LOVE AND WAR – THE OVERLOOKED PROGRESSIVE ROMANCE IN “CONAN THE BARBARIAN”

As social creatures, people often have a craving for romance stories or at least romance IN stories. Romantic plots and subplots are common even in media aimed at subcultures with a stereotypical reputation for being socially and romantically inept, such as fans of science fiction or fantasy. Recently, romance and romantic subplots come under heavy criticism by fans and scholars alike; often self-identified feminists call such media and stories out for being poorly written and having disrespectful (often overly sexualized) portrayals of the female romantic interest and often rightfully so. The usual suspects for such stories and subplots are media straight up classified under the “romance” genres and subgenres. However, even stories and media where the element of romance isn’t the primary focus can have not only well-written portrayals of romance – they can be remarkably thoughtful and somewhat progressive in their own right as well.

It can be easy to overlook such elements in media, especially when they are not the subject by which the work is focused on or associated with. That does not make any serious evaluation or analysis of them any less valid. A good example of one of the MOST OVERLOOKED on-screen romances comes in Universal Studio’s 1982, Conan the Barbarian.

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HIDDEN TREASURE: “ON THE JOB” – AN ENGROSSING AND STYLIZED FILIPINO ACTION-THRILLER

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On the Job is arguably the most prolific Filipino crime thriller in years, so prolific that it was given a wide international distribution as has shown up on the radar of quite a few film festivals (Sundance, Cannes, SXSW, etc). The Filipino film industry, in recent years, has been mostly dominated by rom-coms, horror movies and LGBT/Queer films but the ambition of On the Job is a step towards bringing Filipino cinema in competition with their action-oriented international peers such as Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Indonesia. On that level, On the Job succeeds admirably and it is one of the most engrossing action thrillers since the Indonesian martial arts film The Raid. The film is focused on a relatively simple concept: organizations use assassins/hitmen that are hired while serving time in prison. These killers are snuck in and out of jail to carry out their bloody work, and this provides them an almost perfect alibi. Director Erik Matti manages to layer the concept with multiple characters, kinetic editing and atmospheric photography which all serve to create film-noir stylized portrait of Metro Manila.

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“The Lego Movie” – Fine Family Fun; Where “Art” and “Commercial” Combine

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People have every reason to hate the Lego Movie. It’s essentially a 90-minute toy commercial that commodifies the innocent wonder and imaginations of a child’s playtime. The film is filled with celebrity cameos and much of the humor is pop-culture reference-based. Something odd happened as soon as the film came to a close because it turns out, like the film’s pop-theme song suggests, “everything was awesome.” The Lego Movie is every bit as good as many other critics are saying, and far better than it has any right to actually be. Somehow, the film manages to avoid the pratfalls of most product-marketing agenda filmmaking (Transformers among others). The Lego Movie is a wonderful family film packed with as much heart as it has laughs. Like the best family films, it’s also filled with a pretty positive moral message, and it just so happens to also qualify as a Lego-Brand mission statement.

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