Monthly Archives: April 2014

Why We Love Screen Heroes

I walked into Captain America: The Winter Soldier a few days ago operating on a stratospheric level of excitement. It wasn’t because I’d loved the first Captain America movie so much; in fact, I’ve only seen it once, and I hardly remember what happened. I wasn’t excited solely because I love these Marvel movies, though that certainly played a huge role. No, what got me the most enthusiastic was the fact that Cap is my favorite superhero, and I was thrilled to have two hours of screen time just for him (and his muscles).

God bless America.

Why do I love Cap? Yes, he’s a good guy. He’s smart, he’s loyal, he’s patriotic. He has good values and an easy smile. I love him for all of these things. But do they make him better than snarky Iron Man? Doofus Thor?

The bottom line, for me, was actually a strange and seemingly-irrelevant experience in the real world. When I went to Disney World two years ago, my parents and I timed our visit to the comic book world to the slice of time when the actors were released. By actors, I mean all of the Disney World workers who dressed up and walked around as Spiderman, Wolverine, Dr. Doom, and a whole host of other heroes. People could line up to take pictures, which I did with as many heroes as I could find.

Near the end, we found Cap. He had a significant line in front of him, but I waited as he posed with a broad smile and his shield with various patrons. As I watched, a young girl (maybe six years old) approached him. She was accompanied by a few others, and as he knelt down to her level, the word spread that she was there with Make-A-Wish. He stayed with her for at least two minutes, just chatting and making her smile.

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When I finally reached the front of the line, Cap gave me a huge smile. He greeted me with “Hello, sweetheart,” which instantly made me melt. We chatted for a while, and he was incredibly kind and open. When it was time to take pictures, he pulled me close and did a few poses with his shield, looking at me every once in a while to make a joke and crack a grin.

I was star-struck.

I know it’s silly that such an insignificant meeting would influence me, but it really did—from that moment on, Cap has been my favorite. The on-screen hero, for me, reflected my real life hero.

When you think about it, that’s the essence of these movies. Yes, life imitates art, but art also imitates life. What we see on the screen is a reflection of our time and our culture. It is a representation of our fears and our failures as a society, but also our hopes.

When I was in the theater to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, I enjoyed myself immensely. I loved the action sequences and the characters. Everything was going off without a hitch, in my mind, until the sequence when Khan’s hijacked ship crashes into the San Francisco skyline—a picture that was, in my mind, eerily reminiscent of the 9/11 destruction.

I was a little unsettled by the image, and for a few minutes I was taken out of the movie. I couldn’t help but ask myself: Why do we watch these movies? Why do we continue to make and enjoy action movies with such large-scale destruction?

It’s true—look at The Avengers. Even in such a light-hearted movie, New York gets beaten. Comic book movies are notorious for disaster-scale city destruction, but it shows up in other action movies as well. Surely it’s a reflection of the times and our society’s fears. But why include it?

It struck me then, in Star Trek, as I watched the sequence of Spock relentlessly chasing Khan down through the streets: we watch these movies because we like to imagine better. We like the idea that there is a singular “bad guy” that can be caught and brought to justice, like Khan. If there is one villain to be blamed, suddenly the world seems more black and white. We cling to the idea that evil can be stopped so easily.

Most of all, we like the idea that there are heroes out there who can and will restore peace. They are our hope, and they give us chances for a better world. They give us the justice that is so often absent in huge catastrophes.

We do project reality onto film. Art does imitate life, no matter how much we magnify it and tweak it.

The great thing? Those heroes do exist in the real world. They may not have the mask or the cape or the superpowers, but they’re here. And they change the world day by day, in big ways and small.

That, I think, is something worth cheering for.

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Rainy Days

Today’s blog is coming to you from the temperamental and indecisive weather of Iowa. Yesterday we enjoyed a swift and surprising catapult into summer. The day hit a humid 82 degrees, and a 2-3 hour walk around campus was not only bearable, but thoroughly enjoyable. The pedestrian mall in downtown was packed—people eating froyo, people reading books, children playing on the jungle gym—and all of the good grassy spots on campus were occupied by sunbathers or frisbee players. It was beautiful and warm and everything we’ve been dreaming about for the past four months of eternal winter.

The night, however, was all thunderstorms. Even with my blinds closed, I could see the lightning. Today has been continually rainy as well.

The thing is, I don’t mind. It’s likely a product of being raised in Seattle, but a good rainy day makes me just as happy as a good sunny day. A complete list of all of the things I love about the rain is impossible to produce, but a few of the highlights are:

–          The smell, earthy and metallic at the same time

–          The sound of rain on the ground when it falls lightly and then gradually picks up into a storm

–          The sound of cars driving over puddles and wet pavement

–          Spending quality time with a good book

–          Hot chocolate, tea, or coffee while watching the rain

I have never owned an umbrella. One of the little-known facts about Seattle is that umbrellas are generally for tourists; true natives will rarely resort to such measures. As a result, I have grown to love the feeling of running through the rain with just a hood or, even better, with nothing on my head at all. Given the particularly bad cold that’s struck me this weekend, I’m trying to refrain from this particular activity, but it’s still tempting. I’ll still indulge in the book reading, though (I stopped by the library yesterday and checked out something I’d never even heard of on a whim).

Even though the setting is a bit different—last night I amused myself by listening to drunken screams as a full-on rainstorm hit without warning—it’s nice to know that, even 2000 miles away, I still have a little slice of home with me here.

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Spot the Seattleite.

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Funny Bone

The weather is supposed to be great this week, and that is manifesting itself in the attitudes of everyone around campus. Even though it barely broke 60 today, there were people strolling around in shorts, dresses, and short sleeves. Everyone is springing out of winter gloominess and anxiously anticipating the joy of true warmth.

Last week, I made a blog post about my top cry-worthy films. This week, in response to the weather, and as a supplement to last week’s post, I’m here with the 6 movies that make me laugh every single time I watch them. Judging by this list, maybe you can see a pattern of what kind of humor I have. Or maybe not. Either way, I hope you will find joy in these films and giggle yourself to tears as I have.

6. The Birdcage

This is one of the rare movies on this list that I have only seen once, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a great time. Not only did this movie convince me that Nathan Lane is a comedic genius, but it also touches on some really important issues. I don’t know why more people haven’t seen this movie. I have tried numerous times to bring it up in movie conversations, but I am always treated with blank stares. Do yourself a favor and rent it.

The best scene:

5. Liar Liar

Come on, everyone knows this one. Is it possible to get bored of this movie? I’m not even a big Jim Carrey fan, but this is truly a classic. Aside from tragic side plots (I mean, Cary Elwes’ character did literally nothing wrong and he got kicked out of his relationship because Jim Carrey got his life together for one day), it’s a great film for everyone.

The best scene:

4. The Princess Bride

This is another absolute classic, obviously, and if you haven’t seen it I will likely drag you to the nearest TV and make you watch it, Clockwork Orange style (was that too dark for this post?). In all seriousness, this is another movie that I can (and have) watched over and over without getting bored. It also wins the award for the movie I can regularly quote in my daily life. So there’s that.

The best scene:

3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Admittedly, you probably have to have a specific sense of humor to enjoy this one. It’s very British. I mean, VERY British. I enjoyed it as a kid, but I watched it again recently and it was like watching a completely different movie. Suddenly I understood the nuances of the jokes, the dry humor, the parodies of Arthurian legend. If you haven’t seen it in a while, I urge you to try again. If you can get past the crudeness of some of the humor, it’s a blast. And can anyone really resist quoting this movie? “We are the knights who say…ni!”

The best scene:

2. The Avengers

Oh sure, you say, a superhero movie? Is that really number 2 on a list of funny movies? Yes, unnamed stranger, it is. After this movie, I learned that this new surge of superhero films are equal parts drama and comedy. I also learned that Joss Whedon humor is my favorite kind of humor. I did not anticipate laughing as much as I did in this movie, and maybe that’s why it struck me so much. Tell me you weren’t busting a gut when the camera cut discreetly to the guy playing Galaga? And the one-liners…oh, the one-liners.

The best scene:

1. Star Trek: The Voyage Home

To anyone who tells me this movie isn’t a comedy (“It’s a science fiction movie! That’s why it’s called Star Trek!”), please watch it again. Re-assess your decision. I swear I have never laughed at a movie as hard as I did when I saw this for the first time. I’m not even exaggerating. The mix of fanfiction-esque plot and complete dedication on the part of the actors is astounding. It’s a work of art. Everyone in the movie knows exactly what is going on, and they roll with it—that makes it even funnier. The topper on the cake, what makes this film perfection, is of course Spock’s random smatterings of swear words. If I had to list every moment that tickled me, I would end up with a complete transcript of the movie.

The best scene:

“These are not the hell your whales!”

 

So, have you seen these movies? What did you think? What are some of your favorite roll-on-the-floor funny movies? I couldn’t think of an adequate rating system for this list (ice cream didn’t seem to fit as well), so if you have any brilliant ideas, throw them my way. And, as always, if you like what you see and want to see more, comment below! See you next week!

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