie Kennedy opposite A$AP Rocky as JFK; what seems like a controversial video plays out as extremely emotional and hauntingly beautiful.  This song screams summer.

Synthetica | Metric
The power of live performance: it took one free concert of only six songs to launch my obsession of Metric, a band who I've always enjoyed though never to this extent.  Fantasies seemed like a tall order to follow; with Synthetica Metric returns with grand scale, found in songs like Artificial Nocturne and my favourite, Speed the Collapse.  I'm completely in love with Emily Haines and her vocal style; she's a ball of energy while performing and that playfulness is apparent in a song like Lost Kitten, another one of my favourites, which is nearly creepy but definitely catchy.  The album takes only one misstep, a song called The Wanderlust which features Lou Reed.  His bizarre drawling dampens the song as a whole and I can't help but think that I might've enjoyed it had it been only Haines singing, but it's nothing a simple click of the skip button can't fix.  Proud to be a Canadian with bands like Metric repping us in the music industry.  Songs of note: everything.  I'm kidding: Speed the Collapse, Youth Without Youth, Lost Kitten, Breathing Underwater, Synthetica.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Sticks and stones break bones and all, but nothing hurts more than words as weapons.

I know as much as you do - we were all the bully on the schoolyard playground as much as we were the one dreading recess; we talked poorly about those we didn't like in high school as much as we knew full well some smiles we got were strained.  It's something we all take for granted, but perhaps the greatest advantage that comes with maturing to the age I'm at now is the step closer to escaping the cruelty of stereotypes and, albeit to a lesser degree than what's found on the playground, bullying.  And yet regardless of how great the step or how many steps in the right direction to begin with, it's an issue that's still persistent - in my life, at least, though slightly.

I remember a group of boys in the grade above mine would always call names after me whenever they'd see me out on the field with the rest of the kids of the school relieved with recess.  I can't remember their names, can't remember the names they'd call me - thankfully, anyways, they weren't anything with real weight considering I'm not emotionally traumatized by what was said - and I honestly don't even remember their names.  Such an insignificant fact to my twenty-one-year-old self proves only the pettiness of bullying altogether; as much as I don't remember specifics about this outside of the basic outlines to this name-calling, I can remember at times dreading recess if I knew I wouldn't be with my direct friends for whatever reason, or even turning quickly on my heel to reroute myself so I'd avoid this group of boys to ensure I'd get away with just being called Matt for at least one recess.  And yet as much as I remember being the subject of childish taunts, I can fully remember I wasn't saintly whatsoever; in fact, I often say if I knew my grade eight self, I might not have liked him much.  I was a do-gooder, and I can fully remember that if I didn't like someone for whatever reason, I was horrible to them - not that I was the bully everyone cowered from; I just mean to say my track record isn't clean when it comes to the sort of minor bullying going on at that age.

As cliche as it is to say, high school can be ruthless.  Gone is the immaturity of bullying; at a younger age, kids choose the most trivial of things to pick on other kids - because they might look funny, because they might do something a different way, but nothing ever seeded in pure stereotype and discrimination.  (although I have to mention that a heavier sort of bullying that might lead to long-term emotional damage doesn't exist; I just mean that I never encountered it in elementary school) Therein lies the difference between elementary school and high school: in high school, we said what we said and we did what we did for a reason, and that reason is anything but positive.

I remember in grade eleven an instance of a more direct and hateful "bullying" (I hate using the term sometimes because it seems trivial) aimed at me.  I waited outside of the portable for the period to start with my friend, and I can remember a group of guys who began to snicker to themselves like idiot guys do before they decided to address me - and do I remember who they were?  Absolutely, but you're stupid to think I'm stupid enough to include the names.  They would say, "Matt, is it true?" but by the way they were acting I knew not to engage them.  This question persisted throughout the class - they conveniently sat directly behind me, and they continued to whisper the same at me between hushed laughs - and I only found out what they so desperately wanted from me once the bell had dismissed us.  And as I walked past the one of them - I remember who - he said, "Matt, are you a faggot?  Is it true you're a faggot?"  And as much as it hurts me to say that wasn't the last time I'd been subjected to this assumption made by others about my orientation, and by extension, to the sort of derogatory language fired at me as a(n assumed) homosexual.  Remember that horrible website Formspring, where people could leave anonymous questions?  That wasn't as fun for me as I'd hoped.  I can't see how the makers didn't foresee this as a literal breeding ground for bullying considering an individual is at their strongest without a name and a face.  People do make decisions about who others are, about who I am, and they stick to them, and though it tears me down, there's no such solace in knowing who you yourself are regardless of what others decide to impress upon you.

Bullying, in the most simple of terms, is rooted entirely in stereotype.  And that's why I hate stereotype.  I can't see how a person's character, this entirely complex and intricately woven identity that makes them who they are, can be deconstructed and reduced entirely to "nerd" or "loser" or "retard" or "faggot;" hell, labeling someone "jock" or "goth" or even something with a positive connotation completely demeans everything that makes them truly unique and reduces them to this stock ideal which simply must be true about them.  I can't think of something that is more disrespectful to someone than to disregard everything unique about them.  And by extension, then, comes this horrible concept of bullying where these stereotypes, once pressed on someone, are completely unmovable.  Call a kid with glasses a nerd and they'll forever be that nerd, and even when they've reached a mature age where this concept of petty bullying is nearly gone they will always be that remembrance of that caricature that stuck with them.  Assume something about someone because of what music they listen to or who they hang out with is to further disregard the concept of individuality; I can't see why movies or music or books or sports (et cetera) are restricted to this or that stereotype - why can't a person enjoy something for the sake of enjoyment, and that's that?

To bully is to resort to what's easy: it's remarkably easier to call that person a nerd or four-eyes than it is to actually understand their likes and dislikes and habits and preferences and everything else completely possible that could serve as a building block to their individuality as a whole.  I do my best not to subscribe to these sorts of stereotypes considering said stereotypes are still placed upon me, and I'm no fan of hypocrites.  I feel like I'm talking in circles when I keep reiterating that bullying proves the loss of individuality.  It's strange to see that a person's acceptance of their own individuality is something that needs to be promoted - we have this new movement of encouraging the young generation to embrace who they are, but why did we get to the point where that encouragement had to be a necessity to begin with?  Shouldn't you love who you are anyways, and not because you've been giving the go-ahead that you're allowed to do so?  And that's the sort of governing power bullying and stereotypes have over those who are bullied and subjected to this hatred; it's a sick grip.  Nothing should make you doubt your own self-acceptable, nobody should make you less comfortable about who you are or what you like or how you act, and nobody should tell you who you should be or shouldn't be.

It's old news, but does anybody remember that documentary entitled Bully that was nearly prevented from opening considering its subject matter was deemed too harsh?  I'm not sure if anybody saw this movie (I haven't), but I remember there was this minor social uprising on Facebook ala that Kony 2012 business where a large amount of people on my friends list shared the trailer for the movie to raise awareness of its message against the severity of bullying.  My purpose of bringing this up ties into the final point of this I-don't-know-what-I've-got-going-on-right-now-blogpost, and I'm going to take an aside briefly and apologize for this getting too preachy, opinionated, or worst of all, personal.  My purpose of bringing this up is that I remember that some of the people who shared this video with various "bullying is a serious issue!" bullshit messages were those who I can actually remember being horrible to either myself or others in my grade.  And so I say: this ease of bullying based on stereotype is intoxicatingly easy as I've spoken of, but it bothers me that people take this clean bill of conscious and promote this tolerant lifestyle when they themselves have been venomous.  I've mentioned that I myself have been in the position of the "bully," but it comes down to the fact that to be picked on is one of the worst feelings in the world and it weighs you down with such guilt that you'd wished you'd never said anything mean to anyone in the past.  If you say you hate bullying so much, don't do it.

Again, I apologize for this.  I don't know my intentions with this post whatsoever, nor did I before I even started writing - this more or less exists because the topic was an idea I've had for a while, and I figure it won't get out of my mind until I just write it, be done with it, and continue on to the usual pretentious humour I write with.  Promise.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Look out, here comes the Spider-Man

Would it be shocking if I were to say that I love movies?  If you answered "yes" then remove yourself from this blog.

I've noted before that I've seen a colossal amount of movies this summer, and when I think about it, my bank account going into this upcoming school year would have been a few hundred dollars more comfortable.  (I try my hardest not to think about the extra cash I might've had if not shoving it at Cineplex for my popcorn and tickets, but it's difficult) I've seen everything from a super-superhero group three times to another horrible Tim Burton movie, from a self-administered alien c-section to Kristen Stewart proving she's the fairest of them all to Tom Cruise being an awkward rock star amidst some of the campiest camp I've seen.  Despite my obvious love for superhero movies I was never actually excited for The Amazing Spider-Man, partially because Spider-Man has never wowed me and partially because I have this fundamental spite for unnecessary remakes/reboots; this post then will first address how absolutely wrong I was about this movie and second the idea of remakes altogether.

Now that I think about it I should've known I'd like The Amazing Spider-Man.  It has an awesome cast: Andrew Garfield just visually makes a better awkward high school teenager than Tobey Maguire, not to mention he's a great actor (see: The Social Network); I don't even need to touch upon any sort of explanation about Emma Stone because she's talented and pretty and funny and so grounded and, weirdly, intoxicating.  It took a step backwards from the over-packed nonsense that was Spider-Man 3 with, what, seventy-five different villains or something?  It seemed more akin to the comics with the involvement of Gwen Stacy as opposed to MJ who, I think, will be forever tainted by Kirsten Dunst and her snaggleteeth.  (I'm too harsh on her.  I loved Melacholia) All in all, it should've been far up on my must-see list for the summer, but amidst the horrible Tom Cruise and alien c-sections and the upcoming end-of-my-life The Dark Knight Rises, it was swept aside as something I didn't care for.

And then there was the whole remake thing.  As I mentioned earlier, I'm somewhat against the idea of remakes happening in Hollywood.  In theory, I might support it: if taken seriously, I would stand behind a fresh take on a "classic" (depends on the original movie) to update it, to revitalize it, and to broaden its reach to a newer generation of audience.  And yet - do we ever get it?  We're hit with an onslaught of needless horror remakes which do nothing stick within the confines of unimaginative cliches.  Then, of course, we get the good ones: this past year's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo offered a more faithful adaption to the source material with a far more impressive Lisbeth Salander in Rooney Mara (who, coincidentally, failed as the center of the 2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street remake) than the muddled Swedish version.  Or, in terms of series reboots, Batman Begins, which, alongside its sequel The Dark Knight and surely its upcoming conclusion, I'd argue is one of the best franchises and the best superhero movie(s) to date.  Why can't all remakes be handled with the genius that Christopher Nolan has?

Not that I thought that The Amazing Spider-Man was going to be as horrific as something like Prom Night or Friday the 13th; rather: what would be the point of an artistic and cinematic re-imagination of a trilogy that wrapped up only six years ago?  I get that originally it was supposed to be a fourth entry with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst once again up against Anne Hathaway as Black Cat (irony has her as Catwoman in the Batman Nolan-verse) - but what could be brought to the character that's so new it needs to be revisited only a decade after the first came to theaters?  And therein lay my lack of excitement: the trailers offered me nothing I hadn't already seen in terms of the costume, the web-slinging, the action.

And like I said.. I was completely wrong.

I'll say that I enjoyed TASM (I'm officially lazy) far more than I did any of the original three movies, even though I appreciate Spider-Man 2 as being seriously well-done, albeit a little overrated.  It's true that the movie didn't offer anything groundbreakingly new, considering we were given an origin story (complete with an Uncle Ben tragedy - that shouldn't be a spoiler although to be honest I thought he might die in a sequel) and the often-seen self-discovery jargon that comes with a newbie to a mask.  Perhaps against its favour was the fact that Spider-Man was in 2001 so it's still slightly fresh in our minds - I can even remember seeing it in theaters.  (Batman Begins, conversely, returned to a gritty Batman in 2005 who was [barely] last seen in 1991) And yet, I found myself having fun while watching, and I can say that director Marc Webb (ha) was successful in returning spark to the character and his world.  That was almost entirely in part to a seriously believable and perfectly snarky Peter Parker as well as goddamn Emma Stone who would probably make a mass murderer of children who sets fire to hospitals and dog shelters endearing.  Their chemistry was real, but that could be because they're a real life couple - aw - but the entire time I kept thinking 1. if they're going to follow the comics with Gwen as they should I will cry and 2. I do not want to see that ginger MJ anywhere near this couple and I can do without any love triangles in the sequel(s).

It was nice to see The Lizard onscreen finally, and he proved to be a scary and formidable opponent who hatched a last-ditch kill-the-whole-city plan that all superhero villains do.  Similarly fresh was not using the obvious choice of the Green Goblin, but the set-up for future installments with Oscorp and the spoiler spoiler after the credits was great to see.  Also great to see was the amount of humour coinciding with the grand action, which doesn't come to a shock considering Emma Stone has fantastic comedic timing and Andrew Garfield was similarly talented in that respect.  Perhaps the most visually stunning shots came in the point-of-view swinging we're offered, which was awesome to see in 3D as everything usually is.  (the 3D is worth the price)

Overall, I'd absolutely recommend it if you love comic book movies, action movies, or Emma Stone.  Get thee to the cinema!