I had fully intended for today’s MindFood to confess my strange relationship with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, but then something interrupted and took hold of me, postponing said confession for one more week. It was the realization that I miss Steven Spielberg. I miss him like a dear old friend that I haven’t kept in touch with for years despite the fact that they were always there for me as a child.
Of course I don’t actually know Steven Spielberg, but I’m not talking about him as a person, I’m talking about him as The Beard; as a director who, when I was a child, not only made the films that made me love movies, but who has consistently made movies that have reminded me of that child-like wonder as an adult. Oh, it’s certainly easy to say that Spielberg has been gone for years, but I don’t buy into the whole Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull raped my childhood bullshit. Yeah, it’s not a good movie, but it did nothing to make me feel like Spielberg wasn’t, deep down, still one of my most beloved directors.
The trailer for War Horse, on the other hand...
I want to be excited for Spielberg making a movie about World War I. I really, really do, but there’s just something about this movie that bugs the hell out of me. I wish it were just the trailer’s crippling reliance on bludgeoning home the fact that this is without question a Spielberg movie by featuring a heartwarming John Williams score and absolutely gorgeous cinematography that’s always in motion but never out of control, but that’s not it. It all comes down to the story. And yes, I will readily admit I haven’t read the Michael Murpurgo children’s book it’s based on, nor have I seen the stage play that is garnering all kinds of acclaim both in the UK and on Broadway, but I just have a hard time getting excited about a sappy story about experiencing World War I through the eyes of a horse as he gallivants around, touching the lives of men, women and children on the battlefield.
That just sounds like a movie that’s been chemically created in a lab to bait in Oscar nominations. I truly hope that this time next year I’ll be writing about how wrong I was, about how War Horse is about so much more than exploiting the easily-exploited sap index people have whenever an animal is put in danger, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m doubtful because I know I’m going to have a hard time caring about a horse when I’m going to be thinking the entire time about how well over 20 million people, soldiers and civilians alike, died in WWI. And I swear I’m not heartless about animals. You’ll be hard pressed to find a film geek who is more enraptured about the animal kingdom than I am (hell, just this morning I was Tweeting about a transparent eel), but I just have a cynical node in my brain that turns on when I watch non-documentaries about animals. It’s an almost cinematic immunological response that involuntarily makes my brain going, “They’re cheaply trying to get to you! Shields up!”
Unfortunately, though, War Horse isn’t the only Spielberg movie that I’m surprisingly jaded toward. I wish I could say I was more excited for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, but the spark just isn’t there for me in the trailers:
At least with this film I can chalk up my indifference to my overall indifference to motion capture animated films. I’m all for a world-spanning, rollicking adventure written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Steven Moffat, but it’s those three names that surprisingly disappoint me the most because they’ve made me realize that they’re the real reason I’m interested in the movie. I want to see this because it was written by a trio who, between them, wrote Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block and BBC’s Sherlock. However, I feel like the primary reason I should want to see something like this is because it’s directed by the guy who gave the world Jaws, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and A.I.
But again, and I know I’m a broken record here, Spielberg’s involvement just unfortunately isn’t the driving factor for me anymore. And if I had to pinpoint exactly why that was the case, I think it all comes down to Spielberg having lost a bit of his anger over the years. That’s not to say he ever made angry movies by any means, rather that his films have always had an edge sharp enough that they feel like he’s working out some issues making them. To me his movies have always been like that family member who is cheerful and chipper 99% of the time, but put him in front of a fireplace and get a few drinks in him, and you can see a subtle streak of pain behind those oh so familiar eyes. But ever since the underrated Munich, it seems like Spielberg has worked out those issues completely. And while I’m sure that’s great for him personally, I’m not sure it’s great for his movies.
S1E05: One of my only complains with Game of Thrones up until last night has been its energy. It's not that the story doesn't move forward, it's that there's been so much time spent, rightly so, on character development and narrative expansion that it began to feel a bit slow. Last night, that came to an end when the shit hit the fan. Heads were rolling and blood was flowing - now it's starting to feel like an HBO program.
"Let’s go watch ‘em ride, at least I can smell someone else’s blood" - King Robert Baratheon
The tension began as Ned Stark expressed his displease with King Robert to Barristan Selmy, a legendary knight who served Ned's father. He asks him how young Sir Hugh, the boy jousted last week to disastrous results, was able to afford a such a fine suit of armor when he was only a squire a short time ago. Selmy makes it clear that he doesn't want to answer that question and they switch topics briskly to the King himself, who wishes to joust this week as the games continue.
The enter the King's tent and find Robert berating little Lancell Lannister because the lad can't get the armor on his plump ruler. If symbolism has ever been put to good use, it's by showing a mighty King gone fat and overfed. His physical appearance, combined with his stubborness, is surely a sign of his impending downfall.
Anyway, Ned asks Robert to reconsider fighting, calling him out for being so fat, and though at first he doesn't want to hear it, eventually he falls in line, knowing his role.
We then jump to the tournament, where the Mountain is once again fighting for glory and street cred. This time, he faces...“The knight of the flowers”? I must say, though I'm a fan of all the names that George R.R. Martin has come up with, this is the worst I've heard yet. "Knight" and "flowers" don't belong in the same sentence, let alone as a moniker for a young man who's about to fight a monster. Anyway, Sansa seems to be less interested in Joffrey these days as she's quite noticeably fond of Mr. Flowers, who somehow manages to beat the Mountain. Just as he's courting his audience in celebration, the Mountain draws his sword and decapitates his horse before swinging at the young man. Someone's a sore, sore loser (probably because he's never really lost, least of all to a kid) and almost a murderer, but luckily the Hound jumps in to defend him. Though I love hardened warriors in stories like these, I can't get behind a guy who kills animals; I look forward to (hopefully) seeing Mountain slaughtered in a similarly brutal manner.
Meanwhile, things aren't looking so good for Tyrion Lannister, who we find captive under the rule of Catelynn Stark. In case you missed it last week, the imp has been declared a suspect in the attempt on her and Bran's life and is being take to the Vail for questioning, though he continues to claim his innocence. But they're in the middle of nowhere, and come under attack. Nearly all of Catelynn's forces are killed, and the prisoner becomes protector and Tyrion leaps into action to save her, proving once and for all that size doesn't matter.
Back in Winterfell, Bran continues to sulk over his disability, but it becomes clear that he's being groomed for a life as a leader, not a warrior. He questions his mother's love for him, asking about her whereabouts and her reason for leaving him as soon as he woke up. You've got to feel for the young lad, he's so confused and still quite fragile. I hope that things get better for him in the future, because he's gotten the short end of the stick so far in this series. Anyway, while he's studying, Theon Grayjoy is practicing his archery, and he's quite good. But there's something else he's good at, and that takes us right into the next seen.
We cut to a beautiful red-head getting reamed from behind...it's Roz! Glad we finally met the whore, as she single-handedly connects half of the male characters in the show. She's apparently very good at what she does, too, because after he makes a quick quip about her keeping her voice down she slams back by saying that he's not the only nobleman in her life (and she's referring to the imp). This angers Theon, who already feels like half a man because of his contained existence (remember, his father rebelled against the throne and Ned has been holding him hostage since he was 8). It looks like things might get abusive, but Roz defuses the situation.
"Does someone somewhere keep your balls in a little box, I've often wondered?" - Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish
Back at King's Landing, Ned is being advised by the creepy Varys, who tells him that the King is is grave danger. He will meet the same fate as Jon Arryn unless Ned intervenes. Further, he claims that Sir Hugh could've been the one that poisoned him. Ned knows that Hugh had no reason to do so, except for profit. Ned asks who paid Hugh to murder Arryn, to which Varys replies "someone who could afford it." Talk about being overdramatic. Anyway, just before that scene we saw Arya chasing after a cute little cat as part of her training exercise. But when she finds the chamber in which the skulls of the dragons are on display (and they are BIG, just as Viserys said), she overhears a part of a shady conversation, one going on between two characters who are obviously conspiring against the throne. We wait for a big reveal and it turns out to be the Magister, who accompanied Daenerys and Viserys earlier this season, and Viserys. You really can't trust anyone in Westeros...They talk about "the Hand" knowing too much and question what his actions will be when he knows all. “The gods alone know,” Varys says. “The fools tried to kill his son. But what’s worse, they botched it. The wolf and the lion will be at each other’s throats. We will be at war soon, my friend.”
Next we find Varys (he's busy, ain't he?) talking to Littlefinger, and it's basically one insult after another. Littlefinger gets the best one in, though, as he talks up the fact that Varys has been castrated. The quips/threats go back and forth as they both let each other know they've been watching each other, but when Littlefinger lets Varys know that he saw him with the Magistrate, things get tense really quickly. Renly, the King's brother, breaks the mood by informing them that Robert will be attending a basic civil meeting shortly, but the gravity of this conversation lingers well on into the next sequence, which finds Arya coming out of a tunnel on the beach's of King's Landing.
She makes her way through the city and reaches the entrance to the kingdom only to be laughed at by two lowly guards, who mistake her for a poor boy. She gives them hell and next thing you know she's being given hell by Ned, who is interested in what she's got to say (she begins to tell him about what she heard in the dragon's chamber). But they're little convo is cut short when a Night Watchmen arrives to tell Ned about what his wife has been up to...
And that's when we catch back up with Catelynn and Tyrion, who are met by Knights of the Vail. We get to see a brief shot of the Erie, which looks stunning. I've got to hand it to the creative department's who have collaborated on Game of Thrones; they are the true heroes of program who give me as much reason to com back each week as the actors do. Unfortunately our time there is cut short because it's back to politics and scheming at King's Landing. King Robert wants to slay Daenyrys because she's with child, and the fat man knows that this could incite an eventual revolt. Ned doesn't want any part of the murder of a young woman and her child, but he's outnumbered. The entire council finds ways both reasonable and unreasonable to do away with her to prevent a Dothraki invasion. At least we know that the King is scared of them...
And just like that, the King demands Ned's loyalty, but he won't give. He ends up resigning as Hand of the King before Robert threatens him and banished him from the kingdom. But Littlefinger wants him to follow up on his investigation before he leaves the city and takes him to the last person that Arryn spoke to before falling ill...
That will have to wait, though, because the next thing we see is Catelynn's twisted sister in Erie, who looks like she's still breast feeding her son after maybe 7 or 8 years. Weird. She's ranting about Arryn's last words, "the seed is strong," and is clearly out of her mind. I think she needs to leave that tower a bit. Anyway, she sends the imp to her fantastic dungeons, which are each missing a wall but are no less easy to escape as they lead over the edge of a cliff. Wonderfully rendered production/art design, can't wait to see more of this kingdom.
Next we see Renly getting his chest waxed by a naked woman, oh wait, it's the king of flowers! Poor Sansa, she just can't catch a break with the boys. Renly is whining about not being treated with respect, as he's groomed by Flowers, who looks much different without all that armor. Homoeroticism aside, Flowers has some wise words for Renly as they contemplate the possibility of him inheriting the throne one day.
"She was all I ever wanted, and Seven Kingdom's couldn't fill the hole that she left behind"- King Robert
Back in the King's chambers, Cersei confronts Robert about matters of state. She knows that the Dokthraki don't sail, "every child knows that," she says, but Robert is still worried about the possibility of an invasion. Together, they run through the scenarios of war, and they're grim. But the conversation gets lighter as they drink up, though it turns existential when they talk about Robert's true love, Leanna Stark. We begin to see that his downfall truly began when she died and that he may not even care enough about life, the world or everything in it to hold off an invasion. This is the first moment of humanity we've ever seen in the King, and I have to say, I like him a lot more when he shows some vulnerability.
We next cut to Ned speaking to a young woman who apparently had slept with the former King and had spoke to Jon Arryn just before he died. She's under the care of Littlefinger, who is slowly taking Tyrion's place as the coolest cat on the show, what with all his connections to whores and such. As Ned exits his brothel, he's confronted by Jamie Lannister, who interrogates Ned about the whereabouts of his brother. Ned tells him that Tyrion's been taken at his command to answer for the attempt on Bran's life and Jamie draws his sword. Ned and his men do battle with Jamie and his, but Ned falls. Thankfully, Jamie knows that he can't just kill him (though he does take out all the rest of Ned's men) and leaves him alive, but wounded. His final request is that Ned brings his brother back...
So the shit has begun to hit the fan. The stakes have been raised and the plot has thickened. There are conspiracies afoot, as well as lies and betrayals around every corner. I'm honestly not sure who can be trusted anymore, apart from the Stark's. It's all building toward a climactic revelation that I expect we'll see next weekend before a probably break for Memorial Day weekend.