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The Best Movie Kiss of All Time

People can talk all they like about the best movie kiss of all time. Jabber on all you like about Titanic or The Fault in Our Stars or whatever romantic movie is popular these days. As for me, I think the best kissing scene in any movie I've ever seen is from Captain America: Civil War, between Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter.

Part of the reason I like the kiss so much is that I approve of the romance so much. I like to say that I have to approve of romantic partners separately before I can approve of them together--by which I simply mean that if I don't like one or both of them for who they are, why in the world am I going to like their romance or anything else to do with them? And obviously, I love Steve. He's basically everything anyone could possibly want in a man, from his unwavering morals to his attractive appearance. But I've really grown to like Sharon too. She's capable and driven without being a "strong" (read: irritating) female character, she can hold her own, she abandons her job and joins Steve when she knows he's in the right...and she's actually nice. It's kind of rare to see that combination, but she's both sweet and able to kick your butt into next Tuesday if necessary.

So, onto the kiss itself. The Captain America movies are, first and foremost, action movies. Especially because they're superhero movies, they can get away with a lot of cheesy or lazy writing. You know what to expect from an action flick in terms of romance--a hot sidekick who is either a pathetic weepy damsel in distress or is feisty, irascible, and snarks at the hero all the way through the story. Then at some point around the climax, they become so overwhelmed with their feelings that they spend five minutes trying to eat each other's face off, if not going all the way and having hot sex while we're forced to watch. And the thing is, apart from making me feel uncomfortable, that kind of snog-fest has become so...boring. Narratively, nothing is happening! A kiss that takes five minutes doesn't usually tell you anything that you couldn't convey in two seconds. And that's an awful lot of wasted time you could be using to give us vital bits of plot or characterization.

But the kiss in Civil War doesn't do that. They don't linger and grope each other and try to swallow each other's tongues. They lean in, they kiss, BOOM. Done. No nonsense, no grossing us all out. And what I especially love is how normal and natural it feels. It was really easy to believe this wasn't two hot actors kissing on a stage, but two actual, real people who are actually really attracted to each other. I just love how chaste it is, so in keeping with Steve's gentlemanly character formed from his upbringing in the '30s and '40s as well as his own unwavering moral compass.

Because that's another area where this kiss succeeds while most action movie kisses fail abysmally: The kiss demonstrates what kind of people these characters are. It's not just something thrown in there for some fanservice because people want to see Steve in a romance since most of these movies are dedicated to bromance. No, just from the way they kiss, you can understand more of what they're like and what they see in each other. Notice that Sharon, while obviously attracted to Steve for a long time, has always been inviting but not demanding. She keeps a respectful distance while also making it clear that she's interested. She leaves it up to him to decide what direction their relationship is going, not because she's not assertive enough to claim what she wants (because we've seen her stand up for what she believes over and over again, even when it means going against authority), but because she knows how awkward their relationship could be since his old sweetheart was her great-aunt. So instead of pressing him or doing something to seduce him and get what she wants, she stands back and waits for him to make the first move.

And the way Steve responds is just as revealing. We saw in The First Avenger how inexperienced and awkward Steve is around women; this stems from his beginnings as a tiny, skinny dude that hardly anybody found attractive. After his transformation, he found himself suddenly extremely handsome, but not much better at talking to women he was attracted to. I love how he says, when Bucky tells him there are millions of girls in New York, "I'd settle for just one." Similarly, when Natasha keeps suggesting girls for him to take out, Steve just isn't interested. He's usually too focused on his work to spare much thought for love, but when he does, he only ever has one real object of his affections. A lesser man, when placed in a dancing troupe of pretty, talented girls to dance with every week, would probably have at least a short-lived fling with one or two. We see no evidence of that. In fact, we see no evidence that he even has any interaction with the girls off-stage at all. The only girl he's interested in is Peggy.

And in The Winter Soldier, of course, we see how devastatingly lonely Steve is. He really wants close companionship, but as he says, shared life experience is a bit hard to come by for him. It's obvious he's quite taken with Sharon, and stumbles his way through sort-of asking her out (notice how he never has trouble talking to women he's working with like Natasha or even making inspiring impromptu speeches--he just gets nervous around women he likes). Things cool off once he learns that she's been working for S.H.I.E.L.D., but after the events of the climax, she has earned his trust again. And everything she does for him, risking her job and even her life, only warms his heart towards her even more in Civil War.

So everything has been leading up to that moment when she brings their gear to him and starts her life as a fugitive like him. She has sacrificed everything for him, but she asks nothing in return. She just wants to help him, and do the right thing. There's a moment where they both stand looking at each other, and they could step back and part ways, loyal friends who are attracted to each other, but nothing more. But you can see the point where Steve makes up his mind: "No, I want this." And so he takes the step, he takes initiative, and he kisses her.

And when they break apart, they both just look so happy. Again, they don't linger in some kind of steamy I-wish-we-could-jump-into-bed-right-now way. They just smile and say, "That was late." As if to say, "What were we afraid of? Why were we so nervous? This is wonderful." Most movie kisses are just so passionate that I ironically can't see them leading to much of a stable relationship. Because what happens when he has bad breath or she gains 20 pounds? Suddenly they don't seem so exciting anymore. But Steve and Sharon respond so normally to each other that I can totally see them growing old together and acting like this for years to come.

And just as a bonus, both of Steve's bros totally approve of his choice :3

Character Sorting: Alphonse Elric

The Sorting method I'm using can be found here. Please note that if there are any discrepancies between different versions of the characters, I'm using the manga as the default.

Alphonse Elric - Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw

It was actually surprisingly hard for me to Sort Al, even though he's one of my favorite characters and I can actually relate to him more than Ed (since I know what it is to be a younger sibling whose best friend is an older brother). A lot of the confusion, I think, comes (fittingly enough) from his relationship to his brother. Al is Ed's character foil, his opposite in many ways, which is one of the reasons they make such a good team. They balance out each other's strengths and weaknesses till they become unstoppable. At the same time, because Al has grown up hero-worshipping Ed to a certain extent, he often looks to Ed for approval and adopts many of his views and habits. So sometimes, he ends up looking rather similar to Ed's shining Gryffindor/Gryffindor example. However, despite their similarities, Alphonse Elric is a very different kind of person than his brother.

First of all, I don't think anyone will have much trouble seeing that Al is a Hufflepuff Primary. He's a kind-hearted boy who wants to help everyone who crosses his path, from civilians endangered by the crazy antics the Elric brothers get involved in to stray cats stuck in the rain. Al is usually the one to take the injured or innocent to safety (like Rose or Mei, for example), not only because of the extra strength and protection his armor gives him, but also because that's what he looks for first. While Ed spearheads a futile attack on Father and fights Homunculi, Al is the one who notices that Mei is hurt and hides her in his armor to carry her to safety.

I think one of the main differences between Ed and Al can be found in their different Primaries. Even though it's played for laughs, their disagreement about stray cats is actually very telling about their priorities. To Ed, anything that doesn't help them achieve their goal is just a distraction, and needs to be gotten rid of, so he refuses to let Al help the stray cats he always finds. But Al doesn't see their goal as the single most important thing in his life. Though he has as much determination and resolve as Ed to see their bodies restored, he knows that people (and even cats) are ultimately more important. So he'll take the time to save stray animals, carry innocent victims to safety, and make sure that a collapsed Xingese prince gets a bite to eat.

For a while, I was stuck on whether Al's concern for other people was a Hufflepuff's loyalty to people in general, or whether it was part of the moral perspective he adopted from his brother, or even part of a worldview he constructed partly from Ed's influence and partly from his own observations. But the time someone's Primary shines through the most is when they're under stress. Put someone in a desperate situation, where he has to choose between a rock and a hard place, and you'll find out what he's really made of. The scene that came to mind for Al was when Kimbley breaks Pride free of his stone prison and attacks Al and his friends. Al tries bravely to fight back, but Pride is just too powerful. Al finds himself in an obscuring cloud of dust, without his legs, trying to drag the wounded Heinkel to safety even though he knows it's only a matter of time before Kimbley and Pride find them and kill them all. Heinkel says to leave him behind, but of course he doesn't. Then Heinkel presents him with a terrible dilemma: He has a Philosopher's Stone, which will allow Al to fight back. But of course, Philosopher's Stones are made with the souls of human beings, and Ed and Al had already decided long ago that they couldn't use other people's lives for their own gain.

So what does Al do? After some deliberation and hesitation, Al takes the Stone and uses it to heal Heinkel and fight Pride long enough for him and his friends to get away. We never get to see what Ed would think of this, but I think that Ed's Gryffindor Primary would have a hard time accepting this. Al, on the other hand, is a Hufflepuff Primary. While his moral sense is very important to him, people always come first. He's willing to sacrifice some of his ideals, stain his hands a little, if it's necessary to save someone's life. Heinkel's argument that finally makes up Al's mind is that the souls inside the Stone would want to be used to fight against the evil that put them in there.

Another telling moment is when Al admits to Ed that he was considering giving up their quest to get their bodies back. Their search for answers and the things they've done have left a bloody trail of corpses behind them--from dear friends like Hughes and Nina to people who were actually their enemies, like Greed and his gang, whose deaths also weigh on Al's conscience. Al says that if getting his body back means more people are going to die, he doesn't want his body back. His existence is uncertain and comes with certain vulnerabilities and difficulties, but that's no different from anyone with a normal body who can get sick or die in an accident at any time. He's willing to give up the most important thing in their lives because he cares more about other people. But why does he decide he still wants to get his body back, despite all this? Because he doesn't want to be alone. In the end, people are always the deciding factor for Al.

One thing that stumped me for a long time was another part of the story where Al was under a lot of stress, revealing more of what's most important to him. One of the most interesting conflicts the brothers run into, I think, is the part when Barry the Chopper makes Al think that he never really existed, and Ed just created him for his own purposes. Though it gets resolved fairly quickly, you can tell that Al is shaken to the core. Everything he thought was true is suddenly brought into question. Who is he really? Has the brother he adores so much been lying to him all this time?

The important thing here for our purposes is what, specifically, is most devastating to Al here, because that will show us what he holds most dear. When the world as he knows it begins to crack, what is Al most worried about losing? As I pondered it, I realized that the answer to this question would point directly to what Al's Primary is. If Al is a Slytherin, he would be worried that he can no longer trust his friends--but most importantly, that he can't even trust his own brother. If Al is a Gryffindor, he would be worried that he can't tell what's right and wrong anymore, because Ed is his leader, his moral compass, and he'd apparently done something that went completely against everything Al holds dear. If Al is a Ravenclaw, he would suddenly doubt everything he thought was real and true about the world, his memories, his perceptions--everything would be a lie, and he would have no way of determining the truth anymore.

For a while, I was leaning towards the Ravenclaw explanation, but then I realized that what hurt Al the most wasn't the loss of the ability to trust his own memories and feelings. It was the loss of everyone he loved. It's not just that he questions whether he can trust Ed anymore. It's a sudden confirmation that he doesn't belong to the human race anymore. He's not Ed's brother, he's not Winry's childhood friend, he's not even a human being anymore. What hurts the most is the thought that everyone he knows and loves has been lying to him, keeping it a secret. It's the feeling of exclusion, like they're all laughing behind his back and not letting him be part of their community. And that has Hufflepuff written all over it. Also, what does Ed do to reassure Al that he is the Alphonse Elric he thought he was? Ed reaffirms their bond. He spars with Al, one of the activities they've always done together, and then reminds him of all the times they've fought over stupid things before. Everything he says and does--not to mention Winry's explanation that Ed was afraid Al blamed him for putting him in a suit of armor--tells Al that he's still human. He's still Ed's brother, and he's still part of the community of friends they've made. He still belongs.

Al's Ravenclaw Secondary was a bit easier to decide on than his Primary. It provides a great contrast to Ed's Gryffindor spur-of-the-moment charging, which is part of why they make such a great team. While Ed takes point, attacking the enemy directly and often distracting them or drawing them out to expose their weaknesses, Al hangs back to give support, watch for an opening, or lay a trap at just the right moment. While Ed confronts the phony priest Cornello to his face and fights him directly, Al makes sure to set up a makeshift megaphone so the whole town will hear his encriminating remarks. When Ed is at his most vulnerable in his final battle against Father, Al is ready to use the tools at hand--Mei's alkahestry and Al's own soul--to save his life and win the battle.

How does Al achieve this? Ravenclaw Secondaries operate by gathering information and putting tools and plans in place for future use. As long as he is faced with events that he has prepared for, Al is in his element and can quickly implement countermeasures. He draws the appropriate transmutation circle at the right time, because he has studied and researched alchemy so much that it's as effortless as breathing. He responds to Ed's subtle, often wordless, communication because he has long years of experience to tell him what Ed is trying to say and what he needs in that moment.

Outside of his comfort zone, however, Al hesitates much longer than Ed does before acting. Ed's Gryffindor Secondary gives him a natural gift for improvization, so when something gets thrown at him that he hasn't prepared for, he quickly formulates a new approach to meet it. Al needs to stop, take a step back, and reevaluate before he can respond. Think of the time Gluttony swallows Ed, Ling, and Envy, leaving Al wondering if they're even alive anymore. It takes Al until the next morning before he decides to make Gluttony take him to Father and see if there's a way to get them back out. Part of this is just the emotional shock, of course, but think of how Ed would probably respond if their positions were switched. Ed would immediately cast around wildly for any and every possible solution, charging at each one and trying it until he found one that worked. But Al has to run through what he knows and suspects before he can decide what to do, because he hasn't prepared for anything like this to happen and needs to build a new strategy to follow from the ground up.

None of this is to say that Al is slow or unintelligent in the way he thinks, just because he's not quite as swift to react as Ed. It's quite well established that Al is every inch Ed's equal when it comes to understanding, researching, and applying alchemy. One thing I really liked from the first anime was that not only did Al take the written exam to become a State Alchemist, he actually got a higher score than Ed did. That sounds to me like his Ravenclaw Secondary shining out. He read, he studied, so he was completely prepared to demonstrate his knowledge of the area that interests him the most. Al is also usually the one to suggest that they research more, or make sure they're prepared, or take logical steps to further their goals. I don't think it's just happenstance or Mei's crush on him that leads to him being the one to try to learn alkahestry, rather than Ed.

In many ways, the Elric brothers are the perfect team. They round out each other's weaknesses, and let each other's strengths shine through. Ed provides the direction, inspiration, and motivation they need to keep going with the roaring fire of his Gryffindor Primary and Secondary. Al softens his brother and reins in his recklessness with his Hufflepuff humanity and Ravenclaw knack for preparation and planning. Together, they are a force that is almost unstoppable.

(The only thing they're missing, I realize, is a dash of Slytherin. This is probably why they're not very subtle at all and far too often forget to actually take care of themselves.)

Character Sorting: Edward Elric

The Sorting method I'm using can be found here. Please note that if there are any discrepancies between different versions of the characters, I'm using the manga as the default.

Edward Elric - Gryffindor/Gryffindor

Gryffindor primaries know intuitively what's right and what's wrong, and they seek to follow it without having to be taught. Ed is a very principled character, with a definite sense of good and evil. Probably the most important principle he clings to throughout the story is that everyone is a person, and that everyone deserves to live. He staunchly refuses, over and over again, to kill anyone or let anyone die if he has anything to say about it. Even though he's chosen a life in the military, where he is required to use violence on a daily basis, and could be ordered to the front lines of war the minute he turns sixteen, Ed never wavers from his vow to never take a life, because it's the right thing to do. Even when characters like Kimbley point out the flaws in this resolve, or characters like Hawkeye point out that sometimes it's necessary to kill in order to protect someone, Ed just can't get past his belief that killing is wrong.

Where did Ed get this resolve? It's safe to assume that Trisha instilled good values in her sons, but she died so young that her direct influence on Ed's beliefs is limited. His mother died early in his life, his father was out of the picture so early he can barely remember him, and other authority figures like Pinako or Izumi had a limited amount of time with him as well. So no one ever had to teach Ed that people's lives are important, or that even his enemies are human beings. He just knows it's right in his gut, and everything he experiences--from what Izumi teaches him about "all is one and one is all" to his experiences with disembodied souls--lines up with what he believes about people and the sanctity of life.

Related to his belief that killing people is wrong in every circumstance, Ed also believes that a soul is still a human being, even if it's in a form that most people wouldn't recognize as human anymore. He refuses to use a Philosopher's Stone because it's made with human souls. He becomes enraged at Scar for killing Nina, rather than seeing it as putting down a creature that would be in pain every moment of its life. And, most importantly, it doesn't matter to him that Al doesn't have a body anymore and is unable to do many of the things we might think are essential to the human experience. To Ed, Al is just as much a human as anyone with a body and all five senses. Even when others try to argue about this with him, Ed never wavers in his opinion. He knows without a doubt that a human being is a human being, no matter what form they're in.

Gryffindor secondaries are notorious for charging headfirst into the fray. They know what their goal is, and nothing will stand in their way as they pursue it. When faced with a locked door, instead of looking for the key, calling up a locksmith, or recruiting their friends' help, a Gryffindor secondary will keep throwing himself against the door until finally it gives way. Or, to put it in Ed's words, "If you can't find a door, make your own."

Ed's Gryffindor secondary is so glaringly obvious, he might as well wear a blinking neon sign on his back. He fits the stereotypical Gryffindor to a T - brave, bold, and brash. He would rather charge straight into a fight than carefully plan ahead, or negotiate with his adversary to avoid a fight altogether. To do any less would be to back down and, in a sense, betray his own beliefs and the people he cares about. When he sees wrongdoing, he must confront it, no matter the odds - and usually his emotions about said wrongdoing lead him to attack without thinking things through first.

This isn't to say that Ed is too stupid to plan ahead or that he never considers strategy. Obviously, Ed is a genius and often puts his brilliant mind to work devising traps or ways to escape or outwit his opponents. But he thrives on developing plans on impulse, in the thick of battle. His real strength is his ability to think on his feet and deduce things about his opponent that he can quickly implement in a fight. We can see this to great effect in his battle against the first Greed, when he charges at Greed in a towering rage, then figures out how to get past Greed's Ultimate Shield while being kicked around. Ed knows to trust his gut, so he will follow a hunch without hesitation. Others chide him for being reckless and trying things without knowing whether they'll work or not (such as when Ed quickly changes the composition of his automail and meets Scar's attack with his own fist), but Ed usually succeeds because he trusts his own intellect and doesn't allow himself to hesitate.

Ed's Gryffindor secondary is also why he wears his heart on his sleeve so much of the time. Several of his enemies comment on how honest he is - when asked a potentially encriminating question, his face says it all. While this doesn't always serve him very well, to Ed it's just more simple and direct than trying to hide his feelings all the time. Though he's certainly capable of lying and keeping secrets when it's really important (such as hiding the truth about the human transmutation so he can stay in the military), he prefers to be honest and open.

I think it's this honesty and directness of approach that attracts so many people to Ed's side. It seems that everywhere he goes, he finds a new friend or ally, another person who is waiting for the brothers to get their bodies back, or who will lend their aid in the fight against Father and the Homunculi. Even Darius and Heinkel, who start out as his enemies who are trying to kill him, become his companions because of his honesty and the way he sticks to his ideals of not letting anyone die. In the end, Amestris is saved because Edward Elric refused to give up, and kept getting back up on his feet and moving forward.

Character Sortings

Over the past year, I was introduced to an alternate method of Sorting people into the four Hogwarts houses. You can find the full explanation here.

This is a really brilliant system of Sorting people, more detailed and nuanced than the simple distinctives we're given from the Sorting Hat's songs in the books. It's helped me understand myself, my friends, and my characters more, and is just such a fun exercise. (In case anyone wonders, I'm a Ravenclaw Primary, Hufflepuff Secondary. I was Sorted into Ravenclaw on Pottermore, and that's the house I would choose if given an option.)

I'm not always the best at thinking logically or analyzing characters, but I'm going to try to stretch myself by Sorting some characters using this system. I'm going to start with Full Metal Alchemist, since those are some of the characters I know best, but I may branch out after that.

This could be slow in coming, but I'm not too worried because nobody reads these posts anyway :P This is just for my own pleasure.


My To-Do List

Here's my recently re-vamped to-do list. We'll see how quickly I can actually accomplish anything....

Reading List:
-Mormons: An Open Book by Anthony Sweat
-Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry
-Your Life Well Spent by Russ Crosson
-The Truth About Money Lies by Russ Crosson
-Hyrule Historia
-The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
-The Best of Roald Dahl
-Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick
-The Riddle Master of Hed by Patricia McKillip
-Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
-Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
-Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
-Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
-Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
-The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
-Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
-His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
-Lilith by G.K. Chesterton
-Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
-Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
-Mr. Monster by Dan Wells
-Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
-The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Re-reading List:
-Harry Potter books 4-7
-Of Other Worlds by C.S. Lewis
-Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-Letters Never Sent by Ruth E. Van Reken
-The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
-An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
-Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Manga Reading List:
-Liar Game
-Hero Tales
-Souten no Koumori

TV Watching List:
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 1)
-Lost (season 4)
-How to Train Your Dragon: Riders of Berk
-Nuka Break
-Alfred Hitchcock Presents (season 2)

Anime Watching List:
-Liar Game (J-drama)
-Ghost in the Shell
-Silver Spoon
-Pale Cocoon

Writing List:
-Fused Souls
-The Lost One
-Cosmic Eclipse
-A Rising Hero
-Everything I Touch

Gaming List:
-The World Ends with You (replay)
-Chrono Cross
-Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2
-Abe's Exoddus (100%)

Week 30: Sum up Harry Potter in One Word

This is a tall order, to sum up such a long, complex, many-layered story in just one word. I could go the cliche route and say "magical." I could wimp out and not be very descriptive, and just say "amazing" or "an adventure" or something of that nature (which could be said about any number of great stories, I might add). But I'm going to go the slightly-cliche, slightly-nondescriptive route and sum up Harry Potter with this word:


Harry Potter is a story about friends, about the invisible bond that holds them together, about the kind of love that makes ordinary people into heroes, because they stand up and protect the people they care about. And at the risk of sounding sappy, I sometimes feel like the characters are my friends too. I followed their journey for so many years, and got to know their quirks and foibles so well, it was like I was along for the ride too. I'm so glad that such a famous, popular story holds friendship in such high regard.

Week 29: What Character Would You Play?

If absolutely forced to play some part in a Harry Potter movie, I would probably go for Luna Lovegood. She unobtrusive enough that I wouldn't be required to have too much screentime, but is also weird enough and socially awkward enough for me to play her right. I think. Maybe. She's just all-around awesome and isn't afraid of doing things that make people stare at her, and that's the kind of person I would want to be.
I think the main thing that disgruntles me about how the Harry Potter books were adapted into movies is the emphasis on HarryXHermione. There's not really any hint of it in the books, yet over and over again in the movies, Harry and Hermione are put into such situations that it seems to be hinting at some kind of attraction there. I like that they show Harry and Hermione's friendship, but it feels like they're shoving Ron to the side, and not letting him have the close relationship to Harry that he does in the books. It also detracts from RonXHermione, I think, because moments that should have shown the two of them growing closer and giving each other support instead were taken up by demonstrating Harry and Hermione's relationship.

Week 27: Most Attractive Cast Member

I actually don't find any of the Harry Potter cast particularly attractive. The nice thing is that, for the most part, they all look rather ordinary - like the kind of people you would actually meet in an actual school. But I guess, if really pressed, I have to go the embarrassing route and say Robert Pattinson. I think Twilight completely ruined his good looks.

Week 26: Scariest Moment in the Movies

There's one moment in the whole series that always makes me jump, no matter how many times I see it, no matter how much I screw myself up for it, knowing it's about to happen. Kind of like watching a toaster too closely, I guess. Every single time I watch the scene in Half-Blood Prince when Harry tries to scoop some water out of the lake and then an Inferius grabs him, I jump like the first time I saw it. It's awesome XD


howling, wolf

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