Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Overview

Well the Oscars are over and wow what a show. I knew it was going to be great show when right off the bat Seth MacFarlane came out and kid Tommy Lee Jones at looking so sullen at the Golden Globes. I will have to say this was one of the best Oscar broadcasts I have seen in the past few years. The host was entertaining for both old and young audiences. The special performances (with the exception of the Bond tribute) were stellar. The ode to musicals and seeing Barbara Streisand made this broadcast epic. The winners were on and on pretty much predictable. I was happy to see Chistoph Waltz win over Tommy Lew Jones. He is a phenomenal actor and was born to recite Tarantino words. I guess the big "upset" if you would call it that (the critics were predicting that it would be a possibility) was Ang Lee winning Best Director. He deserved to win for Life of Pi for it is a magnificent piece of art. Plus since the Academy snubbed Ben Affleck, the award was pretty much up for grabs. The favorite was Steven Spielberg but though a talented director, I don't think Lincoln was an example of his best work. The end scene was too sentimental and staged much like the end scene of Schindler's List. Though despite all of the stars (and two previous Sexiest Man Alive Ben Affleck and George Clooney winning best picture for Argo), the biggest star of the night was Seth MacFarlane. He was able to weave his crude humor ridiculing Hollywood with classic Oscar paraphernalia that made him seem not so disrespectful. He was not afraid to offend warning the audience that if he they thought he went to far, just wait to see what he had coming up next. He kept the show moving but also kept it entertaining. If William Shatner was correct, I think the future will be correct in giving him a standing ovation for his efforts. Signing off, I hope you enjoyed the show and looking forward to the next Game of Thrones post.

Redemption with Ode to Musicals

Well I have to agree with my fellow blogger Paul. The musical tribute was phenomenal. It definitely made up for the Bond tribute falling flat. I was impressed that Catherine Zeta Jones was still as flexible as she was when she filmed the movie Chicago in 2002. The dance number and singing was right out of the movie (if only Taye Diggs could have reprized his role as the piano player). Jennifer Hudson wowed the audience (and earned a standing ovation) for her performance and stunned most of America with her dramatic weight loss. She also did an outstanding job doing the song that earned her her own Oscar. The finale of the tribute was amazing with the entire main cast of Les Miserable doing the first act finale "One Day More." Even though  it was not hard to gather the entire cast since Les Mis was nominated, it was impressive how many of the non nominated actors attended. Also I applaud Russell Crowe coming out and singing since out of all of the cast members he was the most ridiculed for his performance. Actually with him coming out singing live, I gained more respect for his performance knowing that he did not need to be pre-recorded and mixed in order to make his singing acceptable. It was an awesome tribute to musicals, reliving some of the best musicals of recent years, alerting the audience that good musicals are not dead but alive and well.

Bond Homage: Not So Much

So the much anticipated 50th anniversary of James Bond homage just occurred and all I can say is ehhhh. As an homage they thought it fit just to show clips of the different films. I was hoping that they were going to pull out a few surprises....Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, or how great would it have been if they were able to pull Sean Connery out of retirement to make an appearance. They did get Shirley Bassey to sing Goldfinger the hit song from the movie of the same name but she sounded a little flat and all we could talk about was her dress and how you could see the seams making us thing for a second that she had horrible plastic surgery. All in all it was mighty disappointing since none of the Bonds made an appearance. Another comment that has nothing to do with Bond, I like this year how they put all of the nominees for the smaller categories like Best Animated Short or Best Makeup in a box next to the stage so they could cut down on the time it takes for the winner to walk to the stage. It is definitely an improvement from the show a few years back when they had all of the nominees stand on stage making it awkward when the winner emerged and the and loser had to sink back into the darkness. The show is still going strong and there have been no big upsets yet. Let's see how night continues.

Seth MacFarlane Gets Help From the Future

So the critics were wondering how Seth MacFarlane would handle the opening of the Oscars. Would he be irreverent like his Family Guy counterparts or would he understand the honor of the ceremony and respect everyone? Well somehow he was able to combine both. With the help of William Shatner, MacFarlane was able to do the numbers that he would have liked to do as writer of Family Guy ridiculing the A-list celebrities, as well as perform the numbers that are Oscar acceptable. William Shatner allowed him to see the numbers he would have performed as the Family Guy creator (with hilarious numbers such as "We Saw Your Boobs"- the best Oscar medley ever and Seth MacFarlane making out with Sally Field). MacFarlane then corrected his errors doing "Academy acceptable" numbers such as Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron dancing to "The Way You Looked Tonight" and Joseph Gordon Levitt and Daniel Radcliff dancing to "High Hopes." In a way MacFarlane was able to satisfy the older audience that usually watches the Oscars and gain the younger audience that ABC hoped to draw to attract higher advertising dollars. With Seth MacFarlane anything can happen so stay tuned to see what else occurs during this roller coaster event.
Hey Everyone! Happy Oscar Night! Now I know this blog is dedicated to Game of Thrones but since it is the biggest night in Hollywood, and some of the actors in Game of Thrones were in Oscar nominated movies in the past (Sean Bean in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings and Peter Dinklage in The Station Agent) I figured I would take a break from the show and live blog the 85th Annual Academy Awards (plus this will give me something to do while the people no one has ever heard of make their long acceptance speeches). I will be live blogging with fellow blogger Paul Lauricella so check out his thoughts as well at Hope everyone enjoys the show! Tune in! (And don't worry I will also make my usual Game of Thrones post so the second season will be reviewed by the time the third season starts: 3/31/13)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Game of Thrones 2.5: The Ghost of Harrenhal

Trusted Advisors and Grimm Fairytales 

This week’s Game of Thrones manages to hit upon all of the storylines; however, the events while advancing the plot are still building up to a climactic scene which will hopefully come to fruition within the next few weeks. This week saw the exit of Renly Baratheon. He is killed by a shadowed man sired by his brother, Stannis and birthed by the fire priestess Melisandre. Catelyn, being a witness to the incident, flees the scene with Brienne, one of Renly’s guards. Brienne then swears her loyalty to Catelyn on their way back to Rob’s camp. Jon Snow continues with the Night’s Watch beyond the Wall and prepares for battle with the Wildlings. Tyrion discovers Cersei’s plan to beat Stannis in battle which involves the making of Wild Fire. This substance stored in pots, when hurled at enemies will burst into flames and burns hotter than standard fire. Daenerys is enjoying her stay in Qarth as an honored guest of Zara; however, she wants to get ships so she can regain the Iron Throne. Arya meanwhile still resides in Harrenhal serving Tywin Lannister. She acquires a new friend Jaqen J’ghar who will help her avenge those who have wronged her.

Though a lot occurs this episode a main theme resonates throughout the entire show: the importance of good advisors. It seems everyone in power has someone close to them, giving them their opinion on a subject. In fact the strength of the ruler is tied to the quality of his or her advisors and how well he or she listens to them. This episode is full of characters in power heeding the advice from their most trusted and loyal friends and being better prepared for future events in the long run. Ser Davos confronts Stannis about bringing Melisandre into battle with him when they sail to King’s Landing. He warns him that with her being a foreigner, Stannis’s men would take it as an affront if she were to enter into the city with him after their victory. Bronn comments to Tyrion that fighting with Wild Fire in a walled up city with inexperience soldiers would do more harm than good, most likely leading to the destruction of their own city instead of Stannis’s ships. Ser Jorah warns Daenerys not to marry Zara for his money even though Zara claims he can buy her the fleet she needs to take back the Iron Throne. Ser Jorah advises that after taking money from rich men, one is always in their debt. He offers his service to procure one ship to sail away from Qarth and to lead them to a friendlier land where they can acquire the army they need without strings attached. Stannis, Tyrion, and Daenerys heed the advice of their advisors which set them on the right track.

This theme of loyal and wise seconds in command always manifests in two ways: the rulers who listen to their advisors and end up being wise, successful and most often supported by their followers and rulers who ignore their advisors getting into trouble and becoming tyrannical and hated by their people. Game of Thrones exemplifies this dialectic. Obviously Stannis, Tyrion, and Daenerys though all enemies of one another show that they know how to rule their people and gain their support. Goffrey on the other hand constantly snickers at those on his council and proceeds to do whatever he wants causing his subjects to speak out against him in the streets. Even Renly ignores the sage advice from Catelyn to make amends with his brother Stannis and ends up dead. This dialectic is seen all throughout television and film in similar genres as well as in genres completely different. In The Tudors, Henry VIII constantly defies his council when they speak against him. Henry even puts Sir Thomas Moore to death for refusing to acknowledge his break from the Catholic Church. Ignoring his closest advisors leads to his subjects rising against him in revolt and the Catholic Church waging warfare to get him overthrown. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Froto has Sam who keeps him on the path of good even when the ring pushes him to succumb to its power. Because Froto accepts Sam’s advice and friendship, he is able to destroy the ring in Mount Doom. Even shows completely different from Game of Thrones like Dexter portray the importance of accepting the advice of an advisor. When Dexter follows the code his father taught him as a child, he is able fulfill the hunger inside of him and kill without being caught; however, when he strays from the code chance of his true identity being discovered increases exponentially.

Besides showcasing the value of trusted advisors and following their advice, this episode took an interesting turn with Arya’s storyline and almost added a whimsical twist. In a story that the Grimm brothers would have loved to tell, Ayra seems to have become a part of a twisted fairytale in this episode. Harrenhal while portrayed last episode as hell on earth, seems to have transformed into the setting for Arya’s fairytale. Much like Cinderella, she waits on Tywin Lannister jumping at his beck and call when he needs her but being banished to the corner when she is not needed. To add to her fairytale, she meets Jaqen J’ghar, the man she saved during the skirmish in the woods. He becomes her genie in a way. Though instead of granting her three wishes, in a tradition even darker than Grimm’s, he offers her three deaths (however, after everything she has been through maybe her three wishes would have involved death). It will be interesting to see how her fairytale continues to unfold…maybe a romance between her and Gendry, the long lost king turning her into a queen?

Though not an incredibly action packed episode, the story development definitely covered some interesting themes. With half the season already behind us, I predict that the next five episodes will be action packed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Game of Thrones 2.4: Garden of Bones

A Demonstration of Marquis de Sade and Machiavelli

This week’s Game of Thrones covered a wide range of stories. Robb conquered another Lannister army while Lord Baelish confronted Cateyln and brought her back Eddard’s bones for burial. Arya made it to treacherous Haranhal where endless amount of prisoners died while being interrogated. Daenerys found safety for her people in the city of Qarth. Meanwhile, Joffrey further showed his evil nature by beating two prostitutes.

The Marquis de Sade would have thoroughly enjoyed this episode for the torcher and violence was nonstop. This episode makes and argument against young rulers who inherit their power and do not know what it means to be a good leader. Joffrey does not have to make any decisions concerning the realm. Tyrion is in charge of all of the day to day affairs leaving Joffrey with ample amount of leisure time. He does not know how to conduct himself in a kingly manner or what it means to lead a kingdom. His only concern is for his own earthly pleasures, which in true Marquis de Sade fashion involves torture and pain. He gains pleasure from Sansa begging him to spare her life in the wake of her brother’s transgressions. He then sits and watches with anticipation and glee as one of his knights beats her in court. Joffrey even enacts his love of pain on two innocent prostitutes sent to his room to ease his “physical” discomfort. He proceeds to stop them from comforting him physically and casts them as characters in his torture chamber play. Game of Thrones is not the only story that warns against the sadistic and selfish nature of rulers. The Tudors on Showtime also showcases what happens when the king is able to do whatever he wants without consequence. Henry VIII carries on multiple affairs and even kills one of his queens in order to allow himself to wed again. Dragonheart also offers a warning against young rulers. Though Einon was taught an honorable code as a young boy, when he becomes king in his late teens he quickly turns into a tyrannical ruler enslaving his people so they can build him a better castle.

This episode also focused on the lack of respect for human life during times of war. Cruel and unusual ways were thought up to torture people in order to extract information from them or just to punish them for being on the other side. This episode makes the viewer squirm as prisoners of Haranhal are interrogated and tortured. It showcases the utter depravity that went into thinking up these interrogation techniques. For example, Arya watches in horror as another prisoner is tortured and killed by placing a rat in a bucket, strapping the bucket to the prisoner’s chest, then heating the bucket so the only way the rat can escape is by burrowing into the prisoner’s chest. Though these scenes are uncomfortable to watch, showcasing the depravity of human torture techniques during these medieval eras is common place in television and film. The Tudors has a scene where someone is boiled alive in oil. Braveheart portrays a vivid scene of William Wallace being drawn, disemboweled, and then beheaded. The use of these scenes of egregious violence play a prominent role in television and film productions that take place during medieval time periods. One wonders if this is just to add to the entertainment value of the piece (but how much entertainment can be added by making someone repulsed and physically ill) or is it to show the extent of the horrors that occurred during this era and allow people to be more grateful that they live in a more civilized time. 

All in all Garden of Bones seems to juxtapose two types of rulers: those that rule their people well and those that are found lacking in leadership skills. In fact this episode seems to be a clear cut example right out of Machiavelli’s The Prince. This episode brings to light the debate of whether it is better to be feared or loved. All of the leaders in this episode definitely ascribe to the “it is better to be feared” motto of ruling but only two follow Machiavelli’s guidelines so that they are feared but not hated. Joffrey obviously is feared but his tactics that make him feared do not enable his people to respect him and often lead the people of his realm to hate him. His bloodlust and idea that since he is king he can take anything that he likes and do anything that he likes, leads to those around him to hate him, only giving him a few loyal subjects. When the war comes it is most likely that he will not have a large base of subjects to defend his kingdom against the usurpers. Robb and Lord Tywin understand what it means to be feared but not hated. Robb will strike vengeance on the Lannister armies but when the battle is done, he respects the rules of war not executing prisoners or harming those that help wounded men, whether they be fighting for Stark or for Lannister. Lord Tywin, though a Lannister and thus thought to be one the antagonists of the series, rules wisely. He too is obviously feared for he commands a large army and extracts pain on those who fight against him. Lord Tywin, however, also shows ruling grace by admonishing those soldiers who would torture and kill prisoners instead of putting them to work to help better serve the Lannister army. The juxtaposition of these leaders greatly demonstrates the qualities that make a successful ruler and the qualities that will eventually lead to a ruler’s demise.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Game of Thrones 2.3: What Is Dead May Never Die

Game of Thrones 2.3: What Is Dead May Never Die

This week’s episode of Game of Thrones contained everything: violence, sex, deception and a political game of cat and mouse. To start it all off, the viewer gets to see Lord Renly Baratheon for the first time this season. Catlyn Stark asks for an alliance between his army and Rob’s so they can wage war together against the Lannisters. Renly’s story further evolves this episode as we meet his new queen, Margaery Tyrell played by Natalie Dormer (best known for her portrayal of Anne Boleyn on Showtime’s The Tudors). It looks like once again Dormer will be playing queen to a king with some “issues.” Renly’s sexual orientation is solidified this episode for he wishes to bed Margaery’s brother the Knight of Flowers instead. In a striking revelation, Margaery is aware of her husband’s preferences and as a dutiful wife will do anything to help her husband produce and heir. It seems that Margaery understands the power she now wields as queen alongside a king with an army large enough to overthrow Joffrey. Let’s hope her politically savvy and smarts do not lead her to the chopping block in this series.

Theon has another emotion storyline this episode. In confronting his father over why he does not get as many ships as his sister, Theon finally voices the anger and question he probably has been holding onto ever since Eddard Stark took him away: Why did you not fight for me? It seems like Theon’s father’s lack of love served Lord Greyjoy’s purpose more than hugs for Theon decides to forsake the only real love and family he has ever known, the Starks, and help his father and sister conquer the north while Rob is off fighting the Lannisters.

Tyrion once again proves his political mind this episode as he seeks to make sure no one turns against him while he is Hand of the King. To see if anyone on the King’s Small Counsel is really in the pocket of the Cersei, Tyrion tells each of the council members, individually, of his plan to marry off Cersei’s daughter Myrcella. In an even more brilliant fashion, Tyrion tells each of them a different suitor so there can be no doubt of who the real traitor is. Through brilliant editing the three members of counsel all inhabit the scene with Tyrion but each one getting a slightly different story. This technique allows the viewer to deduce Tyrion’s endgame without it having to be directly laid out for them. In the end, Grand Maester Pycelle is the traitor and also knows the secret that the father of Cersei’s children is really Jaime and not Robert. Not needing to have any moles working against him, Tyrion throws Pycelle into the dungeons.

The episode ends on a very climatic scene. The Lannister guards returned to seek out Robert’s bastard son Gendry. Yoren, one of the brothers of the Night’s Watch, and man who saved Arya after Eddard was killed, continues to protect both Arya and Gendry. He goes out to confront the guards. The guards have not patience and start to attack Yoren and a small battle ensues between the recruits for The Wall and the Lannister Guards. During the skirmish Arya saves the prisoners traveling with the recruits from a fire solidifying a helpful alliance that she will need in the future. In Game of Thrones fashion the battle is gruesome, and since Yoren is severely outnumbered, the guards defeat him and kill him by sticking a sword down the back of his neck. After Yoren’s death the other boys surrender. The guards threaten their captives with eye gouging if they do not give up Gendry. Arya jumps on the opportunity and claims that Gendry is one of the boys the guards have already killed, thus protecting the identity and life of the real Gendry.  Arya along with the others are taken captive being led by Lannister guards to who knows where, ending the episode and leaving the viewer in anticipation for next week.