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March 14 2007

(SPOILER) 300 Review mentions Serenity. "Much like films such as Serenity, there seems a certain pop culture savvy that's required to truly appreciate these kinds of films."

Canadian reviewer must be a Browncoat- references Serenity in review of "300"... the whole review is interesting..

Where's the link? I'm confused.
http://www.chartattack.com/movies/300.cfm
I'm not going to see 300 so I will read the review once the link is put in. I'm glad any time Joss' work is related to someone else's project even if I don't understand their reference (pop culture savvy/Serenity = ?) - it's getting his name out there. People who don't know him google his name or the movie, it's a win/win situation. If I want to see someone's subersive/beautiful take on a piece of history and a bloody battle with hacked off limbs, I'll go back and watch Excalibur again. Just never tire of that film.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2007-03-14 19:22 ]
Sorry. The link was there when I first wrote the post.. grr.. guess I am not tech savvy enough.
There we go. All sorted now.
I think, Tonya J, that Ms. Guy meant that to truly appreciate Serenity - like with 300 - that you have to possess experience with various media and source material to get all the references and ideas that Joss or Frank Miller tossed in.

And example from the BDM is the speech Mal gives in the kitchen where he's back-lit like a holy messenger laying out God's will. Until fairly recently, I would not have perceived the parallels (intentionally or unintentionally) with the "St. Crispin's Day" speech given in Henry V by King Henry. Joss & co. also referenced this with Spike's comment about "we few, we happy few, we merry band of buggered" (with the original being "we few! we happy few! we merry band of brothers!") in Buffy. Even if Our Fearful Leader is atheist in his leanings, Mal laying out his thoughts while shrouded by Miranda's sunlight coming through the skylights/observation ports in the ceiling is quite Biblical ;D

However, let it not be said one can't love Serenity if one isn't media savvy. It's just good storytelling and movie-making :D
This was an effin' beautiful film. It captured, and if you ask me surpassed, Miller's glorious visuals from the comic. And what a story!
Thanks, BEB, I can see your point for Buffy but I thought Serenity was not a film that was unaccessible to those not hip to Joss' references in the TV shows. And to me, Shakespeare (well he was pop in his age I guess) is just a cultural/artistic reference, period. It always helps to be aware of what's going on around you in pop-culture terms though, I agree, since there is always borrowing and refining going on.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2007-03-14 22:02 ]
I think the comparison is just based on the fact that both movies have some background that it's helpful to know about. Viewers who don't know that 300 is based on a graphic novel rather than, say, history, might be taken aback by, hah, so many many things. People who watch Serenity probably enjoy it more if they're familiar with Firefly. It's not a perfect parallel, but it sounds like the point is just that some movies work better if you know something about their history.
Oh...I too found Serenity quite accessible, Tonya J. It's just there's layers there that add to the enjoyment as you broaden your horizons. That's what makes the BDM great: you can watch it for "obvious" stuff like the action set pieces and brilliant dialogue...and you can watch it for all kinds of references and homages to past bits of pop culture and art;D
Not reading the review, 300's out here next week and I cannot wait to see it, fabulous graphic novel based on one of the battles of all time with one of the more interesting cultures of the last 2-3000 years as backdrop.

I can see both sides of the 'references' coin, you get more from almost all films (all creative works full stop) when you understand the various in-jokes, sub-texts, homages - visual and verbal, parodies etc. that are being shown BUT I think the best of them ('Serenity' very much included) work well regardless of those kinds of details.

Must say though whenever I see a 'rallying speech' portrayed in fiction I compare it to the St. Crispin's day speech in Henry V, for no other reason than it's the exemplar of the breed (BTW, there's no 'merry' in there BlueEyedBrigadier, pedant that I am even I wouldn't normally correct you only it does rather ruin old Bill's rhythm ;).

And Giles'/Spike's "we few, we happy few...", "...we band of buggered." is one of my favourite lines of all time from any TV show. Not only is it a funny play on words delivered brilliantly by both actors but in one pithy phrase it does what Joss and co. did so well week in and week out, almost without fail and so many other foreign shows usually do so badly, it perfectly captured the essential Britishness of the British characters. Genius.
My sincerest apologies, Saje...it's been 3 years since I last glanced at the Bard's works. And even then, we only looked at Henry IV and not Henry V. For some reason, I wanna insert a "merry" into that famous line...much to my shame as a student of English Lit :(
I'm not really sure I'm happy with the film (or, I suspect, the graphic novel, given that I'm told it's a faithful adaptation), because I'm not quite happy with real history, and thousands of real deaths, being tweaked and grossly simplified and rendered comic and, well, cardboard. I know Miller et al. are probably not trying to state that this is historically accurate in any way, but it's still a lot of deaths to be toying around with for a story. Visually I loved it, like I do Sin City (I've both the film and read some of the novels), but that was based on a film genre and not on actual history. It doesn't leave me with the same moral unease.
Not a problem BEB, Robin Hood's band was merry, Henry V's not so much ;).

Hmm, WilliamTheB, is that 'comic' as in funny ? Obviously the graphic novel is rendered in comic form but I don't remember it trivialising the deaths, in fact, if anything it glorified them (which also comes with its own set of issues obviously, just different ones).

Is it any better or worse than 'Saving Private Ryan' (apart from the fact that in SPR veterans and relatives may still be alive to be offended whereas with '300' that's clearly impossible) or maybe 'Braveheart' ?

I do know what you mean though, I sometimes get the same feeling when playing games based on WWII ('Call of Duty' etc.). Every now and then i'll stop and realise that my grandfather, hell, probably most of our grandfathers, fought (on whichever side), killed, suffered and sometimes died in events that i'm now 're-enacting' for entertainment.
Well actually, I looked up the Battle of Thermopylae on wikipedia the other day, and the movie was actually extremely faithful to the actual events. Almost everything that happened in the movie happened in real life. The messengers getting thrown into the pit, the political storm, the traitor, even the geography of the battlefield was accurate. Which isn't to say the movie isn't an extremely stylized version of the actual events, just that as hollywood interpretations go, it was pretty damn accurate.

Now if only Serenity had done what 300 just did at the Box Office. We'd be seeing Serenity 3 by now!
The actress playing the Queen of Sparta will also be playing the title role in Summer Glau's new terminator TV show... not sure if that will entice anyone to watch the "300" (I'm just saying...)

I do know what you mean though, I sometimes get the same feeling when playing games based on WWII ('Call of Duty' etc.). Every now and then i'll stop and realise that my grandfather, hell, probably most of our grandfathers, fought (on whichever side), killed, suffered and sometimes died in events that i'm now 're-enacting' for entertainment.


Amen. I fuckin'-men to this. I'm also guilty of this, and it's a weird thing.

[ edited by gossi on 2007-03-14 22:17 ]
Saje: "And Giles'/Spike's "we few, we happy few...", "...we band of buggered." is one of my favourite lines of all time from any TV show. Not only is it a funny play on words delivered brilliantly by both actors but in one pithy phrase it does what Joss and co. did so well week in and week out, almost without fail and so many other foreign shows usually do so badly, it perfectly captured the essential Britishness of the British characters. Genius."

One of my favourites, too - glad to hear that a Brit felt that BritCharacter was well-conveyed. I always thought so, but how can a Yank be sure?

Here's another quote I think captures a certain snarky BritEssence...

SPIKE: Oh, listen to Mary Poppins. He's got his crust all stiff and upper with that nancy-boy accent...You Englishmen are always so...
Bloody hell! Sodding, blimey, shagging, knickers, bollocks, oh God! I'm English!
GILES: Welcome to the nancy tribe.
As far as I can tell, the movie was relatively faithful to the history we know. With the exception of a bunch of Thebans that Leonidas held hostage and made fight, it's pretty much all there.

It does bug me that there were 700 Thespians fighting there too, of their own free will, and not even trained fighters like the Spartans, yet they kind of never get mentioned in the talk of the '300'. I know they are in the movie, but they are shown leaving the Spartans before the battle is done, which to the best of my knowledge isn't true. The Greeks arrived with a few thousand, and all but the Spartans, Thespians, and enslaved Thebans did leave before the final stand.

Thespians never get respect...I guess that's why they all turned to acting.
Well, look what happened to St. Genesius, Patron Saint of Actors. I was very impressed after Danny Aiello talked about his medal years ago and I looked him up. Talk about suffering for your art.
Did any Saint go easy ? Part of what gets you in is hails of arrows or burning at the stake or whatever, not recommended but I suppose you become famous. Nowadays we have 'Big Brother'. Hmmm ;).

Yeah, true Rogue Slayer, 300 must just sound better than 'about 1000 ish' (and the Spartans are more clearly defined than Thespians or Theban slaves, who it seems - somewhat understandably since they were forced to be there - actually did surrender rather than go down fighting). I'dve thought 1000 is still a small enough number though. What, odds of 50-1 aren't quite steep enough ? ;)

Here's another quote I think captures a certain snarky BritEssence...

Yeah, agreed QG (and 'BritEssence' is a good word since, in context, it was being presented as 'essence' rather than necessarily 'learned' cos of the amnesia thing). Giles uses the old unruffled, slightly down one's nose, snarky delivery to great effect (fair play, that's specifically English i'd say). I think Joss' (and Alexis Denisof's) time over here as well as ASH's input definitely helped them do a better job than i've seen before or since (apart from the odd misplaced swear word - and 'wanker' popping up in some suprising places ;).
I believe the larger-than-life stylized depiction is actually quite consistant with ancient Greek storytelling, in which mythologically large figures and events are routinely interwoven into their tales of heroism. The movie may not describe the battle the way a modern historian would, but it does apparently describe it much the way a Greek storyteller of the day would have done.
I just got back from 300 actually, and I gotta say that that was the best movie I have seen since V for Vendetta. The visuals were amazing, the story was complex (and though I know the battle itself very well, I was surprised--believe it not), the acting top notch, and there was a simple and elegant brilliance to the movie that made me completely fall in love with it. I think inherently, movies capture more than comic books can, I think actors lend a sense of emotion to the story that comics simply cant, and in that sense, I do think the movie was better than Frank Miller's graphic novel.

I also agree with AlanD, it was supposed to be based on a Spartans re-telling of the events, a Spartan that was at the battle, and hence, the monsters, the oracles, the Gods, and larger-than-life depictions were great. I also think that going in, you shouldnt expect a complete historical re-creation, its more along the lines of an artistic re-telling, and I think that lends some credence to the movie itself. Great movie, and though I am not sure that you need to be pop-culture savvy to enjoy this movie (the emotion and the characters can do it for you I think), its still a good one.
TonyaJ, we do have something in common. Excalibur is one of my favorite movies. And that is so OT .... now I have to watch Serenity again to check for "pop culture references", can't remember any.
Are you kidding ? It has the fella from "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" in it, it's like a pop-culture overload ! ;-)

Depends what you call 'pop' but there's Shakespeare obviously ('Miranda' and 'O brave new world that has such people in it' probably among others) and maybe a nod in Mal's 'love keeps her up' speech to 'The Searchers' where Mal uses "sure as the turnin' of worlds" and Ethan Edwards uses "sure as the turnin' of the Earth" when he's talking about finding his niece. It's a small one but I think probably intentional since a) Joss has said he feels - using impeccable taste ;) - that 'The Searchers' is one of the best westerns ever made and b) both speeches are talking about what keeps each man going. With Mal ('post-Operative' Mal anyway, ahem ;) it's love, with Ethan, well, it's maybe more the other thing.

There'll probably be loads more both to books and films i'd bet (visual homages I normally miss, not being a big student of film history) but those're two off the top.

ETA: "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner"'s another one.

And jerry, nice summary, now I really cannot wait. S'not fair, we're nearer Greece so surely we should have got it first ? Stands to, err, reason ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2007-03-15 11:16 ]
Saje ...Ok, it's the definition of "pop culture", I guess. Of course I got the Shakespeare & Coleridge (sp?). I have read a poem, don't faint :) loved that, really. But I hate westerns so didn't catch those.
It's a small one but I think probably intentional since a) Joss has said he feels - using impeccable taste ;) - that 'The Searchers' is one of the best westerns ever made...

Okay, I hadn't heard he'd said that before. You're a smart one, Mr. W. And so are you Saje, for catching that reference. Ethan and Mal do have a lot in common, although ultimately Ethan could not live among his own people and Mal loved his crew.
Aww, shucks ;). Cue the Purple Voice of Authoritah with "Nope, never meant that, Saje is a maniac, I fart in his general direction. Also, 'The Searchers' is just full of suckage, like, to the brim".

Yeah, 'Serenity' is ultimately more optimistic but then it was made by a younger man, maybe in 20 or 30 years Joss'll make his bitter and twisted version ;). And even Mal couldn't live among most of his people, just the ones he chose, under circumstances he controlled.

(trying to find a Joss quote about "The Searchers" cos i'm sure I read it somewhere last year but I do remember an interview wherein he talks about how "Once Upon a Time in the West" left him speechless)
The 300 was an excellent film. Engaging, well shot, and not as campy as I was expecting. It was entertainment, pure and simple. Whether it was accurately historical or not.

That Serenity was even mentioned in an article about the 300 is the kind of promotion a studio can only dream of - one they don't have to PAY for. 300 is getting a LOT of press, which means, anyone who reads that article who doesn't know what 'Serenity' is might just be convinced to go out and rent/buy it.
Saje, I've got your back. In my limited time so far, I found this bit from an interview with CHUD. Maybe it's not "best western ever made," but it's very positive re The Searchers:

INTERVIEW: JOSS WHEDON
12.27.04
By Fred Topel

Q: What are some of the influences on the Western aspect of the show?

Joss: It’s weird because I just read a thing with M. Night where he said McCabe & Mrs. Miller was a big influence on The Village and I’m like, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller is influencing a lot of really weird films.” That was a big one. Ulzana’s Raid was a huge influence. And The Searchers too, both because they’re so uncompromising.

Aha, ta, you're today's top cog in the hive-mind Tonya J ;).

(I don't think it was that one unless my memory's just made it way more glowy or conflated something else but that at least shows it was an influence)
Oh, I love getting ta from an Englishman. Hee!

No problemo, kiddo. It was gratifying for me to see that in print, as well.
About Serenity's inclusion or dearth of pop culture references: Joss has said on numerous occasions that he intentionally created his world in a time and place so he could skip having such references - although no doubt there are influences on his work, which is a different thing altogether.

JW: "There were, actually, no deliberate attempts to reference anything, and there was no deliberate attempt to reference Forbidden Planet, although I understand that there was a number on a ship that was from Forbidden Planet. I was constantly having to tell people to stop doing that. The sound-mixers wanted to put the Wilhelm scream in – they not only put it in where I didn’t want it, they put it in the mouth of a woman because they didn’t know it was a woman. And I told them, 'Take that out – this is not a game, this is not a self-referential… joke.' I don’t like that kind of post-modern 'films-about-films.'

And I’m known for pop-culture references, so that surprises some people. But the fact of the matter is part of the reason I made
Serenity was so that it could take place in an era during which I could make no pop-culture references. Having said that, though, of course there are obvious influences. I think the fact that Mal shoots not one but three unarmed men in the course of film probably has something to do with the revised Gredo scene. And I know for certain that the first guy he shoots… is very much inspired by a scene from Ulzana's Raid, the Robert Aldrich western…" - interview with Ambrose Heron, http://www.filmdetail.com/archives/2006/10/20/interview-from-the-archives-joss-whedon/

. . .


JOSS: And it's tough for me, too, because I'm known as Mr. Pop Culture Reference; at the same time, that's the last person I want to be. It's one reason that I created Firefly -- so I no longer would be able to make any.

MIKE: Right. You have to invent Fruity Oaty Bars.

JOSS: Exactly. Which is probably the closest thing I have to a contemporary concept in the movie. And everybody does it. Shakespeare did it; there's plenty of references we're not getting. But the other stuff seems to outweigh that in his work, I've noticed."
- CulturePulp: Writings and Comics by Mike Russell > Interviews > Joss Whedon, 9/24/05, http://homepage.mac.com/merussell/iblog/B835531044/C1592678312/E20050916182427/


I want me some fine, old, top-grade BritTa, too.
Oh, I love getting ta from an Englishman.

Now, that is fighting talk, I demand satisfaction, Madam, choose your weapon !

(i'm actually Scottish though I do live amongst the (auld) enemy ;-). I think i've been accused of worse. Hmm ... gimme a minute, it'll come to me... ;)

And ta QG for the quotage ;). I guess by pop-culture I mean "culture that's in the popular consciousness" (which easily covers, over here at least, stuff like Shakespeare, The Bible, Kipling, Coleridge and bits and pieces of other writers/poets i.e. mainly the ones we had to do at school so you guys would probably swap Kipling for Whitman etc.) whereas Joss means more the contemporary kind and maybe more overt nods rather than just references or influences.
I love getting ta from a fine, upstanding Scot. Am I forgiven? Sorry, saje (duels don't work for me as I'm not a morning person) ... :p
Oops, Saje, I think I knew your ancestry, and yet just recently elsewhere, as well as herein, I accused you of being British myself... and just for all y'alls info, I didn't think the folks here were referring to the kind of pop culture references that Joss was trying to get away from in Serenify - just trying to set the record straight in reference to the possible implications in the original post.

Thanks for the ScotTa, if that's how I'd say that - 'cause I can't duel in the morning, either. In the evenings, though, it'd be quotes at twenty paces.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-03-16 17:50 ]
I had to explain to a friend what Mr. Universe meant when he told the Operative to give him his 30 pieces of silver. That would fit under Saje's definition of pop culture although I would probably call it general knowledge that is not quite as general as it used to be.
Oh, blimey, totally forgiven Tonya J ;). Re: pistols at dawn, nah, me neither, I clearly didn't think that one through. We could probably have sorted out some kind of flexi-time duel, say around 11 ish but that's happily moot.

And British is fine QuoterGal I am British (Scotland being part of Britain), i'm just Scottish first (and obviously never English, Welsh or Irish. But especially never English ;-). There's more than a few back home that no longer want to be part of the UK, which is a political union (i'm still undecided) but not being part of Britain would involve some very large saws and no small amount of hacking landmasses.

(and definitely no quotes at twenty paces, I can tell when i'm outgunned ;)

That's a bit depressing Lioness. Whatever a person thinks about God, The Bible is still the most important book (to date) in the shaping of Western culture. I get the same "Ah, so that's where that phrase is from" flicking through it as I did/do with Shakespeare (and though i'm not a believer even I have to admit there're some great stories in there too).
What I got out of reading the Joss quotes from that interview is that there is a difference in being conciously pop-culture referential and being an aware, educated person who's unconcious mind is steeped in the lore of cultural history. I don't think it's possible for any artist in a media that relies heavily on the verbal, to avoid cultural references. Nor do I think that's a bad thing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it's part of what separates real art, pop or otherwise, from shallow, meaningless diversion. Not gonna find anything cultural in any way shape or form, in most of what passes for entertainment on TV today. Or at least, U.S. TV.

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