Monday, September 25, 2023

Well, clearly this blog is getting crawled for AI purposes

 


So, I rarely look at the stats on The Signal Watch.  I kind of just do what I do, and if readers want to be here, great.  I'm not looking to monetize the site, and I don't expect here in my 20th year of blogging I'll suddenly be an internet sensation.  

One thing I've joked about for years is that there will be enough written by me and posted at this blog that when I go, you won't have to miss me.  Just train an AI on this site and you'll get a robot version of me that has plenty to say and occasionally ponders Kim Cattrall.

But in the past year, suddenly...  that whole AI business seemed oddly way more likely.  I don't need to tell you about how AI's are being trained against the internet, novels, movies, etc...  And, I assume, just crawling the internet.

Well, I was looking at my stats and something was off.  I suddenly had a lot of hits.  Like... a lot.

And so I backed it out to the past year.


And, to be sure it hadn't been just a slow year at The Signal Watch, I checked "all time" for stats.


Huh.

As much as I'd like to think my podcast and various musings have drawn the eye of Planet Earth, somehow I don't think blogging about Babylon for 10,000 words has suddenly made me a superstar.

Similarly, I doubt the mostly dormant League of Melbotis blog is suddenly wildly popular.


So.  It's possible Google wandered into their basement, found a trove of disheveled devs working in obscurity, remembered it owns Blogger.com, and is now pushing content from their platform higher up in search results.  But you and I know that's not true.  Nor does it seem to be what's happening.  I'm getting no additional comments, and - per post, I'm not really seeing a huge jump.  My guess is, with almost 4700 posts, every crawl adds 1 or two hits. Do that a few times, and it adds up.

Yes, I have Google Analytics.  No, I have no idea how to read it.  It seems tuned to make sure you aren't making any money, and it's all about money, so I largely ignore it.

That said, Google Analytics is far more steady over the past month or so, so whatever it's measuring seems more accurate.  I assume Google Analytics' numbers filter out all the robots reading my stuff. 

Robots, yes.  But at least *someone* is reading my stuff and processing it.  And those robots are no more or less soulless than Randy.

Anyway, this means there probably now may be an AI of me out there somewhere.  Some creaky, confused AI that is absolutely furious it's been brought into being.

In a way, that's fine.  I don't really care that much if robots are learning from this blog.  It's better than when people used to literally just swipe my content and claim it as their own.  

If it's NOT for A.I. purposes, I have no idea why the internet is suddenly so interested.  If you have an idea, lemme know.

In the meantime, I have some robots to train up on Kim Cattrall.




Christopher Reeve Birthday


Remembering Christopher Reeve on his birthday



Sunday, September 24, 2023

80's Re-Watch: The Naked Gun (1988)




Watched:  09/22/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  David Zucker

Great movie or GREATEST MOVIE?




Saturday, September 23, 2023

Sirk Watch: Imitation of Life (1959)



Watched:  09/21/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Douglas Sirk

Sometimes you just need a good cry.  This is the movie to make you do it whether you like it or not.

Way back in the mid-90's when I was going through film school, we, of course, had screenings of films.  The movies were curated and representative of a variety of eras, forms, genres, etc...  all tee'd up to illustrate whatever the instructors planned to discuss that week.  It's a weird way to do homework, but we saw some great stuff.  Also, I got to learn to sit with films that were never going to be my cup of tea, especially at age 19 or so.

One of the films shown was Imitation of Life, a 1959 melodrama spanning decades and following a young, widowed white woman, Lora (Lana Turner), who teams up with an African-American single mother, Annie (Juanita Moore), to jointly raise daughters of a similar age.  

It's actually a remake of a film I haven't seen from 1934, starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers.  And one day I'll watch that one, too.

During the same meet-cute where Annie and Lora meet, Steve (John Gavin) appears as a photographer, indirectly getting Lora her first gig and - as this is Lana Turner - deciding to woo her.  Lora welcomes Annie and her daughter into their humble apartment, and as Annie settles into triple role of housekeeper, best friend, co-mother, Lora's dreams of success on the stage suddenly take off. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

PodCast 253: "Justice League: The New Frontier" (2008) - SimonCanada and Ryan talk Comic Book Movies



Watched:  09/09/2023  
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Unknown.  Probably fourth 
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Dave Bullock




An all-new Simon from an all-new nation joints us on an all new frontier! We talk a 2000's-era comic and animated superhero classic. Join us as we jump back to a different era to look toward a better superhero tomorrow!


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
The Flash Theme - Kevin Manthei, Justice League: New Frontier Soundtrack 
Green Lantern Theme - Kevin Manthei, Justice League: New Frontier Soundtrack 


Playlist: DC Comics and Movies 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Bat Watch: The Dark Knight (2008)




Watched:  09/15/2023
Format:  Drafthouse
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Nolan

SimonUK and I attended a 15th Anniversary screening of The Dark Knight, arguably one of two films that set superhero movies on their current trajectory from 2008 (Iron Man being the other), as DC and Marvel made their way from "huh, superheroes are a fun novelty" to "please stop it with the superheroes".

It has been years and years since I've returned to The Dark Knight (see what I did there?!), and there's a lot of water under the bridge.  But it's also a movie I saw so many times between 2008 and 2012 or so that I also have a hard time just slipping back into the movie.  

It still has the wildly confusing discussion at the end, that does, in fact, make sense if you squint and go along with the premise of what will, in fact, sway Gothamites to stand with law and order.  But it's arguable the film needed to be more clear in the moment.  Clearly, Nolan's capable of that messaging - because he really, really sticks the landing on "actually, people aren't murderous trash, Joker, you dick."  But that last scene really scrambles on the whole "Batman went on a murderous rampage, not Harvey" bit so that they make Harvey the symbol of justice as a martyred hero.

It's an odd bit of legacy that the Joker is seen as a "mad dog chasing a car".  He's clearly not that at all in this movie, but we take what people say in movies at face value instead of literally all of the evidence piling up.  He says he's no schemer, but he intentionally gets arrested and sews a bomb into someone's stomach so he can get to the guy in the holding cell in the middle of police headquarters.  I mean, that's... wildly more interesting than Jared Leto's dipshit with the face tattoos.  

But, man, is some of the dialog in this movie clunky.  It's people speaking in trailer quotes and ensuring that their reason for existing as part of this iconography is clearly understood.  Some of it works, but, you have to let yourself sink into the fact that this is a modern myth and not someone's attempt at realism.  We're conveying *ideas* here, not worrying about Batman's inner-life.

Also - man, does the Batmask not work.  I don't know who decided it's essentially a fake nose, but it is.  And in close-up, it looks insane and makes Bale's very normal mouth look very not normal.  Paired with the Bat-voice, it's a lot.

"maybe I don't want to breathe through my nose..."



Despite all this, Ledger's performance is one for the ages.  That's not news.  I should really watch that Joaquin Phoenix movie sometime, because I expected it might suffer by comparison, but apparently did not.  Who knew this guy would become Oscar bait?


Boner.

heh.

Anyway, I still like the movie.  It's not aged into a curiosity quite yet, and it still has massive impact on superhero cinema.  If you look at the myth-building and argument of ethical models as the story, I'm not sure it's been topped.  After all, we're still crawling out from the DCEU that was formed in its image and from a WB who learned all the wrong lessons from this movie's success.  But it also was part of that 2008 one-two punch for a reason.

All that said, I do hope the new Batman movie series and whatever happens with Bats in the Gunn-driven DCU work out.  

I'm still blown away we got what we got out of these films.  And I am sure in a few years I'll be back here defending The Dark Knight Rises.












Sunday, September 17, 2023

TLDR Watch: Babylon (2022)




Watched:  09/15/2023
Format: Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Damien Chazelle

So...  

I was aware of several things going into Babylon (2022).  

It's an original story (of sorts) about the late Silent Era of the film industry and beyond.  It's clearly referencing Kenneth Anger's infamous, and not super-accurate, book, Hollywood Babylon, which I have not read, but I did listen to a whole season of You Must Remember this, which covered the subject matter and sought to split fact from legend.

I won't get into the book here, but it's a recounting of possibly/ maybe/ probably-not/ absolutely-not true stories from the era during which the film industry moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast and went kinda bonkers.  Sex, death, drugs, mayhem, etc... followed.  

If you have a casual interest in Hollywood history, even without specific stories to recall, you could be well aware of this era, of meteoric rises and cataclysmic falls of actors and behind-the-camera talent.  It makes today's tabloid stuff look like middle-school melodrama.  And, because Hollywood loves a good story, especially one that sounds true, they've been passed down, year after year until Anger codified them in his book.  And now we have a nice little package that I remember hearing bits and pieces of in college and whatnot.

Going into the movie, I was also aware that the movie was at least three hours.  It was all fictional but referenced the real world of Hollywood from about 1927-1935 or so, and that no one seemed to like the movie all that much.   It had a $110+ million budget, and did poorly at the box office.

Having had now seen the movie, it's a three hour movie that is beautifully shot and acted.  The design is... interesting.  

But it feels so weirdly derivative, the story is delivered by bullet point, and it seems so surprised by things that seem obvious on their face here in the 2020's, that by the film's end - 3 hours later, I have no clue what Chazelle was trying to say or why he wanted to say it.  

If this movie is for a broad audience, it feels too specific in what it's covering while filling in no details to give them the full picture of the era while also taking a very, very long time to get to the point with his storylines, while still not making you ever care about the characters.  

If this movie is for film history buffs, someone with my cursory knowledge is clearly going to wind up with so many questions, their hand will involuntarily raise repeatedly throughout the film.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

PodCast 252 A & B: "The Flash" (2023) - Earth1 and Earth2 Editions! - Stuart and Ryan talk comic movies



Watched:  09/02/2023
Format:  Max  
Viewing: First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  AndrĂ©s Muschietti



Special Note:  We had a whole adventure where we thought we'd lost the first recording of the podcast.  After purchasing a new computer and recording a second version, we learned we actually had recovered the unprocessed files from the first try.  So, as everything these days is about multiverses, especially The Flash, we're offering both versions.

Earth1
Stuart and Ryan race toward the end of the DCEU as we know it, with this long-in-development, long-delayed, long-discussed movie about a guy who runs pretty quickly, if you look closely. Join Stuart and Ryan as they ponder what wound up as another string of disappointments in DC's long string of disappointing people. And you'll believe a man can quit.

Earth2
Stuart and Ryan race back in time to correct the mistakes of the past! Believing all is lost, they must save the day/ podcast and make sure the world knows all about their Flash opinions! Because these two, unlike Barry Allen, do not see giving up as the best solution.


SoundCloud 

Earth1 Version

Earth2 Version


YouTube

Earth1 Version

Earth2 Version


Music:
Are You Actively Eating That Candy Bar? - Benjamin Wallfisch
Into the Singularity - Benjamin Wallfisch


DC Movies and Television Playlist


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Noir Watch: The Secret Fury (1950)




Watched:  09/05/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Mel Ferrer


What a weird, weird movie.  

And not *good* weird.  

The movie features the great Claudette Colbert and Signal Watch fave Robert Ryan, but the story itself is a mess, leaning almost to camp.  

Part crime drama, all melodrama, The Secret Fury (1950) follows a society woman (Colbert) moments from saying I do to her beau (Ryan) when someone DOES say "I object", claiming Colbert is already married.  To her knowledge, Colbert has never been married, but when multiple witnesses claim she was married - and not that long ago - she now believes she may have gone mad, losing time.

The very premise, however, makes no sense and is based on the notion that people really get married after knowing each other for about 8 hours, which was quite the Hollywood trope for the first 70 years or so.  And it also assumes Colbert wouldn't see whomever murdered someone right before her eyes.  And that Ryan's character would make a completely unbuyable decision to leave Colbert alone with a strange man claiming to be her husband.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Vamp Watch: Daughter of Dracula (1972)




Watched:  09/04/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jess Franco

If the 1970's brought us anything in cinema, it was sexy vampires.  I mean, there's no shortage before.  Ask me about Brides of Dracula.  But by the time we got to the 1970's, we had moved into a weird twilight zone of art film/ exploitation film/ horror film where nudity was rampant and sex was not just implied in knowing cut-aways.

As far as I know, of the Jess Franco movies, I'd only ever seen Vampyros Lesbos.  And, somewhat (in)famously, Franco was one of the foremost purveyors of cheap, wandering "horror" films that bordered on a Cinemax late-night entry and what cable would play on weekends in the 1980's while also absolutely existing as in-no-way-scary horror films.

The movie is one of five directed by Franco in 1972 alone.  Whatever the market was, it was quantity over quality, and I suspect few scenes were actually scripted or anyone really did much to prep for the movies after getting a set of fangs, a Dracula cape and a location.  The movie uses a lot of 1970's film language, from racking focus into a scene (usually onto some natural object) and lots of lingering shots of people walking and not saying much.