Archivo de la categoría: Mixology

Finding Dory and the narratives within the difference

“Hi! My name is Dory and I have short term memory loss” would be the dialogue that can actually sum up what Finding Dory is really about. Sure, you can say that is nothing more than a sequel of one of the most famous and loved Pixar movies: Finding Nemo. You can also argue that the movie is really about finding who you really are and where do you came from. I couldn’t agree more, Finding Dory is all of that, but It’s also about learning to respect people and embrace their differences.

Dory, as you all know, is everything but average. She lost her parents at a very early age and had to live with short term memory loss. She’s a survivor, one that has been rejected her whole life because of something she hasn’t control over, something that the movie effectively depicts with a heartbreaking montage of Dory looking for her parents. She had to put up with a constant loneliness and discrimination she was subjected,  until Nemo and Marlin entered in her life.

She, however, is not a victim and, certainly, doesn’t feel like one, nor she wants to be treated like one. Dory’s plan this time is to find her parents, in order to learn where she is from and, ultimately, to know more about the story behind the narrative their parents wrote about her when she was a baby.

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Narratives, as Dory learns along the movie, are fundamental to our lives, they are the stories about to be told. Hence, narratives operate like stories we create about ourselves and everything that happens to us along the way, they are also the ones that we tell everybody else about us. A carefully well-written narrative can always remain embedded on the mind of even the most forgetful individual, including a plucky blue tang with short term memory loss.

Finding Dory, much as Finding Nemo, focus a lot of its story on the importance of the narrative that parents construct around their children when thye’re growing up on different contexts. Whilst Marlin overprotected, and try to isolate, Nemo from everything outside their home due to his constant fear of the unknown, Charlie an Jenny (Dory’s parents) encouraged their daughter to be always curious but cautious.

As you can imagine, this narratives are representative of the same juxtaposition people nowadays present as an essential part of their own pathos. Whereas Marlin’s fear of the unknown prevails on the blatant expression of xenophobia we’ve seen lately on the extremists parties around the world, Charlie and Jenny’s openness to experiencing and embracing the difference can be found more and more surrounding us, specially in the young people.

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The idea of embracing the difference, and the common understanding of respect for the others, is where Disney and Pixar excels at with this movie. Not only because their narrative feels very actual and well-constructed, but because it tells a story  from the point of view of an uncommon character,  someone as Dory, which doesn’t have a lot of representation on the current media.

Long gone are the stories that aimed to persuade people to be obedient. Narratives nowadays, specially the ones that Disney is crafting within their movies, focus on characters that struggle to live on societies where bigotry and intolerance are everywhere they go. Moreover, their protagonists are independent, confident, and repectful.

Finding Dory ultimately is all about being true to yourself by embracing who you really are as well as the importance to consider the narratives that helped you to get there. Learning about it is just the first step to aknowledge the type of story you want to tell everybody about yourself and the differences you are able to accept.

 

 

The Disaster Movie problem: Women using scrubs.

Ah, Disaster Movies, those awe-inspiring films that can put their audiences to live all sorts of sceneries around the  inevitable apocalypse, the dreadful consequences of superpopulation, and the possible obliteration of human race.  They are also known as the stories that has and stil have been constantly exploiting  the already worned out trope of women as carers.

It doesn’t matter if Godzilla is threatening to destroy an entire city, an alien race is on the verge of wiping out the whole human race of existence or a new ice age is on its way of freezing the entire planet, women will always be those concerned human beings that will stay behind (and even sacrifice their lives) to take care  of all the helpless people that can’t take care of themselves, waiting for their ultimate demise.

This superficial representation of women in cinema is nothing new. The selfless mother trope exists since the Golde Age of Hollywood, when woman (specially mothers) where portrayed as those people that transformed their households into waiting sanctuaries, waiting for their families to finally arrive in order to help them to fulfill their only mission in life (and on the movie): be there for everyone. In México’s golden age of cinema, the selfless mothers where often compared with clocks.

Apparently, even after all these years of progress in female representation on cinema, women’s intrinsic and sole effective attitude to deal with the unstoppable planet’s destruction is still to take care of their loved ones until the very end. Such characters as Kate (Amanda Peet) on 2012, Sarah (Leelee Sobieski) on Deep Impact or even Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) on Independence Day are clear depictions of this idea.

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Films nowadays seem to kind-of know that, though. So, in order to create a somewhat adequate depiction of their martir selfless  women, Disaster Movies have gifted us with their ultimate solution to solve this one-note character problem: the Doctor/Nurse women!

Ah yes, the Doctor/Nurse women are those concerned characters that will stay behind (and even sacrifice their lives) to take care of all the helpless people that can’t take care of themselves, waiting for their ultimate demise, but wearing scrubs!

Godzilla gave us Elizabeth Olsen’s nurse, Elle Brody, The Day After Tomorrow presented us Sela Ward’s Doctor, Lucy Hall  and even Independence Day: Resurgence outsmarted itself by promoting Vivica A. Fox’s selfless character, Jasmine Dubrow, into a Doctor before (SPOILERS) killing her off at the movie’s beginning.

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These carers are in charge of the weak and innocent  people that are left behind when the catastrophe strikes. Lucy Hall stayed behind to take care of her (woman) patient at the hospital while a new ice age was happening around them, Jasmine Dubrow sacrificed herself to help her very pregnant patient to get into a helicopter before the hospital  they’re in was destroyed, and Elle Brody evaquated the premises she’s attending before running to look after her son while Godzilla is destroying the whole city.

This particular type of characters, such as the woman doctor, the woman nurse and the selfless mother, have always  worked as the perfect analogy of the womb: Life taking care of life. These women changed their aprons for scrubs and moved their homes to the hospitals. They are the carers in charge of the ill, the helpless and the innocent. They are in charge of the next generation.

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Don’t get me wrong, I think is fantastic that these women are drawn as professional individuals and not one-dimensional clichés whose only motive is to wait for their husbands to come back home alive and well. But, if you are a film director/producer/writer, the least you can do is to give them agency and purpose. Make them  well-thought and fleshed out characters, with a full arc, equated enough with their male counterparts.

Everything is not lost, though. Not all Disaster Movies are trapped in the selfless carer vortex of tropes and clichés . Films like San Andreas and Cloverfiled succesfully have created well-constructed characters like Emma (Carla Gugino), Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) or Lily (Jessica Lucas). Strong women, with particular backgrounds, agency and motives, looking for survival  outside their homes and hospitals and into the apocalypse.

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Death in a time of parallelisms: deconstructing the Antihero trope in TV shows.

Warning: This post contains serious spoilers from Bloodline season 1 and 2, House Of Cards season 2 and Breaking Bad season 5.

Nowadays, it’s very common to watch a whole roaster of heroes and superheroes take on their own stories within the visual products we consume on a daily basis. From literal heroes to protagonists with big ambitions and a strong moral compass embeded in society’s high values, television and cinema have succesfully singlehandedly developed -and adapted- marvelous stories  with heroic characters that we, as an audience, can often relate with.

Heroes are good through and through, they often do the right thing because is right and, most of the times, they get rewarded for their actions. Of course, they are not perfect, but they depict the most accurate version of a good human being. That said, what happens when this person becomes an atypical individual? One that doesn’t go by the rules, or any moral compass but his own, and is often apathetic? Simple, an Antihero arises.

According to tvtropes.org, an Antihero is an amoral misfit that has the opposite of most of the traditional attributes of a hero.  They often work as a profound deconstruction of the traditionally heroic genres. Ultimately, an Antihero is just a consequence of the hero taking another path towards their goals. A hero gone wrong.

So, where do we should draw the line between a hero and an Antihero? What does it have to happen to a hero to walk across to become the Antihero hidden underneath all of that layers? Where is the point break where there is no return? If television has taught us anything, I would probably say it could happen after facing death, specifically by murder.

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Not so long ago, a typical Antihero would be portrayed as an awful human being who’s only way of acting would be on self interest. Nowadays, TV shows are really at its best when they develop well-constructed and layered characters to carry character-driven episodes and fascinating character study plots, something that Bloodline excels at. In order to understand Antiheroes, we need to peel all the layers that surrounds them.

Before murdering his brother in cold blood, John Rayburn, one of their protagonists, was a character with clear goals and ostensibly heading to become the voice of reason and central role model of his family in the showGranted, the Rayburns are not depicted as the most healthy and perfectly functional human beings, they do have a troubled and very fucked up past that always finds a way to come back to haunt them, but at least they keep trying their very best to manage it.

John wasn’t the first Antihero to arise within Bloodline‘s narrative, along came Danny. If you have seen this show (seriously, you should watch it), you’ll know that the youngest Rayburn sibling, Sarah, died  at a young age when Danny was watching her. Living this complicated situation was the reason why he shaped the Antihero figure he became, leaving him only with a broken and damaged life to survive with. Danny and John’s  stories are clearly different whereas their actions are coincidentally embedded.

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That’s why Antiheroes in TV shows often need another character to contrast with in order to be legitimized as one in the first place. Dichothomies, parallels and counterparts work wonders with this type of characters, and their stories, when their flaws and virtues need to be noted. So it definetely wouldn’t be a coincidence if the writers of any given show decided to include someone in their script to balance and tie up their Antihero figure, in order to understand their particular gravitas and ethos.

Portraying both Danny and John as Antiheroes in season 1 and 2, correspondingly, worked greatly because it helped to enrich each character’s profound layers and motives as it was ideal to contrast them with the Bad Guy/Good Guy dichotomy level of understanding they carry with themselves.

When season one started off, John was certainly trying to do his best to be a hero. Notwithstanding, when his toxic brother arrived, he rapidly welcomes him back to the family without any hesitation, trusting him with blind faith and hoping for better days to come. Unfortunately, and depicting the perfect Antihero figure, Danny totes nothing but problems to their siblings, and even to the family inn, leading to his inevitable demise whilst passing the Antihero torch to his brother John in an somewhat act of self-defense.

Ah, ‘self-defense’, a simple word reflecting on an act so big and backhanded that can easily trigger any kind of feelings within a human being. Something that can transform a self-righteous cop into a murderer or a chemistry teacher, into a drug lord.

Just like Walter White, one of the most well-known Antiheroes of our time, that became that cold apathetic drug lord we all love to hate after his very first murder: a drug dealer called Emilio Koyima. Just like John Rayburn, he commited murder thoughtlessly on a self-defense act that not only pushed him to a road where there was no coming back, but also awoke the Antihero hidden deep inside of him.

Breaking Bad did a great job portraying Walter White’s ascension from the shy cancer victim to the shrewd drug lord, thirsty with power, that uses his family as an excuse for his behavior. Jesse Pinkman, on the other hand, served as a counterpoint to Walt’s antihero. He was the inocent life that White carried along, and couldn’t save, but didn’t turn into him either.

Their relationship didn’t work as a dichotomy as it is, but more as an action/consequence kind of dynamic. Where Walter White’s delusional plans were, Jesse Pinkman’s insecurities arose. Narratively speaking, this depiction was perfectly thought in order to draw upon the Antihero status of the character by contrasting him with his student’s decisions.

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Whereas Jesse Pinkman did get to live on the season’s end, Walter White, just as Danny Rayburn, got a comeuppance of his own and  ended up dying. The same fate that Zoe Barnes, in House Of Cards, had to face, before even having the chance of becoming an Antihero, when a murkier Frank Underwood decided that she was not relevant for him anymore as she started to pose a threat to his journey for the presidency.

Underwood’s main Antihero qualities veer around his prowess to manipulate people to do what he wants without making him look bad. Zoe Barnes’ murder, along with Peter Russo’s, was that necessary flame that the character needed in order to gain that apathy and brazen attitude that distinguish his Antihero status.

So, whilst John and Walter are paired with another men in order to aknowledge their bits and parts that they all share as male Antiheroes, House Of Cards cleverly matched up Frank with his wife, Claire, an evident Antihero on the rise for power. Unlike any of them, Underwood’s wife function in the story is not to become a contrast character but more to work as a parallel, or an equal. Whatever Frank does, Claire has already thought and perfected. She embodies everything he is. She is the result of all the decisions he took along the way and managed to get away with it.

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Whilst death and murder are often used as a defining moment of the Antihero, contrast and parallelisms with characters around are used to understand what’s going on in their minds. Hence, as it happens in real life, we only judge someone when we compare them with our own experiences.

 

 

The color narrative in audiovisual stories.

It’s very well known that our brain has a wonderful way of working when it comes to color. It could react to a certain, and specific, situation depending on the one that surrounds the person at issue the same way it could understand a feeling with an  auxiliary color. Color is important to our lives. Color is everywhere.

Color is a wonderful narrative device that can carry a whole scene with emotional depth and no dialogue whatsoever. The beauty of it lies in its habilty to communicate directly with our feelings whereas our brains can fully understand the message separately.

So, it’s not suprise that color and audiovisual stories (TV and Cinema) have had, from the very beginning, an intrinsical link.  With color you can transform a bubbly and happy scene into something dark and sinister, you can also communicate to the audience the frame of mind of a certain character by the color he or she is wearing in their clothes, and you can even distinguish periods of time, on a movie or TV show, with color and shades.

You could say a lot of things just by using one color. Blue can be related to sadness and melancholy the same way it could be linked with life. Yellow, on the other hand, can be attached with happiness and magic, but also with anger.

You just have to take a look into the current TV shows on air to find color narratives all over the place. Whereas Netflix’s Jessica Jones tries to mimic the film noir atmosphere we all love with dark surroundings and grey areas in its sceneries, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt paints its frames with bright and happy colors to imitate the kind of psychotropic world where all its characters live in.

In Richard LaGravanese’s nonlinear narrative film, The Last Five Years,  we understand that a time jump happens -in the past and in the future-  by painting all over the sad scenes with intense dark gloomy colors, and with colorful bright shades on the happy ones.

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The same thing happens in Alejandro González Iñarritu’s Birdman, when the narrative is trying to tell apart the dream sequences, using yellow tones,  from the reality, with blue hues, only to mix them up by the very end when the character, and the movie, can’t tell the difference between Birdman and Riggan Thomson.

Notwithstanding, in Judd Apatow’s anti-rom-com-ish Netflix show, Love,  we see, in the first episode, our protagonist Gus buying  online a blue rug before breaking up with her girlfriend, only to discover the next day an orange one standing on his door. Right after this, Mickey bumps into his life using an orange blouse, and, from that very moment, we see both of them wearing clothes with all the possible variations of this colors all over the season, like a colorful dance of feelings.

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Something similar happens with Robin Wright’s character in House Of Cards, Claire. Whilst her wardrobe in the show consists in a wonderful variety of beautiful and elegant dresses, its colors oscillate between white and black depending on how dark or empathic she acts along each episode. So is natural to see her wearing a sober black dress while scheming a new plan with her husband to win over the white house in one scene, and using a white and delicate gown in bed with her lover in another.

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There’s even an interesting internet theory that develops on the ambivalency between the constant presence of  purple and yellow in How I Met Your Mother that suits very well within their narrative logic.

Color is, then, more than just a tool that could turn animated images into life.  Color, as it happens with feelings an sensations, is constantly attached to our perspective and our usual way of understanding life. We translate experiences that we paint with our minds.

Color is extremely important within any audiovisual story narrative. Whether a movie or a TV show is trying to communicate the very central core of its message using a beautiful color palette or accompanying a character quest between realms with only one shade, color will always be the perfect way to do so.

 

 

The Ares delusion on Batman v Superman.

Let me start by setting the record straight, Batman v Superman is not a good movie, it’s entertaining, and somewhat fun, but not good, nonetheless. I could easily spend the entirety of this post ranting about how Snyder and co. totally misused and wasted their feminine cast (even though they succefully managed to make a wonderful, but shoehorned, appearence from Wonder Woman), or how all their actors and actreesses turned out to be used as a bunch of one-note characters, or even to take on how a convoluted mess is the movie as a whole. However, I’m here to talk about something else: the main conflict (or what it seems to be a conflict) between our heroes.

When the movie begins, and before we get to see yet another scene with Bruce Wayne’s parents being brutally murdered for the billionth time, we found out that one of Wayne Enterprises’ tower (full of people) was destroyed as a result of the fight between Superman and Zod on  Man of Steel, bringing about Bruce’s anger towards the Kryptonian god-like figure.

Clark, on the other hand, has problems of his own. His girlfriend Lois Lane is being constantly kindapped whilst he have to fight against the belief of half of the United States pouplation -specially the government- who happens to think that he could be a dangerous threat to their nation.

As you could see, the movie kicks off by introducing a well-known trope on the world of alien-like stories: xenophobia. Initially, I thought it was a great way to lay the groundwork of the conflict between Batman and Superman. Xenophobia is very relatable to any given situation nowadays, and the perfect narrative tool to raise the stakes at the movie central core.

With this in mind, one would think that the film will probably go on with that particular storyline and develop an interesting analysis with it whilst preparing the audience to experience a well-choreographed fight. How wrong one was.

Batman v Superman not only single-handeldy achieve to forget this very idea halfway down the movie, but it also introduces Lex Luthor as the catalyst between the feud, and the “grand master mind” behind the scheme. So, what were Luthor’s main reasons to put these two to fight, you may ask. None whatosever, will be the correct answer. Just that he is mad evil and want to see the world burn. A “god of war” sort of speaking.

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You see, the movie ask us to faithfully believe that Batman and Superman are going to fight (hell, even the title shove that very idea down our throats) without even explaining us the reasons behind it. Our main heroes fight because the film ask them to do so. Because the movie puts Luthor as an excuse to carry on with it.

Yes, Batman hates Superman for his above-the-law persona and his carefree way of thinking. Sure, Superman maybe feels threatened by Batman’s vigilante way of resolving conflict. Of course, we can even believe that Luthor planned all of this because he’s evil, but in no way Snyder would make us believe, as an audience, that this are reasons enough to carry on with a plot. Hell, not even a plot, but the core conflict that manages to reunite this two iconic figures of the DC universe without a purpose, but to feed their fanbase.

Look, I get it, and even I’m able to accept that. Nurturing a fanbase is crucial nowadays,  it even has much more impact when you’re talking about such powerful figures and stories as comics may have. Something that DC desperately needed to do before Marvel succefully managed to outsmarted them with their cinematic universe. That’s understandable.

Thus, it needed to be at least a coherent story. You know I’m not a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe either, but at least they are constantly trying to have a sequacious storyline, if not, a simple one, that can explain the motives behind the bad guys and the good guys intentions, whilst carrying some sorts of action sequences and shoehorned love triangles.

In Batman v Superman Batman and Superman ended up fighting (a very simple fight, if you ask me) thanks to Lex Luthor influence on them, because of reasons. He is evil and we’re supposed to play along with it without even asking any follow-up questions or reasons to support it.

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The director and his team wonderfully managed to blind themselves with gratuitous easter eggs and unnecessary storylines, instead of making some must-needed groundwork with the xenophobia trope,   their core characters background stories and the DC Cinematic Universe in general.

So, when your main storyline involves a conflict between your central characters, the least you could do is to explain properly the motives behind it. If not, you’re only throwing things to the screen instead of trying to make sense of your own story.