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