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.

Thomas Sharpe is Not Victorian Loki

Since the release of Crimson Peak, I’ve heard too often that Sir Thomas Sharpe is just another version of Loki, set in an alternate genre. I wholeheartedly disagree with this notion. They are so distinctly different that if they swapped clothing, one could recognize their true identities by their behavior, mannerisms and vocals. Admittedly, obvious physical similarities exist due to portrayals by the same actor. This does not dismiss the glaring contrasts in the characters.

With any combination of flawed heroes, similar traits can crossover. The trick is finding the nuances and motivations that define them as individuals. To demonstrate the parallels and diversity between these characters, I’ve created a diagram, with corresponding descriptions below. As a control to my comparison,  Jaime Lannister is included. An antihero in his own right, he possesses at least as many similarities to Loki and Thomas as they do to each other.

Loki vs. Jaime Lannister vs. Thomas SharpeLoki vs Jaime vs Thomas

Loki

  • Ambitious:  Although he claims he never wanted the throne, eager to prove his worthiness as compared to his brother, Loki developed a taste for power and a longing to rule.
  • Brilliant Mind:  More tactician than brute, Loki’s fierce intelligence and cunning equip him to layer his schemes, weaving webs that he alone can follow.
  • Motivated By Pain:  Raised in the shadow of his favored brother, Loki’s envy peaked when he learned of his true lineage. Betrayed and heartbroken, he lashed out at those he loves and anyone else caught in the crossfire.
  • Ruthless:  Loki places little value on the lives of most others. While at times, not deliberately malicious, if someone gets killed as a means to an end, so be it.
  • Sorcerer:  Taught by his adoptive mother, Frigga, Loki is an expert in Asgardian Magic.
  • Unpredictable:  The most complex of the three men, depending on what there is to gain, or the surrounding circumstances, Loki has played loyal sidekick, formidable villain and courageous hero. You never know for sure which path he’ll choose.

Jaime Lannister

  • Blonde:  With hair as fair as Lannister gold, Jaime is a fine example of the lion clan.
  • Direct:  According to Tyrion, Jaime “never untied a knot when he could slash it in two with his sword.” Unreserved and to the point, the Kingslayer filters little of what he speaks.
  • Knight:  Knighted by the age of 15, Jaime Lannister earned his reputation through valiant battle triumphs and tournament victories.
  • Secure in his Parents’ Affection:  Tywin Lannister made no secret of his preference for Jaime above Cersai and Tyrion. Even after Jaime relinquished his claim to Casterly Rock, his father looked for ways to bestow the honor to him.
  • Self-Accepting:  Jaime remains unconcerned with the approval of others regarding his character. He makes his choices with little consideration for public opinion, and only where it might affect his family.

Thomas Sharpe

  • Abused:  Locked in the attic for most of his childhood, Thomas Sharpe suffered from parental neglect. What attention he did receive came in the form of lashings, from which his sister shielded him.
  • Artisan:  From a young age, Thomas poured his energies into skillfully carving intricate wooden toys for his beloved sister.
  • Inventor:  Brilliant in the ways of mechanics, Thomas designed and crafted the ingenious machine that so tragically came together too late to save the family.
  • Naive:  As if expecting to get away with his repeated marriage and murder scheming was not bad enough, he reached the height of his naiveté with the utterance of the one word that would ultimately be his downf’all’.
  • Seductive:  This brooding, well-tailored gentleman will sweep you off your feet with his golden voice and his fancy footwork.

Loki/Thomas

  • Brunette:  These raven haired beauties are magnificently portrayed by the same blonde actor.
  • Manipulative:  Demonstrated best in the first Thor movie, Loki puppeteered his brother out of Odin’s favor. Once home, Thomas Sharpe continued his manipulation of his new bride by playing on her desire to save him.
  • Scheming:  From funding home improvement to world domination, these men will plot masterfully to achieve their lofty goals.
  • Silver-Tongued:  The Avengers knew to muzzle Loki’s notorious tongue after his defeat. His lies are his greatest weapon. And who wouldn’t fall for Thomas Sharpe’s lines?

Loki/Jaime

  • Arrogant:  There are no men like them. Only them.
  • Regal:  Raised as a prince, Loki’s posture and resplendent majesty prompt one to kneel. According to Jon Snow, Ser Jaime, with his height and beauty is what a king should look like. But, what does he know?
  • Seeks father’s approval:  In the first Thor film, Loki schemed elaborately to prove his value to Odin. Even as the favored firstborn male, Jaime made choices with Tywin’s esteem in mind. 
  • Skilled Warrior:  An expert combatant, even without his magic, Loki is skilled with a variety of weapons, most notably a dagger. As a young knight, Ser Jaime joined the Kingsguard due to his exceptional swordsmanship.
  • Spoiled:  Raised as an Asgardian Prince, only Thor exceeds the privilege afforded Loki. As heir to Tywin Lannister, Jaime was bestowed the advantages of a wealthy Westeros lordling.

Jaime/Thomas

  • Complacent:  The women they love delve into much darker territory, yet they do nearly nothing to deter them, despite their conflicted consciences.
  • Motivated by Love:  The choices made by Thomas and Jaime are fueled by affection for the women they love.
  • Regarded as Exceptionally Attractive:  Despite accompanying beauties like Lucille and Edith, Thomas stands out as loveliest in any room. Exceedingly handsome, with his green eyes and golden mane, even foes marvel at Jaime’s comeliness.
  • Victim of Circumstance:   Both are enslaved by responsibility and love. Jaime is trapped by obligation and the rules of the world where he resides. Thomas is bound by loyalty, born from neglect and mistreatment from his parents.

Loki/Jaime/Thomas

  • Conflicted by sense of honor:  Raised to protect Asgard, Loki sometimes hesitates in his quest for domination. Torn between his sister, his wife, and what he believes is right, Thomas forces his own doom. Jaime must choose between loyalty to family or keeping his Kingsguard vow.
  • Complicated relationship with sibling:  Loki might fight to protect his brother, only to kill Thor himself. Jamie and Thomas perform deadly and despicable acts to protect their sibling relationships.
  • Well Educated:  Sons of Odin receive every advantage in Asgard. A private tutor and boarding school furnished Thomas’ schooling. Tywin forced Jaime to practice reading and writing for hours beyond his regular study.

What traits did I miss? Other than the unfortunate forced placement of the circle labels, a non-negotiable setting in the diagram creator, what observations should have been noted? Email or simply leave your comments below.

Meow, World! BEWARE of my first post, a review of Crimson Peak

Creating this blog has been on my to-do list for months. As a movie nerd, seeing Crimson Peak has inspired me into action, if nothing else to share my take on this delightful film.

Visually striking from the instant the Universal introduction hits the screen, Crimson Peak submerges its viewers in a sea of dynamic hues and spectacular images. In Guillermo del Toro’s dark imaginative fairy tale, you find yourself immersed within a vibrant world of color, passion, pain, and love. Its beauty defies the senses in this Gothic romance that, for me, felt reminiscent of both Jane Eyre and Flowers in the Attic.

Love or hate the story, you cannot deny the eye candy, and I don’t just mean the actors. Each detail del Toro presents, from the sweeping landscapes and elaborate buildings to the spinning camera work, appears to be meticulously crafted to solicit profound emotions. An amazing palette of color and atmosphere construct a hauntingly beautiful background for the narrative. What a shame that the execution will be lost on the color blind, a point not missed by the visionary director. An entire world has been created in which you can feel the warmth and cold of the climates along with the heat and chill from the characters. Above all, the cinematography and costumes stand out as being particularly Oscar worthy, as they are absolutely stunning.

I cannot stress enough how gorgeous and moving this film is.

Before covering the three main actors, I must mention two other notable performances. Though his role is supportive, Jim Beaver plays a strong character, both likeable and respected. When on screen, he conveyed his distinct presence while aiding the main characters, rather than drawing focus from them. Doug Jones, not unlike Andy Serkis, deserves his own category with the academy for his specific and unique talents. A veteran to the del Toro portfolio, he contributed much to the cinematic experience with only his fluid movements for expression. While managing to spook, he was not the scariest creature in this film, nor nearly as terrifying as the pale man.

In case you need inspiration for your next nightmare.

As a writer, I can understand how easily Edith could be manipulated through the praise of her manuscript. We want so much to believe our work has merit, even when we know it needs improvement. Mia Wasikowska’s wide-eyed, hopeful portrayal of the unnaturally independent Edith Cushing initially pushes the boundaries of the archetypal heroine. Although she does temporarily fall victim to the common mistakes emblematic of a damsel in distress, her inner strength eventually takes control. Wasikowska is radiant in this role, her youth and grace amplified by her lovely wardrobe, most notably during her dance scene with her handsome suitor.

It feels cliche to say Tom Hiddleston performed superbly as Sir Thomas Sharpe. If he continues to meet such high expectations on screen, how will viewers recognize when he pushes himself?  As harsh as it sounds, it almost seems for the best that Cumberbatch, a fantastic actor in his own right, dropped out to be replaced with the mesmerizing Hiddleston. While surely Cumberbatch could play the role well, his physical appeal is more of an acquired taste, while Hiddleston is everyone’s type. (See Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C) No stretch of the imagination is required to understand why Edith would run off with this man or stay with him under such dismal conditions. He was so credible in his portrayal, one of my movie mates confided she would never trust anything the man said in real life as he is just too good at playing convincing liars. He was the perfect choice for Thomas, drawing you in with his enchanting charms and mysterious history, then holding you captive with nothing more than a look. The mere flick of an eyebrow expressed a range of emotions without his speaking a word. Rather than praise the actor for his numerous talents, I give credit to the director for casting the part so well.

Most impressive was Jessica Chastain’s calm as a bomb performance as Lucille Sharpe. She played this character with a chilling truthfulness more apparent upon the second viewing. Ornamented in the finest gowns (an unquestionably magnificent wardrobe), Chastain commands the audience’s attention and respect from the moment of her introduction. Of the three mains, Lucille’s motivations for the path she takes, and her past actions for that matter, are clearest to me.

Hell, I might make her choices for this dress, let alone the true incentives her character harbors.

This is by far my favorite performance from Jessica Chastain, proving her range beyond a doubt. With the toughest role, she plays the character possessing the greatest strength and the most vulnerability, which makes more sense when you consider the period. And did I mention her gowns are to die for? My hope is that more directors will start utilizing her amazing spectrum of talent, especially after watching the last twenty minutes of this film.

As for the feature itself, for all its hype, it was neither as scary as I’d been led to believe, nor as kinky as I expected. (or hoped, to be candid) And yet I still loved it. Romantic, yet not wholesome, and much more humorous than anticipated. I’ve seen it three times and would easily go again if my schedule allowed. I’d love to comment further on topics like the tragedy of the machine’s fate with relation to the story, how lost one of the main characters remained at the end (however well intentioned), the various clever touches (the breed of dog, the color themes in wardrobe, residence and supernatural representations), and, of course, the classic del Toro bug fetish. Unfortunately, delving into those specifics would ruin the film for those who’ve yet to see it, certainly a murderable offense.

I highly recommend watching this movie now while it remains in the theatres. If you’re adventurous, dress in period costume like I did. You will likely see that the cinema employees fall right in line, catering to the desires of the noble attendees, enhancing your movie experience.

If you’ve seen it and would like to discuss, send me a note or leave a comment.