Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali Merges With The Infinite

Word has broken that heavy weight champion, social activist and all around personality Muhammad Ali has passed.

Like so many people who leave their mark, Ali was a deeply complicated individual, defiant in a time where he had an opportunity to speak his truth to power in ways that still bristle the sensibilities of the establishment.

Few athletes have come anywhere close to Ali's out-sized persona and had the skill to back it up.

His once unstoppable voice has been silenced for years by disease, but he managed to carry on in public, including lighting the torch at the 96' Olympics.

He'll be missed, but he'll be remembered, now merged with The Infinite at age 74.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Marvel Re-Watch: Captain America - Civil War (2016)

With a Monday afternoon off for Memorial Day, Jamie and I weighed whether we'd be seeing X-Men: Apocalypse versus anything else.  Jamie, a solid fan of Cap and luke-warm on X-folk, pushed for Cap as she wanted to see it again on the big screen, and as I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the last go-round, I was more than happy to agree.  We'll catch X-Men soon enough, and I have a post brewing as to 'why' when we're kinda not huge X-nerds in 2016.

There isn't much to say that I didn't already say, except that on a second viewing, when I wasn't just trying to keep up with the rocket-propelled trajectory of the movie, a lot of things that felt like bullet-point plot points as they went along suddenly felt much more organic.  Cap's arguments for non-compliance not only held up better on a second-viewing, but the death of Peggy, which I took as mostly an emotional beat in the first viewing, I now could see how that scene was really about Sharon quoting Peggy and giving Steve the resolve he needed in his moment of crisis.  The best person from the point in his life where he found his true self was speaking to him via her niece.

And, speaking of that niece, there's a lot more goo-goo eye stuff going on between Sharon and Steve - and, in fact, her very cooperation with Steve suddenly doesn't seem so much like a "doing a pal a solid" as her clearly breaking protocols for this guy.  They just don't actually say anything before that first kiss, and so it is a bit less jarring once you catch the interplay a bit better.

But the race to save Bucky feels far more grounded on a second viewing as well.  Steve's intentions felt more clear, and his insistence on saving Bucky somehow feels less like "well, because he's the good guy" and because of that shared history, even as he seems to know Bucky may actually be guilty and may actually kill him this time.

Anyway, I highly recommend catching the movie again.  I watch all the Marvel movies more than once not just because - hey, sometimes I pick up things I missed before - but it's fun stuff to see again, especially in the theater.  It's really amazing how well Marvel has managed these movies, film after film, finding just the right talent for each role and directors to fit the film.

More on what I'm getting out of these movies in a future post.

TL;DR: I Guess We Better Talk About that "Fandom is Broken" Article

if you are not pleased with what follows, Queen Elsa has some words for you...

Honestly, I have no idea if I was reading Devin Faraci back at BadAss Digest before it became Birth.Movies.Death., and I couldn't tell you exactly when I started seeking out his writing in particular.  Pretty recently, I guess, like maybe even in late 2015.

Well, a few days back it seems Faraci went and accidentally lit a spark under the butt of the collective hive-mind of the internet, and whatever was under that butt wasn't just flammable, it was atomic rocket fuel.  He wrote an article called Fandom is Broken, but I don't need to tell you this.  Because chances are, if you read this site, you've already read the article elsewhere.  It's certainly been making the rounds.  If you haven't read it yet, here's the link.  Go read it and then come on back.  These 1's and 0's will still be here floating in the interwebicon.  

Back?  Excellent.  We missed you.  How are you?

One more to read - it's that Onion AV article Faraci linked to, and it's also required reading.  Sorry.  So, off with you if you didn't read that, too.

Sigh.  So...  For this week I had already planned to write about the upcoming Ghostbusters film, the grousing going on about this new movie ruining some peoples' childhoods, and I thought I might outline why - frankly - that's a really weird stance to take on a 30+ year old movie that was never, ever going to be the same again no matter whether it starred the same four guys (which we should have just let go of since Raimis' passing), four other different guys, four women, four guinea pigs or four plates of nachos.

But we're not going to park it on Ghostbusters.  Oh, no.  Because these two article made me think about a few things, and, in ways big and small, I am certain I am part of the problem, too.  And so are you, buddy, so don't feel so smug.

At this juncture I think it's important to take a breath and have a moment of self-reflection rather than take to the twitters and prove Mr. Faraci absolutely correct by threatening him.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Regret Watch: Mannequin (1987)

For some reason, prior to Saturday evening, I had never seen the 1980's romantic hit comedy, Mannequin (1987).  I wasn't much of a fan of The Brat Pack in the 1980's, and didn't really care much about whether or not Andrew McCarthy would or would not find love in a movie about Mystic Pizzas or Real Dolls or whatever.

However, here in 2016, Jamie and I were at dinner, and somehow it came up that I had not ever seen this 80's staple, and she pointed across the table and said "when we get home, we're watching Mannequin".  People, if you knew how many movies I've made Jamie sit through because I found some inherent value to that movie which she had not seen or which  had escaped her (and, often, by movie's end would continue to elude her) - you'd understand, I didn't really feel I could say no.

If Jamie can sit through Conan (again), I can watch Mannequin.

In the 1980's, the first generation of the channel Nickelodeon had a show for little kids on during the day called Today's Special.  Really, the only time you'd catch it was during the summer or if you were sick.  But the show ran for 7 years and was about a lady who - each night - brought a mannequin to life after a department store closed, and they'd do the kinds of kind-of-fun-but-educational stuff you'd see on TV for kids back then.

For some reason as a kid I was very aware the show was made in Canada.  I have no idea why that seemed important to me.  But it made me think Canadians had weird ideas about entertainment.

But, for years, I assumed Mannequin was a rated-R version of the same basic concept, but instead of learning about spelling or how a garden hose works or whatever, there was sexing going on in housewares.

Noir Watch: The Big Clock (1948)

Sometime about twenty years ago I actually read the novel this movie was based on, but all I can remember about it is that there is no literal "Big Clock", and more than there is any literal "Long Good-Bye" or literal "Big Heat" in those respective movies or books.  But, hey, not so in the movie adaptation of The Big Clock (1948).  This movie practically goes full-Batman in literalization of a rich sociopath's obsession.

The movie definitely qualifies for noir - a mysterious and sultry woman is responsible for the life-altering, seemingly insurmountable situation a man finds himself in - one only partially of his own doing, but one had he been behaving better, he never would have found himself in.  But, really, it reminded me in many ways of a Hitchcockian-thriller, and that's no complaint.  I enjoy a good Hitchcock movie from time to time.

Noir Watch: Criss Cross (1949)

I just remembered that I'd failed to write up a movie I watched last week, 1949's Criss Cross, starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne DeCarlo and the always hiss-able Dan Duryea.

The movie seemed to be trying to recapture a bit of the magic of 1946's The Killers, also starring Lancaster, with Ava Gardner as the twisty (and, let's be honest, dangerously sexy) femme fatale.  That picture is surely one of the purest examples of what we think of when we think about noir.  In Criss Cross, once again Lancaster plays a fellow who can be led astray by a good looking brunette - not stumbling across a mobsters' girl this time, but coming home to Los Angeles, trying to tell himself it's not so he'll see his ex, Anna (the terrific Yvonne DeCarlo), but to settle in and lead a domestic life with his parents and brother.  Get his old job back.  But before he's even made it in the front door of the family house, he's back at his old haunt, seeing how things have changed.

Memorial Day

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: The Little Sister (by Raymond Chandler, 1949) audiobook

The Little Sister (1949) is the fifth Raymond Chandler novel starring Phillip Marlowe, the detective character made most famous in The Big Sleep.  Clearly written after Chandler's stint in Hollywood (he would team with Billy Wilder during the writing of Double Indemnity), Marlowe's time in LA finally gets him crosswise with Hollywood machinations and mob ties.

A fairly prissy but possibly pretty young woman with the unlikely name Orfamay Quest from Manhattan, Kansas appears at Marlowe's office.  She's seeking her brother, Orrin, who has been in LA for a while, but seems to have disappeared.  Taking Midwestern thriftiness to extremes, she hires Marlowe at half-price (also, because Marlowe is bored and has no other clients that day) and it soon becomes clear the touchy Orrin may have been in deep into something shady, and, because it's a Chandler mystery, deadly.

Bond Watch: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

This may be the true start of "silly Bond".  Or, at  least, a more lighthearted Bond franchise.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) saw the return of Sean Connery to the role after the George Lazenby experiment (and, yes, we skipped On Her Majesty's Secret Service because we'd watched it just prior to starting on the chronological viewing of Bond films, but we'll get back around to it).  He looks comfortable in the role, picking up the thread of revenge for the death of Diana Rigg at the conclusion of the prior movie.  Oddly, it's not stated directly, but Bond tracks Blofeld to a secret lair where he manages to dispatch him before the credits even roll.