What if Lisa Picked The Oscar Nominees — 2016 Edition


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced tomorrow, now is the time that the Shattered Lens indulges in a little something called, “What if Lisa had all the power.” Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations. Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated. The fact of the matter is that the many of them will not. Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year. Winners are starred and listed in bold.

(You’ll also note that I’ve added four categories, all of which I believe the Academy should adopt — Best Voice-Over Performance, Best Casting, Best Stunt Work, and Best Overall Use Of Music In A Film.)

(Click on the links to see my nominations for 20152014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010!)

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Best Picture

*American Honey*

Arrival

Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

La La Land

Love & Friendship

A Monster Calls

Moonlight

The Neon Demon

The Nice Guys

andrea-arnold

Best Director

*Andrea Arnold for American Honey

Shane Black for The Nice Guys

Barry Jenkins for Moonlight

David MacKenzie for Hell or High Water

Nicholas Winding Refn for The Neon Demon

Denis Villeneuve for Arrival

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Best Actor

Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys

Tom Hanks in Sully

Chris Pine in Hell or High Water

Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool

*Denzel Washington in Fences

arrival

Best Actress

*Amy Adams in Arrival

Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship

Viola Davis in Fences

Sasha Lane in American Honey

Emma Stone in La La Land

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch

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Best Supporting Actor

*Mahershala Ali in Moonlight

Tom Bennett in Love & Friendship

Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water

Alden Ehrenreich in Hail Caesar!

John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane

Patrick Stewart in Green Room

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Best Supporting Actress

*Naomie Harris in Moonlight

Felicity Jones in A Monster Calls

Riley Keough in American Honey

Jena Malone in The Neon Demon

Helen Mirren in Eye in the Sky

Angourie Rice in The Nice Guys

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Best Voice Over and/or Stop Motion Performance

Auli’i Cravalho in Moana

Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Dory

Ginnifer Goodwin in Zootopia

*Liam Neeson in A Monster Calls

Art Parkinson in Kubo and the Two Strings

Charlize Theron in Kubo and the Two Strings

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Best Original Screenplay

American Honey

*Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

La La Land

The Nice Guys

The Witch

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Best Adapted Screenplay

*Arrival

The Jungle Book

Love & Friendship

Moonlight

A Monster Calls

Sully

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Best Animated Film

Finding Dory

*Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

Sausage Party

The Secret Life of Pets

Zootopia

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Best Documentary Feature

The Confessions of Thomas Quick

Holy Hell

O.J.: Made in America

Rigged 2016

Weiner

*The Witness

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Best Casting

*American Honey

Everybody Wants Some!!

La La Land

Moonlight

Hell or High Water

Green Room

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Best Cinematography

American Honey

Arrival

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

*The Neon Demon 

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Best Costume Design

The Conjuring 2

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

*Love & Friendship

The Nice Guys

The Witch

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Best Editing

Arrival

Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

*La La Land

Moonlight

A Monster Calls

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Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Captain America: Civil War

Deadpool

Doctor Strange

Everybody Wants Some!!

Hail, Caesar!

*The Neon Demon

Best Original Score

Hell or High Water

Kubo and the Two Strings

*La La Land

Moana

Moonlight

The Neon Demon

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Best Original Song

*”Audition (The Fool Who Dreams)” from La La Land

“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

“Waving Goodbye” from The Neon Demon

“I’m so Humble” from Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping

“Drive It Like You Stole It” from Sing Street

“Go Now” from Sing Street

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Best Overall Use Of Music

*American Honey

The Conjuring Part Two

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Neon Demon

Sing Street

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Best Production Design

Arrival

Don’t Breathe

Green Room

The Neon Demon

La La Land

*10 Cloverfield Lane

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Best Sound Editing

Captain America: Civil War

Deadpool

*Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

A Monster Calls

Sully

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Best Sound Mixing

Captain America: Civil War

Deadpool

Hacksaw Ridge

A Monster Calls

La La Land

*Sully

deadpool

Best Stunt Work

Captain America: Civil War

*Deadpool

Doctor Strange

Hacksaw Ridge

Jason Bourne

The Legend of Tarzan

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Best Visual Effects

Arrival

*Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

A Monster Calls

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Films Listed By Number of Nominations:

13 Nominations — La La Land

1o Nominations — Hell or High Water

9 Nominations — Moonlight, The Neon Demon

8 Nominations — American Honey, Arrival, Kubo and the Two Strings, A Monster Calls

6 Nominations — The Nice Guys

5 Nominations — Deadpool, Love & Friendship

4 Nominations — Captain America: Civil War, Hacksaw Ridge, Hail Caesar!, Moana, Sully

3 Nominations — Doctor Strange, Green Room, Sing Street

2 Nominations — The Conjuring 2, Everybody Wants Some!!, Fences, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witch, Zootopia

1 Nomination — The Confessions of Thomas Quick, Don’t Breathe, Eye in the Sky, Holy Hell, Jason Bourne, The Legend of Tarzan, O.J.: Made in America, Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping, Rigged 2016, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sausage Party, The Secret Life of Pets, Weiner, The Witness

Films Listed By Number of Oscars Won:

4 Oscars — American Honey

3 Oscars — La La Land

2 Oscars — Arrival, Moonlight, The Neon Demon

1 Oscar — Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Kubo and the Two Strings, Love & Friendship, A Monster Calls, Sully, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witness

Will the Academy agree with my predictions?  Probably not but we’ll find out on Tuesday!

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Here Are The Annie Nominations!


Kubo_and_the_Two_Strings_poster

The nominations for the Annie Awards were announced yesterdat!  The Annie Awards honor the best in animation.  Looking over the list of nominees, my initial thought is, “Wow, that’s a really long list!”  So, I’m just going to post the nominations for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Achievement For Voice Acting In A Feature Film.  You can view the complete list over at one of my favorite site for Oscar news, Awards Circuit!

Anyway, here are (some of) the Annie nominations!

Best Animated Feature:

Finding Dory

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kung Fu Panda 3

Moana

Zootopia

Voice Acting In An Animated Feature

Art Parkinson in Kubo and the Two Strings

Auli’i Cravalho in Moana

Katie Crown in Storks

Zooey Deschanel in Trolls

Jason Bateman in Zootopia

Film Review: Kubo and the Two Strings (dir by Travis Knight)


Kubo_and_the_Two_Strings_poster

How is it that, this weekend, so much hype is being given to War Dogs and Ben-Hur — two films that you knew weren’t going to be any good from the minute you first saw their trailers — while one of the best films of the year is running the risk of being overlooked?

I just got back from seeing Kubo and The Two Strings and I am insisting that, if you haven’t already, you go out and see it right now.  If you’re busy today, I understand.  See it on Sunday.  You can even see it on Monday if you have to.  But the important thing is that you see it soon.  For the most part, 2016 in cinema has almost been as bad as 2016 in politics.  The year has been dominated by big spectacles, the majority of which do not even attempt to create any sort of emotional connection with the audience.  Don’t get me wrong — there have been some good films but not hardly enough.  Fortunately, Kubo and the Two Strings is the type of film that, if people actually go and see it, can help to redeem an entire year.

In short, I want to wake up on Monday and I want to read that Kubo and The Two Strings won the weekend.  Make it happen!

Kubo and The Two Strings is an animated film and yes, you need to see it in a theater and yes, you need to see it in 3D.  It’s one of the most visually stunning films that I’ve seen this year and, even better, it’s a film that actually has a heart.  When I watched Kubo and The Two Strings, I found myself both laughing and crying and feeling a renewed excitement about the potential of cinema.

Somewhat appropriately, this magical film is about magic, not just spell-casting magic but also the magic that we all have within our soul and locked away in our memories.  Taking place in ancient Japan, it tells the story of Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson), a one-eyed child who lives in a cave with his sickly mother.  Most of the time, his mother is so out-of-it that she can only sit at the cave entrance and stare out at the distant ocean.  But occasionally, she is lucid enough that she remembers her past and she tells stories about how Kubo’s father was a mighty warrior who battled monsters and went on heroic quests.  She also remembers that Kubo’s grandfather is an evil demon, who is searching for his grandson and who hopes to take away his other eye.

Kubo supports his mother by going into a nearby village and, through the use of origami, magic, and music, telling stories to the townspeople.  His mother always warns Kubo not to say out after sunset.  Inevitably, however, Kubo does just that and soon, his demonic aunts appear in the village.  (The aunts, who are voiced by Rooney Mara, are truly scary.)  The village is destroyed and Kubo’s mother sacrifices her life to save him.

This, of course, all leads to Kubo going on a quest of his own.  He has to find his father’s armor so that he can defeat his grandfather.  Helping him in his quest is Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey, providing comic relief to an occasionally grim film).  But really, the quest is less about finding the armor and more about Kubo both growing up and coming to terms with the loss of his parents.  Yes, Kubo and The Two Strings may be an animated film and it may be a fantasy and it may feature bits of comedy but it’s a film that inspires very real emotions.  It’s a film that made me cry and it earned every single tear.

(Seriously, I dare you to watch the final five minutes of Kubo and The Two Strings without tearing up.)

Visually, this is an amazing film.  The images are often beautiful, sometimes frightening, and occasionally awe-inspiring.  Kubo’s aunts are pure nightmare fuel and his confrontation with his grandfather (voice by Ralph Fiennes) is magical in more ways than one.  Even beyond that, Kubo and the Two Strings creates a world that feels as real as our own.  It not only visualizes and celebrates film magic but also real-life magic as well.

Kubo and the Two Strings is a great and magical film and it’s one of the best of the year so far.  If you haven’t seen it, go out and see it.  If you’ve already seen it, go see it again.  Don’t wait for it to come out on Blu-ray.  Don’t say, “I’ll see it on cable.”  Don’t wait for Netflix.  See it on a big screen and see it now.

Seriously, don’t miss your chance to experience this movie the way it was meant to be experienced!

 

San Andreas Once Again Takes Out the Golden State


San Andreas Banner

With all the rocking and rolling and metal headbanging the site has been on of late it’s just appropriate that we  take a quick intermission with a different sort of rocking and rolling.

The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson will take on the Big One and only one will come out victorious.

San Andreas is set for a May 29, 2015 release date.

Horror Film Review: Dracula Untold (dir by Gary Shore)


Dracula_Untold_poster

Last night, I finally got a chance to see Dracula Untold, the new film that claims to show us not only who the world’s most famous vampire used to be but also how he became a vampire in the first place.  And I have to admit that I had strong hopes for Dracula Untold.  I certainly did not think that it would be a great film but I was hoping that it would at least be fun.

And can you blame me?

After all, it is October and what better time of the year is there to see a film about the early days of a horror icon?  Add to that, the film’s commercials all hinted that, at the very least, Dracula Untold would be full of over-the-top action, melodramatic performances, and ornate costumes.  Sure, there was no hint to be found that Dracula Untold would actually turn out to be a good movie but how can you go wrong with the promise of a little baroque spectacle?

As well, who doesn’t love vampires?  Who hasn’t, at some point, been intrigued by the mix of romance and morbid dread that epitomizes the vampire legend?  And, of course, long before there was ever an Edward Cullen or a Lestat, there was Dracula.

So, yes, I had high expectation for Dracula Untold but I don’t think they were unrealistic.  Ultimately, I was just hoping to see a fun and entertaining vampire film.

And, in all fairness, there were a few moments when Dracula Untold managed to be just that. Unfortunately, those moments were few and far between.  For the most part, this latest Dracula film turned out to be rather bland and predictable, a well-produced film that failed to leave much of an impression.  It was neither good enough to be memorable nor bad enough to be enjoyable.  Instead, it just kind of was.

Dracula Untold opens in the Middle Ages, with the man that we know as Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) ruling Transylvania.  Despite his fearsome reputation, we quickly see that Vlad is actually a very wise and benevolent king who truly loves his wife (Sarah Gadon) and his young son (Art Parkinson).  However, when the new sultan of Turkey (played by Dominic Cooper) demands that Transylvania send him 100 young men to serve as slaves (much as Vlad himself was forced to do when he was younger), Vlad goes to war against the Ottomon Empire.

With his forces outnumbered, Vlad does what any self-respecting ruler would do.  He goes to a cave and he talks to the Master Vampire (Charles Dance, under a ton of makeup).  The Master Vampire agrees to give Vlad all the powers of a vampire but there’s a condition.  In order to become human again, Vlad must go for three whole days without drinking any blood.  If Vlad does drink blood, he will be cursed to be a vampire for the rest of his life.

Vlad takes the deal, fully intending not to drink any blood.  As a result, Vlad can do all sorts of neat CGI tricks, like turning into a bat and fighting his enemies in slow motion.  However, he can’t go out in the sun without his skin starting to burn and silver causes his eyesight to go all blurry.  And, of course, he starts to crave blood almost immediately.  As Vlad tries to defeat the Turks before losing his special powers, he also discovers that his own soldiers now fear him and his dark powers…

I don’t want to be too hard on Dracula Untold because, while my overall reaction was one of disappointment, there are still bits and pieces of the film that works.  Charles Dance, for instance, gives a great performance as the Master Vampire.  Dominic Cooper camps it up as the film’s nominal villain and, as a result, he’s a lot of fun to watch.  Luke Evans is pretty to look at.  The final showdown between Evans and Cooper is well-directed.

But, ultimately, the things that worked in Dracula Untold were the exception to the rule.  For the most part, Dracula Untold is uninspiring and forgettable.  Clocking in at 92 minutes, Dracula Untold is almost too short and quick for its own good.  You never really find yourself becoming immersed in the film’s world and the majority of the film’s supporting characters were so thinly drawn that I struggled to keep straight who was who.  (I swear, at first, it seemed as if one of Dracula’s friends was actually killed three separate times.  It was only afterward, as I looked over the film’s credits, that I discovered that “friend” was actually three different characters who were so indistinguishable from each other that I had just naturally assumed that they were all meant to be the same guy.)  There are occasionally hints of an intriguing political and sexual subtext, particularly in the scenes between Evans and Cooper, but the film is always in such a hurry to get to the next battle scene that those hints are often pushed to the side within minutes of having been brought up.  It becomes obvious early on that Dracula Untold was mostly made to serve as the cornerstone of a new franchise and, as such, the film ultimately feels like a 90-minute prologue to a story that you’re not really sure will be worth all the build-up.

It’s not so much that Dracula Untold was a terrible film as much as it was just a painfully generic and predictable one.  And a character as iconic as Dracula deserves better.

Trailer: Game of Thrones – Season 3 (2nd Trailer)


GameofThronesS3

It’s less than two weeks before we get to the premiere of HBO’s third season of Game of Thrones.

This latest trailer marketing the premium cable channel’s latest epic hit series brings everyone back who survived Season 2 and introduces a couple more people (Mance Rayder being one of them). We also get to see just how much the baby dragons of Daenerys Stormborn’s have gotten not to mention the army she has acquired since the end of Season 2 (I’m guessing these are the Unsullied).

This third season looks to lean heavily on the third novel in the series, A Storm of Swords, and for those who have read that massive tome will await this third season with both anticipation and trepidation. One thing the show has taught viewers has been to not get so fixated on characters. George R.R. Martin is more than willing to kill off beloved character and it looks like showrunners of the show have learned to do the same.

Game of Thrones Season 3 is set to premiere on March 31, 2013.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E10 “Valar Morghulis”


“We are the watchers on the Wall.” — Qhorin Halfhand

[spoilers within]

With last week’s explosive ninth episode, “Blackwater”, it was going to take much to make tonight’s season finale to really stand out. Just like the first season’s finale we get an episode that deals with the aftermath of the previous episode and also goes a long way into setting up events for the upcoming third season.

“Valar Morghulis” is the title of tonight’s episode and it’s spoken by Jaqen H’ghar to Arya as the two part ways. It’s a saying in Essos from ancient High Valyrian (a Roman Epire-like civilization which perished centuries before the series’ timeline) that translated means “All men must die”. Jaqen sees potential in Arya in becoming like him, a Faceless Man, assassins who follow the teaching of the so-called Many-Faced Gods. While Arya seems intrigued by the offer her need to re-connect with her family takes precedence over everything else. As the two part ways Jaqen imparts to Arya a coin that should she ever need passage to Braavos to start her journey into becoming a Faceless Man. In another instance that this series still has magic in it’s DNA we finally see why Jaqen is a Faceless Man as he walks away from Arya and her group wearing a new face.

Tonight’s episode lays the foundation that next season magic and sorcery may become more common place than the first two season of the series. We see Daenerys finally make her way into the House of the Undying to retrieve her dragonlings from the warlocks of Qarth. It’s a sequence that’s akin to spirit journey for the Targaryen Queen-to-be and Mother of Dragons as she walks the darkened halls and corridors of the House of Undying until an egress suddenly takes her North of the Wall to find a Dothraki tent where she discovers the two most precious things she has lost since coming to Essos. In what I could only see as a surprise that was kept by showrunners Benioff and Weiss from the press and bloggers (a feat nowadays) Daenerys sees her husband Khal Drogo and who could only be their son both alive and waiting for her.

Her reaction to this event was both poignant and tragic in that she finally has a chance to be with those she loves most but must give up the quest to retake Westeros with her dragons. Her decision to leave the tent and leave behind those she loves comes as her character finally realizing that sentimentality and the needs of her heart must take a back seat and wait. Daenerys comes out the other side a more confident ruler and one whose magic really is stronger than those warlocks who scheme to keep her and her dragons captive for themselves. It really sets up the Daenerys character on a much stronger footing for next season just like last season’s finale did. For all the moping around Daenerys did for most of season 2 the pay off in the end goes a long way into forgiving the show’s writers in their inability to write her character’s motivations consistently. Most likely the naive young girl being used by others for their own agendas and ends would be seen less and less next season while the Mother of Dragons reasserts her authority.

The same can’t be said for one of the five kings vying for control of Westeros. For those who have read the third novel the scenes with King Robb Stark were full of sentimentality but lacking in the cold-hearted logic that rulers must use in order to play the game of thrones successfully. Even his mother, Catelyn Stark, sees danger in Robb’s actions with the Volanti healer Talisa Maegyr. Catelyn knows well enough that Robb could destroy everything he has won and worked for since war begun because he has thought with his heart and not with his head. In what could almost be seen as more doom coming for the House of Stark, Robb cements his relationship with Talisa in secret even though we’ve come to learn through two season of this show that nothing ever remains secret for long.

Back in King’s Landing we see the balance of power shift once more as Tywin Lannister’s opportune arrival to take victory from the jaws of defeat at the end of last week’s episode sees him back as Hand of the King to Joffrey. Tyrion has lost all the advantages he had worked and gamed for all season as even Bronn has been removed as Commander of the Goldcloaks. We’ve not seen Tyrion laid so low as we have in this episode and the horrible scarring of his face looks to go deeper as he finally realizes that as much as he would enjoy running away with Shae and leave the politicla intrigues and backstabbing of the kingdom it’s something that he would miss terribly because it’s the one thing he’s best at. With Tywin now in charge of the kingdom and Petyr Baelish having earned himself the king’s good graces for manufacturing the alliance between the two most powerful houses in the kingdom with the Lannisters (Baratheon by name only) and the Tyrell’s of Highgarden. It’s going to be interesting to see how Tyrion readjusts to the new power dynamics in King’s Landing for season 3. If there’s one thing we’ve come to learn about Tyrion over two season’s worth of episodes it’s that he’s a survivor first and foremost.

Lastly, we come to Jon Snow and his dilemma North of the Wall. A captive of the wildlings and seen as someone very important for the still unseen Mance Rayder the so-called King-beyond-the-Wall, Jon must do the only logical thing (something Qhorin halfhand agrees as the only thing that could save Jon and maybe give him time to warn the Wall) and earn the trust of Ygritte, Rattleshirt and the rest of the wildlings even if it means killing one of his own to do so. In what would be one of several sweeping scenes that show the epic nature of this series lest we forget Ygritte shows Jon over the lip of a glacier the army of wildlings Mance Rayder has gathered.

Yet, it’s not that army that gives tonight’s episode that cliffhanger send-off that last season’s finale did with Daenerys coming out of the funeral pyre with her three dragonlings perched on her unharmed body. No, tonight’s episode gets a cliffhanger that is more ominous and reinforces the House Stark motto of “Winter Is Coming”. We see poor Samwell Tarly (having been abandoned by the two other Night’s Watch Brothers once they heard the three horn blasts in the distance) scared out of his wits as he realizes that the three horn blasts that hasn’t been heard for thousands of years could only mean one thing: the White Walkers are on the march towards the Wall. In a final acknowledgement that as realistically the show has tried to portray the series in terms of warfare and political intrigue there’s no getting away from the fact that magic is still alive in this world born out of George R.R. Martin’s fevered mind as a massive army of undead slouches south towards the Wall and the kingdoms beyond it.

This scene just ups the ante on what we could only imagine what would be season three of the show. Across the Narrow Sea we have Daenerys Stormborn gradually detaching sentimentality from how she operates and this could only mean more bad news for the warring kingdoms of Westeros. The power struggles against King Joffrey looks to be going the mad king’s way as Lannisters and Tyrells ally together to retake the rest of the rebelling kingdoms. Now we have two armies, one living and preparing to go south towards the Wall (most likely to get away from the gathering White Walker horde) and the other undead and also heading towards the only bastion (one that is ridiculously undermanned) protecting the southern kingdoms from a gathering darkness.

If there was a complaint about this season’s storytelling it was that so much of the novel this season was based on was condensed to make it fit in a ten-episode season. Despite lulls in character development with Jon Snow and Daenerys we get major pay-offs for these two with tonight’s season finale. It’s good news that showrunner Benioff and Weiss has decided to split book three, A Storm of Swords, into two with the first half comprising season three with the latter half set aside for season four. Even with missteps along the way tonight’s season finale goes a long way into proving that HBO’s Game of Thrones is currently the best genre show on tv and one of the best tv shows airing now.

Now we have ten months of waiting to see how Westeros and Essos will deal with the events that ended season two. One thing for sure is that we’ll see more people die before all questions get answered if ever.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E08 “The Prince of Winterfell”


“One game at a time my good friend.” — Tyrion Lannister

The second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones has been quite similar to the first season in that for every great episode we get one not so great, but still one that’s needed to help further the season’s narrative to it’s conclusion. This season it’s the effect that the War of the Five Kings has had one everyone from those vying for the Iron Throne to the lowly peasant who must endure the war that has engulfed Westeros. Even the lands of Essos across the Narrow Sea has felt the ripple effect of this war as we see Daenerys Targaryen struggle in her attempts to gain allies in a land content to see the kingdoms of Westeros fight each other into disunity.

Tonight’s eight episode of the season, “The Prince of Winterfell”, was not a great episode but it was crucial in further fleshing out some of the main characters who continues to have an effect on the war. The title itself as meaning one of the Stark sons, but in this episode this label could mean so many characters.

It could mean Theon Greyjoy who has made himself the new Lord of Winterfell as he and his score of Ironborn have forcibly taken the capital of the North a couple episodes back. We’ve seen him play the role of lord, or more like play-act the role, since taking Winterfell, but his decisions since then has made him even more petty than we’ve ever seen him through all of season 1. His behavior is a constant reminder that while he spent most of his life amongst the Starks — as part of his father’s punishment for rebelling against Robert Baratheon — he never picked up the concept of honor fom Ned Stark or through the actions of Ned’s boys. He’s like a spoiled young boy trying to please everyone and show them that he’s worthy of praise when what he’s done just makes him look more and more pathetic to those he’s trying to impress.

The scene between Theon and his sister Yara was quite illuminating in how the former went against his father’s orders and his people’s method of warfare because he envies the sort of respect and influence his sister has over the Ironborn men. Influence that goes against everything Theon thinks how a woman should be and that’s naked and subservient to him, or at least to men. Yara doesn’t resent her brother and actually cares for him in her own fashion. She even understands why he does what he does and how their shared experiences with their father, Balon Greyjoy, binds them closer than Theon would like to think.

Theon has been given chances and opportunities to think things more logically and with a keen mind, but he has squandered all these chances (one even coming from the sister he thinks doesn’t respect him) and just continues to dig the proverbial grave he might just find himself in. He may be the Lord and Prince of Winterfell now, but only he seems to believe that to be true.

On the other hand, we have Robb Stark down south, King of the North by his bannermen’s acclaim, but still just a Prince of Winterfell who would like nothing but to return to his birthplace and take up the duties now given onto him by the death of his father. He would rather return to guarding the North and supporting the Night’s Watch aat the Wall than continue to fight a war that he has lost much desire to fight. But he knows he must continue his campaign against King Joffrey and the Lannisters. Too much blood has been spilt by men under his banner and the honor and duty he learned from his father means he must set aside sentimental things (like running back North to retake Winterfell and free his younger brothers). The fact that he understands the damage Catelyn’s actions in regards to the Kingslayer and his orders to have her guarded like a prisoner means he has learned to set aside familial feelings for the greater good.

Robb Stark has learned much to be like his father and while much of it has been to his advantage in prosecuting the war and keeping his alliance of bannermen together he has also picked up his father’s flaw of allowing his heart to dictate an action that may just jeopardize everything he has gained since the war began. Even knowing that he’s arranged to marry one of the Frey daughters as price to move his army down south his feelings for Talisa (the camp chirurgeon and a lady of Volantis herself) finally overrides his reason and duty. For those who have read the book this scene was both touching and maddening. For those who have never read the book this scene will still be touching in that Robb followed his heart, but also maddening in that he puts in danger the alliances with the important House of Frey to satisfy his heart.

The rest of “The Prince of Winterfell” was more about moving the pieces on the board closer to that inevitable clash between the armies of Joffrey at King’s Landing and Stannis Baratheon with his fleet bearing down on the capital. All these build-up scenes added to subplots that has grown since the beginning of the season. If there was one sequence that seemed very out of place and felt like just spinning wheels in place it would be with Daenerys at Qarth as she once again agonizes about her kidnapped “babies” and how she must get them back. Now that she knows that the warocks of Qarth have the dragonlings sequestered in the Tower of the Undying one would think she would have tried to get them back, but instead we get more scenes of her and Jorah debating on the need to have the dragon’s back. While this part of the season doesn’t come close to being the “Sophia in the Barn” frustrating it’s getting close.

We now have two more episodes left in the season and it looks like the Battle of Blackwater Pass from the novels may just arrive with the next episode. Will Tyrion be able to beat back Stannis’ siege of King’s Landing? Will Theon survive the season as Lord of Winterfell? Will Robb’s actions with Talisa destroy everything he has built since the war began? There’s so much questions and with two episodes left it will be quite the juggling act for the show’s writers to answer them all without having them seemed rushed.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E05 “The Ghost of Harrenhal”


“Anyone can be killed.” — Arya Stark

The first four episodes of the second season of Game of Thrones has been consistently good to great despite the addition of a large number of new characters to a cast already considered massive by tv standards. Last week’s “Garden of Bones” was the weakest of the four and worked more like a set-up episode for the rest of the season. With tonight’s fifth episode in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” we get another set-up episode that looks to be the weakest entry in this new season.

The episode’s title comes from the novel and what Arya calls herself during her stay in Harrenhal. She becomes the ghost of the title as she takes the offer made to her by the engimatic Jaqen H’ghar. But before we get to Arya and her adventures within the cursed halls of Harrenhal we start the episode back at the Renly Baratheon camp where the younger Barantheon entertains Catelyn Stark with an offer to take back to her son Robb in the North. Before the armies of Renly and Robb could come together to fight against their common enemy that the shadowy thing from the end of last week’s episode finally make it’s appearance to end the fight between the Baratheon brothers once and for all.

As Arya comments to Tywin in Harrenhal thus Renly’s fate early in the episode prove her words correct. Anyone can be killed and it would seem anywhere.

The rest of the episode from then on is all about setting up what I can only guess would be the two set piece events for the season. There’s the planned amphibious invasion of King’s landing being planned by Stannis Baratheon with his reinforced army now that Renly’s bannermen has flocked to him after their former liege’s assassination. Then there’s the stuff brewing up north of the Wall with the entire Night’s Watch searching for and preparing for the massive wildling army being formed by former Night’s Watch brother and self-proclaimed “King Beyond the Wall”.

Most of the dynamic writing for tonight’s episode occur down at King’s Landing and Harrenhal where we see both Tyrion and Arya adjusting to the ever-shifting status in both places. With Tyrion he must now contend with an older sister in Cersei who seem to be waking up to the fact that she cannot bully the current Hand of the King and realizes that she too can play the manipulative game as her deformed younger sibling. The fact that a weapon of mass destruction has been in production for quite sometime without his knowing and put into motion by his sister has put the usually cocky and confident Tyrion on his heels. But as we’ve seen since this show began airing the dwarf Lannister is very quick to adjust his footing. It’s going to be interesting how the writers will keep the personal battles between Tyrion and Cersei for control of King’s Landing to not feel like wheel’s spinning in place. Sooner or later one of them will find the chink in the other’s personal armor and make the “killing” stroke.

Further up north we see Arya do her own dance around the shifting circumstance she finds herself in as the personal cupbearer for the man who heads the house she despises and blames for the death of her father. The back and forth between her and Tywin was one of the highlight’s of tonight’s episode even though it didn’t move the story forward, but did add another layer of character growth on the youngest Stark daughter. Maisie Williams as Arya continues to impress in the role. She looked like she belonged in the scene with the older veteran actor in Charles Dance. It’s a small wonder that she’s become one of the show’s favorite characters.

With tonight’s episode we hit the halfway mark of the season and even though there’s still another half to go so much stuff occurred with tonight’s episode that it’ll be a surprise if the season finale gives all of them a satisfying resolution. I haven’t even mentioned the scenes with Theon trying to find his footing with his crew before setting off to raid the coastline near Winterfell as his father has ordered him to do.

If there was ever a weak point in this season it’s that we seem to get a new subplot introduced with each new episode and tonight’s episode was a perfect example. Not saying that tonight was poorly written and acted. Everyone seemed to be in top form, but instead of streamlining what is already turning out to be a season with an ever-growing number of storylines we get more. It’s going to be a wonder how the show’s writers will be able to juggle everything as the season enters it’s second half. Maybe they won’t find a resolution for every thread introduced this season and I’m betting that is how it’s going to pan out, but that could also mean delaying some of these threads for next season.

If there’s one thing people should know about George R.R. Martin’s novels it’s that plots, subplots and side stories only continue to pile on each other even when some past ones get a resolution. Sooner or later the showrunners will have to make a tough decision to abandon certain storylines from the novel even if it means angering and alienating the fans of the books who are already grumbling about some of the changes the show has already made in adapting the series to television.

I’m all for fidelity to the source material, but as Arya said in tonight’s episode, “Anyone can be killed”, and I say the same thing should go in how the show moves on into the second half and beyond. Any storyline can be cut and I’m all for it if it keeps the series from becoming a narrative bloated mess.

Notes

  • Looks like Renly Baratheon will not be able to play at war again.
  • Brienne is not a woman that any man should anger if what she did in Renly’s tent was any indication.
  • Littlefinger and Margaery Tyrell would make for quite a formidable couple if these two manipulative kids ever decide to get together.
  • We don’t see it happen often but Tyrion definitely looks like he’s not in control of the situation during his conversation with Cersei and then later on with Lancel and his talk of wildfire.
  • For all his work to try and protect the people from Joffrey’s madness Tyrion still ends up on the short end of the stick.
  • Stannis is turning out to be quite a conundrum. One second he’s willing to use underhanded tactics to win over his younger brother’s bannermen to his army, then turns around and becomes his rigid self once again. It’s a wonder that he still has Ser Davos’ loyalty.
  • Tywin at Harrenhal with his war council is a major change from the novel, but it makes sense now that we get a sort of confrontation between the Lannister patriarch and Arya Stark.
  • Highlight of the episode has to be Jaqen and Arya making an arrangement where the former shall repay his life-debt to the latter with the deaths of three names Arya will give the enigmatic soldier.
  • Tyrion finally gets his footing on solid ground again as he takes control of the wildfire production from his sister. I’m thinking King’s Landing would be better served to have the volatile wildfire in the hands of Tyrion than his more equally volatile sister and her insane son.
  • Daenerys gets another lesson in the cutthroat world of diplomacy as she gets a tempting offer from Xaro Xhoan Daxos.
  • Her next lesson on how to be a capable ruler comes from her trusted knight and advisor Ser Jorah who thinks Daxos’ offer will contain strings that she may not be able to cut once accepted.
  • Bran’s dreams seem to portent the coming Ironborns and the former ward and friend in Theon leading them.
  • Rickon Stark looks like he’s becoming wilder and wilder with each appearance.
  • A surprise for the lack of any sort of sexposition or even nudity. Might be a first for this show.
  • One down and two to go.