The frustrating thing about Matthew Vaughn movies is that the trailers look so stupid, it discourages most people from seeing how awesome they really are.

I have a pretty short list of heroes:

Anyway, I want to talk about how director Matthew Vaughn is creeping up my list of heroes, and how everyone who thinks movies are dead ought to STFU, put down what they're doing, and go watch KICK-ASS right this minute.

Because KICK-ASS is easily my favorite movie of the year, and jumped pretty high up there on my all-time favorites list.  I know, I know.  I'm already a huge fan of comic-book movies, and you may be dubious.  But that's because all you've seen/heard of it are the totally stupid trailers they've been showing online and on TV.  I hear you - most of the time it's the trailer that is awesome, and the movie that is lacking.  But for some unknown reason, the producers backing Matthew Vaughn films have had a way of hiring the worst trailer cutters on the PLANET.  Either that, or the movies are so awesome that the trailer cutters don't know what to do with them.  Either way, I know what the trailer makes the movie look like: a dumb comedy about superhero-wannabes.
But believe me when I tell you this movie is so much more.  Yes, it's funny, but the movie took me through so many emotions it'd hard to keep track: shock, awe, sorrow, gratitude, empathy, excitement, relief.  It dealt with so many deep-seated problems in our society, in our relationships, in our very characters, I hardly know where to start.  It's a humbling reminder of how f-ed up we all are, and to what heights we aspire.  Not to mention, the movie had one of the most fantastic soundtracks I've heard in a long time. And who can resist a Tarantino-esque story of the superheroine-assassin born from tragedy witnessed at an age so tender it's unreal?
I couldn't quite place where I'd seen the name Matthew Vaughn until I looked him up afterwards.  But of course - Stardust, another one of those movies whose trailers made it look positively daft (like an even worse version of Hocus Pocus).  But that movie, too, exceeded all my expectations and lodged itself firmly amongst my all-time favorites for its ability to deliver exactly what I'm looking for what I go to the movies: escape, adventure, romance, heroism, and good humor.  Not to mention it's just superbly well done; great camerawork, great storytelling.  Vaughn even used the same actor in both movies.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie (well, besides the romantic ones of course):
Anyway, it's just a darn shame, a travesty really, that Vaughn's excellent work goes unnoticed by so many people because the movies suffer from the worst marketing job ever.  Please, please, go see KICK-ASS so it will make lots of money and Vaughn will be able to make the sequel.  IT really lives up to its name, because it's so kick-ass.
For further kicks, the Origin Story of O-Ren Ishii, which reminds me so much of KICK-ASS's heroine, Hitgirl:

Underrated fictional (anti)heroes

The whole thing about Twilight and Team Edward/Jacob got me thinking about how women and girls seem especially susceptible to becoming enamored of fictional characters.  I am no exception.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, think of Mr. Darcy--how many girls have shamelessly swooned over that one? (Hint: 50,000 on Facebook alone)  Or Gilbert Blythe, from Anne of Green Gables?  

In all practicality, falling for a fictional character makes zero sense.  But here's where the often irrational nature of the female psyche makes all things possible--something about the way we're wired that makes it fun to eschew reality.  I wonder how real-life guys feel about this, because I rarely hear of guys going gaga over fictional women (with exceptions like Psylocke from the X-Men).

Thing is, I'm not here to talk about the conventional heroes who exercise romantic superpowers over legions of moony womenfolk.  As I had eccentric (and eclectic) taste in the opposite gender throughout my adolescence, it follows that my pick of fictional characters would be similarly offbeat/oddball.  SI share with you some of my favorite anti-heroes, from books and movies, who capture my imagination.  Sometimes they get the girl, but usually they don't.  Sometimes they die.  But they are all human, deeply flawed--some seek redemption, and some remained unabashed villains.  Yet somehow they win you over with their bravery, tragedy, humor, undiluted charisma, or all of the above. Reader Poll: who are your favorites?
  • Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities: one of my earliest literary loves, for his brokenness and unexpected heroism.  "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
  • Mr. Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre: Ornery and flawed, yes, but way more witty and sexy than dull old Mr. Darcy.  "Do you think me handsome, Jane?"
  • Jacob Black, Twilight Saga: I already explained this one in my previous post.  "Normal humans run away from monsters, Bella,  I never claimed to be normal.  Just human."
  • Jeff Rankin, Stranger With My Face: I don't expect anyone else to have read this one, but it's one of my favorites, and I loved this irascible outcast with the half-burned face as much as the heroine did.
  • Calvin O'Keefe, A Wrinkle in Time: Probably the most well-balanced and well-adjusted pick on the list, but who doesn't melt at his laid-back, sweet game?  "Well, you know what [Meg], you've got dreamboat eyes...You go right on wearing your glasses.  I don't think I want anybody else to see what gorgeous eyes you have."
  • Russell Hammond, Almost Famous: I wrote on my old blog when I watched the bootleg cut: I'm hopelessly in love with Billy-Crudup-as-Russell-Hammond.  As all romantics/idealists/delusionals should be.  This discovery made possible by Billy Crudup's impossibly expressive eyes and rockstar haircut, and some revealing footage that was cut from the theatrical version.  "Miss Penny Lane, I'll tell you what rock 'n' roll will miss, the day you truly retire.  The way you turn a hotel room into a home, the way you pick up strays wherever you go.  That cream coat in the middle of summer... That real name that you'll never reveal."
  • Harrison Bergeron, from my favorite story by Kurt Vonnegut: He's so bad-ass. "Even as I stand here - crippled, hobbled, sickened - I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived!"
  • Nino Quincampoix, Amelie: He's lost, lonely, and a bit odd.  We're lost, lonely...and a bit odd.  Instant "affinity."
  • Shogo Kawada (川田 章吾) a.k.a. Boy #5, Battle Royale: Take bad-ass guy, the only one who ever survived the Battle Royale (presumably by killing everyone). Add selfless self-sacrifice.  Swoon.
  • Brendan Frye, Brick: Passionate high school outcast stops at nothing to unravel the mysterious murder of his true love. "Throw one at me if you want, hash-head. I've got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you."
  • Ben Hawkins, Carnivale: Taciturn, tough and infallibly decent young healer who never asked for an extraordinary destiny.  "I dunno, I'm not really interested in all their jibber jabber."
  • Tony Stark, Iron Man: Bombastic, obnoxious, and the one superhero whose "alter ego" you prefer.  Men want to be him, and women want to f him. "Let's face it [Pepper], this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing."

And the best of the rest:
  • Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I never got into the show, but based on what I know about it, Spike is a veritable paragon of anti-heroism (is that an oxymoron?)
  • Edward Scissorhands: Poor odd creature. Don't you just want to give him a hug? "I'm...I'm not finished."
  • Michael Corleone, The Godfather: Thou art a villian.  An intensely charismatic (and powerful) villain. 
  • The Beast, Beauty and the Beast: "I let her go...because...I love her."
  • Atreyu, The Neverending Story: He was beautiful, courageous, and he loved his horse.  Who didn't cry when Artax died?
  • Jack Merridew, Lord of the Flies: I don't know why but I always had a thing for the evil choir boy in this book. It's a little f'ed up, I know. "Sucks to your ass-mar!"
  • Justin, The Secret of NIMH: Ok he is literally a rat, but so heroic.
  • Chris Chambers, Stand By Me: played by the incomparable River Phoenix.  "Not if I see you first!"
  • Madmartigan, Willow: Hilariously irreverent.  "Oh, I'm sorry, peck! Peck! Peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck!"
  • Akira Fukushima, Nobody Knows (Dare mo shiranai): Ok so he's like 12 years old but he had to grow up so fast in this heartbreaking tale about a mother who abandons her four children.
  • U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin, Con Air: "That would be loquacious, verbose, effusive. How about 'chatty'?"
  • Irvine Kinneas, Final Fantasy 8: Interesting fact from Wikipedia: "[In creating Irvine,] Nomura tried to strike a balance between not overshadowing Squall and not becoming too unattractive. He gave Irvine a handsome appearance, but a casual personality, hoping that this would make him less attractive than Squall."  Little did Nomura know, the casual personality actually makes Irvine more attractive, especially when grinning and carrying a large gun.

Years of interviewing finally paid off

I've been an alumni interviewer for my alma mater pretty much since I graduated.  This year I grumbled about signing up for 4 or 5 interviews... it's a surprising number of man-hours.  Each interview is supposed to take 45 min, but I usually go way over-time, sometimes as long as 1.5 hours.  Then there is the time it takes to actually do the write-ups.  It can get pretty discouraging when, year after year, the kids you interview keep getting rejected, even if the numbers tell you what to expect.

I've probably interviewed close to 20 students in the last few years, and not one of them have ever been accepted...until today.  And I have to say he totally deserved it--I haven't met many individuals who have so impressed me with their maturity, engagement, and thoughtfulness, so I was especially happy to find those qualities in one so young.  I really feel that he will enrich the experiences of his fellow students if he decides to go.

Congrats, 2009 admits!

Movie trailer as a form of art, part 2

I've been getting a few naysayers who hate trailers because of how much they reveal.  While a trailer that reveals too much is probably poorly cut, I, like Pooja, maintain that the story told by the trailer is pretty much independent of the movie, so it almost doesn't matter what the trailer shows.  I love that they are miniature movies in their own right, that they have their own structure (intro/beginning, exposition, rising action, climax, resolution/suggestion), and yes, they keep you wanting more.

Case in point: a few years ago there was a contest among students of film editing, and the task was to take a popular film and recut a trailer for it that would make the movie look like it belonged in a totally different genre.  The best of the bunch was this, The Shining, recut.

Now it's got a bunch of copycats on YouTube, but this was the original.  Total genius.

Movie trailer as a form of art.

I'm not the best with timeliness when it comes to blog posting.  So expect me to dredge up a lot of stuff I've been interested in for a long long time.  This is not of-the-moment stuff.

I love movie trailers in general, and trailers for coming-of-age, relationship-building, indie, and romantic comedies in particular (I tend to shy away from horror and thriller/suspense).  I can watch them over and over and over again, and before I know it I have wasted 1.5 hours instead of doing whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing.

Case in point: a couple years ago I was obsessed with the trailer for Shopgirl.  I only half wanted to watch the movie (I finally netflixed it long did not disappoint, but was not quite as delicious as the trailer).  There was just something so beautifully restrained and lovely about the way this trailer was cut, besides the fact that I love Steve Martin, Claire Danes, and am even a little fond of Jason Schwartzmann.  Tonally--it's pitch-perfect, conveying this spartan emptiness that moves cautiously into shy pleasure, wonder, and then warm human contact.  I love it.


And then, after thinking more about it, I realized the music really shaped my perception of the trailer (hah, what's new, right?).  One of my pet peeves is when a trailer editor uses a song in the trailer that is nowhere to be found on the movie's actual soundtrack.  That's another blog post in itself. 

Anyway, I used my google search prowess to find the songs used: "Consequence" by The Notwist, "First Breath After Coma" by Explosions in the Sky, and "The Sound of Settling" by Death Cab For Cutie.  I'm including the first two mp3s for your listening pleasure =)