Marriage Story & Some thoughts on Season 4 of Game of Thrones

Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach’s Netflix film is one of my favorite films to come out this year. The movie is about divorce. Divorce is a tough topic, but Baumbach treats his characters with such love and warmth it allows you to get absorbed in the story, and not worry about taking sides in a divorce. This film does a great job of showing how people around divorce can exacerbate the situation, and turn what should be a tough but personal process into a public bloodbath. I think it is pretty clear that Nicole and Charlie should not be together. However, the lawyers and legalese surrounding them make things worse.

Every performance in this movie is terrific. Two standouts are Laura Dern and Adam Driver. While Dern steals every scene she is in, this becomes Driver’s film and he nails it. Driver is so talented and this is one of his best performances. It is also full of small humorous moments to jokes about Los Angeles and New York to chummy lawyers outside of trial. It is a must-watch, full of emotion and brutal truths. A

I am your son, and you sentenced me to die. You knew I didn’t poison Joffrey, but you sentenced me all the same. – Tyrion

I am slowly binging Game of Thrones, and I just finished Season 4. Reading and watching this series unlocks and showcases different pieces of the story and helps you notice things you would not otherwise. Season 4 is probably the best in the series I have watched thus far, and I loved how it brought alive the theme of becoming what people want you to be or say you are.

Throughout the season, Tyrion is repeatedly told he is a killer. While he is not guilty of what he is accused of, he is treated as a villain, a jealous and angry half-man who only knows revenge. While he is not what he is accused of being, he eventually fulfills his destiny. He kills Shae and his father and escapes. Had there been a fair trial, had their been more sympathy for Tyrion, perhaps he would not have lashed out. However, that is now a world of what-ifs.

Tywin and others refer to Shae as a whore. Shae loves Tyrion, but she is a bad look for the Lannister family. So when Tyrion has to tell Shae to leave, he calls her a whore because he is convinced that is what she needs to hear. While she was not a whore at the time, she becomes a whore and sleeps with the person who despises her the most, Tywin.

Shae will be remembered in history not as a Tyrion’s lover, but as a whore who died doing her job. Tyrion will be remembered as a kinslayer. Neither of them deserved the title initially but fulfilled it because of the people surrounding them. Neither of them wanted to be remembered for this, but they will be because of the people around him.

Tywin is a fascinating character as well and gets his fitting send-off. He never truly cared about any of his children and views them as products. Tyrion is a slap in the face to his ideal vision or product, an Imp who has no physical talents. Despite Tyrion and Tywin’s shared understanding of politics, his appearance alone causes Tyrion to view him as a disappointment. He looks at Cersei as his beautiful bride to marry off to a famous house and looks at Jamie as the legacy and fighter that he wants. He views them as ideal products, so much so that he is incapable of believing his children would be capable of incest. Yet they are, and had he paid attention, as Cersei noted, he would have figured it out quickly. But he refused to believe and will die refusing to believe it.

Tywin is a manipulative and terrible person and father. While he has political talent, he got a fitting end. I love his ending more now after watching HBO’s rendition.


Annie Hall, Michael Cohen, & A Storm of Swords Reflection

Annie Hall – Woody Allen is a fascinating character and a joy to watch in Annie Hall. His constant neuroticism, as well as his openness towards his contradictions make him troubled but likable. It is still hard not to think of the recent allegations against him, and wonder how honest he is being when describing his love life. Regardless that should not take away from the merits of this work, as it is still an incredibly smart and clever piece of work. That said, it does drag and tries too hard to subvert itself. Some of the gimmicks are strange and unneeded. Also watching him embrace every Jewish stereotype imaginable at times made me laugh but at times made me wonder if he approached the subject with any seriousness. My negative thoughts aside, this film is a fascinating watch, even if some of its tricks work against it. 8/10

There is none of the purgation of self and transformation of spirit that happens among people who have truly been altered. He’s just switched teams and concluded that the Democrats can now give him what he wants, so he says what appeals to them. That may be progress, but it is not moral renewal.

How should we view Michael Cohen in light of damning testimony? On one side there seemed to be more of an embrace, while on the other side there seemed to be complete skepticism of him. I think it is important to be very clear on who this man is but also understand that he is being candid in his testimony.

As David Brooks notes, he worked for Trump and branded himself as a “fixer” in order to gain respect in Trump’s orbit. He did horrible things in order to protect a man he admired and get recognition from him as well. Now he has looked back and decided he was wrong. Regardless, he has not given us enough of a turnaround to make him a new person. However, I do believe he showed candor, and as LawFare notes, plenty of his evidence is damning. While we can still rightfully question what kind of person Michael Cohen is, it is important that we treat his testimony as credible. If we do not, we are enabling a president who does not care about anyone but himself. That should be something we should all fear, regardless of political allegiance.

For the most part there was one perspective character per location. A Storm of Swords changes that by moving characters around and sometimes showing the same events from different perspectives.

I finally finished A Storm of Swords, and it is probably the best piece of fiction I have ever read. It never slows down, and keeps the pace going in such a smooth way it was easy to forget just how much happened in one book.

Every character changed and grew so much in this story that it is hard to view them the same way than at the beginning of A Game of Thrones. Sansa and Arya in particular, both young girls, have now become strong women in their own right. While their transformation is rewarding in many ways, it is also brutal to see them begin to lose hope in the world around them. Who can blame these characters? Often times they are isolated and tested just to survive.

My hope for the next book is to see how these characters become major players in the war itself and watch their characters grow and develop. I am really looking forward to A Feast for Crows, and have already begun reading. I will let you know of some of my favorite quotes when I get the chance.

Game of Thrones Quote #5 & Robert Sapolsky

The following post contains spoilers from the book series A Song of Ice and Fire.

It is not me she wants her son to marry, it is my claim. No one will ever marry me for love (A Storm of Swords, 776).

Sansa grew up singing the songs of her grandmother and believing that a beautiful prince would sweep her off her feet and marry her. Now, through death and a failed marriage, she has come to realize that in this world, no one will want her for who she is. This is a bitter pill to watch her swallow, and her character arc makes it all the more moving.

Throughout the first book A Game of Thrones, it was really hard to care about Sansa’s complaints. Her constant pettiness and ignorance was frustrating to read, and each time she complained I found it to be insufferable. However, her experiences have caused her to grow immensely, and in many ways she is one of the strongest characters in the story. She refused to let the horrible men in her life take away what mattered to her, and she remained dignified throughout.

Now it is depressing to read her realization of what she is and how she is viewed by others. She will never be as happy as those songs, but in a sense she is a better person because of it. Sansa was a character in desperate need of a wake up call, but this feels to harsh to for anyone to deal with.

We have been alluding away at the ideal of the self with recent scientific discoveries.

While I must admit I have not read a book by Robert Sapolsky, his arguments made on a few podcasts about why free will is an illusion are incredibly intriguing. My favorite of these was on an episode of Radiolab, in which the crew reexamined a case of someone who changed after a brain surgery. It is a genuinely shocking story and I highly encourage everyone to listen to it.

Most recently, he had an interview with Ezra Klein, in which he discusses stress and how it should be seen as a fault in machinery not as in a fault of the user. It is seriously fascinating stuff.

I guess it intrigues me because the narrative seems to be subject to so much abuse. Why do my actions matter if they are all pre-determined or not controlled by me? It is certainly reasonable to believe people would use this narrative to run amok, claiming that none of this is in fact their fault. However, I think this explanation could help in a lot of ways as well. I was born with a language learning disorder, and I blamed myself for my faults. It took me time to figure out that my handwriting was bad not because of a fault of my own, but because I had an impairment, that my interactions could feel awkward because of my ability to comprehend.

How then can we attempt to make a balanced explanation while also valuing the sanctity of humans themselves? It is a tough task, but I tend to think we should try to explain why we have certain behaviors and not act as though we are sole contributors to our own faults. Anyway, I hope to read his books at some point and have more to say on the subject!

Shirkers, The Hunt For Red October, and Game of Thrones Quote #4

Some of us are movers, some of us are shakers, and some of us are Shirkers.

Shirkers (Netflix)This is from the most recent Netflix documentary; A brilliant, lush and beautiful film that also unfolds into a compelling mystery. Sandi Tan filmed a road movie in 1992, and watched her mentor Georges Cardona steal it from her. She called the film Shirkers, referring to those who avoid or neglect responsibilities. Her quest to find the film becomes part of a story to settle her demons and those of her friends who lost everything as well. Bold, audacious, and thoughtful, Shirkers is brilliant and a fascinating tour of Singaporean film. Terrific and a must for film buffs. 9/10

The Hunt For Red October – Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin are at their best in the a great remake of a classic Tom Clancy novel. Connery plays Captain Ramius, head of the Red October Submarine, heading straight for the US Coastline. Baldwin as Jack Ryan believes that there is more to his motives than their appears. While it is missing some critical parts from the novel itself it is still pulse-pounding, and the story opts for a more realistic spy thriller that stands the test of time. While by no means a perfect film, it is great entertainment nonetheless. 8.3/10

Some part of him blames me… though he knows it was good counsel (515).

Catelyn continues to struggle, and her pain begins to seep into every interaction she has. She believes she has lost her sons, which create a feeling of undying attachment to Robb. She also feels she must be stronger for him, as the fragility of his life in war is higher than ever. So, everything, feels in some sense pained. How do I please my son and protect him all the same? How can I give him good counsel without losing his trust? Catelyn is walking on a tight-rope, and her lack of omnipresent knowledge of the wellbeing of her children makes things that much more painful for the reader.

Catelyn is by no means perfect, and her consist rejection of Jon Snow is understandable but harsh for Jon. He is not at fault for her fathers adultery, and yet she feels he is somehow part of the wrong. Yet her pain toward her children is palpable and understandable, as it would be a tough dilemma for any of us to work with. All we can do is hope for the Starks, and hope that everything will be okay. Something tells me it will not be.

Game of Thrones Quote #3

*The following contains spoilers from A Song of Ice and Fire/A Storm of Swords*

“How can it be treason to kill Lannisters, when it is not treason to free them?” asked Karstark harshly. “Has your Grace forgotten that we are at war with Casterly Rock? In war you kill your enemies. Didn’t your father teach you that boy?”

Is all truly fair in love and war? How do we decide what is too far in war and what is fair game? War is humans at their worst, choosing to kill each other in sake of defending a name, a purpose, an idea. When do we go to far and where do we draw the line?

Robb is faced with an incredibly tough decision here after seeing one of his lords brutally murdering two of their captives, Tion Frey and Willem Lannister, both of whom are enemies. Lord Karstark took their in response to his children’s lives being taken from him. An eye for an eye seems maybe reasonable, but Robb argues that they died in honorably on the battlefield and that this was pure murder. This was treason and therefore the message needed to be sent that this was not allowed.

This is painful as Catelyn made the decision to release Jaime Lannister in order to on the off chance he maybe able to retrieve her daughters. This caused Karstark to do this and send out a hunting party for Jaime with the promise that whoever captured him would be given his daughter Alys; and with that a claim to Karhold. This was disobeying a direct order, and yet it in some sense feels slightly reasonable on both sides. Both Catelyn and Rickard are dealing with the death of their children in similar ways. Catelyn believes her sons to be dead causing her to act irrationally in order to retrieve her daughters. Rickard Karstark views this release as a horrible affront to his children’s legacy, and decides to take vengeance in a horrific way.

Is this treason or vengeance? I can understand the trap this put Robb in, and while I am not sure I would have had the guts to execute him, it is a brilliantly executed chapter dealing with the consequences of love and war. What makes this series terrific, is its ability to bring out the pain in seemingly heartless decisions, and this chapter is absolutely terrific showcase of conflict and pain.

Game of Thrones Quote #2

*The following post contains spoilers for the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones Series*

‘And did you see where I was seated, Mance?’ He leaned forward. ‘Did you see where they put the bastard?’

Jon Snow is someone who is full of conflict, whether that be because of how he was treated or what he represents. As a bastard child, he is evidence the worst part of Ned’s character, and is a painful scar for the family. No one more painfully recognizes this than Catelyn, who treats him as a scar, one to be ignored in order to prevent bringing out what it represents. Ned had flaws, and her refusal at times to understand that leads her to treat her bastard son with contempt.

None of this however is Jon Snow’s fault, and so he has constantly lived knowing the pain he represents to his family but cannot do anything to change it. He decided to go to the wall, to make something of himself, to not live as destructive reminder but a positive influence. He took an oath, swore allegiance, and promised to live by the decree of The Night’s Watch, only for it to be taken from him once again.

In this moment it is hard to know if he means every part of what he is saying or if he is trying to win over the free folk. I think he believes a good portion of it though, and it seems fitting for all that he has been through. Did you see what happened to me? Every time I try to do something whether it be honorable or not I get thrown away. And for what? I am a bastard child but that was not my choice. 

Now Jon Snow sits across from Wildlings who are an enemy of the one organization that gave him purpose. This once again was not necessarily a choice of his own, and now the one thing that meant anything to him is now seemingly gone. Maybe he is pretending and trying to play double agent, but that must be upsetting. It remains to be seem (AGAIN I HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SHOW!) whether he will eventually believe in the cause of the free folk, but for now there seems to be some foreshadowing in that direction.

Game of Thrones Quote #1

*Spoilers from the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire*

I am currently reading A Storm of Swords and just recently finished A Clash of Kings, the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, more commonly known as Game of Thrones. As I am reading I will try to leave behind some of my favorite quotes and attempt to discuss some of my favorite moments and what they mean.

This quote is from a scene where Cersei addresses Sansa regarding her desire and belief in love:

‘Love is poison. A sweet poison yes, but it will kill you all the same’ (761).

It is so easy to approach love with so much cynicism, and for Cersei, one of the easiest characters to hate in this series, it becomes clear how much pain she has experienced in relationships. She loved her twin, and she was forced to watch him win relics as she was dispersed to the sidelines to marry someone she did not love. Choosing to love someone else is tough, and at times we can seem to be giving our vulnerabilities for nothing in return. Why should we love others when so often we stand to be more hurt in the end? I have often told myself that the beauty in those moments is worth any pain that may come after, but for so many people it is not. She recognizes that for every moment of beauty, pain can follow, and in her experience the pain is always worse.

What makes this series exceptional is not just the political intrigue and grand scale, but the individuals that populate these conflicts. Portraying Cersei as an evil queen is easy enough, but allowing her moments to show her scars is truly breathtaking storytelling.