Fifty Shades of Grey: Critic Verdicts…Who Cares?

Screen shot of Grey and Steele from Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey  continues to spark a bit of controversy as various critics (but not this one) have given their learned verdict about the film, but really…Who cares? Certainly not the housewives who helped to make the book by middle-aged author E L James a runaway bestseller. Her target audience aren’t looking for Shakespeare between the sheets here – or is that between the whipping posts – they are looking for fantasy.

A dreamy escape from normalcy and the ever present pressures of trying to fit into the demanding world of modern feminism. These millions of fans have taken off their freedom and hung it temporarily in the closet while they enjoy the mastery of a self centered sadomasochist. It doesn’t hurt that the male protagonist is unbelievably wealthy, and powerful, with the added bonus of being drop dead gorgeous to the female audience.

Christian Grey was going to be Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy. He changed his mind quickly after being cast and backed out citing contract obligations with the hit television show he stars in. While fans of the book worked themselves into a frenzy over who would replace Charlie, the daughter of Melanie Griffiths and Don Johnson, Dakota Johnson, was named as the actress who would show all as Anastasia Steele.

I personally have not gone to see the film.  While still on the list for new screeners there is an issue of transportation as Phoenix is over 90 minutes away and I have no vehicle, but even if travel was not an issue, I would not be rushing to see it.

I am not a prude, after hearing about the bloody books, (James – who started out writing fan fiction about Twilight – wrote another two sequels to the original sex fantasy for the middle-aged and middle-married heterosexual female fans) an E-book of the first tale was downloaded and read.

While not being a housewife (Or feminist who fantasizes about it?) who yearns to be dominated by a man, I found Fifty Shades of Grey to be entertaining to a degree. James has a deft touch writing about the sex scenes while bludgeoning the reader with a female “heroine” who strains belief. Are there really college upper-grads who can manage to be that naive?  But, in reality,  are there any fans who care that her naivety is as real as ersatz eggs?

I doubt it.

Today’s world reeks of sexuality and sensuality. Children are being sexualized at an alarming rate and the art of coitus is being practiced by teens who are barely past puberty. James has proven that, while she may never equal the great authors, she knows what sells.

One cannot go on the Internet without discovering that in today’s world sex apparently equals pain of some sort. Sorry chaps, but despite what you’ve been told by those who want to salve your ego, size does matter. The bigger the better and all the more to hurt you with my dear.

Oh and if I can slap you around a bit and degrade you in the process that is the harsh icing on that bitter cake. Granted in the books, Anastasia is a somewhat reluctant but willing victim. Eventually liking the act of being submissive (while maintaining that ridiculous naivety throughout) and actually not managing to emotionally age by the end of the first book.

However…

As I’ve said, reading the book provoked responses from me that were surprising. It is erotica, no doubt about that and, while not the finest, it causes the blood to rush and one can only imagine that the female fans must be ready to attack the first bloke they run into after reading a few chapters, or seeing a few reels…

Which may be the main reason I  not to watch the film version after learning that Hollywood was going to rake in the money from the author’s fans. An entire cinema full Fifty Shades of Grey fans who sit in their seats squirming with excitement and imaginations running overtime is a frightening prospect.

*I mean, seriously? Have you seen how women act around male strippers?*

Critics of the male variety must have been mad to attend a non press preview, which I am sure existed, who cares what the rest of the world thinks. Women who are fans will go regardless of what some educated reviewer thinks.

So forgive me if I pass, the bloody book wasn’t that erotic or well written. Even if, like the old Heineken advertisements used to say, it “hits the parts that others can’t reach” for the female audience.

12 February 2015

All the World’s a Stage?

William ‘Willie’ Shakespeare – playwright, glove maker.

That guy Willie Shakespeare knew a thing or two. Not only could he make a mean pair of gloves, but he could write plays till the cows came home. What a guy.

Take for example his play, As You Like It. The All the World’s a Stage monologue was just genius. He imparts the wisdom of life and all it’s stages. He also sums up in one line, life itself. “And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances;…”

We do indeed. Shakespeare then goes on to talk about the seven stages of man, or to be more modern and succinct the seven ages of man. I suppose that I am at the stage of justice all frowns and severely cut beard bordering on the slippers and pantaloon stage.

Thankfully, due to modern diet and medicine, I’m not in the running for “shrunk shank” and reedy voice just yet.

I’ve always had a cock-eyed view of this monologue. When Shakespeare said seven stages (ages) I always felt that this could be changed to read parts or roles. Most of us find a role that we are comfortable in and we pretty much try to stay within the boundaries of that role. Sort of like actors who have to stay out of the stage wings and also have to avoid getting in another actors way.

But we also play many different parts in our life’s role. I will talk about man in the generic, i.e. it means both sexes, you remember, I’m sure, back in the old days before political correctness and having to spell out each and every time what gender the subject was.

We play husband or wife. We play parent and child. We are the job holder, the wise one, the jape and the naysayer – or in some instances – the yes man. We are the older retired individual who must scrape by on a pittance. We are the injured, the wounded, the dying.

When the world was less technologically advanced and theoretically simpler, we had one job that we strived to be the best at. If we could not do that, we did the best we could at not losing our job. Some people move from job to job, trying to fit in; trying to find that round hole that they can fit or, failing that, making themselves fit in a square hole.

Men change partners, introduce more babies into the world, or they practice an odd sort of hermitage. Evolution has demanded that we adapt to our constantly changing world. Men who cannot be flexible are doomed to fail. We must learn many different jobs and tasks as we all move to our inevitable end.

We learn, through trial and error, that not all plans work. We also learn that life is a crap shoot. The dice roll and fall where they fall. We cannot “load” the dice or cheat the numbers when they come up. Snake eyes still equals snake eyes when the dice stop moving. Men just have to learn to duck and dodge, serpentine if you will all the variants that life throws at us.

Some will decide that they cannot do it. They will opt for a deadly early retirement from life. The challenges prove to be overwhelming and unbeatable.

I have, in my short somewhat unremarkable life, been many things, done many jobs and had a great many injuries. Some of the injuries were of the physical sort and some were of the emotional sort. Both are extremely painful and once or twice I looked very hard at a deadly early retirement as a possible option.

A lot of people do and they will either discover that they do have it them to play one more role. It may take them a little longer to learn the blocking and the lines, but they will try and succeed or not.

My year, so far, has been one of wounding and injury. I have just managed to overcome both with a lot of help from modern medicine, and my daughter and my family. I have had  yet another role in my life come to an end. I will now have to find out what  happens next.

Another role is opening up to  me. I will need to learn everything I can to make this new role work. Will I succeed? I hope so. I think that Shakespeare’s stage of justice and pantaloons allows you to view any new “life changing” events with a cool head and a resoluteness that isn’t possible when you are younger.

So even though I am in imminent danger of having another “stage” thrust upon me before I was ready and I will have to learn (or rewrite) my life story yet again, I will not be frightened or uncomfortable about it.

Life is as stage just as the world is. I have made a few exits from roles and entrances as a new character, a new role, many times before. I will, no doubt, do so a few more times before I reach the “sans” stage of the Bard’s monologue.

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Picture life size…

Deathwatch (2002): Evil in the Mud

Written and Directed by Michael J. Bassett  Deathwatch was Bassett’s first time at bat as a director. All in all not a bad start as either a writer or director. The film looks good, it sounds good and Bassett benefited from having a very talented cast to work with.

Set in 1917 during World War I, Deathwatch follows a small bunch of survivors from Company Y. The majority of the company have been wiped out by a machine gun nest. Sgt Tate (Hugo Speer) gets caught in German barbed wire and the youngest member of the company, Pvt Charlie Shakespeare (Jamie Bell) is too terrified to help him get free. Morning comes and the men attempt to move forward. They suddenly  find themselves in a fog or mist. Thinking that this is a gas attack the men don their gas-masks and attempt to carry on.

After the fog clears the men find they are right on top of a German Trench. There seem to be very few German soldiers so the men decide to capture the trench and hold it for British forces. They shoot a few soldiers, who appear to be shooting at something further down the trench. They kill one, lose another and capture  the remaining soldier for interrogation.  As they spread out in the trenches they find a large amount of dead German soldiers. A lot of them seem to be caught up in their own barb wire.

Things are decidedly weird in this trench. As they go about destroying portions of the trench in order to make it easier to defend, they start hearing noises. They also start acting strangely and are apparently hallucinating. They decide finally to question the captured soldier.  Using French, Shakespeare translates what the German soldier is saying, the trench is evil and they must all leave it or die. Pvt Quinn (Andy Serkis) knocks the German out and wants to kill him. He is denied this and generally wigs out, although Quinn doesn’t seem too tightly wound to begin with.

And just when you thought things could not possibly get worse, they can and do go down hill rapidly.

Bassett choosing  World War I as a backdrop was a stroke of genius. The First World War centred on trench warfare. Thousands of lives from both sides were lost as they attempted to storm the enemies trenches. Usually fortified with heavy machine guns and cannon, they were practically impregnable. As most of the action took place on the ground, (air attacks were limited to the use of steel darts dropped on the trenches, dropping crude bombs and dropping mustard gas)  casualties on both sides was high. The British in particular suffered huge losses due to the lack of experience of their class driven commanding officers and because the people who were making the decisions were miles from the action.

The general mood of the film is dark. It seems to be constantly raining in the film with the end result of everything happening in mud. The Company survivors have no contact with their command except on a captured radio that ceases to work after they receive  only one transmission from command stating that no support is coming for them.Bassett manages to mix the atmosphere of the war with  supernatural evil. The evil oozes slowly in the trenches at first but the longer the soldiers stay there, it’s presence and influence begins to pick up speed,

The film was not received very well when it was released in 2002, but that seems to be mainly because a lot of the props and images used did not fit the time period. Apart from the obvious mistakes, it is still an impressive film and I would recommend it to anyone.