Sunday, July 27, 2008
This was probably just the right approach to take. Obviously the less and less amusing horrors of the Bush Administration pour out every day, but as far as the story of his improbable rise, how could you take anything but a comic tone? Scott Glenn as Rumsfeld and Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney seem to know what they're doing. James Cromwell seems less sucessfully cast. Brolin had better bring it, because this is his time.
This project is probably terribly misguided, but it could also be face-meltingly insane.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Eventually Batman had to become a man of his time. For all of his social prominence he's always stood outside the eras of the films he's appeared. Especially those fucking little candy cheap-shit bush-league mother-fucking ass-clown third and fourth ones. I love it, but I'm man enough to say BATMAN FOREVER sucks despite its delicious ingredients. Being America, we are not defined by salads but by mixing bowls, and we are not able to excuse shit despite the presence of carrots. Especially since carrots are so good for our eyesight. As for BATMAN & ROBIN, let us not speak of that. All I need to say is that Foreigner still own the phrase 'Cold as Ice'.
This time, even more than in BEGINS we have a Batman who is entirely of his time. There is a raging debate now more than a month old over whether or not the film is conservative. This debate is largely retarded. The worst is the suggestion that Bruce Wayne is George W. Bush, hated for doing what is necessary but understood by those willing to acknowledge evil enough to combat it. This suggestion was clearly started by George W. Bush, in some chatroom using the handle BushMan. I feel much more confident in the fact that it is dealing with the issues of the day- What is an appropriate response to terror? What is the appropriate response to terrorism? How does one fight these abstractions?
It's also a fucking movie. And it kicks ass. Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman. These are manly names that get the heart racing. An absurdly handsome Latino named Nester Carbonell (Holy Shit he's the dude from SMOKIN' ACES, the worst movie I've ever seen five times) plays the Latino Mayor of Gotham, which means they are about 30 years ahead of us. Indie Queen Maggie Gyllenhall acquits herself admirably in the role of Rachel, certainly miles better than Katie Holmes, but it really is one the worst female roles ever, even if this time she gets to wear vests like Annie Hall.
If Heath Ledger were alive and playing at your house, his role in this movie would probably still make you cry. There is something absolutely sick to the core about this character. Obviously he's the reason the boys line up ten times in a row, but I'll never forget how disturbed my audience was by him. He has some punch-lines, but all the laughter was like nervous titters in a haunted house. Like Batman being a man of his time, this Joker has an ethos, even if it is chaos. His speech against the "schemers" and planners is probably the most relatable thing a movie villain has ever said. He's too psycho to root for, but when righteousness takes over at the end, it's a little bit disappointing, because in your heart you know he's right about us.
So why the hell is everybody talking about the next one? (DARK KNIGHT RETURNS? CAPED CRUSADER? I'm much more of a fan of the fan art title GOTHAM CITY. Should probably go with RAMBO: DARK KNIGHT PART II). It's only been a god damn month though. This is to be savored.
Are heros getting less heroic, or is our desire for heroism shrinking? Maybe it's not what we're looking for in this kind of movie. The only things Batman actually kills, as far as I know, are two nasty Rotweillers. THE DARK KNIGHT is too much about consequences of violence to be a film for sadists (an argument people at far too high a level of respectability have made), but in the dark of the matinee, we can take any pleasures we want. For some of us it's Batman pounding on people, for others it's the relentless pyrotechnics, and at 500 million dollars I'm sure for some it's the yelps of those dogs as they fall off a skyscraper. I could never be Batman, because I have no concern for the protection of such innocents. When I had a dog, I would always worry about their safety. Now, when I see them lumbering towards a man in body armor who knows six kinds of karate, all I can think is Kill That Bitch.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Though never driven by lyricism as much as his reputation might suggest, with lines such as "move through the room like ambulance drivers", Beck could be accused of what we might call first-draft stream of imagery. His closest peers are probably in the Hip Hop game, where meter and rhythm rule and wordplay means exactly that. He's been doing it for 14 years now, most of my existence and a substantial chunk of his adult life. If it can't break, why fix it?
So why does his new album MODERN GUILT hit me so hard? Is it because, even more than usual, I can't quite be sure of what he's saying? Or is it because for the first time I'm certain he can't be sure of it either? I've been writing Beck off for a long time, pretty much since 'Where It's At' climbed to an astounding height of popularity in a late 90s America too serene to realize how weird the thing was. Occasionally I'd check in like a prison guard looking through the slot on the door, happy to find him reading by himself, or dancing on Letterman with Borat.
With the driving 'Sexxx Laws' he seemed to be gunning for the title of our Minister of Irony, but then he seemed to shy away from that with SEA CHANGE, converted to something spare and stale like Damascus in reverse. Events like the death of Jeremy Blake reminded us of how quietly present Beck still was in our pop culture elite, one of the brightest stars not to cast his own orbit.
Is he feeling guilty about this? Perhaps, or how else to explain his teaming up with Danger Mouse, except that is seems like such a natural fit. With backing exhalations and moans that would have been at home on Man Man's first two LP's and Super Mario keyboard jaunts I would have loved to have heard Elliot Smith lay real wristcutters over, this is Beck at his most relaxed and amusing. It's not like reverb and distortion so much as these songs are being whispered at you.
I could quote lyrics and determine intentions, but it's be more fun to tell you for instance that I dont know what the hell 'Gamma Ray' is, but I do know there's only way to dance to it, and it's over 40 years old. I suppose you could read something deep into the ramblings title track, except this is the man whose had a Devil's Haircut on his mind for quite some time. I'm not lucky enough for 'Soul of a Man' to be about DMX's short-lived and hilarious BET reality series, so I'm just going to say Beck's too smart for that title to not be ironic.
'Profanity Prayers', on the other hand, is as strong as any song I've heard this year, even if you could be forgiven for finding the production more Gnarls rejected refuse than anything else Danger does on here. But even with Beck's absolute non-chalance, it's absolutely propulsive.
Mr. Hansen is reaching the age where to ensure his fashionability he must acknowledge his irrelevance. Still, unlike some of the mid-life crissys of his generation, Beck yields nothing. Maybe he just doesn't know. Or maybe unlike Rivers Cuomo, he doesn't have to worry about losing his hair. Even so, like Malkmus before him, he'd rather just riff. The great ones know that as we age there are some thoughts best left to ourselves. He has the rest of his life to turn 40.
P.S.: the damn thing is only 33 minutes, making it suitable for any occasion.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Edward Norton is ready to play Jesus. Pale, amazingly thin and with long slender arms offered outward, he's decked out beatifically in beggar garb several times in THE INCREDIBLE HULK, just one example of a film that, more often than not has no fucking idea what it's doing aesthetically.
Coming five years after Ang Lee's universally despised (though not by me) HULK, this one is generally more interested in getting down to business. Call it a reboot or a sequel, it features an all new cast that is a step down from the previous iteration, with the exception of Norton. Liv Tyler is burdened with a dumb character arc of apparently really wanting to see the green boy's hulked-out cock, and William Hurt is egregiously bad. I would say he phoned it in and cashed a check, but based on his performance here, he probably ate the check.
Meanwhile as the new villain, Tim Roth fairs much better, capturing the sweaty insecurity of a small, aging guy who wants to even the playing field. Without this nuance the ways in which Hurt's General Ross takes advantage of him wouldn't be plausible. His character immediately becomes uninteresting when he transforms into a crusty Hulk-sized monster for the final fight. Tim Blake Nelson is fine as Samuel Stern, setup to appear as The Leader in a later sequel (or AVENGERS film), whose look will probably have to be changed because of his resemblance to the brain guy in the Ambiguously Gay Duo.
Edward Norton really carries this thing though, bringing none of the apprehensiveness he brought to his last franchise sell-out appearance, RED DRAGON. One of the bigger problems I did have with the first HULK was Eric Bana being far too attractive and masculine to fit the model of bashful underachiever turned hero. The real genius of Marvel has been its ability to tap into vicarious desires by having its alteregos be dweebs on the level of Peter Parker or Bruce Banner. Even Tony Stark, as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., is kind of a dork if you think about it.
So if Norton is not the problem, what then? The truth of it is the Hulk is just not a very compelling character, and made less so with the seqboot's further muddying of the thematic waters. Whereas before the gamma radiation tapped into Banner's anger that was already there, now apparently it merely preys on heart rate. 'You won't like me when my pulse is elevated?' Seriously?
Two positives I will include are a generally fascinating opening act set mostly in a Brazillian slum, in particular a sequence in which Banner takes some form of martial arts/yoga class to learn to control his anger. His teacher uses his few moments to make a great impression, and I could have used more of him. Another would be the all too rare use of Arlington, Virginia as the location of the Pentagon. I wish I could say this movie hit me where I lived because it was set where I lived, but it didn't.
And of course, in hiding, Bruce spends his lonely days with some kind of mangy stray mutt. The same black and white texture, the unkempt hair, the warm expression. You watch enough of these things, you realize it's always the same movie, because it's always the same dog.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Summer term is already kicking my ass. Not that I write that much already, but it's going to be severely toned down around here for the time being. See you in August. I am glad that I had to save a picture of Batman onto a school computer to write this.
Yours in Christ,