Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Big Sick (a movie review post)

Have you seen Silicon Valley? You should see Silicon Valley; I love it.
Which has nothing to do with The big sick other than that Kumail Nanjiani is in it, and that's where I first came across him. He's pretty great, actually. The relationship between his character, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle is possibly the best part of the show for me, and I love Silicon Valley. Did I say that already?

So, anyway, when I heard that Kumail was doing a movie... Not just in a movie, but doing a movie. He wrote the movie, too, along with his wife, Emily Gordon, so he wrote and starred in The big sick, and... and it's a fictionalized true story about how he met his wife.

So why should we care about that, you might be asking yourself. Well, a few reasons.
1. It's a touching story.
2. It deals with the complexities of interracial relationships.
3. And intercultural relationships.
4. And, especially, what it's like to be from a Muslim family growing up in the United States. [I use the term "growing up" loosely since Kumail was already 18 when he moved to the US to go to college.]
5. Not to mention that Kumail is a stand-up comic, so it's funny. And romantic. You know, a romantic comedy, and there aren't too many of these around anymore.

Kumail is from Pakistan and plays himself in the movie. His not-yet-wife Emily, who is from North Carolina, is played by Zoe Kazan. That should be enough to tell you that there will be... issues.

Surprisingly, the larger issues for the relationship are from Kumail's side of the family because his mother is determined that he should marry a good Pakistani girl and is working on arranging a marriage for him. Not that the problems are actually because of his family; they're not. The problems are because Kumail neglects to tell his family that he's dating a white girl. And he continues to meet these women his mother is trying to set him up with.

Those dates are more like job interviews. Seriously, they bring what can only be called resumes accompanied by a head shot.

And that should be enough to get you started.

Nanjiani is great in the movie. Of course, he is playing himself (remember: true story), so I suppose you could say that the role was written just for him. Especially since he co-wrote it. Kazan is also good. But I think the true gem of the movie is Holly Hunter. She plays Emily's mother, and she's wonderful.

Oh, also, Ray Romano is in the movie as Emily's father, and he's good, too. Which actually says a lot, because I don't particularly like Romano. Not that I dislike him, per se, but I always thought Everybody Loves Raymond was pretty dumb, so I never developed any kind of liking for him. But he's good in this.

The bottom line is that you should see this movie. No, seriously, see the movie.

The other bottom line is that this movie represents all that is good about America and what America stands for. Kumail Nanjiani is a more valuable member of our society than Trump has ever been or could hope to be. Nanjiani adds value to society and to the world while Trump is just a leech, a parasite, taking value from everything he can to engorge himself only.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Orders" (Ep. 6.4)

-- The popular belief isn't always the correct one.


[Remember, you can sign up to join the Clone Wars Project at any time by clicking this link.]
[Well, actually, considering that we're into season six, now, probably no one new is going to sign up, BUT! Hop over to The Armchair Squid for his take on the current episode.]


What's worse than looking for a needle in a haystack? Looking for a needle in a needlestack,
I mean, sure, the clones have adopted identifying markings and such, but being tasked with finding one specific clone among, at least, thousands... Well, that's a job I wouldn't want to have.

But it is the job of the security forces on Coruscant after Fives take flight after a frame up to make it look like he was trying to assassinate Chancellor Palpatine. And, of course, we know it's a set up, and that's part of what makes this episode so difficult to watch. We know who Palpatine is, and we know how those around him are playing into his hands, and we want to yell at Shaak Ti, "No! Don't do it! Don't leave Fives alone with him!" But she doesn't listen to us.

To say this episode ends tragically is an understatement, because we now know just how close the Jedi came to finding out about Order 66, how close one clone came to changing everything...

For me, that makes Revenge of the Sith even more sad.

Aside from all of that, it seems pretty clear to me as of this episode that Count Dooku had no idea that Darth Sidious and Palpatine were one and the same. Interesting...


"Have you seen this clone?"

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Point of Dissent

When I was young, my mom used to tell me things like, "Don't rock the boat," and, "Don't speak up; it won't do any good," and, "Just go along; it's easier that way." This was never an idea I was able to buy into, even at a young age, probably because I had a string of really great teachers from 4th through 6th grades, teachers who taught me that it was not just okay but good to question authority.

Don't get me wrong; I don't mean questioning authority just for the sake of questioning authority. I mean that you don't accept something just because it's being told to you by someone "in authority." Of course, the fact that I grew up in a house where my father expected to be believed "because he said so" didn't leave me very inclined to think anyone in authority knew what they were talking about.

By high school, I was quite adept at "asking questions" when I thought the person in authority was wrong. That translates into, "I was very good at pointing out when the person in authority was wrong and asking for the data." This was something that especially happened at church where I found out that in most circumstances, because I did my own studying and research, I was the authority on whatever subject we were studying. More so than any of the Sunday school teachers, more so than the youth pastor, and more so than even the pastor in many instances. It was very common for both my pastor and my youth pastor to say to me, "I'm not going to tell you you're right, but you're not wrong."

I felt good about bringing these things up, about dissenting with what was being said, because, frequently, it led to a redaction of false information and/or a correction of what was being taught.

Which brings me to the point of dissent...
It brings me to the point of dissent and, more specifically, why you should bother.
(And I'm not going to elaborate much here; I'm just going to go through the points I want to make.)

1. Dissenting can cause people to take a second look at the information being offered and catch errors that might not otherwise come to light.

2. Dissenting in a matter of a position (such as a political or moral position) [see this series of posts] clearly states which side you are on, which can be incredibly important [just ask all of the Republicans in a couple of years when they lose their spots in the House for not standing up to Trump].

3. Dissenting can give others who agree with you but who are staying quiet the courage to stand up along with you. Sometimes, it takes only one person to stand up and do the right thing to give other people the strength to also stand.

Look, folks, we're at a crux in history. It's not a dissimilar crux to that of the one that caused the American Revolution. There are a few corrupt but rich and seemingly powerful people in control, but there aren't really that many who agree with them, even among those who supposedly agree with them. It's time to dissent.
Rebel.
Resist.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming (a movie review post)

I don't think I've made a secret of my longtime love of Spider-Man. Spider-Man goes back before Star Wars for me, back to at least when I was four. As such, I waited a long time for a Spider-Man movie. When that movie finally came in 2002 -- the Sam Raimi/Toby Maguire feature -- it was pretty perfect. Toby Maguire really captured Peter Parker, and I couldn't have been happier.

I was less happy when Sony decided to reboot the series. It's not that Andrew Garfield didn't do a fine job -- he wasn't as good as Maguire, but he was fine -- but a reboot just wasn't needed. Sure, change the actors, but keep the continuity of the series going.

Needless to say, I was a little unsure of how I felt about another reboot of the series. On the one hand, Marvel Studios was taking a hand in it, and Marvel has proven themselves a master at handling their own characters. [Unlike Warner Brothers, who continually show they don't know crap about how to make a super hero movie. For their one real success so far (Wonder Woman), they had to steal the plot of Captain America: The First Avenger to make it work.] On the other hand, it was going to be another reboot.

But Marvel, evidently, felt the same way I do about the idea of doing another reboot and went around it by not doing another origin story. It was pretty brilliant, actually. They summed it all up with one line, "I was bit by a spider." It was great.

And Tom Holland was... Okay, I'm going to skip the "amazing" joke. Tom Holland was incredible. Better than Toby Maguire, which I didn't think was actually possible. Of course, I thought that might be the case after Civil War, but I wasn't certain. Homecoming dismissed any doubt within the first few minutes. Seriously spectacular. [Sorry, I had to slip something in.] It's not that he's a wisecracking super hero; he's a nervous teenager. I'm looking forward to more from him.

All of the cast was great, though I wish Donald Glover had had a bigger part. I hope he becomes a recurring character. However, summing up everyone with "great" is probably devaluing Michael Keaton, and I wouldn't want to do that. Keaton was a better Adrian Toomes than Toomes ever was in the comics. Yeah, I was never much of a Vulture fan. But Keaton was wonderful and believable. And more than a little frightening. And I'm not going to say more than that because of spoilers (but my son was in full suspense mode as we watched, so I know it was working; he's a tough audience, even tougher than me).

I also really liked Bokeem Woodbine as The Shocker.

Oh, and Damage Control. That they introduced them was pretty great. I have the original limited series from 1989. Not that it seems it's done anything for the prices of the issues. It's still fun.

My daughter came out of the movie saying it's her favorite Marvel movie ever. I think Homecoming probably lands in my top three super hero movies. I'm not sure what that order is, actually. The top five, at this point, are all pretty great movies, and it's very difficult to tell which is better than another. It might be somewhat flexible depending upon how I'm feeling at the time. Right now, I just want to go see Homecoming again. Seriously great movie. And you don't really need to have seen any of the other Marvel movies to "get it," so don't let that get in the way if you haven't seen the other movies or aren't up to date on them. Just take the Tony Stark bits in stride and enjoy the movie.

Oh, and the Steve Rogers cameos are brilliant. Especially the one at the end.