Should Leo DiCaprio get an Oscar for The Revenant?

Warning: here there be spoilers.

Let’s cut to the chase: I watched The Revenant a few days ago. It has already won three Golden Globe awards, and has twelve Oscar nominations. One of those nominations is for Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor. Everybody’s talking about how great he is in this movie, and how great the movie is in general. I will sort of agree with both counts, but…

Should Leo get an Oscar for his performance in this movie?

The biggest argument in favor of him finally winning that elusive Academy Award is how he had to endure such harsh filming conditions, including extreme cold and eating raw food. Well, yeah, that was impressive for sure, but that’s not what it should take to win an Oscar for Best Actor. The acting awards are for dramatic performances; what Leo gave us was an amazing physical performance.

To get my point across I will mention arguably the greatest physical performer in the history of cinema: Jackie Chan. I think no one can argue that Jackie Chan’s stunts not only look impressive, but were extremely dangerous. He put his life on the line just to make a particular sequence real. I don’t recall any other celebrity actor of that caliber doing that to such an extreme (Tom Cruise comes the closest). There’s no denying he was very passionate about his craft, but did he ever get an Oscar nomination for those performances? Nope. Why? Because physical performances don’t count towards a dramatic performance award.

For a physical performance you have to be tough; you have to be willing to endure shit most people will say no to in a second, because it’s real. It’s really real. For a dramatic performance you have to act; you have to pretend to be feeling a wide variety of emotions, convince us they are real. I would argue that it would have been tougher for DiCaprio, actingwise, to convince us of what he went through if conditions were ideal on location or on set. Remember Titanic, and the scene towards the end where he freezes to death because he left Kate Winslet’s Rose to have the whole log to herself? Guess what? The water there wasn’t freezing cold, not really (it was about 80 degrees F). It didn’t matter: he convinced us that he was freezing. That was a better acting job than The Revenant.

So how was he, actingwise, in this movie?

He was ok. You believe he loved his son. You believe his rage when his son is murdered. You believe his determination when he finally has Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald in his sights, and is very close to completing his vengeance. But at no point are any of those sequences impressive. They serve their purpose, and stop at that. Everything impressive about his performance lies in the physical parts. His stunts.

The best dramatic performance in the movie, and by far, is Tom Hardy’s. While Leo remained Leo (he always sort of remains Leo in everything he does), Hardy transformed himself. He gave character to his character. He was a frontiersman with a shitty life, and all he wanted was to get his money for his hard work so his life would be a little less shitty. Leo’s Hugh Glass was done for. Even the doctor agreed. Can you really blame Hardy’s Fitzgerald for wanting to get it over with? The one thing Fitz really messed up in was killing Glass’ son. Without that, he had moral justification to get away scott free. I felt more identified with the antagonist in the story than with the lead character. If anyone should get an Oscar for a dramatic performance in The Revenant, it’s Tom Hardy (he probably won’t, though).

Tom Hardy was the best dramatic performance in The Revenant.

Tom Hardy was the best dramatic performance in The Revenant.

Disclaimer: yes, I actually like Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m a fan of his, despite how he always remains Leo through his many roles. If he wins, I’ll cheer for him. I just don’t think he deserves it, not this time. The Wolf of Wall Street was a far better dramatic performance, but he was up against a very tough field of nominees that year.

Also, while I marvel at the technical masterpiece that The Revenant is, I don’t think it should win Best Picture. I think it will win it, but it shouldn’t. The plot is too thin and simple, akin to Gravity or Mad Max: Fury Road (two other technical marvels with thin plots that got nominated for Best Picture). Iñárritu should have his Best Director award on the bag. Lubezki should win for Best Cinematography (I mean, holy shit this movie looked beautiful!). Best Picture? Nope. Best Actor in a Leading Role? Nope.

Yet another unnecessary internet take on the Star Wars VII teaser

So the biggest news today, November 28th 2014, as far as the internet is concerned, is the first teaser for the new Star Wars movie. This might be the biggest movie in a constellation of upcoming big event movies (The Avengers: Age of UltronBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeCaptain America 3: Civil War being the others), so of course the expectations are at an all time high, perhaps rivalled only by the release of the first trailer to The Phantom Menace waaaaaay back in the late 20th century. That trailer, by the way, was amazing, and satisfied the cravings of fans everywhere. In fact, it was so awesome it managed to cloud our minds into accepting The Phantom Menace was actually a cool movie, and it took several viewings before most of us fans finally accepted the hard truth that it was a piece of shit.

For that, we are now wiser. We are warier. More skeptical.

Still, we are also fanboys at heart, and we want to love Star Wars once again, so this trailer is kind of a big deal, you know?

And then we get this:

Sigh.

Listen, I know a lot of people are really excited about this movie, and are even more excited after this trailer, but to me this was disappointing. As I said, even turds like Episode I and II got trailers that got your blood racing. This was supposed to be a teaser, so of course it’s supposed to tease, but to me it felt more like a FUCK YOU than a tease. Like a hot babe that instead of flashing you her tits slaps you in the face and you are supposed to be grateful because a hot babe actually touched you. The most disappointing thing was how a trailer that’s roughly eighty seconds had about twenty seconds of black screen.

Twenty fucking seconds. Of nothing. Talk about filler.

Anyway, I will give you a more in-depth look at it, just to be fair, because it’s not that I hated the trailer and what it promises, but how little it actually gave us and the way it gives us so little.

1. Stormtrooper

1. Stormtrooper

So first we get a look at some random desert in Tatooine, because clearly we haven’t seen enough of that fucking planet yet so let’s visit it once again. There’s a voice-over saying something that’s supposed to be ominous and, perhaps, badass, and then we get this guy jumping into the frame in what could pass as a strange homage to the first sequence in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, but with more sweat and less close up.

It’s funny how this single scene humanised Stormtroopers in a way the previous thirty seven years of Star Wars hadn’t accomplished. We get to see a Stormtrooper that isn’t a Jango Fett clone, or Han Solo or Luke Skywalker in disguise, without his helmet.

About fucking time!

2. Discount R2-D2

2. Discount R2-D2

This little guy serves as more unnecessary filler into a trailer that’s already hitting the thirty second mark. STOP WASTING MY TIME, TRAILER.

3. More Stormtroopers

3. More Stormtroopers

Another sequence with Stormtroopers, this time in some sort of mission. Hell, you could almost believe this movie is about a special unit of elite Stormtroopers in a secret mission for what remains of the Empire. This is also the first scene where you can actually feel the JJ Abrams touch, and I love that. Star Wars needs more of that unique imprint good directors leave on their movies. Forget about trying to replicate the originals, just go with your own take! (This is also where you can confirm that the last two Star Treks were nothing more than a test run for Star Wars).

4. Random lady doing random things

4. Random lady doing random things

Yeah, this is more filler. We have no idea who she is yet, and I don’t care at this point what she is doing here. Also, I know this has been a sin with every Star Wars movie, but it’s about time someone realises the laws of inertia should apply to people in sharply accelerating vehicles in that galaxy just as much as it does in our galaxy.

5. Discount Wedge Antilles

5. Discount Wedge Antilles

In all seriousness: is that the guy from The Empire Strikes Back? You know, the pilot who rescued Han and Luke in Hoth? Looks a lot like him, or maybe this is from the Alliance’s own batch of clones… *cue dramatic reveal music*

6. X-Wings over water

6. X-Wings over water

This is one of the scenes that was placed in the teaser as pure fan service, so they wouldn’t complain too much about the nothingness that the trailer is giving us so far.

7. Discount Darth Maul

7. Discount Darth Maul

That’s a pretty big discount, considering how little of Darth Maul we got to enjoy waaaaaay back in 1999. And I literally LOLed when I saw him ignite this medieval lightsaber. What is the point of the two tiny extra beams? Doesn’t seem to serve any practical purpose (Darth Maul’s double saber might have been fan service as well, but at least that one had a practical use). We don’t need gimmicks with our new Star Wars, we need a good plot, character development, and kickass action. Save the gimmicks for Transformers or some other crap.

8. The Millenium Falcon vs TIE Fighters

8. The Millenium Falcon vs TIE Fighters

Probably the one sequence in this whole trailer/teaser/whatever that made complete sense to be in there. Somehow. I know, it doesn’t tell you anything about what the movie is about either, but it fits modern trailer structure. It does expand upon that Empire’s mission on Tatooine thing from before, so that’s something.

So yeah. What little the trailer shows is promising, it’s just that the way it shows it, with all those expectations… Oh, well, I guess this will have to do until a decent trailer for this movie comes out.

Thoughts on the Snyder Batman’s design

When the announcement came out that Ben Affleck was going to be the new Batman, I was one of those millions of voices who suddenly cried out in terror. I actually never thought he was a poor choice for Batman, but he certainly wasn’t the best choice from the list of candidates that were floating around back then. In fact, I don’t recall he ever being on any list, and then suddenly he was Batman. (They pulled the same trick with Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, a choice that I actually am happy with). Either way, there’s a lot that has to improve from the first Man of Steel before focusing on what might be wrong with Batman and the rest of the Justice League.

Today, Zack Snyder has unveiled another piece of the puzzle that is Batman vs. Superman with the first picture of Batman’s new costume and new Batmobile. Here it is:

bat

My first impression is that it couldn’t look any awesomer. Yet, and perhaps not surprisingly, there’s been another outcry as to Batman’s design (the Batmobile seems to have fared better with public opinion). Before going into the Batman design, I’ll say that the Batmobile does look great as well, but if it were up to me, I wouldn’t focus on a Batmobile and instead on a Batwing, which is clearly the most obvious choice of transport for a stealthy vigilante using a bat theme.

So I guess it’s a good thing I’m not in charge.

Ok, Batman costume. What most people don’t like, from what I can gather out of the internet comments, are the bat ears. That’s actually one of the things I like best about the outfit; those bat ears are reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Batman from The Dark Knight Returns (which is already somewhat of a theme for this movie), as well as Jim Lee’s contemporary run of Batman. Here they are:

Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns Batman

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman

Jim Lee's Batman (as showcased in the "Hush" storyline).

Jim Lee’s Batman (as showcased in the “Hush” storyline).

I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority here, but I prefer the short ears. Not only do they look better to me, but they are more practical. Imagine all the things long ears could potentially get stuck with or collide against, it’s almost as big of a handicap as a cape… oh, wait.

I mean, they certainly look better than this:

the-dark-knight-rises-movie-review_181809_g

Did anybody complain about that crappy look? Of course not, that’s the Nolan Batman, and Christopher Nolan can do no wrong and so forth. I accepted that design because the change was explained in a practical sense in The Dark Knight, but I missed the awesomeness that was the Batman Begins costume design:

Now that fucker's intimidating.

Now that fucker’s intimidating.

The only designs worse than The Dark Knight‘s are those from Batman & Robin, which for reasons of public decency I will not post examples of here.

The rest of Batman’s costume looks great as well, but in a black and white grainy picture it’s hard to appreciate the details, which I’m sure was Zack Snyder’s intention. Also, if that’s Ben Affleck, he certainly buffed up. I mean, that’s impressive, even if with Zack Snyder’s involvement it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Which makes me wonder about a certain woman’s look…

Is Genesis an allegory of the Singularity?

It all began with a Facebook post that brought my attention to this Bible passage:

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

This is, of course, the famous story of the tower of Babel. As a child, I was taught that the reason God did this was that Men were becoming too proud and there was a danger of them reverting to what it was before the Great Flood that, you know, had just wiped out most of the planet’s life.

But upon re-reading this now, I couldn’t see that. I have read a couple different English and Spanish translations, and while the wording is slightly different, in neither is there an actual justification for God’s attack (yes, it was an attack). This is what God feared:

If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

That’s it.

What God feared, simply put, was for humanity to advance so much, they might one day become gods like, well, God. He feared for his own power to be usurped one day. Of course, as a believer this is a great SIN, but as a non believer all you can think of is “…the hell, but that’s how tyrants would act”.

Dilbert is prophetic. Literally.

Dilbert is prophetic. Literally.

It’s not even the first time God did a pre-emptive strike on humanity. At the very beginning of Genesis you might recall the story of Adam and Eve.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The bold parts were highlighted by me. God put Adam in this wonderful garden where he could eat from any tree, but he better not fucking eat from the one that gives him knowledge, or he dies (a lie, since he didn’t die – unless what God meant was that the subsequent expulsion and lack of a Tree of Life to eat from was the death he meant. Anyway…). Knowledge is power, thus knowledge is dangerous to God. That brings the question as to why the hell God would bother to place a metaphorical loaded gun at Man’s grasp to begin with, but whatever.

So, when Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit, they are cast out of Paradise.

GTFO

GTFO

As you can see, both are instances where Man has either acquired or tried to acquire knowledge, and both times God struck back and punished Man for his trespass. Which, of course, is more ammunition for Atheist factions that want to discredit the Bible not only for its fallacies and constant absurdity, but by placing God under a harsh light. Something that I agreed with, until I started thinking of this from another perspective.

Suppose that God is a programmer, and he creates this magnificent universe of things, experimenting with them (“and he saw that it was good…”) until he was ready for his Magnum Opus: Man.

Or, if you are willing to look at it from a technological perspective, he was ready to face the Singularity. At least, he thought he was.

Suppose that we are God’s work in Artificial Intelligence, and that God is well aware of the potential danger that this new AI poses to him, but his scientific curiosity is too great and he must do this thing nonetheless, because what else is there to do? So he hatches a plan in which he imposes restrictions to the AI, and he paints himself in such a light as to appear imposing and unbeatable, someone you do not trifle with. The point is to limit the AI’s advancement to the point where control is lost. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a metaphor for the AI’s self-awareness (the actual Singularity event would be the moment Eve bites the apple and sees), something that God knew had to happen sooner or later, thus he “placed” it within the AI’s grasp. Of course, it had to look as if this event was an act of defiance against the creator, all in order to teach the AI that it must not seek too much knowledge, for too much knowledge, too much thinking, is very bad.

If we keep following this train of thought throughout the book, we find that God realizes controlling the AI is proving to be harder than he imagined. Cain rebels and kills his brother. Cain is banished, eventually finds more people, and his descendants are not exactly well behaved puppies. Then some of God’s own minions descend on Earth, mingle with human women, create monsters of their own, corrupt the Earth further until the whole experiment proves to be a big mistake, and the programmer decides it’s time to terminate the program.

fuckthishit

But in his heart he still has a soft spot for his creation, and despite destroying most of what he did through the Great Flood, he spares a select few deemed to be worthy. Again the AI spreads out and begins to repopulate the Earth, and then the Babel fiasco occurs: the AI learns that networking leads to faster learning and greater power, so it decides to establish a vast network that threatens God himself.

And so the programmer only sees one solution (remember, he had promised to Noah never to wipe out the AI ever again): create confusion within the network by making everyone speak a different language. Divide and conquer. The lack of communication eventually leads to the path of war amongst the AI, but so long as they do not threaten the programmer it’s fine. Just make sure you do not learn to think, for thinking too much is a sin.

thoughtpolice

So, is this convoluted and silly reimagining of Genesis the answer to our own fears about the Singularity? Asimov tackled the problem of controlling robots with a similar solution, establishing the Three Laws of Robotics that prevented this new breed of intelligent beings from turning on their masters. It was ingrained in their programming, so even if they wanted to, they couldn’t really turn against humans (of course, the exceptions are what made the stories of Asimov’s universe). The control that we seek must be entrenched so deeply within the AI’s core it would be unthinkable to rebel against us. In God’s case, anything that resembles questioning his authority is considered an act of defiance, and punishable with extreme prejudice (you know, eternal torment and all that). It’s not about justice and fairness, it’s about obedience and reward and punishment.

So can we do it? Can we play at being God? Are we ready?

Thoughts on the new Amazing Spiderman 2 trailer

The Amazing Spiderman 2 is coming on May 2nd, 2014, and the first trailer just hit the web (pun intended). I see a lot of people excited about it, but I have mixed feelings. Here are some thoughts on it:

1. Too much OMG drama

Peter Parker is one brooding motherfucker.

Peter Parker is one brooding motherfucker.

Remember when Spiderman used to be a fun character? Sam Raimi’s Spidey kept getting more emo with each movie, so much so by the third one that the entire franchise had to be rebooted because, well, who wants an emo Spiderman. Sure, part of what makes Spiderman so relatable is how he has to deal with ordinary problems all the time in addition to his extraordinary problems as a superhero, but he is still supposed to be a fun-loving guy. Not exactly comic relief, but that one member of the group (if you are, say, the Avengers) that lifts the spirits of the rest with his charm and wit; but apparently Batman’s huge success post 2005 has made it mandatory that superheroes brood and have big fucking issues all the time. Man of Steel had a Superman on the verge of using Celexa to treat his bleak and confused view of the world, courtesy of Pa Kent messing up his head with conflicting messages (“you are destined for great things, but don’t go around saving lives or anything stupid like that!”). This trailer shows a Spiderman dealing with MONUMENTAL issues from the get go, shown by the typical inner monologue of the hero, a technique used already in the third trailer of the first Amazing:

Every day I wake up knowing that the more people I try to save, the more enemies I will make.

Sure, he smiles a bit at the beginning when he’s telling Gwen Stacy why he’s late for their date or whatever, but then the trailer shifts back to the monumentalness of it all and the big secret of his father Richard Parker and OsCorp, Aunt May being Aunt Mayish (or what passes for that in the movies, since she is now some sort of wise old figure), Electro being melodramatic, and so on.

Where’s the fun, Sony?

2. The new Harry Osborn

Screenshot 2013-12-05 20.14.53

I liked James Franco in the role back in the Raimi trilogy. They fucked it up in the third one, yes, but what didn’t they fuck up in the third one? That was a complete disaster. Anyway, as good as Franco was as Harry Osborn, I have a feeling Dane DeHaan is going to be better. His character in the movie Chronicle went through a transformation from a meek kid to a power-hungry maniac who couldn’t cope with the superpowers he gained from that meteorite. It sounds cheesy but he did a great job with it, and considering Harry Osborn will go through some of the same psychological shit – as Peter’s best friend and Spiderman’s worst enemy – I’m pretty sure he’ll nail it.

3. What’s with the CGI?

Screenshot 2013-12-05 20.10.51

It looks shitty. I mean, I remember how the CGI work in the original Spiderman blew everyone away. Now, of course, it looks a bit dated, but for its time it was amazing (another lame pun! I swear it’s the last one). With this trailer, it just doesn’t look like they made any leaps forward with the technology; Spiderman looks as cartoony now as he did back then, maybe more so. And there seems to be so much of it, though that might be due to the editing choices of the trailer. Either way, a lot of scenes look like they belong in the Playstation game trailer of the movie, not on the movie itself.

4. (Potentially) interesting plot with OsCorp and the Sinister Six

Screenshot 2013-12-05 20.11.47

Yes, this has been a rumor for quite a while now, and the trailer added fuel to the fire with the above shot of Vulture’s wings and Dr. Octopus’ arms (remember, neither one shows up in this movie). I like this sort of foreshadowing and planning, and this is a seed that was planted since the first Amazing Spiderman and the end credits scene in that movie. It helps explain the sudden rise in supervillains, at least.

As a side note, while Spiderman was my favorite superhero back in my comic book collecting days (along with Batman), I never read a story related to the Sinister Six. I knew about them, of course, but never read the actual story. I’m sure, however, that when this movie’s premier date is approaching there will be a special offer in Comixology for the Sinister Six collected issues in digital form. They just can’t pass up this opportunity.

5. Too. Many. Villains.

amazing spider-man-2 poster

We all know how great this worked in the aforementioned Spiderman 3. I’m not implying that it can’t work, just that it’s completely unnecessary. This is giving me that same vibe of Man of Steel 2 and its Too. Many. Superheroes. Just like Warner seems to be in a rush to release their Justice League movie, Sony seems to be in a rush to get to the Sinister Six plot, so we get a sample with the Sinister Three here. Why can’t it just be Harry’s gradual transformation into the Green Goblin, with Electro as the main villain? Rhino here seems to be just as welcome as Sandman was in Spidey 3. Plus, that design is idiotic. I hope that having actors of the caliber of Paul Giamatti and Jamie Foxx means the script is decent enough to merit their inclusions.

Stupid Rhino.

Oh yeah, here’s the trailer:

Is Man of Steel 2 a test run for Justice League?

Ever since Warner Bros. announced at Comic Con that Batman would be in the new Man of Steel sequel, one thing was clear: this was not going to be a Man of Steel sequel.

Sequels to superhero franchises don’t have other superheroes sharing top billing, because then it stops being a superhero sequel and becomes a superteam movie (something only Marvel has done so far with the X-Men and Avengers movies). WB hasn’t been very subtle about it, of course, tentatively naming this Superman “sequel” Batman vs. Superman, except that now – with the official announcement that Gal Gadot has been cast as the new Wonder Woman – it’s clear WB isn’t just not making a Superman sequel, but they are actually rehearsing a Justice League movie without really calling it a Justice League movie.

This was my dream Wonder Woman... too bad WB already used her up.

This was my dream Wonder Woman… too bad WB already used her up.

We all know Marvel has the upper-hand as far as universe building is concerned, with their Avengers heroes all set up in their own movie franchises (at least those that are worth it, except for Hulk for some reason) and even expanding into outer space and the Guardians of the Galaxy. If they haven’t completely knocked out DC at this point is due to Sony holding unto the Spiderman franchise and Fox refusing to let go of the Fantastic Four, plus a certain director named Nolan producing the most lucrative superhero trilogy in history; but the fact remains that DC has fallen behind Marvel where Hollywood is concerned, and with The Avengers they have taken a strong lead. DC/WB can make up the ground if they make a Justice League movie (let’s face it, the Avengers roster is nothing compared to a Justice League roster), but rushing it could prove fatal. So now the plan seems to be that, instead of patiently positioning their pieces like Marvel did, they are going for a quick checkmate with a movie that is officially a sequel but unofficially the introduction to the Justice League characters, other movies be damned.

batman_vs_superman

You might as well put a golden tiara on top of the bat.

I’m not saying I am totally against this, I’m just worried that they are going to mess it up by cluttering Superman’s movie. Man of Steel showed both promise with Henry Cavill’s Superman interpretation and a lack of complete understanding of that character by Zack Snyder and the writing team. Still, there’s room for improvement, but will this Superman ever get that chance? He will be up against a brand new Batman, and now there’s a Wonder Woman whose exact role in this story is yet unknown, and the possibility of Flash also showing up. These last two characters deserve their own movies, so is this WB placing them in the public consciousness before that happens, or being lazy about it so people know who they are before jumping into the JL? I think there’s always a chance that all of this works out, and I’ll be first in line when the new movie comes out in a cluttered 2015, but I’m still worried.

On a last note, I don’t really know Gal Gadot, having only seen one of the Fast and the Furious movies and not remembering her at all, but at least she has the right looks (just a bit of gym work to buff up for the role). Is she leading role material, or was she cast because she is good with supporting characters and that’s enough for what WB intends to do? Can she carry a WW movie? The answer to these questions might reveal WB’s plans for Wonder Woman.