Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

       Sam and I were lucky enough to go to the movies TWICE so far this month. That never happens! I love talking about movies and hearing what other people think, so I'd love to hear some feedback if anyone cares to take the time to chime in. Since this blog is pretty much an outlet for whatever I feel inspired to write about, I bet that movies and reviews will pop up rather often; so let's get the ball rolling!

       I absolutely LOVED the first Pirates of the Caribbean. Going into it, I thought it would either stink, or be fantastic... probably not anywhere in between. I loved the idea of a pirate-themed movie and was really happy that it turned out to be a great flick! It was clever and whimsical, yet swash-buckley and action-packed all at once.
       The two sequels were horrible in comparison though. SO over the top and poorly-written. In my opinion, they took everything that I loved about the original and pooped all over it. Kind of like fan fiction novels that think that they're "oh so cool" but actually totally miss the mark, then expose the copycat authors as the lame, over-giddy fans that they are. That was totally my impression of Pirates 2 & 3. The writers, computer animators, and director over-exaggerated the subtle things that made the original characters and plot work well and not be over the top... then just went way out in left field with it.
       So where does "On Stranger Tides" fall in all of this? Kind of right in the middle. I was very happy to see that they tried to keep the storyline more tame and reasonable; that was appreciated. The character writing was also pretty good at allowing Jack to seem more like an extension of his original self rather than the parody that existed in the sequels. It moved along well enough as a movie and introduced some interesting elements of classic folklore in a new way.
       I still think that this Pirates fell short though. I don't know... I just wound up really not caring by the end because I know that the movie wasn't going to be accountable to itself for anything it sets up. No one is going to die when you think they are. No one is ever actually as good or as bad as they "seem". It winds up being rather predictable in its attempts at being unpredictable.
       If you're a pirates fan and aren't critical, then I think you'll really like the movie. If you are skeptical in the first place, I don't think you're missing out by not seeing it.


       I really didn't know what to think about this movie going into it, but I walked out of the theater quite happy on a whole. Where it could have been ├╝ber cheesey, it managed to walk a fine line and pay tribute to classic comic books while still being contemporary enough to appeal to a larger audience.
       Chris Hemsworth was too perfect for the role! I simply loved him. He acted his part really well, despite having scripted lines that would be hard to deliver in a natural, believable way. I was about as impressed as I could be with him in this particular movie. I'd feel amiss if I didn't point out that he not only was a decent actor, but was perhaps the most perfectly sculpted man I've ever seen, lol. Plus, he kind of really reminded me of Heath Ledger. They both have the same Australian accent and same tone to their voice, that was the first thing I noticed. Then I noticed that Chris's smile was even rather reminiscent of Heath's and something about his mannerisms in general just kept linking the two for me. That wasn't really a parallel I was anticipating and it took me half of the movie to realize who Chris reminded me of—but once I realized it was Heath—that was all I could see!
       The writing for subcharacters was kind of lame though. I don't know... I just wasn't feeling it. Thor's friends were used too much for easy humor, and I suppose that's fine; just not my style.
       Anthony Hopkins and the other leads were all really good though, aside from Natalie Portman. I usually really like her, but this wasn't her movie. A lot of it was bad scripting so I'll try to be forgiving, but she definitely didn't win me over in this role.
       Overall though, I think it was a great movie that most anyone would enjoy. I was also super excited to see that Kenneth Branagh was the director! I have loved him forever, so I'm glad to see him continuing to do great work.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Something there is that doesn't love a wall

       That line is from one of my favorite poems, Mending Wall. Since the name of my blog is wall-themed, I decided this would be a perfect first post! This blog isn't dedicated to poetry by any means... it will have my thoughts on pretty much whatever strikes my fancy, including silly things like book and movie reviews; but why not start by talking about a poem by one of the best poets ever?
       The focus of my capstone course for my English degree at BYU was Robert Frost. I did my thesis paper on the influence of classical poets such as Theocritus, Virgil, and Lucretius in Frost's work and it was absolutely amazing! It was mind-boggling to look at someone's work that closely and slowly start to recognize and discover so many parallels, references, and allusions to the classic poets who lived thousands of years ago. It was also really fun reading the works of the most famous greek and roman authors and start to see their influence in places I never would have thought to look had I not been in that particular capstone class. I myself am a rather shabby poet, so I get that much more excited when I find someone who can really create a piece of art. During my studies for my thesis, one of my absolute favorite poems I came across was Mending Wall.

       For those unfamiliar with the poem Mending Wall, you can see it here. I highly recommend reading the entire poem, it is true perfection. For those whose brains turn off at the thought of reading a poem longer than a limmerick though, here's a favorite excerpt:
The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
       "Good fences make good neighbors". There's just so much behind that simple phrase. His neighbor in the poem is just such a simple and accurate insight on human nature. What is it about us that drives us to divide and label things that really need no distinction? It's the same propelling force that fuels wars that shape the world, but also inspires our decisions in trivial moments, such as deciding which person we want to sit next to on a bus. The "good fences make good neighbors" attitude can apply to so much more than pine trees vs apple trees. We do it with everything; people vs people being the most sad. It's just how most of us are I guess. I will freely admit to falling victim to this particular human weakness at times. I wonder what the world would be like if we could all have the common sense and the sense of humor of the narrator in this poem. I know my day to day life would be better.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."
       I love how Frost points out that no matter how hard we work on keeping up fences, nature will always weather them away into nothing. To me, it seems like this is one of God's many subtle ways of letting us know that our efforts to divide ourselves as people or claim domain on the earth is just silliness. It's all temporary in the grand scheme of things and we're really just spinning our wheels. Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley is another favorite poem that hits on that topic in a much more direct way. One day I think I'll make a sign to go by my front door that says "something there is that doesn't love a wall" and another that simply says "Ozymandias" just to help me remember not to invest my time or efforts into things that don't matter, are causing me to be narrow-minded, or aren't helping me in any way.