Friday, June 04, 2010

My top 10 ultimate badass movie and TV heroines

Okay... let's preface this by saying that I had to be able to suspend disbelief and actually think that the characters were truly badass.  This is typically accomplished by fusing convincing acting with good fight choreography and excellent camera work.  Having athletic, hot actresses doing the ass-kicking doesn't hurt, but somehow it isn't as necessary as one might think.

10.  Victory Nelson.  (Short lived Lifetime original series, Blood Ties--based on the works of fantasy author Tanya Huff).  I'm afraid Vicky comes in at number 10 simply because of obscurity.  Played by actress Christina Cox, we didn't get to see more than a hint of what Vicky could do.  She was damn quick with those telescoping batons, though.  Christina herself is a trained kickboxer, and moved like she knew what she was doing.  I bought it.

9.  Sarah Connors:  (The Terminator franchise).  I'm actually talking about Linda Hamilton here, not the television version of the same character.  Linda was convincing as Sarah because she had been stripped down to the bare necessities like a woman who'd been burning from the inside out for far too long.  Lean, corded muscle and a thousand-yard stare made her really come across as someone who'd seen the devil and spit in his eye.  And crushed his robot body beneath her boot heel.

8.  Buffy Summers.  (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer of TV and Film).  I'm going with the TV version because Kristy Swanson couldn't convince me of anything.  Despite her slim and willowy form (and, my gawd, the girl's turned into a stick figure) actress Sarah Gellar managed to make me believe she could kick the snot out of even the badest vamp without once breaking a nail.  Kudos to the choreographers and camera technicians, as well as her trainer.  She was quite convincing.  Yes, I know she started out with a belt in Tae Kwon Do.  But I know it took a lot of hard work to make it all come together.

7. Faith Lehane:  (BVTS, once again--the TV show).  All things considered, it was much easier to buy Faith as a "chew em up and spit 'em out" vampire slayer.  She just looks more solid than Sarah Gellar.  Plus the character was balls-out.  Where Buffy relied on her friends a lot, Faith just relied on good old fashioned ass kicking craziness.  Maybe not the best strategy in the long run, but I never got the idea Faith planned to be around forever.

6. Lara Croft:  (Tomb Raider 1 and 2).  I was impressed to discover that Angelina Jolie did many of her own stunts for this movie.  She looked solid and her kung fu skills were impressive.  Okay, maybe not kung fu, but at least kickboxing.  The bungee cord ballet was fucking amazing.  Large, megalithic props to the choreographers on this one.  She looked like she could wade through a whole army of illuminati assholes without batting an eye.  I miss that Angelina.

5. Elektra:  Setting aside the debacle that was Daredevil (one of my favorite superheroes growing up--after Spider Man, screwed up by so many things I don't want to discuss right now) I honestly didn't think Elektra was that bad.  Garner certainly managed to pull off the badassery as well as anyone could have.  I know, like Angelina, that she did many of her own stunts and lost the tip of a finger during the rehearsal of the sword fight with the Big Bad).  I can respect that level of dedication.  And, yeah, I thought she might've been all that.

4. Zen:  (From the Thai film, "Chocolate.")  Really she should have rated higher, and would have if not for what I see as the director's few glaring mistakes.  The girl is remarkably athletic, and has one hell of a future ahead of her.  But, despite some truly remarkable stunts, there were a few techniques performed that threw me bodily out of my suspension of disbelief.  For a little thing like JeeJa Yanin (or, if you prefer, Yanin Vismitananda) to get any power (without presumed supernatural assistance) into her blows, she can't be performing them at a distance of a couple of inches.  That kind of punch/kick might rock his head back, but it won't knock him flat.  But all in all the girl was the shit.

3. River Tam: (Firefly and Serenity).  Another Joss Whedon offering featuring a little girl who can kick ass.  Of course, we don't really see that side of her until the movie.  Summer Glau is a dancer, and, as we've seen before, dance translates very well into martial arts choreography.  Yes, you too will believe this tiny thing can kick the living shit out of a whole army of wild, savage, cannibalistic Reavers.  And that, my friends, is impressive indeed.

2.  Alice:  (Resident Evil 1, 2, and 3).  I just recently watched RE 1 the other day.  Milla Jovovich looked solid, like someone who COULD kick a zombie's head clean off.  It's been a while since I've seen the others, but I remember thinking she'd lost a little muscle tone, particularly in the last one.  I know she's been genetically altered, folks, but a little bulk makes the pill go down easier.  Yeah, she kicks ass.  But it helps that she LOOKS like she can kick ass.

1. Violet Song jat Shariff:  (Ultraviolet).  Milla again.  This girl makes a remarkably believable action star.  Some of it is, of course, attitude.  You watch her and you believe she can go from stone killer to sweet thing and back in seconds flat.  Violet is a thief, assassin, and "terrorist" in her world, and, as she says more than once, killing is "what I do."  She'd lost everything that mattered to her and wanted revenge.  And got it... in spades.  Live or die, Violet was going to take as many of the motherfuckers with her as she could.  A lot of people hated this flick.  I loved it.  Some of the special effects were sub-par, but the story and choreography were top-notch in my book.  Massive amounts of violence and, yet, heart.  I get it.

I should include an honorable mention category, but not this time.  Let's see what everyone else has to say first.  I await your responses.

Monday, May 31, 2010


She was the first real mother figure I remember, in my life between the ages of 4 and 12.  In many ways, it was Elaine who first started me on the path to becoming a writer.  She sat me down and read half "The Hobbit" to me.  I picked it up where she stopped and started devouring everything I could find to read from that moment on.  By the time I finished LOTR later that year, I knew I wanted to be an author.

She and my dad had problems I knew nothing about--thank whatever Gods there may or may not be.  They weren't the kind of issues children should know anything about.  But once they'd broken up for good--I think I'd just turned 13--it came to our attention that she was living with another woman.  Elaine, as it turned out, was gay.

This was in the late seventies, mind you, and in Central Oregon.  All these years I have to applaud her for her bravery for daring to come out in the first place.  It couldn't have been easy, particularly not after struggling so long with her identity.  My father, needless to say, was blown away and I believe, on some level, offended.  Rather than seeing her coming out as a lesbian to be her finally realizing who she really was, he saw it as somehow reflective of him.  "Oh, my Gawd--I turned her gay."

For many years I believe he resented her, though recent discussions have led him to realize that he may have been in error.  This is quite something for my father.  He's not good at admitting when he's wrong.  And, after all these years, I am probably the only person in the world who has a chance of getting him to see something from a different perspective.

I like to think she'd be proud of me now.  I lost contact with her years ago, after my father and I moved away.  I went back down to Oregon for a year or so and lived with some former friends of theirs when I was 15.  At the time I was trying to find something that I couldn't have, at the time, found anywhere on Earth... a place where I would be truly comfortable in my own skin.

I learned a lot there, as a matter of fact.  I learned the value of hard work.  I learned how to grow a garden, and even more about taking care of farm animals than I had as a child.  I also learned about homophobia.  I learned to hate it, because it stole from me a relationship that I should never have lost.

I spent a weekend visiting with Elaine, her girlfriend, and her girlfriend's father.  They were nice people, and it was probably the first time Elaine and I had ever bonded as something approaching equals, the first time I think she began to see something of the man I'd become.

But Bruce, the so-called "man" of the family, later told Elaine that it would be best if she stayed away from me from then on.  Something even my dad agrees that he had no right to do.  He was acting as my guardian, legally speaking, but he overstepped any authority he may have had by saying this to her.  She was, and is, my family.

Bruce didn't really have much moral high ground, though I suppose someone who actually thinks being gay is sinful rather than just "icky" might disagree.  Not that I give a fuck about that.  Bruce was a big-time pot grower, a Charles Manson lookalike, and a bully.  He could go from being the coolest guy you know to an abusive freak in seconds.

I finally left and returned to Washington to be with my dad.  Our relationship wasn't perfect, but it was better than living with that asshole.  Unfortunately, I lost all contact with Elaine.  And now, some 28 years later, I haven't been able to track her down.  I don't know what last name she uses, nor whether she stayed in Oregon or moved back to San Jose to be near her family.  I don't know if she's on-line (though I suspect she might be) or anything else about her this far down the line.

I never knew my mother.  Elaine was the first, closest thing to a mom I had growing up and I regret like hell being the vulnerable kid I was when someone who had no right stepped in and cut off contact between us.  This is one of the reasons I'm as anti-homophobia, pro-gay as I am.  I understand a little of what kind of courage it takes for people to be who they are despite all the forces lined up against them.

Bruce--you're an asshole.  I hate to think what you did to your wife's kids, or your youngest son, once I was gone.  I hope you got your just desserts in the end.

Elaine--If you're out there, or if anyone recognizes her from this description (I'm not so crass as to make this any more explicit than it already is) I'd love to hear from you.  I've sought you on FB and Myspace, but I have no idea if you'd involve yourself in either.  But maybe some of your friends have.  And maybe, just maybe, people will point you in the right direction to get in touch again.

I'd love to hear from you.