Why are so many films about filmmaking and films about writing so very bad? It boggles the mind, especially when they’re made by filmmakers and writers who ostensibly love their professions and should know how to make them seem interesting.
Their Finest is like a breath of fresh air to the genre. A film about filmmaking, screenwriting, romance, history and feminism, it is weighty enough to want to re-watch multiple times and light enough so that it is an absolute delight.
Set in 1940, Gemma Arterton plays Catrin Cole, a Welsh transplant to London. A secretary who has been promoted by circumstance to copy-writer (all the male copy-writers are off fighting in WWII) her talent is spotted by Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), an acerbic screenwriter who recruits her to write dialogue for propaganda targeting women. Needing more money to support her starving artist husband, Catrin eventually lands an uncredited position writing “slop” (that would be the dehumanising term for dialogue for female characters) on one of the few British films in production by selling a team of men on a “true” story of twin sisters going to rescue soldiers in Dunkirk (take that Christopher Nolan!) And the more she writes the greater the respect for her talent grows.
All films about filmmaking and writing are some degree of self-referential and Their Finest is no different. Where it manages to succeed where so many other films fail is that the conversations about writing and structure, which could easily come off as didactic or heavy-handed, feel like real conversations between people who are deeply in love with their work. If you pay close enough attention the first time around you’ll see that while the characters themselves are writing an action-thriller, their conversations are carefully plotted themselves to foreshadow the plot of the film. It’s beautiful and it’s fun to watch, not only because every conversation about writing is well-written, but because there’s a completely different conversation happening through subtext each time. Every conversation about writing is really two people who deeply respect each other telling each other that they are falling in love.
I suspect that the true test as to whether people think this film is merely adequate or utterly charming is whether they buy the romance. I did. At one point in the film the screenwriters are given the note that the love-triangle they are writing in the film is too subtle which felt like a meta reference to the quiet slow-burning chemistry between Arterton and Clafin. Theirs is not a fiery, smouldering on-screen romance. Theirs is mutual respect and friendship quietly turning into love.
If there’s one other surprisingly sweet thing about the film it’s the way the film was made. It’s a film about a bygone era in which a woman was openly told she’d earn 2/3rd of what a man would and was grateful for it, in which her efforts at artistry were called slop and she toiled anonymously. The story of Catrin Cole is loosely based on real-life Welsh screenwriter Diana Morgan, based on a book by a woman (Lissa Evans), with a script from a woman (Gaby Chiappe), starring a woman (Gemma Arterton) and directed by a woman (Lone Scherfig). In the film within the film men may dominate, but it’s worth sticking around and watching the credits to see how many women worked behind the scenes to make Their Finest a reality.
Children having fun at a playground would evoke a comparatively more lighthearted ambience than the usual, if that’s all that there is to it.
The “dog” stands beside the “bird,” together opposing the “dove.” Beneath the veneer of a simple role-playing game is an illustration of the profound absurdity of a war that continues to entangle even the most innocent.
Touka seeks Akira out not solely for a semblance of resolution, but for the understanding that she knows only Akira can provide as a human on the other end of the bridge, whose father she had killed in a way reminiscent of how, in her mind, her own was killed at the hands of CCG investigators. The loss of the family they loved to monsters left them with indelible scars, as vessels of hatred and willpower that did not inherently belong to them — a painfully familiar motif. The juxtaposition of the children beginning to crack and the adults that are long broken is jarring. Akira, Touka, and Hinami were small and vulnerable once, exactly like the children in front of them here.
Children start as pure, unwritten, not yet able to fully grasp the phenomenally dismal world around them. They’re blank slates waiting to be stained through to the core with fresh blood, enslaved by the machinations of the hypocritically self-serving and self-destructive. Unfortunate victims on all sides undergo a systemic brainwashing as shown with the newly introduced Oggai, as well as the other Quinx, Garden children, and orphans like Amon, Juuzou, and the Yasuhisa twins. There is no safety anywhere for anyone.
A mother struggles in vain to protect her child as the reapers close in jeering and cackling, and the two are sliced apart in an instant. No mercy, no remorse, no thought. The blindfolds are there to emphasize their place as corrupted parodies of knights of justice, eyes shut to the death and destruction they mechanically spread. To see in shades of grey is an act that demands clarity, but their saviors were demons who stole their souls in exchange for one purpose — and this was it.
Dogs on the hunt, dogs on the run, dogs to the slaughter. The wheel keeps turning wherein one is pinned under and crushed, and another rises to the top.
Is the past always fated to be the future?
Most of the characters are vessels regardless of whom they fight for, thoroughly reliant on trapping another’s will within their own transient bodies to mask their fear of losing something they cherish or getting lost again, to move in any direction at all even it ruins them, to stay alive. They’re amalgams of doubt and distortion and no one knows what they want for themselves; they’ve never had to think about it.
In the original series, Kanou spoke of a perfect world as he envisions it, one free of the twisted birdcage. He is relentless in his pursuit of artificial ghouls that can fly higher and faster than the rest of the crippled birds, because he sees them as a metaphorical transcendence of their stagnated world, and ultimately as extensions of himself, a man ascended.
I have already let go of any desire to carry on in the human world. (TG, ch. 99)
The series can be interpreted
from an alternative perspective as an abstract religious parable. Kanou is the didactic hand of god, deceitfully giving and taking life in accordance to his whims and greater plans, with Furuta as his false prophet. The doves move by their commands, pitifully playing into the belief that they are the rightful arbiters of peace, that only their way is true and just, so they fail to comprehend beyond that which is dictated to them by their progenitors.
Spend too long hopelessly believing, and you lose the ability to think.
Two keyholes sit as the barrier between oppression and deliverance, one above and one below. The cage can’t be dismantled without two groups uniting against a common enemy such that future generations would never again have to serve as instruments of a chaotic cycle. Kaneki can’t save anyone if he can’t save himself first, and to do so he needs to forsake his refuge of misguided attachments. What he assumes to be his responsibility due to Eto and Arima’s influence was actually never meant to be one man’s task, king or not; there is no Messiah bearing the single solution to their world’s ills.
Unlocking their rotting prison is the monumental undertaking of two entire warring factions, together, as they attempt to reach mutual understanding one person at a time. That’s why the recent chapters have been focused on these isolated conversations. For unlikely people to be given each their chance for closure, even though it’s still quite the far way off.
The answers to these questions rest on ambiguous, subjective factors. Should they hate themselves for, as Rize once put it, the inability to make the correct choices, thereby creating their own disadvantages? What would the correct choices have been for their circumstances? How would they have arrived at those conclusions on their own?
In essence, to hate unilaterally is to lay blame and misdirect anger, unable to realize the weight of one’s own role in the disaster. Hatred, while a potent motivator, is not a necessary means to an end. Even with the CCG out of the picture, the problem concerning coexistence would still persist. (Unless synthetic human meat and/or ghoul reversal become feasible, but that’s a tangent for another time.)
Steady steps. Eradicating the CCG means removing a large cog in the wheel, and with it the linear transference of will that has long overwhelmed the fragile vessels with torment that they should never have contained.
For the ask meme: Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia? (I don't think I've ever seen you reblog Narnia stuff, but you reblogged as C.S. Lewis thing recently, so what the heck).
Lord of the Rings hands down. It’s in my top five formative narratives. It’s subtle, beautiful, heartbreaking, and never easy. Reading it made me fall in love with the world, with the numinous and the terrible, and even (eventually) helped me love myself.
Narnia is…well. There are still parts of Narnia I love a lot. But it’s also kind of irrevocably caught up in my fundie Christian related issues. (Fun fact: my childhood preacher encouraged us all to read Narnia because it was good wholesome Christian writing. But he thought LOTR was a path to the devil. Or worse, Catholicism. (And since I later became Catholic, at least partly because of Tolkien, he may have been right lol.))
Ultimately my opinion on Narnia is pretty close to Tolkien’s actually. There are some good story elements, and some great characters, and some clever bits of writing, but it’s far too heavy-handed and didactically allegorical, and I like Tolkien am not really about the allegory.
You said in a post awhile ago that it would be difficult yet possible to write a (plausible) Kylo/Rey romance, so I was wondering how you think the writers at Star Wars could pull off a happily-ever-after for these two that would be both natural and appealing to the audience?
I think they could attempt it, but honestly that particular outcome (i.e. an “all good” one) would be so difficult to pull off (and still remain satisfying) that I’m not even going into it. There’s just too much going against the characters, at least at this point in time.
By making Reylo a 100%-happily-ever-after, you’re actually setting yourself (as a writer) along a very
narrow path. There’s only one outcome, instead of several, which means you can’t really deviate story-wise, if you need to (which you would need to do with Reylo). You can’t switch to a backup plot if the original one doesn’t work, so you run a HUGE risk of writing “plot of the sake of convenience,” which is something you need to avoid like the plague if you’re a writer. Plot for the sake of convenience is a hallmark of bad writing.
If they did do a happily-ever-after, the Star Wars team would need to fix a lot of the subtext between Rey and Kylo first. They’d have to do it in a way that:
A) didn’t sacrifice characterization/plot/tension
B) didn’t sacrifice Rey or Kylo’s agency
C) didn’t come off as didactic/heavy handed/moralistic
D) didn’t turn the story into the most cliche trope ever
I mean, I wouldn’t attempt it. Too risky, in a bad way, and narratively it’s actually really boring to write. Like, what writers want to write and what audiences want to see are two very different things. I’ve seen the term tossed around a lot, so the simplest way I can describe this dichotomy is that writers love brain hurt, while 50% of readers hate it. Readers say they want complexity, but the minute you present them with it they complain. This is why Redemption Arcs are structured the way they are; why you see people complaining about Kylo being emo (among other things). It’s a clash of disparate needs.
Personally, I’d go for a grey ending (i.e. not all good, but not all bad either). That way you’re balancing the reader and writer expectations equally.
So… I was reading through the commentary of TN72H in the Escalation Library Edition, it having finally arrived the other day, and Mr Reed had this to say:
“When these issues were first conceived, we thought maybe the Didact was going to be in Halo 5. He was certainly present in the story early on, but as the plan for the next few years of the franchise (books, comics, other games, etc.) took shape, Didact became extraneous to the story we were telling.”
The Didact was going to be in Halo 5…
THE DIDACT was going to be HALO 5…
THE D I D A C T WAS GOING TO BE IN HALO 5!
Because of course he fucking was - he was conceived as the Reclaimer Saga’s primary antagonist, and Frank O’Connor said before Halo 4 even came out that the he would be instrumental in post-H4 fiction.
Oh, but then he became “extraneous” when they decided to throw in ‘the Created’ with absolutely no build-up. Reed admits that TN72H was done to bump the Didact off to the side so they could do Halo 5 without him but still bring him back when they feel like it.