Monday, July 23, 2012

I completely forgot to post for Monday - Norma Shearer makes an appearance

I've been trying to figure out Spotify again, dealing with iTunes, messing with the pets, talking to Randy about Dark Knight Rises, looking at the Twitters and generally wasting time.

So, in the meantime, here's the great Norma Shearer.

that, people, is how your rock a look

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

I'm considering this post a "first take" review.  I'm stating that now partially because I do plan to see the movie again in the theater (and likely many times in the future) and partially because I've already seen how this plays out for me trying to talk about a Nolan movie on the first go-round and pretending like I got everything.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) has a tremendous amount of territory to cover, and contains a terribly ambitious film that I think, did modern movies not get capped at 2.5 hours as a run-time, could easily have fleshed itself out a bit more and run an even 3 hours or longer.  The movie has the task of laying out it's own story, giving a conclusion that satisfactorily resolves character arcs and plot threads from prior films, and digging far deeper into the thematic elements of the prior movies.

From a content standpoint, of course it's a mishmash of the entire scope of this thing we call "Batman", with the movie seeming to borrow plot from a few different bat-sources, including Knightfall, Batman: The Cult, The Dark Knight Returns and from No Man's Land- stories from different Bat-eras and varying Bat-creators, and but all sharing central motifs of a lost city.  But, that said, Nolan has managed to very much craft a new story, making this final installment feel very much like a section or book within the book and less like an episode.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Signal Re-Watch: The Dark Knight (2008)

Friday evening pal JuanD brought over his dog, Levi, to join Jamie and I for our pre-Dark Knight Rises screening of The Dark Knight (2008).  I mention Juan not just because Juan is a terrific fellow, but because our post-screening discussion should really warrant him a co-writer credit on this post.

I'm not very fond of my original review of the movie from 2008, and was sharing with Juan how I was so rattled by the movie's very existence that it took a viewing or two more to begin to appreciate everything Nolan was trying to accomplish, and that, in many ways, the best way to watch these movies is to turn off everything I know about Batman (which is a lot, and runs near constantly as a background subroutine) and instead come at the film as if I weren't playing comics-fan-connect-the-dots.  At some point it may be more useful to start looking at the movie as employing archetypes to relate a fable of duality on an operatic scale.  Chaos vs. Order.  Liberty vs. Security.  Lies vs. Truth.  Personal Duty vs. Public Duty.

all that and a motorcycle that goes VROOOM!  VROOOOOOM!  VROOOOOOOOOOM!!!!

You can feel a great leap in the quality of the film from Batman Begins during the first scene of Dark Knight, and the decision to dump the studio backlot feel of the previous Gotham for the very real streets of Chicago shot in punchy, deep focus, free of the filters and mood enhancers that dominated the look of the first movie.  And it's that realism and stepping away from the comic page that seems to give the movie some it's immediacy and edge.  Gotham is Chicago in this film - lived in and real, not a set made to look dank.

It Begins. Two "Man of Steel" Teaser Trailers Arrive.

We're sticking through this blogging thing at least until the release of 2013's Man of Steel.  And we're seriously considering a blow-out party for the release, so start booking your flights now.

Keep in mind, this movie just finished shooting and has 11 months of post-production to deal with, so all they can do at this time is show footage that doesn't require a lot of CGI, etc...

This is not what was shown at Comic-Con, which included an extra 30 seconds or so of action-y type scenes.

The music, as I understand it, is from The Thin Red Line.  This also confirms what I'd heard about Clark's post-high school voyage to become a salty seaman.  It's not comics canon, but nothing really is anymore.

These are two different trailers - one with the voice of Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and one from Jor-El (Russell Crowe) - following the path left by Glen Ford and Marlon Brando.

In reviewing the origin of Superman, it's impossible not to see the connections between fathers and sons, and that became the overriding theme of 2006's Superman Returns.

But it's also the story of what it means to send all your hopes and dreams sailing across the cosmos in rocket.   Or to look at what you have a chance to shape as you look at the future through the eyes of the boy in front of you.

Looking forward to seeing more footage, especially after that last shot.

Friday, July 20, 2012

On the events in Colorado at the screening of "The Dark Knight Rises"

You see the phrase "we are saddened" expressed by PR wings when a tragedy strikes.  We can read between the lines and know that in many cases, the employees of the company may well be saddened, but the need to create a quick press release that admits participation while denying culpability is at the core of the statement.

But today, I am actually and truly saddened by the events at the screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Auroroa, Colorado.  As of this writing, what information I have found states that 12 to 13 people are dead, and many more wounded.  A gunman took the opportunity presented by a darkened theater and a room full of people with their attention elsewhere, and he took it upon himself to unleash horror.  Words fail me.

I arrived at work in a Batman t-shirt today and had not checked the news aside from the weather report.  Jim, the manager at the coffee shop, is a former comic geek (and now a barista by day and a reservist soldier on the weekend.  Great guy.) asked me if I was wearing the shirt "because of Colorado".  And then he saw my blank stare.  "You haven't heard..."  And he explained what he knew to me.

I'm not buttoning up the sport shirt I'm wearing over the bat symbol.  Batman didn't kill these people.  And despite my misgivings about some of the messaging about Batman and taking the law into one's owns hands that I expressed yesterday, part of why I think I can continue to embrace Batman as symbol is that Batman is , at the end of the day, a statement of defiance against cruelty and terror.  I haven't seen the final installment of the trilogy, but I can say that in mining the Batman mythos of the past 70 years, what Christopher Nolan dug up was the ability of a man to confront fear and let it pass over him and through him and let it become nothing.  In Dark Knight, we saw what seeming chaos looks like as a man wants to watch the world burn, and the choices we can make, even supposedly the worst of us, in those moments where we're put to the test - whether we give in to fear - those moments matter for all of us.

So, I put on the shirt with a smile on my face when I got dressed today, but now I'm wearing the shirt in mourning.  And, if I'm allowed to use the word, in defiance.

Be prepared for American politics to go crazy today talking about how the other side made this possible.  But those are cowards seeking an opportunity.  Nobody made this crazy person pick up guns or smoke bombs.  This was a person looking for an excuse and an opportunity.  This is when we decide how we'll react, and how we choose to respond shows who we really are.

Today we should be looking to Colorado not for answers, nor for blame, but out of respect for the dead and wounded.  I am very truly saddened, and I am very truly sorry.

Prep for Dark Knight Rises: How to Keep This Movie from Bombing

Well, clearly only one man can save us!

for the most fulfilling 2:34 of cinema you will ever see in your life:

That there's not an 8-Bit game of this scene absolutely blows my mind.

So, this weekend, go to your local cinema and join Batman as he saves Gotham from the vile machinations of yet another super villain!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: The Third Man (1949)

First of all:  Nathan, I'm sorry.  You told me, and I just got lazy.  And now I have finally seen The Third Man (1949).

I've been intending to watch this movie since I saw Heavenly Creatures in the theater, but somehow it never happened.  That doesn't mean I haven't seen Birdemic five times in the interim, and hopefully that informs why my new policies regarding movie watching are about trying to rectify some past sins of omission.

Suffice it to say, I throw myself at the mercy of the folks who would tut-tut me for having never seen this movie before.  I am sorry.  But I have now seen it.

So, I think last summer's "Oh my God" movie was The Hustler.  You hear the names of these movies, and you catch them, and if it's a 50 or 70 year old movie people are still discussing, there's usually a reason why the audience hasn't let the movie go like the hundreds of others that came out around the same time.  But, as with all narratives (or, perhaps, art...  a word I sort of balk at using around here because...  gnngh.), you can recognize quality without something necessarily fitting neatly in your wheelhouse not really resonating with you on a any personal level.  And those are things that are hard to quantify in discussing movies.

Neil DeGrasse-Tyson Helps Confirm What I Already Knew

That the original USS Enterprise is an amazing starship.

thanks to Jordan for the video and link.

Apparently this was a fun panel at SDCC 2012 in which a bunch of folks have a sort of spirited but mock debate over whether this or that geek item is better. Tyson was attending the Con, but he was simply attending in the audience for this panel. However, one does not simply just have Neil Tyson in the room and not have him weigh in on matters of import such as "which spaceship is the coolest?".

Prep for Dark Knight Rises: I May Love Batman, But It's a Complicated Thing

I love Batman.  I do.  Most importantly, Batman has always been with me, and Batman will be around in some form long after I'm worm food.  Whether the idea will endure like Arthurian legend or disappear like so many other pulp characters, I can't say.  I do occasionally imagine a future in which it's a bit of trivia where people find out that the stories of Batman and Superman originated in comic books, their roots in the pages of comics long since lost the way, say, Paul Bunyan's legend spread as part of an ad campaign.

But as I grow older, I move further and further from a place where the repetition of the stories in the comics has appeal and find myself in a place where the character works better for me in movies or in the occasional graphic novel or some such.  While the comics kind of make a joke about it and ask the reader to engage in willing suspension of disbelief, after reading Batman comics since the mid-80's, it's hard not to notice that whatever state Gotham is located in has done a simply terrible job of managing its prisons and mental health care, and that the people of the state seem to have an incredibly low bar for what they expect their politicians to do about the fact that a clown-faced killer routinely exits a supposedly high-security mental institution under his own recognizance.

somehow this movie did not feed my need for believability in my superhero franchise movie
There's the small matter of child endangerment that's hard enough to ignore on the first go-round, but by Robin #5 (2 of whom have been "killed"), one would expect Superman would take Batman aside and suggest he give the kid sidekick idea a rest for a while.

There's the whole "how has nobody figured out that Bruce Wayne is Batman" thing, especially once you add in the "youthful wards" that keep rotating through Wayne Manor, placing Man-Bat on the things that feel more likely to happen than Bruce to not be considered the Michael Jackson of the DC Universe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Movie Watch Checkbox: Shup Up and Play the Hits (2012)

I'll be brief.

I attended the screening for LCD Soundsystem's farewell concert film Shut Up and Play the Hits, and while the film delivered and will be lovely on your home entertainment system, the crowd at the Alamo South Lamar and the odd decision to let the audience act like obnoxious hipsters at a club inanely chatting throughout the film was a major @#$%ing letdown.

They've already received my pissy email.  And responded.  Apparently they were having a terrible night with that crowd, too.

There's not much to say about a concert film, and you're either a fan of LCD Soundsystem or you're not, so there's that.  There are two framing pieces.  1)  A crew follows Murphy around on the day after the concert, the day after he's put his band to rest.  2)  Chuck Klosterman interviews James Murphy, and it's a pretty solid, getting under the skin Chuck Klosterman sort of conversation.

The focus is entirely on Murphy, which does feel odd as, whether he wrote all the parts or not, he did tour with the rest of these people.  But perhaps that wasn't what they wanted to focus on.  Nobody gets a sub-titled explanation of who they are.  You either know who Arcade Fire is when they show up, or you don't.  I didn't recognize some people the film seemed to think I would, and Matt mentioned to me that Johnny Marr was in the film when we walked out.  Who knew?

Anyway, mostly I'm going to miss LCD Soundsystem and any future albums they might have created.  Oh, well.