Are You Not Entertained?: Comic-Book Heroes and Catharsis

I was planning on posting a review of The Dark Knight Rises after going to watch it with Josh last night. A lot of factors made me begin to feel less than excited about this upcoming project.

Everyone with a keyboard is going to be reviewing the film in the days to come. Won’t people be tired of the hype? 

Do I have anything unique to say? 

In light of the tragic Aurora, CO shooting, how meaningful would a review of the movie really be?

I had almost decided that I just needed to get over myself and power through a detailed review when a friend from my literary and theater circles posted a link to the article Catharsis in a Cape on his Twitter. It was then that I knew that almost anything I had to say about The Dark Knight Rises would be redundant, for this NPR-written title had captured my feelings towards the movie with a single word–

Catharsis.

As a former English major, this word is pretty significant to me. In fact, in my mind it’s one of the most powerful marks of good storytelling.

catharsis – n. A release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit.

I have so much respect for filmmakers, screenwriters, playwrights, and authors who can craft a story fraught with conflict and tension that climaxes at a point so powerful I can hear my pulse pounding in my ears–and then all of that stress comes crashing down on me in a moment of perfect resolution. Such resolution should make an audience feel cleansed, “refreshed.”

I love leaving a theater feeling emptied of myself and full of nothing but story.

I had never before thought of the powerful role that such emotional release could play in society as a whole. Especially in light of the Aurora massacre, I thought this article was a flawlessly eloquent expression of why comic book heroes so powerfully affect the masses and what an impact they have on the emotional development of a culture.

So rather than attempting to restate these profound thoughts, I’m going to just direct you to the well-crafted article on the NPR website.

Enjoy! And I hope you enjoyed the movie as well.

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Are You Not Entertained?: Rock of Ages Not For Me

I love eighties music so much!

I discovered most of my favorite music from this decade on my own as a preteen, but when I met Josh whose entire childhood had been defined by his nostalgic music-buff parents, the two of us couldn’t help making cheesy eighties anthems the soundtrack of our courtship. The songs we would blare on Pennsylvania back roads with our windows down were energetic, full of emotion, and just plain sexy. It didn’t take long for us to associate some of our best memories as a couple with rocking out and singing along to Journey, Chicago, and other gods of the era.

I have to admit that being the good little Christian girl that I was, the emotional and often hormonal high that eighties rock gave me was a little unsettling at times. I was beyond excited at the way that being married dissolved that tension between Josh and I and enabled us to just have fun and really enjoy each other.

Hey, if we wanted to make out on a hillside to Bryan Adams at midnight, we could!

Sorry if that’s TMI, haha.

My point is, the 1980’s were one, giant, decade-long party. The music, movies, fashion, and pop culture icons all pointed to the rockstar lifestyle founded on three things: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Or sex, hateful music, and sex if you prefer to quote Rock of Ages‘ Catherine Zeta-Jones.

What, then, did I expect to find in going to see the eighties lovefest that is movie musical Rock of Ages? Well, I expected a dazzling trifecta of film, music, and theater, three of my all-time favorite things. I expected a good time like those that filled my high school days with Josh.

I expected the music I loved without the lifestyle that I knew went along with it.

PROS:

The music. This goes without saying. The vocals are good (although a bit uninspiring because of inevitable comparison to the originals), but what really take this film to the top are the ingenious mashups mentioned in the above featurette. Songs that I never would have thought to combine are layered together in a musical cocktail that always succeeds in creating powerful moments and telling a story.

Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough as starry-eyed pair of dreamers Drew and Sherrie are pure sugar. They are adorable and touching whether in the bar, at the beach, or rollerblading on the boardwalk. We can’t help but share their enthusiasm be it about rock and roll or about each other. Well cast and well played. These kids rock!

As the critics have already declared, Tom Cruise is king in this film. He absolutely killed this role. Not only is the character vastly different from anyone he’s ever portrayed before, but it requires an out-of-this-world amount of confidence and gutsy, ear-splitting rock-and-roll vocals. Cruise rises to the challenge, owning the character and really living in Stacee Jaxx for every second of the film–from the stage to the steamy hotel room.

CONS:

Too many subplots. Director Andrew Shankman took some creative liberties with the story line, and he’s honestly made it difficult to emotionally commit to one character’s (or even group of characters’) progression. Is the main conflict Drew and Sherrie’s struggle to gain the spotlight without losing love? Is it the Bourbon Room’s battle against the squelching conservatism of the mayor and his wife? Is it Stacee Jaxx’s internal fight with the lonesome and empty cowboy found inside his sexed-up rockstar exterior? I don’t know, and I don’t think they do either.

A climax to the film was also hard to pinpoint due to the fact that there were so many explosive musical numbers that seemed to “sum up” what had happened thus far in the plot.

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The Bourbon Room is a temple to partying becoming “a sea of sweat, ear-shattering music, and puke” every night. Drunken sexual encounters and unpleasant bodily functions are laughed off, stripping and pole-dancing are idealized, and a mocking homosexual romance is injected into the plot.

And then there’s Stacee Jaxx. Stacee is always surrounded by a virtual harem of groupies who wander around with him in a perpetually drunken and drugged haze. His fiery interaction with Malin Akerman’s mild-mannered journalist character involves a strip down which the audience witnesses fully, kissing of rather intimate body parts, and a whole lot of licking. Now that is TMI.

CONCLUSION:

Rock of Ages is both a glorifying tribute and teasing parody of 1980’s American culture. That being said, a whole lot of filth accompanies what I had hoped would be good-natured fun centered around an incredible style of music.

I wish the movie had just been about Drew and Sherrie’s inspiring romance kindled by good times together and a pursuit of crazy dreams. But alas, Stacee Jaxx’s tortured character who has been shaped into a sex idol by the rock and roll industry shatters this innocence. Stacee even acknowledges to a magazine interviewer that being in the public eye keeps him from searching for true love, “the one thing that could save [him.]” Unfortunately, the “true love” he finds with this same magazine interviewer is illustrated by full-tongue french kissing and groping on a pool table to “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” 

Pretty sure that is not what love is.

I understand that the point is to show what the breakneck-paced rockstar life can lead to in contrast with the hometown wholesomeness of Drew and Sherrie. It is a film about being true to yourself, holding onto your dreams, and deciding what you really want. Unfortunately, Rock of Ages shows us a little to much of what we really don’t want. I think these points could have been made with less near-explicit sexuality and attention to drugs and alcohol. Definitely not a family movie. Probably could have used an R rating instead of the tenuous PG-13. All in all, a disappointment.

Just buy the soundtrack 😉

Are You Not Entertained: Cheap Love

This is a book by two professor friends here at Roberts. I recently reviewed Cheap Love for the Beacon, and got a very positive response, so I thought it might be good for both me and the Starr’s if I reposted the article here on Nine to Phive:
As a young married student trying to make her way through college with her husband who is also still in school, I did not need to be asked twice to write a review of Carrie and Erv Starr’s new book Cheap Love: Living and Loving on Less. Believe me when I say with conviction that this book benefited me at least as much as I am about to purport that it will benefit you. “Eighteen years ago,” the story begins, “we spent our honeymoon in a borrowed tent. Ten years later, we celebrated our anniversary on an Alaskan cruise . . . we realized we had a unique story to share.” How right they were, and how glad I am that the Starr’s acted on this realization.
The first word that comes to mind when one begins to peruse Cheap Love is “enchanting.” The book follows the love story of the professors Starr from the time they began dating in college to the aforementioned anniversary cruise, emphasizing the couple’s financial stewardship which they believe has carried them to where they are today. The narrative portions of the chapters, penned mostly by Carrie, are frank, conversational, and strike one as somewhat spellbound. The moments of youthful wonderment with which this starry-eyed (pun intended) pair populates their tale makes it easy to relate to the love which they describe for each other.
At the end of each endearing chapter of the Starr’s life together, be it “The Dating Game,” “From Hell to Hope,” “Get Rich Slow Schemes,” or “Five Starr Family,” Erv takes a moment to impart his “Bottom Line.” True to his academic nature, he extracts from the story the money-saving and relationship-strengthening concepts which he and his wife learned to practice during the most recently described stage of their life together. These tips are often profound revelations, but they are sometimes truths so simple that they are easy to overlook. Whichever the case, they are always challenging. Not only is this method of summary a very effective addition to the structure of the book; it is also downright humorous. I chuckled to myself every time I heard what I felt sure was Carrie’s audibly enthusiastic voice come rambling to some sort of conclusion just in time for Erv to seemingly add, “Okay, that was the girly version of the story. Here’s the point.” Obviously, my own imagination played a part in this entertaining spectacle, but that just goes to show how well the book is written. In the format of a nonfictional text, Cheap Love is still capable of capturing the mind and heart.
The Starrs flawlessly mesh the complex spiritual elements of romantic love and financial responsibility in a very informative but very easy read. Since the majority of divorces are caused by monetary stresses, this is a highly practical approach that will draw many married and otherwise committed couples into this very beneficial text. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of picking up this honest and insightful book, becoming a part of the Starrs’ love story, and allowing it to transform your own.
Now available for Kindle e-reader

Are You Not Entertained: Concept Art for "The Monkey King"

My World Literature II class has just finished working our way through a massive text entitled Monkey: A Folk Novel of China. Other translations of this Chinese tale are called The Money and the Monk or Journey to the West. The original story is by Wu Cheng-En (pronounced Woo Chung Un) and takes up exactly 100 chapters. The class read through 30 of them, leaving out a major portion of the monotonous traveling in the middle of the book.
The main character of the book is Monkey (who later has his name changed to Aware of Nothingness), an intelligent and ambitious creature who pursues the Buddhist religion until he becomes an all-powerful immortal. While he is invincible, Monkey is not necessarily a model character. He is selfish, curious, and trouble-making, which makes for a fascinating romp through Asia. He is ultimately joined on a journey for the holy Buddhist scriptures by Tripitaka, a legendary Buddhist monk, and two monsters named Pigsy and Sandy.
Iam by no means a Buddhist, but he mysticism of the Orient and of Eastern religions make this novel one of the most colorful and fascinating that I have read, even if the sheer volume of it was a bit exhausting. Oh well, soon I’ll be reading Anna Karenina and only wishing for a mere thirty chapter book. Anyway, it slightly embarrasses me to admit this as an English major, but I had never before read any oriental literature. I really appreciated the snapshot of Chinese culture and history.
The most exciting thing about this book is that a Hong Kong production company is making it into a feature film! Featured in this post is some of the epic concept art for the film The Monkey King which began filming last October. I have heard predictions that it is expected to be the Asian response to Avatar. Depending on what you thought of Avatar, this could be a good or bad thing, but I am excited for sure!

Chow Yun Fat as the Jade Emperor

Are You Not Entertained: The Delightful Deathly Hallows (Beware of Spoilers)

Thrifted lace cut-out top, Charlotte Russe olive tee,
DIY shorts from thrifted trousers, American Eagle sandals

So I snuck a “What I Wore” in here, too. Sorry to surprise you. The title was getting too long!
Well, the book in my tender grasp serving as a nice summer accessory is, of course, none other than the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You probably think that I’m doing what all other Harry Potter fans are currently doing–marathons! Watching all the movies! Reading all the books! Brushing up on all things Harry before it all ends this Friday!
Actually, I am reading The Deathly Hallows for the first time.
You see, before this past May 30th, I had never before seen a Harry Potter film, read a Harry Potter book, played a Harry Potter video game . . . you get the idea. I came from one of those families who didn’t want their kids growing up thinking that some kinds of witchcraft were healthy and good.
Anyway, I then made it my summer project to journey through the entire series by the time the final film came out on July 15th. The plan was to read a book and then watch the movie ad infinitum until I was finished. Of course, life happened, and I sometimes ended up reading the book after the movie and I actually skipped parts of The Order of the Phoenix (shame on me). Nevertheless, here I am, about to emerge on the other side of a wonderful adventure in the mind of a brilliant author.
I so regret that I was not able to be a part of this cultural phenomen as I grew up, but I am also grateful that reading the books as an adult meant that I could better appreciate them as works of art.
P.S. The movies are pretty ‘meh’ compared to the books.

Did I fail to mention that this was the best book I have ever read?

Since getting married, I’ve been a bit of an emotional wreck, and things that I used to be able to enjoy stoically now move me to tears. I’ve cried over plenty of movies and songs, but this was the first book that has ever moved me to tears. That, my friends, is using the power of words in the way which God intended. Anything less is betraying the gift of language. Joanne Rowling, you are a witch in your own right. You have mastered the magic that is the English tongue.

Let me just say that I have loved Snape ever since The Sorceror’s Stone and have been waiting for the magical moment when we find out that he is actually a good guy. The foreshadowing of this fact was too strong to ignore. When Harry began to explore Snape’s memories through the Pensieve, I felt a lump growing in my throat every moment that I continued to read. And when Snape showed Dumbeldore his doe patronus representing Lily!

Oh my word . . . I was a goner. I bawled all the way through the rest of the Battle of Hogwarts.

Anyway, I am off to purchase tickets for a midnight showing. Josh and I were going to attend the premiere dressed as Harry and Ginny, but he has to work and I’ll be going with my little sissy instead. How sad. Ah well, Halloween next year, right?

I kind of look like I’m still crying in this last one . . .