Monthly Movie Rant: My favourite valentines

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I’m single, so you might expect me to hate Valentine’s Day. But that’s not the case. I’m glad we have a holiday celebrating love, even if it does get exploited a lot by heartless candy companies. And to any couples using this day as an excuse to get all romantical, I say, “More power to you.” Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying my own Valentine’s Day tradition by baking heart-shaped cookies and watching the most violent movie in my collection. (This year it’s Mad Max: Fury Road. ‘Cause nothing says love like a flamethrower guitar.)

While I have nothing against Valentine’s Day as a holiday, I’m not a big fan of the kinds of movies that come out around this time of year. You will never see me review a romantic comedy or drama on this blog, because, with the exception of a few adaptations of work by geniuses like Jane Austen, I think they’re all rubbish. Love is a very difficult thing to portray on screen, and most movies that are built around a romance come across as trite and formulaic at best.

But once in a while, I do find an on-screen couple that I really like, and when I do, I’m as passionate a shipper as anyone. All my ships have a few things in common. Their relationship is never the main focus of the work, but it always adds another dimension to it. I always like both characters equally when they’re apart from each other. And I always feel like one character completes the other in some way, whether it’s through different personalities, different worldviews, or something else. I also tend to like couples in TV shows better than movies, because a show gives you more time to develop each character and their relationship.

Anyway, here are my top 5 favourite movie and TV couples:

5. Claire Temple and Matt Murdock (Marvel’s Daredevil)

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What’s that? You say these two aren’t a couple anymore? Well, you can take that negative thinking and throw it down the Hand’s bottomless pit, because Clairedevil is the best ship on any Marvel/Netflix show so far. These two heroes share a desire for justice and a willingness to sacrifice everything to see it done, but beyond that, their personalities couldn’t be more different. One’s a ruthless vigilante with a martyr complex and a flair for the dramatic, and one’s a sarcastic, down-to-earth nurse who still longs for a normal life, even though that’s impossible since she lives in Marvel’s New York City. Claire gives Matt a good dose of common sense when he needs it (which is often), and he inspires her to put her skills and smarts to work for a greater cause. They make a fantastic team, and I’m still holding out hope they might get together more permanently someday.

4. Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt (Parks and Recreation)

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This is kind of a weird one for me, because it comes from a show with no sci-fi or supernatural elements (which are usually my prerequisites for liking a show). But gosh darn it, these two are just so cute together. And they’re a political couple where neither half is cheating and both stay married for love rather than political convenience. Which, I guess, brings  a little bit of fantasy to the show. I’m a little biased towards the male half of this couple, though, because Ben Wyatt is literally my dream man. (Smart, nerdy, good-looking, creates his own board games, and owns a Batman costume. What more do you want?)

3. Wash and Zoe (Firefly/Serenity)

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I’ll admit, when I first started watching Firefly, I did a double-take when I realised these two were married. They’re the ultimate odd couple: the goofy, physically unimposing pilot with the stoic, no-nonsense warrior woman. But that’s what makes them so great together. Wash is one of the few people who can get Zoe to lighten up, and Zoe brings out his hidden tough guy. They’re both fantastic at what they do, and their love and respect for one another is always obvious–sometimes almost sickeningly so. Naturally, theirs ends up being a tragic romance, because Joss Whedon doesn’t believe in happy endings. But up until then, they were perfect.

2. Han and Leia (Star Wars)

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They’re among the most famous cinematic couples in history, and for good reason. You can’t get more sassy banter, or more romantic declarations of love, in any other movie. They’re also one of the only fictional couples I like who actually have similar personalities. Leia and Han are both rebels in their own ways, and they both have a habit of mouthing off to authority figures. But of course, Han starts out as a scoundrel, until his encounter with Leia convinces him to fight for bigger things than just himself. Leia was already pretty much perfect, but falling in love with Han helps her become a little less arrogant. It also saves her from falling for her brother, which is always a good thing. And even if they eventually met with tragedy by way of an emo son, I still ❤ these two.

  1. Mulder and Scully (The X-Files)

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This couple is the gold standard to which I hold all movie and TV romances. Their interactions are so funny, their love so heartwarming, it can even make a jaded cynic like me feel something. And even though I love both of them equally, neither is ever quite as fun to watch unless the other is around. Again, Agents Mulder and Scully couldn’t have been more different when they first met: she’s a rather cold, logical-minded scientist who won’t believe in anything unless she sees solid proof, and he’s an emotional guy who believes there’s a UFO behind every tree. But what with Mulder’s hunches usually being right, and Scully’s common sense keeping him from getting into too much danger, they make a great team. More importantly, it’s clear throughout the show that they trust each other more than anyone else and would go to the ends of the earth (literally) to save each other. They may never have explicitly said they were in a relationship on the show, but in my mind, they’re married. Oh, and their fans invented the term “shipping,” so you have to respect that.

All that to say – Happy Valentine’s Day from the Wizard! Who are your favourite fictional couples?

Dollhouse

This is mostly going to be  a movie blog, never fear. But I happen to like television quite a lot, too, so once in a while I’m gonna have to review a TV show.

“Dollhouse” is a cyberpunk show by Joss Whedon that aired on Fox six or seven years ago. As you might guess from the combination of “Joss Whedon” and “Fox” in that sentence, it was cancelled after two seasons. But before it got cancelled, it was about a version of the present day in which a technology has been invented that can wipe out a person’s personality and memories and replace them with new ones. A very shady company called the Rossum Corporation uses this technology to run “dollhouses,” where the very wealthy can rent out mind-wiped people who will (temporarily) become whoever they want them to be–from secret agents to bodyguards to…well, more traditional roles. Each “doll” is re-set to a child-like state after every assignment, but one, named Echo, is starting to remember her previous selves. Meanwhile, an FBI agent is getting close to the truth in his investigation of Rossum, a rogue doll named Alpha is trying to take down Echo’s dollhouse in a more violent manner, and the shadowy heads of the corporation may have more sinister long-term plans than anyone suspects.

Unlike some of his other swiftly-cancelled projects, Joss actually got to wrap this one up pretty neatly before it ended, so it doesn’t suffer from the lack of closure that caused so many Browncoat tears. But while it has some good characters and great storytelling moments, this show has two big, loud problems, which, surprisingly, have nothing to do with Fox.

*sigh* A tiny supermodel in skimpy clothes who beats people up a lot. Some of Joss’s tricks get old.

First of all, the central character was not cast very well. For a show whose premise requires the main character to be a completely different person every episode (and sometimes several people in one episode), you need a stellar actress. Eliza Dushku, who plays Echo, is just a decent one. All her personalities seem more or less the same, and since this is one of those shows where minor characters spend a lot of time calling the main character “special,” that gets annoying.

What makes it even more annoying is that she’s surrounded by AMAZING actors. There’s the great Alan Tudyk, in one of his most impressive performances ever; there’s Summer Glau, who manages to put a completely different spin on “cute psycho” than she did in “Firefly;” there’s Dichen Lachman, who plays a doll 10 times more interesting than Echo despite getting less screen time; and there’s Enver Gjokaj, an actor I had never heard of before watching this show, which is a crime against talent and art. How is this guy not landing major roles in big movies and getting showered with awards? To say he has range is like saying the Empire State Building has floors.

Just a few of the characters he plays on this show.

The second problem is that “Dollhouse” is every bit as dark and unsettling as it sounds. The parallels to real-life prostitution and slavery are all too obvious. There aren’t many truly good characters to root for, and when they do pop up, awful things happen to them. An atmosphere of apocalyptic gloom hangs over the whole series starting near the end of season 1. Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of funny and heartwarming moments, but the context often made me feel a little icky for laughing at them. The show’s premise allows for some interesting discussions on the nature of free will and what makes a person human, but it’s not a fun show. If it was any longer, I probably wouldn’t have finished it.

That said, I must take a moment to highlight one of the bright patches. His name is Topher Brink, the surprisingly adorable mad scientist who programs the dolls. His character arc, which takes him from an arrogant, childish brat to a broken-hearted hero, is the kind of beautifully tragic storytelling I’ve come to expect from Joss. Even when the rest of the show was just making me angry, I could always relate to Topher (I’ll admit that worries me a bit). Topher gave me many feelings, but none of them were angry.

Topher feels may include laughter, nervous laughter, sudden urges to hug, and soul-crushing misery.

If  you’re a die-hard Joss Whedon fan, you will probably like “Dollhouse.” If you’re just a mild Joss Whedon fan, like me, it may or may not be worth your time. Either way, fair warning: there are quite a few sexually suggestive scenes, most of which do not take place between mutually consenting partners (unless brainwashing counts as consent), and there’s a fair amount of violence. Proceed with caution.

Or just re-watch “Firefly.” I find that’s usually a good idea in any situation.

Grade: C+