Shit @RobertDowneyJr #MCU #movie

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Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work or just do something silly. Today, it’s both: One of the cutest scenes in the MCU.

 

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Pepper Potts Sucks! @ComicBook @BrandonDavisBD @Rowaenthe @RobertDowneyJr #IronMan #QuarantineWatchParty #MCU

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June 30 was the first ComicBook.com quarantine watch party in quite some time. As always, I made a few more Twitter connections through the conversations that came from it. These conversations inspired three posts for my blog. This is the second one that in some sense serves as a sequel to the first one.

I must admit that I’m a little out of my element. As I said in the prior Iron Man-related post, I don’t analyze these movies from the perspective of an expert in screenwriting. I focus on themes that are important to me. This post eventually strays into an analysis of moviemaking and human relationships, so I have far more questions than I have answers, and my affirmative claims are often mere speculation. My primary question is: What purpose to the larger story did Pepper’s naivete and/or stubbornness serve?

Here’s what I’m talking about:

In other words, there are several incidents throughout the MCU where Pepper makes the same mistake that many people make in the real world. She tries to interfere with a strong person doing what’s necessary because she doesn’t understand what strength of character is, or at least why it’s important. As shown in Shazam!, attitude is often far more important than actual ability, which is why even in the non-caveman, modern world, strength is an important feature. While Pepper is a hard worker, intelligent, and portrayed as strong in other ways, that’s not a realistic portrayal. She’s simply serving a plot, so the script has her acting both strong and weak at different points.

While we all have our strengths and weaknesses, this paradox is far more profound than that. She doesn’t get a simple reality that, again, I’ve seen a lot in the real world: Telling Tony not to act because it places him at risk is counterproductive. If he doesn’t act, the bad guys will win, and Tony will die anyway (along with many other people). This is absolutely maddening, and it happens during Paltrow’s entire tenure in the MCU. At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony temporarily gives up being Iron Man for her. Fortunately, real world economics prevail, and the screenwriters quickly send Tony back into the fray to save half the universe. But the point is that, if you’re weak, that’s fine, but don’t stand in the way of the strong. They have a job to do, and it’s generally saving your ass.

How Did the Relationship Work?

Sorry, but my writing gets a little choppy here because I’m suddenly shifting gears.

I’m light years from my area of expertise, but perhaps Stark latched onto a person with such a silly outlook because her motivation was seemingly unconditional love, and that’s what he was searching for. According to Captain America: Civil War, he lost that relationship for a while, but as soon as he could, he grabbed her and didn’t let go. As I speculated in the prior Iron Man-related post, that’s probably because Tony’s lack of a family was haunting him (as it often haunts me). Or maybe it’s far simpler: Opposites attract. Because it’s just a movie, they were able to write the script anyway they wanted, so the resulting relationship with Pepper worked even if it wouldn’t in the real world, which wouldn’t be so generous. (For the record, Civil War screenwriter Stephen McFeely stated that her presence would have calmed Tony, but he needed to remain dark and angry in order for the events to play out as they did.) Tony never got “fixed’ by anything we saw on screen; the script just pushed him in that direction leaving the details to our imagination (other than the unwitting therapy session with Bruce Banner in Iron Man 3). Figuring out why is merely speculation. As complex as some of these MCU characters are relative to other movie characters, they’re still not real. They’re just two-dimensional characters driven more by dramatic forces than by real, psychological or logical ones.

It appears that Pepper’s behavior always served to advance the plot. She could hold Tony back or push him forward as needed, but she usually held him back. When she did so, her thought processes were wildly illogical, and that grated on me.

I don’t want to hate Pepper Potts, but I do. There. I said it.

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Dysfunctional to Functional Family: Tony Stark, Obadiah Stane, Spiderman, and Morgan Stark @ComicBook @BrandonDavisBD @Rowaenthe @TheJeffBridges @RobertDowneyJr #IronMan #QuarantineWatchParty #MCU #Spiderman

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June 30 was the first ComicBook.com quarantine watch party in quite some time. As always, I made a few more Twitter connections through the conversations that came from it. These conversations inspired three posts for my blog, this being the first one.

My posts aren’t about getting clicks. If no one read any of my posts, I wouldn’t really care. Writing them is more about catharsis than fame. Moreover, I’m no film student, psychologist, or sociologist, so I can’t break down the science of movie-making or human behavior. Instead, these posts are about analyzing the themes used within the movies due to my personal connection to their messages (accordingly, YMMV). As a result, my favorite posts have been about Nebula’s Redemption, my comparison of Shazam! and Guardians of the Galaxy, and others dealing with a particular theme. That theme is realizing and accepting that your idealized vision of family is complete nonsense, breaking away from those abusive relationships, and appreciating the family you didn’t realize was in front of you the whole time (though for me personally, the third has been elusive). Not everyone has these experiences, but it’s a recurring theme in superhero movies. I never considered that the first Iron Man movie implicitly raised issues related to this theme.

Father Figure

Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) father died, and then Tony disappeared for a while. This isn’t surprising considering how self-absorbed he is, but when he returned to Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) must have served as a father-figure for him. Before I go forward, I want to mention . . .

Tony didn’t show as much respect for Obadiah as you would want to see from your own child, but Tony didn’t ever show much respect for any authority figure, so it’s still fair to assume Obadiah acted as an adoptive father to him. That is, Obadiah wasn’t merely a coworker, boss, or even family friend. Assuming that, it must have been absolutely devastating for Tony when he realized Obadiah had called for his removal from the company, and even worse, his death. That betrayal would hold back Tony’s growth, which became a slow burn throughout the Infinity War saga. It helps make Tony’s grief over Black Widow’s death as believable as that of any other character despite his never overtly expressing that grief or deep feelings for her. It wasn’t until the first Avengers that Tony showed a willingness to “lay down on a wire” for his allies, but his ego made sure that no one would forget that. Somehow, it was still about him . . . until he started to understand fatherhood in Captain America: Civil War.

Peter Parker and Morgan Stark

In Civil War, Tony latched onto Peter Parker/Spiderman. At first, he was looking for a little more firepower to take down Team Cap ®©TM℗SM, but by Infinity War it was clear he had a genuine emotional attachment to Peter.

By Avengers: Endgame, he was devastated because he “lost the kid,” but he got a second chance in that film. Tony’s life became about Pepper and their daughter, Morgan. He was reluctant to restore the Vanished because doing so threatened what he had finally found after a lifetime of searching, even if it meant giving up on his filial figure, Peter.

Tony’s progression from self-absorbed brat to the guy who’d “make the sacrifice play” was 22 movies long probably because of Obadiah more than anything else we saw, but Tony made it there, and that wound up saving half the universe.

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No Small Parts: Miriam in Captain America: Civil War @AlfreWoodard @RobertDowneyJr @ChrisEvans #MCU #CaptainAmerica #IronMan #NoSmallParts

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Unlike the other MCU films, the overarching storyline in Captain America: Civil War wasn’t the Avengers finding a way to come together, but rather the Avengers being torn apart. Behind the scenes, the Sokovia Accords were being written, and Secretary Ross was getting ready to confront the Avengers, but for the disassembly of the Avengers to occur, it had to come from within. The two factions were led by Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Steve needed no outside help to make his stand; it’s what he does. Likewise, Tony is prone towards sacrificing liberty in favor of security, but in prior films, he insisted on being the one in control of that security. Something had to push him over the edge to where he’d be willing to surrender that control to the government that he so routinely dismissed.

Enter Miriam, played by acting veteran Alfre Woodard.

Jump to 0:55 for the scene in question.

Miriam tells the story of her son, Charlie Spencer, who had the city of Novi Grad, Sokovia dropped on him during the events of Age of Ultron. She blamed the Avengers for his death and laid a huge guilt trip on Tony Stark in that scene.

One of my pet peeves about superhero movies is the after saving the world, the unappreciative human race vilifies the heroes because of the collateral damage that occurs, ignoring that, in some cases, without the heroes the entire human race would be killed. That’s certainly a theme in Civil War, and it’s annoying as hell, but in Civil War those arguments were no more than a means to advance a more reasonable position. The United Nations truthfully understood that what the Avengers were doing was right, and that the consequences of those actions were often not the Avengers’ fault. They simply wanted international oversight to minimize those consequences.

But logic isn’t always the best motivator. Even the most stoic among us are emotional creatures. You can’t blame the Avengers for feeling bad about what happened. If a criminal held a gun to a loved-one’s head, and you felt you had to kill the criminal in order to save that person’s life, the world wouldn’t blame you, but you might still find it difficult to deal with having killed another human being. Maybe you could have disarmed the criminal, and if so overpowered him. Tony was facing the same emotional dilemma, and to make matters worse was the creator of the threat, Ultron. Even more, maybe Tony could have zigged when he zagged and saved some more lives.

Miriam appealed to that emotion, and in less than 2 minutes of screen time, set in motion the civil war between the Avengers.

Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

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Good Watch: The Ending of All Creatures Here Below Screwed Me Up @karengillan @Dastmalchian @schifflifilms #movie

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The ending of All Creatures Here Below really screwed me up, and it’s been festering in my brain for about a week now. (Technically, I’m already screwed up, and this just raised the issue.) As I mentioned in a prior, spoiler-free post, I rented it, saw it, had to watch it a second time. This movie strikes the precise emotional chords for me. YMMV.

Spoiler Alert!

Before you read further, please note that this is one of those few movies that I’m glad I saw spoiler-free. If you’re at all spoiler-averse, you should stop reading now and watch the movie. If not, you’re robbing yourself of a process that made the movie even better for me. I watched it once, tolerating the typical humdrum character and story development necessary to start any film, was hit with the twist towards the end (which I won’t spoil here), and then was hit with the ending. At that point, I knew I had to watch it again, which completely changed how I saw the start of the movie. It was no longer humdrum; rather, almost every moment became disturbing and/or important.

The Characters

The two main characters, Gensan and Ruby, are bad people. They commit crimes, both minor and heinous, throughout the movie. I should be rooting for their downfall, but as I’ve pointed out, this movie demonstrates how complex issues can get. While I don’t waiver one bit on the position that they should both be in prison, the screenwriting (David Dastmalchian) and directing (Collin Schiffli), and acting (Dastmalchian and Karen Gillan) leave me conflicted. I feel bad for the characters, probably because I know that the emotions they feel are ones with which we all sympathize. They deserve to be in prison because of their actions, but how they emotionally respond to their own actions, as well as how tough their circumstances are, are relatable. Some of you may even share those circumstances.

5 Minutes

Most of us can appreciate the finality of death. Once a person dies, that’s it. Even if you’re religious, it feels like they’re gone forever. This inspires a very common sentiment: “What I wouldn’t give for just five more minutes with [person].” Depending on the relationship, you may want to spend that five minutes kissing, hugging, or just talking to that person, telling them how you feel about them or sitting back and enjoying their wisdom one more time. Regardless of what you need from that five minutes, you need that five minutes.

In the end scene, Gensan is living in what should have been those five minutes. In his twisted mind, he had to kill her but not at that precise moment. Even for a guy who was so emotionally stunted, I think he, like all of us, would appreciate just a few more minutes with her, but he’s the reason he doesn’t have those five minutes.

Moreover, despite Ruby’s mangled corpse being out of view, we all know what Gensan sees before him. However, the director (I think that’s where the credit lies) makes sure we connect emotionally with that scene. Ruby falls to the ground after the initial (brutal) strike. She gets hit again, and we see only her right hand clutching the grass. Then she’s hit a third time, and her hand is limp. On the fourth and final strike, it simply bounces a bit from the impact. We see her death occur without the blood and guts, but we can’t ignore the brutality of it. Gensan is looking directly at the product of his own handiwork knowing that he didn’t have to do it before spending five minutes saying a much-needed goodbye.

Ruby’s Letter

Ruby gets to have those five minutes in a sense, because through her letter to Gensan she tells him how she feels about him. She saw him as her “knight in shining armor,” but he failed her in that regard in the worst way imaginable. Gensan must now be overwhelmed by his own betrayal.

And all of this could have been delayed five minutes.

It May Be Even Worse

As if all of that isn’t bad enough, Gensan may have to relive this pain over again. Let’s say he gets exceptionally lucky and serves only twenty years in prison. Assuming he’s thirty years old, he’s out at fifty, with on average (statistically speaking) twenty-six years left to live. On the day he’s granted parole and knows he’s getting out, something’s going to hit him: If he could have gotten lucky, perhaps Ruby could have as well. She could have also been getting out of prison at some time, so they could have decades of those “five minutes” together if not for his short-sighted actions.

He’s going to have to relive that same pain again, knowing that he robbed himself and her of that time together, as well as everything else that goes along with life. How could you live with that?

Personal Matter

Everyone has their pain, and I’m no exception, but my greatest pain dwarves the rest of it, perhaps defining me. Several movies have occasionally tugged on that particular heart-string, but none struck that particular chord as hard as this movie did. Perhaps that makes me like this movie more than you will, but I still encourage people to watch it. Even if you’ve just spoiled it for yourself, there’s a twist I haven’t spoiled, and the ending should still be a powerful watch for you.

Grade

I give this movie an A+.

America’s Sugar Addiction

There was one other thing that was disturbing about the movie, but in a funny way. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say this: Ruby, c’mon! You’re still watching TV and eating a Baby Ruth? 😊

Depending on how it’s presented, I sometimes don’t handle death in movies particularly well.

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Four More Observations About the #MCU @Renner4Real @RobertDowneyJr @DaveBautista @karengillan

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I just finished watching Infinity War and Endgame again and have four more observations. Yeah, I talk about the MCU a lot, but I think it gets far too little credit for its writing and acting (especially Karen Gillan and Dave Bautista, who were both surprises to me).

Character Growth

As I’ve discussed in several prior posts, the MCU as a whole, like most individual movies, involved a lot of character growth. In the MCU, the common theme was developing a better sense of morality, but using familiar methods to achieve the evolved goals. For example, Tony was a self-absorbed arms dealer. As he evolved to a selfless peace-seeker, he still used the same methods. He used weapons to provide security, because that’s all he really knew. And near the end of Endgame, [spoiler alert] even the “self-absorbed” part came into play: “I am Iron Man.” Of course, as a friend pointed out on Facebook, at the time he was using the most powerful weapon in the universe.

Natasha and Clint

I don’t know if Natasha and Clint’s friendship is the best thing about the MCU, but it’s certainly near the top, and it’s an example of what makes the MCU fantastic. You couldn’t possibly build that relationship over the course of a single film, which means that their scene on Vormir couldn’t possibly have the emotional impact that it did if Infinity War/Endgame were a single film. The MCU is several independent films that collectively is greater than the sum of its parts.

Bucky Knew

After my 100th re-watch of Endgame, I’m certain that Bucky knew that Steve was going to live out his life in the past. I never really noticed that before now.

Cheeseburgers

I hate cheese but still find it adorable that Tony’s daughter wanted cheeseburgers at the end of Endgame. The first thing Tony wanted after returning from captivity in Iron Man was a cheeseburger. I may have already mentioned this in a prior post, but there it is.

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Good Watch: All Creatures Here Below @karengillan @Dastmalchian @jenmorrisonlive @DavidKoechner #movie

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Based on my obsession with the MCU, I’ve become a fan of several of the actors that had never been on my radar scope before. I discovered All Creatures Here Below starring two of them: Karen Gillan and David Dastmalchian. I had never heard of Gillan before the MCU (I have a weird thing against Dr. Who), and had seen Dastmalchian in only a couple of small parts. This is nothing like an MCU movie, of course. It has that indie-movie feel to it. The two play a couple of non-loveable screw ups that can’t seem to make any good decisions and almost constantly piss me off. Gillan’s Ruby doesn’t seem to understand that her actions are evil or stupid (they’re often both), whereas Dastmalchian’s Gensan doesn’t seem to care about anyone else (other than Ruby), so he ignores the consequences to others. Ruby also doesn’t seem to understand the long-term consequences of her actions.

Jennifer Morrison and David Koechner are also in it, though their parts are small, so they aren’t given a chance to shine. That’s a shame because they’re both quite good.

It’s a depressing tale, but once it got started, I was eager to see how it turned out. Then I got hit with a twist in the diner scene, which really made me rethink the entire movie. The world is screwed up, and things can be more complicated than they appear (for better or worse). It’s frustrating, brutal, and the ending was downright painful (perhaps too painful for some), but it was well worth the 90 minutes and $3.99. I enjoyed both the acting and the writing, and I greatly appreciate the talent it takes to do either.

A- (but I’m a generous grader)

EDIT: I’m upgrading this movie to a solid A+ after thinking about it all day. I really didn’t expect a movie like this to make me think so hard, and I appreciate that.

For a spoiler-laden discussion, click here for my other post on this movie.

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Revisiting the #MCU @Marvel @RobertDowneyJr @karengillan @DaveBautista #Avengers #MCU

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I haven’t spent as much time on Disney+ as I was hoping, but last weekend I took the time to watch Thor: Ragnarök, Infinity War, and Endgame over the course of two days. For reasons that will become apparent, I really wish I had watched Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 (”GotG2”) before Thor: Ragnarök, but I’m remedying that as I type this.

When I first saw these movies, I really enjoyed them (despite never being a comic book reader), but that was an honest, emotional reaction devoid of any intellectual analysis. I just liked them; it was that simple. However, upon second viewings, I have more time to think about them, and they’re getting better and better. There are a few specific scenes that represent what I find surprisingly good about these movies, all of which demonstrate character evolution, but one of which in a way that’s a bit backwards. I’m not an authority on any of these aspects of movie-making, so your mileage may vary. Perhaps wildly. Moreover, I’m a firm believer that art is in the eye of the beholder, so much of this is what I choose to infer from what I hear and see. The Russo brothers and the actors in question may also disagree with me.

Tony Stark’s Funeral

This one was easy for me. I always pay attention to how the music interacts with the movie.

Side note: The DC movies have taken some serious hits among nerd circles, but I imagine that if you pay attention to how that music interacts with those movies, you liked them more than you would otherwise. Music matters.

It was immediately apparent to me that the music in this scene was thematically very similar to the Captain America’s music when he went into the ice. I don’t remember hearing those themes in any other scenes in the MCU unless they related directly to Steve. In Endgame, Steve proved he was worthy to wield Mjolnir. That was his evolution, though according to the Russo’s he had reached that point by Age of Ultron. Stark made a similar jump. He started as a self-absorbed, spoiled brat. Not only did he change into someone we could consider “good” but also sought to make up for his past sins. It wasn’t enough for him not to place the world in danger personally; he wanted to eliminate any danger others created as well (e.g., seeking to place a protective shield around the world).

That said, old habits die hard (as you’ll also see in my second example). Tony never lost his edge, and he made a lot of mistakes because his methods didn’t evolve as quickly as his sensibilities. All he had to work with was his methods from a lifetime of preparing our country for war. Nevertheless, when all was said and done in Endgame, Tony finally completed his evolution. He made the sacrifice play, laid down on a wire, and let the other guy crawl over him. I thought it quite fitting that the music played at his funeral was originally from Steve’s sacrifice.

Tony and Nebula in Space

I think Gillan’s acting in these scenes was the best I saw in the entire MCU. Is she a better actor than Robert Downey, Jr.? I’m not qualified to say — that guy killed it throughout the entire MCU — but it doesn’t matter. She acted circles around him in these scenes, and I doubt many paid close attention to that. Downey’s mission in those scenes was relatively simple: Convey someone facing death while thinking about what was most important to him. Did he do a good job? Of course. He’s great, and by design, everyone was focused on both Downey as an actor and Stark as a character. These were as much RDJ’s movies and Stark’s stories as anyone else’s, but that means some of us (including me) missed Gillan’s brilliance the first time through. If you did, re-watch it focusing on her.

First, some context. Starting with GotG2, Nebula disclosed to Gamora that all she ever wanted was for them to have a normal, sisterly relationship. I choose to believe that Nebula didn’t realize that until she said it out loud. Later, she was given a quick lesson by Drax on what family means, and then she had to cooperate with former enemies to take down multiple threats. This was all new to her. Every relationship she had had to this point was familial and severely dysfunctional (more than any of us can imagine) or predator-to-prey. She was a horrible person doing horrible things in a social environment giving her no opportunity to even question her behavior, let alone escape it. Now that she was beginning to turn the corner, her next mission in Infinity War was, well, to murder her father. Sure, we can all sort of forgive that under the circumstances, but again, this must have been tough for her to process.

Moving forward to Endgame, it’s clear that Nebula is trying to deal with all these new feelings and philosophies. But now she’s stuck on a ship with Tony, and there’s even more to process. She’s making a friend, which is something she’s never had. The act of shaking hands was alien to her even though it’s a custom clearly not exclusive to Earth in the MCU. She’s playing a game, which is probably something she’s never done. After all, her instinct was to ignore the rules of the game. Win at all costs through aggression. When Tony asked her if it was fun, she had to think about whether it was. What’s “fun”? Again, that’s a foreign concept. Apparently, she figured out all of this, eventually taking the role of a caretaker, giving Tony the remaining food and making him as comfortable as possible while on his deathbed . . . chair. Whatever.

How much of this was intended by Gillan or the Russos? I don’t know, but again, this is what I choose to infer, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I hear this in her voice and see it in her face, and that’s my point. For her to convey so much, with so few lines (2 lines with 9 words and 3 grunts), in so few scenes, and burdened with so much toaster oven make up is simply remarkable. I could see even myself pulling off (poorly) a guy facing his impending death. As for what she did, I wouldn’t know where to start. Gems like this are hidden in plain sight throughout the MCU.

Drax and Mantis

In the scene in which Drax tells Mantis she’s “hideous,” he relays a memory of an outing with his daughter. Mantis makes an empathic connection with him and is overwhelmed by his grief, but the entire time, Drax’s face is deadpan. He’s barely showing his emotion. Drax very quickly picked up on human idiosyncrasies, including laughter, frustration, and anger, but this scene showed that the instincts of his species were still strong in him. It changes the way I interpret any of his scenes. He may not be expressing emotion, but I’m encouraged to infer them from the context, and they can be powerful. It allows me to make the movie my own. Again, art is in the eye of the beholder.

The actual reason I mention this scene, though, is so that I can say that Dave Bautista was the actor that impressed me the most. He’s no Al Pacino, but I didn’t expect him to be any good at all. Most pro wrestlers that jumped into acting have been far less than impressive — Dwayne Johnson is a notable exception — but he brought it in every single scene he shot. He was given great lines and made the most of them. “Why is Gamora?” was actually improvised. That’s all him.

These aren’t very detailed analyses, and these scenes only scratch the surface of the MCU’s magnificence. There were many other connections drawn with the music, there are plenty of actors that acted their asses off playing secondary characters, and there were several actors new to me that were surprisingly good. However, considering the length of my last few posts on copyright, I suspect you’re all happy with the relative brevity. Besides, my views aren’t to be taken too seriously. I’m not an actor or filmmaker, so what do I know?

I just know what I like.

When you watch them again, maybe you’ll see some things you didn’t see before. I have a lot more to watch.

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