Wednesday, 20 October 2010
So, the new Wall Street film came out, and before it did I got a chance to watch the old one (made in the 80s). I loved the 80s "Wall Street" film, the filming was good, the acting was great, the characters were interesting and the plot pulled it all together.
I enjoyed the new one as well, but for some reason it wasn't as good. I didn't enjoy it as much. And this morning in the shower I suddenly realised why I didn't enjoy it as much. Nothing to do with the plot, or the filming, or Shea Labeouf (although all of those could have been improved) but to do with character.
Heres the thing I realised: In the new Wall Street no ones character ever changes. No character arc, no character development, no character anything.
In the first film Charlie Sheen is the young upcoming Wall-Street-er. He gets a job with Gecko (who owns a whole wall-street based empire), goes flying up the social ladder, but realises somewhere near the top that he's about to sell out his dads buisness. He freaks, slams Gecko, then gets arrested for insider traiding. At the end Gecko has been arrested and Charlie Sheen is seen walking up the steps to his trial.
In the second film, Shea Labeouf is a young upcoming Wall-Street-er who wants to invest in alternative energy. He's dating Gecko's daughter, and Gecko comes out of prison. He talks with Gecko, and they hatch a plan to get the money Gecko left his daughter out of a Swiss bank to invest it in alternative energy. At the last stage, Gecko bails on them, runs off with the money and makes a huge pile of cash. At the end, however, he returns the (relatively small) amount he stole from them in order to be with his daughter, who has a child.
By the end of the first film all the characters have grown, changed and learnt something about themselves. By the end of the second film all the characters are exactly the same. Shea is still an enthusiastic alternative-energy nut who thinks he knows what his wife wants better than she does, Gecko's daughter is still a fairly likable young lady whose idea of what kind of future she wants changes depending on what Shea wants and Gecko is ... Gecko. Nobody learns anything, with the exception of Shea's mother, who learns that if you try to do fast housing deals you end up stuck cleaning out peoples bedpans. We never know how she feels about that though.
They try to spin it out like Gecko's redeption story, but it seems to pass over everyones heads that the end of the story isn't the triumph of the happy family, but rather the triumph of Gecko, who must be laughing all the way to the bank. He literally ends up with everything; a family, pots of money, clean energy, and he does this by simply giving a tiny amount back from his huge fortune. The moral of the first film was that climbing high on dodgy morals sends you falling hard. The moral of the second film is that it's OK to be greedy, as long as you do a few token good deeds somewhere near the end. Forget sacrifice, or self knowledge, the only thing required for this redeption is to give your daughter a couple a hundred and stare whistfully at a scan of your grandchild.
Greed is good and Gecko has won.
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Monday, 31 May 2010
Monday, 17 May 2010
Friday, 7 May 2010
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Zorro and Batman are both very similar. They fight for justice and freedom, they wear black cloaks and masks, they respond to cries for help, they have costumes which reduce their peripheral vision, they keep large caves in the basement where Batman stores weapons and machines designed to help him in his fight against the crimes of the city while Zorro stores a horse.
Zorro does not need anti-shark spray
The other thing they both have in common is that unlike the X-men, or the Fellowship of the Ring, they have almost no connection to the people they are fighting so ardently to protect. Batman is a rich multimillionaire trying to stop crime in what must be the most crime laden city in the world, while Zorro is a rich Spanish Don (Don Diago de la Vega) fighting to protect the native Californians from anyone who happens to be oppressing them (i.e all the other Dons). In both cases, this seems a little screwed, how much can you genuinely admit to be representing a people living in a world that is totally alien to your own.
(I probably give Batman a little more stick for this, but only because I actually like Zorro. Me and my sister went through a phase of watching the old Disney TV series when we were about 14 and the dodgy acting, complete melodrama, bad jokes, and totally fake-looking sets utterly sold it too me. Those series were amazingly bad and I loved every half-hour installment of them).
Starting with Batman then. His drive (as it were) for protecting the crime-ridden masses is that he lost his parents at a young age. Notwithstanding the fact that loosing any close family member must be one of the most horrible experiences ever, even the most grief-stricken experience does not exactly make you an expert about the life of people on the street. The people he is fighting to protect are going through hardships and experiences Bruce Wayne can barely even dream about. The big bad guys he's fighting might be sociopaths with bad dress sense, but the people working under them are just likely to be desperate in ways that Bruce will never experience. Added to which, Batman gets to come home each evening, to a warm bath, something to fix his injuries, and plenty of food. Anyone who might have suffered any collateral damage due to Batmobile crashes, brawls or shifts in the underground economic situation is left to starve to death on the streets of Gotham.The only source of income for three children getting punched in the face.
Zorro is slightly better, because he's usual quite clear about the fact that he only attacks the rich or corrupt, and because there's only so much collateral damage you can do with a sword and a horse. In fact I don't think anyone actually ended up dead throughout the entire TV series (the films and comics are another matter) mostly because the people Zorro ended up fighting were the people that Diago de la Vega was friends with.
Which raises what is probably the most worrying consideration for Zorro: he can achieve quite a lot by fighting with his mask on, but you get the feeling he could achieve even more by taking it off. He's a rich influential Don, if he placed his support firmly with the local populace and used his actual money and influence to make a difference rather than just his sword he could probably have a much greater positive affect.
Which again leads to another consideration that both Batman and Zorro never seem to consider. They are very rich. The people they are supposedly fighting for are very poor. Could Zorro not have built just one school? Batman not paid for a few social workers, or less-corrupt policemen? At the very least he could have given those policeman that could be trusted (there must have been at least one) some of his amazing bat-related weapons.
You throw it into the sharks mouth and then fire!
But they never do. The money gets saved for yet more inventive ways to kill people (in the case of Batman) or even more overdone ornamental waistcoats (in the case of Zorro). Batman continues to try and control a city of crime-lords and desperate people by violently attacking them, totaling their cars, blowing up their buildings and spraying their sharks, while Don Diago continues to plot by night to kill (or maim and humiliate in the TV series) the people he's friends with by day. For both of them it comes off as a bit of a rich boys hobby because they can both just stop any time they want. They don't of course but the fact is that they could and, because of the whole 'hidden identity' issue they are never, ever, at the risk of facing any actual consequences for the actions they carry out in costume. Batman never has to cough up car insurance. Zorro never has to pay for new trousers for the hilariously-fat Sergeant who rips at least one pair every episode. They can continue wrecking trails of destruction through peoples lives and then retire at the end of it to a nice big meal in a nice warm house.
It's an interesting thing to notice that the more recent films of both of these characters immediately try to redress these balances. Zorro stops being a Spanish Don, and becomes Antonio Bandaras, whose actually meant to be one of the local populace, and is therefore fighting for his own freedom. Bandaras-Zorro also doesn't have to maintain a second life as a Don. He pretends to be rich and famous at one point, but it's not a life that he has to maintain, it's as much of an act as the Zorro is and far more temporary. Likewise Batman becomes a bit more accountable and in 'Batman begins' they play around a lot with the idea that Gotham would probably be a fairly similar place to live if Batman were to vanish one day, after all, he's been in Gotham for decades now, and the crime rate there isn't exactly going down.
The newer, grittier, more-screwed-up Batman is a lot more realistic, and even if he does come off a little as a rich boy playing at being policeman (but a more cool policeman) he's at least wearing trousers now. But I think I'll always prefer Zorro, despite the fact that he comes off as a lot more sociopathic and selfish in his insistence on remaining masked. Batman has an entire bat-cave full of top-weaponry and dangerous toys and at the end of each story-arc Gotham is as crime ridden as ever. Zorro has a sword and a horse, and by the end of the Bandaras film he's saved an entire American state and married Catherine Zeta Jones.
Sunday, 2 May 2010
That post was a therapeutic rant as a break after finishing my thesis. I know other people hold different views, and would be very pleased to hear about them :)
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
The usual meaning the writer is trying to convey with this quote is, "Look at this thing. This thing is beautiful. It must be true!" or occasionally, "Look at how this true thing is beautiful. Poets and scientists both have the same view of how the world is!" Occasionally it's just shortened down to just the first line, or the first few words "Beauty is truth, truth beauty"
|Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought|
|As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!||45|
|When old age shall this generation waste,|
|Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe|
|Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,|
|'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all|
| Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'|
The final quote! Which isn't even said by Keats. It isn't even what the poet thinks, it's a final summery of the point of view of life from the Grecian urn. Keats is still teased out of thought, but he takes some comfort in the fact that the urn will always be there. No matter how crazy or insane life gets, the world of the Grecian urn will always be beautiful, and always be truthful. Not the real world, the real world is changeable, ugly and false, that is why the urn remains a source of comfort. Preferable or not, the "Cold pastoral" of the Grecian urn will by its very nature embody the truth, beauty and permanence that the rest of the world does not.
Monday, 26 April 2010
da-DUM - as in "but look!" or "You see"
Iambic pentameter therefore means five iambs in a row:
da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM
If MU-sic BE the FOOD of LOVE play ON.
Now IS the WIN-ter OF our DIS-con-TENT
But SOFT what LIGHT through YON-der WIN-dow BREAKS
It's a lovely meter to use, as it creates a lilting flowing style, longer than conventional poetry but shorter than free-flow prose. The iambic flow helps to carry the speech along (especially helpful during somewhat long-ish speeches), and five beats per line gives it shape and form.