Monday, March 24, 2014

Killer Whale

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Released: Various dates in 2013 in select U.S. cities

I have never been to SeaWorld, even though I remember wanting to go when I was a kid, but after watching this documentary about killer whales in captivity, I'm so glad I never did! I hate SeaWorld so much now! I have never seen an orca in real life, although I did once go on a three hour boat tour when I was in Whidbey Island, Washington a decade ago. It was a whale watching tour and we had crossed over into Canadian waters by the time we even saw any sign of killer whales, but I don't know if this really counts because they were so far away and we only saw their tails.

They show footage from the early '70s when the first few killer whales were captured for captivity. While I assume now most whales who live in captivity are now born in captivity, they obviously had to get the whales from the ocean. They interviewed a guy who was part of the capture and you could tell he was still pretty distraught by the experience as he even admits it's the worst thing he's ever done. What they did was separate the males from the females and babies, then trapped the females and babies and caught the babies to be taken for aquatic parks. The guy interviewed said three whales ended up dead and they had to cut them open and put rocks in them so they would sink to the bottom. And that's not even the saddest part of this whole ordeal! No, the saddest part is when they showed a baby orca being hoisted by a crane and it was making these crying noises (a wailing whale?) It was so sad! The guy involved in that capture being interviewed started crying and with his beard and tattoos, he didn't look like the type of guy who cries much! I started crying too.

The documentary focuses on one particular killer whale, Tilikum, who has been involved in the deaths of three people. He was caught off the coast in Iceland in 1983 at the age of 2 and brought to Vancouver where he was put in a marine attraction park called Sealand of the Pacific, a place that actually makes SeaWorld look humane! Tilikum shared the pool with two female orcas who were older and let him know who was boss by biting him. To "train" Tilikum, they wouldn't feed him or the other two whales if he didn't do a trick properly so that was one reason he would get so abused by the other whales. Also, the pool was more like a least the whales look like they have some room to swim at SeaWorld (even though it's not much, you know, for a freaking whale! - (well, technically, killer whales are part of the dolphin family.)) At night they were kept in a small pen that was just barely longer than the whales and they couldn't even turn around if they wanted! It was pretty horrible and inhumane. This sea park did eventually close down, but not because of the awful way they treated the orcas. They closed because Tilikum claimed his first victim in 1991 when a 20 year old who worked with the whales, slipped into the tank and was snatched and thrashed around by Tilikum. Humans never got into the water so I'm sure the whales became very agitated when she entered their territory. Two women who were at the park and witnessed the whole ordeal were interviewed and they were still very much haunted by it to this day. They said for sure that it was Tilikum who instigated the whole thing, but the female whales were blocking any path for the young woman to escape.

The whales were sold to SeaWorld and Tilikum made his new home in Orlando where he still lives today. His main purpose was to get female whales pregnant. He wasn't really involved in the shows other than to do a big final leap. There were interviews with former SeaWorld employees who said they had no idea how dangerous working with these orcas could be and many of them realized that they really didn't know anything about the animals they were working with.

The second death caused by Tilikum was the most bizarre. One morning in 1999 they found Tilikum swimming around with a deceased nude guy on his back. They made it sound like Tilikum had stripped the guy's clothes off, but how could a whale do that? Methinks the guy (who was homeless and had snuck in after hours) decided to go skinny dipping in the orca tank because he thought it would be fun to swim with the whales. (Maybe he was a fan of Free Willy? But did that kid go swimming with the whale in the tank? I haven't seen that movie in ages, so I really don't remember...)The official reports said that he died from drowning and hyperthermia...which is technically probably true...but seeing as that his body was mutilated, it doesn't take a genius to realize that a huge killer whale aided him in his death. I want to point out that I do not fault Tilikum in any of these deaths. He is a wild animal! And a 12,000 pound wild animal at that! This is what happens when you treat wild animals like pets! Your tiger trained to do tricks may attack you or your pet chimp may bite off your face or those bears who you thought were your friends may maul you in your sleep or a killer whale might get irritated when you enter his space and may thrash you around and drown you! While the other two deaths were just really bad, horrible accidents, I think this guy is to fault for deliberately going into an orca tank.

The third death  happened in 2010 when 40 year old trainer Dawn Brancheau was attacked and drowned by Tilikum. There were some people who blamed Brancheau for it, saying her long ponytail was the trigger for the attack, but to me, it sounds like Tilikum was already agitated because he didn't get a treat when he performed a trick wrong and could tell that the fish bucket was almost empty. I don't think anyone knows the real reason why he attacked...other than that he is, once again, an unpredictable and wild animal! I do remember this being in the news, but the story I remember the most about an orca incident was when a trainer was pulled down by a killer whale in 2006 and submerged for a long period of time before the whale would bring him back up, then submerge him again. The guy survived and he happened to be a scuba diver so they think since he knew how to control his breathing underwater, that's what helped him.

One interviewee mentioned that there has never been a record of orcas harming a human in the wild, but if you put them in captivity where they're around humans all the time (and depend on them), it's bound to happen. I did happen upon a list on Wikipedia where they list orca incidents on humans in the wild, but it was a very short list and no one was killed or even harmed that much. The list, however, for orca incidents in captivity was quite long and mostly involved a bunch of injuries. I'm sure it's much easier to record the injuries that happen by captive whales, as I am sure it's easier for a human to get hurt by a captive whale for the obvious reasons!

This documentary make me tear up quite a bit. It was upsetting to hear that people were unnecessarily killed by one orca, but I think it's horrible that they keep the orcas in these tanks and feed them dead fish just so they can perform some cute tricks. It's really quite sad! They showed footage of orcas in the wild that were attacking a poor seal on an ice flow and that was more awe-inducing than any orca in a theme park jumping through a hoop. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Knight Moves

A Knight's Tale
Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany, Shannyn Sossamon, Berenice Bejo, Laura Fraser
Released: May 11, 2001
Viewed in theaters: May 11, 2001

This was Heath Ledger's first movie where he played the lead. There are three main instances where he became known in the public eye. The first, was this, his first starring role; the second was his Oscar-nominated turn in Brokeback Mountain; and the third was his critically-acclaimed performance in The Dark Knight which was sadly overshadowed by his death. Now, I don't want to brag or anything, but I was a Heath Ledger fan (oh, okay, fangirl!) before any of those movies. Heath had a lot of female admirers before 2001, but, trust me, A Knight's Tale cinched many more! I know this for a fact because after 10 Things I Hate About You and The Patriot, I raved about him to my friend. Did I praise his amazing talent and tell her to watch out for a few Oscar nominations in his future? Haha, please! I was a shallow college student! I was going on about how hot he was and how I loved his Australian accent (those are seriously the best!) I was a little infatuated, you could say. My friend agreed he was cute but she wasn't as into him as I was....until she saw A Knight's Tale (more than once!) and suddenly starts raving to ME about how hot he is and I'm thinking, This is what I've been telling you all along! It was like she suddenly saw the light. It was pretty amusing!

I wasn't the biggest fan of this movie the first time I saw it. I just couldn't get past how these 14th century people could sing Queen and dance to David Bowie when obviously that music didn't exist back in those days, duh! (Or, in the words of Wat, "Hellooooo!") But after seeing its sort-of-but-not-really sequel, The Order (same director and stars Ledger, Addy, and Sossamon), I came to appreciate this movie and realize, despite a few flaws (and if you can look past the music, which I have), it is quite an entertaining movie. Or maybe The Order was just that bad! Ha!

Ledger plays William Thatcher, a poor peasant who takes on the alias of Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein so he can compete in jousting tournaments. He has to hide the fact that he is poor because only nobles are allowed to compete in tournaments. He practices jousting with his friends, Roland (Addy) and Wat (Tudyk). They meet famous writer Geoffrey Chaucer (Bettany)  - even though they don't know who he is - and he's the one who comes up with William's new name and forges his signature so he can compete as a noble.

"Excuse me, did you just say you named
your son Audio Science?!?"
William falls in love with the beautiful Jocelyn (Sossamon) who is wealthy and only knows him as Ulrich. She is a little weary of his courting at first as he is just another guy trying to get her attention. I used to think she was a major bee-yotch for making him lose those jousting matches to prove his love for her, and furthermore, I thought he was a love sick fool for going through with it and letting her walk all over him, but now I can kind of understand where she's coming from. It doesn't mean anything to her that knights tell her they'll win a tournament for her because that's expected of them anyway. Making him choose between her or winning the match was brilliant on her part. Evil, but brilliant. It's a great ultimatum for every woman to have! And it was sweet of him to lose to show her that he did love her, but honestly, if some guy, no matter how hot he was, came up to me and said the things William said to Jocelyn, I'd probably laugh in his face. Or roll my eyes. "Love has given me wings so I must fly!"; "If I could ask for one thing, it would be for time to stop so I can be in this moment with you forever!"; "I would give my ears just to hear your name!" And let's not forget the love letter. Good Lord, that was filled with cheesy goodness.

There are two actresses (basically the other two that aren't Shannyn Sossoman since there are only three women in the whole movie!) who would go on to become more well known in projects much later on in their careers. The first is Berenice Bejo who would later go on to play the female lead in The Artists ten years later. (A perfectly nice movie, but a bit forgetful even if it did win the Oscar). She plays Jocelyn's lady-in-waiting, or personal assistant. Wikipedia says her character's name is Christina, but honestly, I don't even remember her ever being called by her name. At first, whenever she is on screen she doesn't have any lines (early practice for The Artist, ha!), but she does eventually get to speak. I would be totally annoyed if I were her because whenever she's around Jocelyn, Jocelyn gets complimented about her looks by everyone and they just treat her lady-in-waiting like she's invisible when she's a very pretty girl too!

And then there's Laura Fraser who plays Kate, the blacksmith, who joins William's entourage and makes William a new suit of armor that's thinner, but still as strong, so he can easily move around in it. Fraser is best known for playing everyone's favorite stevia-addicted neurotic who can provide an "ocean of methylamine." That's right, I'm talking about Lydia Rodarte-Quayle from Breaking Bad, which just so happens to be my favorite show of all time. It's a good thing William wasn't interested in Kate since we know she's not into blondes! (Oh, Todd, you poor, creepy, guy). She's very fresh-faced and cute and not so uptight in this film! And she does speak with her own natural Scottish accent. There's not a murderous bone in her body! 

"Will, I am!"
After reading Michael Crichton's Timeline (which also takes place in the same century), I became quite intrigued with the time period. There's a chapter where two characters are jousting against each other and I didn't realize what a dangerous sport it was until I read that book. I mean, from the movie I could tell it looked a bit painful, but it takes a lot of precision and you can easily get killed if someone aims the lance at your head. Which is why the last scene where William jousts without his armor or a helmet AND just got stabbed in the chest if a little bit WTF?, but I think everyone knew he was going to win. After all, his blind father was "watching". Supposedly they have modern-day jousting with "strict guidelines" (yawn!) and "development of the use of breakable lance tips for safety" (boring!) You know it's lame compared to the bloodshed and excitement of the real thing. Don't you wish you lived in the 14th century? Yeah, me neither. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The saddest hour of TV

I usually only talk about movies, but I have been known to delve into TV talk from time to time (as I'm sure you all know and love my Beverly Hills, 90210 season recaps!) I've been rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer because I'm listening to two different podcasts that discuss each episode. One of the podcasts is alternating between Buffy and Angel (which is my first time watching) so they just finished the fifth season while the other podcast is almost done with the series. That one is the Buffy Rewatch. Both hosts have seen the show before, but keep it spoiler free. They have a very structured podcast where they discuss external and internal references (such as pop culture references and references to past episodes), the fashion, and Buffy firsts and lasts (this is the first time we are introduced to a certain character, this is the last time we ever see this location).

The other one, PotentialCast, is a group of four people who are often joined by a guest. Only of of them has seen the entire series and the others are watching it for the very first time...and are trying to be spoiler-free as possible. They kind of go all over the place when discussing each episode and can get a bit off topic which can get annoying, but it's always great to hear their reactions at certain key moments. They have listener feedback and voice mails and rate the episodes and say their favorite quotes.

I started watching and listening to the podcasts in mid 2011 and I've only just finished the fifth season, so as you can see, with two seasons left, I still have a ways to go. I first watched the entire series in just a few short months from late 2004-early 2005. This time around, when I got to season 5, I was kind of dreading it...and season 5 is actually a pretty good season (although I am partial to seasons 2 and 3). 

Let me just pause here to warn everyone that I am about to reveal a huge major spoiler, although if you don't know about this spoiler, I would be very shocked, Buffy fan or not! I feel like I found about this spoiler the night the episode aired in 2001 even though I didn't watch it until 2005! (But I do slightly spoil other things that aren't people's deaths!)

Of course I am referring to Buffy's mother's death. Joyce Summers was just an ancillary character and while she and Buffy had a nice mother/daughter relationship (even though there was that time when she kicked Buffy out of the house....not cool, Joyce, not cool!), there have been more prominent mother/daughter relationships in other TV shows. (I never watched Gilmore Girls, but considering the two main characters are mother and daughter, I would assume that would be one of them!) Joyce was featured heavily in a few earlier episodes ("School Hard"and "Ted" are ones that come to mind), but she didn't have a character arc until season 5...which is she starts getting sick, is diagnosed with a brain tumor, gets operated on, finds out her youngest daughter isn't really a human, starts dating again, dies. You know, in a nutshell!

"The Body", the episode that deals with her death, is not only probably the saddest hour of TV ever, but also probably the hardest TV episode to watch. I was dreading watching this again! And it had been nine years since I had last seen it! It's a very good, well-done episode, but perhaps a little too well-done as it is a little TOO real. The cliffhanger from the previous episode has Buffy coming home and finding her mom dead on the couch with the creepy bonus of having her eyes open. And her, "Mom...Mom.....Mommy?" is so heartbreakingly sad! The cold open of "The Body" begins right where we left off and  during the opening credits, we see a happier time when Joyce was alive during Christmas dinner with her family and Buffy's friends. This was only thrown in the episode so they didn't have to show the credits during the very serious scenes of Buffy reacting to finding her mother dead. I have never watched the commentary, but apparently that is what Joss Whedon tells the audience.

I have (fortunately!) never been in a horrible situation like this, but I can only imagine my reaction being very similar to Buffy's: confused, in shock, terrified, numb, all rolled into one. When she calls 9-1-1 to tell them her mom's not breathing, the operator asks her if she's administrated CPR and Buffy replies that she forgot how to do it and panics when she breaks one of her mom's ribs while pressing down on her. She tells the operator her mom is cold and the reply is, "The body is cold?" to which Buffy exclaims, "No, my mom is cold!"

There are deliberate camera choices such as a lingering shot on the phone's buttons as Buffy stares at it, Buffy talking to an EMT and only showing the bottom half of his face on screen, Buffy leaving the room in a daze to throw up and going outside for a few seconds to get fresh air. It is a very surreal scene. It also feels very voyeuristic - like you are actually watching this young woman reacting to her mother's death and you feel like you are prying. It's certainly how I felt! I think it is suppose to be a very uncomfortable situation for the viewer.

There is no music at all in this episode and it is very jarring because you know something is missing and TV shows without music just seem odd and disconnected. Something interesting about this episode is that you could watch it without having to see any other episode before it. You may not know who Buffy's friends are and you might not get Anya's heartbreaking speech about not understanding why Joyce had to die since she herself was not born originally human (like Dawn!) and does not understand the concept of mortality. That speech made me bawl like a baby and I don't even like Anya! The scene where Buffy has to tell her sister always got me the most the first time I saw this episode (and the second time will also be my last time watching it!)

The only thing that takes me out of this episode (and reminds me what show I'm watching!) is the vampire at the end. They didn't have anything of the supernatural sort until that moment at the end and it was like they threw the vampire in there as an afterthought.

Sarah Michelle Gellar knocks it out of the park in this episode and it is a shame she wasn't even nominated for an Emmy!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Movie montage 3

Hey everybody! I created my third movie montage, so check it out! Thanks! 

You can see my other movie montages here and here.