Friday, April 15, 2011

Recent Movies

recent for me, I mean. These were all first-viewings for me. In reverse order:

Dog Day Afternoon - Sidney Lumet

Pretty good, but filmed with all the visual flair of a Lifetime Original Movie. (I had that thought while watching and then immediately felt really bad, since Lumet just died.) The script felt like it wanted to be a play and not a movie. I saw Before the Devil Knows You're Dead when it came out and I liked it better than I liked this.

Alien - Ridley Scott

Holy shit. Dog Day Afternoon was a movie starring real people based on real events that took place on planet Earth, and yet somehow the characters and situations in Alien seem more real to me -- except maybe for the parts near the end when the menace has evolved into a dude in a monster suit, posing and staring.

The movie takes a very weird turn in the final act. Ripley, who throughout the film has not been sexualized in any way, is suddenly in her underwear with the crack of her ass hanging out all over the place, hiding in a closet while a disgusting, dripping phallus protrudes from the creature that is menacing her. I don't really know what to say about that. Was the whole movie about sexual terror, and I was too dopey to pick up on it until the very end? I guess so. I think I read once that HR Geiger's initial designs for the aliens were rejected on the grounds that they were too explicitly genital.

The Conversation - Francis Ford Coppola

I'm probably overreacting, but my initial response was that this is the best movie I've ever seen.

An Education - Lone Scherfig

It's like a film just sprung up around a young girl, as the world's way of recognizing how beautiful and charming she is. I love everyone's accents and everyone's clothes and Alfred Molina.

The Godfather, Part II - Francis Ford Coppola

Okay so I realize that both Godfathers have been apostheosized into Important Film Heaven, but actually this movie is boring as shit and borderline unwatchable and Coppola didn't give a fuck about the Godfather and neither do I. Pacino's performance is interesting to watch as the guy who is trying to be the Noble Criminal that his father was but inwardly just seething at every moment, and it's fun listening to DeNiro doing Brando but otherwise there is just nothing going on here. Thematically and visually it is an absolute fucking bore. What is this movie about! Who cares! Comparing this movie to The Conversation is a textbook demonstration of the kind of work an artist does on a project he's passionate about versus what he does to pay the bills.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spider-Man looks like a terrorist

Does Spider-Man ever wonder if the public would be less suspicious of him, if he were to wear a less menacing outfit? The defining characteristic of most superheroes is that you can tell nearly everything about the character just by looking at them:

Superman, the superheroic ideal.

Batman, dark avenger. And so on -- Captain America is literally draped in the American flag, the symbol of all he represents; and even Wonder Woman, who is some kind of Amazonian goddess (I guess?) runs around in USA panties, so that everyone knows what she stands for. This strong visual identity is what separates the iconic superheroes from the middling, second-tier characters:

Greetings, reader, I'm the Green Lantern! See, I was a pilot, and then an alien gave me this ring -- yeah, no, it's actually a ring, not a lantern -- that enables me to do... things. You know, green things.

Spider-Man is an exception to this rule, in that he's become an icon in spite of the direct conflict between his visual image and his character. He's Peter Parker, everyman, trying to live up to his powers and his Uncle's legacy, all while having to pay his bills, keep his girlfriend happy, and deal with a boss who hates him. He's a regular guy! To illustrate this, he has chosen to dress like a villainous French art thief:

Hand over the fucking Picasso, or I'll ensnare you in my disgusting webs and devour you at my leisure

One of the recurring themes of Spider-Man stories is his constant frustration that, no matter how often he saves the day, the public at large still distrusts him. Is he really this oblivious about his image? Do the feelings of alienation he developed in high school run so deep that, unconsciously, he longs to remain an outsider? Did Steve Ditko design this bitchin' costume before giving any thought to who was going to be wearing it?

The untimely death of the Human Torch has given Spider-Man the chance to live out his dream and become a member of the Fantastic Four. Will he make the most of this opportunity to reinvent himself?

Nope, still looks like a terrorist. Spider-Man: Public menace since 1962

Monday, August 31, 2009


Mr. Fantastic, not content to rest on his laurels after an incredible streak of recent achievements (which include provoking the Hulk into destroying much of New York City, orchestrating the Gitmo-style imprisonment of his fellow superheroes, provoking an alien invasion), has dreamed up his wildest, most brilliant idea yet: Solve everything. I never would have thought of that. For Reed, this means creating a blasphemous device which grants him congress with the alternate Mr. Fantastics of a thousand worlds, and together they plot to alter the very fabric of reality to reflect their own megalomaniacal whims. If he really wants a challenge, perhaps he could hold off on tampering with the DNA of the universe and take another crack at curing the horrific deformities he inflicted upon his best friend fifty years ago. Hey, though, good job launching a rocket into outer space, mere men would have never dared dream it!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

THOR #602

Thor calls upon Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme and blacksmith extraordinaire, to repair his damaged hammer (at the cost of his Odinescense or whatever) in time for the Thunder God to rob a ludicrously decrepit old woman of her soul, thereby reincarnating his lost lover Sif. Meanwhile, William the short-order cook attempts to convince the Gods of Asgard that Dr. Doom means to betray them, but frankly if the name "Dr. Doom" was not enough warning then I fear there may be no reaching them.


Having succeeded in his quest to turn the Earth into such a living shithole that there will be no future for Cable to flee into, Bishop takes control of the last remaining city and hunts for Hope at the scene of humanity's last stand. Cable, having been separated from Hope for two years while suffering from the loss of telekinetic control over the techno-organic virus that plagues his body, arrives to find a now adolescent Hope living in hiding, protected by a boy she's fallen in love with. Horrified at this, Cable steals a rocket built by the inhabitants of the city (their last hope for escaping the dying Earth and preserving the human race) and flies off into space. I realize Bishop and Cable believe that none of this will count if Hope dies/lives (depending on which one you ask) and I hope one of them is right, because otherwise these two assholes are going to have a lot to answer for.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


In a state of sweaty, paranoid frenzy due to an accidental injection of space-crack, Dr. McCoy lunges into a time portal and unravels the threads of Earth's history, causing the Enterprise to fade from existence.

With the help of a big talking rock, Kirk and Spock are able to roughly pinpoint McCoy's place in time and arrive in Depression-era NYC meaning to stop his madness. Kirk wastes no time in romancing the first history-woman he meets -- Edith Keeler, a social worker who feeds the local derelicts on the condition that they submit to her lectures and wild, baseless predictions for the future (that are made only slightly less demented-sounding by our knowledge that they will come true) -- but soon Spock utilizes the series of tubes and colorful lights he's constructed to reveal the awful truth: she is a loathsome fucking hippie, and unless she dies, she will single-handedly poison America's will to stand against Germany and Hitler will conquer the world and cancel the future. Edith Keeler must die.

Meanwhile, McCoy arrives in the past and harasses street people with his paranoid delusions until stumbling into Edith's mission, where she nurses him back to sanity. Bones is overjoyed when he finds Kirk and Spock also in the past, but when Edith senselessly blunders into the street, Kirk must make the heartrending decision to stop McCoy from pushing her out of the path of oncoming traffic. Love dies, the future lives. "Let's get the hell out of here," Kirk says.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The X-Men are enjoying their new, idyllic life in San Francisco: a beautiful, tolerant land where mutants can live openly, a land where they are free to carry out their own brand of lawless, brutal justice in the streets, free to instruct young children while dressed in garish S&M costumes.

It all seems too good to be true, and naturally the state of California has introduced a ballot initiative (Proposition X) which would institute mandatory sterilization of all mutants. Cyclops feels confident that the measure will be defeated, but the others are (perhaps justifiably) uncomfortable with their right to breed being put to a vote. On top of that, Scott has to deal with everyone crawling up his ass about the supposed problems he's having with Emma. Apparently everyone in his life has pinned all their hopes for love on the success of this relationship, but maybe the guy just feels like sleeping on the couch sometimes, y'know?

As if the prospect of forced castration and relationship trouble weren't enough to keep him up at night, Scott's demented ex-wife (X-Wife?) has assembled a Sisterhood of Evil mutants, full of vague, supernatural plans for destroying the X-Men and conquering death that center on reincarnating Psylocke as their mindless slave and repeatedly stabbing Wolverine. This is what you get, when you marry the evil clone of your high school sweetheart and then act all surprised when she turns out to be The Goblin Queen.