Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Girl Fights

I never considered myself a boxing fan as I didn't understand why anyone would agree to be hit, much less pay to watch two people hit each other. Years ago, when I was approached by former heavyweight contender Thad Spencer, about documenting his life, I was given an opportunity to experience a small part of the boxing world. 
I spent six months researching his journey as a boxer in the late sixties which was an exciting time where one man could win the most sought after title of heavyweight champion of the world. I spent another six months in the crowd of boxing fans watching blows fly from the fists of Roy Jones Jr, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, Lamon Brewster and Winky Wright. It was fascinating to watch a punch be thrown with precision and force and then land square in the face of the opponent who managed to stay on his feet and return an equally powerful blow.

As my education unfolded I found myself enthralled with all types of fighting and started to take special notice of how battles were handled in movies. Unlike the drunken brawls on “Cops” where someone inevitably thinks it's a good idea to challenge the one person who has a gun, movie fights are choreographed to help drive the story. We've all seen the male hero go up against the bad guy with no ammo, no backup, nothing left but his fists. And while it's often a fight to the death, neither side hits below the belt. They fly through windows, break tables, fall two stories - all while fighting “fair”.

Unarmed, female heroines are not as common. It wasn't long ago that a girl fight in a movie consisted of two girls engaged in a hair pulling-scratching-biting exchange where high-heeled shoes had been kicked off and men were standing by waiting to see someone's underwear. Things turned when Demi Moore went to blows with a man in GI Jane and held her own. In a more farcical fashion Angelina Jolie knocked Brad Pitt around in Mr & Mrs Smith and Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz unleashed some creative stunts in Charlie's Angels.

I'm sure there are many reasons we don't see more of this in movies and I suspect it's because many people don't consider a fist fight between a man and a woman – a fair match. As a writer, if I expect the audience to back my male hero I can't have him kill an unarmed woman – unless she has superpowers or is a cyborg. If my story is filled with stunts and impossibilities I can easily have my female heroine take out an army of thugs with one punch after another. It's when the story is supposed to be taken seriously that writers start arming their women.

In Kill Bill I & II, Lucy faces an army using her martial arts skills. In The Matrix, Trinity uses her acrobatic fighting technique and guns to take out the computer generated “agents”. Alabama Whitman turns the tides of a brutal beating using a corkscrew in True Romance. And Lt Ripley, using a walking, forklift loader, takes on the Alien queen. The appeal that has stirred off of these tough girl characters has spilled into real life with the growing popularity of women's boxing and cage fighting as well as the more playful and sexually charged Jello wrestling, roller derby and organized pillow fighting. It seems that women are finding their inner Ripley and the rest of us are showing up to watch.

I exited my research on the life of Thad Spencer a boxing fan and I've made a commitment to include only realistic fights in my stories, unless I'm writing a comedy. I'd love to try out for the local roller derby team or even enter a Jello wrestling match but falling down, which I do from time to time, hurts a lot more than it used to.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Krampus was Kinda Krappy

Note: Spoiler Alerts Throughout

In a last minute outing, I caught the new holiday movie Krampus at Regal Cinemas 16. The opening scene of this movie alone was worth the price of admission and in fact, the best part of the movie. While there were some visually interesting aspects throughout, overall Krampus was a disappointment. Picture Tremors meets The Gremlins meets almost every holiday family comedy you can think of where “family” gets together in spite of disliking one another immensely. Add evil elves, deranged gingerbread cookies, an animated deviation from the visual style and an idiot that sends the poor dog into the air shaft to attack a massive jack-in-the box and you have a mess of a movie. Sadly, this could have been good with the Alpine Folklore at the heart of this story but it wasn’t.  The only thing that made the film watchable was the cast who delivered excellent performances and carried a completely weak story. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Over and Over and Over

I am one of those people who will watch a movie over and over. There's something about knowing what is going to happen that I find comforting. As Frodo and Co make their way to Mt Doom to destroy "the ring", they travel through the Mines of Moria and come face to face with a band of nasty Orks and their Cave Troll. Even when Froto is stabbed and when the group is pursued by Orks that are literally coming out of the cracks in the walls or when Gandalf falls off the cliff - I'm good. Mainly because I know what happens next.

I am an emotional movie viewer that "feels" what I watch in such a way that it can ruin my whole day. In spite of being a filmmaker who notices the technical components of a movie, I commit myself to the motion picture at hand and sink into the experience.

The news impacts me the same way - which is why I approach CNN with immense caution. Unlike movies though, where I can talk myself off the ledge by reminding myself that it's "make-believe", the news is very real and often very, very sad. And every story a reflection of people facing tragedies because they didn't know what would happen next.

Can you imagine how tremendous it would see "tomorrow's" events? Or at least get the highlights? Heck, I would settle for seeing myself at the start of the day for a few seconds and then at the end of the day for a few seconds. This way I would know that I'm, at the very least, still in the game.

As I write this, Batman just saved Gotham in Batman Begins and I'm irritated that Rachel won't date him (honestly who doesn't want to date Batman) and bummed that his fancy house burned down. But I am glad that he plans to rebuild.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Love In Las Vegas

Once upon a time, two lonely hearts met, fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after. It’s a timeless tale that has unfolded in literature for centuries and graced the silver screen since the beginning of cinema. It was this tale that was at the heart of a discussion between me (the cool aunt) and two seventeen-year-old girls (my niece and her best friend) during a trip to Sin City to see the Spice Girls.

Las Vegas has seen the start of a number of fairy tales as well as its fair share of not-so-happily-ever-afters. Considered the wedding capital of the world, it was a surreal backdrop as teenage wedding dreams, love ideas and unexpected relationship questions were presented. Specific movie scenes were used to communicate opinions and ideas of possible love and I shuddered to remember back to the time when I was them. 

The Notebook, starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling received the majority vote as best romantic film of all time (remember there were only three of us). Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts, which was made when the girls were going on two-years-old, came in second and Tristan and Isolde, starring James Franco and Sophia Myles tied for third with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

They hadn’t seen When Harry, Met Sally starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal - a film that took us on a journey through indifference, friendship, heartbreak and love. Nor had they seen Moonstruck staring Cher and Nicolas Cage where love was a little broken but still incredibly beautiful. They had never heard of High Fidelity, starring John Cusack which was my number one pick and one of the most accurate portrayals of love I had ever seen on screen. We all agreed that the star studded film Love Actually deserved, at the very least, an honorable mention and though I fought hard, The Princess Bride, which will forever grace my top ten list, was dismissed with the likes of Disney’s Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. What can say, I was out numbered.

I have to admit, I found it unsettling to see that these two young women had traded in the animated representations of “happily ever after” for the overly simplified fantasies delivered via live action. I wanted to tell them that love as verb or noun, is complex and tedious and will almost NEVER look like love looks in the movies. And it certainly lasts a lot longer – which could be a good thing or a really bad thing – depending on which act you’re in. I wanted to present words like work and compromise and forgiveness. And say something that would allow them to see the size of a promise. I wanted to tell them to love with abandon but keep their hearts safe – knowing that you cannot do both at the same time. And then I remembered why I have dogs and not kids. 

As the cool aunt I decided to leave the popping of the love bubble to their parents and focus on the Spice Girls. And when love goes mad, rocketing down the road at lightening speed and then hits a patch of ice and spins out of control - I’ll be there with a shoulder to cry on, a pint of sorbet and a DVD of Austin Powers: Gold Member and The Big Lebowski because there’s nothing like laughter and ice cream to mend a broken heart.