We discussed books highlights of 2019, now it’s time for movies and TV-series. A few of the favourites and a few of the disappointments in both categories, to round up the past year in media :).
I haven’t had much time for movies and series. I’ve watched a nice mix of old and new, and enjoyed quite many of them – though only few made a lasting impression. The absolute winner in this category is…
The other science fiction franchise. Or the science fiction franchise, if we christen Star Wars science fantasy. Where George Lucas took Campbell’s ideas and put the eternal myths into a space adventure story, Gene Roddenberry envisioned a better future for spacefaring humankind. He created a vision of an utopia, in which more enterprising, unruly individuals join the Starfleet in order to find adventure, because in the post-scarcity Earth society there’s not much of that. In Starfleet, they travel across the universe, to meet exciting new people and… not shoot them, unless absolutely necessary.
Piotrek: I’ve always been more of a Babylon 5 guy, but I appreciate Star Trek more and more. As a kid, I’ve seen a random selection of mainly The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episodes, and there was not enough large-scale conflict for my taste. I generally liked it, but John Sheridan was my space captain. So, my introduction into the world of Star Trek was pretty chaotic… but I always liked the idea of trekking through galaxies in a big spaceship, and in time I came to also appreciate stories about (relatively) peaceful exploration.
Ola: My own acquaintance with Star Trek was no less chaotic, I must admit. I watched nearly all episodes of The Next Generation as a pre-teen kid, and for years Picard was the only true captain of the Enterprise 😉 I waited with bated breath for each episode, and while some of them were rather convoluted for a six- to eight-year-old, it was still a great adventure. Fantasy worlds, various races with distinct cultures, drama on the ship, imminent danger… What I liked about Star Trek then and value even more now was the nearly non-violent approach, so rare in modern pop-culture. Differences were abundant, conflicting interests as well, but more often than not a peaceful resolution could have been – and heroically was – achieved. Exploration and understanding were the key values of the Star Trek universe, and inspired countless SF visions since. As for the liberal vision of future military, with its weirdly relaxed and convoluted structure, the red- and mustard-colored uniforms and the variety of ranks coupled with a nearly total lack of discipline, back then I didn’t even bat an eye 😉
Avengers: Endgame. Movie to conclude the major plot points of 21 movies, stories of multiple characters that took place throughout the galaxy. Thanos won part 1, but we just knew not all was lost. It would go against every rule off modern profitable film-making, and some of us read comics…
WARNING! There will be spoilers. The movie has been in cinemas for three weeks, so you had time enough to see it 😉 It will be our discussion on how successful it’s been in summing up the complicated history of MCU and opening avenues for new adventures.
Piotr: I’m a bit tired of my role of enthusiastic simpleton, yet I’ll start with a decisive yes. It was not a perfect movie, it was not the best Marvel movie, but it was a movie well suited to play its unique role within the MCU. Heroes ultimately won, but it wasn’t easy, and not without serious sacrifices. There were hilarious moments, spirit-rising speeches, epic battles – the final battle was, IMO, better than the one from Infinity War. Three hours, but I was not bored and could even stay in the cinema a little longer 😉
Ola: I am also quite tired of playing the unsmiling Dirty Harry to your Pollyanna, and yet I cannot endorse this movie. It is well-made, very professional and full of perfectly choreographed and rousing action scenes, but ultimately it remains empty, the promises of Infinity War for something deeper unrealized. I was intrigued and dismayed in turn, and what really killed my pleasure of enjoying this movie was the lack of internal coherence and logic. For a film that makes so much fun of Back to the Future it should really show a better alternative to time travel – and one that is not blithely disregarded half an hour later.
Ola: That’s the way fairy tales start. Once upon a time, beyond tall mountains and vast rivers, a mysterious hero was born who had changed the fate of his tribe/community/nation/humankind. Led by fate, S/He had many dangerous and tasking adventures, had to overcome many deadly foes, traps and tests in order to come back to Her/His home with a great boon of miraculous nature and redeem Her/His people.
Nothing original, really, especially considering the fact that George Lucas’s creation of his famous saga had been significantly inspired by Joseph’s Campbell The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The theory that most of the world myths conform to one, simple pattern modeled on the rites of initiation is as suggestive as is ultimately misleading – and yet Lucas in his creation of Star Wars universe managed to strike a chord with millions of people worldwide, envisioning a world like – and yet unlike – ours, just exponentially bigger and vivid.
Starships! Knights! Droids! Magic! Princesses! Scoundrels with hearts of gold! Vile emperors! Cuddly little creatures! Breathtaking vistas of planets and space! It’s all there, and more – and everything is suffused by Force, a mana-like, magical power binding every living thing in a net of awareness.
Piotrek: It is a simple story, of a young man going from zero to a hero, discovering his heritage and coming to his power. A story like countless others, but in space.
Not a very realistic space, there aren’t that many attempts to pretend that, it is not hard science fiction that would try to propose a likely vision of space-travelling humanity of the future. This story takes place long ago, like the stories of Gilgamesh or Theseus, and takes a structure immediately familiar to audience from any cultural background.
Campbell is an obvious inspiration, and that’s something Lucas freely admits.
It’s been some time since we had a Marvel movie review 🙂 But in preparation for Avengers: Endgame we feel we need to review the most recent MCU production, Captain Marvel.
First things first, we’ve decided not to tackle the controversies concerning Brie Larson, the lead of the movie, and the fanbase, a huge part of which chose to get enraged. None of this serves the movie well, and we’d rather focus on the newest entry in MCU itself :).
Captain Marvel is a definitely smaller and less ambitious movie than the entirety of the Avengers franchise; in fact it’s one of quite a few origin stories Marvel has put on the screen through the years – from Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) through Ant-Man (2015) and Doctor Strange (2016). We should probably also include Hulk (2003), at least from the chroniclers’ duty point of view, even if the majority of fans would prefer to forget it 😉 Captain Marvel also the first Marvel female-centered movie, despite fans’ ongoing pleas for a Black Widow flick. It is symptomatic, then, the the female superhero Marvel decided to depict in their response to the popularity of the Wonder Woman movie (2017) was a similarly beefed up, overpowered character of an ex-fighter pilot, who at the beginning of the movie remains an outside force not connected to Earth’s troubles or humanity, and whose main story arc revolves around the issue of getting involved and starting to care.
Piotr: I have to admit I had some doubts about the series, whether we’d be able to continue it for long, but here we are, post no. three, and I love it! And revisiting this one has been a delight!
Ola: Indeed, we may not be overly timely with our regular posts, but Nostalgia posts appear every month as planned 🙂 And it looks like we’ll be continuing it in the foreseeable future, as there are many other topics to cover. There are some trips down the memory lane that we’d like to forget, like Robin of Sherwood, but there are others, fantastical and wondrous, and confirming our fondest reminiscences – like Batman: TAS, and Willow.
Piotrek: Willow is a fantasy movie from 1988 that many considered to be Lord of the Rings light, made with the technology of the day. I’ve seen it ages ago, when the world was young and Peter Jackson was making shitty/cult horror movies, and it shaped my views on fantasy movies, more than any other 80-ties classic.Then LotR came and the new era of modern fantasy and I forgot about Willow.
Ola suggested we include it in our Nostalgia series, and I re-watched it recently with great pleasure. Obviously influenced by Tolkien, although not nearly as ambitious, it is a pretty good movie in its own right. Funny, imaginative, not too complicated, but at the same time quite skilful with its handling of the basic tropes. It’s a brainchild of George Lucas and he was good back then, when he did not try to make things too complicated.
Ola: Willow had been my first foray into fantasy movies, around the same time as my reading of Lord of the Rings – and it was a great experience. I enjoyed the child’s perspective of the camera, the fact that the titular hero’s strength did not lie in his sword skills or magical power, but rather in the very human ability of doing the right thing whatever it takes, and making friends:)
There is now a Polish movie being played in cinemas, in my country and throughout Europe. There are over 200 screenings planned in the UK alone (beginning today!), and that’s a lot for a Polish movie, our pictures rarely go beyond niche festivals. Tickets are mostly bought out by my compatriots living abroad, but they are not its whole audience.
Well, the title is Kler (our word for ‘the clergy’). Specifically, in the Polish context, the catholic clergy. Catholicism is the default option here. Not just as a religion. To a large extent, especially outside large cities, it’s the foundation of social life and a powerful political and economic force.
In the days when diocese after diocese goes bankrupt trying to pay off the victims of their functionaries’ abuse and, in Chile, the entire bishopryepiscopate submits resignations, there are not enough movies about the issue. Spotlight was very good, and certainly educational, Calvary show how a catholic country might look after the problem is largely processed. Clergy is about Church militant, unapologetic and intertwined with the state as close, as the Irish one during the heights of its power.