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Messages - honk

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Arts & Entertainment / Re: Superhero Movies & Comics General
« on: November 26, 2022, 07:46:02 PM »
I watched Black Adam, thanks to Rama pointing me in the right direction for it. I more or less agree with Roundy's take on it. I think what really killed this movie for me is just how thin as a character Black Adam is. He doesn't have much of a personality under his spiky one-liners, and the movie's repeated insistence that he's especially edgy because he kills rings false. This franchise has already been firmly established as one in which capeshitters kill, and they kill quite a lot. Even Superman and Batman are killers. Black Adam also killing people comes across as business as usual, not as the act of a brave and edgy freethinker bucking the conventional wisdom.

Another point that jumped out at me is how fumbled the film's attempt at political commentary is. Kahndaq is a Middle Eastern country that has been invaded and exploited many times over the years, and is currently under foreign occupation. Seems like this is going somewhere interesting. The current batch of invaders are a group called Intergang, and no description of who they are or explanation for their presence is ever offered. And just like that, any impact this subplot may have had goes down the fucking toilet. You can't do that! You can't take a setup like that and then end up pointing the finger of blame at fucking Team Rocket! Needless to say, these guys are nothing like the Intergang from the source material, so why give them such a ridiculous, capeshitty name? If this movie wasn't prepared to offer any serious political commentary on the treatment of real-world countries like Kahndaq, then it shouldn't have acted like it was going to "go there," so to speak, to begin with.

Now, of course a movie like this isn't going to be portraying Black Adam killing American soldiers or anything like that, but I can still come up with a better premise than the one we got. Say that Kahndaq is currently occupied by a corrupt and authoritarian private military company - one with a proper name, not "Bad Guys Inc." When Black Adam starts killing them, Amanda Waller and the JSA could get involved when it turns out that this PMC has been placed in charge of Kahndaq by the U.S. government as part of an overall plan to maintain order in the Middle East. The JSA travel to Kahndaq to stop Adam, not simply because he kills people, but because he's threatening the political stability of the entire region, at least in the eyes of the U.S. government. But of course, Adam doesn't care about political instability; he only cares about Kahndaq. See? Isn't my idea so, so much better? Now Adam is genuinely edgy and controversial, now the JSA actually have a believable reason to come to blows with him, and now there's political commentary that actually means something and might leave some of the audience thinking about it after the movie is over.

In short, the movie is mediocre overall, but it never drags, and there's nothing especially offensive or obnoxious about it, so I can't really bring myself to dislike it too much. Oh, and Pierce Brosnan is great as Doctor Fate, and brings some dignity and gravitas to every scene he's in.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: November 18, 2022, 10:57:08 PM »
I'll watch the latest capeshit once a decent version of it is available online. In other generic fantasy news:

House of the Dragon (2022)

It's very tempting for critics of the LotR show to point to this one and argue that it's the perfect "this is how it's done" counterexample, especially given their concurrent airing (something that I guarantee was not a coincidence, even though Amazon will never admit it). And to be sure, the level of technical competence on display puts LotR to shame. Every episode is masterfully crafted by excellent directors and editors, brought to life by terrific acting, and overseen by experienced showrunners who know what they're doing and have a clear vision for what this show is meant to be. But I think people are missing out on properly critiquing HotD if they're only viewing it in the flattering light of how much better it is than LotR, as this show does have some major flaws.

The main issue is how frequently the show jumps ahead in time and recasts its main roles. This may have been something they had to do to properly tell this story, but the effect is rough. The story's momentum feels like it's always being interrupted. More casual viewers will probably be confused by the constantly changing faces. And most importantly, the aged-up versions of the characters we've already seen are so unlike their younger counterparts that they're essentially entirely new characters. Young Rhaenyra is cheerful and enthusiastic; older Rhaenyra is bitter and world-weary. Young Alicent is warm and caring; older Alicent is cold and manipulative. Young Laenor is solemn and dutiful; older Laenor is hedonistic and irresponsible. Young Aemond is creepy and emotionally-stilted, older Aemond is brash and assertive. It's very difficult to maintain a level of investment and interest in characters that are suddenly replaced with ones that look and act so differently.

I also have a few problems with the casting. Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke are fine actresses, and I have no problems with their performances in and of themselves, but they are simply far too young to be playing Rhaenyra and Alicent. The show tries to cover up their youth with some makeup and costuming meant to make them look a little bit older, but it isn't convincing, and the effect is laughable whenever they're side-by-side with actors clearly only a few years younger than them that we're meant to believe are their sons. It's not like D'Arcy and Cooke are huge A-listers that the show couldn't have been made without, after all, and the fact that the show erred so young in casting them really feels to me like more of the weird and shitty habit that movies and TV shows have of avoiding casting actresses above a certain age whenever they can get away with it. Fabien Frankel is similarly too youthful as Ser Criston Cole after the main time skip, but I can at least understand that the show was in a tough position with him, as it would have been really awkward to recast a character who was a grown man and not a teenager from the beginning.

Finally, the ninth episode, "The Green Council," is a pretty bad hour of television. Hinging the central conflict of the show on a ridiculous soap opera-style misunderstanding over which Aegon a dying man was referring to was stupid. The race between Alicent and Otto to find Aegon first made no sense at all - why was it taken for granted that the first one to find him would be the one to decides what he'd do? Both the king's mother and his Hand would have plenty of access to him once he was on the throne. The focus on Arryk and Erryk as if they're suddenly main characters that we totally care about was bizarre and wrongheaded, and the fact that there's no way to tell them apart muddles any appreciation of their character development (Which one expressed unease with putting Aegon on the throne? Which one fought Criston? Which one defected? I don't know! They're fucking identical!). Turning Larys into a weirdo who's into feet robbed him of his mystique. And perhaps worst of all, the big climax with Rhaenys casually slaughtering hundreds of innocent people but then choosing not to kill the only people present that it would have actually made some sense to kill was idiotic to the point of frustration. And the show frames it as an act of magnanimity! That she's doing the right thing by not taking action to avert what promises to be a horrific war, even though she's apparently fine with hundreds of entirely innocent people dying in her wake!

Apart from the above, though, HotD is pretty good overall, and I can't wait for the next season. If you were a fan of GoT but felt burned by its monumentally shitty final season, I'd encourage you to give this one a try.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Trump
« on: November 16, 2022, 05:48:18 AM »
I didn't expect that after the election results but there you go.

Oh, come on, this was an easy thing to predict. If the midterms went well, Trump would take credit for it and announce his candidacy as a victory lap. If they went poorly, he'd fall into his familiar role as underdog and insist that only he could save the nation from its impending doom. There's no scenario where he would have humbly backed down or allowed someone else to take the limelight he sees as rightfully his.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Midterms 2022
« on: November 15, 2022, 06:09:39 PM »

Chuckle. Even some at Fox News are turning away from Trump now. Obviously the real cult members never will. Sad, to quote the "great" man himself.

The knives are out for Trump on many right wing media outlets.

While I would love for the GOP to descend into a messy civil war between its pro- and anti-Trump factions, it's important to remember that we've been here before, numerous times:

As trite as it sounds to say, Republican voters are the ones who'll decide if and when Trump's political career is over, not the Republican establishment. It's also worth bearing in mind that Ron DeSantis, Trump's only real competition, has a major disadvantage - he has the charisma of a tire iron. That hasn't been a problem for him in keeping control of Florida, but he may struggle on the national stage.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Superhero Movies & Comics General
« on: November 11, 2022, 06:17:23 PM »
Objectively the finest performance of Batman the world has ever seen. He was vengeance, he was the night, he was Batman.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: President Joe Biden
« on: November 02, 2022, 08:41:59 PM »
Oh no, Biden, a man known for his frequent verbal slip-ups, had a verbal slip-up. This changes everything.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: October 31, 2022, 04:21:33 AM »
I think it's a shame that people came out of Fellowship hating Boromir. He's a fairly shallow character in the book, but the film does an excellent job of elevating him into a far more nuanced, sympathetic, and ultimately heroic figure. Nevertheless, the scene of him turning on Frodo and trying to forcefully take the Ring from him is a harsh one and leaves a strong impact, so I can understand why people would dislike him, even if I don't agree with them. Anyway, it's fine for Isildur to have flaws. My problem is simply that the show goes too far and leaves us with nothing to root for. He's too capricious, too entitled, too selfish.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: October 30, 2022, 05:16:52 AM »
To treat Isildur's refusal to destroy the Ring as a basis or justification for making him a selfish and entitled young man would be utterly unworthy of Tolkien and his themes. A point that's hammered home again and again in the text is that the Ring will corrupt anyone who touches it or is even near it for too long. Isildur didn't even have the benefit of being forewarned about the Ring's dark influence, as he was in a sense the "case study" for how it worked. As for Boromir, well, he didn't simply refuse to destroy the Ring, he tried to forcefully seize it from Frodo, in stark contrast to other characters that were shown to be able to resist the urge to try and claim it themselves.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: October 29, 2022, 11:09:08 PM »
I don't think he is. I can't prove it or anything, but the framing is always centering him, so to speak. Virtually every scene he's in is told from his perspective. He is their focus, he is their main character. That's generally not how movies and TV shows frame deliberately unlikable characters. Isildur's subplot seems to be about his struggle and growth into a hero, which is fatally undercut by how unsympathetic he ends up being.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« on: October 29, 2022, 08:47:43 PM »
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

I played a few hours of this and couldn't take any more. I'm sorry to have to sadaam all over a game that has earned nothing short of universal acclaim, but I just wasn't having any fun with it. It's too scripted. The combat sections are scripted. The exploration sections are scripted. The stealth sections are scripted. The climbing sections, which seem to make up the bulk of the game, are scripted. I played this until I reached what looked like something of a boss fight, and even that turned out to be scripted. The game has virtually every step you need to take to complete it precisely calculated, and if you deviate from the set path, the game won't progress until you go back and return to the script. The story seems intriguing, the dialogue is crisp and witty, and the game certainly looks great, but I simply can't enjoy a game that only grudgingly allows me to participate in it.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: October 29, 2022, 05:50:58 PM »
I agree it’s not the tightest of writing but it’s a little confusing how you can think the subplots don’t come together. Three of them literally converge in the last episode, each providing a crucial piece to the other.

I'm exaggerating a bit, sure, but I feel like there's a difference between the characters of the various subplots meeting each other and the subplots themselves, as in the stories (or at least their overarching themes), actually tying into each other in a harmonious way. Galadriel's motivation throughout the season is to find and defeat Sauron. That's why she travels to the Southlands - but from her perspective, the trip is basically a red herring, as neither Sauron nor his allies turn out to be there. Instead, Galadriel just kind of gets roped into the separate subplot of Arondir and Bronwyn's struggle against Adar and the orcs. Later, when Galadriel brings Halbrand to the elves, she's simply doing so to save his life, and from there she, once again, just kind of gets roped into the separate subplot involving the mithril. The resolution of her own ultimate motivation of finding Sauron, in the meantime, falls into her lap accidentally. This is very frustrating writing. I feel like it's somehow violating some unwritten rules of setup and payoff to have Galadriel repeatedly just happen to be in the right place at the right time so she can resolve everyone else's subplots.

It’s too bad you found no redeeming qualities in the storytelling. I can’t help but connect that to high expectations and shitty fan boy culture creating biases.

I think I've mentioned before that I'm not keen on the growing prominence of fanboy culture and "criticism" in today's society. The scope of their criticisms more often than not tend to be narrow and superficial, as they mainly complain about things like "plot holes" and lore accuracy, even as they lavish excessive praise on cool action scenes and badass characters they can see themselves being as a power fantasy. They've also grown increasingly reactionary in recent years, and are more and more lashing out at increased racial diversity and female characters that don't know their place (the idiot that junker linked to is an excellent example of this). Even before this show came out, I was deeply dismayed by the overwhelmingly toxic and unbelievably mask-off racist response it was receiving online, and I was determined to give it a fair chance and criticize it for substantive flaws rather than fanboy nitpicks. Like I said, I was hoping for this show to be good, and I wasn't prepared to hate it on the basis of something stupid like them daring to cast a few non-white people.

None of the “modern cliches” he described are particularly modern. These character archetypes have existed for literally thousands of years. If they didn’t hit home, it’s probably ultimately the actors fault with the writers maybe making their life harder than it needed to be. I thought Galadriel was one of the better characters in the show though.

You're right that the archetypes aren't exactly new, but what felt modern about their implementation here was just how unsubtle they were. For example, Celebrimbor in the source material is primarily characterized by his altruism rather than his ambition, and it's this desire to help others that Sauron takes advantage of for his own ends. In this show, however, right from the start he's saying ominous lines about how true creation requires sacrifice. It's so obvious, it's so blatant what they're going for, and it's clear that the main inspiration for this characterization isn't the Celebrimbor from the lore, but the more clichéd image of a mad scientist from pop culture. Isildur is the character that suffers the most, though. The show positions him as a hero, but he comes across as a selfish fuckup to me, and I have my doubts about how intentional that was.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: October 26, 2022, 04:28:40 AM »
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (2022)

All the lavish production design in the world can't disguise how inept at its core this show is. One of the most common criticisms of the show I've seen in online discussions is its lack of fidelity to the source material, and that's certainly fair, but even setting that aside, this show is simply incompetently written and structured. The showrunners - two complete novices without a single IMDb credit between them, but thankfully they're pals with J.J. Abrams, so the good ol' boys network threw them this gig - don't take the time to create interesting or relatable characters. They don't tell a meaningful story either in each episode or over the course of the season, instead just starting and finishing seemingly at random. Their approach to this show, as far as I can tell, seems to essentially be that because this is LotR, people should already be invested in this, and therefore this show doesn't have to do anything another TV show would to keep their investment.

There are a lot of things I could point to, both big and small, as being unconducive to good storytelling, but here's the one detail that annoyed me the most. This show follows four separate subplots, and when I say separate, I mean that they are all so segregated from one another that they might as well come from different shows. There is nothing that connects them either storywise or thematically. Three of the subplots do eventually intersect in terms of their characters meeting, but that has nothing to do with their stories coming together. The characters simply stumble upon each other seemingly coincidentally. I've never seen a show do something like this - have several subplots that simply don't coalesce into an overall story, or at least indicate how these subplots are all connected. What is this show about? How are these stories connected? It's not enough to just say that it's LotR and that's the connection. It's not how storytelling works.

Are there any redeeming qualities to this mess of a show? Yeah, sure. Everything looks fantastic for the most part, with large, detailed sets, nice-looking costumes, excellent makeup work, and so on. Elrond and Durin have an engaging odd-couple dynamic. The show's portrayal of a Harfoot society is charming, and the actors playing the Harfoots are arguably the most committed of the entire cast - although it would have been nice to actually cast Irish actors to fit with the coding of the Harfoots as Irish. I also like the character of Adar, a mysterious antagonist who seems to challenge Tolkien's essentialist portrayal of orcs as always chaotic evil and argues that they are people who deserve to live as much as any other race. That's about all I've got. Pretty much everything else is slow, boring, clunky, and surprisingly reliant on modern clichés (just imagine Galadriel as the hardened cop who knows that the killer is still out there, Celebrimbor as the mad scientist who won't let anything stop his work, Isildur as the scrappy young rookie eager to prove himself, and so on) that feel jarringly out of place for Tolkien. It's a real shame. Unlike many LotR fans, I wasn't hoping for this show to fail, and I think we could have gotten something special in the hands of qualified showrunners with an actual vision for the show.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Terrible Political Memes
« on: October 08, 2022, 07:28:44 PM »

Kevin Sorbo could totally win an Oscar.
If he were ever cast in a role as a washed up, meathead, out of work actor, loser who destroyed his career and alienated everyone around him with stupid bullshit, he could bring the role to life in a way that would captivate everyone with its reality.

That isn't really what happened, though. Sorbo's career was in decline long before he decided to reinvent himself as a reactionary weirdo. There's been a similar trend with other has-beens with persecution complexes, like Roseanne Barr or Scott Baio - the embracing of shitty politics typically comes after they had otherwise faded into irrelevance. I guess Gina Carano is an exception, though.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: President Joe Biden
« on: September 26, 2022, 01:59:35 AM »
You know he's not going to just ignore your posts. And it's not just you in this case, anyway. I too am fascinated by Trump's enormous ass. He's definitely lost weight since leaving office, but his butt seems to be as robust as ever. Remarkable.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: President Joe Biden
« on: September 24, 2022, 03:19:21 AM »
It's really sad how you guys would rather twist lines out of context and deliberately misinterpret them rather than argue in good faith and criticize Biden for his actual faults and weaknesses.

An obviously staged video of a child repeating what she's been told to say isn't evidence of anything. What a dumb argument.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: The Queen
« on: September 20, 2022, 05:43:47 AM »
Tom is right. Biden should have just demanded a front row seat. It's important for the president to be able to show off how important they are at all times.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Superhero Movies & Comics General
« on: September 20, 2022, 12:14:43 AM »

Even more of Ezra Miller's general insanity. It'll be interesting to see if WBD will really be able to stick to their guns on going fully forward with the Flash movie as if nothing is wrong. I can't imagine there won't be even more chaos and controversy surrounding Miller to come in the next several months before the movie's release.

Diversity is a good thing.

Maybe for investing and farming. But most diversity you see in the world is merely superficial. People will always segregate themselves by cultural background and social status.

Okay? I don't think that has anything to do with casting a black actress as the lead in a high-profile movie.

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