Sunday, July 31, 2016
I wrote about the tower shootings on the 46th anniversary of the event, and I talked a bit about what the tower means to those of us who live in Austin, the students and alumni and those of us who work in the shadow of the UT Tower.
Monday, August 1st marks the 50th Anniversary of the tragedy on the UT Campus. With time and distance, UT has learned to talk about the day, quite unlike in the era when I was a student at UT (1993-1998). There has been one dedication ceremony of the Memorial Garden which sits south of the Main Building (alumni will remember it as the Turtle Pond), and tomorrow will see a re-dedication ceremony.
A documentary on the event, Tower, has been winning acclaim far and wide. I've heard from those who've seen it that it's excellent, and I keep missing opportunities to see it myself. The film focuses less on the means and motives of the shooter, and, instead, on the people caught in the crossfire, using a wide array of modern technologies to recreate the day with respect and immediacy. Here's to broad release soon.
The Austin American Statesman has put up an excellent site with interviews of witnesses, timelines, etc...
This is my fourth Bourne movie, and with about 9 years between The Bourne Ultimatum and Jason Bourne (2016), a lot has changed in the world and in movies. You'd be hard pressed not to find an action movie not taking something from Paul Greengrass's energetic direction and tracking camera shots. It's something I'm maybe too aware of when I watch something like Captain America: Civil War, when they go in for some "authenticity", or at least a particular feel to the action in the Lagos scenes - that "we're on an espionage mission, so the camera needs to be shakey" look to the proceedings comes right out of these movies.
But as a character in film, Bourne was always a bit flat, a bit two dimensional. He was the hero who was complex not by what he did, necessarily, but by virtue of the background given him. Then he proceeded to act like a fairly standard-issue guy-in-a-white-hat action hero. Matt Damon did a lot to make the character likable, and when you're one guy against the CIA, there's a lot to root for.
The first three films contained the plot of what might have been in a single film if the Bourne movies weren't mostly about the extended action sequences. Really, The Bourne Ultimatum is impossible to understand unless you've seen the first two, and it's really the third act of a story about Jason Bourne recovering himself from a bunch of shady dudes who got him to volunteer for a CIA program that made him a superhuman, but messed badly with his personality and splintered his mind.
I don't think the third movie, no matter how many Joan Allens in turtlenecks it may contain, is actually a great movie. It's a necessary concluding chapter with more impressive stunts than prior films. And speaking of Joan Allen, my feeling was that Pam Landy's part was more pivotal in making you care that any of this was happening at all than anyone realized. Without a Pam Landy, you've got a bunch of people just operating in a moral neutral zone where it's all about government folks playing CYA and a guy who's a bit of a cypher trying to not die. That's not really a story, per se.
I was unsure what to expect with a fourth installment, especially one arriving late. I had no idea what story they might concoct to see Jason Bourne back in action after escaping. But, like Batman comics of late, it seems there's no part of Bourne's origin that we don't need to explore more, and so it's back to the origins of Treadstone,
It's been years since I watched Super Troopers (2001).
Thanks to my incessant theater-going between 1994-2002, I caught this one during it's theatrical release and was able to say "I saw this before it became a hit via home video and cable". Thus, my hipster credential or whatever.
Going back is never easy. The comedies I enjoyed from my teens through my early twenties reflect much more of the sense of humor of a young man who can happily sit through, say, one of Adam Sandler's earlier works. Which I did. Heck, in my teens, I saw a Pauly Shore movie in the theater. This is sacrilege for a 90's Austinite, but I find Dazed and Confused nigh unwatchable these days.
Super Troopers 2001 was the brainchild of and investment in comedy troupe Broken Lizard, and was marketed as such, which was weird, because I don't think anyone had ever heard of Broken Lizard in most major markets. They hadn't had a show on MTV or Comedy Central or anything that I recall.
The movie uses the set-up of making the Broken Lizard guys highway patrol officers in upstate Vermont, not known for having a whole bevy of issues, and so the cops spend their days entertaining themselves with comedy sketches along the roadway and trading insults with city cops from the local small town. Really, especially in the first 45 minutes of the movie, that's where the movie works best and is genuinely funny (to me, anyway). And that's the part everyone remembers.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Fifty years ago today, Batman premiered at Austin's own Paramount Theatre! Above, you can see Adam West in person addressing the crowd and Congress Avenue completely blocked (something I don't even think happens during SXSW).
The Paramount was showing the movie today, but I had something I had to do during the day and couldn't make it (and I've seen it about 7 times, at least).
Here's a write-up from when I went to see the movie at the Paramount in June of 2010.
Here's a video you can watch at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image of Jean Boone interviewing actors from the movie inside The Paramount.
The Batboat - which appears in this movie, was also manufactured right here in Austin by Glastron Industries.
I didn't learn of Batman's Austin history until about 2009, and I am certain, had I known about all the bat-ties to Austin as a kid, it would have melted by brain and I would have seen way, waaaaayyy too much symbolism in Austin's gigantic bat population.
What's perhaps strangest is that Monday, two days from now, is the 50th anniversary of the UT Tower shootings. The UT Tower sits at about 23rd Street, about 15 streets away as the crow flies (the Capitol and several other obstructions mean you can't drive straight through).
Kind of freaky.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
I pulled this image from Birth.Movies.Death.
As far as how this could have gone - I can't complain, really. I have no idea what DC's deal is with the classic costume or how they think continually messing around with elements of the visual iconography of one of their most famous properties is somehow a good idea. But, no one is asking me. Red boots and cape. Yellow in the "S". No mandarin collar.
Sigh. Look, I'm a red trunks guy, and the fact that DC can't seem to make the suit work correctly either here or in Man of Steel (piping and stippling is all just a bit much, especially with a useless belly-button belt-buckle) without an awkward red belt-to-nowhere is just maybe a sign we throw in the towel and go back to the red trunks look.
But, man, that dude ALSO looks like Superman, doesn't he? You'll never hear me complain about Cavill, but so many folks have drawn Superman in so many ways over the years, and between Reeves, Reeve, Alyn, Cain and Cavill... Well, I don't necessarily have a particular face I identify with Superman. Just a certain presence, and I think this dude has it, just as Melissa Benoist doesn't look like Silver Age or Bronze Age Kara, but she sure has that same vibe.
I have never seen actor Tyler Hoechlin in anything, but so as long as he doesn't have a voice like Peter Lorre, I want to give him a shot. So far so good with Supergirl defying expectations and beating the odds for what it seemed they'd do - and the energy the actors have brought to the show.
Look, I planned to hate-watch Supergirl, but I became a fan. I am always excited to see what they'll try to do next with a character I have a little affection for. Now we've got Superman, Martian Manhunter and Lynda Carter as POTUS. I mean, OBVIOUSLY I'll be watching.
And if, you know, they want to one day do a Superman show or TV movie or ten, I won't complain.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
There's an argument to be made that Stranger Things, 2016 (8 episodes, Season 1 on Netflix) is a rip off and riff on popular and cult media of the 1980's and that we should be suspicious of it's desire to emulate the stylings, feel and sensibilities of the era. The show trades in nostalgia for Gen-X'ers (and likely Millennials, whom, it seems, grew up on the media of Gen-X), from font type to musical selection to references to kid culture of the time to conspicuously placed posters of influential films of the era.*
That it does these things is unquestionable - this is not convergent evolution. But with 1983 (the year the story takes place) now 30-odd years in the rear-view mirror, it's also a period piece (I'll just let that sink in, 40-somethings.) just as much as Grease was in the late 70's, or 90% of the output of Martin Scorsese. That the Duffer Brothers, show runners who wrote and directed a huge portion of the 8 episodes, chose this period to mine is not a huge surprise. We're still working our way through Star Wars sequels and Ghostbusters relaunches. We can casually drop an E.T. or Poltergeist reference and expect to be understood. In perhaps more self-selective circles, we can do same with The Thing or Evil Dead.
Anyway, something happened in the 1980's that was not entirely of the era, but it showed up like an open wound in our media of the era in a way that movies have forgotten how to do.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
I don't remember exactly where we came down on the vote, but on Friday night I'm going to watch the 1990's Disney live-action classic The Rocketeer.
Time: 9:15 Central huddle time with a 9:20 start
Runtime: about 2 hours (we'll take a potty break)
Where to watch: Amazon Options including streaming
Twitter Hashtag: #bettyteers
I'm at: @melbotis
Cocktail of Choice:
Cliff's Undrinkable Rocketfuel
- 1 part vodka
- 1 parts gin
- 1/2 part dry vermouth
- twist of lemon
1. Add liquid to shaker with ice
2. Shake for five seconds
3. Pour into class (without the ice, you heathen)
4. Add lemon twist
5. Stop complaining, it's good for you
No big secret to anyone with whom I talk Star Trek, but I hated Star Trek: Into Darkness. That's not a term I use lightly. Generally, I "didn't like" a movie, it "wasn't aimed at me", "wasn't my cup of tea" or I might have believed "it sucked". But, nope, I hated Into Darkness.
The movie, which could and should have been about the launch of the Enterprise and establishing the universe around the characters set up in the first movie (which, in many ways, was a glorified version of Space Camp), didn't just feel like a betrayal to the spirit and (pardon the pun) enterprise of the Star Trek universe I've enjoyed as both an avid enthusiast and sometimes occasional fan, depending on which incarnation of Trek we're discussing. Into Darkness felt like it was picking the bones of a better, much-loved franchise to tell a lousy story and try to steal some of the gravitas along the way rather than creating anything of its own or lending anything new and not doing anything compelling with what bit of novelty it did contain.
With this third installment, Paramount does a yeoman's job of righting the ship and getting it back on course. I won't try to oversell the movie - it's far from a perfect film (but name the Citizen Kane of Star Trek movies, I dare you), but for the first time in three movies, it feels like Trek. And, man, that is actually terribly important. Not only does this installment understand the universe of Trek better than its forebears, it does that thing of spiffying it up and adds some new bits along the way.
I hadn't actually planned to see the movie. The first trailer I saw alongside The Force Awakens was so cringe-inducing and tone deaf (and, as it turns out, a bad representation of the actual film), that I just laughed it off and decided I'd get back to Star Trek at some other point with some other relaunch after the public wrote off this series for good.
The Star Trek reboot, in my opinion, was a failure.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Yesterday Ms. Lynda Carter turned 65. Happy Birthday to our ideal Wonder Woman.
Some folks may not know that Carter is a vocalist with several albums out there in the ether. Carter is currently performing with a band where she sings both original songs and some covers. She also appears as voice talent in several videogames, including Fallout 4, where she contributed a song or two as a lounge singer.
Earlier this year she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Gracies.
This fall, Carter is scheduled to appear as POTUS on CW's Supergirl TV series.
If you aren't following her on social media, we highly recommend doing so. Her account is a lot of fun.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Randy suggested I take a look at the trailers that came out during Comic-Con, and while I haven't looked at every one of them, and some of them I have no opinion on in general (like the new Harry Potter), I guess I can do this fairly quickly and painlessly.
I've already been asked how accurate this is to the original comics, but as one always has to say with DC comics and characters, in particular, the specifics aren't that important. Especially trying to bring the character to the big screen in 2017 versus what the characters were like in their 1941 original first appearance.
The question needs to be: how did they handle the origin in general (do the producers understand the character well enough to understand the importance and resonance of the most important details of the character), and what did they do to demonstrate that the character is not a new character masquerading as the titular character?
I am not expecting the poly-sexual, bdsm subliminal antics of the original comics to ever make the big screen (we can make arguments about Season 1 of the Lynda Carter show some other time). This is the Wonder Woman of the Greg Rucka era, who still carries the lasso, but is like to pick up a sword and shield. To avoid comparisons to her contemporary creation, Captain America, the origin story has been transported to WWI instead of WWII, a change which I feel doesn't exactly make sense for a downed aviator to find Themyscira by accident (the range on those flyers was not putting them out over the mid-Atlantic, and aircraft carriers barely existed at the time).
But, ignoring the logistics of aviation history, I have to say I'm as excited by this trailer as I likely am to be about anything spinning out of DC/WB's theatrical efforts. Gadot isn't my first choice, but she seems fine in the part. The action looks like it's not softened in the slightest and the Amazons are living up to their potential from the comics if this trailer is to be believed.
Like Captain America, the action is likely to move to the modern era for any sequels, which kind of begs the question "why set it in WWI when it's going to draw so many comparisons to Captain America?" It's not like we've lacked for military conflict in the past 20 years.