Saturday, May 28, 2016
I did not love every living word and panel of DC's mea culpa in comic form, but it made me realize how long it has been since I've read a new comic book from DC and didn't feel like I needed to just put it down and walk away. If Rebirth succeeded on any level - it did not make me kind of sad while I was reading it, nor think "well, this is what they're doing these days, and the kids seem to like it, so I guess this is DC Comics now". I got to just mostly enjoy a DC Comic, even enjoy the familiar frustration of "well, now how is THAT going to work?" as I looked at some of what the book was pitching as the new direction for DC Comics publishing line.
It's been a few days, so I really don't think I need to explain what Rebirth is, except to my brother - so, Jason: That New 52 thing I've been whining about the past few years? Turns out sales have been plummeting line-wide for DC since the first year or so, and they've decided that maybe they went too far in the "grim n' gritty" comics direction, and now they're remembering that the idea behind superheroes is that they're a force for positive change. So, starting here, DC is trying to wrap up the New 52 as a direction for the publishing line while remaining basically in continuity. They'll start by renumbering most series (again) and remember that it's kind of a bummer to read about people in tights running about feeling miserable every second of the day, so, maybe stop with the endless Pyrrhic victories and mopey heroes.
The "Rebirth" brand at DC was never one of rebooting. In both Flash Rebirth and Green Lantern Rebirth, continuity remained intact, but DC brought back longstanding characters and principles to characters and concepts that had strayed from the sort of Platonic ideal of those characters. In Flash, we saw the return of Barry Allen full time for the first time since Crisis on Infinite Earths. Wally, Bart, Jay and everyone else would be around, but Barry was our focal Flash - complete with a new backstory that didn't reflect the pre-Crisis DCU continuity (Nora Allen was murdered). Green Lantern saw the return of Hal Jordan to the land of the living, the Parallax storyline transmogrified into epic space opera that spun out the colored rings. Both of these I enjoyed.
Rebirth is not another Crisis. It seems to be retaining the New 52 continuity, so far anyway, and is really not so much an answer as a gigantic question mark both from a story and editorial perspective. Or, rather, a series of questions marks or possible paths for all of us who walked away from DC to consider what teasers from the books we'd be interested in pursuing with our dollars.
Everything from here below contains spoilers. You're on your own if you keep reading.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
I don't believe Steve Rogers has secretly been pulling the wool over our eyes or Marvel's hero who just raked in a billion dollars at the box office has actually been an Agent of Hydra all along or whatever it is Tom Brevoort, Marvel's personal Salacious Crumb, said to the New York Times.
Yes, Captain America was designed by two Jewish guys to punch Hitler in the face, and, yes, of course, if Marvel were actually turning him into a villain longterm, it'd be kinda gross. But, y'know, comics. I'm pretty sure it's some usual sci-fi comics monkeyshines, Cosmic Cube business or time travel or whatnot, and by tale's end, we'll all be back to normal.
What I'm irritated about is that I can't actually remember the last time I read a good Steve Rogers story about Steve Rogers being Steve Rogers. Don't worry - it's not limited to Steve Rogers - I'm pretty sure DC hasn't had Superman as Superman in an in-continuity comic in at least four years, and before that we had Superman walking America (Grounded Part 1 = garbage, Grounded Part 2 = pretty darn good), Superman not being Superman for a year in the comics because New Krypton, Superman with no powers... And, if I never felt like the New 52 Superman was Superman, well, it seems like DC is set to confirm that suspicion).
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
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, May 22, 2016
Due to work-related needs, I only attended the first double-bill of the day the Noir City Austin 2016.
I want to thank the Film Noir Foundation, Alamo Drafthouse Ritz and Austin Film Society for making this year something I wish I had planned for much, much better. Because what I was able to attend was absolutely fantastic, well planned and curated.
And, of course, once again thank Eddie Muller for being such a terrific host and guide through the world of film noir, film history and fantastic historian in his own right. People will be relying on his work for decades to come.
The two films they showed at mid-day were pure film noir, and as had been programmed in the double-bills all series, an A and B picture. I was a big fan of both of these films, neither of which I'd seen before. And that's much of the fun of Noir City. Yesterday I was talking to the guy sitting next to me when he asked if I was a fan of film noir or classic film. And I said "well, yeah, but, honestly, I hate to claim any expertise. I feel like no matter how much I've seen, there's an endless amount of content I haven't seen."
The Dark Corner (1946) is a just-post-war private dick film, starring Mark Stevens as a clear nod to the Philip Marlowe type, a sort of rusted Galahad in a fedora who maybe gets too personally involved in his cases. His Gal Friday is played by a pre-comedienne Lucille Ball, and she's actually sharply witty in this movie, and steals a lot of spotlight from her co-star. But, as I may have mentioned before, I find "sultry Lucy" kind of an odd concept after spending a lifetime thinking of her as Mrs. Ricardo, but there it is.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
I was intending to pace myself during Noir City Austin, but I wound up getting paced by external forces. The gameplan for today was to skip the morning shows, sleep in, walk the dogs, go to movies for a few hours in a row, be home around 10:30 this evening.
So, I made it out for the 3:00 - 6:15 double-bill of Flesh and Fantasy (1943) and Destiny (1944), and Jamie had even come to meet me for the 6:45 show of Scarlet Street, but during Destiny, I started getting an upset stomach - which I think was from just a combo of things I ate - and I was all sweaty and clammy and wasn't sure how I was doing, so we went home and I made her watch Criss-Cross instead.
But, man, the double-bill I did catch was pretty terrific, even if Noir Czar Eddie Muller admitted, it wasn't really noir, but more of a rare opportunity to catch a couple of films that aren't really in release anywhere, and that we were watching new prints from Universal.
Flesh and Fantasy (1943) is a fascinating experiment that feels 85% complete, but learning that the film had studio fingerprints all over it explained a tremendous amount. Essentially three tales hovering between magical realism and pre-Twilight Zone ironic and uncanny, the stories are held together with a studio-created book-ending mechanism of Robert Benchley being read three tales that relate to his current predicament of not being sure whether to believe a dream he had or a gypsy's fortune.
Marvel Watch: We Admit We Watched "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011) for the 5 Billionth Time
Oh, FX Network. I know when you aren't playing some of my favorite shows (Fargo, The Americans, Louie, Baskets...) your other primary job seems to be playing Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) on what seems to be an infinite loop. You're following the 1990's TBS Raiders of the Lost Ark model, and it worked for them there, and it's working for you here.
I don't always write up or post when I watch a movie on cable, especially if its one I've seen before, especially multiple times, as I usually wander in after the beginning and don't always make it to the end. But CA: The First Avenger is one that I seem to turn on as I'm flipping channels, some time will pass and suddenly and I'll realize I'm finding myself watching Peggy Carter talking to Steve about meeting him at the Stork Club as the Flying Wing plunges into the Atlantic.
I wouldn't say this is a perfect movie from a technical standpoint - and the CGI breaks down here and there (even as Skinny Steve still looks seamless to me). But, man, it works for me. And not just because of Hayley Atwell (which doesn't hurt).
What's funny is that, oh, gee... I guess back in 2009 when they were talking about this movie getting made, there was all sort of concern that the amazingly savvy audiences of the modern era wouldn't take to Captain America as a character because of something or other about how much smarter we are in the 2010's than we were in the 1940's and that having something to do with being a decent human being no longer being a "relatable" trait for a character.*
Well, the marketing wasn't all there for this movie, and it didn't make a mint, but, boy howdy, the sequels did just fine, it seems. And we got two good seasons of a spin-off TV show with Peggy Carter, which happened to be one of the few watchable things on network TV in the past couple of years.
Anyway, I dig this movie, and I should probably not just turn it on and leave it on as much as I do, but there you have it.
*I cannot tell you how annoyed I get at the idea that audiences of the modern era are more "sophisticated". Watching a ton of TV doesn't make you more sophisticated, but it will train you to expect certain things. I sat through two movies from the 1940's last night with an audience that giggled at anything they didn't understand like a herd of middle-school kids. The techniques change and symbolism and execution change with technology and perception, but your hip, modern ideas are going to look positively quaint in fifteen years, so, get over yourself, you knobs.
Friday, May 20, 2016
This weekend I'm attending the third Austin Film Noir Fest, or, at least, a good chunk of it. It's going on down at The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on Austin's famed 6th Street.*
It's gonna be interesting but a bit of a marathon as each showing is a double-bill, and there are three showings on each day Saturday and Sunday.
The whole deal is hosted by Film Noir Foundation founder and President, Eddie Muller, whom you may have seen on TCM last summer, in interviews about the film noir genre, or popping up wherever film noir is found. Muller is a terrific author (from what I've read) - writing scholarly works on the genre. He also works to promote the preservation of film noir, restoring films and uncovering lost movies. And, I really think he and the Film Noir Foundation have been responsible for a resurgence and growth in interest in noir beyond the 10 or so films folks name-drop when it comes to noir classics.
This evening's pictures included noir staple (and a personal favorite of mine), This Gun for Hire (1942) and a far lesser known film, Fly-By-Night (1942). The idea is that each bill is an A and B picture from the same time period in the history of noir, so you can see a growth in the genre's development.
|the thing burning in the back is the show's internal logic|
As I kind of suspected, DC's Legends of Tomorrow did start to feel less like a plodding mess in the final 3-4 episodes of the show. They had their beginning and they had their ending, but they didn't have a middle, and that was no good for anybody.
Really, if we're being honest, the show made no sense. Time travel is a ridiculously complicated contrivance, and once you start making up arbitrary rules for your time travel story - rules clearly there so that the story can occur and not just end because you got in your time machine and flew back to the past and killed Hitler in his bed - you've kind of already lost the game. Especially when your time-travel device is also a space-faring vehicle.
Since last I posted on the show, I've really been hate-watching it, because - and I am sorry earnest TV watcher who was truly moved by the unfolding story of Rip Hunter and his gang of renegade time-travelers - it got just hysterically bad at some point.
The past five or six episodes, Jamie and I took to both playing the role of "Vandal Savage explains to the characters how they could end this right now" in terrible Danish accents, but it made the show so, so much more watchable
At some point, a few things became obvious to me:
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Obviously near-post-silent German film isn't my usual deal, nor Brechtian musical comedy. The closest I'll get to that is a fondness for Fosse's Cabaret and that I have all of the albums by The Dresden Dolls. And, you know, Tom Waits and others have carried through the spirit of the movement through to the modern era.
I haven't seen much in the way of G.W. Pabst's directorial efforts, although I'm well aware, from film school, he's one of those names you're supposed to be able to drop. He was a giant of German cinema in the pre-Nazi days, and brought Louise Brooks out of Hollywood and over to Weimar Germany, and I've seen Pandora's Box. A contemporary of Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, going to the pictures in Germany back in the day must have been something.