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Monday, August 9, 2010

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus... And I Didn't Leave Right Away

We all have movies or TV shows or music that we look back on as we grow up and can't help but think to ourselves, "Really? No, seriously?!?" Some of it might be because it's just so damn bad now, but more often than not, I find it's because there's always that "adult" humor that manages to slip under your radar. Part of me is always a little grossed out and amused because, well, it's good stuff (believe me, after a re-watching of Hocus Pocus you'll know what I'm talking about) but other stuff? Other stuff can only be described as, "oh dear God, why do children find that funny?!?" For instance, whenever Jerry drops an iron on Tom's head? Yeah, I've only had one fall on my foot and it hurt like hell, so I fail to see the hilarity in that.

But see, I wasn't like most kids. I took myself a little too seriously. I wouldn't watch cartoons because, well A) My parents never really let me, but B) I always thought that violence was no laughing matter. Now after all this years, i clearly see what I've been missing both in cartoons and laughing at violence... when it should be laughed at, of course... although I still don't get the appeal of America's Funniest Home Videos... How many times do you hafta watch a guy getting hit in the balls before it gets funny? I'm always surprised by how many guys laugh, because I can say from personal experience, it's never very funny when it's happening to you.

But besides the mystery of America's Funniest Home Videos, there was one other thing that always bothered me. Remember the song I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus? Yeah, well, does anyone remember the next lines? "What a laugh it would have been, if Daddy had only seen, Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night?" She does know what "laugh" means, right? I mean, i get it because daddy and santa claus are the same person so it's supposed to be all like, "aw, how cute", but she doesn't know that, does she? For all she knows, mommy's making out with some stranger who came down the chimney.

See, to me that doesn't sound like cause for a laugh, that sounds more like motive and opportunity for a double homicide. But nooo, you can't write about that because that would sell at Christmas time. Either way you look at it, this little girl sounds a little nuts, because for real, who wants their mom to kiss someone else? That's just weird! I mean, forget the sanctity of marriage or whatever, that's just... that little girl is pretty much pimping out her mother, that's all I'm saying. It's just a weird song to be playing when it comes times for family togetherness or whatever. Unless it's a song about her mom hooking up with a mall santa, but I think that might even be weirder.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Batman Takes a Look Under the Red Hood

Batman Under the Red Hood does something surprising in the DC universe. It embrace the flaws of the caped crusader and works it into a compelling and emotional story, which is a rarity for most animated movies. Not only that but, to be fair, my expectations for it were a little low. Let me put it this way; my love of Batman has burned me before.

I've suffered through countless lackluster straight to DVD movies that even featured Batman, no matter how minimal, because I wanted to see what each incarnation brought to the table. There's no doubt that Batman Under the Red Hood is for comic books fans so if you're strictly into Batman on a surface level or not a comic fan, I'm warning you now that this movie is for the fanboys (and girls) like myself.

The movie starts off with a bang,literally. It starts off with the death of the ill-fated boy wonder, Jason Todd, which is a fairly dark place to start. Where it goes from there straddles the lines of vigilanteism and righteousness, much like the caped crusader himself. However, what makes the Red Hood such an interesting villain is that it becomes clear that he has a very defined code of ethics, but they work outside of batman's own code. The most important? The Red Hood breaks the cardinal rule of Batman's crime-fighting philosophy and declares that killing criminals is fair game.

In many ways, the movie focuses on batman at odds with himself, which is always an interesting take. The problem with that is that the story has been done before. More importantly, it's hard to imagine that type of material being handled better than Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Still, it provides plenty of conflict to satiate hardcore Batman fans' appetites for brooding.

But the main focus of the film isn't with Batman himself or even with the Red Hood. Instead, it focuses on Batman's relationship with his young wards, namely Dick Grayson (who is in fine form as Nightwing) and the aforementioned Jason Todd. It explores the complicated relationship between Batman's impossible standards and the inevitable failings of his boy wonders. In many ways, it deals a lot with daddy issues, but never in a melodramatic fashion. It deals with the pressures of living up to a legend, but also, what it means to be able to take care of someone else and growing up too fast.

By the end, it's fairly clear who the Red Hood is, but that doesn't detract from the entertainment of the first two acts and the emotional resonance of the final one. Batman Under the Red Hood presents a similar Batman to one's we have seen before, but adds maturity and sincerity to present a more mature and complex figure. This isn't the same hero that i grew up with, but it's only fitting that I should view this Batman differently. Batman Under the Red Hood holds up well as a straight-to-DVD movie that deserves credit as an impressive addition to the legendary saga of the dark knight.

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Inner Child Is Tired of Being Profiled!

Listen, we all have our guilty pleasures, right? Most people who know me (or really anyone with an internet connection and my Facebook) know that I'm a sucker for comic books, particularly Batman. I could go on and on about the caped crusader and what he means to me and how I relied on those comics to escape the boredom of predominantly white, middle-upper class suburbia, but really, who wants to hear about that?

So every so often, I indulge myself a little, pick up a trade or an animated movie. You know, it's the small things that keep us sane and all that Anna Quindlen stuff. So naturally, I was pretty excited about the new batman animated movie Batman: Under the Red Hood. Believe me, I've sat through some bad ones, but anything for Bruce Wayne. For those who are fans, it's actually not half bad and I was surprised that they went with a storyline that nobody else would want to touch when they brought Jason Todd into the picture. All you Batman fans know the story of the ill-fated Boy Wonder... But this isn't a review. Okay, on a quick side note, for Batman fans, I recommend checking it out because it's got some great animation and a surprisingly well-executed storyline.

But no, this is about something else entirely. I know to some it might seem like I spend a lot of time complaining about trivial matters. Then again, who doesn't love a good rant? So if you're not interested in what ridiculous problem I've got now, well, I can't imagine why you've even read this far.

When I sat down to watch the movie, I was getting all ready to get in touch with my inner nerd and enjoy some comic book fun, but what's this? I've gotten used to having to trudge through studio logos and previews for other animated abortions I have no interest in seeing, but first up was a commercial for Mattel Collectors. I don't know how many of you know them, but toy collectors can be a particularly odd bunch. Every so often, you get the passionate, down to earth folks, but believe me when I say it's a rarity. And here I was, being lumped in with the rest of them.

Like I said, I indulge myself when I watch these movies. I'm not expecting cinematic masterpieces, but I can count on a good time, even if it is a little childish. But there's no need to just profile me as some emotionally stunted guy who lives in his mother's basement drinking kool-aid and eating rice krispie treats while playing World of Warcraft. Don't get me wrong, if that's your thing, that's cool too, it's just not mine. But still, we all get lumped together.

What if it's just an innocent ad aimed at kids, you say? Well, how many kids do you know that are serious toy collectors? Sure, maybe I took it a little too personally, but I'm just here to say, we're not all the same guy, or girl for that matter. Who am I to say that some women wouldn't enjoy this movie? Exactly! I have no right, just like you dicks at DC Universe. Quit trying to make me a full-fledged geek, when me and my inner child are just trying to have a good time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kick-Ass: A Study in Cultural Phenomenon

Kick-Ass is a great many things. Equal parts humor, some parts melodrama, and plenty of the American dream thrown in together and what do you get? You get a frantic exercise in media consciousness in the 21st century.

At its heart, Kick-Ass claims to be an underdog story. It's got all the elements of the makings of a superhero; love, loss, betrayal, but most importantly, it's got plenty of victimization. Sure, there's the protagonist Dave Lizewski, but there are plenty of other examples, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. Dave is the perfect candidate for superherodom for a variety of reasons, but noticeably, because he knows what it feels to be stripped of his masculinity (both in the physical world and the rumor of his homosexuality) in a man's world. All these factors come together to create the alter-ego of Kick-Ass, but what does that mean exactly? As his friends point out, there are no discernable superpowers and he doesn't even go through a training montage to prepare for his battle against evil.

Yes, it's sad but true that Kick-Ass serves purely as an idea and never truly represents a physical threat to evil-doers anywhere. I mean, look at the beatings that he constantly takes and when confronted by something truly dangerous? Either Hit Girl and Big Daddy come in or he runs from it.

But that's not the point, because Kick-Ass stands as a representation of good versus evil. He doesn't have to do anything other than dress up in a costume and get himself hurt in the name of all things good. Still, Dave Lizewski didn't get this power alone. Where did it come from?

Yup, that's right, the internet. This doesn't just happen overnight though... well, actually, it kind of does, but that's crucial to the development too. Kick-Ass gets his start as a YouTube phenomenon and nothing more. However, like all great pieces of American pop culture, he transcends the ideological and becomes something physical, something tangible that people can ask for guidance or some sort of guidance.

Then again, he never does completely transcend the ideological, because he never really becomes that good at what he does. Still, it's the idea that he is somehow accessible to the people which makes him a man of the people. However, it is fame, garnered through the YouTube sensation, that cripples him in a sense. His ego becomes inflated and his focus on doing any real good is warped into public appearances and the ideas behind his actions, rather than his somewhat unimpressive actions.

Things are made more interesting when Red Mist comes on to the scene, effectively as fraudulent as Kick-Ass but a result of calculated PR and menace. Note that there is no real difference between the two, but once again, it is the ideological. This, however, is an idea that can't really be conveyed through cell phone videos or websites, so Red Mist is taken at face value.

As the power struggle between good and evil continues, evil is the only palpable force in the real world. Sure, Kick-Ass does his thing sometimes, but once again, it is rarely on his own and frequently underwhelming. All of his power is derived from that clip that made its way to YouTube rather than anything real. The evil in the world? That's real. Still, this is an idea that is never given much credit throughout the course of the film as it goes from mocking the superhero genre with harsh reality to becoming yet another article in the superhero canon. This isn't to dismiss Kick-Ass as unimportant or even uninteresting, because it certainly does both on a surface level, but much like its titular hero, it never transcends the ideological world into something real.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Spielberg Returns to the Summer Blockbuster: Revisiting His Roots

 Spielberg over the years has mastered many of the genres, proving himself to be a more than capable director and certainly a master storyteller. However, every director has his or her missteps and Spielberg is certainly not immune.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull starts out awful and only gets worse. When asked to analyze the film, it’s difficult to wrap my head around it because I can’t even begin to understand what Spielberg could possibly have been thinking with this film. Although Last Crusade may not be everybody’s idea of a best Picture winner, it’s definitely a solid film. However, to give him credit, in his long awaited follow up to his largely successful Indiana Jones series Spielberg treads somewhat unfamiliar ground for the series. As we discussed in class, in his previous Indiana Jones movies he’s dealt with pillars of the Judaic and Christian faith. It’s a difficult area to deal with, especially in such a blatant crowd-pleaser, but Spielberg handles both topics with sensitivity, but his most recent Indiana Jones film doesn’t deal with either faiths, but sets off in an entirely different direction. At first it seems daring to abandon the traditions that fans know and love, but Spielberg shamelessly panders to audience’s expectations without forcing them to question anything as he’s definitely done with his more recent films. Still, knowing Spielberg’s roots in the entertainment field, after minimal examination, it’s clear that he has returned to his regular stomping grounds by producing yet another Summer blockbuster, just different from his Indiana Jones blockbusters. Like I said, after such ballsy movies as Munich, it’s difficult to not only watch him return to making popcorn flicks, but even worse when he does it poorly.
My main issue with the film is predominantly why others like it. I’ve heard a great many people say that they liked the fact that the film took place in the 50s. It set up Indiana Jones in a new era for a new generation of movie-goers while providing a familiar enough set up for older fans of the films. While I respect the fact that he took a chance, the 1950s are an era that he is familiar with and works too hard to make his audience familiar with. His references to the 1950s are heavy handed at best (The Wild One reference comes to mind). This is just one of the many examples of how he gives his audience everything they want, sacrificing his craft for whatever reason. What I will give him credit for is his telling of the 1950s. Although so blatant, the story involving the aliens is something fitting of a 1950s film so it seems right at home in this action flick set in the 50s.
Regardless, in the long run, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull disappoints not only as an Indiana Jones film, but as a Spielberg film. He has once again returned to his place in Hollywood-dom as one of the Summer blockbuster directors (fittingly enough since he’s responsible for the Summer blockbuster). However, it’s been a long time since he’s been in a purely entertainment movie making zone, so he even seems somewhat uncomfortable returning to the genre. All in all, it works as mindless entertainment, but I’ve come to refuse mindless entertainment from Spielberg, seeing as he’s proved his capability as a serious filmmaker.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zombie Helen Keller Pitch

It's hard out there to be a middle aged woman in what's primarily a man's world. Helen has all the daily trials and tribulations of the average working woman. Throw in looking for love in all the wrong places, and hilarity ensues. As if that's not enough try looking for love when you're blind, deaf, and undead! What you're sure to have is a laugh riot! Join zombie Helen Keller as she tries to balance work and love in the latest sitcom everyone's sure to be talking about!

If any of you guys have any network connections, please pass on my pitch to like NBC or maybe Fox, okay? Sweet! Thanks!

It FEELS like love to me...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ramblings of the Forgotten Man (Fiction Writing)

He sat and waited at the bus stop in his tattered, checkered coat. Actually, he’d been sitting and waiting for some time now. He glanced down at his watch only to see that it had stopped ticking at a quarter past three some morning, he didn’t know when. At his age, he never looked at the clock or his watch much anymore, each second hand a painful reminder that time didn’t move any slower for an old man, no matter how slowly he moved.
He let loose a heavy sigh from his frail body, his shoulders quivered as he drew in more air. He looked down at his watch hand again, quickly this time as if spending less time staring at the clock would make the 78 express come any faster. Almost three quarters past 5. The bus should’ve been here by now.
As he had grown older he had become increasingly frustrated at today’s society running at its own leisurely pace, almost unaware as the world kept turning, the sands continued to collect at the bottom of the hourglass. Time. People these days had no concept of it, he thought to himself, no respect for it. That’s the trouble these days, no respect for time, no respec- he was interrupted mid-thought by the squeaking of the poorly oiled brakes of the 5:30 78. The man slowly looked up from his rusty, stopped watch as he heard the gentle hiss of the 78 express bus door swing open.
He looked up hesitantly at the driver of the bus and gently folded his day old newspaper he‘d been
reading to pass the time. The grey haired man looked up into the stormy eyes of the bus driver, colorless, much like the clouds of that Chicago February he sought shelter from on the Express. He stopped before getting on the bus, as if afraid to crack a smile, but his lips curled to show a twisted sort of grin. A smile not truly of happiness, but rather a tired smile that had been used many times before. He had used it at obligatory social gatherings, weddings, social situations in which he felt he had no place. This sort of smirk that the man presented to the bus driver as a sort of exchange of pleasantries without any actual spoken words, was quickly shot down by the man at the wheel. The driver, with an incredible lack of grace, scratched at his ass as he coughed up phlegm as he prepared to speak.
That’ll be a buck fifty. The old man looked at the driver once again. He began to study the driver’s features as he mounted the steps, his eyes fixed upwards. His slightly dampened shoes from the afternoon shower squeaked as they made their way, slipping across the rubber of the steps. The driver, the old man had noticed, had some sort of sadness about him. Make no mistake, the driver’s face showed no signs of sadness. But that was just it. His face seemed almost comfortable in its hardened state. It was this that gave him away. Also his eyes, the very same eyes that had once looked down on the old man, now at eye level, for some reason or another, seemed to melt as they met with the man’s tired, blue eyes. He turned his head away from the stare of the driver as he fumbled through his pockets for the change to make up his fare. He blindly dropped the coins into the slot, never once making eye contact again with the bus driver, and made his way back to his seat.
As he made his way towards the back of the bus, he casually looked at his watch. 5:49. It had taken him almost 5 minutes for him to make his way onto the bus. Well, what can I say? He thought. I just don’t move like I used to. He was sure of that. He remembered all the times he had hated time, all the times he had prided himself on his disobedience to Father Time. He thought about those old days. That one summer when he had won the regional finals for the 100 meter dash. 12.37 seconds. Even till this day, he still held the record for his small, desolate Kansas town. But times have changed. He could no longer run 100 meters in 12.37 seconds. This is Father Time’s way of getting back at me. He thought to himself. This is the price I pay for my hubris.
Excuse me. A young man, a twenty something, briefcase in hand, ready for another day at the grind interrupted the man’s thoughts. Would you care for a seat? He asked. The twenty something added a nauseating smile to this offer, as a sort of effort to seal the deal, a technique he had no doubt learned from some second rate community college in Noweheresville, USA. It was the old man’s turn to smile, a sort of fuck you to the young businessman. How dare you comment on my age? The elderly man wanted to say. Instead, he looked at the young man, thanked him for him for his generosity, but assured him that he would be quite fine standing or looking for another seat.
The younger man scoffed a sort of good luck and returned to what he was doing before the elderly stranger had come along. The old man began to look around the bus for any empty seats, but much to his dismay the young businessman had been right, seats were hard to come by. He stood holding on to the plastic hoop hanging down from the metal bars of the bus for support.
As he stood there, he once again began to look around the bus. However, this time he began to look more closely at the faces of those who surrounded him. All of them seemed to be lost in their own definitions of importance. The businessman looking at the Wall Street stock exchange. The young woman blissfully unaware of her surroundings as she listened to her music. The teenaged school boy with a look that could only be described as apathetic.
He began to wonder. I see all these things when I look at them, all the people around me, lost in a category. I see the twenty some year old man, trying to work his way up in the business world. I see the young woman searching to find some happiness in her escape of reality through any means necessary. I see the stereotypical teen, lethargic and uncaring as he makes his way home to yet another evening of “How was school?”s and “What did you learn today?”s. I see all of this, clear as day. But what do they see? The question he was so afraid to ask. What do they see when they look at me? Do they see what I was? How could they? My former days of glory, surrendered to an age of osteoporosis and arthritis. All they see when they look at me is a shriveled old shell of a man. He was sure of it. They can’t possibly understand what I was, they can’t get past who I am here, now. And they’ll never know. No one listens to the ramblings of an old man, talking about the good ol’ days. No one hears him. They all pretend to listen as they continue running about their daily lives. This is my punishment for my arrogance, my flaunting in the face of time, my eagerness to race through it. They will never see who I was. They only see how time has made a fool of me.