Monday, June 30, 2014

Game of Thrones – It’s Not Too Late To Join The Party - by Susie Grissom

Nikolaj Coster Waldau as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has become rather a phenomenon, gaining in popularity and acclaim as the HBO TV series is now into its 4th season. Based on the Songs of Ice and Fire novels by George R R Martin, they are set in a fictional fantasy land and follow the trials and tribulations of its inhabitants, mostly from the vantage point of the positions of power, the various royal families and those in charge. If you’re a nerd girl who enjoys fantasy novels or TV shows, especially those that are set in fantasy realms in bygone times, then this show is definitely for you. Not for the faint hearted or easily offended, as both the show and books contain very strong language, violence, and can often be exceedingly gruesome, what it also has in great supply is a wonderful set of characters, great plot twists and turns, and the show is superbly acted.

Do not underestimate these ladies!

Emila Clarke and Nathalie Emmanuel in Game of Thrones
What is really great about the show from a woman’s point of view is the large number of very strong female characters it possesses. These women are seeking control of their own destinies and making just as many strategic power plays as the male characters. From the manipulative and calculating Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), to the brave and courageous Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), they do not simper over their sewing; they take control and assume roles equal to those of the men. Even the younger girls are empowering themselves as they come into womanhood. These are women and girls to inspire, fear, and sometimes despise or pity, but never dismiss. Indeed, you definitely would not want to cross the powerful queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emelia Clarke), who has amassed a huge army and has a flock of dragons at her command. These women don't take prisoners, and you wouldn't find them consulting any self help books, or if you did, it would probably be titled "How to Crush Your Enemies in 5 Easy Steps".

Is it a bit hot in here?

Game of Thrones does not shy away from some pretty racy sex scenes either. The battle between the sexes is often played out this way, with the barbaric acts of rape perpetrated against certain characters, and then the extraordinary sexual appetites of characters like the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell. In fact, at times it would appear as if many of the characters were in need of some kind of help. The writers don't shy away from any type of sexual issues and seem keen to explore many forbidden areas. Certainly the incestuous relationship between the twins Cersei and Jaime Lannister is one to raise a few eyebrows. With both the women and the men exerting their sexuality all too frequently, it is a wonder they have much time for anything else.

Want some eye-candy to go with your swashbuckling?

Kit Harington in Game of Thrones
Not only does the show have a whole host of beautiful women playing powerful characters, but there’s something else for us nerd girls to enjoy, and that is the array of attractive men in the show. The gorgeous Pedro Pascal is the Red Viper and his swarthy charm and amorous exploits are something to behold. If you prefer your men darker and more brooding, then Jon Stark (Kit Harington) is your man. The bastard son of Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, Jon has to fight not only for his name, but has the misfortune to fall for a wildling girl who is part of an enemy clan, so you just know that that particular relationship is not going to end well! 

Books first, then show?

There are two types of people when it comes to films or shows based on books, those who want to read the book first, and those who read the book after already seeing a screen adaptation. Both have their merits. Some people feel that the book is always superior to the screen adaptation so should be read first, others want to enjoy the spectacle of a film and not already know what is going to happen and be disappointed if it is different or changed. Others love to see a good book ‘brought to life’ on screen and will forgive any changes if the essence of the book is the same. Whether you choose to read the books first or check out the HBO show before deciding if the books are for you, if you crave high drama, complex plots and shocking storylines, you really need to watch Game of Thrones or read Songs of Ice and Fire. Think four seasons in is too late to catch up? It’s never too late to start watching a great show!

Susie Grissom is now a freelance writer, but before she took to putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) she worked in the travel industry. When she started her family, she decided to concentrate on being a stay at home mom and indulging her passion for good literature and films. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

George Clooney: More Than Just a Pretty Face

George Clooney was just within my reach. No, I wasn't in the running as a marriage candidate, but I came very close to meeting him in 2012 at a Q&A for the film Argo - one of the benefits of being a New York City gal, member of the Screen Actors Guild, and entertainment reporter about town. Ben Affleck was there, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, (not to drop names :) and Clooney of course. Sometimes the actors, directors, etc. hang around after those events to meet and greet but not so this time - they were out the door as soon as it was over. But someone spoke to Clooney and detained him. He was standing right at the edge of the low stage. My plus one for the night hustled me over to him, knowing how much I would love to meet him. But I just froze, overcome with shyness. I just couldn't do it. Where were my reporter chops when I needed them?  Before I could summon my courage, Clooney fled into the night.

I, like women all over the world, wept when his engagement to Amal Alamuddin was if any of us ever had a chance! (Besides the fact that I'm, um, married.) At least he's ending up with a really smart woman, a human rights attorney, as a matter of fact, as opposed to a supermodel or sexy actress. It shouldn't really surprise us though, because even though his track record of dating hot young things pointed to the fact that perhaps he was a tad shallow, he's made a lot of meaningful decisions in the past several years about which films to act in, produce, and direct, including O Brother, Where Art Thou, Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck, Up in the Air, The Descendants, and Argo to name a few. Not only that, but his record as an activist for social justice is impressive, especially the work he did in, and on behalf of, Darfur, using his celebrity to bring attention to that dire situation, and forming the organization Not on Our Watch to raise money for the cause, along with Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. It turns out he's a man with principles who wants a woman who shares them. Good for him.

I will admit, I did briefly buy into the rumors that he might have been gay, especially after the night of the Argo screening. It wasn't that he was effeminate, it was just that he was so genuinely handsome, well-dressed, and charming - I don't know many straight men like that. But I guess he's put that rumor to bed (so to speak) once and for all.

As he ages, he's taking on a certain Sean Connery vibe, something he exuded in his 2014 film The Monuments Men. In other words, he's not losing his sexiness, it's simply evolving. However, there's another reason I mention The Monuments Men. Directed and co-written by Clooney, and produced by him and Grant Heslov, it was notable for more than the fact that it was an interesting and touching film. It was released in February, during awards season, the absolute worst time for a film to be released because everyone will have forgotten about it by the time nominations are announced for the following awards season, and way to early for it to be a summer box office hit: kind of a purgatory for mediocre films. And while it's true The Monuments Men may not be awards caliber, it stars some heavy hitters who are all excellent in it: Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, and of course Clooney. I got the impression that Clooney and Heslov really didn't care if it won awards or if people went to see it in droves. It was a story they were passionate about telling and so they told it. That spells sincerity and conviction to me. 

I used to feel silly admitting that George Clooney was one of my favorite celebrities, but no more. He's a man with a conscience who backs up his beliefs, and has finally found a woman who is his equal. After all, if I can't have him, somebody really great should. He has, indeed, turned out to be a lot more than just a pretty face.