Friday, November 28, 2008

Twilight: Fanatics and Fangs. Minus the Fangs.

On Monday, I received an email from a desperate friend who, after seeing Twilight opening weekend, was already suffering serious Robert Pattinson-related withdrawal symptoms and the desperate need to see the film again ... 24 hours later.

I wasn't actually planning on seeing the movie. Well, that's not true. I had decided if the Rottentomatoes critics rated the film very highly (> 70%), I would dish out the $12 to see it. And if the RT critics rated it very poorly, then I would see it - drunk. But with Twilight's middling 43% rating, solidly rotten, but not quite in the "so bad it's good" territory, I wasn't going to waste my time.

And yet, I empathized with my friend's inner 12 year-old, and I was willing to suffer the film for her sake. I too had once obsessed over a tween-heartthrob (Leo DiCaprio, anyone?), fanatically seeing Titanic in theaters 4 times before I was satiated. Of course, I was actually 12 at the time.

Once again, low expectations paid off. Not only was I not disappointed, I was pleasantly surprised.

I haven't read any of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novels. As a young adult/fantasy series aficionado, I'm embarrassed to say that I hadn't even heard of Twilight until Entertainment Weekly began writing a series of articles on the series and author this summer, around the time Breaking Dawn was published. I am not particularly fond of melodramatic romances, vampire stories, or bad writing, so I don't expect to enjoy the series, but I did buy a used paperback edition of Twilight at Strand last month. If I'm ever going to write for young adults, the least I can do is read what's already out there.

Back to the film.

"Better than it had to be" would be the six-word review. With a modest $37 million budget, a cast light on the A-listers, and with a target audience in the 12-17 year old range, it could have been a lot worse. Despite an uneven plot (jumpy in the climatic chase/final battle, while plodding in other parts), some of the scenes were downright stylish, including the vampires-playing-baseball bit, which, despite the inherent silliness, was actually a lot of fun to watch.

I found Meyer's twists on the vampire archetype interesting. Along with their love of America's favorite past time and their clear lack of fangs, vampires also come in pairs (they're like together together), and they're super sparkly in the daylight.

For me, the most unlikeable scenes were the same ones that had my friend's inner 12 year old swooning in her seat.

As deliciously swoon-worthy 12 year old girls may find Bella + Edward, their "forbidden romance" is simply in no way up to par with Buffy and Angel's from Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

While I thought Kristen Stewart did a fine job as Bella, Robert Pattinson, as Edward, was a disappointment. Pattinson's performance was very one-note; he could make broody faces, but he did little else. I wasn't convinced of his affection for Bella. Obsession, sure, but there was no real romance in his performance or his character's actions.

Thanks in large part to Stewart's appropriately understated performance (up until the end when she really started to get whiny), the romance scenes were tolerable. Edward stared, Bella sighed wistfully, and that was that. I didn't buy that the two were destined for each other and I didn't buy that their "love" was anything more than a trumped-up, melodramatic high school infatuation, just one fantastical step away from disturbing, abusive, and controlling.

When Buffy and Angel learn the hard way that their relationship is toxic (and doomed), as much as it breaks their hearts, they stay away from each other. Bella and Edward, self-absorbed and living-in-the-now, just don't have the maturity and self-respect to make that choice. And thus, their love story will always fall short.

Edit: I just found this great article by Sarah Selltzer at the Huffington Post that sums up concerns about the undercurrents of the Bella + Edward relationship.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November Playlist

10 Random Songs from my November Playlist

At the Stars Better Than Ezra
Portions for Foxes Rilo Kiley
Cherry Lips Garbage
Blue Angie Hart
Commissioning a Symphony in C Cake
Such Great Heights Iron & Wine
Lucky Bif Naked
Fools in Love Inara George
America Jewel
Video Killed the Radio Star Presidents of the USA

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Movie, Less Grammatical Correctness


I'm seriously considering boycotting TNT - the cable network, not the explosive device.

Is my boycott part of a cable-wide protest of the switch from analog to digital television? Or perhaps I am objecting to the "questionable" content of some of TNT's original series?

D, none of the above.

I'm boycotting TNT because their new tag line, "More Movie, Less Commercial" makes me want to stab someone with a spork. Preferably the TNT executive responsible for this travesty.

I have nothing against TNT's programming, I just have a serious issue when a major cable network, owned by uber-media conglomerate Time Warner, can't get the goddamn English language right.

Grammar Quickie from Spark Notes
helping students avoid doing it themselves since 1999

When to use less and when to use fewer? There’s an easy way to remember. If you can’t count it, use less. If you can count it, use fewer.

• Cain has less love in his heart than anyone else I know.
• Cain gives fewer hugs than anyone else I know.

I'm not sure why Spark Notes chose a Biblical character to illustrate this grammar lesson, but the point is made. As annoying as commercials are, they are fully countable, and therefore we should be promised fewer commercial interruptions, not less.

I don't have a degree in English. I didn't even take a single English class post-secondary. But I am a stickler for the finer points of grammar, and I can't help but go blind in one eye, spasm uncontrollably, and reach for the spork whenever I come across these egregious grammatical offenses.

Some of the most enraging:
  • They're/their/there and it's/its mishaps. I won't go into detail, but what the f#%$ is up with the new Degree ad - WHATS NEW? *spasm twitch*
  • Unnecessary apostrophes - DVDs NOT DVD's; 1970s NOT 1970's. Apostrophes of this nature are intended to express possession and are absolutely inappropriate to throw in at random when pluralizing nouns.
Of course, grammar and punctuation slip-ups occur, and when they do, the Panda, very vehemently, says NO!

You can find out more about the Panda's quest for perfection by reading Lynn Truss's Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (the title says it all). The book is available in paperback as well as a new illustrated hardback edition (oh la la!). The focus is strictly punctuation, but it's a start on the path to Grammar Happiness.

And with luck, fewer sporks will be needed in the future.