Tag Archives: Natalie Portman

Should You Watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? We’ll Answer That For You

Because one of my fav’s Mark Lisanti was always so helpful in guiding my movie choices with the Q&A format below, I can do no less. You can also entitle this: “What I did with my lunch hour.” Enjoy.

“There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could…” That was Nick Fury laying down a brilliantly shameless piece of exposition to explain both The Avengers and its titular super-hero team. The flick consisted of megastars that laid quips and beatdowns with the same efficiency that a building-sized arc reactor provides clean energy. Generally applauded for its boner-inducing action, the movie has currently grossed somewhere between $1.46 billion and the annual salary of an Asgardian metallurgist. It’s been a hit.

Click forward a year and a half. We’re gearing up for fall TV, and unless you’ve been in suspended animation somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean, you’ve heard about the under-powered TV spinoff, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.(.) The season premiere airs tonight at 8/7c. Naturally, you, the curious consumer, is wondering whether or not this show is worth your time. We here at Writing Bareback are happy to address your concerns.

Are you a fan of Marvel’s movie franchises that culminated in The Avengers?

This could mean anything. Maybe you liked the way that Natalie Portman brought subtweeting to acting when she looked at Chris Hemsworth’s Thor as if to say, “You’re so much hotter than your brother.” Maybe you were honestly conflicted over whether you found Steve Rogers’ earnesty more endearing than the more-sizzle-than-steak panache of Tony Stark? Maybe you just realy dig flying, invisibles hellicarriers. There’s a lot going on, so there’s a lot to like. And, yeah, you’re a fan.

Well, you’re SEEING IT. Because Disney wouldn’t have put millions into research and marketing for fans to not migrate.

Do you find Clark Gregg charming?

Duh, and/or hello! You were so taken by Agent Coulson after Iron Man 2 that you probably didn’t notice that he showed up in every single movie without a first name until The Avengers. Well, you’re WATCHING THIS SHOW. It’s a special kind of charm that makes you want someone around even though you don’t know their first name. Hookers have it. Superheros have it. And Agent Coulson had it. Do the math. He’s the superhero movie hooker that took the money to be this show’s hero.

Are you easily engaged by shows built around acronym-named organizations keeping the peace?

Tough to say. The CSI shows have been succeesful in a generic way, but you don’t really like those anymore than you like original Cheerios. Was MASH an acronym? That show was supposed to be pretty good. Now, the MIB thing was always cool, but that was a movie. Truth is, you wouldn’t even know what SHIELD stands for unless the trailer address it. You’re in luck.

Maria Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Grant Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Maria Hill: And what does that mean to you?
Grant Ward: That someone really wanted our initials to spell out “shield.”

That postively, self-depricating bit of dialogue has quelled your fears, so YOU’RE TUNING IN.

Are you such a big fan of the hulk-like unstoppability of Avenger’s Writer/Director Joss whedon’s writing on projects ranging from toy story to Buffy the Vampire Slayer that you’ll tune in to anything he has a hand in and even consider branding yourself with an “In Joss We Trust” tattoo?

Proceed with caution since Joss is only writing the first episode. His ongoing role is an unknown, so maybe hold off on the tattoo. But he’s writing tonight’s episode, so guess what. YOU WILL BE SEEING TONIGHT’S EPISODE.

But what if you’re not a joss whedon fan?

Maybe SEE IT ANYWAY. After all, he might not be that involved going forward.

what if i’m very specifically an iron man fan do to the comedic timing and all-around “no one does deuschebag better than me” performances of robert downey jr?

You should SKIP IT. RDJ is now getting paid in Extremis patents and other back-end movie negotiations because there aren’t enough liquid assets in Hollywood to purchase his “no one does deuschebag better than me” performances.

But seriously, is Clark Gregg really going to be that charming?

As charming as a super-powered hooker. You’re SEEING IT.

Thank me later,

On Romantic Tipping Points and Dating A Manic Pixie Dream Girl

The best and worst moments in life are when you get exactly what you want.

 I was speaking with an ex-girlfriend the other day. She’s dating someone who, by all available evidence, is a fantastic guy. She’s been seeing him for over a month, and everything has gone absolutely perfectly. In spite of that, she finds herself nervous about the adolescent stages of her romance. “Do you ever feel unreasonably anxious when you start to see someone? Like nothing is wrong but you just feel edgy? I kind of feel like I’m always waiting for something to go wrong.”

Malcolm Gladwell describes “the tipping point” in his book of the same name as, “The moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” Tipping point moments are recognizable in most walks of life, but probably most universally experienced in romantic relationships. In these cases the tipping point is recognized as an emotional investment. It’s the time period where a couple is either going to break through or be defeated. Because of its pivotal nature, this period is automatically more stressful than the beginning, when little is invested in the romantic interest, and it’s also less stressful than being further along, where both partners have shown commitment and been through some fires. Most people understand relational tipping point moments, and anyone who’s ever watched The OC definitely understands.

This idea of the relational tipping point dovetailed nicely with a type of character I’ve thought about a lot recently, the manic pixie dream girl. Defined by film critic Nathan Rabin as, “That bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” Examples in movies are Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, Natalie Portman in Garden State, and Zooey Deschanel in anything. Existing in my personal dating history are two MPDGs, both avatars of my once diminishing boyhood, one from my high school days and one from my college days. I don’t think I saw them as dream girls when I knew them, and I haven’t physically seen either of them in a very long time, and those two statements are probably directly related. No one ever physically sees their dreams. If you do, then they’re not dreams anymore.

These ideas dovetail in the sense that I never reached a romantic tipping point with either of my manic pixie dream girls. You can’t, actually. Because only by never reaching a relational threshold is a love interest free to live on as fantasy, a perfect romance for the person we don’t become. For me, I like that my MPDGs exist that way in my mind, forever young. Of course, if I ran into either one of them today, I’d probably invite her to get a drink, maybe make some bad decisions. I’d push it until we were a thing or we weren’t. I’d demand a tipping point. No HIMYM drumrolls for me. I’ve decided that the romantic tipping point won’t scare me because it’s a fact that I’ll go for it even if it kills my dreams. I want the tipping point.

And if I get what I want, who knows? It will be the best or worst thing that could happen.

The Dusty Television – “Closer” on Cinemax

“Have you ever seen the human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood!” 

An inherently held belief about art is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. On a large scale, this is true, but primarily because beauty and quality are not necessarily the same thing. You may not like The Eagles, but the quality of harmonies and production is undeniable. That is well-made art that just happens to not beautiful to you, the consumer.

This idea was on my mind this past week when I caught the movie Closer on Cinemax. I first saw Closer when I was 19 years old and had never been in a relationship longer than a few months. I found the dialogue interesting, especially when Clive Owen was verbally dragging erotic confessions out of Julia Roberts (“It tastes like you but sweeter!”….bleh). But all in all, I didn’t get it. The movie’s only lasting impact on me was that I would be in love with Natalie Portman forever after watching her walk down a New York Street:

When I selected it from my Time Warner guide, eight years after my original viewing, I expected it to be background noise as I did some typing on my laptop. That’s not what happened. I was riveted. It was the exact same movie that I was viewing completely differently, and it was more beautiful. It was kind of funny:

Alice (Natalie Portman): Don’t eat fish.
Dan (Jude Law): Why not?
Alice: Fish piss in the sea.
Dan: So do children.
Alice: Don’t eat children either.

And it was kind of brutal:

Anna (Julia Roberts): Why is the sex so important?
Larry (Clive Owen): Because I’m a fucking caveman!

But what really hooked me (I had put my laptop down after getting about 15 minutes in), is how aggressively the movie pursued the value of truth. All the characters tell lies, but the one character that actually says what he wants and gets what he wants, Clive Owen, is competely at peace with the deceptions he takes to achieve those desires. He is the only character that refuses to lie to himself about what he is, and because of that, none of his outward actions (including infidelity) are a betrayal of his purpose. After sex with his openly unfaithful wife, played by Julia Roberts, he advises her on how to address her boyfriend, Jude Law about the tryst. “Best to be honest about this sort of thing.”

Loving yourself is the greatest love of all.

Jude’s opinion? “What’s so great about honesty? Try lying for a change, it’s the currency of the world.” As you’d expect, Jude fears that people are lying to him. Clive expects it. The difference in that self-honesty is the difference in our characters: strong and harsh versus kind and weak.

All in all, I’d recommend that you give this watch, a recommendation I wouldn’t have felt strongly about eight years ago. The movie hasn’t changed. I have. And while I don’t completely like what that says about me, I think it’s pretty obvious.

Larry: [on a photography exhibit] What do you think?
Alice: It’s a lie. It’s a bunch of sad strangers photographed beautifully, and… all the glittering assholes who appreciate art say it’s beautiful ’cause that’s what they wanna see. But the people in the photos are sad, and alone… But the pictures make the world seem beautiful, so… the exhibition is reassuring which makes it a lie, and everyone loves a big fat lie.

Happy Monday,