July 2019 Book, TV and Film Roundup

Happy August 1st, AKA Spider-Man Day!

Now that July is gone with the wind, here is what went down: My screen exposure was higher than ever, hat tip to the Apple screen time(r) (I love to hate you). Unexpectedly though, this did not result in an increased number of reviews for this roundup. I spent most of my time watching Jessica Jones (2019), Season 3. I waited about two weeks to start the series… with hopes to delay the binge-watching, and the sadness caused by my favorite show wrapping up. Krysten Ritter nailed this season in so many levels, which I will expand on below. I saw Spider-Man Far From Home (2019) as soon as it came out. It put mind to rest after the destruction that the Endgame (2019) left and it reaffirmed Marvel’s well-thought creative decision about the rise of Spider-Man on our screens. I apologize for not having a review for The Lion King (2019). I promise it is in the works, and I will publish it separately. As I mentioned in my June roundup, I read Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting (2005). An excellent book by a sweet-talking author, screenwriter, and teacher.

The Shelf

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The Foundations of Screenwriting (2005) By Syd Field

As I have been trying to find where I would fit in the film industry upon graduation, I decided to explore whether I can do what I love the most: writing. A five to eight-minute google research led me to read Quora Digest and Reddit, where internet people strictly suggest not spending money on a “how-to” book for screenwriting. They suggest scripts will give you more freedom than the twenty bucks you spend. I didn’t listen to them and bought a cheap copy of Field’s book—I did not regret it, you won’t either.

Field did not write a how-to book. His book put a combination of his memories working in the industry and his lectures in words. In fact, as you read the book, you realize Field is repeating the pivotal sentences in your head over and over again. He really is lecturing you through this book. He wants you to know the right thing, fail a couple times, and return to what he told you again (because the guy really knows what he is doing).

So, what is it that you learned, you say? To recap: Stories can be found everywhere: In a magazine, newspaper, in the people you watch. Before you write the story—know the beginning and the end. Have a clear map, and you can play with the path. You capture the story by capturing your main characters. Write a biography for them, know what they would do in certain situations. Let them drive the story forward, otherwise, they are insignificant. Have plot points that change your direction along the way but keep your map in mind. Finally, take the hard responsibility of writing despite its challenges – These important points are only to name a few.

The 300 pages or so taught me more than its worth. So, believe me, when I say it is important for you to read this book if you don’t want to lose your way. Field also talks more about self-doubt, the real deal about creativity and licensing and selling your screenplay. But, he does so in a way that feeds you information while still making you feel like you are listening to one of his greatest stories. A fast read. A must-have. A Bible.

 

The Small Screen

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Jessica Jones– Season 3 (2019)

 What a journey it has been for Jessica. In a way, it has come a full circle. During the first season, he fought a mind-controlling, rapist and psychopath, Killgrave. In my opinion, this is still the best season to date. In season two, she fought her own mother, then, came in terms with her. She saw her own mother die with a bullet in the head, shot by Trish who is also family. In particular, I did not enjoy season two a lot. I am not necessarily sure why—But a guess might be because the mother-daughter duo did not feel as organic as it maybe should have. However, now I realize that season two planted the seeds of Trish, showed us her previous battles with addiction and harassment, and her desperate need to feel empowered. In a way, season three had both Krysten Ritter (Jessica) and Rachael Taylor (Trish) share the spotlight. We didn’t see much more about Malcolm’s character development or at least it wasn’t a driver of the story for this season. We started understanding, even emphasizing with Hogarth and the loneliness that is killing her.

After the Defenders, we see Jessica partnering up with someone for the first time. Through her urge to protect Trish’s identity, Jessica has to leave her solo career behind. While doing so, she also deals with her mother’s grief. Jessica lets her dead mother be her moral compass this time, unlike season one and two where Trish handled the job until she lost Jessica’s trust. Episode 2, AKA You’re Welcome, brilliantly directed by Ritter herself. It feels slightly different from the rest of the series. We see how slow and one-sided Trish’s thought process is. The episode also provides a distraction from the main plotline that I am finally getting to talk about.

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Jessica Jones’ introduction for its villain is unlike the recent Marvel productions. The viewers spend around three episodes trying to figure out the ultimate villain who was able to steal a superhuman’s spleen. With the help of Jessica’s new male-superhuman hook-up and sidekick, we get inside the houses of several sociopaths. Finally, we find Gregory Salinger who is so obsessed to be the best at everything that he blames those who are better for being frauds and cheaters. Most visuals are not disturbing, but they showcase the director’s excellence in delivering the horror without the eyes to see them. In the end, we go to our beds in peace knowing that Salinger is gone, and Trish completed her final role as the moral compass, (Afterall, her crooked purpose in life is to lock up the evil). But, somewhere in our minds, we know those mass murderers, psychopaths and rapists live around us… as we hear Killgrave’s final cameo that, thankfully, inspires Jessica to return to her office.

 

The Big Screen

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Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

If I ever had a conversation with you, you know that I was skeptical about Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker. I thought of Sam Raimi’s take on the legendary comic with Toby Maguire’s acting and decided topping that— was hard work. (On a side note I tried watching Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 (2007) again and it made me cringe. It is likely Raimi’s only creative failure). I also never really liked the idea of Peter Parker being a student. And lastly– did we need all the Europe scenery in Far From Home? Not really. A green-screen road trip movie is not what I am here for. Putting aside these strong opinions, Holland nailed Peter Parker for me. He portrayed an awkward, smart, in love, shy, wannabe hero: The friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. And, it worked.

Numerous reviews that I skimmed through mentioned that Far From Home (2019) followed the so-called Marvel formula. I will not say that isn’t true, but I wouldn’t call reminiscing Tony Stark to be a formula. Yes, the MCU follows Campbell’s monomythic journey (I’d love to talk more on this when I finish my thesis on the topic). However, seeing the sequence of events that Tony experienced in the first movie felt more like a goodbye to him that let us know we are still in good hands. The movie opened with a press conference featuring the anonymous Spider Man, it ended with his identity revealed (although he didn’t make the decision like Tony did). Happy reprised his role as the wing man, in a manner that gave him a crucial screen presence when he tried to save Peter (Holland)’s ass. The specific scene before his Peter’s battle with Mysterio was a personal favorite—he was as undecisive as Tony Stark, but also quick with the technology that created a new suit for him. The tribute to Tony’s theme – by AC/DC – was hilarious.

As a seven-year-old die-hard fan of the Spider Man (2000s) cartoon, I knew who Mysterio was. It ruined the element of surprise for me, unlike the plot twist in Captain Marvel (2019) that kept things a lot more interesting. Jake Gyllenhaal absolutely stole the show during his scenes, his performance was brilliant; comically calm and just as dark. The movie ended on a high note, leaving us with serious questions about Peter’s future. To me, it was so much better Homecoming (2017), in which we weren’t so sure about Peter’s identity. Now we know for sure that he is the new awkward hero throwing his webs around.

 

 

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