The Metamorphosis of Loki

As Thor: Ragnarok approaches, I’ve been contemplating the evolution of Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of all the current players, he possesses the largest range to his character arc. His complexities lend to our fascination with him, an intrigue that stems as far back as his Norse origins.

Take the following ten archetypes, for example. Most characters lend themselves to two at most. Yet, Loki has filled the skin of more than half.

Villain – We’ll start with the obvious. He’s proven himself a threat and source of conflict for the heroes and, at times, even himself.

Trickster – He manages this in all three films. It’s in his nature.

Shapeshifter – Not in his usual, literal sense, but in the way he tiptoes the line between villain and hero. Which brings me to

Hero – Say what you want about his mischief, but he risked his life in both Thor movies and protected other characters without expecting recognition. That’s heroic, especially given that most of them despise him. 

Ally – Is he mad when he joins forces with Thor in The Dark World? Possibly. But the fact remains, truly desperate or not, Thor depended on Loki.

Herald – You can credit Loki as the catalyst that inspired Nick Fury and crew to finally form the Avengers. This is true in the films, as well as the comics.

What is left for Loki to explore in Thor: Ragnarok? What twists can his character take? What changes will Tom Hiddleston make?

Mentor – He’s yet to serve as adviser. Admit it; you’d attend a class for Loki’s Lessons.

Guardian – This role feels too stationary for Loki. Could he remain trapped by duty? My guess is no.

Everyman – I can’t imagine a believable version of this.  

 

 

 

 

 

Innocent – Even as a child, this was not true. Unless they pull a memory loss stint (PLEASE, NO) slim chance in this transformation.

That said, let’s look at the film transformations of our favorite anti-hero.

Odinson

In Thor—a Shakespeareanesque tale of fathers, sons, and brothers—this second son begins as a subtle trickster, ruining his brother’s big day with a prank gone wrong. Armed with his silver tongue, his mischief launches a chain of events that lead him from sulking sibling to heartbroken child to patricidal madman, only to drop back into the desperate boy seeking his father’s approval.

​The cry face that launched an army of fangirl ships.

Laufeyson

Avengers brought us a villainous Loki, one fully embracing the chaos. Spurred by the events in Thor, he masterminds a series of destruction that even he questions before the end. A skilled puppet master, he manipulates our heroes, arranging his own capture and the separation of the team. When Thor points out the true damage of Loki’s actions, a sliver of vacillation filters through his conflicted eyes. A single tear escapes as he returns to bitter brother, lashing out in defiance of his reservations. A move that lands him Hulk-smashed and homebound.

Friggason

Loki starts off petty and toxic-tongued in The Dark World, and no one feels the devastating impact more than his beloved mother. His wicked words galvanize a dire depression and prompt him to join forces with the brother he swore to hate. Loki’s redemption-seeking alliance inspires the heroic protection of his brother, the realm they love, and the people within it. But by film’s end, he proves himself ever the deceiver as the presumed dead hero smiles from his father’s throne.

Loki’d!

All this leaves me wondering where Loki can go from here. He’s nearly covered the spectrum. What is left for him to accomplish? What new angle can be seen? Since I avoid spoilers like the plague, I’ve no idea what’s in store for the God of Mischief. Admittedly, I’ve had my tickets since September 7th, so I think it’s safe to say I’m eager to see.

What direction do you think the character will take? Message me or leave your answer in the comments.

RADAHamlet Review

Ten days later, I’m still in awe of the magnificence witnessed in RADA’s Jerwood Vanbrugh 160-seat theatre. The play, my favorite of Shakespeare’s tragedies, started without warning. The room blackened, a shadow passed, and he appeared—Hiddleston’s Hamlet. Our world disappeared as his opening melancholy set the tone and prepared the audience for the brilliance to come.

After his somber, affecting rendition of Ophelia’s ode to Polonius, And Will He Not Come Again, the production thrust forward at an intense pace, which propelled this story almost without time to breathe. Rather than dreading the length of Shakespeare’s longest play, you want it to continue indefinitely.

Who better than Kenneth Branagh to direct Hamlet? With him on board, I anticipated a spectacular show, despite questions made of Tom Hiddleston’s age. My answer: He was too young for Coriolanus, and he triumphed above expectations.

 

I was, however, disappointed that what was dubbed a fundraiser for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, missed the undeniable money-making opportunity to film the production for the world’s viewing pleasure and posterity. As this was the case, I flew the 5200 miles/8400 kilometers from Las Vegas to London when the universe blessed me with a successful ballot.

And, I’m so thrilled I did.

Branagh’s mastery of the material allowed him to modernize without corrupting the source. The updates create opportunity for unexpected humor in this dark and twisted tale. Just before your soul bursts with empathy, an upswing will have you in a near-slapstick fit of giggles. His decision to feature Hamlet reading “Reasons to Stay Alive” during the “Words, words, words” scene struck me as particularly clever. Between disco, condoms, and pelvic thrusts, Branagh touches on topics more boldly than the Bard’s quill might have suggested.

The cast, a mix of new and established thespians, shined as an ensemble. There were a few weak links as expected with such extraordinary talent on hand, but they did not rob from the success of the production.

Though clearly most came for Hiddleston, two actors managed to steal some of the crowd’s near-constant focus on him. No easy feat.

Whether as Polonius or Osric, Sean Foley’s timing and delivery wowed the audience. He brought a light, but powerful energy to his scenes, and a much-needed smile to our faces.

However briefly we saw Ansu Kabia, from the regal aspect of King Hamlet, to the dramaturgy of the Player King, to the jocular gravedigger (complete with skull drum solo!) the weight of his presence commanded the stage. And the room.

With so many gender-swapped roles (Bernarda, Marcella, Rosacrantz, Guildastern, and best of all Horatia) one could make the obvious joke that Hamlet scorned poor Ophelia because he’s the kind of prince who likes girls just as friends. His overt masculinity (not always present in Hiddleston’s characters, or Hamlet for that matter) prevented any misconceptions of the sort.

Hiddleston is one of the most nuanced actors of our lifetime. It’s his particular strength, and it shows here. Hamlet is neither clearly sane, nor clearly mad. He claimed to craft his crazy as a ruse, but then a subtle flicker in his features would suggest otherwise, an expression one might miss if not for the visceral setting.

This aggressive, passionate portrayal replete with grim, woeful sorrow, penetrates your heart until it bleeds along with his. You absorb Hamlet’s lament, while undercurrents of grief or rage ripple beneath the surface at any given moment.

Remembering the quick-change between emotions within a single scene, I feel for the actor whose performance each night of the twenty-three day run must have taken a lot out of him.

It took a lot out of me.

As one of only three thousand graced with a ticket, it was my privilege and blessing to experience this show. An honor I’ll never forget. And, I hate to admit it, but I left the theatre a convert.

They chose well not to record this. There was no way to capture the rich layers that the cozy stage allowed. Spittle flying from lips, eyes glistening near tears—there’s no transferring the full essence of electric energy from the intimate space to film, and the hindrance of cameras would have marred the event for those in attendance.

Is it fair that so few saw the show? Heavens, no. But neither is the tale of Hamlet’s woe.

Top Ten MCU Casting Choices

The Marvel Cinematic Universe showcases casting at its finest. The success of the franchise is due in no small part to the amazing talent displayed before the cameras. There are potential Marvel spoilers ahead, but only of the pre-2017 variety.

Good casting can mean the difference between creating an amazing movie or merely one adequate enough to sit through. To understand the latter, look no further than Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

My first animated crush and the source of my Anglophilia.

No fan of our hooded hero was more disappointed than I to learn that Kevin Costner, or perhaps his cardboard cut-out (hard to tell), had been cast in the iconic role. The melodious Brian Bedford portrayed my Robin Hood. So far, only two actors could fill these tights to my satisfaction.

Jude Law (Possibly too old now; I’ve been thinking about this for years)

and

Tom Hiddleston (Aren’t we already used to seeing him in green?)

Either one would shine with the dashing demeanor and auriferous vocals required. Costner did not.

Like the proverbial spoon, it hurt more when pitted against Alan Rickman’s Sheriff.
Best. Dracula. Ever.

Okay, so I’m a Robin Hood dork. Before you shoot me, check out another example of good and bad casting in the same film. Fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula deserved better than Ted Theodore Logan’s rendition of Jonathan Harker.  Fortunately this film more than made up for it by casting Gary Oldman in the title role.

In recent years, two movie franchises based on popular book series were condemned for poor casting. Conversely, Christopher Nolan has made a habit of proving critics wrong with regard to his questionable decisions. As such, it would be remiss of me not to mention the unsung heroes responsible for some of the riskier MCU casting decisions—directors like Jon Favreau and Kenneth Branagh who went to bat for actors whose names alone did not garner the approval of the studio. Bravo, gentlemen. Bravo.

In celebration of those choices, let’s take a look at the top ten MCU castings. Please note, this is the MCU only. Magneto and Deadpool will not make an appearance. (Until we twist enough Fox Studio arms)

10) Black Panther

Long live the king.

His presence, his posture, the way he moves when he fights. Chadwick Boseman could easily play this role as a cat caricature. Instead, he embodies the regal grace reflective of this underused hero. I can’t wait to see him in his own movie. Imagine my disappointment when I received the casting call for a character with my description, but in Atlanta, not Las Vegas. Likely the closest I’ll ever come to working on a Marvel set.

9) Black Widow

Not thrilled about this choice at first. I’m a fan of Scarlett Johansson. She has the curves and the chops, but I could not see her as the leggy, super spy assassin. Her moves in Iron Man 2 proved that much like Yoda, size matters not. She displayed both the attitude and athleticism to master this role. In fact, she’d be higher on the list were it not for a few bad grammar moments in Avengers that do not suit her character. Since that movie is nearly perfect, we’ll forgive Whedon for the oversight.

8) Jarvis/Vision

Double whammy for Paul Bettany. It is my understanding that the genius responsible for dropping him into the role of Jarvis did not know he would eventually play Vision. His cadence alone lands him on this list. Adding his subtle facial expressions, his chiseled physique, and unnaturally perfect posture make him the only man I can see as Vision.

7) Star-Lord

Chris Pratt brought the humor necessary to popularize Peter Quill out of obscurity. His remarkable transformation from doughy comic relief to beefcake leading man proved so effective that other media changed his comic book appearance to reflect Pratt’s look in the movie.

6) Odin

Of course, that tends to happen when you cast Sir Anthony Hopkins in, well, anything.

A small part played to grand effect. Who else could fill this role with such quiet puissance? Whether banishing Thor with a growl or collapsing before Loki’s broken heart, Odin’s presence empowers every scene. 

 

5) Captain America

From bad boy to boy scout.

I’ll admit to being less than thrilled when I learned that Mr. Flame-on himself was cast as the super soldier. Johnny Storm is no Captain America. Turns out Chris Evans is no slouch when it comes to acting. He was absolutely the right choice, bringing all the bright and shiny purity needed to shed Steve Rogers in a believable and inspiring light.

4) Thor

To paraphrase Chris Evans, “I may look like Captain America, but that dude is Thor.”

There is no question why Chris Hemsworth landed this role. How was there ever a choice? The man struck Midgard like a bolt of lightning. How fortunate he could alter his accent to reflect his Norse origins. (And by Norse, I mean the perfect period diction of old English we’ve come to expect from Asgardians.) Nonetheless, he flawlessly embodies the role.

 

 

3) Loki

But I have that within which passeth show; these but the trappings and the suits of woe

I first watched Thor in a small Utah city after staying at a bed and breakfast. My quaint, romantic trip started as it should, but ended with me racing home, like so many others, to find out “Who is Tom Hiddleston?” He blew me away as the God of Mischief. Each subtle gesture, each nuanced blend of emotions—evoked with minimal expression. Amazing. And perfect for the role. Imagine my surprise when I looked up the actor. How could anyone meet this golden boy scout and picture Iago’s Norse counterpart? This same director recently chose Hiddleston as the lead in my favorite Shakespeare play. More brilliant casting.

 

2) Tony Stark

Most would expect RDJ to top this list. And while there’s a compelling argument for that, one factor—which I’ll cover in the winner’s segment—prevents his victory. Aside from that, Robert Downey Jr.’s take on the cocky, but brilliant Stark doesn’t feel like much of a stretch. He brings Tony to life in a way that no one else could. He’s essentially playing a smarter, wealthier, more charming version of himself. Much as Tony’s charisma pulled the other heroes into his orbit to build an incredible team, Downey shines as the leader of this remarkable cast to make even more remarkable movies.

Honorable Mention

While not technically MCU (he’s borrowed from Sony) Spider-Man’s inclusion in Captain America: Civil War lands him as an honorable mention. Tom Holland’s spectacular showing in Civil War, and his own Homecoming are among the best performances that will receive no true critical acclaim. His choice to employ an authentic New York accent, which he pulls off flawlessly, despite hailing from the UK, begs the question, “Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?” If he’s this good at 20, what’s he going to be like in ten years?

You’ve just been put on notice.

1) Nick Fury

Despite Tony Stark’s perfect casting, how can RDJ top the actor chosen to play himself? In 2001—years before the MCU was a twinkle in Kevin Feige’s eye—comic book writer Mark Millar took the liberty of revisioning Nick Fury as one bad mofo, modeled unapologetically after Sammy himself. Samuel L. Jackson was the only choice for this role. 

Ever.

Click here to see how Jackson responded to Millar’s exploitation.

And, that’s my list. Hope you enjoyed the comparisons. If you think I missed a MCU better casting, please let me know in the comments.

Coming Soon

My apologies for the delay in posting. The site was hacked twice in the last few months. Needless to say, adjusts have been made, and I’m on my way to posting on a more regular schedule.

My next topic… Best MCU Casting decisions. The number one choice may surprise you.

Stay tuned!

 

Welcome To The Dollhouse

This film is not for the emotionally faint-hearted. If you’re looking for a predictable story that offers hope at the end of the tunnel or even a rainbow after a devastating storm…

…this is not it.

For those of you of the dark and twisty variety, a bit askew of the norm, voyeurs who can empathize and pity the misfit tweenage girl stuck in the ruthless world of junior high cliques and indifferent adults, this movie is priceless.

The bullying aspects alone would prevent this film from being made today.

Todd Solondz brilliantly captures a triple threat of mediocre injustice with a glimpse in the life of Dawn Wiener: a middle class, middle child attending middle school. The ultimate ugly duckling, with little hope of becoming a swan.

Set in an era long before the thought police took over the media, this coming-of-age black comedy offers a raw look inside the world of an unattractive twelve-year-old girl from New Jersey. Complete with an oddly compelling soundtrack that spans across a wide range of genres, (most notably, tracks featuring Daniel Rey’s sultry singing) Welcome to the Dollhouse is an original and honest telling of a bully victim with no support system.

Most viewers cannot identify with Dawn. She is unpopular, unattractive, and unremarkable in nearly every way. She’s the opposite of the epic hero as rather than one or two fatal flaws, she possesses two strengths – terrific hair (hidden in ponytails) and a good singing voice – neither of which play much part in the story.

I’ll spare you the details on how she injures her hand.

Heather Matarazzo offers a perfect portrayal of this awkward, ugly girl. She throws herself into the role, channeling her inner misfit in the way she stands, the way she whines, and most dreadfully, the way she dresses.

Maybe she’d be bearable if she could remember to close her mouth.

And rather than attempt some sort of statement about the dangers of isolation or bullying,  Solondz makes us laugh, creating the type of guilty pleasure that allows us to enjoy this poor girl’s misfortunes, while making it clear that he understands her pain, and helping us to do the same.

Part of what makes this film stand out is its success in creating a protagonist that the audience roots for, yet doesn’t actually like. You feel sorry for her, but in truth, none of us would have befriended Wienerdog in junior high. Anyone who would, either has a heart of gold, or they belong in Dawn’s Special People club.

And if you’re wondering if Ms. Matarazzo ever grew out of her Dawn phase…

HM-3604
I’d say so.

What do you think? Were you able to enjoy the dark humor in this movie? What similar comedies can you recommend? Message me or put it in the comments below.

 

Black Widow is the Most Impressive Avenger

I’m not here to make the case for a Black Widow movie as many would like. Overexposure can weaken a role. Take my favorite MCU character, Loki, for example. Many have called for his stand alone film. And, as much as I love him, I don’t want that. He’s the strongest villain we’ve had so far and laying out all his cards may steal too much of his mystery, effectively neutering his potency.

See: Darth Vader in the Star Wars Prequels

I’d much prefer Loki in a Marvel One-Shot, which would offer the chance to see him truly win without draining him of his power. 

And, I don’t know that this would happen to Black Widow in her own movie, but a huge part of her character is secrecy.

Having said that, I’d watch that movie in a heartbeat. She’s awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that I’ll make the claim that she’s the most impressive of all the Avengers. Sure, Thor and Hulk are powerhouses, Cap’s a super soldier, and Hawkeye’s a hell of a shot. But Natasha brings at least the same value without the aid of enhancements. She’s taken down teams of Hydra agents and Justin Hammer’s crew without the benefit of a vibranium shield or a magic hammer. Her “super”powers, so to speak, lie in her specific set of skills as an assassin, an interrogator and a seductress.

Below are 5 reasons to support my assessment. Many of these factors interlace, but they are separate aspects of her prestige. And before we get started, be warned. There are spoilers from the movies she’s been in, including the recent Captain America film.

  1. Let’s start with an asset that’s truly unique from the rest. She sees things from multiple angles. Being a double agent has equipped her to understand both sides, allowing her to determine motive and anticipate response. In Civil War she read the terrain, prompting her to sign the Sokovia Accords, while keeping one eye on the road. 
  2. She tricked Loki – one of the most intelligent characters in the Marvel universe. Despite the effectiveness of his mind games (she later admitted that he got to her), she extracted what she needed from him while hiding the true damage he’d caused.    
  3. Black Widow receives little of the credit for successful missions. Iron Man in his protective metal suit and the high profile Captain America receive the bulk of the praise and attention. Yet, Natasha does her job in the background without pining for acknowledgements.
  4. She’s braver than the rest. True courage is not being fearless, but overcoming that fear which would cripple some. Black Widow faced the Hulk on her own, shooing others away in the process. She did not run from the Chitauri, nor did she flee Sokovia when the end looked inevitable. Like Hawkeye, she has no superpowers, yet Clint does most of his fighting from a distance while Natasha charges in.

    Which brings me to point 5.
  5. She attacks full force, without hesitation. She is amazing to watch in a fight. No holding back – she just goes for it. When she encounters the Winter Soldier in the 2nd Captain America movie, his deadly force has been established. Steve Rogers is on the scene. Most people would hold off and let him handle it, but not Natasha.  Both in that movie and during the escape scene in the latest film she lunges at him, wrapping him in her lethal legs. 

When you watch Civil War, there’s a scene before this that explains how they got from here: to here:

Can’t say that I blame either one of them…

What do you think? What other reasons make Black Widow more impressive than the other Avengers? If you disagree, tell me why in the comments. Until then, go watch Captain America: Civil War again. It’s the best superhero movie this year.

 

 

5 Tips for Polite Movie Watching

My Sin City Cinephile moniker was not fashioned on a whim. I love watching movies, especially on the big screen. But lately, the poor behavior of other patrons has me more selective when heading to the cinema. I’d prefer to enjoy films when they come out without first debating whether they’re worth the potential annoyance of other people’s rudeness. In light of my recent encounters, here are a few simple tips to prevent ruining the movie experience for others.

Show up on time.GiantWatch

 

I’ll admit this is something I struggle with in most areas of my life. I’m working on it. I am. But showing up fashionably late to a party is far more acceptable than entering a dark theatre during an opening sequence. The people who showed up on time should get to watch that part without you pulling in the light from outside the room or the silhouette of your head popping up in the screen. Even when there’s reserved seating, it’s still upsetting to have someone tripping over themselves as they shuffle by blocking the picture. If seats aren’t assigned, there’s the added aggravation of their phone light as they search for a seat. Which brings me to tip 2.

Turn off your phone.

no-cell-phones

 

 

 

 

 

Period. It pulls people from the movie. Think of it this way, the light from your cellular serves as a beacon to locate the thoughtless culprit. Unless you’re a surgeon, your messages can probably wait for the completion of the film.

If you must eat, do so quietly.

Loud crunching and cellophane completely disrupt the experience. Take care of wrappers before the film starts. When your drink gets low, don’t shake the ice or stir your straw around. And, please, I beg of you, if the scene on screen is quiet, tense, or important in any way, wait to shove another bite into your mouth. Some people prefer to snack during a movie, and I can appreciate that. I do it at home. But, consider those around you who have to hear your feast. Every slurp and crinkle rips through the theatre.

Don’t block the screen.

Large hats and propped up feet block the view of others. I recently watched Marc Abraham’s biopic I Saw The Light about Hank Williams. The only person who needed a cowboy hat on in that theatre was Tom Hiddleston.

 

Stay quiet.

The occasional laugh cannot be helped, in fact it’s usually encouraged. But keep your witty commentary for private viewings. Last month, I had the misfortune of sitting in the same row with someone who spent the entire film doing the worst job pretending he had not seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens already by “predicting” what happened in each scene. It took all my strength not to force choke the guy. Not only is this distracting, but it spoils the story for first-timers.

Speaking of spoilers, as a quiet time bonus tip, when you leave the theatre, don’t talk about the movie as you pass by those waiting to see it.

“I can’t believe what was in the box!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading. Hopefully you didn’t need these suggestions, or they served as a helpful reminders.

What bad movie theatre habits bother you? What did I forget? Do you have an experience that backs up any of these tips? I’d love to hear it. Leave a note in the comments.

Pucker up!

Romance.

Love.

As I work on my novel, these sentiments often consume my thoughts. And, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it seems appropriate to focus on a crucial ingredient for a successful courtship.

The kiss.

The most attractive pairing can fall flat to the viewers if there’s no kissing chemistry.

I’m talking to you two beauties.

If done well, a single kiss at the end of a tale can be powerful enough to be the climax in itself. Nothing more needed to satisfy.

It’s for that reason that the superbly rendered 2005 Pride & Prejudice disappointedI felt cheated when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy never had their big moment. They captured the emotions so well, but when it came time for the kiss, I felt a bit like this.

So, in celebration of this important element, I’ve compiled a list of films that stick the landing on the lip lock.

To narrow the field, I excluded television programs, which means no Derek & Meredith, no Ross & Rachel, and no Buffy & Angel. Only full length films are featured in this spoiler-filled report.

First up…

Catwoman & Batman (Batman Returns – Mistletoe Kiss) – How many licks does it take to steal Batman’s heart?

Apparently, just one really good one.

Little known fake fact: Michael Keaton insisted on several retakes. “Let’s go again. I can do better.”

And speaking of batmen…

Dracula & Mina (Bram Stoker’s Dracula – Absinthe Kiss) – It was a great year for kissing. And, okay, I’m cheating a little here since this shot didn’t exactly make it into the movie, but just look at that. They played these roles so well, it didn’t matter how much they veered from the novel.

Vlad: I killed your best friend and arranged an orgy for your fiancé. Mina: Great, now we won’t be interrupted.

Han & Leia (The Empire Strikes Back – Scoundrel Kiss) A kiss so powerful, it rewrote history. The undeniable chemistry between Han and Leia could not be ignored. (It prompted Lucas to soften the scoundrel so he’d be worthy of his princess — ultimately weakening his character arc, but that’s a whole other rant.)

This is when Leia could no longer lie to herself. Leading with a sensual hand massage, Han called her out through their banter, exposing her denial and obvious attraction to him.

Han and Leia Kiss - Empire Strikes Back [1080p HD]
She might like nice men, but she loved Han.

 

 

 

 

 

He knew.

Freddie & Hester (The Deep Blue Sea – Pretty much all of them) – I challenge you to find an undeserving kiss between these two. Frankly, Freddie Page may just be the best kisser in cinematic history. It’s obvious why Hester would skydive into this destructive relationship because…

 

Could you even remember why you were angry after he kissed you like this?

It’s even rumored that Rachel Weisz said she wanted to bite Tom Hiddleston when she licked him. I doubt he would have minded.

Countess Olenska & Arthur Newland (The Age of Innocence Confession Kiss) – I could go on for days discussing the merits of this beautifully tragic story, but I’ll save it for my Hidden Gem review.

Sticking to the topic, Arthur’s sensual kisses when admitting his love for Ellen punctuate his yearning like the decadent buttercream frosting on your last birthday cake. My heart aches for them as she explains the impossibility of a future together.

Yet, they share this tender moment to express their ill-fated love before parting.

He doesn’t go for the obvious indulgence, but instead uses each brush of his lips to worship her.

All of her.

Milton Warden & Karen Holmes (From Here to Eternity – Beach Kiss) – Admittedly, this movie did not live up to its hype for me. But, this kiss?

Which led to this kiss…
Take that, Freddie Page.

Totally worth all the sand she’ll have to clean out of her, um, hair.

Romeo Montague & Juliet Capulet (Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet – Balcony Kiss) – Aye me, what can I say? 

They kiss by the book.

John & Miriam (The Hunger – Shower Kiss) – Nothing says I love you like a post-kill shower kiss. How long could you kiss a man like David Bowie?

Forever?

Kathryn Merteuil & Cecile Caldwell (Cruel Intentions – Purely Instructional Kiss) – I applaud Kathryn’s dedication to revenge. When she taught the naive Cecile how to French kiss, everyone who watched, sat at attention — gay, straight, or otherwise.

I hear she’s giving lessons at the Y. Any takers?

Noah & Allie (The Notebook – Rain Kiss) No best kissing list would be complete without this. Even if you aren’t satisfied with the adaptation, you can’t deny the effectiveness. The actors, themselves, fell in love. And, really, how could they not? 

 

The success of this kiss hinged on both the natural chemistry between the actors and the masterful build-up.

Romantic row on the lake. (Check)

Impassioned argument to heat things up. (Check)

Sweeping background score. (Check) Okay, you can’t see it, but trust me, it was there.

Rain. (Check, Check — and then some)

All culminating in one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history.

And the scene that follows is…

Muy bueno.

Well, I hope your hearts are all aflutter as we wrap up this topic. Which iconic kisses did I miss? Let me know in the comments. Until then…

Love and kisses.

Mwah!

Belle

​The first film I’ll endorse is a recent addition. I owe this gem to another movie on my list, Only Lovers Left Alive. If I hadn’t traveled to another state to watch Jim Jarmusch’s independent masterpiece, I would not have seen the fantastic cinema display showcasing the dresses in Belle. The incredible costumes caught my eye, but the star piqued my interest.

I’ve always been a sucker for Victorian, Edwardian, and in this case Georgian era fashions. Seeing a black woman in the fine gowns worn by the ladies of that generation inspired me to watch the film without the aid of a single trailer. 

The risk paid off as this film feels like one of those movies made just for me. I will not vouch for historical accuracy. In fact, it is my understanding that liberties were most certainly taken. What I can claim is that this film spoke to me. I adore the works of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Edgar Allan Poe, but let’s face it—the main characters look nothing like me. It’s a stretch to insert myself into the stories, as the dynamic would change tremendously. Belle not only addresses the social issues present for a biracial woman in that society, but also the difference between overlooking race and disregarding it as a factor, accepting someone completely.

Although fiercely romantic, Belle is so much more than a love story. The poignant parallel of the Zong legal case advances the narrative of Dido’s life quite effectively. Incredibly well acted, with almost zero wasted dialogue, the film introduced me to two impressive beauties and a use of the term sister/cousin that does not result in an Alabama joke. The relationships felt real, particularly between the two young women.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sarah Gadon

If I had to voice a complaint, it would be the size of Matthew Goode’s role, although it suits the story. His short, but powerful performance, left me wanting more, though none of the cast disappointed.

This interesting tale, set on breathtaking English landscapes, is well worth your time and attention. As a Hidden Gem, it comes high on my list of recommendations. Much like the argument against slavery, this movie is for more than just a black audience. Everyone I’ve shared it with enjoyed this beautifully acted film, men and women alike, and only one of those people was even partially black. Check your preferred movie source for availability.

If you’ve seen Belle and you think I’ve left out a crucial endorser, or that I’m mistaken, let me know in the comments.

Why I prefer Grease 2 to the original

 

When relaying a story about sharing Grease 2 with someone only familiar with the first, my brother responded, “There’s a Grease 1?” Apparently the countless hours he spent forced to watch Michelle Pfeiffer’s introductory film on a loop, left him not only less enamored than I, but far more sarcastic.

Clearly he is jealous, having never reached cool rider status.
Clearly he is jealous, having never reached cool rider status.

Focusing on sex, relationships and knowing one’s place in the present society, the basic premise of both movies plays the same. An attractive, seemingly intelligent, foreign exchange student falls for a popular teen in an American high school, only to discover that the customary rules of conduct prevent engaging in such a romance.

I mean no disrespect toward the original Grease. As a fan of musicals, I believe it has earned its place among the classics. For all their similarities, a major difference exists between the two films and for my money, that difference places Grease 2 in front as the more enjoyable storyline.

Unlike its predecessor, where the plot revolves around a pretty girl willing to change who she is to be with a boy,

Not unlike the plot to the Little Mermaid.

 

Grease 2 revolves around Stephanie Zinone, a strong, beautiful heroine, tired of the status quo of early 1960s chauvinism. Despite much protest from her friends, most notably her ex, she is changing for herself.

The power of Pfeiffer’s charisma had me, a solid tomboy at the time, willing to wear pink, even if only on the inside liner of a reversible leather jacket. Mesmerized by her beauty and spirit, I didn’t just want to watch her; I wanted to be her. I knew every lyric to every song, something I still haven’t accomplished for Grease.

 

Adding to the appeal, Stephanie Zinone wore a Christmas tree dress for the talent show scene - an added bonus due to the proximity of my birthday to the holiday.
Adding to the appeal, Stephanie Zinone wore a Christmas tree dress for the talent show scene – an added bonus due to the proximity of my birthday to the holiday.

Tired of being “someone’s chick,” Stephanie breaks protocol with her peers, announcing she is “no one’s trophy,” and taking her own path – a difficult task for a teenager with a leading role in a well established clique. Most girls couldn’t walk away from a cutie like Johnny Nogerelli.

Here Adrian Zmed showcases his amazing, yet underappreciated talents.

In Grease 2, it is the male who changes for the pleasure of the female, ultimately wishing to assimilate both personas, rather than completely abandoning his former self for his heart’s desire.

Like Sandy.
Like Sandy.

No, my hero will not be the girl who takes up drinking and smoking to please a boy who would not commit to her for fear of his friends’ razzing. I’ll follow the tough beauty, who lands the brainy badass British biker babe.

I rest my case.
I rest my case.

By the end of the film, Stephanie has decided that if she cannot be true to herself, then she does not need to be a Pink Lady. Her friends will not dictate her life, which ultimately makes her of stronger character than both Danny and Sandy. Zinone makes her choice and is rewarded by the unmasking of her presumed dead, cool rider in the form of one, very much alive, Michael Carrington.

Apparently Pfeiffer has this effect on men.
Apparently Pfeiffer has this effect on men.

So, you can see, as an unconventional little girl, growing up in a sexist world, I had no choice but to fall in love with a story like this. Grease never had a chance in comparison because I could not relate to Sandy’s abandonment of her own personality. No boy is worth that.

Michelle Pfeiffer, on the other hand,

..now that’s a different story.
..now that’s a different story.

What do you think? For what other reasons is Grease 2 more enjoyable than the original? Let me know in the comments.