Walt Disney Co. via Everett Collection
While every Marvel film to date has culled inspiration from a handful of the same comic book series, the studio has done a great job with diversifying its offerings to suit every taste. From Iron Man's unwavering confidence to The Incredible Hulk's appetite for destruction, your favorite Marvel movie speaks volumes about what kind of person you are. Here's what your favorite Marvel movie says about you.
Iron Man Who are you: You're the trendsetter. You have a type-A personality that's full of swaggering confidence, and you're not afraid to plunge into the unknown. You're prone to start great things. You're also pretty funny and like to quip incessently about everything and anything. Bigger and better things will undoubtedly follow after you're gone, but people won't forget that you're the one that started it all.
Iron Man 2Who are you: You know that first guy that liked Iron Man so much? Yeah, you're that guy's shadow. You try to ape what was so great about him. You wear the same kinds of clothes, and try to act that same way, but you don't need to be as smart as Tony Stark to know that you're trying too hard to be something you're not. You're a pale and disappointing imitation of something greater. You'd be better served to try out your own thing, than trying to imitate others.
Iron Man 3Who are you: You're unique. You march by the beat of your own drum and subvert expectations. You like changes to the status quo, and just because a movie might throw you for a couple curveballs and do some things that aren't totally by the book, you value daring. You know that an original movie trumps a faithful one every time.
ThorWho are you: You're a jack of all trades. While just looking at you might give off the impression that you're a small-minded gym rat, your heart truly belongs to the theater. You're a student of Shakespeare and love a good melodrama about tragic kingdoms, betrayal, patricide. Because really, Thor is basically a cosmic version of something like Hamlet or Macbeth... except, you know, with frost giants and Kat Dennings. Hidden depths.
Thor: The Dark WorldWho are you: You just want to have a good time. You're not an especially deep or nuanced person, but you know how to get down when it's time to party. You let other people worry about being deep and complicated. For you, it's all about instant gratification. A movie doesn't have to be complicated to be good. All you need is a couple of hours of wiz-bang action, and you're satisfied.
Captain America: The First AvengerWho are you: You’ve got an old soul. New and flashy things are fine and all, but you truly enjoy the joints with a vintage style. History books line your shelves, and those old school Spielberg flicks get your nostalgia engine firing on all cylinders.
The Incredible HulkWho are you: You're destructive. Breaking things into a million little pieces fires all the right synapses in your brain, and likewise, seeing a giant rage monster crumbling entire city blocks into dust is your idea of a great night at the movies. Your temper has gotten you into trouble in the past and you've been told countless times about the virtues of keeping your anger in check, but who needs peace and calm when blind rage is so liberating.
The AvengersWho are you: You're a team player, and you love taking charge over a team of knuckle heads and accomplishing a goal. You get a contact high from seeing people strive towards something greater than what they could have accomplished alone. Beyond your love of team building, you’re a crowd pleaser. You’re dripping with charisma and you can entertain for hours on end.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
Another weekend, another awards show, and another chance to predict the outcome of the Oscar race. This time, however, a wrench was thrown into the works when three different films took home the Best Picture title from two different academies, both of whom are considered to be excellent indicators of the Oscar race. On Saturday, the SAG Awards awarded American Hustle with Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Traditionally, the film that wins the top prize at the SAGs takes home Best Picture on Oscar night — although in recent years, their choices have not always lined up perfectly with the Academy. But before anyone had the chance to officially declare American Hustle to be the new front runner, the Producers Guild Awards hit back on Sunday, when they declared the Best Picture of the year to be a tie between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. And just like that, the Oscar race was once again, anyone's game.
However, over the course of awards season, its become clear that the final fight for the Best Picture Oscar will come down to those three films. Last week, we aimed to predict which film had the best shot at the award based on title alone. But now, we're moving onto more substantial matters. We've seen that flashy performances entertain SAG-AFTRA, while emotional impact carries more weight with the Producers Guild, but what about the Academy? We've decided that the best way to find out is to look back at the history of the awards, and compare the previous winners to the current front runners in order to determine which one will best appeal to the Academy's sensibilities.
You can also head over to BBC America to check out this fantastic infographic that predicts the Best Picture winner!
GENRE All three films are completely different in terms of genre and tone, but which one has the edge when it comes to the Oscars? - American Hustle, Crime and Comedy: 8 crime dramas have won Best Picture over the course of the Oscars' history: In the Heat of the Night, Midnight Cowboy, On the Waterfront, The French Connection, The Godfather, The Sting, The Godather II, and The Departed. In addition, 7 comedies have take home the top prize, including It Happened One Night, You Can't Take It With You, The Apartment, Tom Jones, The Sting, Annie Hall, and The Artist.- Gravity, Sci-Fi and Thriller: No sci-fi films have ever actually won Best Picture, although 6 of them have been nominated over the past 86 years. However, 4 thrillers have won: Rebecca, Silence of the Lambs, and No Country for Old Men, and Argo.- 12 Years a Slave, Historical Drama: The Academy Awards have a long history of rewarding dramas, including 26 histories: All Quiet on the Western Front, Cimarron, Cavalcade, Mutiny on the Bounty, Life of Emile Zola, Gone With the Wind, Hamlet, Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Tom Jones, A Man for All Seasons, Oliver!, Patton, The Sting, Chariots of Fire, Amadeus, Out of Africa, The Last Emperor, Dances With Wolves, Schindler's List, Braveheart, The English Patient, Titanic, Shakespeare in Love, Gladiator, The King's Speech, The Artist, and Argo.
SUBJECT MATTERIt's not just dramatic films that tend to win over the Academy; often, there are certain topics or subjects that they tend to prefer over others. - American Hustle, Crime: As stated above, 8 films dealing with crimes, swindlers and hustlers have won Best Picture. - Gravity, Survival: The Academy has proven that they enjoy stories of survival, even against all odds, and have crowned 5 suvivalist films Best Picture: On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Oliver!, Schindler's List, and No Country for Old Men.- 12 Years a Slave, Overcoming Adversity and Race Relations: Stories of adversity have always done well at the Oscars, with 11 films winning the top prize: Mutiny on the Bounty, The Life of Emile Zola, Gentleman's Agreement, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Rocky, Gandhi, Schindler's List, Gladiator, Million Dollar Baby, Slumdog Millionaire, and The King's Speech.Another 5 films that deal with race relations in America in a major way have won Best Picture, including Gone With the Wind, In the Heat of the Night, Gandhi, Driving Miss Daisy, and Crash.
ACTING NOMINATIONSIt's always a good sign for a film when they mange to get nominated in the four acting categories, but does a "Big Four" nomination guarantee a win? - American Hustle, 4 Nominations: American Hustle took home the most Oscar nominations, including one each in the four acting categories. In the past, 8 films that received four acting nominations have taken home Best Picture: Mrs. Miniver, From Here to Eternity, Gone With the Wind, Gentlemen's Agreement, The Godfather, Rocky, Kramer Vs. Kramer, and Chicago. - Gravity, 1 Nomination: Despite Gravity tying for the most Oscar nods this year, Sandra Bullock is the lone acting nominee. However, plenty of Best Picture winners have only had one nominated performance in the past - 15 of them, to be exact: The Broadway Melody, Cavalcade, The Great Ziegfeld, The Lost Weekend, In the Heat of the Night, Patton, The Sting, Chariots of Fire, Ghandi, Out of Africa, Rain Man, Crash, The Departed, No Country For Old Men, and The Hurt Locker.- 12 Years a Slave, 3 Nominations: This year, Chiwitel Ejiofor is up for Best Actor, while Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender are nominated in the supporting categories. Three has proven the magic number for 17 previous winners: Mutiny on the Bounty, Rebecca, Going My Way, All the King's Men, Marty, The Apartment, My Fair Lady, Midnight Cowboy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Deer Hunter, Ordinary People, Driving Miss Daisy, Dances With Wolves, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Million Dollar Baby, and The King's Speech.
Fox Searchlight Pictures via Everett Collection
LOCATIONSometimes, the Oscars have the same philosophy as real estate, and it's all about location, location, location. But what's the most beneficial place to set your film?- American Hustle, New York: The film is in good company, with 14 Best picture winners taking place in the Big Apple: The Broadway Melody, The Great Ziegfeld, The Lost Weekend, Going My Way, All About Eve, On the Waterfront, Marty, The Apartment, West Side Story, Midnight Cowboy, The French Connection, The Godfather, Annie Hall, and Kramer Vs. Kramer. - Gravity, Space: No film set in outer space has ever won the Oscar for Best Picture. - 12 Years a Slave, The American South: South of the Mason-Dixon line is a popular setting for movies, and 5 of those were lucky enough to be awarded Best Picture: Gone With the Wind, In the Heat of the Night, Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, and No Country For Old Men.
TIME PERIODEverybody knows that the Academy loves a period piece more than anything else... or do they? - American Hustle, 1970s: For this category, we looked at films that were made in 1980 or later, but set in the 1970s, as American Hustle is. It may have narrowed down the field some, but there are still 3 winners: Platoon, Forrest Gump, and last year's Best Picture winner, Argo. - Gravity, Modern Day: There have been a great deal of Oscar-winning films that, like Gravity, were set in the same time period as the film's release. In fact, this has been the case for a grand total of 31 Best Picture winners: Grand Hotel, It Happened One Night, You Can't Take it With You, Going My Way, The Lost Weekend, The Best Years of Our Lives, Gentleman's Agreement, All The King's Men, All About Eve, An American in Paris, On the Waterfront, Marty, The Apartment, West Side Story, In the Heat of the Night, Midnight Cowboy, The French Connection, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Rocky, Annie Hall, Kramer Vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, Terms of Endearment, Rain Man, Silence of the Lambs, American Beauty, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed, No Country For Old Men, and The Hurt Locker.- 12 Years A Slave, 1800s: Between the reign of Queen Victoria, the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the ninettenth century has provided the inspiration for 8 winners: Cimarron, Gone With the Wind, Around the World in 80 Days, Tom Jones, Oliver!, Amadeus, Dances With Wolves, and Unforgiven.
RUNTIME- Both American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave have the distinct advantage in this category, with runtimes of 138 and 134 minutes, respectively. If one of them wins, they would join 24 other films whose runtime has been between 121 and 140 minutes. For the most part, the Academy ends to favor movies around this length, although the award usually tends to go to the longest film nominated, which could spell trouble for these two front runners (fellow nominee The Wolf of Wall Street beats them both at 179 minutes).- Gravity is the shortest film in the running for Best Picture at only 91 minutes long. However, that doesn't mean it has no chance of winning, as 4 films with runtimes between 81 and 100 minutes have won the top prize in the past: Marty, Annie Hall, Sunrise, and Driving Miss Daisy.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
DIRECTORSAll three directors have achieved or are set to achieve milestones if they take home the Best Director award. What kind of influence will that have on the Best Picture race?- American Hustle, David O. Russell: This is Russell's second nomination, but its also the first time in the history of the Oscars that a director has earned all four acting nominations two years in a row (after last year's Silver Linings Playbook). That kind of star power could sway the votes in his favor, as he's proven twice now that he can deliver excellent performances from big name actors. - Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron: After winning the Golden Globe, Cuaron seems to be the front runner for the Best Director race; if he wins Best Director, that could be a good sign for the film as a whole. In the last 86 years, 62 films have won both the Best Director and Best Picture award, proving, on a whole, that the two tend to go hand in hand. Plus, if he wins, he will be the first Spanish director to win an Academy Award. - 12 Years A Slave, Steve McQueen: Like Cuaron, McQueen is a first-time nominee, and if he wins, he would be the first black man to win the Best Director prize. That kind of history-making impact could help sway the Academy, and thus, ensure a Best Picture win for 12 Years a Slave.
Your Best Bet: Based on the winners of the past, it looks like 12 Years a Slave has the best chance of winning on Oscar night, with an ideal runtime, the best amount of acting nominations, and both a genre and subject matter that the Academy tends to enjoy rewarding. Of course, since anything can happen once the awards are tallied, there's still a chance one of the other films can sneak in and win. But for now, we'd reccommend you go for 12 Years a Slave when it comes time to fill out your Oscar ballot.
Alan Bennett's lauded drama The History Boys has been voted Britain's most beloved play. The show, about a group of teenagers preparing for their university entry exams, topped a new poll by bosses at the English Touring Theatre.
The History Boys was first staged in London in 2004, launching the careers of British actors James Corden, Dominic Cooper and Russell Tovey, and was adapted into a film in 2006.
Noises Off, a farce by Michael Frayn, came second in the list, followed by William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet.
Other plays to make the top 10 include Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, and An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley.
The Bard took the eighth, ninth and 10th spots on the list with Twelfth Night, Macbeth and King Lear.
Rasputin — he's a bad guy, right? High school global history class pretty much swept over that chapter to devote enough time to World War I, so all we really have to go by is Anastasia, in which the historical figure was embodied by a tall, deplorable, Jafar-ian villain. So naturally, when you think Rasputin, you think Leonardo DiCaprio.
Unsatisfied with Calvin Candie as the identifying "going beyond type" role, DiCaprio is going for the role of Rasputin in a developing biopic about the Russian Imperial Family's turn-of-the-20th-century advisor. Laden with a mysterious life story (and an even more mysterious death story), Rasputin should make for a pretty interesting central figure in a script to be crafted by American Sniper writer Jason Hall.
Deadline reports that the Warner Bros. project will be headlined by DiCaprio, who will either have to do some serious Christian Bale-style ugly-getting for this role, or will turn Rasputin into a newly alluring figure.
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One distinct sensation comes over you while watching Baz Luhrmann's colorful film adaptation of The Great Gatsby: that of experiencing the wonder of one's first meeting with Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack Dawson in Titanic. Somehow, with 16 years between the James Cameron film and DiCaprio's turn as F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragic hero, DiCaprio still evokes the sensation of pre-teen lust: the smell of watermelon Bubblicious, the intoxicating mix of movie theater popcorn and Bath and Body Works' Country Apple body spray, and of course, the scent of a fresh issue of Tiger Beat. Against all odds, DiCaprio has remained the ultimate heartthrob long after his years of having his face plasters on teenagers' walls has ended.
Gatsby Is Basically a Grown Up JackThe beguiling and intoxicating Jay Gatsby ultimately becomes the victim of his own ambition. He reaches for his green light, his unattainable perfect life represented by Daisy and his surreptitiously-acquired wealth, and it eventually drives him to his death in his own pristine swimming pool.
Jack Dawson is almost the reckless, teen version of that ill-fated man. He's a poor kid striving for something more, much like Gatsby before his wealth, and he reaches above his station to attempt to be with Rose (Kate Winslet). It's that dedication and romantic desperation that leads him to his tragic, similarly-watery death.
Add to that the way both dapper charmers lift their coupe glasses of champagne just to the side of the viewer's direct (and ardent) stare, and you've got a direct link – both thematically and in a unavoidable Pavlovian sense – to the young rapscallion who stole our hearts back in 1997.
There's a Leo For Every Stage of One's Romantic and Psychological DevelopmentWhen we first met Leo as the impossibly cute Luke Brower on Growing Pains, we didn't know we were entering the calculated crush-prolonging vehicle that is DiCaprio's illustrious career. After winning our young (make that super young) hearts, DiCaprio captured our more rebellious, angsty proclivities for longing with tragic roles in Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet and Titanic.
When we needed to grow up just a bit and enjoy movies that made our parents slightly more uncomfortable, we witnessed a serious, and far more sexually stimulating DiCaprio in Danny Boyle's sexy thriller The Beach. (Leo tan and half-naked on a mysterious beach in Thailand? Yes, please.) Like clockwork, DiCaprio moved on to Catch Me if You Can and Gangs of New York, providing a glimpse at his rapidly improving acting abilities and pleasing both sides of our developing DiCaprio pallette: the side that longs for boyish charms and the side that longs for a roguish man.
When we were firmly settled with DiCaprio's new status as a grown man, the onslaught continued and we were helpless but to comply. In The Departed and Blood Diamond, DiCaprio threw himself into the underbelly of some of the world's darkest realms. The tears we cried over his characters' deaths only brought us closer. By the time we got to Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island, and Inception, he was practically our middle school sweetheart all grown up and still true to our ever-beating hearts. To love him was all we knew and everything we wanted.
In Real Life, Leo Is Heartwarmingly Dedicated to Making the Earth a Better PlaceWhen DiCaprio was young, he was well-spoken and a little too cocky for his own good. I remember distinctly watching him tell someone on ET that if one girl said his name, "it spreads like wildfire to all the other girls." I never forgot, because I thought it was unforgiveably arrogant, yet my adolescent longing for the actor grew without my permission. He was teenage cryptonite.
Now, we're older. We're wiser. We want someone with more to offer than knowledge of his own popularity. Enter Leo of 2013. He wrote, produced, and narrated a documentary on global warming called The 11th Hour. He completely fit his home with solar panels and insists on driving a hybrid car. He even flies commercial instead of using private planes because he's that dedicated to helping the environment. Just this week, he raised over $38 million towards global conservation.
We're not even mad that he almost exclusively dates models. This man can do no wrong. He's devilishly handsome. He cares about the Earth. He's so in tune with his roles that when he speaks about his characters, you'd think he'd been possessed by the spirit of Sir Lawrence Olivier.
Even if we hadn't grown up with DiCaprio's career in such a perfect sync, contemporary Leo would be enough. But factor in the machine-like efficiency with which his career has fully ensared us year after year, like a mystical plan devised by a still-unknown intergallatic enemy, and we're absolutely helpless. To even attempt to resist the girlish fervor with which we still worship DiCaprio is futile. We're instricably linked, and there's not a single one of us that's complaining.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
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If, over the past week, you've seen people reading The Great Gatsby everywhere — at the park, on the subway, at the movie theater during the opening credits — it's not in preparation for this weekend's release of Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic. No, no, old sports. It's because Stephen Colbert told them to. Filling in the void of Oprah's Book Club, The Colbert Report host kicked off his inaugural cOlbert book club with the beloved novel. (First rule of cOlbert's book club? "Don't read Fight Club!"). The only problem is that, like pretty much everyone who has ever joined any book club, Colbert wound up sipping chardonnay and not reading the book at all.
While he certainly looked the part (watch out, Leo, Stephen makes a pretty great Gatsby himself) he still had no idea what the book was about, rendering him unable to discuss it with his guest, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan (A Visit From the Goon Squad). With time running down, he recruited Gatsby's leading lady Carey Mulligan ... after all, she would have had to have read the book, right? Right?!
Wrong! Don't be fooled by her beauty, grace, intelligence, and brilliant acting skills. It's all a front! (Damn British accents). Turns out, Mulligan actually can't read and has no idea what's going on in her movies (as evident by her confusing the ending of Gatsby with that of Drive). There's only thing to remedy such a situation: ride the Reading Rainbow all the way to LeVar Burton! Who needs to read when you can just look through Burton's Star Trek VISOR, anyway?
As far as Colbert book segments go, this one might be on par with his visit with the late, great Maurice Sendak. From his keen analysis of The Great Gatsby ("Couldn't you boil this book down to, 'Bitches be crazy'?") to a heard-but-not-seen cameo by James Franco, here's to hoping Colbert doesn't make his book club a one-time venture. The Hobbit seems like the obvious next choice.
Watch all three segments, including his hilarious and insightful discussion with Egan, below.
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
Follow Aly on Twitter @AlySemigran
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Whether it's the archetypical cowboy of Australia, legendary heartthrob in Romeo + Juliet, or his latest protagonist, the mysterious prince of Long Island, Jay Gatsby, director Baz Luhrmann loves a larger-than-life leading man. They fit perfectly into the heightened worlds he creates on screen, epic in every detail. It's made Leonardo DiCaprio the ideal collaborator for the Moulin Rouge director. The actor can swing from subtle to manic in the blink of an eye, and that's how Luhrmann loves to pace his films. Emotion is constantly boiling.
This weekend sees the release of Luhrmann and DiCaprio's second team-up, the writer/director's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Despite the movie just now making its way to theaters, it seems that Luhrmann already has his sights set on another grand character for DiCaprio to inhabit. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Luhrmann revealed that he's hoping to cast DiCaprio in a new version of William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
"To me, Gatsby is the American Hamlet. What else could we possibly do as a follow-up?" Luhrmann tells THR. He admits that it's presently just wishful thinking, but tackling Shakespeare's most complicated male character would be a fitting third entry for the actor/director duo.
Hamlet has been a staple of the theater, and in turn, the cinema since the early days of film. The classic 1948 version saw Laurence Olivier become the first person to direct himself to a Best Actor Oscar. Recent adaptations include Kenneth Branagh's breathtaking 242-minute 1996 adaptation, a 2000 modernized version starring Ethan Hawke, and Disney's The Lion King, which draws heavily from the play's story beats. On the TV side, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has noted the connections between his biker show and Hamlet, while a number of networks are currently in developments on their own Shakespearean series riffs.
Is Luhrmann and DiCaprio's Hamlet to be or not to be? That is the question that may have an answer after this weekend, when Great Gatsby's box office totals arrive.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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The news that Star Wars: The Clone Wars had been cancelled came to me as a slowly-dawning shock. Almost like the Five Stages of Grief in reverse. I started with acceptance, the realization that this show couldn't last forever. After all, it had originally been planned for only 100 episodes at its outset, and we crossed that mark this January. Lucasfilm's announcement also promised that another animated series is in the works, one that would explore a wholly untouched part of the Star Wars timeline. That's exciting. But as much as it may be un-Jedi-like of me, as the day progressed and the news truly started to sink in, I found it harder and harder to let go.
The Clone Wars has been an amazingly accomplished series throughout its run. If its quality ever varied, it's because it realized it had to be all things to all Star Wars fans and deliver different kinds of episodes for different demographics: young kids encountering that Galaxy Far, Far Away for the first time, teenagers and young adults who first experienced Star Wars with the prequels, and middle-aged fans for whom the original trilogy is all the Star Wars they ever care to know. That's a tall order. And with an incredible batting average, it succeeded in pleasing each of those groups at one time or another.
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The lazy, kneejerk response to The Clone Wars is that it was what the prequels should have been: kinetic, action-driven, easy on the politics and heavy on the mythmaking. You will get no such prequel-bashing from this post. The funny thing is, The Clone Wars could be daringly political and devote whole episodes to moral quandaries and character's relationships as easily as it could space battles and lightsaber duels. It can be argued, very easily in fact, that The Clone Wars took the best of the prequels and the best of the original trilogy and made a series radically original and unlike any previous TV animation project. What emerged was a show as vast as the Star Wars galaxy itself. And lucky for us, there are still stories to tell, due to still unaired episodes that are due a DVD release or online streaming or who knows what. The final separation pains are still to be felt later on. But for now, let's take a deep breath and count the ways The Clone Wars was the very best that Star Wars had to offer.
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1. The Clone Wars Gave Us Vivid Characters With Bold Personalities and Complex Motivations
For the incredible roster of characters The Clone Wars gave us, you have to give a great tip of the hat to Lucasfilm Animation's talented stable of voice actors. (We'll get to them in a minute.) But, first and foremost, you've gotta acknowledge not only the depth but the economy of the writing. There were hundreds of characters with speaking parts throughout the 109 episodes of the show. And each episode ran for only 22 minutes. To convey a sense of any character's personality, the writers had to communicate something unique about each of them...and very quickly. Members of the Jedi Council, who served as freaky-looking window dressing in the movies, had to be fleshed out, and, in the case of Plo Koon or Even Piell or Adi Gallia, be capable of anchoring episodes themselves.
An even greater challenge lay in making each of the Republic's clone troopers distinct. I mean, they're clones. They all look the same. They all have the same voice (the incomparable Dee Bradley Baker). How do you set them apart? The writers made it seemed like they'd solved that problem effortlessly, building whole episodes, or even multi-episode story arcs around squads of clone troopers, like the Battle for Umbara Arc in Season 4. Take away the white armor, the blasters, the lightsabers, and any other funky tech, then splice those episodes together, and that arc could have served as a solid Vietnam War movie.
Then there's the way the show introduced new characters. Some of these developed whole cults of personality themselves, like Duros bounty hunter Cad Bane. Others would only appear in one episode, or even one scene, but were still capable of making an impression. Writer Brent Friedman especially proved himself a master at efficiently setting up new characters and delineating their personalities, as in the clip below, my favorite scene from my favorite episode of the series: Season 4's "The Box." Look at the way Friedman introduces 12 characters from the show in under 90 seconds. And once those 90 seconds are up, you know exactly what you need to know about each of those characters.
Even beyond the economy of that set-up, Friedman writes something A New Hope achieved brilliantly: a line of throwaway dialogue that suggests an epic history we're not entirely privy to. In this case, it's when Count Dooku says to the final bounty hunter, a Selkath of the aquatic race first scene in the videogame Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, that his people were once a peaceful race and "How far they have fallen." Whoa. So what happened to them, exactly? Why did they change? We don't know but our minds are racing with possibilities. This is writing that inspires the imagination, and it's in micro what Clone Warsdid all the time.
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2. The Clone Wars Went Further than the Expanded Universe
I love the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I've probably read a good 70+ Star Wars novels easy, not to mention countless comics and graphic novels. So I can understand why fans were upset when The Clone Wars rewrote previously established canon, like killing off Even Piell (who had previously been depicted as surviving Order 66), or, most notably, what the show did with bony Sith assassin, and all-around hottie, Asajj Ventress. In the Clone Wars comics released before Revenge of the Sith hit theaters, Ventress was portrayed as a repeat sufferer of abandonment, whose loneliness drove her toward the Dark Side -- and the manipulation of Count Dooku. On the show, some of that was left in place, but she was also revealed to be a Nightsister, and rather just exiting galactic history stage-right near the end of the war, as in the comics, on the show she became a bounty hunter and, eventually, a quasi-ally to both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano. George Lucas, who had a hand in most, if not all, of the TV show's plot points, personally steered Ventress' arc in that direction. And you've got to admit it's more interesting than what had already been established in the EU. The same goes for Barriss Offee, who in the Season 5 (er, series) finale revealed herself to be a traitor to the Jedi Order and the person framing Ahsoka for murder and terrorism. In the comics, she was just another anonymous casualty of Order 66. On The Clone Wars, however, she was given a far more compelling exit.
3. The Clone Wars Featured Some of the Saga's Greatest Battles
And, yes, the show had plenty of action. In fact, it offered up space battles and lightsaber duels of true cinematic sweep, the equal of anything seen in the movies. And it set those battles in landscapes and environs unlike anything seen in the movies. Space battles? Try the Sky Battle of Quell on for size, instead.
The Clone Wars even cannibalized unused concept art for the original trilogy that legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie had painted. His original blue-white vision for Hoth became the moon Orto Plutonia in Season 1. And his exotic cityscapes were just as interesting, so his design for Coruscant's Monument Plaza made it onto the show, as well.
NEXT: The Clone Wars was brimming with talent, behind the scenes and in the recording booth.
4. The Clone Wars Was Really Smart
This show was capable of delivering a two-part episode about the passage of legislation that would enact banking reforms (in Season 3), as a kind of commentary on the Wall Street shenanigans that led to our financial collapse in this galaxy in 2008. I know, I know, you'll balk and say that sounds as dry as "the taxation of trade routes," but The Clone Wars made that incredibly interesting. It became a study of the political process, about how Palpatine coerced his minions to do what he needed to do, that was worthy of Lincoln or Advise and Consent. And it showed the intersection of economics and warfare. To ensure the passage of that legislation, General Grievous sends suicide-bomber droids to Coruscant to destroy the the government district's main power center and plunge the Republic Senate in darkness. His motivational speech to those droids as he sent them on their mission was almost Dickensian: "I won't lie to you...this is a dangerous mission. Some of you may not return....Actually, none of you will return." The resulting blackout was dripping with Langian paranoia and the kind of inky, palpable fear of a people ready to turn to fascism to solve their problems. Brilliant stuff.
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5. The Clone Wars Had an Incredible Roster of Voice Talent
The show's regular cast of Matt Lanter as Anakin, Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka, Tom Kane as the Narrator, Dee Bradley Baker as the clones, the late Ian Abercrombie as Palpatine, and James Arnold Taylor as an inspired (and inspiring) Obi-Wan, was peerless. But supervising director Dave Filoni also managed to score high-profile guest talent: actors like George Takei, Michael York, Tim Curry (as Abercrombie's replacement for Palpatine), Katee Sackhoff, Seth Green, Simon Pegg, and even, in one memorable cameo, Liam Neeson himself as Qui-Gon Jinn. As great as they were, it was the regulars, though, who really made the show shine week-in and week-out. Check out the final time we heard Abercrombie as Darth Sidious, at the end of this knock-out fight when the Sith Lord sneers at a supplicating Darth Maul and says, "I'm not going to kill you...I have other plans for you-u-u-u...(trails off into maniacal laugh). The best.
6. The Clone Wars Gave Us the Most Fully Realized Star Wars Underworld Yet
Sure, we got glimpses of scum and villainy in the Mos Eisley Cantina, Jabba's Palace, and that weird Coruscant nightclub Anakin and Obi-Wan visit in Attack of the Clones. But Clone Wars went deeper. In fact, it even devoted whole episodes to gangsters, pirates, and bounty hunters. For years, it's been rumored that a live-action TV series, tentatively titled Star Wars: Underworld, would explore the demimonde of that Galaxy Far, Far Away. But you don't need to wait for a show that may never happen. It already has happened. This interaction between Nika Futterman's Asajj Ventress and Simon Pegg's Dengar is perfectly indicative of the languid sleaze and scuzzy sexiness the show could trade in effortlessly.
7. The Clone Wars Had an Unbeatable Rogues Gallery
We've already talked about how great Ventress was on the show. But she's just the tip of the villainous iceberg. Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and Elf, voiced the sinister, snarling Mandalorian Death Watch terrorist Pre Vizsla, a character who could have been a throwaway baddie but ended up having a kind of karmic--even tragic--story arc. Or the Nightsister coven leader, Mother Talzin. Or Revenge of the Sith's General Grievous, whose unique mix of malice and campiness was perfected by voice artist (and Oscar-nominated sound editor of There Will Be Blood) Matthew Wood. Or Savage Opress, who, forget Vizsla, really had a tragic arc, and was voiced by Highlander's Clancy Brown! Or Tarkin, the King's English-accented villain inhabited by Peter Cushing in A New Hope, who was the only man capable of holding Vader's leash, and was given a new, equally snide personality by Stephen Stanton. Or Cad Bane, who was the Star Wars Galaxy's answer to Lee Van Cleef's Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: implacable, unstoppable, someone we'd call a force of nature if he weren't just so damn civilized. He was the kind of bounty hunter willing to kill someone if they had a wider-brimmed hat than him, who was never to be found without a toothpick in his mouth, who just seemed to conjure Morricone-esque music out of thin air. In this scene, the floor of his apartment was originally supposed to have the chalk outline of a Gungan. Even more reason to like him!
NEXT: The Clone Wars drew upon a diverse range of influences from Star Wars itself to Alfred Hitchcock to, I would argue, John Waters. (Yep, we're talking "Hunt for Ziro.")
8. The Clone Wars' Movie Inspirations Were Savvy
Though the call-outs were subtle, several episodes were designed as homages to movies cherished by Dave Filoni & Co. A Season 2 episode recast Seven Samurai with Star Wars bounty hunters, in tribute to the centennial of Akira Kurosawa's birth. One of the characters, the broad-hatted Embo was part of a race named the Kyuzo, in honor of Seven Samurai's most taciturn badass. There were also episodes rendered in the style of Godzilla movies, zombie flicks, Spaghetti Westerns (note that sarape Boba Fett wears in Season 2!), even a blow-by-blow redo of the end of Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious with Anakin as Cary Grant, Padmé as Ingrid Bergman, and Senator Clovis as Claude Rains.
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9. The Clone Wars Gave Us Mini Movies.
Serialized storytelling is the holy grail of TV production today, but Clone Wars found a middle ground between a serialized rollout of its stories and an episodic approach. Though a character like Anakin's Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, obviously has an arc throughout the course of the whole series, the show mostly preferred three-to-four episode arcs. Splice those together, like Season 3's Nightsisters arc, or the Mortis trilogy, or Season 4's awesome Undercover Obi-Wan arc, and you'd have some pretty tasty cinematic experiences. Here's hoping that the final episodes that have yet to be released will be cut together to fully unleash their latent theatrical heft.
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10. The Clone Wars Explored the Niches of that Galaxy Far, Far Away
One thing you could do in a TV show that you couldn't do in a movie, not even in the spin-off Star Wars movies Disney has planned, is give really obscure supporting characters the spotlight. Take one of the oddest, but possibly most original, episodes of the series: "Hunt for Ziro." Ziro the Hutt, a tattooed, purple Hutt who escaped from prison with the assistance of Cad Bane, but forgot to pay Bane for his services, was modeled on Truman Capote, voice and all. Despite Ziro's previously ambiguous sexuality, he was revealed to have a girlfriend in "Hunt for Ziro," the glam lead singer of the Max Rebo Band, as seen in Jabba's Palace in Return of the Jedi, Sy Snootles. Sy put on a Vegas floor show in "Hunt for Ziro," then rushed to her beloved Ziro's side, after he was locked in prison again. They exchanged some self-consciously overheated Tennessee Williams dialogue like Ziro's "Unfortunately the cage that entraps me now also entraps my chance of loving you again." So Sy helped him escape...and then she gunned him down, proving herself to be the Star Wars saga's ultimate femme fatale. Who knew?
11. The Clone Wars Had a John Waters-esque Affinity for the Absurd
And the grotesque. When Obi-Wan and fellow Jedi Quinlan Vos are on the hunt for Ziro in "Hunt for Ziro," they enlist his mother for help. Wow. To think we thought Jabba was obese. And to think we thought Ziro was sexually ambiguous! Ziro's mom is indicative of The Clone Wars' sometimes surreal proclivity for comical exaggeration. If Ziro was based on Truman Capote, Ziro's mom must surely have been inspired by Divine. Brace yourself for this one. You could argue this is The Clone Wars' all-time worst moment. I'd argue it's one of the best.
NEXT: Just like Luke Skywalker's story ended (or so we thought) the moment he became a Jedi, The Clone Wars will go out on top.
12. The Clone Wars' Animation Kept Getting Better and Better
Every season saw a new visual advance. Mind you, Industrial Light & Magic was already a pioneer in the rendering of CGI fire effects. But foliage, water, and hair had always been more of a challenge. And with each year it met those challenges one-by-one. The Season 3 finale's Most Dangerous Game setup of Trandoshan hunters tracking Ahsoka and fellow Padawans through a dense jungle showed how the Lucasarts Animation team had mastered creating a fully organic environment, where before they relied on arid landscapes of sand and rock. Season 4 tackled water with the season-opening arc's three episodes set entirely beneath the waves of ocean planet Mon Calamari. And by Season 5, the characters' hair, previously immobile, had started to move and sway with the wind and their own exertion. Not to mention that their choreography of elaborate fight scenes had never gotten more visceral than by the end of its run. Check out the incredible final showdown between Maul and Pre Vizsla from Season 5's "Shades of Reason."
13. The Clone Wars Could Be Edgy
Oh yeah, Vizsla suffered the fate of Ned Stark there. The Clone Wars could be violent and it more than once got in trouble with timid Cartoon Network censors. Other, more graphic beheadings were cut out of the show altogether. And this scene from the Season 3 premiere, of Asajj Ventress kissing a soldier she's impaled on her lightsaber, was also left on the cutting room floor.
14. The Clone Wars' Makers Knew It Served a Wide Audience
A glimpse at Season 5, alone, shows the narrative diversity of this show. It opened with a four-part arc focused squarely on the war, for an older, more action-oriented crowd. Then it followed that up with "The Young Jedi Knights," episodes that gave the spotlight to younglings first learning the Jedi ropes, showing how they would find their lightsaber crystals, then build their blades. Those eps were clearly for the under-10 crowd, and great for parents to watch with their kids. The same goes for the four-episode adventure about "D-Squad," plucky droids behind enemy lines. Then we got to a three-parter about Darth Maul, and those episodes featured a level of grit--not to mention multiple deaths--to satisfy a Game of Thrones fan. And finally the "Jedi On the Run" arc that saw Ahsoka leave the Jedi Order would appeal to, well, everybody. But especially older fans of the original trilogy searching for those movies' unique mythological resonance.
15. The Clone Wars Corrected the Mistakes of the Prequels
Mind you, I stand by my initial remarks that this is not a time to praise Clone Wars at the expense of the prequels. Actually, I consider myself an ardent prequel defender. Those movies are certainly different from the originals, but in some ways they go deeper, even deconstructing the very Manichaean, Dark Side/Light Side bipolar split of the originals, in showing that the very qualities that make a hero can also make a villain. That's pretty heady stuff. But I do think the Clone Wars series picked up a couple threads that maybe weren't explored as effectively as they could have been in Episodes I, II, and III. Namely, George Lucas himself realized the missed storytelling potential of killing off Darth Maul at the end of The Phantom Menace when he decided to resurrect him on the TV show. Or, rather, that we'd discover he'd never been killed but had survived being cut in half because of the power of the Dark Side...which, as we know, leads to abilities some consider to be unnatural. Suddenly, Darth Maul was back and his motivations were as prickly as his horns--did he want to return to Darth Sidious' side? Did he actually resent Sidious for abandoning him? Just what does he want? Like Hamlet, he may not even know. But that wasn't going to stop him from unleashing a bloodbath in the meantime.
The other area where I'd say The Clone Wars picked up a neglected strand from the prequels was in its development of the relationship between Obi-Wan and Satine. It was funny and fresh, bristling with a hormonal spark and repressed longing. At times, like in the scene below, when Obi-Wan subtly mocks Satine for being a pacifist, there was even a screwball wit to their dynamic. It's probably what we would have liked to have seen from Anakin and Padmé in the movies. But obviously, that could never have been, since Anakin and Padmé's relationship, though consummated, is marked by tragedy, betrayal, and abuse. Instead, Obi-Wan and Satine captured a will-they/won't-they free-spiritedness we hadn't seen in a Star Wars couple since Han and Leia.
There are probably a dozen more reasons I could list for why The Clone Wars was such a valuable part of Star Wars storytelling. Whatever animation projects Disney and Lucasfilm are planning for the future can learn a lot from this show. Hell, Episode VII could learn a lot from The Clone Wars. I've been writing about it in-depth for almost five years, and it still seems too soon to say goodbye.
This will be a show long remembered.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Lucasfilm]
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Promotion for The Master the latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights There Will Be Blood) has emphasized a unique technical fact: It is the first narrative film in 16 years to have been shot on 70mm film. The large format utilized in movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey Far and Away and Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet makes promises of an epically scaled experience. That's not exactly the case for The Master. The movie is grand but the stunning photography serves to amplify an intense intimacy between Anderson's two leads. Sparring on screen are Philip Seymour Hoffman as the magnetic cult leader Lancaster Dodd and Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell a mentally ill war vet who can't control his carnal instincts. Anderson fills the widest frame imaginable with the electricity that sparks between the two. The Master may not be filled with scenic vistas or sweeping action but it's nothing less than jaw-dropping.
In the early 1950s Freddie finds himself displaced from the world. He can't hold a job — mostly because he keeps sleeping with his female coworkers and beating up irritable customers — he's plagued by his drinking problem and the one girl he's ever loved is half his age. Post-war little is working out. Driven by bipolar tendencies Freddie stows away on a party yacht headed to New York and drinks himself to sleep. When he awakens he meets Lancaster Dodd aka The Master leader of a religious group dubbed "The Cause." Dodd immediately takes to Freddie — he's a feral dog ready to be trained. Dodd is more than willing to domesticate him.
If you're looking for the definitive film on the history of Scientology The Master isn't your film. Anderson does detail a bit of the inner-workings of Dodd's group — they listen to tapes of The Master's soothing voice preach the good word and Dodd "processes" his followers helping them explore their spiritual histories through exploration of their past lives — but the meat of the story is Freddie's journey. The man's mind is stretched paper thin instinct pulling him one way Dodd's seductive promises pulling him in another. Phoenix is appropriately off-kilter his snarled lip and dumb grin the centerpiece of his dazzling performance.
Hoffman makes for a worthy foil turning Dodd into a powerful father figure with everything figured out. When he's entertaining the masses Dodd dances with a fun-loving swagger. When he's "processing " Dodd is hushed and never misses a beat. But when he's crossed Dodd erupts with unimaginable force. The only person who can really pick him apart is his wife Peggy a self-aware puppetmaster of the entire operation. Anderson compliments his actors with each scene each setting each camera angle. Every choice feels ultra-specific and intended. The director plays the action close up on his actors faces — as Dodd burrows his way into Freddie's mind we're there.
In Dream House – the new suspense thriller from Jim Sheridan (In America My Left Foot) – Daniel Craig plays Will Atenton a successful New York publisher who disavows his high-powered Manhattan lifestyle and relocates along with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and two daughters (Taylor and Claire Astin Geare) to a picturesque New England hamlet. Their new home a quaint fixer-upper bears imprints of the family that lived there previously: Old tools and other belongings are strewn about the basement a secret room abutting the children’s bedroom is filled with discarded toys. Will and Libby see the items as charming artifacts signs that their house has a history a soul.
The new neighborhood is not so bucolic as it seems. The children complain of a man peering in on them from the front yard – a suspicion confirmed when Will discovers footsteps in the snow the next day. If that weren’t ominous enough Will later learns that five years earlier his new home was the site of a grisly murder spree in which the previous owner Peter Ward was alleged to have killed his wife and two daughters. Acquitted due to a lack of evidence Ward spent a brief time at a psychiatric facility before being released. Could the shadowy figure glimpsed outside the window be Ward returning to the scene of the crime preparing to kill again?
At this point Dream House pulls off a whopper of a mid-game twist that effectively re-frames the entire narrative. (I won’t spoil it for you but if you want to know what it is just watch the trailer which rather stupidly gives it away.) Until now Sheridan has worked steadily to foster the guise of a relatively conventional haunted-house tale presenting a portrait of idyllic domesticity while simultaneously building an atmosphere of looming peril. After the story drops its bombshell the film morphs into a sort of supernatural murder mystery with Craig’s character scouring for clues within his own tortured psyche. Characters and scenes that might have been dismissible as red herrings – a neighbor (Naomi Watts) appears oddly stand-offish; her ex-husband (Martin Csokas) cartoonishly gruff; the town cops inexplicably apathetic – gain sudden relevance.
It’s a clever gambit; it is also patently absurd. A talented cast helps make the twist easier to swallow but the film’s second half sheds credulity seemingly by the frame at points devolving into schlock. Which in a different film might bode well for some silly fun but Sheridan aims for a restrained tone that seems more suitable for a somber character study than a flagrantly preposterous suspense thriller. As it is Dream House is neither thrilling nor suspenseful.