Sunday, April 19, 2015

Film Score of the Week: Atonement, by Dario Marianelli (2007)

Despite the quality of even the best film scores, they're largely all part of the same musical phylum. Great film scores always function for their films, but I've only ever seen a few that really interacted with their films, and Atonement was the first time I noticed such a thing. 

For a film which is largely about the power of typed words, the artistic decision for the opening scene score to use the sounds of a typewriter as its percussion was a stroke of pure brilliance.

I also particularly love the way it's used in this scene:

As the pivotal moments of the plot are being set in stone, the sounds of typing drive home the idea that the characters are essentially writing their own futures in the moment, and Briony in particular is editing events in her head into the version that makes the most sense. (Side note: how weird is it to see Theon Greyjoy in there?)

Composer Dario Marianelli won a well-deserved Oscar for this score, and he's been nominated two other times, both for other collaborations with director Joe Wright, Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Anna Karenina (2012). Surprisingly he doesn't have many other especially notable credits to his name. Beyond his Joe Wright collaborations (the aforementioned ones and The Soloist), his only films to get wide releases are V for Vendetta (which I remember being quite good), and four films I haven't seen: The Brave One, Eat Pray Love, The Boxtrolls, and 2011's Jane Eyre adaptation. Hopefully soon he'll find more directors that bring out his best. 

What I Watched: 2015, Week 9

What I watched last week (titles link to trailers):

Daredevil: Season One (Marvel/Netflix)
Fast & Furious (Justin Lin, 2009)
Fast Five (Justin Lin, 2011)
It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2015)

5 Thoughts:

1. It Follows is at least the best new horror film I've seen since The Cabin in the Woods, and maybe even since The Blair Witch Project, which was 16 years ago. (Related news: I don't tend to see many horror movies, as most of them are so poorly reviewed.)

I spent a solid day thinking about it, but not really in terms of story, which is rather simple, but more in terms of mechanics. Apropos for its title, the unsettling dread of the movie really does follow you, at least for a time. The next day, a friend asked me if it was scary, and I almost didn't know how to respond. It really comes down to how you define the word. There really aren't any moments in the film where you'll jump or scream, but the film devises a way of just maintaining a steady, mounting pace of unnerving you, and it's a feeling that really doesn't dissipate when the credits role. 

There's a brilliant style of cinematography in the film. Most horror films thrive on what you can't see just off screen--corners, darkness, stairwells, shut doors… anything to create a space of unknowing. Not only does It Follows NOT do that, but it goes so far in the opposite direction that it's like a magician emphatically displaying the emptiness of something. "Nothing to see here!" It Follows mostly takes place during the day, and often outside (though with virtually no direct sunlight, which is a nice artistic touch), and the camera frequently does complete 360 degree turns to show us the entire surrounding, and its apparent safety net. It's this illusion of fake safety, which virtually no other horror films attempt to create to this degree, that makes the proceedings so terrifying. 

It Follows will likely be remembered as a true classic in its genre. 

2. Two weeks ago I watched the first three Fast & Furious films, and wrote about how they tried a lot of things that mostly didn't work. But what did work about them was the trial and error process. Each film taught us something to do, and something not to do. The first film worked in the creation of a dynamic where the ties of family intersect with illegal racing, but failed in the recycled Point Break plot. The second film succeeded in plot (send these guys on a job), character interplay (the buddy cop dynamic), and stunts (increasingly insane), but utterly failed in losing the family atmosphere and casting power of the original. And then the third film just taught us everything not to do. 

Fast & Furious (2009's 4th film in the series) and Fast Five (2011's 5th entry) are where those lessons really started paying off. The Fast & Furious movies are one of the only franchises that have gotten noticeably better with time because they spent four movies figuring out what works, and then once they did, they made three more movies basically only doing those things. Writing it like that, it sounds so simple, so why is it so seemingly unique to this one franchise? 

Fast & Furious is basically just a better version of the first film, without the plot stolen from Point Break. It was a good back to basics move for the franchise, and it ended in a way that was effective in giving a new status quo to the franchise. Then Fast Five is really where it became the most fun franchise in Hollywood. I do have a bit of a difficult time with the climactic chase scene where the two mustangs drag a giant safe through the streets of Rio, because it so gleefully ignores every law of physics, but whatever. These aren't movies you see for their relationship to reality, and you just have to make a conscious decision to not let the absurdity distance you from the fun. 

3. There's a 20-ish minute sequence in Batman Begins, from when Bruce Wayne returns from the orient to when Batman makes his debut and brings down Carmine Falcone (before the movie changes gears and gets into the Scarecrow poisoning the water plot), and Netflix's Daredevil is basically a 13 hour version of those twenty minutes. I mean that in the best possible way. As with Batman Begins, we don't see the hero in full costume until the climactic moment where he's ready to take down the crime lord for good, and everything prior is about how we get to that moment. Daredevil meanders a bit, as most shows do, but it keeps its eye on the prize because it knows what the prize is. It knows the payoff moment it's building towards, and it knows the key beats on the way there. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. sucks because it has no idea what it's doing or what it wants to be. With Daredevil, there's never any question. 

And on that point, Daredevil is also notable for what it doesn't try to do. The indefensible 2003 film attempted to tell the entire Elektra story, along with having both The Kingpin and Bullseye play major roles. You can't do that in two hours, or at least not well. But the new iteration, which had 11 more hours to play with, still opted to leave Elektra and Bullseye on the bench. It was the right move. 

4. The biggest thing that's so immediately refreshing about Daredevil is that it's clearly a show meant for adults. One review I read (and I honestly can't remember which one it was) pointed out that this is likely the first major superhero movie or television show not attempting to sell lunch boxes, and I love that point. Marvel's movies depend on multiple viewings by 14-year old boys for their grosses (and therefore need 14-year old boys legally allowed to shell out for tickets), and Agents of S.U.C.K. has to follow the content restrictions of network television. Daredevil has no such problems on either front, and it takes advantage of that. This is a very violent show, and as Grantland's Alex Pappademas put it, "It reacquaints the comic book genre with pain and bodily consequence." But more than that, Daredevil also reacquaints the comic book genre with character deaths that aren't inserted for mere shock value. The characters who die here (which is about a third of the main cast) do so because playing in this world ought to realistically lead to death a fair amount of the time. It never feels like the product of a more ulterior motive than that. 

5. Some Daredevil pro/cons:
Pro--Vincent D'Onofrio is legitimately great as The Kingpin (which he's never actually called). 
Con--The Kingpin/Vanessa relationship felt way too rushed and ridiculous. Not from his end, but from hers. 
Pro--I really liked the actress who played Karen Page.
Con--I'm much less enthusiastic about the actor who played Foggy Nelson.
Pro--The series gets better in its middle and final thirds.
Con--The series' first third is its weakest. 
Pro--The amount of beatings Daredevil takes felt refreshing for a superhero flick.
Con--The amount of beatings Daredevil takes make his ability to walk by the series' end seem wildly unrealistic.
Pro--The cinematography and production design of the show were great.
Con--It needed a better score and theme music.
Pro--It hugely raises the hopes and expectations for Marvel's next Netflix series.
Con--That next series, A.K.A. Jessico Jones, is being created by the same person who wrote the screenplays to all five Twilight movies. 

We'll see where it goes from here. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E1)

Season 5, Episode 1: “The Wars to Come”

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


1.   Consequences

For a show that, like Breaking Bad, has partially always been about the theme that actions will have consequences, the emphasis on those consequences seems to have already taken a major role this year. House Lannister is in ruin, the Wildling army lies captive, Daenerys is finding ruling to be much more difficult than conquering, and Tyrion spent his summer in a box, pushing his shit through air holes. As if all that weren’t enough, the season opener began with the show’s first-ever flashback, where a young Cersei learns an unenviable set of portents for her future. Fast forward back to that future, and older Cersei lays this sexy gem on her brother/lover:

You’re a man of action, aren’t you? When it occurs to you to do something, you do it, never mind the consequences. Take a look. Look at the consequences. Here they are.
She was literally talking about the dead father that was sprawled out in front of them, but figuratively, she might as well have been talking about “The Wars to Come” in Season 5.

2.   “The Good of the Realm”

For the first time since Game of Thrones began, we have a season debut where the realm actually isn’t in worse shape than it was this time last year. Now, I don’t dare suggest that Westeros is turning into a nice place to live, but without Joffrey’s reign of wretchedness, Tywin no longer writing letters and cutting deals, Castle Black safe from Mance Rayder’s Wildling army, and Arya, Tyrion, and Sansa finally free from several seasons of glorified imprisonment, things are indeed looking up.

Since almost day 1 of the show, “the good of the realm” has been one of Varys’ favorite phrases to utter anytime he’s trying to get what he wants, but suddenly those words seem far less cryptic than normal.

And speaking of…

3.   Varys

Way back in Season 1, episode 5, Arya overheard a conversation between Varys and Illyrio Mopatis about their plans for the realm, and it’s indicative of the kind of long game that Thrones has been playing that now, 36 episodes and four years later, we’re beginning to understand what those plans really are, as well as how carefully plotted they always were. When the show began, we were conditioned to believe that the right family name meant everything. But more and more every year, it seems Varys and Littlefinger have the real power—that of anonymity.

4.   Jon Snow’s Sexual Prospects

I mean, when Ygritte died, you probably weren’t thinking that Jon would be getting laid again anytime soon, what with living on a wall of ice with several dozen dudes, and having vowed to take no wife and father no children. But then in swoops the creepy-as-fuck Melisandre, asking about Snow’s virginity during a supremely awkward elevator ride. Does anyone know if the vow of the Night’s Watch to father no children includes smoke babies? 

5.   The Brothels of Mareen

When a city is patrolled by thousands of (literally) dickless warriors, it would seem the local brothels were missing out on a lot of potential clients. But who knew?? It turns out The Unsullied just want to cuddle, and are willing to pay dearly for that pleasure, from both their pockets and their throats.


1.   Mance Rayder

For a solid minute or two there, as the flames around Mance kept getting higher and any prospect of rescue had been snuffed out, it looked like he was about to have his full-on Braveheart moment, taking his execution in total silence until one last shout of “FREEDOM!!” to bring a final flurry of pride and meaning to what’s left of his army. But then Jon Snow shot him. Jesus, Jon, haven’t you seen Braveheart? Didn’t you know what was about to happen?!? You know nothing, Jon Snow.

2.   Ciaran Hinds (The Actor Playing Mance Rayder)

We’ve been hearing all along that Season 5 is when the show would start departing from the books in significant ways, and here’s the first example of that. Extensive Wikipedia research has taught me that Mance Rayder is not dead in the books, and that begs the question of when showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss settled on this particular plot point.

When Ciaran Hinds was hired to play Mance Rayder three years ago, it was a major coup in the casting seemingly on the promise of Mance playing a major role. But this was no Sean-Bean-as-Season-One’s-lead-star-and-then-oh-no-he’s-dead-style swindle by HBO. Hinds only appeared in five episodes, in what feels like a grand total of eight or nine scenes. On the assumption that this early exit was decided well after Hinds was already secured for the role, it feels like a waste of such a great acting talent.

3.   Daenerys Targaryen’s Invasion of Wersteros

Back in Season 3, Episode 4, when Khaleesi acquired The Unsullied, kept her dragons, then used both to start sweeping a bloody, slave-clearing path across Essos, while dropping the whip like it was basically a mic, it seemed the Baratheon/Lannister rule of King’s Landing was royally fucked.

But now, 17 episodes later, it’s inevitable to start wondering when this long-gestating invasion will actually happen. We’ve been stuck in Mareen for a while now, The Unsullied are starting to seriously miss their dicks, Jorah Mormont has gone from friend-zoned to exiled, two of the dragons are locked up, and the third is probably off killing babies with all the zeal of Cersei Lannister cleaning up her dead husband’s trysts. Things have definitely looked better for Khaleesi’s Iron Throne prospects.

Hopefully when she meets Tyrion and Varys (which hopefully will happen soon), things will get back on track.

4.   Robin Aryn’s Masculinity

Jesus dude, get your shit together. It’s cool if you don’t know how to fight, but maybe don’t whimper just from picking up a shield?

5.   Cersei Lannister’s Sexual Prospects

Of all people that we thought wouldn’t ever have to go through a dry spell as long as her family’s around, things suddenly aren’t looking so good. She’s pissed at Jamie, and they just missed a phenomenal chance for more awkward sex at another family deathbed, while her backup Jamie, cousin Lancel, has now become a religious zealot and walks around in a dirty robe. Well, at least there’s still Loras Tyrell, who, ummm, certainly kept his bed warm this week.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Film Score of the Week: Conan the Barbarian, by Basil Poledouris (1982)

Writing and reading about Game of Thrones all week, and hearing its epic score, reminded me of my other favorite score for a fantasy story, the original 1982 Conan the Barbarian

What I love about Conan the Barbarian is that it's an only semi-watchable B-Movie, but it carries itself like the Citizen Kane of loincloth flicks. The lead costars were tri-named prestige actors James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow, the screenplay was by Oliver Stone, it was directed by John Milius, who was (seriously) considered to be part of the same "Movie Brat/Film School Generation" group as Spielberg/Coppola/Scorsese, and the score sounded like it belonged to a David Lean-style epic. 

The main theme goes through three basic parts: the thundering build-up (1:06-1:57, and again 2:41-2:58), the romantic theme (1:58-2:40), and the hero theme (2:59-3:40). All three parts are very good, but specifically the first 10-15 seconds of the hero theme are what makes the score transcendent. I honestly think it's one of the best pieces of heroic film music ever written, and it stands up to John Williams' best work. It's so layered, so gigantic in scope, and so seemingly weathered, like just getting to that sound was a struggle. There's a mythology to it that's almost godlike, like when fantasy characters say ridiculous things like "Songs shall be written of this deed." This would have to be what those songs sound like. Honestly, Marvel should have just purchased the rights to that score-segment and reused it for their Thor movies. There're only about 38 people on the planet that would have recognized it anyway. 

The score was by Basil Poledouris, a Greek-American composer also noted for the scores of Robocop (which is equally great), The Hunt for Red October, Starship Troopers, Red Dawn, The Blue Lagoon, and the Emmy-winning score of the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove. Poledouris never became the film-scoring force that it seems he should have. He mostly stuck to B-movies by overly masculine directors like John Milius, Paul Verhoeven, and John McTiernan, never really doing anything that could generously be called a prestige project. He never received an Oscar nomination, and died in 2006, at the age of 61. 

Poledouris also scored the Conan sequel, 1984's Conan the Destroyer. It's a horribly regarded movie, fully embracing its "B-ness" by employing the likes of Grace Jones and Wilt-fucking-Chamberlain as lead characters. Consequently, it's much more fun than its predecessor, almost 30 minutes shorter, and featuring far more ridiculous looking villains, including one that's basically a cross between a unicorn and an aborted yeti. So of course I love it. 

But it's hard not to hold a special place for the original, which really believed itself to be a Great piece of filmmaking. And it goes through stretches of nearly convincing the viewer of that, until you realize things like one of the score segments is called "The Orgy Chamber Attack on Thulsa Doom," and then you're right back to reality. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Inglorious Westeros: A Song of Ice and Bastards

Way back in late 2001, during my Sophomore year of college, I read a piece on ESPN called "A Few Good Hoopsters," where a new columnist named Bill Simmons used 50 quotes from A Few Good Men as awards for the NBA season. It not only introduced me to Simmons' work, but also to the great possibilities of creative nonfiction writing, which I took up not long after. Ever since then, I've wanted to try my hand at that gimmick, using movie quotes as awards for something. 

And now, here we are. It's time for 50 quotes from the most quotable movie of the last decade, Inglourious Basterds, handed out as awards for Game of Thrones: Season 4, in preparation for the Season 5 debut in a few days. 

Winter is coming!!

-Well Werner, if you heard of us, you probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner takin’ business. We’re in the killin’ Nazis business. And cousin, business is a boomin’!
The mission statement of the Basterds goes to the mission statement of Westeros during Season 4, memorably said by Arya: “Nothing isn’t better or worse than anything. Nothing is just nothing.”

-Actually Werner, we’re all tickled to hear you say that. Quite frankly, watchin’ Donny beat Nazis to death is the closest we ever get to goin’ to the movies.

The most exciting thing for the Basterds to hear goes to the most exciting thing anyone watching Game of Thrones can ever hear: "Trial by Combat." It's a problematic idea, to be sure. Tyrion puts it like this: “Deciding a man’s guilt or innocence in the eyes of the gods, by having two other men hack each other to pieces, tells you something about the gods.” But whatever, it makes for great drama!

-Well, I’m very familiar with you and your family, but I have no way of knowing if you know who I am. Are you aware of my existence?

To Prince Oberyn Martell, The Red Viper, who went into combat with The Mountain basically saying the same words. 

-And, I would like the United States of America to purchase property for me on Nantucket Island as a reward for all the countless lives I’ve saved by bringing the tyranny of the National Socialist Party to a swift end.

The moment where Col. Landa gets just a little too cocky with his requests goes to The Viper's demands that The Mountain confess his sins. Dude, just stop while you're ahead. 

-You didn’t say that the goddamn rendezvous was in a fuckin’ basement.
-I didn’t know.
-You said it was in a tavern.
-It is a tavern.
-Yeah, in a basement. You know, fightin’ in a basement offers a lot a difficulties, number one bein’, you’re fightin’ in a basement.

The ill-conceived plan that leads to everyone's death goes to the duel between The Mountain and The Viper, which leaves both of them looking like they were part of the basement bar shootout. 

-Bon jorno.

The moment you realize that Lt. Aldo Raine really doesn't speak Italian at all, and the whole plan is about to spectacularly go down in flames, goes to Tyrion's facial expression after The Mountain crushes The Viper's skull. 

-He got outta Munich, became American, got drafted, come back to give ya’ll what fer.

To Arya Stark, who is quickly becoming an adult and a remorseless killer, and seems destined to get her bloody revenge. Stick 'em with the pointy end, girl. 

-Are you mad? What have you done? I made a deal with your general for that man’s life!
-Yeah, they made that deal, but they don’t give a fuck about him. They need you.
-You’ll be shot for this!
-Nah, I don’t think so. More like chewed out. I been chewed out before.

The funniest reaction to a death in the movie goes to the funniest reaction to a death on the show: When Arya and The Hound finally get to the Vail, only to find out that Arya's aunt Lysa died three days earlier. And Arya promptly starts laughing her ass off. 

-That sounds good.
-It sounds like shit, but what else we gonna do, go home?

To the other Stark sister, Sansa, for whom every seemingly good plot development actually just makes her situation worse. At first escaping Westeros seemed great, until her crazy cousin starts freaking out on her, her creepy savior reveals his intentions to jump her bones, and her batshit insane aunt tries to throw her out the moon door. 

-I done my share of bootleggin’. Up there, you engage in what the federal government calls illegal activity but what we call just a man makin’ money for his family sellin’ moonshine liquor, it behooves oneself to keep his wits.

Also to Sansa, who finally seems to be keeping her wits and learning how to play the Game of Thrones, lying to save Littlefinger only because she knows it's in her best interests. 

-Doggy doc’s gonna dig that slug out yer gam, he’s gonna wrap it up in a cast, and you got a good “how I broke my leg mountain climbin’” story. Now that’s German, ain’t it? Y’all like climbin’ mountains, don’t ya?

The craziest strategy in the movie goes to the craziest character in Game of Thrones, Lysa Arryn. I might actually miss her. 

-I can see since you didn’t see what happened inside that the Nazis being there must look odd.
-Yeah, we got a word for that kinda odd in English. It’s called “suspicious.”

To Littlefinger, the most suspicious character in the show. I mean, look at the way he describes himself to Sansa: “A man with no motive is a man no one suspects. Always keep your foes confused. If they don’t know who you are or what you want, they can’t know what you plan to do next.” Would you trust that person? Especially after the reveal that the death of John Arryn, which set the events of the show in motion, was actually his doing? 

Littlefinger has disappeared for long stretches during the show's first four seasons, but since it increasingly seems like he's behind almost everything, we're likely to see him more regularly. 

-You don’t like them. You don’t really know why you don’t like them, just that you find them repulsive.

To all of the plot lines involving Bran Stark, the white walkers, and whatever supernatural shit is happening north of the wall. I just don't care. The characters aren't compelling, none of it makes sense, and it gets too far away from the conceit of the show: games, thrones, and games of thrones. 

-Now why don’t you try tellin’ us what the fuck happened?

To Hodor, who definitely cannot tell you what the fuck happened. 

-What is that English expression with shoes and feet?
-Looks like the shoe’s on the other foot. Yeah, I was just thinkin’ that.

To Stannis Baratheon and Davos Seaworth, who got their asses kicked at the end of Season 2, laid dormant for almost all of Seasons 3 and 4, and then suddenly reemerged in the season finale as a major force to be reckoned with, with a huge army, funding from the Iron Bank of Bravos, Jon Snow on their side, and Mance Rayder as their prisoner. 

-And where in Paris is this mountain?

The biggest hole in the plan to blow up the Nazi premiere goes to the biggest plot hole in Game of Thrones: Why in the hell anyone cares about the Iron Throne and drab Westeros in the first place. I wondered this during all of the Qarth scenes in Season 2, and wondered it again when the sprawling Metropolis of Bravos was revealed in Season 4. If this world has cities like that, why are characters leaving those cities to go die in the mud of Westeros? It feels a bit like if the US and Russia went to war over Greenland. Just… why? 

-When you join my command, you take on a debit. A debit you owe me, personally. Each and every man under my command owes me 100 Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps. And all ya’ll will get me 100 scalps, taken from the heads of 100 dead Nazis. Or you will die tryin’.
To Jon Snow, who still has his vow to the Night’s Watch. I can't imagine he'll be stuck on the wall for the remainder of the show, but we'll see. 

-Well, I speak the most Italian, so I’ll be your escort. Donowtiz speaks second most, so he’ll be your Italian cameraman. Omar third most, so he’ll be Donny’s assistant.
-I don’t speak Italian.
-Like I said, third best. Just keep your fuckin’ mouth shut. In fact, why don’t you start practicin’ right now.

The worst strategy in the movie goes to all the ill-advised strategies on the show. As Jon Snow memorably rationalizes one of them: “You’re right, it’s a bad plan. What’s your plan?”

-Donny! We got us a German here wants to die for country. Oblige him!

To poor Ygritte, who turned down Jon Snow's requests to go with him to instead stay with the Wildlings and die for her people. Sadly, she was obliged. Although, to be fair, she did have probably the most touching death scene in the history of the show. 

That led to this great exchange between Jon Snow and Tormund--
Tormund: “She loved you.
Snow: “She told you?”
Tormund: “No, all she ever talked about was killing you. That’s how I know.”

-Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein!!

This is exactly how I react every time there's a scene involving Theon Greyjoy and Ramsey Snow. 

-If you ever wanna eat a sauerkraut sandwich again, you gotta show me on this here map where they are, you gotta tell me how many they are, and you gotta tell me what kinda artillery they’re carryin’ with ‘em.
-You can’t expect me to divulge information that would put German lives in danger.
-Well, now, Werner, that’s where you’re wrong, ‘cause that’s exactly what I expect.
To HBO, who surely had a variation of this conversation with the show runners, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, in which HBO requested gratuitous nudity in every single episode, Benioff and Weiss said that they can't seriously be expected to constantly set scenes in brothels for no reason, and HBO retorted with "Well, now, guys, that's where you're wrong, 'cause that's exactly what we expect."

-You know, Utivich ‘n myself heard that deal you made with the brass. End the war tonight? I make that deal. How ‘bout you Utivich, you make that deal?
-I make that deal.
-I don’t blame ya. Damn good deal!

To Benioff and Weiss, who acquiesced to that agreement with HBO, guaranteeing the network gratuitous nudity and constant beheadings, and in return they gained complete creative control over the highest budget any show has ever had. Damn good deal!

-I know this is a silly question before I ask it, but can you Americans speak any other language than English?

Tarantino’s biggest shot at America goes to author George R. R. Martin’s biggest shot at humanity: Joffrey Baratheon, the ultimate archetype for how people will act when they believe they can do whatever they want. Good riddance to the most hated television character ever. 

-I’m French. We respect directors in our country.

Tarantino’s second biggest shot at America goes to Martin’s second biggest shot at humanity: Tyrion’s trial, where everyone that Tyrion ever outsmarted lies on the stand to get their revenge. The lesson, it seems, is that real intelligence will only ever be punished and stymied. Especially when that intelligence belongs to a deformed person bereft of traditional beauty. As Tyrion puts it: “If you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

-You know somethin’ Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece.

To both Tyrion Lannister and actor Peter Dinklage, who've been killing it since day 1, but seemingly saved their best speech and best acting (respectively) for the end of the trial scene. 

-We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty, they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us… and when the German closes their eyes at night, and they’re tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us that they are tortured with.

To the most tortured cruelty of all, the end of Tyrion and Shae’s relationship. Let's recap: Tyrion knows Shae's life is in danger, so he tries to send her away where she'll be safe, but she refuses to leave. So Tyrion calls her a whore and pays her to go, thinking it's the only way he can save her. To get back at him for calling her a whore, she testifies against him, lying on the stand, telling everyone that she was nothing more than his whore. Then, when Tyrion escapes, he sees her in his father's bed, referring to Tywin as her "lion," just like she used to call him. Then she tries to stab him, and he ends up strangling her to death. Now that's what I call romance! 

The relationship that led to one of the most touching moments of Season 2, when Shae refuses to leave his side saying "I am yours, and you are mine," allowing Tyrion to feel real love for the first time, somehow ended up with this. Hell indeed hath no fury like a woman scorned, called a whore, and paid to go away. 

-You’ve had a nice, long run, Aldo.

To Tywin Lannister, who had quite a run as the most dangerous man in Westeros, but in the end, couldn't escape the sins of being a terrible father. 

-Well, if this is it old boy, I hope you don’t mind if I go out speaking the King’s.

Also to Tywin, who tried to talk his way to a more dignified death, and couldn't quite do it. So he got shot by a crossbow while on the commode. Sorry 'bout ya, bro. 

-I love Rumors! Facts can be so misleading, but rumors, true or false, are often revealing.

To Varys the Spider, collector of all rumors and whisperings. He wasn't a major player this season until the end, when he helps Tyrion escape across the Narrow Sea. I expect him to be a major player in Season 5. As he tells Tyrion during the trial, “Sadly, my lord, I forget nothing.”

-What should we drink to, sir?
-Well, uhh… down with Hitler.
-All the way down, sir.

To Lady Olenna Tyrell, who made sure that a drink caused the downfall of Hitler Joffrey. 

-Basically, we have all our rotten eggs in one basket. The objective of Operation Kino? Blow up the basket. 

To the weddings of Westeros, which just keep getting better and better! That's what happens when you get so many major characters together in a scene--the basket blows up. 

-There’s a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good scotch. Seeing as I may be rapping on the door momentarily… I must say, damn good stuff sir.

To Cersei, who apparently thinks there’s also a level of hell reserved for anyone that ever allows a drop of wine to go to waste.

-Well you don’t gotta be Stonewall Jackson to know you don’t wanna fight in a basement.

The obviousness of the wrong place for a fight goes to the obviousness of the wrong place for something else: the infamous scene of Jamie raping Cersei at the foot of their inbred son's displayed corpse. Wrong place for that!

That scene also led to one of my favorite conversations about Game of Thrones Season 4, from Grantland's "Girls in Hoodies" podcast. 

Girl in hoodie 1: There was a really controversial rape scene in this week's Game of Thrones episode. 
Girl in hoodie 2: Isn't that every episode of Game of Thrones?
Girl in hoodie 1: Well, usually the rape scenes aren't controversial. 

-We just wanna say we’re a big fan of your work. When it comes to killin’ Nazis, I think you show great talent, and I pride myself on havin’ an eye for that kind of talent. But your status as a Nazi killer is still amateur. We all come here to see if you wanna go pro. 

To Tommen Baratheon, who, after being an inconsequential background character for the first three seasons, has officially gone pro as the new King of Westeros, Protector of the Realm. He's either about to become a major character, or die within a few episodes. Given that he seems to be a decent guy, I'm betting on the latter. There's no place for kindness in Westeros. 

-Jew Hunter? It’s just a name that stuck.
-Well, you do have to admit, it is catchy.

To Jamie Lannister, known forever as The Kingslayer for breaking his oath, even though it was to save Westeros from the Mad King setting the realm on fire. As Jamie keeps trying to salvage his honor, he's developing into one of the best characters on the show. 

-The German’s nickname for me is The Little Man?
-And as if to make my point, I’m a little surprised at how tall you are in real life. I mean, you’re a little fellow, but not circus midget little, as your reputation would suggest.

To the touching story Oberyn tells about when he first saw Tyrion, expecting a monster with horns and red eyes, but instead just saw a baby, slightly smaller than normal. And in telling the story, detailing how Cersei wanted Tyrion dead even at that young age, we got this memorable quote: “It is rare to meet a Lannister who shares my enthusiasm for dead Lannisters.”

-Say “Auf Wiedersehen” to your Nazi balls.

To Theon Greyjoy, Varys, and Greyworm, and the audacity of a show to have not one, not two, but three important characters who had to say "auf Wiedersehen" to their balls.

-Now I dunno ‘bout ya’ll, but I sure as hell didn’t come down from the goddamn Smoky Mountains, cross 5,000 miles of water, fight my way through half of Sicily, and jump out of a fuckin’ aero plane to teach the Nazis lessons in humanity. Nazi ain’t got no humanity. They’re the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin’, mass murderin’ maniac, and they need to be destroyed. That’s why any and every sumbitch we find wearnin’ a Nazi uniform, they’re gonna die.

Aldo's wonderful way with words goes to the Hound, who also had quite a creative tongue. During the lead up to the bar fight in the first episode of Season 4, he memorably said, “If anymore words come pouring out of your cunt mouth, I’m going to eat every fucking chicken in this room.” 

-Why do you have your Walther pointed at my testicles?

The best question in the movie goes to the best question of the season, also from The Hound: “Safety? Where the fuck’s that?”

-Now, ‘bout this pickle we find ourselves in.

To the most consistently entertaining pickle in Season 4, the "Arya & The Hound" buddy cop roadtrip comedy, which really never got old. Of all the show's status quos that won't be back for Season 5, I'll miss this one the most. 

-See, we like our Nazis in uniforms. That way you can spot ‘em, just like that. But you take off that uniform, ain’t no one gonna know you was a Nazi, and that don’t sit well with us. So I’m gonna give you a little somethin’ you can’t take off.

The best element of savagery in the movie goes to the fight between Brienne and The Hound, which devolved into one of the dirtiest brawls in the show, involving groin attacks, ears getting bitten off, and rocks smashing heads. 

-I’m more than just a uniform.
-Not to me.

To everyone on the show that isn't taken seriously because of a label that limits them: Brienne as just a woman, Tyrion as just a dwarf, Arya as just a girl, and Jon Snow as just a bastard. 

-Once we’re in enemy territory as a bushwhackin’ guerilla army, we’re gonna be doin’ one thing and one thing only: killin’ Nazis.

To Daenerys Targaryen, and her single-minded quest to free all slaves everywhere. She's across the Narrow Sea doin' one thing and one thing only. 

-Like any enterprise, when under new management, there’s always a slight duplication of efforts.

Also to Daenerys, or Mhysa, who has begun to realize that freeing slaves doesn't simply cure all problems. Liberating cities is one thing, but not leaving them in chaos is quite another. Now she must figure out how to have her cake and eat it too. At least her dragons won't get the cake, because…

-What the fuck are we supposed to do?
-It looks like we’re supposed to have a Nazi premiere.
-Like I said, what the fuck are we supposed to do?

To Khaleesi being forced to imprison her dragons, knowing she must, and knowing it's a terrible idea. I have no doubt there will be consequences. And probably blood. 

But hey, not all's bad for Khaleesi...

-Ooooh, that’s a bingo! Is that the way you say it? “That’s a bingo?”
-You just say "Bingo."

To Daario Naharis, who gets the mother Mhysa of all bingos when Daenerys beds him. 

Which isn't so good for

-When you purchase friends like Bridget von Hammersmark, you get what you pay for. 

To Jorah Mormont, who finally got what he paid for. You have to feel bad for the guy, because he had redeemed itself, except no one knew it, and the past caught up to him. Oh well, at least he's no longer in… 

-Well, we’ll be leavin’ a little earlier.

To all of the consequential deaths in Season 4: King Joffrey Baratheon, Locke, Lysa Arryn, Prince Oberyn Martell, Ygritte, Jojen Reed, The Hound, Shae, and Tywin Lannister. Here's a not-so-touching eulogy from Tyrion: “There’s no kind of killing that doesn’t have its own word.”

-Who has a message for Germany?
-I have a message for Germany. That you’re all going to die. And I want you to look deep into the face of the Jew that is going to do it!

To George R. R. Martin himself, the real madman that’s killing everyone left and right. Just replace "Germany" with "Westeros," and "Jew" with "author," and it's just about perfect. 

-Monsieur LaPadite, to both your family and your cows, I say, “Bravo.” 

To everyone involved with this show. It just keeps getting better and better. To both your families and your cows, I say, "Bravo."