Thursday, May 31, 2007

Coaster Rails Lubed With the Oil of Olivier

Yahoo! News reports that plans are set for a Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. Finally, fans will be able to walk amongst the $20 cotton candies, vomitting children, and fat Midwestern tourists they know and love from the books.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Trailer Will Tear Us Apart

The Control trailer is finally online. Some say "why make a Joy Division movie," since 24 Hour Party People is so good. I agree on that flick, but Joy Division fills maybe 10% of the time there. Besides, Anton Corbijn, whose videos and photographs are beautiful, actually directed Joy Division videos twenty years ago. And, while Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Spike Jones, Michel Gondry, and others have made the leap from music videos to outstanding features, we've yet to see a Corbijn film. I, for one, can't wait. And that's coming from a big Joy Division fan. Now all we need is for Chris Cunningham finally to make Neuromancer (oh dream of dreams).

Monday, May 28, 2007

What Can Mediocrity Do For You?

In light of a certain five-year reunion that just took place in Middletown, Connecticut, I found the timing of this bit from last week's Daily Show quite nice. Check out our shout-out, disparaging as it may be. Go Wes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lost in Sparta

I sort of made myself a promise never to jump into the Lost blogging game and post a "Lost theory." But in the wake of last night's season 3 finale (see image), I think I've cracked it. As we clearly can see in Lost's flash-forward, Jack will become King Leonidas once he leaves the island. In fact, the beginning of season 4 will start off with Jack leading the survivors from the radio tower to the Pass at Thermopylae, stopping along the way at Rhodes to visit the ruins of the Colossus (now down to one foot missing a toe).
Once at the Hot Gates, they will face off against an army led by Paulo (who rose from his being buried alive this season, shaved his head, and is wearing a lot of jewelry). Don't buy it? Then why did Rodrigo Santoro, who plays Paulo, also play Xerxes in 300? I'm sorry to spoil it for everyone, but I think Jack dies gloriously in battle, possibly at the hands of this previously-deceased Brazilian hunk.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Grok This Jacuzzi

Hot springs found on Mars. "Potential for life." Here's the article.

Realism Schmealism

Bless my friend Yeagers. Following up on the Joker discussion... here's the best example of why "realism" is overrated. We love Dick Tracy, and will challenge anyone who thinks otherwise to a bout of fisticuffs. In her words, "F%#* realism." Anyone operating under the opinion that reality (which is a subjective word, granted) has anything to do with the comic book page or the cinema screen is deluding themselves. Even the most "verite" of improvised dramas (Hollywood calls these "gritty") -- or a documentary for that matter -- is engineered, designed, and manipulated to elicit a manufactured response in an audience. It's why I never bought Dogma 95 (I vastly prefer Lloyd Kaufman's Dogpile 95). Spin these cinematic gimmicks with any lofty, pretentious BS you want... it's still a constructed fiction. So everyone banking on a real Joker, and a real Batman, those ideas are contradictions in terms. The only question is, "Does this work in the context of its own world?" Forget how easy it is to imagine the Joker in our "real" world.

The Joker? Fo' rizzle?

By now the whole world has seen the photo of Heath Ledger's new Joker for Batman Begins 2: Batman Progresses. Released through guerilla web tactics that make it impossible to confirm that this picture is real, it's caused more consternation, debate, and blogging among us fanboys than we've seen since they gave Spider-Man moulded nipples. Wait, is that right?

First of all, I'm working on the assumption that this is in fact a real picture of the new Joker (sorry all you photoshop conspiracy theorists). And what I have to say is this: while I trust both Ledger and director Chris Nolan to make this work in its own way -- to make it scary and dramatically satisfying -- I have to admit disappointment. The Joker (as we know him) is important and interesting because he is Batman's alter-ego in every sense. The (traditional) Joker's perpetual grin and menacing brow may be scary, but he is a caricature of the Punch figure -- the fool. His sense of humor never wanes (unlike that of Batman, who has little or no sense of humor). His appearance is as bright and mirthful as Batman's is black and brooding, making the irony all the greater -- the colorful Joker stands for death and mayhem, while the dark Batman stands for justice and honor.

So, by giving Ledger the appearance they have, all of the symbolism and irony is lost. Personally, I find the scar make-up horrifying. It hints at a backstory of a man who was either tortured and disfigured (inside and out), or worse yet -- he mutilated himself (this could be the most deeply disturbing Hollywood serial killer in a long while). But the bottom line is, it's not The Joker. It's not Batman's antithesis. It's a literal, grimmer physical manifestation of Joker's inner ugliness. All the irony, and frankly all the fun, is absent.

But die-hard Begins fans will say that the new series is more believable -- more realistic -- and that this approach rocks. Ok, this psycho scarface may be more plausible in the world we live in, but that doesn't make it the best possible fiction.
To be honest, I'm not that into this "let's make a realistic comic book" approach. I have no problem with my superheroes and villains being elevated, exaggerated, and colorful. I say that as a comic reader. Using the word "realistic" is a bit pointless when talking about a man in a bat suit.
Look... Greek, Norse, and other mythologies are beautiful because the gods reflect all the foibles, failings, and strengths that man actually exhibits. But they are superhuman. No one can say that there is anything remotely realistic about a Thunder God, or a Gorgon, or a flying horse. I'm not the only one who sees comics as a kind of contemporary mythology, and so this is why I become wary of the attempt to turn fantasy into reality.

Now, by the same token, I detest representaions of these characters that stray too far from their reflection of real human emotions and spin into out-of-control exaggerations that have no dramatic merit. Schumacher's Batman films are travesties in my opinion, and I'll take Batman Begins over those any day. But I worry that Ledger's Joker will be as "real" as Schwarzenegger's Freeze is "surreal."
This cut-up face that speaks of a deeply disturbed mind is certainly plausible (John Wayne Gacy comes to mind), but is "real" better? For those who think so, then Joker: Portrait of a Serial Killer may be your bag. To me, it's an interesting exercise, but strays from the spirit of the characters.

Different comic writers and artists have manifested The Joker many different ways, but this is drastically different from anything I've seen before. I'm in no position to condemn change, so ultimately this interpretation may be a good thing, but man, is it different as hell. What I've always loved about Joker is that even at his most maniacal, he is funny. But I see nothing funny about this new picture. Hopefully Ledger has the humor up his sleeve somewhere.
The Joker (as we've known him) is always smiling! At least, that is his default state. Everything is funny to him, always. But that spirit is absent from this first publicity still. Of course, a still may not be indicative of the performance. But WB decided to go with this shot, and I kind of wish he were, in fact, smiling.

I'm not condemning this look unequivocally.
The inner workings of the character, the writing and performance, are certainly the most important things here, and so I'm ultimately saying, "Let's wait and see." Many comic purists have dismissed this new Joker completely and immediately. These are the same people who invariably point to some internet fan film or another as the only real Joker on film. Well, no offense to those earnest efforts, but there's more to a good film character than just copying the books (remember that great line in the first X-Men, "What did you expect, yellow spandex?"). You've got to go for the essential spirit of the character. Forget the details. On this note, I'll put in my votes for Cesar Romero on the Adam West Batman run and the Mark Hamill-voiced incarnation on the 90's Animated Series as the best examples of the sheer joyful sadism that is The Joker (I'll give Nicholson honorable mention).

All that said, I still stand by my initial reaction: this may work very well, and in a very new way, but I find something missing. It's not The Joker; it's a new guy called "The Joker." Looking at this picture, I don't see The Clown Prince of Crime... I see the Sick Twisted F#*% of Crime.
I applaud the fact that a major studio is doing something new, genuinely twisted, and creative with a character we've seen for decades. And to be fair, one must reserve final judgement until seeing the film. But right now, it seems weird, and not in a good way.