Showing posts with label TLDR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TLDR. Show all posts

Saturday, July 9, 2016

This Week's Tragedy in Dallas and Beyond


As a record of what occurred this week -

Alton Sterling, an African American man, was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by two police officers during an arrest.  Witnesses and video of the incident indicate that the police were unwarranted in the shooting, that Sterling was upset but not able to resist - and the video definitely shows an immobile Sterling shot at point blank range by the officers.

In Minnesota, Philandro Castile, another African American man, was shot and killed by a police officers while reaching for identification while seated in his car with his girlfriend and a 4 year old child.  Castile's girlfriend live-streamed the video of what occurred to Facebook.  The video is available on YouTube and other locations as of this writing.

Thursday, 7/7, peaceful protests were scheduled in most major population centers, part of what has become known as #blacklivesmatter, a movement intended to draw attention to the unjustly assumed guilt,lives lost to police bullets, and the situation of African Americans in the United States in regards to overly violent responses of police especially in cases involving Black men and women.  

On Thursday evening, as the protest march drew to a close in Dallas, Texas around 8:45 P.M., a sniper began firing from the rooftops, striking 11 officers and killing five.  In the chaos, no civilians were injured, one man was briefly mistaken as a suspect and then cleared, and three wound up in custody and the/ a gunman was killed by police in the early morning hours of 7/8.

The sniper was targeting white officers, and details are still coming out about his background (but less, so far, about the three others held in custody).

To add to the confusion, the police used a remote controlled robotic device mounted with a bomb to approach and kill the gunman and bring the threat to a definite conclusion.

In short, it's been an awful week.

Friday, June 10, 2016

TL;DR - Spaghetti Watch-tern (Again): Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)




Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) isn't just one of my favorite Spaghetti Westerns or Westerns, it's one of my favorite movies.  I try not to watch it too often as I'm afraid I'll reduce something about the film by making the viewing of the film rote (I've come dangerously close to this with Superman I and II).  Instead, each time I watch the movie, I feel like I get something more out of it, see some detail, appreciate some nuance a bit more.  If you ever want to see my ideal for combination of camera work, design of scene, score, acting and blocking to drive story and ideas - look no further.

The film features a tremendous central cast.  Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson of course.  Jason Robards.

Woody Strode and Jack Elam have guest spots as gunmen.

And, of course, we have Claudia Cardinale as Jill.

I wrote up this movie in August of last year.  You can read my write up there with many loving screengrabs I stole from the internets.

SimonUK and I took in a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on Wednesday evening.  It was the second time I'd seen the movie on the big screen, the first being one of my first trips to The Alamo Drafthouse at its original location on Colorado Street.  This time we didn't get the large theater, but the projection was phenomenal.  I assume it was s digital projection, as we weren't told otherwise.

While I don't have anything particularly new to say about the movie itself, I have been thinking about one aspect of the film in relation to current trends in how we interact with media in 2016.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TL;DR: Balancing the Dark and the Light - Getting Real About How We Were Okay with "Dark" Comics



This week DC Comics's Rebirth event will once again re-set the DC Universe of comics for what will be the third reboot since 2005 (Infinite Crisis, Flashpoint/ New 52 and now Rebirth).   Even before the story broke this weekend about what Rebirth will contain, plot and character-wise, I had been thinking a great deal about the direction of media, what superheroes and stories are for, and how I've not felt particularly compelled to write up a bunch of posts upon, nor cast ad hominem attacks on those who enjoyed this year's blockbuster, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Sunday night saw the premiere of Preacher on AMC, an adaptation of the utterly unadaptable Preacher comics from Vertigo's heyday back in the 1990's.  As the comics are numbingly brutal and , featuring a wide array of atrocities and blasphemous content, I'm frankly a little concerned about what happens in the media/ social medias if the show is a direct adaptation and if/when people actually start watching the show (the pilot was not a direct adaptation, and I'm not sure it did very well).  The content is not exactly the sort of thing that many folks here in the Bible Belt take kindly to, even as a Bible Belt perspective certainly doesn't hurt in contextualizing the overriding experience and meaning of the comic.  After all, one of the overriding themes of the book is cutting through hypocrisy wrapped in the cloth - something Texas does just about as well as anywhere (thus, your location).

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Ryan (It is I! Your humble blogger!)

Howdy!  And welcome to a not terribly special edition of Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project.  Because, it's me.  Writing about me.  And, settle in, kids, because this entry is entirely TL; DR material.

Fair being fair, I thought I'd partake in my own memory-gathering exercise.

The questions I put out there reflect some of what I've pondered of late when it come to how the notion of nerd-dom has changed, and as we watch the world embrace the same culture we reveled in, the same geek-type-stuff that once left us hated and feared by the very world we sought to protect, what it was like in The Before Times.

In putting finger to keyboard, it's a bit hard to think back on the past with genuine honesty.  The period we're talking about - when we got into comics and the fog of raw emotion that dominates your world in middle and high school - is one with which we all grapple.  My primary emotion during those years was "confusion".   Any tertiary emotions stemmed from whether my confusion was increasing or decreasing.

There are folks who read this site who will quibble with my assessment of how things went down, but that's the way of history.  I have tried to adhere to reality, but I know the years have painted over some of the truths, wounds have healed as the memories recede and the decades in between has provided a barricade from the days when everything felt like an open wound.

This may be the longest I've ever worked on a single post in all my years of blogging.  Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, this has also turned out to be one of the longest posts I've ever written.  So, if you're going to read it, go get your coffee now.

And, without further ado...


Howdy, y'all.  It's me.  Your friendly blogger.



Your name: Ryan (yeah.  I'm doing this, too.)
Your current occupation:  I am an Assistant Director at a Digital Library consortium.  My job is essentially "make the things work/ run a team of devs and sys admins/ other duties as assigned"
Your current place of residence: Austin, TX
Your current personal family status: Married, no kids, two dogs, extended family up in my business (everyone lives in town these days)


What was ground zero for you getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? About what year was that? Do you remember what was going on in your life?


These are the raw materials we were working with

It's probably important to mention, first, that my earliest memories of superherodom are tied to Adam West in Batman, which I reportedly watched in reruns before I could even speak.  As per sci-fi/ fantasy - my parents bought into Star Wars lock, stock and barrel.  My dad took my brother and me to see the first movie during its original theatrical release (take that, parents who aren't sure their two-year-olds can take Uncle Ben's charred skeleton!).  My Mom, who still likes Star Wars, had us in Star Wars wallpaper, figures, bed spreads... all that.  

But, yeah, I suspect I was imprinting on all of that stuff like crazy.

The Admiral took me to see Superman during its initial run (1978), but that took much later.  I vaguely remember watching (and playing) Gatchaman/ G-Force, as well as Super Friends in the late 1970's, and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  We had lots of capes around and a few Batman and Spider-Man toys.

The first actual comic books I read included Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny, maybe circa 1981, and I didn't like them.  It felt like the rushed, cheap work it was.  At some point, I got a Clash of the Titans comic book, and I liked that a lot.  Between the funny pages and that comic, I now knew not all comics were necessarily as hacky as the knock-offs of animation.

But none of this was exactly nerdy.  Just a kid consuming nerd-adjacent juvenile pop culture detritus.  However, that was not to last.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

TL;DR: Dark Knight III, Dan Didio's DC Comes Full Circle and Being Okay with Frank Miller in 2015

To recap, the three tricks in Didio's book have been (1) to revisit already well-established and popular works in comics and (2) the universe-wide reboot.  The third (numero three) trick is one Marvel has taken a real shine to, and that's keeping one name on the marquee with replacing the character that built the brand and/ or completely changing that main character.  But I'm not getting into that one today.*

We've seen tricks numbers 1 and 2 over and over in ways I cannot believe haven't become a punchline on the internets, but the contents of the actual comics isn't really what's on the minds of the comics internets on any given day.

Bam!  Zap!  Pow!  Comics aren't just for kids!


DC Comics has been trying to plug the dam when it comes to sales since about 12 months after the New 52 reboot, the atomic bomb version of the trick #2 rebooting, revamping, universe retouching he'd been doing since Infinite Crisis led to One Year Later just over 9 years ago, and which he just revisited with Convergence and the seemingly disastrous "DC YOU".**

In the 1980's, DC's bold direction under Jeanette Kahn and Pual Levitz allowed for a creator-driven environment to produce a few seminal works of comic-dom that truly did alter the landscape and bring capes and tights comics along with the audience as they should have aged out.  Superhero comics weren't in college classrooms as assigned material in 1985, but by 1995, at least Watchmen was known worldwide, and for more than 20 years, the comic was held up in "best books of the last X number of years" lists and found mentions in magazines your parents would read when doing that sort of thing was something humans still did.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

TL;DR: Pondering falling DC Comics Sales, Uncle Scrooge, New Coke and Consistency

According to Heidi (and, I guess, Bleeding Cool), DC's "DC You"/ Post-Convergence line of books is not selling at needed levels, perhaps far below those levels as the just-launched DC You effort may be about to quietly go off into that good night.  TPTB at DC Comics must see some bad signs when it comes to future sales, something they have have a feeling for 3-4 months before comics hit the racks as we're all stuck in this "pre-order" culture from retailer to consumer.



Rumor is that there may be a call to retrench back to the Pre-Convergence line of thinking on the DCU line of books rather than the "Batgirlification" of the line, ie: Dan Didio doesn't know why the current Batgirl comic is selling, and so he's now just letting creators throw shit at the wall to see what sticks.

Here's where I'm going to say something that seems obvious, but isn't treated as such, so bare with me before rushing to the comments, but:  the idea that continuity doesn't matter in comics - something longtime comic fans, some of my online pals who come to this very site like to say, may very well be wrong.   Even if "Continuity", as in "nitpicking details over a forty year run on a comic" is unnecessary, I'd suggest that Consistency absolutely does matter.

And it may be DC's lack of Consistency/ Continuity that's led to the sudden death spiral for sales.

Let's Apply This to Scrooge McDuck


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Oscar Winner Watch: Birdman - Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - 2014

Man.  I really struggled with this one.

Let's make no mistake, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) is a technical marvel, and the sort of thing you have to give a tip of the hat just for its audacious approach to style and technical function.  It wants to be a melding of cinema and theater (or: theatre), and I'm not one to say that doesn't occur.  It's also a movie that's going to demand repeated viewings, something Pauline Kael refused any movie, and I think she has a point (asking someone to watch your movie over and over to "get it" shouldn't be a point of pride.  But rewarding viewers who catch something new on the second viewing should be a life goal.).  Our actors are all good, all on point, and the performances are not lacking - even when one character is supposed to be a bad actor, he nails his line delivery of line delivery, demonstrating to everyone that this is going to be a disastrous performance.



Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2015, and, of course, it's a movie about Hollywood's self-loathing and a desire to produce something better, something that matters as much as a well-written novel or beautifully produced play, and which isn't about superheroes and celebrity, even when that's exactly what Hollywood is exactly about on a good day.   Hollywood loves nothing so much as movies about itself (see: The Artist and it's Oscar win - and immediate dissolution in cultural memory after the fact - and how Argo made filmmakers into courageous action heroes), and even more so when Hollywood feels like a movie is doing their job for them and baring the artists to the public, as if to say "this is how Hollywood really feels, and what we really want to make if only there weren't so much money in making dumb shit for the flyover states.*"

The movie both criticizes and indulges in pretension in such a rapid fire, alternating current that it's hard to know what's satire and what writer/ director/ producer Alejandro G. Iñárritu actually thinks.  All of which makes a movie nigh-critic proof, because something is going on here, clearly, and if you get it wrong... well.  And, my god, the references and name-dropping.  Didn't you read Borges in undergrad?  No.  Shame on you.  You'd understand this scene and it'd be hilarious.  Otherwise you might mistake this as just a scene from yet another backstage dramedy about yet another at-his-wit's-end actor in crisis going through the motions you've seen before.  But, hey.  Good camera work.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

TL;DR - why, no, I'm not going to see "Fantastic Four". Or "Deadpool".

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we got a comic book-related movie maybe once every year or three.  Marvel had, basically, no feature films at the theater, and even their attempts with The Punisher (1989) and Captain America (1990) went to home video or less.  Superman IV came out in '87, and Batman came out in '89, and as we entered the 90's, it seemed like there was a gradual increase as stuff like The RocketeerThe Phantom and The Shadow got movies as well while the Batman franchise metastasized.  But it wasn't a full genre of tent-pole movies quite yet.



Circa 2000, I remember being shocked not just that someone made an X-Men movie, but that it wasn't absolutely horrible (it's not actually that good, really, but it's very watchable).  Really, that was the expectation.  If you went to see a comic book movie, you were going almost as an investment, not believing it would be good, but that if the movie made enough money, it would pave the way for better superhero movies.  And, in a way, it was a novelty.

People forget, movies like the Affleck Daredevil were way more common even then than a watchable Ant-Man is today.

And then Sam Raimi's Spider-Man demonstrated how you could do this if you really wanted to for the first time since Donner's Superman: The Movie.

Monday, July 6, 2015

TL;DR: Finally Reading Marvel's "Infinity", event comics and the DC-ification of the Marvel Universe

It took me a really long time to make it through Marvel's Infinity collection of Avengers stories.  There was no "Trade 2" of New Avengers, so in order to keep up, I had to buy a huge, expensive trade with a mix of Avengers comics that I wasn't reading.

Back in Arizona, I remember seeing the recipe for a "Kool-Aid Pie" and, more or less based on the name, I went ahead and decided I must try it out.

I hadn't ever done much baking, or made a pie, but I bought the ingredients, all of which looked like ingredients I should probably have for a pie.  A crust. Sugar.  Dehydrated milk, I think.  Then I got out the mixer and whatnot, and maybe 1/3rd of the way through the process of making the pie, I re-read the recipe and realized - "oh, I'm just whipping up sugar and Kool-Aid and putting it in a pie-crust".  It was literally an inedible pie.  It would have looked neat and cool sitting there all purple, but there was nothing really there.  No pie in my pie, just- purpleish whipped sugar.  Not even the basics of an actual pie, just something you would throw in a movie, I guess.

That's kind of Marvel's Infinity.  It seems like it should be a story.  It seems like it's going somewhere, but it was sort of a hand-waving illusion to get you to next, more expensive event, and all of this was some laborious and unnecessary Kool-Aid pie.

oh, yeeeeaahhhhhhh....!!!!


To be blunt -

Monday, February 23, 2015

SW Watches: Fifty Shades of Grey (yes, really)

I hate to miss a bit of good, out-of-control cultural ephemera - especially when it is not aimed at me, and I do not understand it.  And in this manner, I joined forces with longtime pal AmyC, a person of great character whom I've known since 1993.*  Her post will go up soon, but is so different in tone, I thought I'd give y'all some breathing space between my comments and her own.

This post is going to contain some discussion of naughty adult things.  If the discussion of sex, movies, movie sex, awkward movie sex, light bondage and/ or things that I generally withhold from conversation at work, with my parents and/ or their pastor might bother you a bit, come back in a couple of days.  I'm sure we'll be back to talking about Superman again by then.



This discussion will be spoiler laden, which is not my usual SOP, but either you're going to see this movie or you won't, and to really discuss it, we kind of have to talk about it in less than elliptical terms.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Answering Questions - The Picky Girl asks Where One Should Start When it Comes to Comics

Picky Girl placed the following in the comment box

Ok, I have a question. So I was not a comics girl growing up. I read a ton - and a lot of stuff that was probably way above my head - but the only comics I ever came in contact with were Archie and Veronica at my grandmother's house (in the bathroom...).

In college, a prof handed me Watchmen, and I loved it. I read some graphic novels and did a lot of reading about comics and the superhero, but when it came to comics, I never knew where to begin. There are so many iterations that I don't know where to begin. Any suggestions?

I'll go ahead and ask my fellow comics dorks to weigh in down in the comment section.  I know you've got your opinions, and my suggestions are just that.  They're just some suggestions by me.  So, chime in, buddies.

First of all, I think if you get down to it, a lot of people had their first and often their last exposure to comics through Archie Comics.  There's a reason everyone over a certain age recognizes Archie and Jughead, and enough people are aware of the Archie-Veronica-Betty love triangle so that you can use it as cultural shorthand.

I'm one of those kids, too.  I have a warm spot in my heart for Archie, even if I can't imagine how one remains a lifelong reader, but people do that, and that's kind of cool.

yeah.  every high school guy has two girlfriends who are cool with this situation.

Back in the 90's, you got to ride the wave of 1980's envelope-pushing comics and academics for whom bringing in anything on the edge of culture to teach was kind of a novel thing.  Watchmen has sold a lot of copies to kids taking a blow-off course where they could read comics, but it earned its rep as one of the very, very few comics that reads like a sprawling novel and talks to an audience of people who also read Thomas Wolfe.  I cannot stress how rare this is in capes and tights comics.  Less so in other genres of comic.

The 1970's brought in the first writers that wanted to push beyond kiddie-stuff and you wound up with Green Arrow seeing his ward shooting up smack (no lie!), but it still read as a 22-page adventure with only loose tethers to the past and future.  And, 95% of the time when comics think they're writing for adults or to make a point, it's still basically Speedy doing smack.

First it's comics, then you smoke one rock of pot, and then wham-o!  You've riding the white pony and defending Jethro Tull in public.

Almost nothing in capes and tights before or after Watchmen is Watchmen, and I've written extensively about how comics have learned all the wrong lessons from a superhero comic that wrote up to a literate audience.  We can cover that again some other time, and surely will, but that wasn't really your question.  What I'm doing here is: expectation setting.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Single Question Posed is Answered - Star Wars or Star Trek?

Gerry asks:

Not sure if you've ever come out on either side of this, but the public demands an answer: Star Wars or Star Trek?
The short answer is:  Planet of the Apes.

pew pew pew!

The real answer is - I grew up loving both, and never understood why I had to pick one over the other.  To me, that was sort of like picking Dragonslayer over The Secret of NIMH.  I kind of felt they were two different animals (one is fantasy, one is space adventure) and I could enjoy both, but I do get that it's like the need to pick either DC or Marvel and then go online and defend your stance from a religious perspective.  It's the internet.  You want to feel that there's logic to your gut feeling.

In my youth, Star Wars certainly got a lot of extra weight as it was the franchise that was being merchandised like crazy.  I never had any official Star Trek stuff until college, I think, when Jamie's Dad got me a Next Generation badge for Christmas (I was touched).

But let's not take any short cuts.  Let's take a really, really long look at this, shall we?

Friday, January 9, 2015

What Else Have I Been Up To? TV, Part II

We started talking TV over here at Part I.

This here is Part II.

I also forgot to mention:

Fargo on FX, which I tuned in to out of morbid curiosity.  It seemed pretty ballsy to make a show that would have been compared to the astoundingly good feature film namesake, but I wound up feeling the show knocked it out of the park (even if the finale had some unsatisfactory moments).

And it gave us Allison Tolman, for which we should all be grateful.

Pretty sure she left her keys around here somewhere

Thursday, January 8, 2015

So, What Have I Been Up To? Television

Since I started blogging in 2003, the TV landscape has changed on an almost yearly basis, whether you want to talk the variety of content or types of access one can have to serialized storytelling in a motion picture form.  Because, in a lot of ways, the definition of what we called "television", back when it was 3-6 channels coming over an aerial antenna that required you be there when the station antenna sent out the signal - is deader than Herbert Hoover.

Still makes more sense than watching TV on your damn iPhone

My cable spectrum is technically infinite, on-demand has become a possibility through a huge number of channels (through my cable or via various internet services), the TV "season" still exists at the networks, but only kinda...  the start of Fall is no longer when new shows air.  Now that's literally every week of the year.  And Netflix proved you could dump whole seasons on people at once and let the audience and God sort it out.  You can now jump into a show in season 3, and just find the prior seasons on Hulu or Netflix... 

The one, great trick I have decided upon is to wait and see if my trusted pals will watch a whole series and tell me if they felt the ending was satisfactory.  Series now have endings and finales.  They no longer limp along, becoming a pale version of their former selves, getting by on the faithful habits of watchers who are just seeking familiarity.  Look, I got burned by both X-Files and Lost, and I'm not doing it again.  

Fortunately for all of us, a year and half isn't all that long in TV terms, so it's not like my TV habits have changed greatly since I went to go get milk and cigarettes in 2013 and never came back.  

I am still watching:

Monday, January 5, 2015

So, What Have I Been Up To? Me and Comics Since June 2013

I really don't know how to write this post, because, if you've been following me for any length of time - and, in particular, if you've been here because of comics, this is where I disappoint you.

I am no longer a "read 20 comics per week" kind of guy.  I'm more of a "I'll knock through a trade once a week or so" kind of guy.  My comics reading and collecting was changing before this site was frozen in carbonite, and it's continued to mutate.

y'all buckle in, because it's about to get pedantic and ornery up in here

I kind of quit trying to keep up with Marvel as a universe around Secret Invasion, which was several years ago now.  I've tried to keep up here and there with Captain America and a few other titles, but Marvel's insistence on the cross-over stunt has made that exceptionally difficult.  Pair that with the fact I read Marvel in trade collections rather than floppies or digital comics, and their "all new #1's all the time" marketing strategy, and I literally gave up trying to understand what was happening at Marvel as a Universe.  But I will be picking up some of the Star Wars books for a few months and see how I like a Marvelized Star Wars U.

DC and the New 52 kind of sent me screaming.   The quality of DC hasn't really improved much over the past two years, and it was in the basement with the launch of the New 52.  I recently read that by Spring, DC will have canceled 60 titles since the launch of the New 52, which is an indication that I'm not crazy to think they have some problems and maybe they aren't serving their audience very well.

In the past year, it's safe to say my habit of reading comics has greatly reduced.  At least the reading of new comics.  When I do buy floppies, I collect them for a couple months and read a few at a time, unless it's something that's self-contained.  And I'll talk about what I'm buying as floppies, which isn't much.

The other day I mentioned that I've recently also sold off a huge portion of my collection.  Well over half my stuff has been dispensed with since August, something like 15-20 boxes (short and long), something like 4-5000 comics.  I've also sold a huge number of my action figures, graphic novels and other items.

And - you know - I don't miss them.  I have more than a room full of great stuff that I like and feel like showing off from time to time, and it's a lot more focused than it once was.

So What Happened?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

So, What Have I Been Up To?: Movies in 2013 and 2014

I guess the last time I checked in was just after seeing Man of Steel (2013), and, frankly, if I wasn't already about to bail on blogging for a while prior to seeing the movie, the third reel of Zack Snyder's Super-Opus might have gotten me to throw in the towel.

My movie-going is probably slowed a bit.  That's been partly a monetary decision and a work/life/occasionally-being-home balance issue.  And, I don't feel the need to see everything new that comes to the theater the way I might have once felt.

If you want to get me talking, ask me about this fellow

The curious thing about getting older is the mix of feelings that (1) you aren't really going to miss anything if you miss a movie, even a super popular one, and (2) you've kind of already seen this before in some form or another.  In fact, one of the most baffling things I keep reading is how crazy Guardians of the Galaxy felt, how staggeringly original.  Look, I loved GotG, but "a rag tag group of lovable scoundrels get together and stop a menace/ save the day" hasn't been a fresh idea since before The Magnificent Seven.  And if you need a space version - I point you to a dozen low-budget sci-fi movies from the 80's.  But... I guess they really haven't had one in a while, so it felt new to the current audience.

We'll talk a bit about the changes in audience expectations at some other point, but I saw a newish article today that outright stated that trying something that wasn't a complete cookie cutter picture was "trolling" the audience, that it was the studio's "hubris" to try something that didn't already have widespread pre-awareness, vis-a-vis Guardians of the Galaxy.

Y'all, that's just a @#$%ed up thing to say as a pop culture or movie writer.

As per my movie watching habits: I'm still watching movies off Turner Classic, cable, Alamo Drafthouse screenings of older movies, the Paramount Classic Film Series, BluRay, NetFlix streaming and now Hulu.  The Alamo Drafthouse even hosted Noir City Austin, a multi-day Film Noir Fest with Eddie Mueller.  Lots of channels for taking in movies.  And I've seen some great stuff that way.

And, honestly, I've missed writing about it.  And I miss being able to look at this site and review what I said about a movie I've seen (or even to check if I've already seen something I'm about to watch off cable).

To make the post overly long, I'll go ahead and talk about what new movies I saw in the theater with a sort of quick, judgey statement for each.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Official Signal Watch TL; DR "Man of Steel" Discussion

I went to the midnight show of Man of Steel and returned home in the wee hours.  I left kind of a rambling initial reaction here.  I went to work, I came home.  I've seen the movie again (in 3D IMAX with Simon, Angela and Jamie), and I've had time to process the film much, much more.

And, since that first post, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to approach commentary on the movie.  As this will be one of my final posts going into hiatus, we might as well talk about this movie as the intersection between the two major topics of this blog: film and Superman.



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Superman: The Happiest Fella?

Edit 4/5/2016:  For some reason today I started getting hits to this post today.  On the outside chance anyone is using this post to bolster their argument that the Superman depicted in Man of Steel or Batman v Superman was a-ok:  After I saw Man of Steel opening night at midnight and again about 36 hours later, all of the arguments below regarding why Snyder's Superman portrayal might not be a disaster were thrown out the window.  

Snyder's portrayal of Superman had, at best, a tenuous understanding of the character and his motivations, and the attempts to update the character did not achieve anything in the realm of reality.  Following the mentality of a teenager filtering reality through a PS2, Snyder abandoned the character's path of discovery and, instead, simply blessed him as a tactical weapon.  

While certainly some of what I say below dovetails with Snyder's own arguments for his movies, his execution is a failure.   I sincerely hope anyone who is out there saying this movie really "gets" Superman takes a moment to understand that anyone who has been a fan of Superman since before 2013 heartily disagrees with that assessment.  While there is certainly some of the core of Superman in Man of Steel, the movie, its creators and studio have failed to understand Superman's desire to inspire through deeds and actions, and that is its own reward.  Not the emotionally crippled man-child told by his parents to stay home and play videogames.

The original post begins below:

Just up here in space, smiling at nobody

There have been a lot of posts (hi, Max!) and articles by longtime Superman fans regarding the to-date seemingly somber tone of the new Superman film, Man of Steel.

Folks are worried about a "grim'n'gritty" Superman versus the cheerful fellow who takes delight in his powers that you've seen since Superman's first appearance in Action Comics #1.  That imagery has been a part of the "discovery" part of the story for Superman in one form or another in all sorts of representations, from Superboy comics, to the animated series, to Superman Returns and Superman: The Movie where we see a young Clark Kent running faster than a freight train and beating Brad and the gang back past the Kent homestead.  And, of course, the absolutely terrific "reveal" sequence when Superman saves Lois and then runs around Metropolis saving the day.

Probably the most joyful you're likely to see Superman is in Superman: The Movie after The Man of Steel first appears and then flies around Metropolis performing super good deeds.

In fact, I've gone on record as saying that the key to my understanding of Superman in many ways is the moment wherein he saves Lois, reminds her of the relative safety of air travel, and then turns around and lets loose with this huge grin before flying away:

"Man, I wish she'd fall out of a helicopter EVERY day!"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Calling it now: Everyone will now suddenly like Superman

Firstly, I am totally OK with this.

One does not spend ten years extolling the virtues of Superman and then get pouty when public opinion changes (thanks to the movie.  I'm not taking credit).  I'm not going to decide I don't like Superman because comics fans and the public alike shake off the past couple of decades of proudly proclaiming Batman's a hero and Superman's a zero.  And if people find something to like about Superman: GREAT!

Believe me, having a movie that sells people on Superman is going to make whatever I've been up to the past several years a lot easier to understand, and when it comes to family, friends and co-workers, I can use whatever help I can get.  Hopefully someone will do a follow up with a great Barks/ Rosa Ducks movie and I won't have to explain anything about myself ever again.

This all hinges on Man of Steel being a watchable film, and the trailers are pretty promising.  I have a strong feeling that even if the movie is not my cup of tea, the groundwork is already there to get people thinking about Superman a lot differently.

what are they looking at?  Where are they?


So, I just ran across an opinion piece at Comic Book Resources in which the writer points to various comics released over the past decade and, in my opinion, has found "his Superman".  No doubt a discriminating reader of comics, what with having a column and at least one podcast about comics, this writer finally found a way to "get" Superman.  He's got his in.

And, in many, ways, that's sort of what it takes.  If you can't find a point of accessibility, why would you like the character?

Not only is Superman one of the longest running characters in fiction, he's appeared in so many media over the years, the character has become this wall of iconography that's criss-crossed generations, nations, etc...  The very constancy of the character's omnipresence in culture, his association with comics, his occasional guest appearances, etc... all can lead to a belief that you gave the character a shot but you were too smart for what Superman was selling.  I know!  I've been there.  See yesterday's post on my era as an X-reader.  Couldn't get me to touch a Superman comic back then.