I dislike movie theaters and usually wait to watch movies when they come out on demand or DVD. Ghost In the Shell was no exception, especially due to the “whitewashing” controversy which made me less-than-excited about this movie.
Finally having watched it just yesterday, my review of the movie is that they distilled some general themes and isolated scenes from the anime series (which was amazing in comparison) into a general action movie suitable for worldwide release.
Stripped from this movie was anything sexual or messily violent and the overall theme of government interference, human individuality, and freedom was boiled down to a fight against a corporate villain. The politics, issues of sexual identity, and even deeper character exploration, were all stripped away in order to create a PG-13 sci-fi action movie that would play safely across all target markets.
In my opinion, the reason for this is twofold:
Investment and partnership from Chinese companies in US filmmaking comes with strings attached. And part of those strings are ensuring that any content meets domestic political standards as set by the government. Content must be non-threatening and meet the relatively puritanical standards set forth by the Communist Party.
Translation: violence is strong but not bloody, sex is toned down or non-existent, and corporations and people can be villains but never governments (or if there is a government villain, it will be a Western one).
Ghost In the Shell is just one example. The current flood of superhero movies (with the exception of Deadpool) fall into that category as do even small productions like Keanu Reeves’ Man of Tai Chi. In that movie, about an international fight club, a scene had to be inserted in which it is noted that only foreigners would watch two people kill each other and that none of the fights were broadcast even illegally in China.
The US has a history of film censorship so this not a unique phenomenon but it is a troubling one in terms of what we can expect from large film studios in the near future as they remain dependent upon foreign money and audiences.
In context of China’s troubled history between the Opium Wars in the 19th-century through occupation by foreigners, multiple wars including the Taiping Rebellion, World War II, and then the chaos of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution; this can be understood. China, under any government, would strive to ensure order, self-respect, and strength.
The government under Chiang Kai-shek both in China and then later in Taiwan, also introduced strict controls under the auspices of modernity and strength. Throughout the 20th century, the Communist and the Nationalist governments introduced hygiene, health, and empowerment programs dedicated to eradicating disease, the appearance of weakness and to promoting a vision of China as a strong and modern country.
However, the type of strength that does not allow for creativity and liberty is a brittle one and will not solve the issues at hand….and they will contribute to uninspiring movies in the meantime.
Life. It’s full of questions and the answers can be approached in multiple ways. In my search I am open to those multiple approaches and this is why I am hooked on a few podcasts and the FX show, Louis. My podcast of choice right now is the Jocko Podcast with Jocko Willink and Echo Charles.
Willink is a retired Navy SEAL but his show covers everything from the expected to the unexpected. Case in point, his recitation and review of the WWI memoir by Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel, was both insightful and touching. Willink discusses a lot of subjects including his military experience, his life now as a consultant, and his love of fitness and MMA.
Polar opposite to that is Louis C.K. who tackles the same subjects through his portrayal of an insightful schlub who embraces and yet hates his life and his persona.
Despite the huge difference between the two, both Jocko and Louis tackle issues that range from the singularity of human existence to the mundane. Their shows help me answer my questions and I enjoy them in the process. Really can’t ask for more than that.
Though Louis really should consider going to a gym…
BBC is running its 3rd, and final, season of Musketeers. It’s an enjoyable series to watch and it can be found on Hulu and is worth your time if you want a fun diversion and if you like swords and leather. I know I do.
The show quickly moves away from the original book which is good because it allows for more exploration and creativity and it allows one to be surprised.
The female characters are given more agency than their book counterparts (except for the character of Milady who was already a powerful protagonist in Dumas’ version) but it doesn’t get to the point where we lose sight of the core of the story, which is the friendship and travails of 4 close friends.
The settings and filming locations in the Czech Republic are simply beautiful and you can tell that this is a European production. One gets a fine backdrop to an adventure story and I hope there are more like this.
Some images below and closing with an illustration of what actual Musketeers looked like.
My appreciation of intelligent but damaged protagonists continues, with Elementary filling in for the now-departed Hannibal.
This show is far more nuanced and real than its’ UK counter-part, helmed by Benedict Cumberbatch. In Elementary, Sherlock Holmes is brilliant to the point of Aspergers with all the passions that only an imaginative, high-IQ, drug addict could have.
The episodes are “crime-of-the-week” and serve to showcase the brilliance of the actors who play Holmes and Watson (Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, respectively). Miller is excellent as the “nutty professor” that is Sherlock Holmes, using his talent for physical comedy and clearly displaying that he is a well-read actor.
Liu matches Miller with an understated but poised approach to the role of Watson. She is striking but restrained, showing glimpses of emotion in ways that make the viewer want more. She is in no way the bumbling Watson of other series. In Elementary, Joan Watson is the equal to Holmes in ways that challenge and complement both characters and that make the show so compelling to watch.
Both actors are also physically interesting, with Lucy Liu bringing her background in stick-fighting to the fore and Miller demonstrating his physical fitness from his passion for extreme sports and ultra-marathoning with his ability to move effortlessly in comic scenes or just going about shirtless.
Depending on your taste, you may enjoy either or both of the images below:
Elementary airs on CBS.
Or an enemy, I don’t know but I do know that Electra is a kick-ass character in the comics and it is gratifying to know that a kick-ass actress has been picked to player Electra in Netflix’s awesome series, Daredevil.
Elodie Yung is a French actress of Cambodian background who sports a black belt in karate so she comes to the screen ready to walk and talk the role. An excellent choice!
If you haven’t already, you should watch season 1 right now. From epic and real fight scenes to characters with depth (from lowly gangsters to the arch villains and the heroes), this show will grab you and won’t let go.
On a side-note, I loved that the show had entire conversations in languages other than English. This is an indication that the show runners respect their audience and assume that they are not your usual mouth-breathing fly-over state crowd.
Repost from my hitherto forgotten blog on Google’s Blogger.
I must have 5 versions of blogs across different platforms and it is the equivalent of screaming into the wind.
One of the best shows on TV is definitely Hannibal and the books are equally as good, though I think that the books portray the Anthony Hopkins version while the TV series speaks more to me because of the excellent cast, especially Mads Mikkelsen.
In a nutshell, Hannibal is a the fusion of passion, steel, love, and desire. A keening want that exists in all of us. To be heard and to be special; to be remembered even though we know that dust and air are our ultimate destination.
It’s the grisly now that holds us in awe and keeps oblivion well away.