Friday, November 16, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Toy Story 2 (1999)

By 1999, "Buzz" and "Woody" had become household names.  It would be another three years before I'd be skipping out on a day of a conference at Disneyland and stop short, realizing that the two characters were as cemented in the minds of most people as Mickey and Donald when 6'5" versions of Buzz and Woody wandered past me at the Happiest Place on Earth.

In 1999, the sequel to Toy Story arrived and was met with a sort of exclamation point of surprise that somehow - against all expectations - a beloved kid's movie had turned in a sequel that was its own story/ film and which pushed the characters forward with genuine narrative purpose.

There's a certain existential undertone to the Toy Story movies that this film acknowledges, and which the 3rd film fully realizes: toys are a disposable part of a human lifecycle and toys are at the mercy of the giants above them.  Childhood doesn't last forever, and children one day put away toys.  The theme is tied in with the idea presented in the second installment in unwanted fourth wheel toy "The Prospector" who never had an opportunity to be loved by a child, sitting on a shelf somewhere, unsold.

But the toy that's been loved and abandoned?  It tells us that sooner or later, all toys meet a tragic fate of some sort or other.

Signal Watch Watches: Superman Returns (2006)

I had a lot at stake when Superman Returns arrived in theaters in 2006, and I was very disappointed it performed so poorly in the theater.  By "poorly", it made hundreds of millions of dollars, but it didn't make the Avengers-type dollars Warner Bros. was hoping for.  In fact, after the film was in discount bins on DVD, the then-president of WB said in court that Superman's value as a property was questionable.

The biggest problem with the movie, I suspect, is that it is not a movie about Superman trying to find a bad guy so he can punch him until he stops being the bad guy.  Ie:  It's not an action film.  I have no doubt this mis-step will be corrected when Henry Cavill puts on the cape in theaters this summer.  We're not going to see Zod in a movie without a pretty good slug-fest in the third act.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Trying Not To Be Dead: I have been sick a lot this year

Well, I am sick again.

It's been a strange year.  It used to be that I'd get one bug for two or three days per year, then be back up on my feet.  The past twelve months, if I haven't been sick, I've been injured or had some other issue.  This go-round the symptoms appeared at a particularly bad time as I was about to get on a plane to Lubbock, then drive 100 miles to Canyon, TX, do a major presentation, then turn around and drive back to Lubbock, then present again this morning.

I pulled it off.  I have no idea what I said for the three hours I presented yesterday or during the meeting with Texas Tech today, but I think I kept it together.

Mostly I feel bad for the hotel staff who will walk into the Hot Zones I've left behind in two hotels I stayed in, and a bit for whomever gets the rental car I had.  Those things are germy time bombs.  That's not to mention the two airplane rides where I have no doubt I was patient zero.  Who knows when I was first contagious?  Maybe leaving Tallahassee.

Anyway, I will set a new rule for myself:  if I think I might be coming down with something like that, I'm rescheduling.  Sitting in a hotel room with no meds but NyQuil and Afrin and watching syndicated reruns on TBS is no way to be.

I do feel marginally better this evening.  I'm hoping a night of solid sleep that I'm hoping for will help.

I had already taken a few weeks off from working out with all this travel, etc...  and I was really looking forward to getting back into it.  But now I get to wait a few days again.  And then Thanksgiving...

Here's to figuring out how to stay healthier in 2013.

Signal Watch Watches: Toy Story (1995)

I straight up love the Toy Story franchise, and its taken no small amount of willpower not to start collecting the many, many Toy Story items one can buy at Target.

Yes, the animation from the first installment doesn't always hold up as well as I'd like, but everything about the script, direction and voice acting still works as well today as it did the first time I saw the movie.

Speaking of - so I was in film school in 1995, and my roommate had a bad Thanksgiving break.  I don't remember specifics, but she'd gotten into some tiff with the family.  We went up to the film lab to work on our project and then decided we'd go see this Toy Story thing as it was 9:00 Sunday night and the kids would be skipping that screening as school started in the morning.

The place was still packed.  Curious college kids and others were there, and it was a surprisingly great movie.  But in the mid-90's, there were a lot of surprises when it came to kids' movies.  This was right around when I was telling people "Y'all got to go see this movie, Babe".*  And I knew who Pixar was.  I'd seen some of their shorts.  I just had expected it to have that same hacky vibe one got from all of the installments in the The Santa Clause series.  Harmless, perhaps, but not exactly anything you'd actually recommend to anyone.

But Pixar got it right.  The movie had real character in its made-up world of talking toys, and real things at stake for the characters and even for the unsuspecting Andy.  And the great thing was - they didn't make sequels until they had something to say.  Toy Story 2 built on the world from the first movie and showed us the worst fears of a toy come to life - but kept Jessie's story startlingly human.  And the third film started with the scariest threat of all, only to find the highest highs in any of the three films.

Anyway, I'm a fan.  It's popular entertainment at its best.  We can save the technical discussion for another day.

*If you have anything bad to say about either Babe movie, I will fight you with a pitchfork

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thing not to do:

leave for a three day road trip when you wake up before your flight thinking "I might have a cold.  Oh, well, how bad could it get?"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

TX Panhandle, TX Secession and the Freakout in Comic Culture over CosPlay Girls

For some reason, I am in the Texas Panhandle.

It's work related.  In theory, I should be home in 48 hours.

It is safe to say I am about done with the schedule I've been on for the past 6 weeks or so and the Thanksgiving Holiday cannot really come fast enough.  I could really use some time just laying very still while someone else makes cornbread stuffing and lets me silently appreciate the Rockettes during their number at the Macy's Parade.

if loving the Rockettes is wrong, I don't want to be right

TX Secession

I know it made headlines, but the petition sent to the White House and chatter about Texas seceding is all that it is.  Chatter.  The petition doesn't have enough signatures to fill half of DKR Memorial Stadium, and a whole lot of those aren't from Texas.  I expect that in the years to come "secession" will be the pouty rallying cry of Texans wishing they could take their ball and go home when things don't go the way of insignificant politians from scrubby, backwater towns in The Lone Star State (seriously, press, stop giving these people a megaphone).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Signal Reads: Superman - Earth One Volume 2


I wasn't much of a fan of the first volume of the Superman: Earth One concept when announced or when I read it.  In fact, I was more than mildly annoyed when I finished reading the first volume.

Then, of course, we've had the New 52, which made the Earth One reboot equal parts moot, confusing, and a reminder of Dan Didio's flailing of the past decade as Batman: Earth One and this volume found their way to the shelf.

After a year of rotating writers on Superman (somehow deciding that Scott Lobdell was going to solve somebody's problems), and Grant Morrison's non-linear approach to Action Comics, neither book has done much to establish a real status quo for Superman, give readers a sense of background or origin, or not just completely depend on readers knowing everything about Superman from the pre-New 52 reboot in order to function.

So, at least the Earth One books strive to take on the tricky task of starting at the beginning and standing on their own two feet.

Signal Reads: The Rare Coin Score (1967)

This is the 9th Parker novel, and while I enjoyed the 8th novel, The Handle, it didn't feel as strong as prior efforts.  With a dozen more Parker books to go, I was a bit nervous that at some point, possibly due to the prolific nature of dimestore writing, if Stark had found his pattern and was sticking to it.  While The Seventh had its moments, I was definitely feeling a pattern (and I loved the ending of The Seventh).

This book breaks the mold a bit as its the first book in a while to deal not just with Parker's internal working as an operator, but The Rare Coin Score (1967) introduces Claire, who I understand is Parker's romantic partner in future books - and thus a bit of character development we haven't seen before.  That said:  Romance being a relative term in the Parker novels.

As a collector myself, the idea of someone taking advantage of a "Con", to pull a heist of rare and valuable items all in one place, definitely resonated.  Not to mention that the insider, Billy, is an excellent stand-in for some of the collector population of man-boys that find a home in a collector community but can't help but want to exploit what he sees around him.  Of course, once he's dealing with pros, he's terribly out of his league.

I am returned, briefly. Also, Jason's front page story.

I just got back from visiting family in Tallahassee, Florida where a good chunk of my relatives dwell.  Nice weekend, great town.  It's a blur at this point.

Tuesday I depart for the northwesterly regions of Texas, and will return Thursday.  And I sort of refuse to travel again until after Christmas.

By the way, Jason was on the front page of the Austin American-Statesman!  As some of you know, my brother is a prosecutor in Travis County, Texas.  As such, he does sometimes put away bad guys or deal with crooks, but the last few years he's been working in a Veterans' Court assisting former service men and women who are having issues, primarily associated with PTSD.

there's ol' Beard-Face himself on the left, making JUSTICE
You can read the story here, which doesn't really mention Jason or his role, but it's all about his office.