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Snarcasm: ‘Moana’ Is Formulaic Once You Ignore All Of Its Originality

moana

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read

I correctly predicted that Zootopia would beat out Moana for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year. Not because Zootopia deserves it, but because I know an Academy Award winner when I see it, borrowing from the same universe where a socially relevant movie like Spotlight will outshine the crowd-pleasing favorite for Best Picture. Only in this case, Zootopia happens to be a favorite among many Disney fans, as well.

My issue with all this is less an attack against Zootopia and more a lament for how under-appreciated Moana is as both a movie and one that happens to be made by Disney. If you slapped the same movie with the logo of any other animation house, it would deservedly be hailed as a new classic and breath of fresh air. But as we’ll get to in a minute, Moana is dragged down by baggage it didn’t ask for, and in many ways, went out of its way to defy.

Why? Because film critics can be a bit lazy. They see something that sort of resembles something else and jump at the chance to make a comparison, usually knocking the film down because of their pseudo-intellectual word associations and cultural references, as if film borrowing inspiration is something to be ashamed of. This is a persistent annoyance with reviews for animated films because nearly 80 years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, some critics are still refusing to take the art form seriously. Seriously.

Thankfully, most critics do appreciate good animated movies and approach them fairly. Of course, there were a small amount of unfavorable reviews for Moana in November, but most of them were perfectly fine for what the reviewer was trying to accomplish, which was a basic interpretation of their own subjective take on the film. But one in particular caught my Snarcastic attention, not because it was badly written or as outrageous as what I usually bring up in this column, but because it’s so tragically misguided in its bias. It’s also a summation of the criticism received by many who did like Moana overall.

Writing for Sight and Sound, Vadim Rizov writes, “Disney’s Hawaiian folk fable paddles safe waters.

Hey, did I mention the other thing that really bugs me about a lot of critics? It’s the wordplay headlines. Just the wordplay headlines.

Disney’s big-ticket seafaring saga lets rip with its computer animation, but sails the same old storyline.

To Rizov’s credit, he really does go into detail over what makes Moana a technical achievement in animation, so let’s focus on his main argument, that Moana is same-old, same-old for Disney.

In a way, that’s true. A young “princess” is the heroine, and she has to go on an adventure to save her village. Of course, most movies can be boiled down to a well-established plot structure, but we forgive it because of everything else that happens on top of the familiar “good vs. evil” and “buddy cop” tropes that show up again and again. Let’s see why Rizov disagrees.

Moana is an animated film of the subgenre codified at the start of the ‘Disney Renaissance’ by 1989’s The Little Mermaid.

Oh no. He’s not about to compare Moana to Little Mermaid is—

Both films are co-directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, and start from the same premise:

Sighing intensifies.

a young woman next in line to be queen/chief

OK, hold on. Ariel from Little Mermaid was not next in line to be queen, and in fact, Triton never even implies that her future has anything to do with running the kingdom. Rizov even has to point out here the difference between “queen” and “chief,” which is already a false comparison of the two movies in order to argue that Moana is somehow formulaic. But let’s keep going.

chafes at the for-safety’s-sake boundaries imposed on her.

Two huge differences you leave out, Rizov. First, Moana actually accepts these boundaries over the course of the first number, which chronicles how she chooses responsibility and duty over her own personal desires. It’s only later out of necessity that she challenges this authority, but it’s a far cry from the rebellious personality had by Ariel, who was going behind her father’s back in perpetuity before the movie started.

The second difference is that Triton’s hatred of humans is never really justified in a way that makes sense. Why are the aquatic folk so scared of humans? These rules come off as very authoritarian, which makes sense for a 1989 movie. But Moana actually presents a believable case for why the chief is so against their people (not just her) venturing beyond the reef. He’s given a backstory, and the script treats Moana’s father as a complex character, even though you somewhat root against him.

But Rizov would have you believe, “Nope! Same as Little Mermaid!”

her father…insists his people don’t venture past the coral reef. It’s as inevitable as her journey of self-discovery and vindication that, in between musical numbers, Moana will have reason to leave and prove herself.

Eh, more or less. And I see why Rizov is simplifying this in order to avoid an over-explanation. But it’s unfair to boil down Moana’s motivations to self-discovery, when it ignores how the first act effectively explains why she wants to “prove herself.” And it’s compelling, not just inevitable. For one thing, she’s energized by how her ancestors were voyagers, and part of her motivation to leave is to restore her people’s culture, in addition to answering the call to help her people that is set up earlier when she’s learning the ropes in becoming chief.

Rizov goes on to praise the movie a bit for not being as racist as Aladdin, bring up the weird controversy over Maui’s weight for some reason, and gush over how pretty the movie’s water and hair is. Eventually, he brings up the music and points out some of the clever lyrics.

But no matter who wrote the songs, there was always going to be a line about listening to your ‘inner voice’ – it’s pretty much Disney company policy.

I also shudder at the simplistic plot device that is “listening to your heart.” Disney popularized it, to be sure, but what’s so depressingly absurd about Rizov’s assessment here is how he missed the part where Moana blatantly defies this boring cliche.

First, I want to point out that one of my favorite things about Moana is the music, because Lin-Manuel Miranda and the other writers did a fantastic job using each song to lend the story a lot of complexity and depth (seriously). In “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana spends the entire song declaring her situation and moral conflict that will define the film. That what she wants consistently clashes with what is expected of her, while she pontificates the benefits of “playing along” and how that will work out better for everyone but her, only for the “voice inside” to make her question if this is truly what’s best for her people.

The inner voice is recalled throughout the film, but it’s foreshadowed in the first number, when Moana’s grandmother tells her exactly what that inner voice means and why it’s important. She tells Moana that if her inner voice essentially spurs her to action, that means the voice is “Who you are.” Later, in “I Am Moana,” her grandmother again starts to sing this part, but then asks Moana to answer if she knows who she is. This contrasts with the film’s other repeated theme of understanding “where you are” (the name of that first song). Moana answers her grandmother by saying that she’s defined by where she comes from, what she’s doing, and where she’ll go. Not her inner voice. Her inner voice is simply her.

These are complicated ideas that appear formulaic when you just tune out at the mere mention of “the voice inside,” but following the music leads you to a completely different understanding of what the writers were going for. Moana isn’t another a “follow your heart” diatribe, it’s an attempt to better explore what it means to make decisions about what you’ll do with your life based on your circumstances and instincts. It makes the case for balancing these two struggling concepts and carving out your own path by being fair and honest with yourself and the people around you.

If that’s Disney’s company policy, I’m game for seeing another animated movie tackle a trope so competently.

All of these affirmational bromides are a regrettable staple of the late Disney corpus, and while they coincide nicely with the recent boom in self-proclaimed ‘empowerment ballads’, they do little to actually raise the spirits.

Translation: I didn’t feel particularly empowered, so there’s no way you did.

for all the technical skill on display, this feels as inessential and disposable as any Shrek or Ice Age, only with ostensibly loftier pretensions. 

First of all, only the Shrek sequels (after the second) are disposable. To say that Shrek is inessential is obvious, forgetful nonsense. Second, to compare Moana to Ice Age is so off the mark, I have to believe Rizov did a spit take when he realized that nearly every single critic in the world completely disagrees with him.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that Moana is somehow a lot better than you realize. It’s a personal film for a lot of people, myself included, and I believe it has more than enough merit to be regarded with high praise outside of water and hair effects (which are gorgeous, don’t get me wrong). It’s still my favorite movie of 2016, Oscar or no, and that’s only being strengthened by repeated viewings.


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Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


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‘Batman v Superman’ Is Better Than ‘Civil War’ Because Whatever – Snarcasm

batman v superman

Snark + sarcasm = what you’re about to read

Hey superhero fans and all-time purveyors of basic logic! I’ve got a twister for you. Did you know that  with just a few baseless assertions and false equivalency arguments, you can decide for everyone else that a truly terrible movie is better than a pretty good one?

Welcome the internet! And also the inner workings of this summer’s ultimate contrarian, Donnia, who wrote this little number on Fansided:

Batman v Superman Is Actually A Better Movie Than Civil War

You heard it here first. And for good reason.

Now, I’m all for taking a close, critical look at Captain America: Civil War, an entertaining film that doesn’t fully succeed at being anything extraordinary beyond what we’ve already seen of the MCU. It’s pretty good and an easy recommend, but it can be picked apart just as easily as any other Marvel film.

Batman v Superman, on the other hand, is a glorious misfire as one of recent film history’s most obvious examples of style over substance. Still, the movie has its fans who declare it to be an underrated masterpiece, in some part (I suspect) because they’re displacing the earned love they have for DC onto this neat-looking, but thematically hollow, fan film by Zack Snyder. It’s not without its high points (a great Batman aside from sociopathic tendencies and pretty much everything Gal Gadot does aside from opening emails). But to say it’s better than Civil War is a such a non-starter piece of hot-take nonsense, I can’t wait to share it with you.

Despite what many think, Captain America: Civil War really isn’t a good movie,

“Sorry legions of people who have the exact opposite opinion, including film critics, fans, and experts in this industry. I’m smarter than you!”

but Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is.

I’ll give Donnia some credit here for at least eliminating the pretense that she considers film analysis subjective.

That’s right, folks: you read the title correctly.

Yup, so sit back and breathe in the “pretty much clickbait.”

If you dare to have this unpopular opinion, you’re sure to be bombarded with reasons as to why Captain America: Civil War is apparently the better film

Right, it’s almost as if people use reasons to articulate their observations. Next you’re going to get mad at them using examples and evidence.

But the truth is that both of these movies hit the same beats to the same effect but for some reason, Civil War is praised for it while Batman v Superman is criticized. And the question is: why?

False premise alert! Donnia is putting opinions into our heads, claiming that the reason people disliked Batman v Superman as a set up, not an execution. Which means if I liked Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation but disliked Spy Kids 3D, then obviously it was because I have a double standard for the genre. Obviously.

I enjoyed Batman v Superman.

You don’t say.

When critics panned the movie for being poorly edited, poorly paced and basically a massive failure of a superhero film, I was discouraged to say the least.

You shouldn’t be, and for one simple reason: Liking a bad movie is fine. People do it all the time. That’s why they’re called guilty pleasures.

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew there was something strange about the film when I first saw it. It wasn’t a bad feeling, but I knew that the film didn’t feel like what a superhero film usually feels like.

Was this before or after Jesse Eisenberg shoved a Jolly Rancher into an old dude’s mouth?

It didn’t look like it either, and that’s when it hit me—Batman v Superman didn’t follow the formulaic superhero narrative that we’re used to seeing.

False premise alert! Donnia is slipping into a quick, no-big-deal conclusion that we’re apparently used to seeing formulaic superhero narratives in our movies. This is important because instead of establishing this as a problem, she jumps ahead to the part where Batman v Superman solves it. Tell us more!

we all know that the MCU has and will continue to release a million movies and we flock to see all of them.

Everyone is terrible, yeah.

The MCU follows a very specific blueprint, as if it’s not obvious by this point.

“So obvious, I don’t need to spell it out. I’m just right.”

Yeah, so, all movies follow blueprints, especially franchises. If you’re criticizing Marvel movies for having some common ambiguous…thing…then you have to say the same for Star Wars always involving Skywalkers or Indiana Jones always being about historical adventures (yawn!)

 the problem occurs when a movie like Batman v Superman comes along and is very different than what we’re used to seeing.

Being different isn’t always better, and Civil War is actually a great example of that. Despite what you may think, Donnia, that movie isn’t a lot like any of the other Marvel movies. In fact, plenty of Marvel movies have been completely different from each other. Iron Man was an action comedy, Thor was a fantasy adventure, Captain America was a pulpy period action piece followed by a 70s-esque spy thriller in its sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera comedy, and Ant-Man was a superhero heist movie.

And then there’s Civil War, which was a superhero teamup fight movie where the bad guy (spoiler alert) actually wins in the end. So how is Civil War formulaic again?

We’ve unknowingly set expectations for what we think a superhero movie should be that we reject when one tries to be different.

Nope. We just reject bad movies. Simply being different isn’t enough merit to warrant getting a pass, for the same reason a lot of people wanted to write off Ant-Man long before it was released because it was being heralded as something different.

And how exactly is Batman v Superman all that different from typical superhero movies, aside from having Snyder’s particular visual flair we’ve seen many times since 300?

Batman v Superman isn’t poorly edited or paced, it intentionally edited to be like a comic book.

Pack it up, everyone, the medium has officially stopped being the message.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with trying to make a movie match the experience of a comic book story. It’s been done successfully in the past with movies like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and done quite poorly with movies like Batman and Robin.

Pointing out that what they were going for was interesting in and of itself doesn’t negate the problem, which is that editing a movie too much like a scatterbrained paperback is a bad idea, mostly because comics usually have built in context continuity and are able to be digested in short bursts that rely on dramatized set pieces.

Movies are different, especially if they’re aiming to be over 3 hours long. They require cohesive visual editing that allow viewers to soak in the narrative and appreciate the characters, because unlike a comic, everything moves. And there’s sound. When you remove that cohesive visual editing, the “spectacles” onscreen that would look great on a comic ring hollow on the big screen.

 It was a radically experimental decision, and it did feel strange at first but once I realized what the film was doing, I loved it. How can I put a movie down for trying something different in an industry that always does the same thing?

Easily! For doing it poorly. Remember when I said style over substance? Yeah, I wasn’t just throwing around a cliche aimlessly for once. That directly applies here.

A common complaint about Batman v Superman is the “Martha” scene. That scene is just so horrible and laughable to many people and I don’t understand how they can mock that scene when the exact same thing happens ten minutes into Civil War. 

False…everything alert!

Bruce loses focus because Clark says his mother’s name and Steve loses focus because Crossbones says Bucky’s name.

And then Steve and Crossbones become best friends for life! Right?

Obviously the context of their names being said are different—

“But that huge difference in the scenes is not important or anything unless it makes my point stronger. Obviously.”

Look, the whole “Martha” thing has been talked to death in length elsewhere and on this very site, and honestly, I’m quite done with it. The main issue at this point is that this scene is so badly executed, everyone mocks it and willingly ignores the author’s intent. That’s a sign something went wrong here.

Another complaint towards Batman v Superman is the Doomsday fight…By taking the fight to an uninhabited island they’re preventing mass death.

That’s not the complaint at all. The complaint is more an aside (and not even one of the movie’s most annoying flaws) regarding how ham-fisted the line is when they say, “Oh, and that island is inhabited! WINK WINK.” We point it out because it’s moments like these that take the viewer out of the movie, because you consistently have to be told by the filmmakers that this isn’t Man of Steel. Oh, how I wish this movie had been Man of Steel.

Civil War does the same thing when Cap’s team and Iron Man’s team fight in an empty airport and destroy it in the process. So why does Batman v Superman get criticized for the line that a government official makes when he says that he island is uninhabited but no one says a word when it’s stated that Tony evacuated the airport so that they could have their showdown?

Is this a real question? Because they evacuated the airport. It was a decision that made sense because they don’t want people to get hurt. With Doomsday, they practically flashed this on the screen as, “Oh, what a coincidence that Doomsday wants to duke it out on an abandoned island that’s abandoned because whatever. Now you can’t complain! Wait, I’m not supposed to say that part of the line that’s scribbled on the script in red ink?”

I don’t have a problem with how either movie handled these scenes but I can’t help but to feel some animosity towards Civil War because audiences and critics are so willing to give the film a pass for doing same thing that they criticized Batman v Superman for.

Snarcasm: Pixar Is So Average, You Didn’t Even Notice

pixar

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Most people aren’t movie aficionados, and most of those people aren’t even sure what the word “aficionado” means. But they do know a good flick when they see it, and more often than not, Pixar churns out some great pieces of entertainment.

Since I’m the most biased person alive to comment on this particular “think”piece about Pixar movies from Indiewire, take everything you read here with no salt at all, because that’s bad for your sodium intake in the first place.

Charles Kenny gets in some choice hits with his write up, “Pixar’s Films Are Average and You Know It.”

Why so salty, Charles? None of us are trying to pull a fast one on you, pal.

Lauded, showered with praise and awards, raking in billions at the box office, and beloved by audiences everywhere.

That’s right, and what better way to cut Pixar down than to start by building them up…with obvious observations and facts?

Seriously, you’ve already proven that Pixar movies are anything but average on every merit above. But I have a feeling you’re about to “explain” why none of those things that matter actually matter, even though they clearly matter.

by digging just a little bit beneath the surface, it’s regrettably obvious that Pixar’s films are far from cutting edge: they’re rather average.

If this article had a mascot, it would be Mr. Peanut with a New Yorker on his lap.

The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, but everyone believes he’s wearing the
finest robes.

“I bet my third grade analogy makes you feel far from cutting edge, hm?”

Seriously, I can never get enough of these contrarian regurgitations that insist their argument is good because most people will disagree with them. It’s like watching a guy eat asphalt because surely no one believes that’s good because I’m the first to think of it.

This may be hard to accept

Ya, and for good reason.

The argument is based purely on artistic merit and creativity

Believe me, no one is questioning how creative you’re being for making a lot of this nonsense up.

 Box office grosses are no indicator

Box office isn’t everything, but it is something. There’s a reason Pixar movies make more and more money, and it’s because they’re a trusted brand. Your argument is that they’re average movies, so why dismiss cultural relevance for the sake of making your argument seem a hair less crazy than it truly is?

Awards are not an impartial form of measurement

No one expects them to be, but we have basic rules of statistics to measure true consensus. We’re talking about people watching hundreds of movies a year consistently praising movies from one particular studio. To dismiss that because awards in and of themselves are a subjective matter should get the award for lamest duck.

Taste is personal and just because you think Pixar’s films are the best doesn’t mean they actually are the best

Who decides, then? You? I really hope not.

The studio does not make bad films

Cars 2 would like to have a word with you.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Secret of Kells, and My Neighbor Totoro all lie much closer to generally accepted animated excellence

A few things. First, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a masterpiece and in my opinion, the greatest animated film, period. Secret of Kells is great, and Neighbor Totoro is an eventual classic, but it’s the latter half of this sentiment that raises annoyingly loud alarm bells.

Generally accepted animated excellence? How are these films any more “generally accepted” than Pixar’s high points like Toy StoryIncrediblesFinding NemoRatatouilleWALL-E, Up, and Inside Out? It’s confusing because you can’t seem to decide on what imaginary audience is determining what’s “good” or “bad” when it comes to animated movies. You’ve said it has nothing to do with awards, box office, or personal taste, which leaves us with virtually nothing else.

In contrast to these films, Pixar’s are remarkably safe.

Unlike my intelligence after reading this drivel.

So yeah, we have to believe (now) that when Pixar made a movie about a rat using a human to cook food in Paris, or when they did a whole thing about robots falling in love within the backdrop of an environmental message, or when they made Fantastic Four actually look good, and so on, they were avoiding risk.

On the bright side, people who’ve never actually watched a Pixar movie might agree with you.

They convey a narrowly defined range of themes,

OK, assuming that’s true, you’re evaluating Pixar’s catalogue, not any one movie. By that logic, we can then say Snow White is lesser because Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella also have princesses in them. Welcome to Charles’s world, gang.

they are content to reuse a ‘house style’,

Charles doesn’t elaborate on this (probably because he’s too busy trying on those emperor clothes he was talking about earlier), but my guess is that he’s slapping every Pixar movie with a demerit because their consistently good movies do the same consistently good things. The horror.

and sequels aside (another demerit),

I think Charles invented his grading system after watching Idiocracy.

So yes, Pixar movies are “average” because some Pixar movies are sequels. We won’t even talk about how the Toy Story sequels are highly praised and celebrated because oops! That’s subjective! Didn’t you hear that only Charles’s subjectivity holds any value?

their stories are far from unique to filmmaking as a whole.

We’ll just leave out all of the technological innovations made possible because of Pixar since the late 80s. They get credit for nothing, despite routinely delivering some of the most beautiful visuals and stories of the 21st Century—oops! I’m being darn subjective again!

As a result. no Pixar film has pushed the artistic envelope

I want to meet the person who reads that sentence and actually agrees with it. Pixar has never pushed the artistic envelope? Right, and the Pope is an atheist.

they have appeared to without actually doing so.

The Pope prays, but does that really mean he thinks God is like a real thing? Nahhhhh.

They have not revolutionized animated filmmaking outside of their technology.

“They have not revolutionized animated filmmaking outside of the technology they use to revolutionize animated filmmaking. Trust me.”

What Pixar’s films haven’t done, is inspire others to make a creative leap.

Yeah! Not even Walt Disney Animation Studios….oh wait. Or DreamWorks…oh wait. Or Blue Sky…oh wait.

I love how Charles’s rubric for being “average” has everything to do with him assuming no creative person has ever been inspired by Pixar. And as you can imagine, he says nothing to back this up. Not even an anecdote.

The other problem I’m seeing here is Charles’s narrow criteria for what qualifies as artistic merit. It’s not enough to him that something is competently made and original. Apparently, it also needs to be flamboyant and provocative, but that’s just not what Pixar movies set out to do. But because he’s limiting literally ever other piece of criteria for what makes a film above average, he’s constructing a false narrative that just about anyone can see through.

The Looney Tunes and MGM shorts of the day developed as rapidly as they did because the teams behind them were determined to outdo each other creatively. Today, animated films (and especially CGI ones) do not compete creatively, but rather financially.

Charles, if you really think MGM and Looney Tunes weren’t interesting in getting paid for their work, then there’s literally nothing I can do for you. The idea of relevance and popularity tying into financial success is such a basic concept, I’m at a loss for words. Do you really think that Pixar and DreamWorks aren’t competing creatively? Because even when DreamWorks produces an unimaginative dud like Home, guess what happens? They don’t make money.

But what am I supposed to expect from a guy who thinks Pixar movies are “safe.”

any artistic developments as a result are rather coincidental.

Let’s apply this to any other scenario. I walk into a deli and tell the sandwich guy: “Oh, well you’re only using that brand of salami because it’s 9 cents cheaper than the other brand. And the fact that it tastes so good is just a coincidence.”

He’s either going to roll his eyes at you (like most everyone would) or write an overlong Snarcasm about it (like me). Either way, none of us win.

After all, no studio was inspired to create a CGI film because of Pixar’s artistic genius, they saw a concept that was profitable and wanted a piece of the pie for themselves!

Guys, I think I figured it out. Charles meant to write this as a satire essay for his eight grade history class, but oops! Indiewire got their independent wires crossed and published it by mistake. Happens all the time.

But yeah, the real nonsense here is that Charles makes a sweeping assumption that no studio has ever mimicked Pixar because they genuinely saw something creative that they want to replicate themselves. Either Charles is the NSA incarnate, able to monitor all animated filmmakers instantaneously, or he really needs to get those clicks, guys.

To get to the crunch of the issue,

Uh…no comment, I guess.

you have to consider how Pixar’s films are viewed by the general population.

Except you already said we can’t do that because we isn’t smart enough like you.

Their films appeal to all, and in turn are remarkably popular. This is possible primarily because the films are average.

I bet watching Charles do math in his head is adorable.

OK, so the idea is that if people really like something, it might mean the movie is average, so in your head, that means they’re average. Are we done with this yet?

They do not appeal to anyone in particular,

What? Are we on some sort of contradiction carousel?

Look, I get his point (despite him not explaining it well). He’s trying to say that Pixar movies appeal to everyone on a surface level, but they don’t actually make people think or feel. That’s dead wrong to the point of absurdity, of course, and mostly because he doesn’t use any examples to refute the most basic opinion people have about Pixar movies to the point where there are memes about how the movies are emotional: that they appeal to them in unique, deep ways.

For Charles to downplay all of that because he hasn’t had those experiences is more sad on his part than anything else. It also makes me wonder if he watches these movies while texting the entire time.

Next, Charles uses a quote from Simon Cowell that has nothing to do with Pixar to explain how “average tastes” work. I know I was joking before, but that eighth grade book report theory is just getting more and more plausible. At one point he says that Star Wars is artistically average which is…eh, what’s the point.

Imagine if Pixar released a film with casual abandon of all financial goals.

I love how you seem to know everything about the creative process of some of the world’s most creative people. See, Charles has the gall to claim that these guys are hacks who are only in it for the money. Can we all agree that he can keep that moronic opinion to himself?

At the end of the day, it’s fine to look to Pixar as a model for certain things such as its CGI technology,

CGI technology? I mean I figured out a long time ago that you have no idea what you’re talking about, but this is almost too on the nose.

to look to them as a creative leader and innovator is wrong.

Well, if being “right” is agreeing with a bunch self-righteous, unfounded assertions that waste everyone’s time, then you get an A+, sir.

They do not reside on the cutting edge of feature animation, and to accept such a belief is to drink some very strong Kool-Aid.

Said the guy who probably has no idea what Jonestown is.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this quote from Charles on a different Indiewire post:

The other Pixar film from last year, Inside Out, blew everyone away with its sheer originality and emotional themes and quickly became a favorite. It is currently sweeping all awards before it and is well on it’s way to the status of a classic film.

Hmmm, well methinks Charles has some explaining to do.


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Snarcasm: 5 Non-Reasons Why the DC Movies are Working

dc movies working

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Hey, did you guys know that the DCEU is working? I mean, it’s working hard, for sure, to dominate headlines and pointless online arguments about the very essence of filmmaking between people who’ve never watched Before Sunrise, but that’s not all!

The DCEU is also working in the sense that this was somehow the plan all along for DC and Warner Bros. That’s right, their first three films were critically panned on purpose. It was the plan all along for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman to get outclassed (financially or otherwise) by a movie about the Suicide Squad. And for all of these movies to scream “we’re a huge step back from The Dark Knight” on every poster that isn’t a bowl of Suicide Squad cereal for some reason.

How do we know the DCEU is working? Because Cowboy Bebop enthusiast Kofi Outlaw has five, count them, five reasons. And haven’t list-designed essay substitutes been the absolute best when it comes to persuasive arguments? I sure don’t think so.

DC Comics and Warner Bros. have had a strange year trying to get their DC Extended Universe established.

What a long, strange year it’s been in Rotten Tomatoes hell.

Big questions like “Who is to blame for the DCEU’s problems?” get tossed around the interwebs daily, but are they questions that need to be asked at all? 

Nope! No one needs to get blamed for failure or be held accountable for the consequences of certain actions, anymore. We now live in a society where doing something wrong is actually right, at least if you want to get “saved” from Rotten Tomatoes hell.

It’s clear there are people who do not like the films already released in the DCEU saga

And if it’s not clear, they’ll make it clear within five seconds of talking to them.

or the direction the films are taking with the likes of Zack Snyder’s Justice LeagueWonder Woman

Patty Jenkins is directing Wonder Woman, to be clear, not Zack Snyder. Though Snyder did have a hand in writing it, but alongside Geoff Johns, DC’s “budget Kevin Feige.”

But opinion is just opinion;

Oh, thank goodness.

and here are 5 Reasons Why the DCEU is Working, and could end up being dominant and cohesive shared universe movie saga. 

Terribly written sentences aside, you just stated that opinion is opinion, which is the exact equivalent of saying onion is onion, which takes less time. So why is your opinion opinion a better opinion opinion than anyone else’s?

Start slideshow –

God help us.

#1 It Makes Bigger Headlines

That sure is impressive.

DC makes bigger headlines than Marvel.

Source? Ah, who am I kidding.

And let’s be frank, here. DC’s biggest headlines happen to be more about how the movies are getting ravaged by critics (which Kofi later admits), instead of the headlines Marvel makes on good reviews. Assuming DC does have “bigger” headlines (what, is it like a bigger font or something?), Marvel still has more movies, which is only relevant if we care about quantity over quality, no?

I was there when Chris Evans won the long casting search for Captain America, or Chris Hemsworth won the role of Thor; they were big deal headlines, yes, but they were nowhere near the scope of when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman, or Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. 

That’s nice, but how does that mean the DCEU is working? It really only means that DC has recognizable characters, and we knew that alreadyOf course a casting announcement for Batman is going to get more attention than Thor. How is that indicative of the DCEU working?

The divide is even wider when it comes to villains: No villain Marvel has cast touches announcements like Jared Leto playing Joker or Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luthor.

Again, this is a battle not even Marvel cares about. You think they’re losing sleep over the fact that Yellowjacket didn’t have as many depressed journalists covering his casting than they did with the Joker and Lex Luthor, two of the most well-established comic-book villains of all time?

No, they were too busy enjoying the fact that they don’t need superfluous news coverage to dictate the success of their movies. It’s known as Metacritic Heaven.

Trailer releases put things in solid numbers, with the last few years at San Diego Comic-Con proving in indisputable viewer stats that DC movie trailers get more exposure than Marvel’s.

The DCEU has had great trailers, that’s for sure. I watched every Man of Steel trailer dozens of times because I couldn’t get enough. Then the movie utterly failed me and most of the audience. Turns out that good trailers don’t equate good movies, and if your idea of a film universe “working” has more to do with good marketing, then I’ll show you to the door that has a huge Transformers logo on it.

#2 It’s Established an Edgier Alternative

That’s like saying Christian Rock is inherently good because it’s “alternative” to mainstream music.

Nowadays, Marvel movies are released to slightly varying degrees of praise, make and expected level of money (half a billion at least) and pass through theatrical release with few waves. It’s a reliable machine, but does threaten to get a little boring in the long run. 

Yeah, it was really boring when they did a space movie that was nothing like what they’ve done before, a comedy heist movie featuring a guy who talks to ants, and a trilogy closer that rivals The Last Crusade.

BO-RING.

Thanks to Zack Snyder immediately going “full edgy” with his tinkering and re-imagining of DC’s core heroes –

Oh! I’ll finish this for you: everyone wants him fired. Well, not everyone, but everyone who has at least seen Before Sunrise. Or Sucker Punch. Or any other Zack Snyder movie.

the DCEU has established itself as a place where the rules get broken, and not everything is as “Disneyfied” as the squeaky-clean MCU. 

Yeah, I was so annoyed when the MCU decided not to “break rules” by starring a talking raccoon and a tree alien in one of its movies. Or when they pulled off a 70s spy thriller starring Captain America, one of the previously most one-note characters in all of comics.

But DCEU breaks rules left and right! Like when the characters in Suicide Squad fight a villain with a beam of light hitting the sky! And when they wrote Lex Luthor as Edward Nigma from Batman Forever! Or when they used virtually every visual trick and style Zack Snyder has featured in his movies since 300, but with DC characters!

Who would have thought style beats substance?

Long after people stopped caring about Iron Man 3’s shenanigans, they’re still arguing for and against Man of Steel;

Believe me, people still bring up Iron Man 3.

that says the DCEU is like punk rock: the financial returns may lower than a pop-culture formula, but the loyalty and love is exponentially more intense.

Again, though, this is all based on cheap intertextuality. A love and loyalty earned by the comics and previous iterations of the characters, not anything at all what the DCEU has earned on its own. Do you truly believe the majority of these fans would love Batman v Superman if it was featuring characters they didn’t recognize?

Meanwhile, people who’ve never read a comic in their life show up to see Marvel movies, because they don’t rely too heavily on intertextuality to tell a good story. They just tell good stories.

#3 Cult-Status Double Dip

Oh, this feels like a cult, alright.

While the theatrical releases of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have all been plagued by harsh criticism, they’ve also achieved a sort of cult-status amongst the fans that embrace them,

Of course they do, and for the same reason people still think the Star Wars prequels are actually good movies. When you want something based on something you love to be good, you find ways to make it good. And since when are comic-book movies intended to be cult films? They’re made to be widely accessible and approachable. You’re essentially admitting that the DCEU is failing to find an audience outside the devoted few who would love anything with Batman and Superman in it.

With BvS:UE still making strong sales (and headlines), DC/WB has pulled off another trick: getting people to double-dip for a movie initially deemed “a failure.”

Yes, the DCEU is doing well in terms of DVD sales, but they’re a fraction of what a worldwide box office will bring you. It’s like saying the DCEU is “working” because they found a $20 bill on the side of the road.

I’ll grant you that a sizable group of fans love the DCEU movies. but that only means the DCEU is working for them. For these movies to become truly successful and grow in that success, they have to speak to larger audiences and prove themselves worthwhile films. But nothing in Kofi’s article explains how specific decisions made by Warner Bros. have yielded better results than they could have hoped for.

#4 Heroe$ & Villain$

Oh, Kofi, you outlaw.

As of writing this, Suicide Squad has just crossed the $500 million mark at the worldwide box office. At a nearly $200 million budget, it’s not a slam-dunk win like, say, Captain America: Civil War, but at three weeks at the top of the domestic box office (and overwhelmingly positive viewer ratings), Suicide Squad is far from the prophesied disaster that would die quickly on bad word mouth. 

A couple things. Like we mentioned earlier, Suicide Squad had fantastic marketing. The trailers sold a lot of people (not literally), many were curious because of the controversy, and many many people were itching to see Margot Robbie and Will Smith. Critics arguably put a sizable dent in the film’s potential returns, but nothing would have stopped the fans from showing up and rightly so.

But what did they think of the movie after they saw it?

Of course, Kofi doesn’t source his “overwhelmingly positive viewer ratings,” and I think he should because the data doesn’t back up his claim. It has a Rotten Tomatoes user rating of 68%, which is more “whelming” than anything else. And its B+ Cinemascore is decent at best. In comparison, Guardians of the Galaxy has a 92% user rating and an A Cinemascore. But hey, onions are onions.

So yes, Suicide Squad is doing well despite terrible reviews. For that reason, I’ve decided that the Transformers movies are “working.” Working to make a few people rich, at least.

the DCEU has now proven that it can make lucrative franchises out of its stable of heroes and villains.

Lucrative? Sure. As lucrative as they expected? No.

And diminishing returns are a big deal, Kofi. If these movies don’t improve in quality, more and more people will stop paying ticket prices to see them. Full stop. Short term success is one thing, but Warner Bros. is smart enough to know that they can’t keep churning out critical duds and expect growth.

#5 Better Woven Saga

Oh, this has to be a joke.

The truth of the matter is

…nothing you’re about to say.

cinematic shared universe world-building is always going to be somewhat clunky, given that a movie is supposed to be a standalone story while shared universes work in episodic chapters

And yet every Marvel movie has been a modest success at the very least. So maybe it’s not that clunky always.

The MCU phased 1 thread connects were superficial and arguably weak: 

This…is a joke a right?

post-credit “Avengers” name drops before anyone knew such scenes existed

…What?

characters like Hawkeye and Black Widow get half introduction while wedged in some one else’s solo film, etc

…What?!

First of all, both Hawkeye and Black Widow had introductions. Not “half” introductions. No one came up to ScarJo, asked her name, and walked away knowing only “Black.” Both characters made sensible appearances to slowly establish themselves before getting better fleshed out when it mattered. How is that weak? How is restraint weak?

The MCU has gotten a lot smarter about weaving its many many threads together (see: Captain America: Civil War), but it had a rough start. 

A rough start? Is that why The Avengers (the culmination of their “rough start”) is the highest-grossing superhero film of all time, complete with some of the highest ratings?

The DCEU, on the other hand, took a standalone film (Man of Steel) and managed to drop enough Easter eggs seamlessly into the mix to create a universe where Batman and Lex Luthor not only already exist offscreen, but are directly impacted by Man of Steel’s events.

What the Rotten Tomatoes Hell is this guy talking about? What easter eggs in Man of Steel are stronger than flat-out introducing characters in MCU films? How was it seamless? How is any of this part of your sentence?

One of the easiest criticisms to lob at the DCEU is their rushed cinematic universe. Instead of a sequel to Man of Steel or a standalone Batman movie, they skipped ahead to a movie with both characters, combining several comic storylines (Dark Knight Returns and Death of Superman) that don’t fit together and shouldn’t even exist at the beginning of a film universe.

Rotten onions are rotten onions. Or are they tomatoes? Now I understand that website.

Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad both grew organically out of both narrative developments in the preceding films, 

Said the most wishful thinker in the history of opinion opinions.

That interactivity and forward-thinking right from the start will inevitably make the DCEU a long-term investment that could come back to pay off in a much more fulfilling way than the MCU.

Forward-thinking? The DCEU has been one of the most reactionary products in modern cinematic history. They’re constantly shifting the tone and talent behind their movies to appease public opinion, hence the debacle that was Suicide Squad‘s final, Jokerless, cut. It’s not a bad thing that they’re at least trying, but to suggest that the DCEU has failed on purpose is an utter joke.

I also take umbrage with the idea that this “investment” will pay off in a more fulfilling way than the MCU. In order for that to be true, I have to rewatch Man of Steel and Batman v Superman one day. But honestly, if the DCEU rights the ship with Justice League and Wonder Woman (fingers crossed), I’m just going to pull a Green Lantern and pretend those first few movies never happened.

Seriously, this entire article is the equivalent of watching an infomercial. “Buy now! Guaranteed results!” It’s one thing to point out reasons for optimism in the DCEU, but it’s another to rewrite history and make your opinion sound factual. While I don’t disagree with Kofi that the DCEU could become a force to be reckoned down the road, he seems to have taken a page from Warner Bros’ handling of BvS, in that he just wants to skip ahead without any of the real work being done.


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Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Snarcasm: The New ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake Is Amazing, I Promise

ben-hur remake

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

Sarcastically reviewing film reviews may sound like a total waste of time, but it has nothing on reading said sarcastic film review reviews. So I think you’ll enjoy this gem of a film review from that news outlet you’ve never heard of that has inexplicable access to Rotten Tomatoes.

That outlet is Baret News Wire, which describes itself on its own page as (and this is lifted directly from their site):

“Baret News  Wire is a Association of talented writers, and Social Media Professionals.  At”

We’re off to a great start.

Writing for BNW, Kam Wiliams recently “reviewed” the latest Ben-Hur remake, AKA the film classic that was already perfected in 1959, 30 years after the exceptional 1925 silent version, which was an adaptation of a book written in 1880. Who said Hollywood is out of ideas these days? They’ve been out of ideas for a while.

Ben-hur remake
Case in point.

Anyway, Kamtastic mysteriously titles his review, “Faithful Remake of Oscar-Winning Classic Revisits Biblical Themes and Breakneck Chariot Race.”

Yes, this noticeably leaves out the actual name of the movie, and as you’ll quickly find, Kamtastic actually gave this movie a perfect score (4/4).

Wow! Well, let’s read this review then, because that’s certainly the most contrarian opinion of this movie out there. You know, since even the most positive reviews by comparison are all closer to “meh” than “10 thumbs up!”

Fresh off his interview with Seth Rogen, aptly named “Rappin’ with Rogen!” (I’m not joking), Kamtastic kicks off his review with nothing in particular:

It takes a lot of chutzpah to remake the Hollywood epic that won the most Academy Awards in history.

It also takes a lot of chutzpah to use the word chutzpah.

But that’s irrelevant. What does Kamtastic think of the movie?

But that’s just what we have in Ben-Hur, a fairly-faithful version of the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston.

Fairly-faithful you say? Well, is that good or bad? Should a film be faithful to a half-century old property or strive for something new? And if so (or not), what does that mean to the viewer?

I hope you’re not expecting any sort of answer to these obvious questions.

The films are based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a novel published in 1880 which quickly surpassed Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the best-selling American novel to date.

Uh…OK. That’s definitely information, alright, but I’m not sure that has anything to do with—

The book’s author, Lew Wallace, was a Civil War General who had led Union soldiers at the battle of Shiloh.

…that’s great, Kamtastic, but maybe—

His inspirational tale of redemption’s success was credited to the fact that its timely  themes of family, freedom and patriotism helped unify a citizenry torn asunder by years of war and then Reconstruction.

That’s really nice, but can you start talking about the movie you came to review, now? Or how/why this is at all relevant? I would understand commenting on the 1959 film to lend context to your review, but going on and on about the book is like filming a movie about sharks inside a poorly-lit library in Kansas.

Its compassionate tone particularly appealed to Southerners, because of its sympathetic treatment of slave owners, encouraging resolution via reconciliation rather than revenge.

What is this, Wikipedia? If I wanted your surface-level book report on barely related (or interesting) facts that have nothing to do with the movie you just saw, I would go back to your Seth Rogen interview.

Next, Kamtastic finally talks about the movie!

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)

Keep it coming!

this incarnation of Ben-Hur stars Jack Huston as the title character,

…uh, he sure is!

although the supposed star is easily overshadowed by the film’s narrator, Morgan Freeman, 

Really? The main character is overshadowed by the narrator?? I know it’s Morgan Freeman, but shouldn’t you be complaining about this?

It doesn’t end there. Kamtastic goes on to list more facts about the movie you probably don’t care much about. He just mentions the casting and some minor backstory for each person of interest.

And this is all fine for a review, but we’re halfway through a review with a perfect store and Kamtastic hasn’t said a single insightful thing about the movie he supposedly loved. I’ll give him credit, though, for successfully translating monotone to the written word.

The plot thickens when the fully-grown Messala, by then a Roman soldier, unfairly fingers the Ben-Hur family for an act of treason perpetrated by

I can’t even finish this sentence. It’s just a paragraph that literally walks you through the crucial plot points of the movie. There’s no commentary. No language to paint these plot points in a way that lets us know how Kamtastic experienced the film. Just spoilers via run-on sentences.

And yeah, I get that most people already know the set up of Ben-Hur, but Kamtastic actually spoils one of the big reveals of the third act, just so he can stall from saying something opinionated or, dare I say, purposeful.

Before the review ends, and yes, it’s already over, Kamtastic wraps it all up with the most ambiguous piece of film criticism I’ve ever read out of a Rotten Tomatoes-aggregated review:

Distracting CGI mob scenes and heavy-handed sermonizing aside, Ben-Hur 2016 is nevertheless a very entertaining variation on the original that’s well-worth the investment.

Yeah. This perfect 4/4 film as graded by Kamtastic has a flaw for each nice thing he has to say about the film. Seriously, here’s what you just read:

Distracting CGI mob scenes? Well, it’s an entertaining variation on the original! Heavy-handed sermonizing? No worries, it’s well-worth the investment. Used car salesmen come off more sincere.

And that’s it! Kamtastic gives Ben-Hur a perfect score because…what do you care?! It’s not like his literal job is to share constructive opinions on the art of film, commenting on what it is about a given movie that makes it worthwhile or meaningful. This guy is seriously giving the Ben-Hur remake a glowing recommendation based on the fact that the narrator steals the show. I bet he lost his lunch when he watched Morgan Freeman play God on Bruce Almighty.

Now, I would never get on someone’s case for liking a movie, no matter how bad it is. But if they’re a person whose “grade” affects something as far-reaching and influential as Rotten Tomatoes, then they seriously need to give themselves a leg to stand on.


Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


Snarcasm: Ezra Miller from ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Is Obviously Voldemort’s Dad

ezra miller fantastic beasts

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

It’s been a while since I revisited this column, so why not kick it off by Snarcasming one of my good friends?

Most of you probably know Adonis Gonzalez, recurring cohost of our Now Conspiring movie podcast since early 2015. He’s also a writer, though, and despite him writing plenty of silly things over the years, this one deserves a Snarcastic response.

Fresh off the news that Ezra Miller will portray a character named Credence Barebone in the upcoming Harry Potter spinoff movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Adonis ignores the obvious question — does Ezra Miller have to be in every Warner Bros. film? — and instead asks a question too obvious to even think up:

Is Credence Barebone Actually An Important Harry Potter Character?

Well wow, Adonis, way to cut Miller down before the movie even comes out. Even if your fan theory ends up being true (because the universe demands that even .00000000001% chance odds are still, by definition, possible), how does that mean he wouldn’t have been “important” otherwise?

So for those of us who think Ezra Miller still gets roles where he’s an important character, this just comes off as a bit hostile. Now, let’s see if Adonis can lend credence to his fan theory about Credence.

Miller’s character, Credence Barebone, is shrouded in mystery.

Untrue. We actually know a lot about Credence already thanks to a comprehensive preview of the character offered by EW and even Slashfilm, which Adonis credits for the story.

Tell me if this is “shrouded in mystery:”

(From EW) Credence is the adopted middle child of Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). We’re told that he “appears withdrawn, extremely shy and far more vulnerable than his two sisters. Credence is defenseless against the abuse that comes in response to the slightest infraction of Mary Lou’s strict rules. But his loneliness also makes him susceptible to the manipulation of Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), who has taken a personal interest in Credence.” Graves is a powerful guy, an auror and the Director of Magical Security in the American wizarding government.

Myyyyysssstteeeerrrryyyyyyy

I mean, sure, we know that he’s an adopted middle child, and we even know his “mother”‘s name, but do we know if he’s secretly another character entirely without any real evidence to back it up? The internet will see to that!

And believe it or not, Adonis actually points out that what he just said isn’t true.

But there’s nothing mysterious about that description, right?

Right!

No, what’s really mysterious is that reports are saying Credence will be a “notable” character in the Harry Potter universe. This seems to hint that we might have seen Credence somewhere before.

First of all, Adonis doesn’t cite a single source for these “reports.” What reports? Who reported this? The word “notable” doesn’t show up in the EW article, which broke the story, or the Slashfilm one, which reported it.

Show us your report certificate, Adonis!

Second of all, a character being “notable” does not mean the character is familiar to us viewers. A notable person within the Harry Potter universe simply has to be famous among the characters. It could also mean (because the word has disparate meanings) that Credence is simply an important character we should pay attention to.

Either way, there’s nothing here to plainly imply that Credence Barebone is somehow a character we’re directly aware of already.

For all we know, Credence could be anybody.

He could be in this VERY room!

Also, don’t forget that he could be…Credence Barebone.

Ezra Miller has been sworn to secrecy about his character, making the true identity and purpose of his character even more intriguing.

Wait, wait, wait. A movie studio doesn’t want an actor sharing too much information about the movie? How could this have happened under our watch?

Credence Barebone Is Tom Riddle!

And so it begins.

Specifically, Adonis is talking about the father of Lord Voldemort, not Voldemort himself. That would be Tom Riddle Sr. He goes on to remind tons of readers who Tom Riddle is, even though the only people who would deeply question this theory are book readers who are starting to get a crick in their neck from shaking their head so frequently.

Anyway, on to why I think that Tom Riddle, Sr. and Credence Barebone are one and the same. First off, it helps that we virtually know nothing about Credence Barebone. 

Yeah, that’s awfully convenient for your theory, isn’t it? “I can’t be wrong if you don’t know anything about what I’m talking about!”

We don’t know where he comes from, or what his purpose is in the film.

Right! We only know that he comes from America and is affiliated with Colin Farrell’s character! What are we supposed to even do with that information?

Fantastic Beasts is set in 1926 and, given the appearance of Barebone and the age of the actor portraying him, it’s safe to assume he’s in his early 20s at the start of the film. Tom Riddle, Sr. was born in 1905, meaning he’d be 21 years old in 1926, so the ages match up pretty accurately.

True, so now we’re just left wondering whether or not Ezra Miller can pull off a British accent.

Once again, Adonis goes on to disprove his own theory with a single sentence.

…age doesn’t explain how or why Tom Riddle, Sr. would be in North America with an entirely different name.

Are…are you reading my mind?

Poor Voldy could never catch a break, even in his younger years. His mother died giving birth to him, and his deadbeat father abandoned him before he was even born. But why did Tom Riddle, Sr. walk out on his family?

Because Merope wrote terrible fan theories?

Well, the only reason he married Merope Gaunt in the first place was because of the love potions she used on him. Tom Riddle, Sr. immediately ran off after seeing that he not only had a wife he didn’t love, but a son he didn’t want on the way.

To be fair, what would you do if a witch tricked you into impregnating her?

Tom retreated to his parents’ house in Little Hangleton, England. But what if that’s not exactly the case?

Then all logic and reasoning have ceased to exist.

In 1943, he and his parents were murdered by Tom Riddle, Jr., his son, in their Little Hangleton home. So we know that he definitely returned to Little Hangleton at some point.

Or…you know…he never left.

But if you think about it, between 1926 and 1943, that’s a whole 17 years of Tom Riddle, Sr.’s life unaccounted for.

Yeah! Let’s fill it with fan fiction!

Who’s to say he went straight to Little Hangleton and stayed there?

No one! Not even his family, legacy, property, money, friends, and power!

Let’s look at why Tom ran away from Merope. It wasn’t just because she tricked him into loving her, he was also disgusted and frightened at the fact that she was a witch.

Which he never told anyone, because he was too much of a muggle to let others think he was insane. According to the book, he told his family Merope “tricked” him. Also, it’s never implied that he was actually scared of her. In fact, he’s probably too aware of her devotion to him to believe that she’d want to cause him any harm.

Remember, Tom Riddle, Sr. was a Muggle, so the practice of witchcraft was likely taboo to him.

Likely…certainly…definitely…without a shred of doubt…obviously…I can’t believe this is even being questioned…

What if Tom traveled to America in an attempt to hide from Merope, afraid that she might one day use her powers to track him down.

Why? It’s never hinted that he feared her. The Gaunts were in Azkaban by the time this was happening, and they’d been tormenting the town for years and no one ever took them seriously. If anything, he’d probably welcome the chance to deal with her outright if she dared return to Little Hangleton. He has no idea that Merope is dangerous, and the pride of his name is likely too important for him to abandon it by leaving his home. This idea just doesn’t fit the character.

Also, if she can use her powers to track him down, like you say, then how does escaping to America fix that?

Going back to the town he met her in would be the easiest way to get caught, but a trip overseas and a quick name change would keep him hidden for a while!

Which would be the biggest tease of all, considering Merope’s untimely death months after this supposedly happened.

And as you probably didn’t want to expect, Adonis yet again asks a question that debunks his own theory, only so he can answer it in a way that doesn’t really fix the problems he’s pointing out himself.

If Credence has an adoptive mother, how could he possibly hail from the same pureblood family as Voldemort himself?

Gee, it’s almost like it isn’t possible.

Simple, Mary Lou isn’t his adoptive mother, she’s his REAL mother.

Oh, now we can just say things and they become true? OK! The sky isn’t made of gases…it’s made of STARBURSTS. See, I wrote it in all caps so you’d know how serious I am about wanting it to be true.

That’s right, Mary Lou Barebone is actually Mary Riddle!

What annoys me (the most) about this is that you don’t even position in an honest way. Mary Lou Barebone could actually be Mary Riddle (you know, if JK Rowling actually approved such a pointless and cheap plot twist). Just saying she is Mary Riddle and putting actually before the conclusion doesn’t make it so.

If you’ve already made up your mind, then this isn’t even a fan theory, really. It’s just a loud accusation.

Maybe he didn’t venture to America to escape Merope’s possible wrath alone. Maybe he was joined by his mother, Mary. Mary, whose son had apparently been enslaved by a witch and forced to love her, probably doesn’t have much love of her own for magic users.

See, the problem is that none of this makes sense. What indication from the text do we get that Mary Riddle isn’t keen on staying in Little Hangleton? What informs your guess that she’d want to follow her son to America and pretend to be his adopted mother? This just creates more questions upon questions, and I seriously doubt a movie that’s not even about Voldemort and his family would have the means to tackle such a left field twist.

Seriously, imagine if this “twist” actually happened in Fantastic Beasts. The movie would have to spend so much time positioning it in a way that makes sense that it would utterly distract from the plot we’re supposed to be involved in. It would have to explain all of these problems and inconsistencies, hoping that you don’t remember enough about Tom Riddle’s backstory to question it.

So what does she do when she and her son reach America? She becomes the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, the organization that hates witches and wizards.

So let me get this straight. Within months (at best) of arriving in America, a female immigrant is going to show up in 1926 America with an adopted son and a bunch of random daughters, then become the leader of a secret society she shouldn’t even know about?

After all, it was a witch who took her son away from her, so now she’s got a bone to pick with the magical community.

In America?? If she was that bloodthirsty toward witches, she’d seek out Merope and the Gaunts herself, not run away to America and invoke witch trials unrelated to her own history. She had wealth and power in England, but she gave it all up to hang out with her 20-something kid who she now has to apparently say is adopted because whatever? Also, he has sisters with him for some reason and is now shy, even though that’s not his character?

She and her son live in the USA for years, until they believe it’s safe to go back home.

“Let’s wage war on witches, then go back home when it’s safe!”

So there you have it, my theory for who Credence Barebone really is! He could just be a normal guy, or he could be poor Muggle Tom Riddle, Sr., desperately trying to escape his unwanted family! What do you think?

I think you need a nap and a coloring book, Adonis.


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Snarcasm: That Martha Moment in ‘Batman v Superman’ Is Smarter Than You Think

martha batman v superman

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read.

I didn’t care for Batman v Superman, but you have to admit that the movie has at least succeeded in getting people to talk about it. And I applaud any fan of the film who is continuing to defend it in a way that’s constructive and meaningful for both sides of the debate.

But at some point, your defense of this movie becomes more akin to speculation, rather than an honest interpretation of what’s presented. What I mean is that it’s easy to fall into a trap where you’re adding an interpretation to your defense that makes the movie seem better, except that it doesn’t flow from what’s been set up in the narrative. This is one of those times.

John Campea is a skilled critic, though I disagree with him often and certainly with this movie. One of his latest videos is titled, “Defending the ‘Martha’ Scene in Batman v Superman,” and it’s his case for why the movie is smarter than people give it credit for.

I obviously disagreeSpoilers for the movie from here on out.

I know the movie’s been out for months and months and months,

It’s only been two months, so don’t sweat it.

As one of the people who like Batman v Supermanthere’s one criticism that movie always gets (you still see it joked about all the time all the time) and I wanted to give a defense of it. And the moment I’m talking about in Batman v Superman is the “Martha” moment. You know what I’m talking about. You see the jokes all over the place online, right? 

Sure, but not just jokes. People genuinely criticize the movie for this moment without poking fun at it. Hopefully, your defense will cover this, and not just the knee-jerk meme reactions that turn the opposing argument into a straw man.

I just think that that scene has been misunderstood a lot. 

In a soft way, he’s basically saying here that there is a correct way to interpret this scene, by saying most of us “misunderstood” it.

Because then he goes on about three times, saying what boils down to, “your way of interpreting this scene might have been different than mine and that’s cool.”

Well, which is it?

…I actually see that scene as a strength in the movie as opposed to a major major flaw in the movie.

If a film falls down in a forest, but no one is around to hear it…wait, no, that’s not how i goes.

My point is that even if you’re right, and we’re all just too blinded by the Spidey-light to see this moment’s greatness, the fact is that this scene, the most pivotal point of the film, was in fact a massive failure for the majority of moviegoers when they first experienced it. That doesn’t make the movie bad on its own, but it is a crucial flaw of the execution that you need to accept.

Batman and Superman finally have their fight. They had a definitive winner. Batman was the winner of the fight. And of course, Batman is about to deliver the killing blow to now a downed, helpless opponent. And Superman raises up his hands and says, “Save Martha.” And of course, Batman has his freak out, like “what did you say that name, why did you say that name.” Here is how I interpreted it the first time I saw the film, OK.

Here we go.

Look, Batman is the detective, right? 

Clearly not a good one, like at all,  in this movie, but go on.

And what we know as an audience up till that point is that Lex Luthor has actually been playing him and been playing both of them. Even when Bruce thought he was playing Lex, as it turns out, Lex was playing him.

He was? Because here’s what really happened with Bruce and Lex in this movie. Bruce steals a bunch of Lex’s information about metahumans and uncovers the secret about kryptonite. Then he steals the kryptonite to build weapons to kill Superman. Lex was never “playing” Bruce or manipulating his actions here. He simply allowed Bruce to carry out his plans, while somehow also knowing he was Batman for some reason that’s never explained, and then manipulates Superman, which let’s admit is not hard to do in any interpretation of the character.

Sure, Luthor says to Superman that he’s been playing them because he’s been fueling the animosity between both characters. But one of my main issues with that scene is that this line makes no sense. Luthor had nothing to do with the opening scene where we see why Bruce hates Superman to the point that he does.

If we’re to believe that the blowing up of the congressional hearing is all it took for Bruce to take action (which isn’t the case because he was already gearing up for the fight), then we have to believe that Bruce is a total idiot for “detecting” Superman’s involvement in any of these situations he’s obviously being framed for.

martha batman v superman

Even when Bruce is justifying his decision to kill Superman, he seems to admit that the guy hasn’t done anything wrong, yet. But the “if there’s a 1% chance” line along with his nightmare where Superman really does kill him has everything to do with his fueled animosity toward the guy, not Luthor himself.

But by all means, continue.

He thought, “Oh, I was so smart. I broke into his house and his party. Got that information. Turns out, that’s what Lex wanted all along.

Really? His plan was to hope that Batman would show up and steal something from him? That’s the extent of his manipulation?

Of course, nothing in the movie actually sets this up or leads us to believe any of this is part of Luthor’s plan, but that’s probably why Campea’s interpretation is so much different from, you know, pretty much everyone else’s.

Anyway, so here you have Bruce Wayne, who is the detective, and he figures all this stuff out on his own, normally, and he has this moment where…remember that one big conversation he had with Alfred, where Bruce has convinced himself, thanks in no small part to the manipulations of Lex Luthor, that Superman is actually a monster.

Yes in small part. In the atoms of that small part. Because at no point does Luthor steer Bruce toward wanting to kill Superman. That’s all been established by the first 20 minutes when his character watches the collateral damage from Man of Steel occur.

He has convinced himself that he is a threat to humanity. When he’s talking to Alfred, you know, it’s not just, “Hey, I know he’s a good man, but you know, if there’s a 1% chance he could destroy the earth, we gotta take that certainty.” No, it’s like, “That son of a b***h brought the war to us!” The movie gave us glimpses…he’s convinced that Superman is a monster and will be a catastrophe for the earth. 

Nothing says Batman like a guy who — instead of figuring out who the enemy is and understanding them — decides to just kill the guy to death because…well you’ll have to watch the Director’s Cut to get more “glimpses” of that.

He’s about to finish him off, and remember up to this point, we haven’t seen Batman kill an unarmed, helpless person.

Right, we’ve only seen him blow up criminals driving cars setting off chain reactions of other cars blowing up more criminals. No big deal.

Superman reaches out his arm and he says, “Save Martha.” And what I saw happen onscreen was, number one, we all know Batman is a little bit disturbed. We know that. We’ve always known that about Batman. But when he reaches out and in his last breath, he doesn’t beg for his life, he doesn’t say some ominous threatening thing that a super villain would say in that scene.

Really? A lot of super villains will say anything to get out of being killed, including, “if you kill me, she’ll die! Ha ha ha!” Not saying Superman was going for that, but the point remains.

He uses his last breath to plead for the life of somebody else.

No, Superman says, “You’re letting them kill Martha.” He doesn’t plead for anyone’s life. He basically throws a guilt trip at the guy in the hopes that he’ll put the spear down. Also, he’s doing this in a very odd way. He’s calling his mother by her first name instead of “Mom” for some writers-team-related reason. And how will Batman know who’s he’s talking about? Superman can’t say, “Martha Kent” because…well,  because then Batman won’t get confused and the plot will be halted. The writing team strikes again.

Eventually, Superman does say, “Find him…Save Martha.” But again, how are these pronouns and first names helpful in any way? Superman doesn’t know Lois Lane isn’t going to pop in and add some much-needed exposition.

They’ve set up in the movie that Bruce has some loose wires when it comes to memories and visions about his own mother.

Yeah, it’s almost as if the purpose of their existence was just to pay off this one moment in the movie, not to cohesively flow with the rest of the narrative.

This being Bruce had convinced himself was a pure monster…he sees him in that moment reach out and asking for the life of somebody else. He’s asking the guy who’s about to kill him, “Please go and save this person.” 

So that’s why your experience was so much different than everyone else’s! Because you apparently watched a screening with drastically different dialogue. I mean, come on, Zach Snyder’s version of Superman asking please?

That creates a disconnect for Batman. It’s a contradiction to what Batman believes about this being laying in front of him.

That’s why after this line, Batman puts the spear down realizing that Superman isn’t a monster.

Wait, what? Oh, that didn’t happen at all, did it. What really happened was, he kept the spear up and started yelling, “Why did you say that name? Martha? Why did you say that name? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?”

What a disconnect, wow!

Lois Lane comes in and she throws himself (herself?) down on top of him. This creates another disconnect for Batman because he sees a famous, intelligent human being who loves this person pleading for his life.

Except, well, Lois doesn’t plead for Superman’s life. She says, “It’s his mother’s name! It’s his mother’s name!”

Which is why, class, everyone paid more attention to the fact that “Martha” was said as a coincidence, rather than this idea that Batman could have a change of heart. Few will disagree that your interpretation is what the movie was trying to do. But the execution was so sloppy and mishandled that audiences were forced into an interpretation that latched closer to what was actually happening onscreen.

Think about it. If these disconnects are so relevant and compelling, why did the movie have to also point out that their moms have the same name? By your logic, he could have just said, save my mom, and Batman would have gone through the same change of heart.

It’s not misunderstood. We know what Snyder and his writers were going for. You are simply misunderstanding the execution, believing its stronger than it really is.

Then it goes to a third stage of disconnect for Batman.

Seriously? According to you, the guy should have an aneurysm at this point.

She explains, “That’s the name of his mother.” Now you gotta understand that these are three points of disconnect for Bruce in this construct he’s had in his head about Superman, this monster that’s gonna be the destruction of the world.

The problem with this is that when you’re watching the movie, you don’t feel any real sympathy for Superman that can be related to what Batman’s going through. All of these arguments for why Batman should sympathize with Superman fly in the face of everything we’ve watched and learned about the character throughout the movie.

He’s violent, aggressive, and acts like he’s above everyone else because he refuses to participate in his own defense. Even when he goes to the court hearing, the script prevents him from ever getting a word out. So when we’re supposed to believe that he’s not a monster for arbitrary reasons like, “Well, he has a mom and some woman loves him,” we’re left wondering why that’s enough for Batman to drop his weapons and suddenly work with this guy.

batman v superman wrong

It’s not satisfying, to the point where we’re also left wondering if the “Martha” connection is meant to be a stronger emotional weight than it should be, which is where the criticism and a lot of the jokes come from. Again, the problem has more to do with the execution than the idea itself, so if you ignore the main flaws of how this plays out in the film, you’re going to like it more and find it weird that everyone else disagrees with you.

Campea goes on to explain that Batman freaking out over all this is somehow him “figuring it out” because he’s such a great detective and compares it to how a supercomputer thinks.

Seriously. Seriously.

“This guy has a mother, too!” won’t quite hold up in court, and it doesn’t negate any of Batman’s hatred for this guy who’s caused the deaths of so many people. Campea even argues that he’s figured out that this is all Lex Luthor, except that also doesn’t make any sense because again, Lex Luthor had nothing to do with the events that cemented Bruce’s hatred for this guy.

When a lot of people saw, (starts doing a jokey impression) “Wait a minute, Superman says his mom’s name is Martha, too, and Batman goes, ‘Oh, well we should be best friends!'” I get why some people saw that. 

Sigh.

What I saw was a complex, intelligent deconstruction of the great detective putting the pieces together when new information was brought into it.

What everyone else saw was, “Wow, this screenwriting is trying to be complex and intelligent but it’s doing a horrible job. Am I really supposed to believe what I’m seeing right now?”

This is exacerbated by Batman calling himself Superman’s friend ten minutes later, adding to the steaming pot of bloated confusion that is this movie.

Don’t get me wrong. Campea is a good guy, and nothing about this video is mean-spirited or meant to make people feel stupid for disagreeing with him. He’s simply offering up his own perspective and why he thinks that makes the movie better.

batman v superman wrong

That said, it’s also clear to me that a little reaching is going on in order to pass the movie off as better than it really is. And it’s veiled as deep film analysis in order to convince people that they missed something when they first saw the movie.

But no, this isn’t another one of those under appreciated films that will one day be celebrated despite the fact that it was somehow ahead of its time. Films like that have always been criticized more for their content and brazen style, not fundamental misunderstandings when it comes to filmmaking and how to tell a unique story.


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