NXT Takeover: War Games

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Hanson launches himself onto O'Reilly and sends him crashing through the hardwood!

Tower of Doom!

Ricochet hits a double rotation moonsault from the top of the cage!

Dream goes for his second Purple Rainmaker, but Ciampa rolls out of the way...

WWE Photo

Photos from WWE.com

NXT Takeover WarGames 2 happened last night and one has to wonder why this show NEVER FAILS.  No mater what NXT performers are on the card, the show just is filled with amazing action, great drama and wrestling.

We see the main roster events and they, more often than not, are nowhere near as entertaining as NXT specials.  Now, there are few NXT events on the WWE Network than WWE PPVs.  That has to be taken into account, but still.  There has not been one Takeover special that has been a disappointment.

WarGames last night was insane with Ricochet, Pete Dunn and the War Raiders defeating the Undisputed ERA after Ricochet and Dunn co-pinned Adam Cole (Bay Bay).  This followed some fantastic storytelling inside the match as well as insane spots that looked amazing.

And an argument could be made that this brilliant WarGames was the third best match on the card.

Johnny Gargano vs. Aleister Black and Tommaso Ciampa vs. Velveteen Dream were perhaps the best back-to-back singles matches in history.  Both matches would be pushing five star classics.  Johnny Gargano has been in more Match of the Year candidates than any other performer in WWE.  By far.

Ciampa is maybe the best heel going today.  The Velveteen Dream is going to be a massive star, and he is only 23 years old.

Then the show kicked off with a quick squash match for the King of the Bros, Matt Riddle.  Plus, an entertaining women’s match with Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane, what more could you want?

I think a major issue with WWE is how these unbelievably entertaining and remarkably talented performers get lost when they arrive on the main roster. They obviously thrive in the world of NXT,but the main roster seems to chew them up and spit them out.  Why is that?  Is it the performers fault?  I have a feeling that is what is being said backstage, but when there are more performers who were amazing at NXT but under-performing on the main roster, shouldn’t creative have their share of the blame?

Andrade “Cien”Almas is the latest example of a man who will be in the Top 10 matches of the year list on NXT but lost in the shuffle at Smackdown.  There really can’t be that big of difference is there?

It has taken Bayley years to recover (if she has) from the disastrous run on the main roster.  She was once one of the hottest acts on NXT.

Thankfully, it looks as if the Authors of Pain have been allowed now to become what they are instead of becoming the next Ascension.

There are too many to be coincidence.  Creative is the problem.  Vince is the problem.

One day, perhaps we could have WWE giving us one success after another.  Maybe.

Until then, we are NXT.

Excelsior

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We knew it had to happen sooner or later.  I mean, he was 95 years old.  And yet, with the news today that Stan Lee, the mighty creator behind so many of the amazing, fantastic, uncanny, incredible, invincible, spectacular characters of the Marvel Universe, had died, I was caught surprised and shocked.

He truly felt like an immortal.

Stan Lee brought me personally so much enjoyment and pleasure through his words, adventures and characters that I have no idea the kind of person I would be had it not been for Stan Lee.  He inspired me.  He enthralled me.  He entertained me.  He was one of a kind.

Image result for stans soapboxI can remember back when I would read the Stan’s Soapbox near the end of each comic that I bought.  I desperately hoped to find something worthy of a No-Prize.  I loved his voice every weekend on Spider-man and his Amazing Friends.  Right up to the present day when part of the fun of a Marvel movie included keeping your eyes peeled for the obligatory Stan Lee cameo.

It is amazing how much a man can mean to you whom you never met.  I would have loved to have met Stan Lee.  His enthusiasm was infectious.  He was easy to laugh and his wry wit was wonderful (he always loved a little alliteration).

While I came to comics after his main run as a writer was over, his presence as Marvel Editor-in-Chief and the Face of Marvel was all-consuming.  It was so complete that even after Stan no longer worked for Marvel, he was still whom I pictured when talking about them.  Stan Lee was larger than anyone else.

Of course he was not alone in creating the Marvel super-heroes that would make such an enduring impact on my life, but I saw it that way.  With all due respect to Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and the other amazing creators who co-created this new age mythology with “The Man,” Stan was such a powerful sun that his light cast a huge shadow on the others.

When Stan’s beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Joan Lee, passed away in 2017, there were fears that Stan may not be long for this plane of existence.  He made it another 16 months before he was gone.  I hope they are having a wonderful reunion.

Image result for stan lee marvelNothing was more inspiring to me than Spider-man.  Stan’s indelible contributions to the creation of and maintenance of Peter Parker is something that I will always be thankful for.  Peter Parker showed me what it meant to be a hero.  How to face your problems with humor despite the nearly constant bad luck that life heaps upon you.  How it is more important to transcend those around you.  How important life is…even for those who hate you and would do anything to hurt you.  I loved it every time Spider-man put his life on the line to save one of the villains because that is what a hero would do.  I learned so much from that character.  Thank you Stan for helping me grow to a man.

I am proud to have inducted Stan Lee into the EYG Hall of Fame way back in 2010 as one of my Wild Cards.  No one has ever deserved the tribute more.

And while it may never truly be ‘Nuff Said, I am going to end my tribute to “The Man” the way he ended so many Stan’s Soapboxes.

Excelsior!

RIP Stan Lee.  Thank you.  You will be missed.

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WTF-WWE Crown Jewel

Seriously?

Okay, the WWE was already receiving its share of criticism for keeping their show in Saudi Arabia after the whole murder of a journalist scandal, but the millions of dollars the Saudis presented the WWE with won out in the end.

Okay, fine.  I was not going to be able to watch the show live, but I planned on watching it when I could.  This feels like a perfect use of the WWE Network.

I tried to avoid Twitter to keep away from spoilers, but I couldn’t do it and, when I saw what I saw, I was shocked.

Image result for wwe crown jewelBrock Lesnar hits Braun Strowman with five F5s and regains the Universal Championship in 4 minutes.  This was a shock because it seemed easy that the WWE was building Braun Strowman back up after an unwise heel turn, to be the man to finally take that championship.  After such a long Lesnar reign where he was rarely seen on the show and couldn’t be bothered to defend the title every PPV, it was extremely unexpected that they would put the title back on him (no matter how awesome Paul Heyman is).

By the way, how amazing is it to hear the Saudi crown chanting along with the Jewish Paul Heyman as he did his shtick?

Fine.  I’m not a big fan of the twist (which feels like they did it for just shock value) but I can see how this could help promote them in the future, especially if Lesnar confronts Daniel Cormier as the Universal Champion.

However, the next spoiler was the one where I had to stop.

Image result for wwe crown jewelI pulled up the WWE webpage to get to my network subscription and I saw the headline… “Shane McMahon replaces Miz in the finals of the Best in the World tournament.

You’ve got to be shitting me.

What reason could they POSSIBLY have for doing this other than giving a big FU to their fan base?  This little tournament already had many wrestling fans complaining that there was not really the best wrestlers in the world involved, but why do we have the hot Miz faking an injury (I hope it was faked.  If this is all a moment of improvisation, my complaints are lessened) and having the part time Shane McMahon winning it all?

Fine, if Shane goes in, then Dolph Ziggler should be the winner.  Nope.  No Dolph.  Then Shane runs around the ring with the cup like an idiot, as if he truly accomplished something.

I could not believe my eyes.

Image result for wwe crown jewelI won’t even bring up the super slow motion main event of D-Generation X vs. the Brothers of Destruction.  Apparently Triple H injured himself badly and will require surgery when he returns to the States.  This is unfortunate news, but it should show him that he needs to stay in the border room and behind the scenes at NXT, where he is truly a superstar.

None of this made any sense and could only serve to antagonize a fan base that was just coming off a high of a wonderful all-women’s PPV Evolution last week.  This show, Crown Jewel, was one of the worst of the year and shows that the WWE really only is concerned with the money.

Oh yeah…Hogan was there too.

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No wonder why John Cena and Daniel Bryan decided to skip the event.

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2018 EYG Hall of Fame Nominees

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The Hall of Fame ballot is up on the site right now.  It is open until Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19th).  Feel free to vote as many times as you would like (just don’t go crazy over it).  You may vote for as many as you would like on the ballot.

How this works:  The four original EYG members nominate some of the people/characters/movies/things etc for the ballot.  They are combined and the EYG nation vote for their favorites.  The top vote getter is automatic and then, from that top vote getter, I determine 75% of the votes for the rest who will be inducted.  For example, if the top vote nominees gets 100 votes, then every nominees receiving 75 votes or above will be inducted.

Here are the possible nominees for 2018:

Deadpool:  This is the Marvel comic book character, not the specific movie.  Deadpool was created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza and he appeared first in New Mutants#98.  The character has starred in two movies.

Marvel’s Black Panther:  This is the Marvel Studios movie that debuted in 2018 and made over a billion dollars worldwide.  The movie became one of three films to cross $700 million domestic.  This was a cultural moment in films.  Starred Chadwick Boseman.

vibranium:  The fictional metal from the Marvel Comics that has given the people of Wakanda its greatest inventions and weapons.

Luke Cage (Netflix series):  One of the series on Netflix that features a Marvel Comics character. Series has had two seasons so far and stars Mike Colter as Luke Cage.

Attack on Titan (Series):  Japanese manga series written and drawn by Hajime Isayama.  Attack on Titan is one of the best selling manga series of all time.

smartphones:  All kinds of amazing phone technology that is basically a handheld personal computer.

Elon Musk:  founder, CEO and lead designer of SpaceX, co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla, Inc and co-founder and CEO of Neuralink.

microwave ovens:  Need your food cooked quickly?  A piece of technology that redefined our lives is the microwave oven.

drones:  unmanned aerial vehicles.  Drones are an aircraft without a human pilot onboard.  They have been used for everything from play to war.

Robin, the Boy Wonder:  Dick Graysen, the most famous sidekick of all time.  Robin is the partner of Batman and would evolve eventually into Nightwing.

Pennywise, the Dancing Clown:  The killer clown created by Stephen King for his book It.  Pennywise has been adapted for film twice, once by Tim Curry and once by Bill Skarsgård.

Coca-Cola:  One f the big two soda pops in the world, Coca-Cola has been a staple in movie theaters and gamers’ basements since day one.

Game of Thrones (TV series).  an HBO series featuring the adaptation of a book series by George R.R. Martin.  It has currently run seven seasons with an eight and final season to come.

Spongebob Squarepants (TV series): This is a children’s television program from Nickelodeon that stars a yellow sponge named Spongebob and his array of friends.

lasers:  another technology piece, lasers, which stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, have been used in a number of different ways.

pizza:  one of the favorite foods of the geek community.  What is a gaming session without a pizza ordered?

Black Panther (character): The first black super hero character published by Marvel Comics in the 60s.  King T’Challa is the ruler of the fictional land of Wakanda.

the planet Mars:  This is the first planet ever nominated for induction into the EYG Hall of Fame.  It is the basis for countless science fiction stories and films.  Plus, it is the next major hurdle for the space program.

HDTV:  High Definition Television is a technological advance that has improved the quality of image resolution over the typical television.

digital cameras:  another technological advancement that has seen the change of how we take pictures.  No more film as the picture exists in digital format.

Dr. Seuss:  Child author Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Geisel, has written some of the great classics including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and Horton Hears a Who!

Halloween (movie):  the original 1978 movie from John Carpenter featured the frightening villain Michael Myers who stalked Jamie Lee Curtis.  Several films followed in the series.

Thanos:  The Mad Titan.  A Marvel Comics villain created by Jim Starlin.  Thanos is the villain of the Infinity Gauntlet, a maxi-series from Marvel and the Marvel Studios film Avengers: Infinity War.

Die Hard (movie):  one of the greatest action films of all time as Bruce Willis played John McClane, a normal NYC cop caught up in a huge theft in a LA skyscraper.

Santa Claus:  Jolly Old St. Nicholas.  The Christmas staple who makes his way around the planet on Christmas Eve delivering toys to all the good girls and boys.  He knows when you are bad or good.

 

So there they are.  2018 nominees for the EYG Hall of Fame.  The ballot is open until Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Please vote!

2018 Eisner Award Winners

 

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Best Short Story
”A Life in Comics: The Graphic Adventures of Karen Green,” by Nick Sousanis, in Columbia Magazine(Summer 2017)

Best Single Issue/One-Shot
Hellboy: Krampusnacht, by Mike Mignola and Adam Hughes (Dark Horse)

Best Continuing Series
Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image)

Image result for black panther world of wakandaBest Limited Series
Black Panther: World of Wakanda, by Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Alitha E. Martinez (Marvel)

Best New Series
Black Bolt, by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward (Marvel)

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
Good Night, Planet, by Liniers (Toon Books)

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9–12)
The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O’Neill (Oni)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image)

Best Humor Publication
Baking with Kafka, by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Anthology
Elements: Fire, A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color, edited by Taneka Stotts (Beyond Press)

Best Reality-Based Work
Spinning, by Tillie Walden (First Second)

Image result for my favorite thing is monstersBest Graphic Album—New
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

Best Graphic Album—Reprint
Boundless, by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Adaptation from Another Medium
Kindred, by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings (Abrams ComicArts)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for the Freedom, by Marcelo D’Salete, translated by Andrea Rosenberg (Fantagraphics)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
My Brother’s Husband, vol. 1, by Gengoroh Tagame, translated by Anne Ishii (Pantheon)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
Celebrating Snoopy, by Charles M. Schulz, edited by Alexis E. Fajardo and Dorothy O’Brien (Andrews McMeel)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books
Akira 35th Anniversary Edition, by Katsuhiro Otomo, edited by Haruko Hashimoto, Ajani Oloye, and Lauren Scanlan (Kodansha)

Best Writer
Tom King, Batman, Batman Annual No. 2, Batman/Elmer Fudd Special No. 1, Mister Miracle (DC)
Marjorie Liu, Monstress (Image)

Best Writer/Artist
Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
Mitch Gerads, Mister Miracle (DC)

Related imageBest Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)
Sana Takeda, Monstress (Image)

Best Cover Artist
Sana Takeda, Monstress (Image)

Best Coloring
Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics)

Best Lettering
Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo, Groo: Slay of the Gods (Dark Horse)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
The Comics Journal, edited by Dan Nadel, Timothy Hodler, and Tucker Stone, tcj.com (Fantagraphics)

Best Comics-Related Book
How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels, by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden (Fantagraphics)

Best Academic/Scholarly Work
Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics, by Frederick Luis Aldama (University of Arizona Press)

Best Publication Design
Akira 35th Anniversary Edition, designed by Phil Balsman, Akira Saito (Veia), NORMA Editorial, and MASH•ROOM (Kodansha)

Best Digital Comic
Harvey Kurtzman’s Marley’s Ghost, by Harvey Kurtzman, Josh O’Neill, Shannon Wheeler, and Gideon Kendall (comiXology Originals/Kitchen, Lind & Associates)

Best Webcomic
The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O’Neill, teadragonsociety.com (Oni Press)

The Bill Finger Excellence in Comics Writing Award
Joye Murchison Kelly, Dorothy Woolfolk

The Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award
Frederick Joseph, Comics4Kids

The Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award
Norma Comics, Barcelona, Spain

The Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award
Hamish Steele, Pantheon (Nobrow)
Pablo Tunica, TMNT Universe (IDW)

Hall of Fame Carol Kalish, Jackie Ormes, Charles Addams, Karen Berger, Dave Gibbons, Rumiko Takahashi

SPOILERS: Andrew Ghai is Awesome- Live Schmoedown

This post contains spoilers for the live Movie Trivia Schmoedown so if you have not yet seen it, you may want to skip this post.

 

Okay, the most recent Movie Trivia Schmoedown is in the record books and it was a most epic night.  We had an exciting and somewhat shocking Star Wars number one contender match and a great team match up between the Shirewolves and Team Action.  There was a controversial call at the end of the team match that had people talking.

 

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However, the end of the show was what really set the Schmoedown world a buzzing.  The reveal of the 4 Horsemen… or should i say… 5 Horsemen.

When the lights went out, and the four men showed up on stage in robes, slowly unveiling themselves to the sold out crowd, the energy in the room was out of sight.

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Matt Knost, John “The Outlaw” Rocha, Innergeekdom Champion Jason Inman and returning from retirement Mark Reilly should have been enough.  The crowd was already out of their minds.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  Each man, following the lead of Rocha, changed their four on their fingers to five.  And we got a fifth Horseman.

5horsemen

“Dangerous” Dan Murrell, the G.O.A.T, joined the Horsemen.  Murrell was back and the crowd lost their collective minds.

Now, I love Dan Murrell.  He is my favorite Movie Trivia Schmoedown competitor of all time.  But this article is not about him.  His return was so dramatic and epic partially because of a single individual.  And his name is Andrew Ghai, from Team Action.

Andrew Ghai has been trolling Murrell since the Free 4-All.  Murrell’s music played, making everyone expect that Dan was making his return.  Instead, Ghai came through the curtain in a classic pro wrestling move.  The old bait and switch.  Ghai then claimed to have killed Murrell, and he continued to make that claim for the next several weeks in several backstage vignettes.

It was a storyline that we believed might not ever be paid off since Dan was retired.  Still, Andrew kept it up and this lead to several great moments for the Team Action member.  It allowed Ghai, who previously was best known for the “Tackle” against John Rocha, to get a chance to show off his ability on the mike.  He showed that he was a tremendous promo guy, knowing how to deliver a message through words.  And it was more than just the “Where’s the Belt” catchphrase that Team Action uses.

tapromo.pngThen, after his Team Action was defeated by the Shirewolves in controversial fashion, Ghai showed his ability even more.  He shined in the interview with Jenn Sterger.  The gimmick of always using the wrong names of people involved is a tried and true heel move, used by everyone from Y2J Chris Jericho to Kevin Owens in the WWE.  This is also the first time where Andrew Ghai overshadowed his teammate, Ben Bateman, int he promo department.  Taking nothing away from Bateman, but Ghai was on fire.

GhaipromoYet, Team Action and, specifically Andrew Ghai, was not done yet.    He started this off by cutting a tremendous heel promo on the stage, stomping around with a cane, pounding it into the stage.  The inflection in his voice told the story too.  He was angry, and he was going to gather some heat on himself.  He called the audience “nerds,” said the audience should thank Team Action for giving them something to do on a Saturday night,

Heat is a wrestling term for getting the audience to hate you.  Ghai was out there for a specific purpose.  He was building heat on himself and Team Action because of what was to follow.  Team Action is the cool heels and they have a pretty strong following among the fans of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown.  He wanted to make sure that everyone knew the lines that were about to be drawn and which side he was on.

notdanmurrell.pngHe called out Dan Murrell. It was at this point that he pulled yet another classic heel wrestling move, one pulled by Shawn Michaels in Canada among many others.  He called out Dan Murrell, only to have a fake Dan Murrell show up (Ben Bateman in flannel shirt and Dan Murrell cap), giving Ghai a chance to make fun of the former 2-time champion.  He asked him questions, to which Bateman responded with incorrect answers.  He improvised a line which took a shot at one of the questions asked to the Shirewolves during their match that he thought was way too easy.

He continued to berate the pretend Dan Murrell until the music of the Horsemen started playing and we got that epic reveal.  After the real Dan Murrell was shown as a member of the 5 Horsemen, he approached Andrew Ghai to challenge him for a match, one-on-one, at the Collision.

Watch Andrew Ghai during this time.  He has amazing facial expressions going on.  Reportedly, Ghai was not a big fan of wrestling, but, despite that, he seems to be a natural at it.  He showed fear, frustration, anger, confusion, insulted, hurt, shock all on his face as Dan Murrell was challenging him.  Many heels who have worked for years have trouble emoting the way Andrew Ghai did at this show.  Sure, some of the emotion is real having had the controversial finish to the show and any time you can talk from the heart, your promos are better, but this part with Murrell was obviously set up prior to the show.  All of the performers knew what was going to happen, and Andrew Ghai played his part perfectly.

Most people will always remember this live event because of the return of Dan Murrell and Mark Reilly from retirement and the massive reveal of the 5 Horsemen.  The reveal was spectacular, with an amazing crowd reaction.  But do not forget that a great heel helps create these moments and Andrew Ghai showed how valuable he is in this role.  Thank you Andrew for your work here.

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Let’s Talk About the Internet

I was watching Movie Fights Live early this morning (not “live” unfortunately) and I heard them talk about another video that they had on Screen Junkies Universe from that day featuring Roth Cornet, Dan Murrell, Danielle Radford, and Roxy Striar. It was a video detailing a discussion involving the situation surrounding Star Wars and Kelly Marie Tran.

Related imageAccording to Variety, Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, deleted her Instagram account on Monday night because of the constant harassment and criticism of her role in the Rian Johnson directed Star Wars film.  It would be one thing if they were simply talking about disliking the character and her place in the Star Wars film, but the Internet did not stop there. They went after her looks, her appearance, her ethnicity.  As Cornet reported, Alt-Right YouTuber Paul Ray Ramsey attacked Tran about her weight and her looks, sparking some really sick and cruel comments from the followers.

Looking back at my own review of The Last Jedi, I wrote this about Kelly Marie Tran: ” She was fresh and engaging and I liked seeing her.”  I was not thrilled with what they did with the character, whom they put into the worst part of that movie, but to go out of your way to specifically target someone because of how they look is just shameful.

Why do people feel the need to target someone playing a role when they do not like what is being done.  There is no excuse for there being racism, sexism, any  bigotry in the online community.  I do not understand why that is acceptable.

Star Wars fandom has been the latest with this trouble, but they are far from the first.  The Marvel vs. DC fanboys have fought back and forth for years.  Star Wars vs. Star Trek.  The geek community has always been known to choose sides and passionately argue their sides of those arguments.  Heck, the idea of the Geek fights is where my characters of Westley and Nigel Grimm from The Brothers Geek came from.  I wanted them to be the personification of that Geek Argument on each side of the subject.  And I loved writing those two.

But Wesley and Nigel are good people.  They do not attacks on other people just because they don’t like what they look like, act like or their skin color.

Our nation has moved more to the side of racial hatred recently.  I do not want to get into politics here, but the world seems to be less empathic lately.  I know there has always been racism, but there is a general feel that we are slipping back on it. The Internet is a way for this hatred to fester.

The goal here at EYG has always been for the site to be a safe place for Geeks to share their opinions on whatever area that they love.  A few weeks ago, I had posted my Top 10 Star Wars Movies list and I had someone post a disagreement to what I had listed.  He was perfectly reasonable and listed what he believed in.  I responded with a thank you for posting and stating that lists can be subjective and, paraphrasing, said that no opinions are wrong.  The poster was pleased with the response and said so.

There is no reason why anyone should consider different opinions as a problem.  The world would be a dull place if we all had the same likes and dislikes.  The great thing about Westley and Nigel was that they could argue about what they thought and still love each other as brothers.

You can do that too, Internet.

 

Avengers: Infinity War Spoiler Discussion

Hey.  I wasn’t going to do this, but then I saw something on Twitter that changed my mind.  I want to go into some details on the major scenes and events from Avengers: Infinity War, without worrying about spoilers.  So be aware that there will be spoilers in this blog.

So, I was on Twitter and I saw a review of Avengers: Infinity War posted from the New Yorker. The article was written by Richard Brody, and the whole thing felt like he either did not understand the film or that he fell into the category of those pretentious critics or movie folks who look down upon comic book movies.

Image result for james cameron avengersYou know, like James Cameron, who wished that the movie going public would get “Avengers Fatigue” and stop going to these types of film.  What an arrogant asshole comment that was.  To wish someone else’s franchise failure because… what reasons could there be except for his own pitiful selfishness on how Black Panther has surpassed his own films domestically.

But this is not about Cameron (who should stay focused on his 4 sequels to Avatar…hypocrite), but about the New Yorker.  The quote from the article that specifically attracted me to the review was this one:

In “Avengers: Infinity War,” characters aren’t introduced; they just show up, and their behavior is entirely defined by the template set for them in other movies

Um… yeah, duh.  That is the whole purpose.  Mr. Brody looks down his nose at this style, which is exactly what Marvel Studios has been striving to do for ten years.  We know these characters because we have seen them in their own films over the last ten years.  He treats this as a negative.

Image result for frodo baggins mt doomOf course, in his attack, he completely ignores things like trilogies.  Do we have to re-introduce Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi as Luke’s father?  Doesn’t Luke’s quest to redeem Vader stem from behavior “defined by the template set for them in other movies.”  What about Frodo Baggins’s effort to get the ring of power to Mount Doom?  Isn’t that set up in a previous film?  How are we supposed to understand it?  Are we expected to watch these previous films?

Brody took this area and used it to air his own opinions on comic book movies.  and how he dislikes the genre.  He even takes a silly stance and says that the film…

“feels, inescapably, like an allusively emotional transcription of the current American political landscape. (Even the title suggests a comment on the current state of American foreign policy.)”

which is, of course, ridiculous, considering the film is based on a classic comic series that Image result for infinity gauntlet serieswas written in 1991, decades before the current political landscape.  With his lack of understanding, I can believe that these types of films do not appeal to him.  I went quickly through his movie reviews at Rotten Tomatoes and, while I may have missed some, the only super hero movies that I could find was a rotten review of Spider-man: Homecoming and a fresh review of Wonder Woman.  That was it.  Again, this does not feel like the kind of guy the New Yorker should be turning to for their Infinity War review.

Of course, everyone has their right to an opinion and, because all film is subjective, opinions can vary drastically among individuals and that is okay.  However, when it feels that someone enters the review with a preconceived notion, that is not fair to the film or the New Yorker’s readers whom may be swayed by it.

Image result for avengers infinity warWhat Richard Brody fails to understand, despite mentioning it in the beginning of the article, is that the MCU is like a long form television/serialized story and this film is the season finale.  We already know these characters.  That is why they can pop up and act in ways that they have already established.

Honestly, Infinity War feels like a “event” comic.  A series where a group of heroes show up to stop the villain over a course of several issues.  Some of the heroes are more to the front while others are there but are on the back burner.  That is exactly how this film is supposed to be like.  Those complaining about some of the characters not getting as much of an arch as others, that is absolutely on purpose.  Captain America, Black Panther (as well as most of Wakanda), Drax, Groot, Falcon, War Machine, Bucky, Black Widow are all there and get a moment to shine, but are not the focused characters.  The characters with story arcs here are Thanos, Gamora, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Star Lord, Thor, Bruce Banner and Spider-man.  In next year’s Avengers 4, that may be different.

I have seen Avengers: Infinity War three times now and I have enjoyed it more each time that I saw it. The first night, I had so many expectations and thoughts in my head, I almost could not process what I saw.  The second time I was able to focus in on the story and enjoy what I was watching.  I was much more emotional the second and third time than I was the first time, where I was basically just shocked (I actually described myself as ‘scarred’ in my review).

Image result for spiderman and tony stark infinity warOne of the things that hit me more the second time was the death of Spider-man.  First time I saw it, I was not as emotional because I was thinking more about the fact that I knew this (and the Black Panther death) would not stick.  Clearly, a sequel to Homecoming and Black Panther are coming so these characters are not going to remain dead.  That was a thought in my head on the first viewing so it colored the ending of the film.  The second time, I was able to put that out of my head and just watch it as a story and I found myself heart broken by the powerful performance of Tom Holland as he begged Tony Stark that “I don’t want to go.”  Spider-man is a 15/16 year old kid who hasn’t lived his life.  His response is perfectly reasonable and crushes you, if you allow yourself to not be thinking that it is only temporary.

Image result for peter quill ego fightAnother complaint I have seen is the reaction of Peter Quill to discovering that Thanos had to kill Gamora and how that caused the plan on Titan to fail.  Spider-man, Iron Man, Mantis, Drax, Dr. Strange had nearly removed the gauntlet from Thanos’s hand and it was Quill’s freak out that broke Mantis’s grasp on the Mad Titan and allowed him to snap back to reality.  Why would Quill react that way?  Because that is who Peter Quill is.  In Guardians Vol. 2, he reacted the same way when Ego told him that he had given his mother cancer.  He immediately attacked Ego despite the group not wanting him to.  Star Lord is a hothead and does not always think things through.  Here, it cost them huge.

I did not understand at first why Dr. Strange gave Thanos the Time stone in exchange for Tony Stark’s life.  It sure looked like this was Stark’s end as he had been stabbed by Thanos and was being prepped to be finished off.  Then, Strange interjected, saving Stark’s life after, earlier in the film, specifically telling him that he would protect the Time stone first and, if it came down to saving Stark or the kid or protecting the stone, he would choose the stone.  This contradiction confused me for a bit, but now it seemed clear that when Strange looked at the possible futures and saw only one in which they win, it had something to do with Stark, and Strange had to save him because of it.  Or, I guess, the future depended on Thanos getting all six stones which meant that Strange had to let him get it.  Even though Strange was one of the heroes who were reduced to dust, this will clearly be an important threadline through next year’s Avengers 4.

Image result for loki infinity warThere have been questions about the Asgardians.  People wonder where Valkyrie was at the beginning of the film.  I believe that she is on a ship with half of the Asgardians that Thanos allowed to live.  Thor does say later in the film that Thanos killed half his people.  It makes sense that she (and maybe Korg) got some away while Thor and Loki stayed behind.  As for Loki, ah Tom Hiddleston, we love you.  It was a sad moment when the Trickster God played his final trick, but it absolutely set the tone for who Thanos was and just what kind of a threat he would be.  Tom Hiddleston is a treasure and I want to thank him for the years of his brilliance as Loki.  Once more…”SAY MY NAME”- LOKI!!!!

Related imageI also should say goodbye to Heimdall (Idris Elba) who died in those first five minutes.  Gamora dies in a tremendously emotional scene (although I kind of think that maybe she has a way back- could her soul be inside the Soul Stone?).  And Vision dies…TWICE!  Both Cap and Iron Man, heavily speculated that one or both would die here, survived.  It looks like the original cast of Avengers all made it through for one final run before some die or head off to the retirement home.

I loved how the Hulk suddenly is too scared to come out of Banner, no matter how much Banner tries to get him out.  Hulk had been beaten badly by Thanos at the beginning of the movie and that was something that had never happened before.  In Thor: Ragnarok, Hulk was acting more like a little kid and this fits exactly with this.  How will Hulk learn that “the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets?”  I don’t know, but I enjoyed the performance from Mark Ruffalo here and look forward to the continuing saga of the Hulk, a storyline that continues throughout the different films he appears in (since they can not do a stand alone Hulk film).

The whole arc with Peter Dinklage as Eitri, the dwarf leader of Nidavellir was my least favorite part, but I did like it more the second time I saw it.  I liked the idea of casting Dinklage as the giant dwarf, but I thought his CGI was the worst of the bunch.  Some thought he was just too much like his Game of Thrones character, but since I do not watch Game of Thrones, that did not bother me at all.  And the scenes did include the greatness that is the Thor-Rocket combo.  The Thor and “Rabbit” pairing is absolute GOLD!  I also thought it was great that teenage Groot spent almost the entire movie on that damn video game.  How perfect.

I would like to see Drax get to be Drax “THE DESTROYER” again, but Dave Bautista has brought such a perfect comedic timing to the character that he is one of the funniest characters in the film and he has one-liners galore.

Related imageThe appearance of the Red Skull was brilliant and very welcome.  In the opening night showing, my crowd applauded his appearance.  Sure, he may not be returning to the MCU in a regular capacity any time soon, but just the knowledge that he is there is awesome.  I also appreciated the unexpected cameo from the Collector (Benecio del Toro) here.  I hope he was able to escape from Knowhere with his life, but I am afraid that the film hinted that he was killed by Thanos off-screen.  I still want the Collector/Grandmaster road film through space.  Del Toro and Jeff Goldblum would be amazing.

I have rambled on here quite a bit and I could probably go one for a lot more, but I think you get the point.  I loved Avengers: Infinity War and I have loved it even more each time I saw it.  It is a difficult movie, one with a lot of emotional baggage, but it does a brilliant job moving the story toward next year’s Avengers 4.  Plus, the tag at the end for Captain Marvel tells you that you cannot miss that film next March.

I for one cannot wait until the season premiere….

Image result for infinity war

Oscar Predictions

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I have decided that I was going to give my predictions for Sunday night’s Oscar broadcast.  I am going to give my prediction of what I think is winning, and I am adding the one that I would give the Oscar to, if I had a choice.

 

Best Picture:

“Call Me by Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”
“Dunkirk”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Prediction:  The Shape of Water

Image result for get outMy EYG Oscar:  Get Out.

I almost gave “My EYG Oscar” to The Shape of Water because I did love that too, but Get Out is a really great film with a real cultural significance.  Jordan Peele does such a remarkable job here in his first directorial film and that is amazing.

 

Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Image result for gary oldmanPrediction:  Gary Oldman

My EYG Oscar:  Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman is amazing as Winston Churchill and, while I do not think the film itself is Oscar deserving, Oldman certainly is.  My runner up is Timothee Chalamet.

Lead Actress:

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Image result for frances mcdormandPrediction:  Frances McDormand

My EYG Oscar: Margot Robbie

McDormand seems to be everybody’s first choice, but Margot Robbie gets my award since she is so fantastic in I, Tonya and Three Billboards has slipped down with my opinion since seeing it.

Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Related imagePrediction: Sam Rockwell

My EYG Oscar: PATRICK STEWART!!!

Sir Patrick Stewart should be on this list for his portrayal of Charles Xavier as Logan and I am not hearing any arguments about it.  He is an easy replacement for Christopher Plummer who only got this nomination for speed of performance.  Patrick Stewart provided such humanity to this beloved character and we saw the pain of what he had done.  His death scene breaks me up every time.  The fact that he is not nominated is a travesty and he will receive my EYG Oscar right now.

 

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Image result for allison janney i tonyaPrediction:  Allison Janney

My EYG Oscar:  Laurie Metcalf

Laurie Metcalf is tremendous in Lady Bird.  She was the best thing in that film, in my opinion.  Nothing works in Lady Bird without her, whereas more works in I, Tonya even though I think Allison Janney is awesome.  I considered Mary J. Blige as well since I was really impressed with her in Mudbound, but Laurie Metcalf heads back to Roseanne with her EYG Oscar in hand.

 

Director:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

Image result for del toroPrediction: Guillermo del Toro

My EYG Oscar: Guillermo del Toro

I loved Shape of Water and del Toro does a magnificent job creating that film that should have been a joke.  He took chances (like with the dance number) and they all paid off.  I thought about Jordan Peele, but I think the direction of del Toro is a step beyond what Peele does.  And, by all accounts, Guillermo is a great guy and he deserves this.  Peele will be back again.

Related imageAnd as an off shoot, can we get Greta Gerwig to sign on for a Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel movie for Marvel Studios.  How perfect would that be?  Get G. Willow Wilson to write it and you have another major Marvel tent pole.

 

Animated Feature:

“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
“Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson
“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha
“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

Image result for cocoPrediction:  Coco

My EYG Oscar: Coco

Easy one.  It sure ain’t Boss Baby.  Coco was Pixar back at the height of their powers.  I liked Ferdinand, but the fact that it was nominated tells you how weak the animated crop of films were this year.  Coco was one of the best films, animated or not, of the year.

 

Animated Short:

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
“Garden Party,” Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
“Lou,” Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Prediction:  Lou

My EYG Oscar: Lou

Wrote about this one earlier today.

 

Adapted Screenplay:

“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Related imagePrediction: Call Me By My Name

My EYG Oscar: Logan

Call Me By Your Name was fine, and I know there is a huge push for it, but Logan is the best movie of last year, in my opinion and, even though I know it won’t win this, I wish it would.

 

Original Screenplay:

“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

Image result for the big sickPrediction:  Get Out

My EYG Oscar: The Big Sick

This is a strong category.  I think they give it to Get Out here because they do not give the film the best movie award, but I give it to Big Sick which is a criminally undervalued film that was funny and poignant.

 

Cinematography:

“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

Image result for blade runner 2049 cinematographyPrediction: Roger Deakins

My EYG Oscar: Roger Deakins

It is time for Roger Deakins to win this award and Blade Runner 2049, which I may not have loved (liked it), but there is no denying the cinematography is gorgeous.

 

Best Documentary Feature:

Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Edith+Eddie,” Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Frank Stiefel
“Heroin(e),” Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon
“Knife Skills,” Thomas Lennon
“Traffic Stop,” Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Just guessing here…

Prediction:  Heroin(e)

My EYG Oscar:  Didn’t see any of them…

 

Best Live Action Short Film:

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk
“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr.
“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

Prediction:  Watu Wote

My EYG Oscar:  DeKalb Elementary

Talked about this one earlier too…

 

Best Foreign Language Film:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)

Prediction: Loveless.

No idea… maybe Russians hack into the vote and win this one too.

 

Film Editing:

“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith
“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel
“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory

Prediction: Dunkirk

My EYG Oscar:  Dunkirk

Did not like Dunkirk but can not argue against was a marvelously put together film it was.

 

Sound Editing:

“Baby Driver,” Julian Slater
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green
“Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King
“The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

Prediction: Dunkirk

My EYG Oscar: Dunkirk

See above.

Sound Mixing:

“Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
“Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
“The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

Prediction: Dunkirk

My EYG Oscar:  Dunkirk

Yep

Production Design:

“Beauty and the Beast,” Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
“Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
“Darkest Hour,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“Dunkirk,” Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
“The Shape of Water,” Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

Prediction: Blade Runner 2049

My EYG Oscar: Blade Runner 2049

 

Original Score:

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

Prediction:  Phantom Thread

My EYG Oscar: The Shape of Water.

Though I hate Phantom Thread, the score was wonderful, but I am giving it to The Shape of Water because how important the music was in that film.

 

Original Song:

“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Image result for remember me cocoPrediction: “This is Me,” Greatest Showman

My EYG Oscar: “Remember Me,” Coco

I will not be happy here, because I do not like The Greatest Showman much and Remember Me is transcendent in Coco.  I just think the Academy will be giving it to that overrated music.

 

Makeup and Hair:

“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

Image result for guardians of the galaxy makeupPrediction:  Darkest Hour

My EYG Oscar:  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. 

How about honoring a Marvel Studio film once?  Suicide Squad won an Oscar for God’s sake.  It is time to give one to Marvel Studios and this would even be a deserving one.  Nebula.  Drax.  Gamora.  Yondu.

 

Costume Design:

“Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran
“Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran
“Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges
“The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira
“Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle

Prediction:  The Shape of Water

My EYG Oscar:  The Shape of Water

 

Visual Effects:

Oscar Shorts

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I just came back from getting a chance to see the Oscar nominated shorts in Live Action and Animated categories and I had a really good time with them.  I spent 3 and a half ours in my local Cinemark watching them, but I did not regret it.

 

The nominated films were… in animation…

Animated Short:

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
“Garden Party,” Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
“Lou,” Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

and in Live-Action…

Best Live Action Short Film:

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk
“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr.
“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

Let’s talk about them.

First, in animation, there were some really well done shorts that I really enjoyed.

“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant

This one was beautiful.  I loved the animated style of the basketball action and the poem, written by Kobe Bryant, was inspirational.  I am not even someone who liked Kobe Bryant (even a little bit), but I came to respect the effort he gave.  Grade :Solid A
“Garden Party,” Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon

This one was weird.  There are a bunch of frogs arriving at a house with a big backyard pool, where, as the short continues, becomes clear that something bad has happened here.  The ending of the short showed how dark this was.  I dug it.  Grade: B+
“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata

This one had some touching aspects to it as an adult son reflected back upon his relationship with his father and how he could only ever really connect with him when they were packing a bag for a trip.  A touching moment at the end that brought the whole short together.  Grade:  B
“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

This was really good, but it has the advantage of adapting a work of Roald Dahl, who I really enjoy.  This was easily the longest of the shorts and tells a different story of Snow White, Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.  This one becomes pretty dark as well.  Great stuff here.  Grade: A

“Lou,” Dave Mullins, Dana Murray

Image result for lou pixarThis is the Pixar short that was at the beginning of Cars 3 and was easily the peak of that movie going experience.  This is so clever and entertaining, dealing with a bully on the playground and a creature from the Lost and Found.  The design of Lou the character is brilliant and the story is sweet and real.  Grade: A+

Among the animation, I believe that Pixar will win again.  I really did love the Roald Dahl short, but I do not expect it to win.  The only one that has a chance to defeat Pixar would Be Kobe Bryant’s love letter to the game of basketball.  I still say your winner is Lou.

 

LIVE-ACTION. 

The five films in live-action shorts were heavily based on true events.  I really enjoyed three of the these and the other two were fine, but not as engaging for me.

“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

This was my least favorite of the five live-action nominees.  It told the story of a 2015 bus attack in Kenya by a militant group.  The Muslims and Christians on the bus were able to overcome the situation through the power of their faith.  It would not surprise me if this one wins, but I found it to be the least engaging of the bunch.  Grade:  B-
“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, Josh Lawson

This one was funny, but desperately predictable.  A psychiatrist arrives at his office to find a temp receptionist who did not know the procedures.  Then, his 11 o’clock shows up and he believes that he is actually the psychiatrist and not the patient.  Hilarity ensues.  It was well written and funny,but I knew what was going to happen almost immediately.  Grade B+
“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr.

This was a powerful short dealing with a murder of a young black man in Mississippi in 1955.  The film is shown through the eyes of his uncle and it continues to show the brutality and the downright cruelty imposed upon the African-American population even a hundred years after slavery ended.  Very powerful and heartbreaking. Grade: A-
“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton

A young British girl who is deaf struggles to learn until a wonderful aid comes to her rescue.  Unfortunately, the young girl’s mother does not want to accept the ideas or techniques of the aid.  Good performances here but I did not like the ending of this one.  Grade: B

Image result for dekalb Elementary short“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk

This was my personal favorite of the five and it was the first one they showed.  Based on a real 9-1-1 call, DaKalb Elementary tells the story of a gunman who comes into a school with the intentions of killing only to start questioning himself.  The man meets a lady in the office who treats him with compassion and humanity.  This film was really tense and I kept waiting for it to so sideways.  I was filled with anxiety throughout it.  Perhaps the current world of school shooting played on those fears, but this created emotions within me.   Grade: A+

 

Though I will be rooting for DeKalb Elementary, I think either Watu Woke or My Nephew Emmett will take the prize Sunday night.  I would guess that Silent Child has an outside chance while The Eleven O’clock is not winning, though it is a fun short.

 

This is the first year that I have seen all of the shorts and that is cool.  Oscars are Sunday night on ABC.

MCU Villain Problem More Myth Than Truth

Honestly, there are a couple of issues that I get real tired of hearing.  One of those is the “comic book fatigue” that all of the online movie “experts” want to claim is happening.  I am so tired of this.  Where is your evidence of this?  Black Panther is preparing to blow away all expectations at the box office as did Thor:Ragnarok before it.  The evidence shows that if you make a good/great comic book movie, the audience will come see it.  No fatigue there.

But, that deserves its own column at another time.  This column is about the other easy slight that people lay at the feet of Marvel Studios which is “Marvel does not have any great villains.”  Again, I call BS.

First of all, if we want to be divisive about it, how many great DC villains have we had?  Outside of the Joker in Dark Knight and Zod in Man of Steel, who are they?  Jared Leto’s Joker?  He was completely wasted.  Batman v. Superman’s Lex Luthor? He was one of the most hated aspects of that film.  Suicide Squad’s Enchantress or her CGI brother?  Horrible.  Justice League’s Steppenwolf?  Come on.  Even Wonder Woman’s Ares was probably the weakest part of that great film.

But I do not want to engage in the DC vs. Marvel argument because it is counterproductive.  Instead, I want to focus in on the Marvel villains that have appeared in their 18 movies during the age of the MCU.  Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige had said the following:

“Well, I mean, it always varies, but it always starts with what serves the story the most and what serves the hero the most. We’ve been criticized, if a big criticism of ours is that we focus on the heroes more than the villains, I think that’s probably true.”

Now, looking that that quote, Feige is saying that there is only so much time available in a movie and that they are looking to focus on the hero.  We have all seen movies that spend too much time on the villains where it feels like the hero is not even in the movie (Batman Returns?).  Feige understands that you look to your hero and the story first, and then you develop the villain.  Feige has also stated that the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War will be Thanos’s movie, so that might change.

This focus is also the reason why Netflix’s Marvel villains such as Wilson Fisk, Copperhead, Jigsaw and Killgrave were such amazing villains.  The time allotted to their development is greater since the time available is more.  You can do more in 13 hour TV seasons than you can in 120-130 minute movies.

Image result for malekith dark worldEven with this, I would argue there have been very few weak Marvel villains.  The first one everyone brings up is Malekith from Thor: Dark World.  This, I would agree, is the worst of the Marvel villains because of how much of a waste the character was.  In the comics, Malekith is one of Thor’s most vicious villains, manipulative and monstrous.  The film failed to portray him in such a way and the movie counterpart has become completely forgettable.

Whiplash from Iron Man 2 was also a step down for Marvel.  Like much of Iron Man 2, the villain was lost among set up for future movies.  There was an adequate performance from Mickey Rourke in the film, but it felt too rushed.  As if the movie was hurried into production after a huge success of the original.  I believe that Marvel Studios learned from their mistakes in Iron Man 2 because most of these errors have not been done at this level again.  Even with the errors, Whiplash was not terrible, and Iron Man 2 brought us Justin Hammer.

Related imageHammer fits into a category of Marvel villains that would be non-powered villains who manipulate for their own advantage. Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) from Iron Man was a great villain that showed the opposite of Tony Stark.  Stane was a power hungry man who was willing to have his friend killed in order to take over his friend’s company.  Robert Redford became a leader of Hydra in Captain America: Winter Soldier and was tremendous in the role.  Daniel Bruhl’s Baron Zemo is much maligned from Captain America: Civil War, but I contend that he is one of the best villains Marvel has had.  He has realistic motivations that you can relate to and he basically wins at the end of Civil War.  An argument could be made that the villain of Civil War is actually Tony Stark, but Zemo does not get the credit he deserves.  Civil War felt like an origin story for the Baron Zemo from the comics and I expect to see more of him in the future of the MCU.

Image result for loki killmongerOf course, you can’t talk about the MCU villains without talking about the one that practically everyone agrees is the standard bearer.  Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has sat on top of the mountain since he slithered his way onto our screens in Thor.  However, as of today, some people might claim that Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger from Image result for loki killmongerBlack Panther has replaced the “puny god” at the top.  Both of these villains are amazing and the performances from these charismatic actors are a big reason.  Loki has benefited from appearing in three Thor movies as well as the Avengers, giving more time to develop him as a character.  Killmonger’s motivation is just so relatable to the movie going audience that you can’t help but root for him.  Despite the terrible acts he perpetrates, Killmonger is someone we like seeing on our screen.

There are villains that some say are underused, and they may be.  Ronin from Guardians of the Galaxy may have been little more than a plot point, he was a very effective plot point. He brought an intimidating presence to the film and served as a perfect foil to the dance off at the end.  Lee Pace does everything that is needed of him to make the Guardians of the Galaxy such an epic trip.  Kurt Russell’s Ego the Living Planet from Guardians Vol 2. was another great villain with a wonderful performance.  He brought the story of Peter Quill’s parentage to a close and was able to bring to the screen a Marvel villain that you never thought would be there.  Plus, it is Kurt f’n Russell.

Image result for hela ragnarokI’m not sure how, but we have gone this long into the column without mentioning Hela, played by the exquisite Cate Blanchett.   Hela was also well developed, considering all she wanted was her birthright as the Queen of Asgard.  She had been cast out into the Underworld by her father Odin because he feared who she was, despite riding into violent battle at her side. Odin struck her from the history of Asgard, completely covering up the record of her existence, even from her brothers Thor and Loki.  I’d be a little unhappy as well.

Image result for vulture keaton in car with peterWho am I leaving out here? Red Skull?  A great villain in Captain America First Avenger and I think we will see Red Skull again one day.  Hugo Weaving was perfect as the Red Skull.  The biggest issue with Red Skull is that Weaving was not a fan of the role.  Dormammu from Dr. Strange.  The film’s main villain was really Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson) and was also spent setting up Baron Mordo as a future villain for Stephen Strange.  However, Dormammu is involved in one of the most original super hero endings in the entire MCU with the “I’ve come to bargain” tactic.  Abomination?  The Incredible Hulk is a very good movie that does not get much recognition and the Abomination is great.  Tim Roth certainly provides us with a strong character prior to his transformation into the raging giant green creature.  Yellowjacket?  I found Darren Cross to be the perfect foil for the first Ant Man film and I really liked the look of the character.  His defeat at the end of that film was a great one.  Michael Keaton was amazing in Spider-man: Homecoming as the Vulture.  One of the most compelling and frightening scenes with him was out of costume, as he talked to Peter Parker in the back of his car.

Image result for yonduThere have been a couple of Marvel villains so good that they wind up becoming heroes.  Loki has fought with the heroes before, though usually because of his own selfish motives.  Nebula is the daughter of Thanos and had a grudge with her sister Gamora.  Still, the Guardians films have shown how she took the pain of her childhood and misdirected it so much that she was seen as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Yondu is another example of this as the former Ravager head become a father figure to Star Lord and his death at the end of Vol. 2 was one of the best, most emotional moments in any MCU film.  The Winter Soldier is the main villain of Captain America 2, but his reveal as Bucky Barnes showed that this villain would one day become a hero.  It looks like Bucky is just about there after his appearance in Civil War and his appearance in (SPOILERS) the post credit scene of Black Panther. (END OF SPOILERS).

How about Ultron?  Some people did not enjoy the presentation of Ultron in Avenergs: Age of Ultron, but I was not on of them. I found the character to be outstanding, especially with the voice work of James Spader.  Perhaps the final fight with Ultron was not at a level it should have been, but the film Age of Ultron was a victim of its own expectations more than anything else.

Image result for iron man 3 mandarinMandarin from Iron Man 3 is one of the most divisive characters of all time.  Marvel simply could not provide the world with a Mandarin as he is in the comics.  The Mandarin is a walking racial stereotype and would have been rejected.  Instead, they pulled off one of the best twist surprises ever, revealing that Trevor was not the Mandarin, but in actuality an actor who was hired to be the face of the role.  I think Marvel understood that making Guy Pearce the Mandarin at the end was an error and they retconned that out with one of their short films. That does not mean that Marvel did not show tremendous guts in pulling off the twist.  I am sure they expected a backlash, but they did it anyway and created a moment for all MCU.

Before you immediately dismiss the MCU villains, think about what they are meant to be, what they have accomplished, and the amazing group of actors that have taken these mantels up and understand that, for what they have been given, they have exceeded expectations.

 

 

 

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