Monthly Archives: November 2015

Star Wars: The Balance of the Grand and the Intimate in A New Hope


Of all the memorable visual flourishes in the original Star Wars, there are two images that stand out. The first is arguably the most iconic — Luke Skywalker, gazing off at the horizon, as the twin suns set on Tatooine. It represents the promise of adventure, the enormous world that waits beyond the garden gate, and serves as the prelude to his epic journey.

But the second is much simpler. It’s Luke, Leia, and Han, arm-in-arm and filled with joy, as they celebrate their victory over the Empire back at the rebel base. That moment underlines their unlikely friendship, borne out of shared struggles and triumphs, and shows the film’s heart, clearly felt even in the midst of this grand adventure. That contrast is what Star Wars, at least in its original form, comes down to, and what makes the film still so salient and impressive nearly forty years after its release.

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The Simpsons Did a Takeoff on the Caitlyn Jenner Story and It Was…Weird

Say what you will about “Stunning and Brave”, the season premiere for South Park’s nineteenth season, which centers on Caitlyn Jenner and the public’s reaction to her transition, but in that episode, series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had a point they wanted to convey about Jenner and the surrounding media hoopla. In classic South Park style, the quick production turnaround let them have their say while the topic was still fresh in everyone’s minds. And while their commentary may have been crass, with plenty of room to disagree, Trey and Matt had a clear viewpoint and message behind their work that came through in how South Park handled the issue.

The Simpsons’s much longer production cycle means that it’s always going to be playing catch up when it comes to addressing the issues of the day. The show has tried to work around this obstacle, trying everything from turning the show’s lagging response time itself into a joke, making their easier-to-animate chalkboard gags more topical (including in support of South Park), and more recently, creating short topical clips meant for viral internet consumption. But as a general rule, the creative minds behind The Simpsons have had to wait patiently to speak their piece in the national dialogue. Until now.

Enter The Simpsons: Tapped Out, a mobile “freemium” game (the likes of which South Park has previously taken aim at), featuring the denizens of Springfield in a Farmville-meets-SimCity type of environment. Within this game, there are various “quests” — brief in-game tasks that feature minor storylines (often rehashes or sequels to the show’s most notable episodes) with small bits of written, interstitial dialogue to break up the action and add a little flavor to a mode of game play that can otherwise become repetitive. The fact that nearly all of this dialogue is conveyed via comic book-esque speech bubbles, without the need for voice acting or animation, allows it to be much more timely than in the game’s televised counterpart.

It’s in these bits of written dialogue that The Simpsons offered its take on the Caitlyn Jenner story, by having a little-known Springfield mobster become a woman as part of a bid to overthrow the local government, only for the character to just as quickly transition back to being a man, without fanfare, after the citizens turn on him. It’s odd not only for the peculiar nature of this riff on the Caitlyn Jenner story in and of itself, but because the Jenner takeoff seemed tossed off into an unrelated storyline, with no real criticism or commentary behind it.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Chaos Theory” – How We Respond When People Change


People change — some because they want to, some because they have to, and some because of factors beyond their control. It’s a fact of life. But people also have relationships with friends, family, and those closest to them. And as a person changes, so too must those relationships. But navigating how those relationships should evolve in the face of those changes can be extremely difficult, and the more drastic the change the harder it is to figure out. That’s the struggle for Melinda May in “Chaos Theory”.

But it’s also what makes her story, and her relationship with Dr. Andrew Garner compelling here. In Season 2′s “Melinda”, the show implied that May herself was so changed by her experiences in Bahrain that it led to the dissolution of her marriage. She was shaken by the events she witnessed, and these experiences made her a different person, putting a strain on her relationship with Dr. Garner.

Then, as this episode’s flashbacks to Hawaii show, May was finally able to move beyond her past and once again find common ground with the man she loves. The last scene in the episode puts too fine a point on it, but when Andrew takes her picture as she gazes off into the horizon, the implication is that May has finally made some kind of peace with who she is and who she wants to be. Then, right after May finds her equilibrium with the man she loves, he’s forced through his own change, by forces neither of them has any control of. And in “Chaos Theory” those nascent changes drive a new wedge between them. It’s tragic, and it’s not hard to understand why May feels like happiness is something meant to elude her.

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2015 Dallas Cowboys: The Season Ends Before It Began


In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys had one of their best seasons in recent memory. Despite some ups and downs in the regular season, they not only managed to beat the Eagles to win their division, but they picked up Dallas’s first playoff victory since the last gasps of the 90s Cowboys dynasty. Their season would end with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the second round of the playoffs, but hopes were high going into the next season. The Cowboys, it seemed, had found their winning formula, and they looked poised to capitalize on their newfound success.

Instead, in 2010, the Cowboys found themselves with a 1-7 record after the first eight games of the season. Due to a combination of some tough breaks in close matchups early in the season, and other fits of missed opportunities and bad luck (including starting quarterback Tony Romo suffering a broken clavicle) the team looked absolutely miserable at the halfway mark. Head Coach Wade Phillips was fired in the middle of the season, and the team would finish well out of playoff contention. The fans lamented that a promising year had gone down the drain.

It’s hard not to feel the echoes of the same one-two punch when looking at the Dallas Cowboys over the last two seasons. In 2014, despite times when it seemed like all was lost, the Cowboys stormed back to outpace the Eagles in the division, win the NFC East, and pull off the team’s first playoff victory since the one in 2009. After years of false starts (both literal and figurative), Jason Garrett seemed to have finally found a winning formula on both sides of the ball. Though the team’s post-season ended in a controversial loss to another NFC North opponent, hopes were once again high for the following season, where Dallas was penciled in as a playoff, and maybe even Super Bowl, contender.

Instead, in 2015, Tony Romo suffered another clavicle injury; the team again found itself on the losing end of a number of bad breaks in close games, and the Cowboys struggled, stumbling to a paltry 2-6 record at the halfway point of the season, hopelessly out of playoff contention. Once more, a season where Dallas looked so primed for success had gone down in flames. And it felt all too familiar.

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Adventure Time: “The Comet” – The Different Shades of Meaning as Finn Finds His Place


The Land of Ooo, the setting for Adventure Time, is a bright, candy-colored world, but those garish hues mask the harsher truth revealed over the course of the show — that the series takes place not in some wholly imaginary fantasy land, but rather on Earth, generations after humanity was wiped out in “The Great Mushroom War”. That kind of contrast is also the central conceit of the show, where a series that, on the surface, appears to be a silly children’s cartoon, with brightly-colored characters and goofy adventures, reveals an unexpected depth, sensitivity, poignance, and even, occasionally, profundity, belied by the fairy tale nature of its setting and style.

Adventure Time embraces the basics of its palette in “The Comet”, the finale of the show’s sixth season. There are three distinct philosophies on life and on choosing one’s path within it offered in “The Comet”. These philosophies are symbolized by the three primary colors, and none of them is so favored or dismissed as to be dominating or irrelevant in the show’s calculus.

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