Sunday, June 10, 2012

SKINS S2E4: On The Beach

OK, enough with these endings. Fool me once by dangling the fate of Sid and Cassie over my head, shame on me. Fool me twice by dangling the fate of Sid and Cassie over my head, well, when that happens it becomes clear that their relationship is more important to the audience than it is to the showrunners.  So… shame on them! (This episode ends with Sid hooking up with Michelle in his room  ("FINALLY"-No one) unaware, for a while, that Cassie is sitting there in the corner watching. Ugh, right?)
Now, sometimes a kind of adversarial relationship between creator and consumer can be fun and interesting (see Sopranos, The), and sometimes going too far to please your fans is a bad idea (see Harmon, Dan). So it’s not like there’s a hard and fast rule for this kind of thing. But this particular ending is just cheap and grabby. I thought I could hold Skins to higher standards.
(And what’s funny is that a move that was meant to cash in on my enthusiasm for Sid/Cassie instead neutralized it. I was irritated and bored and realized I didn’t really care what happened to them. So, good going, Skins! You’ve ruined something beautiful.)

Another reason ending the episode on another Sid/Cassie cliffhanger is lame is that the only thing this one really has going for it is a sustained mellow tone. It follows Michelle as she moves, with her mother, into a house with her new step-father. Michelle hates the house and hates the step-father. Then the guy’s (eerily affectionate) daughter shows up, and (surprise!) Michelle hates her too.
Her birthday is coming, and she wants to go camping. Nobody else really does, but they go anyway. Except Tony, who can’t pitch a tent. HEYYOOOOOOOO. But seriously folks: he can’t achieve an erection anymore! And suddenly the deep and abiding love Michelle feels for him is neither deep nor abiding. The Skins gang sets up shop on the beach, and then we’re mostly dealing with a lot of sun-drenched footage of sand, and water, and tides coming in.
Michelle’s problems aren’t very serious, and they particularly pale in comparison to what Sid is going though. It becomes clear almost immediately that Michelle’s new step-sister isn’t so bad, but it takes our heroine a long time to come around. The scale and scope of her problems aren’t much of an issue, however, as they seem commensurate with the scale and scope of the episode. This is supposed to be light and airy. A sorbet episode after the bottle episode. 
Anyway, Sketch turns up and seems sort of normal now. Then step-sister makes a play for Sid which only seems to depress him, and he wanders off. Michelle follows, and they end up having sex on a dune. How much do you know about sand dunes? I took a coastal morphology class in college (my friend Jill told me it would be easy and that there was a trip to Cape Cod at the end. She was right about the second part) and I feel like, for a while, I was kind of an expert. Now I couldn’t even tell you how they’re formed. I mean, wind, yeah, I know, but what else? Can you tell how much I don’t want to think about Sid and Michelle having sex?
Everybody goes home, and Sid and Michelle prepare to hook up again. And then the tense music starts playing, totally harshing our mellow. BOOM: Cassie. (“Whatever.”-Me) Sorbet doesn't work if you add a dramatic twist at the end, just like how metaphors don't work when you mix them. 

N.B. Yesterday I posted a little notice explaining the transition from this blog to Skins is going to finish here, but Blogging Game Of Thrones will be over there. So bookmark up!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Snow White Of The Ring: The Fellowship Of Snow White: A Review

I saw Snow White And The Huntsman last night, and today our esteemed colleagues at KStewartNews reported that the movie has already grossed $100 million worldwide, putting it on track to surpass Mirror Mirror's total in short order. So OK, I guess Kristen Stewart and her team won the War Of The Snow Whites. But at what cost? 

When Snow White And The Huntsman rocked Comic-Con's world last year, producers only had concept art and a cast on hand. Later, word was that the script was being re-written and revised even as production began. And guess what? It shows! ("'Only fools rush in' -wise men" -UB40) SWATH is somehow both over- and under-written, like they spent so much time on the outline they never got around to the script. When characters actually say things (which is rare!) their lines are too concise, too thematically self-evident. Like this movie was written in the way you'd compose a particularly artful tweet (Sample dialogue: "Have I not given you all?" "Have I not given all to you?").
Here's the story: Snow White is born, and so named because her mother was out walking in the snow one day and thought: "I'd like to get some dick." Also she cut herself on a rose, which is vaguely important. Then the mother dies, leaving Snow White's dad, the Burger King mascot, miserable. Then a dark army appears on the edge of town. If the battle scene that follows doesn't strike you as unnecessary, maybe you didn't hear Chris Hemsworth's voice over, which is something like "And then an army came or whatever, so they fought them for some reason." And so begins one of too many action scenes which basically consist of close, shaky-shots of stuff crashing into other stuff. (This a rare bird: an action movie where the quiet parts between action scenes are far more compelling than the fights.) The dark army (who are like, made out of shale) is keeping Charlize Theron "prisoner," and the Burger King "rescues" her, but actually it was all a ruse, which we know because again Chris Hemsworth says (essentially) "but it was a ruse!" The Burger King dies, Snow White gets locked in a tower, and Queen Charlize rules all, taking weird milk baths in front of her brother, Aryan McNulty, and otherwise sucking the beauty from everything around her (which is SORT OF a metaphor about female beauty when you think about it, or rather when you don't think about it too much--we'll get to that). "Anyway," narrator Chris Hemsworth says, "I'm going to bail on this voice-over part now, for the rest of the movie." Don't you LOVE when that happens?
One day, Queen Charlize's power starts to wane, and she finds out it's because Snow White just turned street legal and so the normal soul-sucking routine (you saw it in the trailer) won't keep her shit tight anymore (except it does, at intervals throughout the rest of the movie, but whatever, magic is complicated). And then we finally see K. Stew, imprisoned in the tower, mumbling prayers to herself and making weird dolls out of garbage. Interesting! Too bad none of that ever really comes up again!

Snow White manages to escape, Queen Charlize sends her brother out to find her with Irish Thor (Hemsworth) as a guide. Then Irish Thor (one of my favorite kinds of soap, obviously) goes rogue, and so begins he and Snow White's journey through about 90 minutes of really beautiful-looking nonsense. Shout out to the visuals in this movie: all of it is wonderful to look at, especially when it gets really trippy, which is not often enough! I include Kristen Stewart under this positive visual category: the movie luxuriates in her pale skin and (admittedly Smeagolesque) eyes.

(And if you were worried: her accent is fine. She mostly whispers, and her too-modern laugh and a few other non-affectations are problematic, but when she's speaking clearly there's nothing distracting about it. Except, of course, that the words out of her mouth are so silly; she has a rallying battle speech that literally sounds like free-associative poetry: "Fire will melt iron! But iron will first writhe around inside itself!" Are actual lines. "And so good! And also rocks! Which are mighty!")
But it's a problem when the visuals (excepting, again, most of the action) are the only thing you can really hang your (elfin) hat on, and even they become difficult to appreciate as the movie drags on and on and on and on. Snow and Hunt (new detective show on TNT this fall, obviously) hook up with the Seven Dwarves, because of course, and later she eats an apple, because of course, but those things are just there because they are, nothing really leading to them or coming from them. When you realize that everything is moving toward a final battle with the Queen you're not excited, you're exhausted. "Get it over with already!" you say. And then they do, and you're like, "Fine."

And then there's the way it seems like someone cut up a feminist textbook and scattered it all over this movie like fairy dust. Queen Charlize has an early speech about being put-upon by the men of this world. In a flashback, we learn that Charlize's mother cast a spell to make her youth and beauty into a weapon. Snow White (too briefly) visits a village of outcast women who have scarred themselves to make sure they won't be a threat to the Queen's beauty and power. Snow White frets about her ability to lead men. Later, when she suits up and goes to battle, The Huntsman tells her she looks good "in mail" (as in chainmail) which is a play on words (male/mail) Kanye West would find enthralling. Certain shots during the battle seem intended to maximize Stewart's androgyny. As short on thematic substance as this movie is, it's dense with feminist shrapnel. But I'd be hard pressed to make much sense of it all. Anybody got an interesting take?
In the end, SWATH was an OK movie. There's about an hour in the middle, where nobody's talking much and we seem to be tumbling through different fairy tale tropes, that is pretty interesting. But then it lands on aping Lord Of The Rings and sticks there. Oh well. I'm not upset I saw it, but in terms of movies I've seen in the theater this year it really only ranks above Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance. It's also, if you count repeat viewings, the fifth consecutive Chris Hemsworth movie I have seen in theaters (The Cabin In The Woods, The Cabin In The Woods, The Avengers, The Avengers, this). He's having a good year. I'm starting to feel like my prognostications for Kristen Stewart are off, though. The release of this movie has sparked a wave of K. Stew hatred the likes of which we haven't seen in years. And it's coming from semi-contrarian blogs like Videogum and Jezebel. If On The Road garners her any good will later this summer (fingers crossed), it will likely be dashed by Breaking Dawn pt. 2: Waiting For Aro in the fall. At least one person has Kristen Stewart's back, though: James Franco. "Kristen is a warrior queen," he says in his thoughtful, weirdly formal review for the Huffington Post. "Give her the crown." And when James Franco is on your side... uh, well, that could mean almost anything.