Cha…cha…cha…CHARGER!!

Back in August, at the premiere of Into the Storm, Richard Armitage responded to a question about Detroit autos which led me into a foray on American muscle cars and my fondness for the Dodge Charger.

Lo and behold, today my RL Facebook feed popped up a Buzzfeed quiz: What Muscle Car are You?  Obviously, I dove right in and as The Fates would have it, check out the result:

If it isn't The General Lee again!

If it isn’t The General Lee again!

You are so right BuzzFeed…I love me some Hemi!!  As chance (or is it fate again?!) would have it, I also remembered something I’d seen last night.  After a long, frigid ride home in my unheated *so not a Charger* vehicle last night, I warmed up with a post titled “Baby It’s Cold Outside” at Nowhere in Particular.  I caught a peek of it in KellyDS’s banner and went in for a closer look.

Richard Armitage - October 2012 Photo by Robert Ascroft

Richard Armitage – October 2012
Photo by Robert Ascroft

I should have seen it before, but I’ve gotta admit….that dude in the coat is major distraction.  Look closer…what is that in the background?  Could it be?  I think it is…

My crop

Those headlights look familiar… My crop

That looks suspiciously like a late model Charger idling in wait…Can you hear the hemi?

“Vroom…vroom.  Nice coat handsome – need a lift?”

Maybe it’s coincidence.  Or *maybe* the Charger is the  influence you believed to have disappeared from your life will resurface mentioned in my horoscope last week… Only time will tell!   🙂

fRAntic Fathers: Laocoon and Gary What’shisnamenow?

Morris – Fuller – Fuller – Morris….I keep mixing up the surname of the father character played by Richard Armitage in Into the Storm.  It doesn’t really matter anyway…it is completely immaterial to the unfolding action.

**IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN INTO THE STORM, THERE BE SPOILERS BELOW!!**

This film, which is not long on character development, did a pretty decent job of illustrating Gary’s single minded determination to protect his children, especially his lost son Donny, in the face of waves of destructive funnel clouds.  My son even pointed it out as one of the more successful character devices.  Specifically noting that it was successful because it was how a parent would naturally react to the situation of a lost and endangered child.

Out of high water Source

Out of high water
Source

It’s a highly dramatic moment…a moment full of emotion as a frantic father is reunited with both of his sons.  It reminded me rather distinctly of famous Hellenistic depiction of a father and his sons.

Laocoon and his sons Source

Laocoon and his sons
Source

Laocoon was a Trojan priest and seer who warned his people against accepting the gift of the “Trojan Horse” from the enemy Greeks (“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” and all comes from this story.)  The ancient sources differ in the details of how Laocoon got to the point depicted above, but no one differs on how it ends up.  One or another god was greatly angered with Laocoon and send a massive serpent to do him in.  This sculptural group, which Pliny the Elder attributed to the Rhodian sculptors Agesandor, Athenodoros and Polydoros, exhibits all the dramatic baroque glory of the late Hellentisic period.  (It dates to the 1st century BC/AD)  The viewer can almost feel Laocoon and his sons as they writhe and struggle against the twining, twisting danger of the serpent.  The piece as a whole is one of the hallmarks of the theatrical impact of the Hellenistic style, but it is the head of Laocoon particularly moving to me.

Laocoon Detail Source

Laocoon Detail
Source

His struggle is clear in the contorted features of his face…wildly tousled hair and beard, open mouth, flaring nostrils, furrowed brow all emotionally revealing.  Without their painted detail, it’s hard to say what his eyes convey.  Could he be looking skyward, imploring the intervention of one of the gods of Olympus?  Maybe, but if so, it was in vain.

Detail of above

Detail of Gary Mor..ah Fuller from above

I’ve often been struck by the level of emotion that Richard Armitage is able to convey simply through facial expressions, and his expression as Gary gratefully clasps his rescued son is another example of that.  I found it reminiscent of that of Laocoon, if for different reasons.  Where Laocoon’s impending doom is etched upon his face, Gary’s ultimate relief in the safety of his sons is equally evocative on his.

Into the Storm: I didn’t hate it Richard Armitage!

I wonder if it's a coincidence that my vertigo returned shortly after seeing the film?

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that my vertigo returned shortly after seeing the film?

For me, not hating it is actually saying quite a lot, because there is exactly one reason I went to see a tornado movie:  RICHARD ARMITAGE.  Except for a decade of graduate school divided between Southern Arizona and Eastern Pennsylvania, I have lived my whole life in the American Midwest, and I have seen my fair share of tornadoes…to the extent that for twenty years I had a tornado nightmare complete with a barrage of multiple tornadoes and struggling to move my wheelchair bound grandparents into the basement.  I’m happy to report that viewing the film has not caused that to recur.

My teen aged son and I went to a matinee showing on Saturday during the Labor Day weekend.  Not surprisingly, the local multiplex was virtually deserted…also not surprisingly, the popcorn and soda cost more than the film tickets.  What was kind of surprising was the make up of the audience.  In addition to one thirty-ish couple and one fifty-ish couple, my son noted,

“Look at all of the middle aged women in here!”

Curious…I’d estimate that the audience was indeed about 75% populated by women my age or a bit older.  Certainly not what you’d expect to see a film that usually targets the 15-30 male variety of film viewer.  So said the previews…ghastly!  (Murderous dolls, etc)  As such, I thought you might like to hear the impressions of a member of the target audience:

(I edited a tiny bit for clarity and toned down the saltier language  🙂  )

In case I am not the last person in the Armitageworld to have seen Into the Storm…there are SPOILERS below.

A Tale of Many Tropes…and Tornadoes Too!

I exited the theater last Saturday after watching Into the Storm having suffered no more than a mild panic attack, which I consider at least a small victory. Other important thoughts? It was alright.

The film opens on a lovely scene of a group of four Foolish White Teenagers™ failing to escape a deadly tornado somewhere in the Midwestern United States. The scene abruptly changes to Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ filming for a time capsule to be opened 25 years later. He is interrupted by Obviously Favored Son™, describing Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™’s object of desire, Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™.  The two then go downstairs to meet Byronic Widowed Father™ who is working on some important task, and they are immediately dismissed. The film then continues for 30 minutes of the most excruciating list of tropes that I can’t even hope to list and respectively trademark before the actual action begins. More characters are introduced, including Token Black Character™, Supposedly Likable Independant Woman™, Asshole™, Naive Newcomer™, and No-line Wonder™, at which point I realized that the characters have little to no actual importance and the narrative is just a framing device for the panic inducing special effects. Wonderful.

Eventually the tornado happens. Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ has inconvenienced himself by doing a task to earn the favor of Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™. Simultaneously, the local Idyllic Oklahoma Town™ High School graduation ceremony is interrupted by the tornado. Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ and Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™ are trapped in an abandoned building due to Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™’s long list of hippie values and the coincidence of a f$%king tornado! Byronic Widowed Father™, driven entirely by his traditionally masculine character traits and pure testosterone, accompanies Obviously Favored Son™ to locate whatever kind of environmentally offensive building Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ and Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™ were trapped in, eventually meeting with professional storm chasers Token Black Character™, Supposedly Likable Independant Woman™, Asshole™, Naive Newcomer™, and No-line Wonder™. Byronic Widowed Father™ somehow manages to prevent Supposedly Likeable Independant Woman™ from being slurped up by gale force winds less than 300 feet away.  Byronic Widowed Father™ and Supposedly Likable Independant Woman™ have the first of many moments of Dead Wife Sexual Tension™ before they all climb into the scientifically impossible tank thing that Asshole™ managed to build.

Most of the cast is procedurally picked off by the series of tornadoes roaming the state; the most gruesome award goes to Naive Newcomer™. He refuses to step away from filming a flaming tornado, and is of course dragged into it set on fire, and flung hundreds of feet into the air while being continually immolated while I almost faint from sheer terror. No-line Wonder™ somehow disappeared without any notice between meeting Byronic Widowed Father™ in the downtown area and the flaming tornado. Whatever.

The climax occurs after Byronic Widowed Father™  rescues Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ and Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™ from drowning in the collapsed building of unimportance, when four tornadoes converge into one giant wall of death tornado.  (At which point the other five middle aged women in the audience collectively gasped.)  All the children who had remained at the school for safety are somehow encouraged by Byronic Widowed Father™ to leave the damned storm shelter and get on school buses and try to f$%king drive away. The last bus, of course, with the main cast in tow, is unable to continue after a tree blocks their path. The rest of the newly formed wall of death tornado occurs with the main cast safely in a sewage tunnel. They come out mostly unharmed, except for Asshole™ and an unnamed Hispanic woman.

Life goes on message.

Sarah MacLachlan music.

Heartfelt reunion of Byronic Widowed Father™ Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ and Obviously Favored Son™.

 Credits roll.

Setting aside some basic things, like the entirety of the plot and characterization, it was pretty good. None of the performances were particularly outstanding, but the at least 10 instances of pant-s#$@ting terror were enough to make up for it. For what it is, Into the Storm does what it does well, and for that I appreciated it.

So says the sixteen year old – I grant you, his is probably not the typical take on the film from his set.  Nevertheless, it is authentic, as he was whispering enough of this in my ear in the opening dialogue sections to earn us a stink eye from one of the middle aged women.  (I mean seriously…are you hearing the same thing I am?  Do you really think you’re missing something important here?)  I have to agree with him that the opening 30 minutes are painful at times.  After remarking, “Well look at the pecs on Freddy from I, Carly!”  I settled back to pay attention and began actively wondering how it is possible that someone was presumably paid to write that dialogue.

However, once the action started rolling, I was reeled in for the most part.  I thought that the desperation of a parent trying to reach a lost child – whatever the risk – was well played by Richard Armitage.  At certain points, especially at the formation of the super funnel, I was actively nauseous, and I really thought I might cry.  I was a bit panicky for sure.  In retrospect, I realize that we were sitting in the optimal position in the theater for this effect.  We were at the back of the theater, in the last row, with the short wall blocking off the opening of the entrance ramp at our feet.  With a speaker directly above us and both of us with our feet on the wall, we were actually in a sort of vibration cage in the action segments…the ground (the wall) was literally shaking under our feet, enhancing the overall sensations caused by the special effects.  It was pretty frightening.  Mission accomplished there I’d say.

Final thoughts?  Could this film have been better?  Sure…it could have had a stronger script, more character development, etc…but let’s address the real elephant in the room.  That suit!

What the?!

What the?!

I mean really!  I get that the goal is to show the “everyman” quality of Gary Fuller, but honestly…that suit!  That is not “everyman” unless it’s every man who left it hanging on the JC Penney rack!   Just look at the rise on those trousers which are belted about an inch below his nipples – that suit is an affront to every chino and blue shirt wearing high school administrator in the Midwestern US of A!  Don’t even get me started on those SHOES!

It’s not that easy being green Richard Armitage…

Or blue for that matter.   I have been unusually melancholy for the last week or so.  Things that normally roll off me are really bugging me, things I usually want to do I’ve been putting off.  I do believe I’m having a rather mild case of the “midlife crisis.”   Although I may be a little young, (after all, my paternal grandmother lived to be 101, and her father 105) sometimes I can’t help but feel that my life is passing me by.  I had this really terrifying moment last week when I realized that decisions that I made fifteen or twenty years ago really do have the potential to define the course of my life.  A thought that some things, at least for the moment, in the current state of affairs, are set in stone.

Coupled with that revelation was a flare up of the terminal “bein’ green” syndrome Kermit describes.  A fear of not being special, of being always overlooked…of not being red or purple or some other color.  Basically, a fear of being me and not being enough for anyone or anything.   I think everyone goes through times like this…usually I shake it off and move along, but this particular flare has been stubbornly hanging around.  The impending shift from summer to fall only seemed to make it worse, but then something interesting happened…

I wonder if it's a coincidence that my vertigo returned shortly after seeing the film?

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that my vertigo returned shortly after seeing the film?

First, I went Into the Storm (account of our encounter is forthcoming) over the holiday weekend with my oldest and we had a great time.  It was his suggestion – he who calls me an “uncultured troglodyte” because I am not conversant in musical theater – you could have knocked me over with a feather!  Actually, he has become a bit of a sounding board for me on fandom related business…we have a sort of quid pro quo arrangement.  He will listen to me blather about Armitage related topics in return for having a live audience to relate the latest Dragon Age on dit to.  Although I now know waaaay more I need to know about the pending release of Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the resultant raging in the DA fandom (and also that Henry Cavill is a DA fanboy), the trade off is that my 16 year old seeks *me* out to chat!

Secondly, having come down with a head cold (which is probably more to blame for the vertigo than ITS 🙂  ) I was feeling pretty lousy Wednesday morning when I opened my email to find this from a friend who was in London:

email

I’ve been excited to see each and every account that has come in from people who’ve seen The Crucible in London, whether they were posted by strangers or good friends, but I’d be a giant liar if I didn’t admit that I’ve also been a little sad in spots that I’ll not be able to see what so many have described as a “must see” performance.   Even so, it brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye to think that my friend would be bringing me along, if only in spirit!

So goes the mood altering mojo of a little Armitageworld intervention!  It also did not hurt to read the accounts of Monday evening’s Conversation in which Richard Armitage recounts a certain amount of trepidation at taking the role of John Proctor in the first place, and doubts in the midst of the run if he could continue to rise to the challenge again and again.

I don't think I'll ever get tired of this picture! Photo by Jay Brooks for The Crucible at The Old Vic

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this picture!
Photo by Jay Brooks for The Crucible at The Old Vic

He did take the role, he can do it, he does power through it performance after performance and he has apparently come to the realization that he’s not afraid anymore. That is something I need to consider.  Things that I thought were immutable…maybe not.  Maybe it’s just fear that’s stopping me from taking steps to move the stone.