Get Ready for Avengers: Infinity War (a Crib Sheet)

Posted on April 13, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Copyright Disney/Marvel 2018
A lot is happening in “Avengers: Infinity War,” opening April 27, 2018, and there are a lot of characters and locations in 240 action-packed minutes. Some refresher/background:

Characters include the Avengers we already know: Iron Man, Captain America, Ant Man, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, Hulk, Dr. Strange (all of whom except Black Widow and Hawkeye have had their own movies), plus the secondary characters like Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan, and Heimdal and a few who are sometimes on our side, sometimes against us characters: Loki, Scarlet Witch, Bucky (glimpsed at the end of “Black Panther”), War Machine, Jarvis, Nebula, plus the “Guardians of the Galaxy” group, including Star Lord/Peter, Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocky Racoon.

The bad guy is Thanos, played by Josh Brolin, who basically wants to control or destroy everyone and everything. For that he needs all of the infinity stones, some of which we have already seen. Nerdist has a great, detailed breakdown of the stones and their history and powers.

Basically, all you need to know is that the bad guy is going to destroy everything and the good guys in various quippy combinations, are going to do their best to stop him, and if they can’t, of course they will AVENGE!

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Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Movie MVP of the Month: American Sign Language in “Rampage” and “A Quiet Place”

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 8:22 am

Two April movies feature ASL (American Sign Language), the beautiful, complex language based on hands, gestures, and facial expressions that is used by Deaf and non-speaking people in America and English-speaking Canada. “A Quiet Place” is about a family trying to survive in a world overrun with vicious blind animals who attack by using their hyper-acute hearing. So they communicate via ASL, which they all know because they have a Deaf daughter, played by Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds of “Wonderstruck.”

In this week’s “Rampage,” the primatologist played by Dwayne Johnson uses ASL to communicate with an ape called George, along the lines of the famous experiments with Koko the gorilla and Washoe the chimp.

And the 2017 Oscar-winner for Best Picture and Best Director was “The Shape of Water,” which also featured ASL, as Sally Hawkins played a mute woman who communicated with a highly evolved amphibian.

Other movies featuring character using ASL to communicate include: “Children of a Lesser God,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “Johnny Bedelia,” “The Miracle Worker,” and “Baby Driver.”

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Disabilities and Different Abilities Film History Lists Movie History Understanding Media and Pop Culture

How Screenwriters Described Iconic Female Characters

Posted on April 10, 2018 at 3:22 pm

We’ve seen so many awful stories about the way that female characters are described in movie scripts that it was a real relief and pleasure to read Vulture’s list of the way that fifty great characters were first imagined and described by their screenwriters.  There’s a whole extra level of delight in getting to see writing by some of the best writers in Hollywood that we would normally not get to see.  We think of them as only being responsible for the witty dialogue, but they are also every bit as good at defining a character in a few short sentences of description as they are with what we will actually hear her say on screen.  (Note: The odd capitalization of character names and other words is standard for movie scripts.)

Kyle Buchanan and Jordan Crucchiola lead off with one of the most vivid characters in the history of movies, aging theatrical star Margo Channing, as played by Bette Davis in “All About Eve :”

How do you create a memorable female character? It helps if you get it right from the very beginning, as Joseph L. Mankiewicz did in his screenplay for All About Eve when he introduced the woman who would be played by Bette Davis. “The CAMERA follows the bottle to MARGO CHANNING,” wrote Mankiewicz in his stage directions. “An attractive, strong face. She is childish, adult, reasonable, unreasonable — usually one when she should be the other, but always positive.”  

via GIPHY

One of the best ones is this wonderfully evocative introduction of the faded movie star played by Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard:”

via GIPHY

Norma Desmond stands down the corridor next to a doorway from which emerges a flickering light. She is a little woman. There is a curious style, a great sense of high voltage about her. She is dressed in black house pajamas and black high-heeled pumps. Around her throat there is a leopard-patterned scarf, and wound around her head a turban of the same material. Her skin is very pale, and she is wearing dark glasses.

Few women but Audrey Hepburn could truly live up to this description in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s:”

The girl walks briskly up the block in her low cut evening dress. We get a look at her now for the first time. For all her chic thinness she has an almost breakfast-cereal air of health. Her mouth is large, her nose upturned. Her sunglasses blot out her eyes. She could be anywhere from sixteen to thirty. As it happens she is two months short of nineteen. Her name (as we will soon discover) is HOLLY GOLIGHTLY.

via GIPHY

One of the best screen couples has got to be Nick and Nora Charles from “The Thin Man.” If you haven’t had the pleasure of falling in love with them onscreen, rest assured that this description of Nora will do it for you:

NORA CHARLES, Nick’s wife, is coming through. She is a woman of about twenty-six… a tremendously vital person, interested in everybody and everything, in contrast to Nick’s apparent indifference to anything except when he is going to get his next drink. There is a warm understanding relationship between them. They are really crazy about each other, but undemonstrative and humorous in their companionship. They are tolerant, easy-going, taking drink for drink, and battling their way together with a dry humor.

via GIPHY

I especially enjoyed the contrast between the descriptions of Sarah Connor in the first and second “Terminator” movies. And the quiz to try to guess the character from the description.

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Take Yourself to a Movie — Alone

Posted on April 3, 2018 at 8:00 am

I love seeing movies with my husband, my family, and my friends.  I also love the pre-release screenings, where I get to hang out with my fellow movie critics, who are great friends and lots of fun to talk with about movies.  But I also love to go go movies by myself (okay, I love seeing movies pretty much any way they come) and was delighted to read this tribute to solo movie viewing by Matthew Monagle of Film School Rejects:

Perhaps my favorite thing about watching movies by myself, however, is the lack of pressure to form an immediate opinion. Much to the annoyance of my friends and family members, I’m not particularly good at articulating how I feel about a movie until I’ve had a little time to think it over. Even then, I might not truly know how I feel until I start trying to write things down. Pauline Kael once described her writing process – and I’m paraphrasing pretty heavily here – as essential to the development of her opinion: she wouldn’t know how she truly felt about a movie until her words hit the page. I’m prone to that same sort of self-discovery. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to commit to an opinion until I’m certain it’ll hold up under intense scrutiny; other times it’s because I can’t pin down my vague feelings of slight-dislike or slight-like for a movie I just watched. Whatever the reason, those extra minutes I spend to myself after watching a movie – on the subway, in the car, along the street – give me time to bounce ideas around in my head before trying an opinion on for size. And when you come across a movie you truly love, like The Devil’s Candy? Sometimes it’s just nice to sit and bask in it for a little bit without having to dig any deeper.

So the next time a movie catches your eye and you can’t find anyone to go see it with you, try something you may find a little uncomfortable at first: go by yourself.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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