Category: Movies


By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

When you think about the words, “morning glories,” what do you think of?  Off the top of my head, there’s the obvious flower, there’s the Oasis album, the movie starring Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford, and then finally there is the Morning Glory Academy, the school at the heart of the Morning Glories comic book.  Besides it being the name of the school, my first glimpse of any other hint of the name of the series came in Volume Two of the trade paperback when during one of Jade’s dream segments* a creeping vine of luminescent morning glories line the hallway lockers.  That hint and the “in popular culture” section of the Wikipedia page devoted to the flower that mentions “love in vain” as a meaning of the phrase, makes me think that the title has a deeper meaning.  It could also just mean young people getting ready to bloom into adulthood because of its focus on six kids at a prestigious high school.  I’m not sure, but the title gives me pause to think about it.

Morning Glories Academy

On the other hand, there’s We Bought a Zoo following in the long and unwieldy title footsteps of Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!  Besides the book of the same name only even longer, there’s nothing else that comes to mind when I hear the phrase, We Bought a Zoo.  It isn’t enigmatic or symbolic, it is straightforward – this is a story about people that bought a zoo.  When I go to see it, I know I’m going to see people and animals interacting together in a zoo that someone just bought.

The question I ask myself is: which one is better?

Rachel McAdams, Woman in Black?

Looking at previous entries on the borg.com website, I see titles like Sherlock, Cyborg, The Woman in Black, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and from the titles, I know what I’m going to get.  I’m going to get a Sherlock Holmes story, a story about a half-man/half-robot, a horror movie with a woman in black and a story about a girl that has a dragon tattoo.  Easy, though the plots behind those titles are not as obvious as We Bought a Zoo.  Maybe if they made Sherlock Goes On Heroin Bender and Gets Married to a Gutter Waif or Cyborg Cooks a Five Course Meal To Win Reality Chef Event it might be a little closer in comparison.

Robot Cyborg Chefs from the album Virtual Kitchen

Then, there’s Brave and Total Recall which offer just subtle hints on the story in the movie, especially if you’re not familiar with the original piece that serves as the basis for the latter example.

To answer my earlier rhetorical question: I’m not sure, but I have an idea.  I do know for sure that if I have a predisposition to seeing a movie with James Bond, G.I. Joe, Transformers or Jason Bourne, then the title better let me know it and nothing will change my mind about it.  (Well, except if it is G.I. Joe Bought a Zoo I’d probably skip it, but I would totally see Optimus Prime Bought A Zoo.)  On the other hand, if I hate those four things, nothing you can tell me about the movie will make me go see it and a clever title won’t change my opinion.  (Jason Bourne and James Bond Get Married and Buy a Zoo in Pennsylvania to Lure Rick Santorum in Close excepted.)

A title with a little more mystery like Lost or Once Upon a Time will give me a hint (people that are lost, people that are in a fairy tale) and might get me to try it, as lost people and fairy tales can go in many different directions.  Then there are Morning Glories or The Tree of Life where you don’t really know what you’ll get until you dive in and check it out.

Maybe it just boils down to what kind of person you are.  I know I tend to like a little bit of a surprise.  Unless the awesomely titled, Once I Was Lost, But Now I’m Found by Space Aliens and They Funded My Dream of Buying a Zoo Filled with Investment Bankers comes to a theater near you, I’ll stick to a little more mystery in my titles.

Morning Glories Volume 2 Graphic Novel

*About Morning Glories, I have to say that the first TPB set it up so you could see the characters as a group while the second devotes a comic/chapter to each as an individual and you get to see their powers . Since I am a fan of time travel (and why I mention the magic Lost above) I think Jade could end up being my favorite character.  Then again, each one has such an intriguing story it could change by the time I finish the next TPB.

Editor’s Note:  Check out Jason’s take on the first Morning Glories TPB here.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Nick Spencer, the writer of Morning Glories describes the story as “Runaways meets Lost.”  I think you could get better comparisons.  How about “Runaways meets Planetary” (Brian K. Vaughn and Warren Ellis!) or “Veronica Mars meets Lost” (Rob Thomas and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse!)?  All four have a strong fan base, the comparisons stay in the same medium and one side is based in the adventures of teens and the other side is based on mysteries in physics.

I’m picking nits as all four of those stories have compelled me to read more or see more at any given time.  (I just finished the entire run of Veronica Mars in a little under two weeks before Netflix could take it off the instant queue and I would have had to wait for DVDs in the mail.  I get obsessive sometimes).  I definitely think that Morning Glories could compel me in much the same way.

On each side of those comparisons though, there is a question that might not have crossed your mind.  I think it boils down to the simple question: how do you like your mysteries?

For example, take the final season of Lost and the “sideways” reality. (LOST ***SPOILER ALERT*** – which shouldn’t really be necessary as it has been a year since the finale).  The season finale reveals that the sideways universe is the afterlife.  Desmond is there to help them realize what is happening and to bring them all together to see each other again.

Let me say that again, and just think about it for a while.  The season finale reveals that the sideways universe is the afterlife.

I’m not sure about you, but the number of stories I can recall that deal with life in the afterlife is not that great. For comedy purposes, there is the wonderful Defending Your Life.  In myths there is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice that has been forever tainted by The Killing.  (I shudder to even mention that series in the company of actual good stories). Death appears in The Seventh Seal and later Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.  Off the top of my head, that’s about it. (I’m sure there are more examples and feel free to enlighten me about them).

Lost did it differently though.  The adventures on the island took up less than three months for some characters.  (I’m looking at you Boone and Shannon).  For others, it was several years of their lives as they went back in time and lived in the Dharma community.

So, what does the island mean in comparison to the rest of your life?

For Ana Lucia, it didn’t mean much as she didn’t join the rest of the survivors in waking up in the afterlife.  For others, it meant the world.  Waking up brought in a flood of emotion for the characters (and this member of the audience) as these people that meant so much to them for just a part of their life reappeared.

So, what is the afterlife?  How do you use your time?  Do you use it to become the father that you wish you were, that you wish you had?  Do you use it to come to grips with your own physical failings that resulted in your own emotional failings?  Do you beat yourself up over all the evil that you did?

In Defending Your Life the battle was against fear.  For Albert Brooks, as the writer, I’m sure that is a very personal battle.  For the characters of Lost they had different battles to face.  Finding justice, finding love, finding friendship, finding forgiveness or whatever they needed to find so that they could move forward.

(Thinking about that personally, I’m not sure what I would need to face in order to move along. It’s a mystery of myself that I will have to explore).

In those personal battles, what is more important, the previous 20, 30 or 40 years, or the time spent on the island?  How would you ever be able to work in the experiences of the island in comparison to the building blocks of your personality, your life that happened so many more times?

That is the question I have of the afterlife.  I’ve never met my grandfathers.  I know they played an important part of my parent’s lives, but they both died before I was born.

What happens in their afterlife?  I assume they link to the lives of their children who then link to their children and then we meet.  Or maybe they have directory assistance in the afterlife and instead of reaching a phone, you physically transport to that person.  No matter what is the way of the afterlife, the next question becomes how long do we see each other?  What about all the people we’ve met over the course of our lives?  What if a friend from elementary school that we remember as the person who first exposed me to video games doesn’t remember us?  With whom do we spend time in the afterlife?  What do we need to do to improve ourselves?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that Lost helped to create the questions.  Sometimes a good mystery doesn’t have an answer.  Yet.  Sometimes we don’t want answers as we don’t want to infect the hopes, dreams and prayers of our imaginations.  Whatever answer we get will pale in comparison to what we had created in our minds or it may be so big that we would have never thought to dream it.

The thing is mysteries are everywhere, we just may not see them.  In Veronica Mars only two people believed something different about the Lily Kane murder, everyone else just went on with their business.  In Lost different people discovered different things about the island that they decided to share or not share. (By comparison, Rose and Bernard chose to ignore all the hoopla and just live in the moment that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The mystery they got to solve was how they would grow old together).  In Planetary we find that the world doesn’t work the way we think and three “heroes” lead us to examples that wander into the fantastic.  In Morning Glories we see six kids that start at a boarding school.  We don’t know why they are there.  We don’t know the purpose of the school.

So, what kind of mystery do you want?  Do you want ones that are concrete and you can solve and figure out within a set amount of time, like a murder, or the existence of a polar bear, or why someone can talk to machines in some sort of origin story or why people born on January 1st, 1900 or May 4th are special?  (May the 4th be with you significance aside).  Or do you want what friendships mean, or how friendships start, or what the afterlife is like, or what relationships do we have with our parents, or how we need to fool ourselves to actually find our more about ourselves?  In other words, should mysteries reveal more about the soul of the person or the plot of the story?

Ideally, a great story gives you both as you explore characters and their environments.  I think Morning Glories is well along that path after only six issues.

By Jason McClain (@jtorreyMcClain) 

The movie starts out with images.  The Eiffel Tower.  The Arc De Triomphe.  The Louvre.  Le Sacre Coeur.  The Seine. Familiar looking streets to your eye if you’ve ever seen anything filmed in Paris.  Of course like any big city, there were cafes on screen that I don’t remember having seen in any image before so it provided new glimpses of a city familiar to all of us from the increasingly small world through movies and television.

Midnight in Paris had me right then and I didn’t even know it.

My thoughts drifted to my all too brief time in Paris.  Walking the streets.  Stopping by carts to pick up lunch.  Looking forward to the morning with coffee, baguettes and strawberry jam.  Letting my feet take me where they wanted to go with only the memories of my tour book to guide me as the physical copy was left behind in my hostel room so that my walk was unencumbered by backpacks or books.  Yes, I missed seeing things.  Yes, I ended up in a cemetery and realized I had no use seeing gravestones, not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  (White, no sugar.)  Still, I saw as much as I could from the vantage point of the many different random streets that go in every which way to make up the Paris city center.

Soon after leaving, I dreamt of visiting again or, even better, of living in Paris for a year, because I had fallen in love with a city and the people.  Finally using the language that had made enough of an imprint in high school and college so that I could still pick up on just enough of someone’s speech to make me smile at my ability to decipher a special code of tens of millions of people.  The language that I used on a train to talk to a couple who helped me along, that were kind enough to take the time to listen to my halting words and help me to understand that my struggle could show benefits.  Sitting every morning near the banks of the Seine, enjoying a coffee seems like it would be a cool way to spend a year.  Though the dream is now many years old, it is still one that I cherish, the thought of becoming a secret agent of France.

Minutes later during the movie, I realized I was not alone in this dream, for this was the dream of the protagonist played by Owen Wilson.

After the movie, I realized how much more universal the theme is.

Temporal displacement.

Geographic displacement.

Interpersonal displacement.

Entertainment allows us to explore those fantasies of finding a place, a time and people that we truly love.  Finding a place, a time and people where we don’t feel like we are rushing to keep up with all that is around us, but rather the flow of our world buoys us to the surface of its stream and we casually float along in peace, knowing that everything will be ok in the end.  Athletes call it “the zone,” and I’m not sure what the term would be in regular life, but in tribute to Bryan Cranston, Walter White and Vince Gilligan, I think it could just be called “breaking good.”

Spending time with those people that truly get us, that know what it means to meet a deadline for a project, or to write the perfect sentence or to find that missing dollar that balances the books in the midst of millions is something that seems easy.  We can find those people.  We can join clubs.  We can find a cool place to work.  We can take classes.  We can call, email, IM or visit friends.  We can control our interpersonal placement as much as we can control anything. Still, when the casts of Community or Torchwood appear on the television, I think a lot of us would jump at the chance to go to Greendale Community College and play paintball or to work in secrecy under the streets of Cardiff examining alien artifacts and saving the world.  We’d still keep in touch though.  Of course we would.

There are times when I think that the solitary life of a trapper in early 1800s, exploring the west for the first time would be the perfect life.  It probably comes from my father’s DNA, as “Jeremiah Johnson” is one of his favorite films. There are times that I think a mountain town calls my name to return to that small town, big peaks life.  There are other times that I know that L.A. is the perfect place for me.  Ask me any day of the week and I’d give you a different answer, depending on the traffic, the sunshine, or the dreams of snow in June.

I’m not sure where, when or who my perfect existence would encompass.  Paris in the ‘20s with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway might be pretty darn cool as it showed that world during my viewing of Midnight in Paris.  It certainly would help to explain why Doctor Who has become a favorite of mine.  Not only is all of the past open to the Doctor, but all of time and space as well. You could sample everywhere, every when and every who.  Why not?  How do you know what is your perfect time and space unless you look around a bit? Well, unless you think that your life has peaked and that there isn’t much else out there.  The glory days have passed you by and Bruce Springsteen’s song haunts your nights, as your beers never have a chance to get warm.  I hope that isn’t your truth and maybe seeing Midnight in Paris will convince you otherwise.  You might just need a displacement to give you a fresh outlook on life, if only in your dreams.

Midnight in Paris is a fantasy/comedy and is in theaters now.  Starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams.