Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How a Wonder Woman comic from 1942 led to the Great California Cow Exodus of 2012

Recently, Bill Frezza at Real Clear Markets published a story about cows fleeing California for other states because California's state-minimum pricing of milk is too low to turn a profit.
The crisis in California stems from Golden State cheese makers carrying more political clout than dairy farmers. As a result, the minimum legal price of milk in California is 2 ½ cents per pound less than the average minimum legal price in other states. Two and a half cents may not sound like much, but in a business in chronic oversupply, that's larger than typical profit margins. With feedstock costs skyrocketing due to the diversion of corn to make subsidized ethanol-another brilliantly managed business- California dairy farmers are on the ropes. Meanwhile, California cheese makers enjoy a competitive advantage because it is illegal for out-of-state cheese makers to buy cheaper California milk.
Milk is apparently a very special product that requires the intervention of federal and state government to ensure that its market is properly managed. Supply-and-demand won't work. Which is why the state of California has set a minimum price that consumers have to pay in order to get their milk at a price that is fair to cheese makers. And if the milk producers can't sell enough of their product at that fair-to-cheese makers- price, then the government (i.e., "taxpayers," i.e., "you and me") buys the excess milk and turns it into cheese that we can't eat. It's the circle of life. It turns out that this started a long time ago:
Around the time of the New Deal, guaranteeing the milk supply joined life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as one of the cardinal responsibilities of government. While this may be ascribed to a desire by politicians to always have enough babies to kiss, some suspect that buying the votes of dairy farmers had something to do with it.
Maybe it was vote-buying that originally motivated the program, but I have a feeling Wonder Woman might have had something to do with it. Back in July 1942 ("around the time of the New Deal"), Sensation Comics #7 ran a story in which Wonder Woman battled an evil milk magnate who was charging so much for milk that children were literally dying:




Wonder Woman, in her Diana Prince alter ego, goes to the offices of International Milk to investigate. There she meets the oily Mr. Alphonso De Gyppo, a man so transparently awful that he has a thin mustache and a racially insensitive name. As it turns out, his business plan is not entirely different from the current government milk subsidy program:



As Frezza points out, the minimum legal price of milk inflates the cost of milk so that everyone, even "poor children," are forced to pay more. They just can't tell exactly how much more:
Estimates put the cost to consumers as high as $5 billion a year. But since this tax is hidden, legislators get to enjoy the gratitude of dairy farmers without having to face the wrath of consumers, who remain in the dark about how much they are individually paying.
But because International Milk is a private business, and not part of the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, what they're doing is wrong. Wonder Woman is not so subtle in her critique of Mr. De Gyppo's business practices:




With the help of a trap door in the floor of his office, De Gyppo manages to capture Wonder Woman and, as so often happens in these wonderful old William Moulton Marston-Harry Peter stories, the heroine is tied up. The twist in this story is that after she's tied up, she's thrown into the back of a truck, which two semi-literate thugs slowly fill with milk:



Wonder Woman escapes (she was just toying with them, anyway-- for crying out loud, she's Wonder Woman!), and leads a protest march against Big Milk "The Milk Racket":

 

Just like Michelle Obama using her position as "First Lady" to pressure Walmart to sell less poisonous food, and to pressure Mars to stop selling disgustingly delicious "King Size" candy bars, Wonder Woman seeks to shame International Milk into adopting business practices that she deems appropriate. For her trouble, she is again captured, and again tied up, this time to the front of a tank truck filled with (what else?) milk. And here she finally discovers the truth about International Milk and its real leader and motives:

 

Yes, it's all part of the evil Baroness Paula Von Gunther's nefarious plan to weaken the bones of American children so they won't be able to defend the country from future blitzkriegs. Something else that Michelle Obama has been warning us about, by the way: the obesity epidemic is a national security crisis. As an aside: You'll note in the panels above that The Baroness mentions that she has invented an apparently fictional "electrical machine" that raised her from the dead following her execution. This subplot allowed Marston to slip in a plug for an apparently real device he helped develop, the so-called "lie detector test." While investigating Diana Prince's disappearance, Major Steve Trevor gives a "lie detector" test to the doctor who officially declared The Baroness was dead:



Anyway. Wonder Woman escapes from the milk tank, and uses her "magic lasso," which is an apparently fictional device, to compel The Baroness to confess her plan. She also takes a moment for a photo op with a group of adorable young children who will no doubt benefit from the effects of cheap access to "milk, the perfect food," assuming none of them are lactose intolerant:



Although it's not specifically spelled out anywhere in the story, it's implied that The Baroness's plan was then used to help draft the original legislation that has led to the current cow exodus that Frezza described in the Real Clear Markets editorial. Or, perhaps I should more accurately state that it's inferred, by me, right now, today, that The Baroness's plan was used to help draft that original milk-protecting legislation. Like most superheroes of her era, the original Wonder Woman was a rah-rah FDR-loving New Dealer with the best of intentions. However, sometimes good intentions can lead to actions that have unintended consequences. In the world of comic books, this is called "the law of unintended consequences." I'm not sure what they call it in social sciences, or in economics, or whatever discipline it is that studies these things. But perhaps if the people who write the dairy market laws would read Wonder Woman comics, the cows wouldn't be leaving California, and milk wouldn't cost quite so much.

The scans from this post were taken from the wonderful Wonder Woman Chronicles Volume 1, which is well worth your time.

Originally posted at When Falls the Coliseum. Re-posted here because I'm lazy. And, also, I do like Marston's and Peter's original Wonder Woman comics.

Friday, November 30, 2012

James Gunn's "Superhero Sex" post

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've written a post on the controversy surrounding director James Gunn's "superhero sex" blog post. Here's a sample:



From that title alone, two things should be immediately apparent: The first is that Gunn has a broad, absurd sense of humor. The second is that this is a poll that is so completely unmoored from reality that it is no way meant to be -- nor could it be -- taken seriously. Superheroes are fictional characters. They are not real people. Actual, living, breathing human beings -- such as those who presumably took part in this completely unserious and over-the-top bizarre poll -- cannot, by definition, have sex with them. Because they are not real.

I repeat, because some people have trouble understanding this point: Superheroes are not real people.
...
Gunn's post isn't about Olivia Munn or Megan Fox. It's not about cosplayers. These are fictional characters about which he's waxing sleazy. And not even fictional characters, really -- they're Intellectual Property that big corporations use to make billions of dollars by exploiting passionate fandom. And sometimes, the fans who have spent entire lifetimes following the adventures of these characters have trouble understanding that they aren't in fact flesh and blood real people, but fictional characters. Case in point, this post from The Mary Sue, titled "SO HERE'S THE SLUT-SHAMING, HOMOPHOBIC POST ON SUPERHEROES BY… THE DIRECTOR OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY," which contains the following paragraph:
The screenshot at the top of this post is the entirety of what he has to say about Batwoman, which is both a reference to the idea that lesbians just need a good (read: streotypically masculine) man to have sex with them and they’ll be “cured” of their homosexuality, a delusion at the heart of an innumerable number of rapes; and a dig at Nightwing, one of the few male characters in comics who has actually gotten away with being drawn for the female gaze. Apparently, having been depicted as a female sex fantasy occasionally (and still with nowhere near the frequency that any given female character is drawn for the male gaze) instead of a male power fantasy literally makes him a woman.
Look at what the author of the post, Susana Polo, writes there. She states that Nightwing is a "character" who is "drawn" in a specific way, but in the next sentence claims that Gunn's sophomoric joke "literally makes him a woman."

Nightwing isn't a human being. He doesn't literally exist. He can't be made literally a woman. He can't be made "literally" anything. He doesn't exist in reality. Gunn's post isn't an "insult" of Nightwing, because Nightwing can't be insulted. He is a fictional character.

But look at Gunn's original post regarding Batwoman, pasted above. He starts out with an observation about the constituency that voted for Batwoman as one of "The 50 Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With." The actual people who voted for this were voting for the Intellectual Property they most wanted to have sex with. Batwoman is a lesbian fictional character. Gunn notes that mostly (actual) men voted for her. It's probably a safe assumption that most of those men who voted for Batwoman are straight men (although I'm not entirely sure what would be the sexual orientation of an actual human being who desires to "have sex with" fictional characters -- "Fictionsexuals"?). Then, in the very next sentence, he feigns ignorance by subtly noting the absurdity of the idea -- what are these straight men thinking, exactly? He claims he doesn't know. In the third sentence he makes an ironic, over-the-top joke that shows in fact he does know what they're thinking, and it's ludicrous: "I don't know what they're thinking, but I know I'd like to write a story about Iron Man 'turning' her." This sentence is also a subtle dig at "crossover" comics, which invariably follow the same pattern: the heroes meet, there's some misunderstanding, they fight, and then they join forces. In this case, the joining forces would involve getting Batwoman to "cross over." But, given the fact that Iron Man and Batwoman are both pieces of Intellectual Property owned by two different and competing corporations, that's not very likely, is it? I'd say it's about as likely as "turning" a lesbian "straight."


Batwoman isn't real. She is Intellectual Property. She's only as lesbian as the writers in charge of her "adventures" make her.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Some justice for Wonder Woman?

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I wrote a review of a book about the Wonder Woman TV show, called Surfing Channels: Wonder Woman. Here is a brief sample:

Somewhere, on some other of the Infinite Earths, the pilot script was re-tooled, and "Wonder Woman" became a smash hit, propelling the character to pop culture superstardom. She surpassed even the success of Batman, who was largely forgotten by the mainstream. (DC Comics made several attempts to revitalize that character, and turn him into one of the "Big Three," but they were to no avail. On this particular earth, no one could fully get a handle on the dark, violent, masculine ethos that animated him.)

Wonder Woman stole his thunder.

But the character suffered for this fame. In the eyes of the general public, Wonder Woman was pure camp. A joke. Even though comics fans knew her from storied runs by creators like Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, and Steven Englehart and Marshall Rogers, it wasn't really until Frank Miller's groundbreaking Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess Returns mini series event in 1986 completely revitalized the character, paving the way for Tim Burton's 1989 classic film. "Breakfast Club" and "Short Circuit" star Ally Sheedy was cast in the title role, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High's" Jennifer Jason Leigh won the role of The Cheetah, and Kevin Costner was cast as Steve Trevor. Warner Bros poured tens of millions of dollars into producing and marketing the film. Teenagers all over the world wore T-shirts emblazoned with her famous eagle bustier and had the stylized "WW" shaved into their heads.

The movie broke multiple box office records, and spawned three sequels. Recently, "Memento" director Christopher Nolan offered a brand new trilogy of films, "Wonder Woman Begins," "The Amazon Warrior," and "The Amazon Warrior Rises," to great acclaim and success.

That, mind you, is on some other Earth. One that was destroyed in the Crisis. On this earth, it seems everybody's afraid of Wonder Woman. But in the mid-1970s, Wonder Woman did manage to get herself into a couple of TV movies, a couple of one-hour specials, and then eventually into a series that, despite multiple obstacles (including changing the setting from the 1940s to the 1970s between the first and second seasons, and a change of networks), managed to last three seasons. It's mostly faded into obscurity, but it does retain a small but fervent cult following. Among the show's most devoted fans is Mike Pingel, author of the book Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman.



It's obvious that Pingel has a lot of enthusiasm for the TV iteration of the character, and Lynda Carter, the dazzlingly beautiful actress who portrayed her. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm isn't contagious; in fact, the book is actually alienating for a number of reasons. For one thing, you will note that in the paragraph above I gave the title as Channel Surfing: Wonder Woman. That is the title as it appears on the cover. However, at the heading of each page of the book, the title is given as Surfing Channels: Wonder Woman. It's never a good sign when a book is unsure as to its own title.

You can read the whole thing here.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New novel: The Fabulous Fanboy

Update: Read the first two chapters on Wattpad.




My new novel, The Fabulous Fanboy, is now available in ebook form. It's a rather dark and humorous examination of an obsessive fanboy whose attempts to drive the cultural narrative through the posting of vitriolic comments on the internet -- among other things -- causes him to lose, well, his perspective. Here is the description I posted on amazon:

NO DESCRIPTION COULD DO JUSTICE TO THIS SHOCKING TALE OF GEEK HATE!

The world as we know it is changing. Once relegated to the fringes of society, the geeks now control all aspects of culture, and its means of consumption. At the forefront of this revolution is Geeker Media programmer Brendan Kidd. As the World's Greatest Champion he remains tireless in the struggle for quality entertainment! Whether it's spending hundreds of hours a month reading comics and playing video games, or posting thousands of snarky comments on websites like Reddit and Rotten Tomatoes, Brendan will stop at nothing ensure that the good is praised, while the bad is viciously and mercilessly mocked!

But when Brendan's free pass to a screening of "The Avengers" is threatened, he'll have to face down the greatest challenge anyone has ever faced! Then, with barely any time to catch his breath, Brendan also must deal with the so-called artist who is stealing his girlfriend and using his life as the inspiration for his completely execrable self-published comic book (which stinks)! Can Brendan maintain the courage and focus necessary to deal with these senses-shattering events? Will he be able to narrow down his list of favorite season-three episodes of "Community" to just ten entries? Will he discover the shocking secret of the German amateur star of his favorite pornographic video? Who are the mysterious 50K? Will someone please explain to him why "The Big Bang Theory" is so popular?

IN A HOPELESS WORLD, A CHAMPION WILL RISE… TO POST SNARKY COMMENTS ON REDDIT!

Now that it's all written and done, I'm thinking it maybe resembles A Confederacy of Dunces, as written by Patricia Highsmith and Kevin Smith. Or, something like that.

Again, if you're interested, you can purchase it from amazon.com for a measly $2.99. Or, you can purchase it from Barnes & Noble for the same measly price. Print edition coming soon!


And here is the artwork for the forthcoming print version: UPDATE: 12-5-12: Print version now available, with a slightly different spine. You can purchase it here.


Here's a link to the first two chapters on Wattpad.

Monday, October 29, 2012

LAW OF SUPERHEROES review

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've written a review of the entertaining and informative new book THE LAW OF SUPERHEROES. Here is a small piece:

 In his essay "The Embarrassments of Science Fiction," the late great writer Thomas Disch offers a diagnosis of SF that seems to apply even more to mainstream superhero comic books. His thesis is that SF is a branch of children's literature, and, as such, is emotionally and thematically restrictive. The taste for SF is acquired during adolescence, and only the most hard-core stick with it as they age chronologically. As a result, SF is escapist literature that is meant to appeal to our adolescent side; stories are simple, without examining the real-world implications of the concepts explored:
The emotional limitations of children's literature are even more restrictive. There are, here and there, children bright enough to cope with the Scientific American or even the Times Literary Supplement, but crucial aspects of adult experience remain boring even to these prodigies… Other subjects commonly dealt with by mainstream writers are also presumed not to be of interest to sf readers, such as the nature of the class system and the real exercise of power within that system. Although there is no intrinsic reason (except difficulty) that sf should not venture into such areas, sf writers have characteristically preferred imaginary worlds in which, to quote Sprague de Camp, "all men are mighty, all women beautiful, all problems simple, and all life adventuresome." (ON SF, page 5)
When comic books were first published in the early 1930s, they were regarded as ephemeral juvenilia, to be read and thrown away, long forgotten before dinner time. The earliest comic books were collections of newspaper comic strips, but even when material was finally being produced specifically for the format, the stories presented concepts that were not thought through. They weren't supposed to be -- they would fall apart under too much scrutiny.

Take for example the simplistic tale of Superman tearing down tenements in order to fight the problem of youth gangs in Action Comics #8. Superman's logic is that if he destroys the decrepit buildings in which these disadvantaged youth live, the government will come in and build all-new, shiny apartment buildings that will automatically change their lives for the better. In the story, the government does -- in just a few weeks. And, presumably, everyone whose home was destroyed by Superman (where were they staying while the apartments were being built?) get to move in, at the same rental rates.

 

 At best, you could call this story a metaphor. Or, perhaps, a wish-fulfillment fantasy. At heart, that's what mainstream superhero comics are. And things haven't changed all that much in the years since. Superheroes are still knocking down buildings while making simplistic moral and political statements -- Marvel's Civil War miniseries being a notable and popular example. Superficially, the latter miniseries seems more sophisticated and nuanced. Really, it's just longer, and has more splash panels and two-page spreads. The comics of the earliest years packed just as much story into 12 or 22 pages as modern creators cram into six issue, paperback collection-friendly arcs.

You can read the rest here.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Actually, Tom Hanks, that "Good Morning America" F-bomb wasn't the worst moment of your professional career

Recently, America's sweetheart Tom Hanks inadvertently dropped an "F-bomb" during an episode of "Good Morning America." It was all over the internet. You can watch it here if you insist.

At the premiere of his latest movie, the Wachowskis' Cloud Atlas, Mr. Hanks called that inadvertent slip,
"Worst moment of my professional career," he told Access, referring to the F bomb. "Absolute worst."

"You looked so mortified the minute it [happened]," Tom's wife, Rita Wilson, who accompanied him on the red carpet, said.

"Oh... I was," Tom added.
Tom Hanks, you will recall, was caught yukking it up with a man in blackface at a school fundraiser in 2004. When the video of that surfaced (he had no comment on the topic until a video of the incident was produced), he had this to say:
"In 2004, I was blindsided when one of the parents got up on the stage in a costume that was hideously offensive then and is hideously offensive now," Hanks said in a statement to TheWrap.  "What is usually a night of food and drink for a good cause was, regrettably, marred by an appalling few moments."
Just so we're clear: In Mr. Hanks's mind, spending a good 15-20 minutes telling bestiality jokes with a guy in blackface was "hideously offensive," but inadvertently dropping an "F bomb" on a morning entertainment show was the "Worst moment of my professional career." And of course, as his wife points out, he looked so mortified the minute the F bomb was dropped.

You'll note also that he doesn't even mention Extremely Loud Ampersand Incredibly Close.

Just so his priorities are in order.

Interestingly, it turns out that the Media Action Network for Asian Americans is protesting Cloud Atlas because, um, it casts white people in Asian roles.
"You have to ask yourself: Would the directors have used blackface on a white actor to play Gyasi’s role?” asked [MANAA founding president Guy] Aoki, referring to David Gyasi, the freed slave in the film.  I don’t think so: That would have outraged African American viewers.  But badly done yellowface is still OK."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Honey Boo Boo puts that cretinous jerk Dr. Drew Pinsky in perspective

I loathe Dr. Drew Pinsky. I think at some point I probably promised to never post about him again, but I couldn't resist posting this clip of Honey Boo Boo, the star of the TLC reality show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, offering a delightful and precocious commentary on that dangerous narcissist:




How much better off would we all be if everyone just fell the hell to sleep when Dr. Drew appeared?

Related, from the Daily Beast: The 'Celebrity Rehab' Death Trap. Seriously, keep Dr. Drew Pinsky away from people. He is dangerous.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Superman ruling paves the way for a new JUSTICE LEAGUE movie

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've got a new post up about the Superman Copyfight Crisis. Here's a sample:

The Los Angeles Times (via Unleash the Fanboy!) is reporting that the recent judgment in favor of Warner Bros and DC Comics in the ongoing fight for the rights to certain aspects of the Superman mythos might help speed along the long-rumored Justice League movie.

Whew! I guess we can all breath easier, huh? Justice served, and all that? The good guys won, and we can enjoy seeing real live human actors portray the characters we've long enjoyed as drawings in comics and in animated films. Hooray. From the story:
Had Warner lost its case against the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, it would not have been able to make "Justice League" or any other movies, television shows or comics featuring key elements of the Man of Steel's mythos after 2013 unless it reached a new agreement with the estates of Shuster and co-creator Jerry Siegel. That uncertainty made it difficult for Warner to move ahead with "Justice League," which the studio's motion pictures group president, Jeff Robinov, has long wanted to make as a pillar of its big-screen superhero strategy.
I don't know about you, but I was feeling a lot of pity for the poor megaconglomerate Warner Bros, thinking that they might have to actually give a few extra bucks to the heirs of the two men who created one of the most important pop culture characters of the 20th century, so that they can make billions more dollars off that character.

And when I say "character," I of course mean "piece of intellectual property."

Read it all here.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Free autographed copy of Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist to anyone who asks either presidential candidate their position on enema murder

The stakes have never been higher, obviously. This is the most important election of our lifetimes. Tomorrow's "town hall" style debate will be the most important debate of our lifetimes. That's why I'm offering one free autographed copy of the classic novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist, to the person at tomorrow's "debate" who asks *either* candidate for their position on enema murder.

That's right. Ask Obama. Ask Romney. I couldn't care less. Ask them the question, and I'll send you the book. With my signature. Also, I will inscribe the message of your choice. If you'd like for me to thank you for asking the question, I'll do that. If you'd like for me to write that you're my best friend and inspired the novel, I'll do that. If you want me to write that I've always been in love with you, I'll do that. It's your choice!

Just ask the question, and get a free book!


Illustration by Chris Wisnia.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

THE METABARONS is not a graphic novel created by robots

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I have posted a review of Jodorowsky's and Gimenez's classic graphic novel, THE METABARONS. Here is a snippet:

Back in 2003, I attended a screening of Santa Sangre at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival. The film's director, the great filmmaker and graphic novel author Alejandro Jodorowsky introduced the film, and at one point during the brief pre-screening interview he said, "I'm currently working on a new film, but it's unlikely that it will screen at the cinema, because it is a film by a poet, and not a robot."

The robots have completely taken over what passes for popular entertainment and culture, while the poets are increasingly marginalized. As the cost of everything goes up, the situation only gets worse. The robots take approved intellectual property A and match it with approved concept B to create corporate art marketed to fans who will then turn around and prosthyletize on message boards and websites. These products -- movies, comic books, video games -- are designed to create specific responses in consumers -- namely, brand loyalty -- so that consumers will continue to buy more products with the intellectual property to which fans respond.

 It's gotten even worse in comic books. In the past, the difficulty in translating comic book characters into believable and popularly-accessible films meant that the characters merely had to entertain readers. Today, when comics-based films can bring in a billion dollars worldwide, the characters are no longer characters. They are corporate assets, to be treated in very specific ways that will not damage their money-making potential. In DC's "New 52," writers are complaining about the level of editorial interference in the books. Editors (along with marketing, legal, promotions, and licensing staff) are calling the shots, while the writers and artists act as robots who are plugging in the approved concepts, which have themselves been strip-mined from decades of past continuity. DC's recent Craftsman tools tie-in, THE TECHNICIAN, is the extreme example -- a character that exists in the DC Universe for the sole purpose of reminding readers to buy tools.

 "Illusion of change" has transmogrified into "Illusion of story." Mainstream comics exist not as works of art created by poets, but as commercials created by robots.

 Fans have become complicit in this. As "Toy Story 3" illustrated, the owners of intellectual property expect the fans to help them promote their products by spreading the word to others. Fans understand their role not just as consumers but as prosthyletizers; it's why you see them threatening and insulting critics who challenge a film's "tomatometer." There's a lot invested in the idea that what we're being fed by the robots is not, in fact, capital-S Shit, but capital-A Art. This is why fans attempt to canonize comic book films within a week of their release -- this list of the "Top 10 Comic Book Movies [Updated 2012]" appeared only a week after the release of "The Dark Knight Rises," and only about a two months after the release of "The Avengers," and yet both of those films landed in the meaningless "top three." The robots who are creating mainstream corporate art are plugged into the emotions of fandom because they share their meager goals. When Kelly Sue DeConnick explained what she hoped to accomplish when she took over as concept-arranging robot for AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, she stated that her goal was to create the mainstream-comics equivalent of money shots:
Singh then followed up by asking DeConnick for a one-word description of the series and she said "AC/DC." "I pitched it as the short rock, classic Avengers. When I saw the movie, I managed to keep it together until that point when Iron Man flew on the screen with AC/DC playing. Then I started bouncing in my chair clapping, and that's what I'm writing for. That's the moment."
No interest in exploring character, culture, politics. She knows there's no point, anyway. Even if she weren't a robot, the owners of The Avengers (Disney, which released "Toy Story 3") won't let their intellectual property be used for anything other than selling product, and the fans themselves really only want money shots anyway.



And you can read the rest here, if you want.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

DC's new Craftsman commercial, THE TECHNICIAN

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've posted some nonsense about DC's Craftsman commercial, a comic book called THE TECHNICIAN. Here's a portion:

 

Beloved intellectual properties Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Cyborg have contracted to appear in a commercial promoting Craftsman tools. Forbes has the story:
Fans who attend the sold out New York Comic-Con (NYCC) October 11-14 at the Javitz Center will see the first-ever print comic book crossover between DC Entertainment and Craftsman — “Craftsman Bolt-On System Saves the Justice League.” The story involves major super heroes like Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman and The Flash. Of course, this being a digital world, anyone can view or download the comic online at www.CraftsmanComic.com beginning October 1.
As of today, September 27th, if you visit the website referenced above, you will be greeted by this image:



That "click here" leads to the website for ePrize, which is a social, mobile and web marketing company. I'm not sure, but isn't ePrize a subsidiary of LexCorp?

You can read the rest here, if you want.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Should the marriage of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu be illegal?

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've posted a bit of irony on the marriage of the Marvel comics characters Northstar and Kyle Jinadu. A snippet:

Sadly, Michael Bloomberg, who has been on the cutting edge of protecting people from large sugary drinks, apparently doesn't care if they get crushed to death by superpowered sexual partners, as he has actually endorsed this deadly activity by appearing at the June wedding, and actually consuming what appears to be a sugary drink:


Full piece can be read here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Some notes on Brian De Palma and his Love Crime remake, Passion

Brian De Palma is one of the most important filmmakers of my lifetime. Or, on my lifetime. One of my earliest memories is of watching his film adaptation of Stephen King's novel Carrie on HBO, with my  mother. This was back when HBO would show R-rated films only at night, and we didn't have a VCR, which at that time would have cost in the $1,000s. My mother wanted to watch the film, but she was afraid to watch it by herself, alone, at night. So I got to stay up well past my bedtime and watch it with her.

At that time, my mother had red frizzy hair, and kinda resembled Piper Laurie.



This was one of the most terrifying experiences I've ever endured. To this day, whenever I smell black cherry incense (which is actually more often than you might think), I go into conniptions.

A few years later, I watched De Palma's second collaboration with John Travolta, Blow Out, also on HBO. Damn, did De Palma know how to get your attention at the start of a movie or what? I remember thinking the ending was a little distasteful, maybe even hateful, but I was a reactionary little cuss back then. Re-watching it recently, I found a great deal of humor and humanity in it.

His remake or reboot or reimagining or whatever of Scarface, with Al Pacino, was one of the first movies I saw on video tape. (In our family, we weren't sure that home video wasn't going to just be a passing fad.) I was totally mesmerized. And appalled. What an excessive, bloated, violent, admirable, messy picture that was. It was one of the first films that I actually started to analyze on my own, without adult supervision or conversation. It was easy to see that De Palma, the same man who'd directed Blow Out and Carrie, would have put such a film together. They all shared a certain quality that I started calling "baroque," or "more is more."

I didn't have De Palma's sense of film history, not even close, so I didn't catch all or probably any of De Palma's references. I'd never heard of Blow Up, for instance. I knew that there was another, previous film called Scarface, but that was about it. Then, I saw his Dressed to Kill. Yeah, I had already seen Psycho, so I recognized the pastiche. Or, the celebration. The reference. The rip-off. I suppose there's a tension there. I don't generally feel it. Only once in a De Palma film have I ever thought his reference was a "rip off."

To me, De Palma's work is on the same continuum as Shakespeare, Sterne, Homer, Rimbaud, Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Plato, St Thomas Aquinas, Philip K Dick, Charles Willeford, Alfred Hitchcock, Stan Lee, etc. Great artists who borrowed the work of others to create their own unique works of art. So the fact that I now understood that De Palma was let's call it referencing other's works served to enrich my own experience of his work. It was one more thing to puzzle over. What was De Palma trying to establish with this borrowing of certain elements from Psycho? What did I miss from the other films of his that I'd seen?



I couldn't tell you how many times I watched Body Double. There was a movie with a hook, in particular for a snotty punk kid just entering puberty. In a way, I guess, I was helpless to resist De Palma; it was like he was growing up right along with me (again, at this time I'd only seen the five movies listed above. I doubt that, Sisters or Murder a la Mod were even available on video at that time; certainly not to a kid growing up in a small town in the midwest). For a brief period Body Double was my all-time favorite movie. It had everything: Sex, violence, twists, suspense. It was a perfect kid's movie.

I even loved Wise Guys. Another exercise in excess. Nobody made movies like De Palma. Even his comedies were violent and twisted and baroque.

The Untouchables was one of the most anticipated movies of my life. I couldn't wait to see that movie -- De Palma and David Mamet, for crying out loud, with gangsters on top of that. And that movie didn't disappoint. An elegantly constructed masterpiece, excessive in all the right ways, with genuinely powerful performances by everyone, in particular Kevin Costner, in those early days when he was really compelling (he's coming out of it now, but with a few exceptions, notably the great Tin Cup, he was just dull from roughly Field of Dreams to Dragonfly).



Around the time I saw Raising Cain, I was getting pretty seriously interested in horror movies, in particular Dario Argento's work. I loved Raising Cain, with John Lithgow's portrayal of a square's idea of a bully villain. The movie was a comedy as funny as Wise Guys, and even more excessive. And I was really jolted by the final shot of the movie. Then, about a month or two later, I happened to watch Argento's Tenebrae, released ten years earlier than Cain.

Same final shot. Exactly the freaking same.

The baby carriage on the steps scene in The Untouchables was an homage. The shower scene in Dressed to Kill was an homage. The images of the car crash in Blow Out was an homage. But that last scene in Raising Cain was a rip-off. So decided me, anyway.

De Palma is an artist. An eccentric, excessive, eclectic artist who doesn't always transcend his influences (which includes himself, by the way-- see Casualties of War and Redacted, for instance). His work might be frustrating at times, maybe disappointing, but he's never boring. So whenever I hear that he has a new film coming out, I always check it out. He is one of the most important filmmakers of my lifetime, after all.

A couple of weeks ago, the LA Times published an article about his latest effort, a film called Passion, which debuted at The Venice Film Festival.
The movie is a remake of Alain Corneau's 2010 French thriller "Love Crime," which starred Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as a seasoned executive and an up-and-comer locked into a dynamic of flirtation and manipulation that turns deadly.
When I was a kid, HBO would only show R-rated films at night. I didn't have a VCR, and even after we got a VCR, there was one video rental store. Today, I have Netflix streaming, and as soon as I read this article, I checked -- yes, Love Crime is streaming. I watched it the night I read the article. Immediate gratification.



In such a world, are remakes even necessary? At the Thrill Fiction blog, AJaye explains the artistic rationale for remakes:
[M]ovies, like hair and fashion, tend to date. Good movies that date due to dialogue, acting style, special effects, social attitudes et cetera can be revamped and remade (eg Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978).
Love Crime is a dumb movie. Much of the action of the first half of the film takes place in the offices of a large corporation where everyone speaks in vague corporatese that the actors might have picked up from watching a few episodes of The Office. The first act relies on one of the characters coming up with an amazing and unique idea that is banal: using local consultants on a new product launch! Who knows the locals better than other locals, after all? This is the big idea that sets the whole plot in motion.

The second half of the film is so improbable that there is no tension whatsoever. It doesn't help that the scenes are composed in a listless way that actually mimics a lifeless corporate report, as opposed to a suspense film.

Another big problem is that the two main characters are cyphers. The actresses, in particular the great Kristin Scott-Thomas as the older executive, give them a lot more interest and care than the screenwriters and director. She can say more with a glance than an entire paragraph of dialogue (especially in this film), and the scene in which she and Ludivine Sagnier are riding in her car on their way to a party is a lot more moving and powerful than it deserves.

It was made in 2010, but already feels dated. It was made in France, so the social attitudes are different from those of Americans. But should it be remade?

I'm looking forward to seeing it for two reasons: One, I just enjoy watching De Palma's work. Two, for crying out loud yes if there was ever a film that deserved to be remade, this is it.


There is definitely a kernel of greatness in the plot of the film. The early scenes of corporate intrigue could be really interesting, and inform the characters' motivations (in particular the Sagnier character) in the second half of the film, if only the script had some knowledge of how corporate employees actually interact. There are individual scenes that stand out, in particular the scene in which Scott-Thomas's character plays a video of "corporate employee bloopers" at a corporate get-together. So much sinister control and vicious black humor on display in that one amazing scene, the best scene in the entire film.

Love Crime feels like a rough draft. Perhaps it was; sadly, the director of the film, Alain Corneau, was battling cancer during production, and died before the film's release. The final product might not have been what was originally intended. In general terms, it seems as though De Palma gets that. Back to the LA Times:
"I saw there were many good things about it, and I saw there were many things I thought I could improve," said De Palma, on the phone from Paris, where he has lived on and off in recent years in addition to New York, of his impression upon seeing "Love Crime" for the first time. "I think it's very difficult to, let's say, remake a classic. This had things that could be made better when you remade it."
There is tension in De Palma's work, often independent of the story: Will this be a great De Palma film, like Body Double, or a bizarre mistake, like Snake Eyes? Did De Palma choose material that suits him, like The Untouchables, or did he choose material that is so far removed from anything he should even be thinking of doing that you have to wonder if someone didn't hit him in the head several times before sending him the script, like The Bonfire of the Vanities?

Whatever the case, I'm excited to find out.



Piper Laurie image source.
Dressed to Kill image source.
Tenebrae image source.
Love Crime image source.
Rachel McAdams Passion image source.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Clint Eastwood's Republican Convention speech was the best thing he's done since Space Cowboys

I would rather have diarrhea for three days than watch a political convention. It's not just the cynicism, the deceit, the utter phoniness of them, but also the fact that all of us are paying for them. Are you a Democrat? A Libertarian? A Green? TFB, you helped pay for last week's Republican infomercial. And you Republicans et. al. are footing the bill for the Democrats to get together and tout all their "accomplishments."

And it's hard to imagine a more over-rated filmmaker than Clint Eastwood. He's been involved in some good, even great films. Those Dollars films that he made with Sergio Leone are uniformly good, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of my all-time favorite films. I liked The Outlaw Josey Wales and High Plains Drifter. Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me are two fantastic examples of agitprop that retain their raw power.

I'd like to especially note the film Tightrope, a complex film about misogyny and corruption in which Eastwood gave what is easily the best performance of his career. Eastwood plays a variation on his Harry Callahan character, with the difference being that in this film, the policeman in question, Wes Block, recognizes his own inner decay and is horrified by it.

Also, there was Space Cowboys, a rousing meditation on old age obsolescence and politics.

Those are all fine films, and Eastwood has enjoyed an extraordinary career. But his later career, in particular the almost universal praise he's earned for his directing efforts, is completely baffling to me. His films are artificial and turgid. There is nothing authentic about them. His movies feel like movies, like every time he steps behind the camera he's attempting to create real capital-A Art, and the life is drained from them. And why is it that he's been using the same muted grey-blue color scheme in every one of his films? All of his movies look like the film was left out in the sun during processing.

Look at his recent filmography:

J. Edgar
Hereafter
Invictus
Gran Torino
Changeling
Letters From Iwo Jima
Flags of Our Fathers
Million Dollar Baby
Mystic River

I was only able to sit through three of those films (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Gran Torino). I tried to watch every single one of the others, and couldn't make it more than 15-20 minutes. Life's too short!

Those films that I did actually sit through are tedious. Mystic River had very good performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, but they're both usually very good. MDB might be the worst "Best Picture" of all time. GT is cynical phoneybaloney manipulative "emotion." None of the characters in any of these films behave like real people, but like props in a morality play. They are as staged and scripted as a political convention, draining away any feeling of real emotion and spontaneity.

And that is why Eastwood's performance at the Republican Convention was such a revelation. That thing was not scripted. It was totally spontaneous.

 

"I think, possibly, now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."

How's that for a ringing endorsement of the Republican presidential candidate? And, did he get a convention center full of Republicans to cheer bringing Americans home from Afghanistan tomorrow? Seriously, how often does anyone with a national platform mention ending America's "nation building" imperialism experiment? And in Afghanistan, which is supposedly the "justified" war?

"I think, possibly, now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."

Of course, there's hardly any difference between Romney and Obama on war and imperialism issues. Just as Obama has continued and amplified Bush's war policies, so would Romney. Perhaps, the occasionally libertarian-leaning Eastwood was subliminally endorsing Gary Johnson?

The talking to an empty chair was an effective metaphor, even if you disagree with the implications. Comparing the candidate Obama and everything that he allegedly stood for -- remember that he promised to close Gitmo (as Eastwood points out), he promised to be the "most transparent administration ever," he promised to not harass medical marijuana users or get in the way of states legalizing medical marijuana, etc to the president Obama reveals a person who, well, didn't really believe in any of those things he claimed to believe in. His campaign and much of his presidency has been spent decrying the mistakes of and the mess left by GW Bush, yet he has extended Bush's bailout policies, he's extended Bush's tax rates, he's extended Bush's neocon imperialism wars, he's ramped up the war on drugs.

If Bush was so bad, then why has Obama extended and amplified nearly every one of his policies? Perhaps all along it wasn't that Obama didn't like Bush's policies, it was that he felt that Bush didn't go far enough.

It's only too bad that Eastwood didn't hammer those points more forcefully. But it's clear that he made an impact. Immediately after the speech, Obama's campaign tweeted a picture of himself in a chair labeled THE PRESIDENT, with the caption, "This seat's taken."



Which only showed just how much they'd missed Eastwood's point. Yeah, Obama is the president. And he wants to brag about that? He wants to brag about high unemployment? He wants to brag about ruining the lives of medical marijuana users? He wants to brag about an escalated war on drugs that kills thousands of people all over the world every year? He wants to brag about the assassinations and the drone bombing of Muslims? He wants to brag about using terrorist tactics to fight "terrorists"? He wants to brag about using espionage laws to prosecute government workers who reveal abuses of power or otherwise embarrass the administration?

Okay, great. "This seat's taken." And just look at what you're doing with it.

But Eastwood's best point was when he said "You, me, we own this country... Politicians are employees of ours... And when somebody does not do the job, we gotta let 'em go." Obama is an employee. If more people like the indiscriminate drone bombing of Muslims, and like the harassment of medical marijuana users, and believe that the United States should rule the world, then they will vote to retain Obama. If they don't, then they'll vote to put someone else in that empty chair.

"I think, possibly, now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem."

I don't think at any point that Eastwood actually said that Romney was that "somebody else." I certainly don't think he is! (Full disclosure: I will be voting for Gary Johnson for president!) But he did say that "politicians are employees of ours." That was the message, and his spontaneous, meandering, strange, whimsical and muddled speech was a lot more exciting than Gran Torino.

And, he kinda obliquely dropped an "F-bomb," as the kids call it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Poodle Bitch does not care for "Dogshaming"

Poodle Bitch has noticed that human beings can often find a great deal of comfort -- or at least humor -- in the humiliation of others. The "Numa Numa Dance" guy. The "Star Wars kid." "Afro Ninja." The "Funky Chicken Teacher." The journalist Jon Ronson has observed that one sure way for humans to achieve internet success is to humiliate themselves.

 

But, what about those humans who wish to achieve some internet fame while remaining insulated from embarrassment? Poodle Bitch notes that if those humans have companion animals, they can offer those animals as sacrificial lambs to the internet gods, to bear the burden of shame in their place. Poodle Bitch has already written about Denver the "Guilty" dog, shamed by his human companions into appearing in a pathetic and mean-spirited video. Now, there is a new Tumblr called "Dogshaming," in which humans post humiliating photos of their oblivious companion animals "confessing" to "crimes."


Ha, ha.

Poodle Bitch is irritated.

First of all, there is the fact that the dogs themselves do not feel "shame." The dogs are engaging in behaviors that come naturally to them, and responding to cues from their human companions. In the case of the above photo, for instance, you have an image of a dog that feels genuine trauma during storms -- which can be quite confusing and frightening for dogs, with the cacophony of rolling thunder and the flashing of the lightning, and the rain pouring down from nowhere and everywhere all at once -- and so s/he reacts with fear, to such an extent that s/he cannot control bodily functions.

The human thinks this is funny. The trauma of a dog is amusing to this human. So much so, that the human scrawled a note that the dog most likely is unable to read, and had the dog sit beside it, so that a "hilarious" photo could be taken and shared with the entire world.

Poodle Bitch would like to point out that we have no real proof that the animal depicted in the above photo is actually "guilty" of the "crime" described. Human beings are notorious liars. They are notorious pursuers of fame. They are capable of random cruelty and narcissism. They are a strange and fantastic species. The existence of "Dogshaming" is proof of that.

And its growing popularity is further evidence of Poodle Bitch's theory that human beings are losing the ability to empathize, even with members of their own families, and see their companion animals as nothing more than "pets," as possessions to be used in whatever way will bring them the most amusement.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is it too early to start hating the RoboCop remake?

Over at the wonderful website Unleash the Fanboy, I have posted a longish essay about the upcoming RoboCop remake/reboot/reimagining/whatever it is going to be, in relation to fandom. The film is still shooting, and already some fans hate the movie. They really do.

Here is a sample from the opening, to get you interested, hopefully:


The original RoboCop is a science fiction classic. It's an almost perfect blend of satire, action, gruesome violence, and slapstick comedy. It spawned two or three sequels (I lost track -- check IMDb if you're really curious), a television show, an ongoing comic book series, and a comic book miniseries written by the great Frank Miller and drawn by the great Walt Simonson in which the title character took on The Terminator.

Of course it was going to be rebooted. Or, remade. Or reimagined. Or whatever you want to call it. That's what they do in Hollywood. The kids who loved RoboCop have grown up and are now working at movie studios and writing scripts. They want to celebrate what they loved. By remaking it. By extending the life of that intellectual property, just like they do in comic books.

However, it turns out that some of the kids who loved RoboCop also grew up to moderate message boards and run fandom websites. And what they do is rush to judgment about their favorite intellectual property. The "creative" people are celebrating that intellectual property they loved by remaking it. The "fans" are celebrating that intellectual property they loved by offering withering attacks and/or withering praise, based on whatever the conventional wisdom happens to be at the time.

Setting that conventional wisdom is often a major accomplishment for a fan. If a film turns out to be a "classic," then you look and feel really smart for saying so as early as possible. Take for example the case of The Dark Knight Rises. Most fans had already made up their minds before that film came out that it was going to be an epic film experience. It was, we kept being reminded, the most anticipated film of the year (check out this list, which also included the Total Recall remake, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, both of which set the world on fire. and the G.I. Joe sequel, which was actually pushed back to 2013-- which means that film will now have almost two years worth of anticipation behind it). In fact, last year, DKR actually won a Scream Award for "Most Anticipated Movie," which might be the most important award ever given to any film. It's not an award for quality, it's an award for what we expect of the quality.

And at advance screenings, the thunder of applause could be heard drowning out everything else. Except, of course, the sounds of fans making death threats and vituperations against critics who were too stupid to recognize the greatness of a movie that many of them had yet to actually see.


Many people are worried that the upcoming RoboCop remake will not give the intellectual property the respect that it deserves.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gymnastic events we won't be seeing at the Olympics

In honor of the Olympics in general (full disclosure: I haven't watched any of it!) and of the talented American gold-medal gymnast Gabby Douglas in particular, I dug out an article entitled "Gymnastic Events We Won't Be Seeing at the Olympics," which appeared in the September 1996 issue of the old Cracked magazine. It was written by a very young Ricky Sprague, and drawn by a very talented Terry Colon. Please enjoy:


What I find most surprising is that some of these made me laugh today, just now, as I was scanning the pages. Thank you, younger Ricky Sprague and Terry Colon.

Last year, the author Mark Arnold wrote a (two volume!) history of the print version of Cracked magazine entitled If You're Cracked, You're Happy. Even though Mr. Arnold never sent me any copies of the books (and after I wrote him something like 1,000 words worth of rambling recollections!), I still recommend that you read it, if you're interested in the history of Cracked. Or even if you're not interested. Especially if you're not interested.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Dark Knight sinks

This movie was better than "The Dark Knight Rises."


It is impossible to “spoil” something that is already rotten. However, the following post contains specific plot information about the film “The Dark Knight Rises,” so if you haven’t yet seen the film (don’t!) and you don’t want to know what happens in the film (trust me, you don’t!), then read no further.


There is a great deal of irony in the title “The Dark Knight Rises.” The character of Batman cannot rise above this material, and so the character sinks. The film is completely nonsensical and ludicrous, so the film itself sinks, hard. The acclaim afforded the film shows a decline in critical thinking, in particular among fanboys and geeks; fandom sinks. And each of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films has declined in quality.

 “The Dark Knight Rises” is the worst Batman film of all time. It is worse than Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin." It is worse than “Batman XXX: A Porn Parody.” It is worse than Leslie Martinson's “Batman” film from 1966.  It’s worse than “The Dark Knight Raises.”



Not only that, it’s actually worse than “Catwoman.”

It is spectacularly, mind-bendingly awful. It’s so awful, there were times while I was watching it that I thought it might be a put-on. Here is a major filmmaker saying, “You people will pay to see anything – not only that, you’ll turn anything into an event, and you’ll even make excuses for it, and fight on the message boards to protect it.”

There are so many problems with the film that it’s difficult to know exactly where to begin. Its flaws are fundamental to its very structure. Story—there is none. Just a series of set-pieces. Characters – there are none. Just a bunch of robots pretending to be human. Logic, consistency, intelligence – none of these things are present in this film.

The problems are present from the start: What was the point of the opening set piece, with the skyjacking? Other than, “It looks cool,” I mean. Bane wanted to find out what the doctor knew? Really? So he allowed the CIA to capture him and had his buddies attack the plane in mid-flight? And then after this spectacular getaway is effected, Bane just sort of… drifts into the Gotham City sewers, with no follow up from the CIA, whose operatives have all been killed in a bizarre plane crash (the wings are over here, the tail is over there, the fuselage is over there). No other planes are scrambled to intercept Bane. Nothing.

And while in Gotham’s sewers (and no one is checking what’s going on down there), Bane is putting explosives in the cement being used to build the city’s infrastructure, with the goal of at some point in the future – during the big football game! – hitting a  detonator button that will cause that cement to explode? Is that really how explosives work?

And about that football game – the football field collapses under the players’ feet, yet the stands remain untouched. This also makes no sense – they apparently only used the explosive cement on the ground under the field – except that it affords Bane the opportunity to strut out onto the field with a couple of guys and deliver a soliloquy (everyone gets a soliloquy in this movie) about how he has a nuclear device and someone in Gotham has the detonator and don’t anyone come after me or I’ll blow it up.

The federal government, the military, the CIA, the drone bombs, the governments of every other country just decide, “You know what? They’ve got a nuclear weapon with what someone claims is a six-mile wide detonation radius. Let’s just leave them alone and hope the thing doesn’t go off. That’s our plan. That’s right. Seriously. That is our plan. And we’re sticking to that plan for at least 100 days.”

Meanwhile, the Gotham City Police Department is trapped underground. For over 100 days. Remember when those miners in Chile were trapped underground for 69 days? They are still dealing with the emotional stress of that. Yet in all the shots of the Gotham PD, they’re seen lounging around, hanging out, waiting for their food baskets to drop down from above so that they can eat. It's like they're on vacation down there!

Yes, for some reason, Bane et al, who plan to destroy Gotham City anyway, not only let the Gotham Police Department live, they actually send food down to them. So they can keep their strength up, so that when they get out they can use the guns that they've still got to come out fighting!

And, every so often, John Blake’s partner gets a note from him. Blake drops these notes down through a sewer grate.

What the hell happens to the cops when it rains? It’s winter – how do they keep warm? 

Speaking of John Blake – how in the hell does he figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Bruce Wayne visited the orphanage one day, and a young Blake takes one look at him, and he just sorta, you know, reaches into the zeitgeist and he just knows?

And the villains. It doesn’t occur to Batman, during his initial, brutal fistfight with Bane to punch Bane in the weird contraption that he wears on his face? He has to wait until the big citywide fight orgy at the end of the film to use his skills as the world’s greatest detective to deduce that maybe the weird thing on the villain’s face might be something he should knock out?

And, oh, Bane. Did you really give Batman a variation on that old supervillain chestnut “Killing you would be too easy, you must suffer as I have suffered”? Yes, you did. And only halfway through the movie, too. So, Bane then (by magic!) takes Batman to a mysterious prison that is at the bottom of a giant well. A giant well with a rope that’s tied to something near the top. Many have tried to climb its sheer walls, yet no one apparently has thought to JUST CLIMB UP THE DAMNED ROPE THAT’S RIGHT THERE AND TIED AROUND YOUR WAIST, and then shimmy up the rest of the way.

And wasn’t it awfully convenient of Bane et al to give Bruce Wayne that time to recuperate? Right there in a cell with a caretaker, and right next to the prison’s doctor, who has a grudge against Bane. And I guess Bruce Wayne’s injuries weren’t all that bad after all, since all it took to start him on the road to recovery was to tie a rope under his armpits and then hit him in the vertebra that was sticking out of his back. (But then, I’m not a doctor, so I’m not sure just how vertebrae work. Maybe all it does take is one punch to get everything back in alignment. I guess maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.)

These are the same people who feed the police, in their underground vacation spot. They are the most accommodating and least threatening villains of all time.



And for crying out loud, do we really need villains who stop to explain their amazing master plan before finally executing their master their plan? Once they discover that Batman’s back (how’d he get back? how’d he find Catwoman excuse me Selina? he just sort of shows up when he needs to – but then, there’s a lot of that in this movie, too), why don’t they just DETONATE THE FREAKING NUCLEAR BOMB RIGHT THEN; if it’s so important that they fulfill Ra’s Al Ghul’s master plan and destroy Gotham City, then just do it already and END THE MOVIE.

Of course, they haven’t done it already. Because they want Gotham City to suffer. As I have suffered. Because they’re supervillains and supervillains don’t just do stuff, they want to stretch it out to make the heroes suffer.

They also pause just before achieving final victory, so that they can soliloquize their explanations. How long does Talia/Miranda keep her thumb poised above the detonator while she LITERALLY GOES BACK TO HER CHILDHOOD to explain her motives and her INCREDIBLY SURPRISING BACKSTORY that she is actually the one who ignored the rope and made that stupid jump from one ledge to another and escaped from the giant well, and she was the one who was the child of Ra’s Al Ghul, and she is the one who will fulfill her father’s master plan of destroying Gotham City once and for all, just as soon as she’s finished telling you all her origin because she never went to a psychiatrist.

Then she does it again after the truck she's been driving crashes, and she's dying from internal injuries.

And how did the world’s greatest detective not do any research on Miranda Tate/Talia Al Ghul? He’s making her his CEO and what, he googled her name and just accepted everything he found? She’s not a vice presidential running mate for crying out loud DID YOU NOT VET THIS WOMAN?

And Alfred and Bruce had an irreconcilable falling out over Rachel’s letter? Really, Bruce, you’ve trusted Alfred with everything, he’s raised you since you were an orphan but NO THIS IS JUST TOO MUCH I CAN’T TAKE ANY OF THIS ANYMORE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD THIS IS A BAD MOVIE.

There’s been much written about the politics of the film. The thriller writer Andrew Klavan called it
[A] bold apologia for free-market capitalism; a graphic depiction of the tyranny and violence inherent in every radical leftist movement from the French Revolution to Occupy Wall Street; and a tribute to those who find redemption in the harsh circumstances of their lives rather than allow those circumstances to mire them in resentment.
This commentary ignores the fact that the film is so slapdash that trying to figure out if Bane is a member of #OWS is totally pointless. It’s hard for me to believe, given all the mistakes and illogic of the film, that the creators gave much thought to putting it together. Beyond “They’ll buy anything,” I mean. And if they didn’t think about it too much, why the hell should I? The film’s politics are slightly less profound than Sham 69’s “If the Kids are United.”


Nothing about this film makes any sense. To quote Homer Simpson, It’s just a bunch of that happened.

But that stuff is designed specifically to stimulate fanboys, and in that sense the film is an unqualified success. On July 6th, it was screened for a select few “critics” and fanboys with little in the way of critical thinking skills. It received a standing ovation, and some embarrassing twitter praise:
"The Dark Knight Rises has just finished screening for the press and critics, receiving a STANDING OVATION!!!," film reviewer Lauren Hiestand wrote, as highlighted by Comic Book Movie. Another critic, Marco Gennuso, gushed, "If this does not break the mold and win Best Picture, no comic book movie ever will #TDKR." 
 
Tom McAuliffe, meanwhile, tweeted, "Just finished the screening of Dark Knight Rises...so much awesome...can't wait to see it again. And again." 

 
 
"The trilogy is greater than the sum of its parts, and for me the 3rd was the very best part of the whole story. Dark knight is a classic in its own right - it stands alone, but in this trilogy, and as a closer, this film exceeds. It's an ending that presents opportunity for thought for sure. Risky/tough story well told, brilliantly acted, great cinematography, awesome score." 
 
Additionally, The Dark Knight Rises Hype group on Facebook wrote, "As far as audience reaction, there were only 40-50 ppl in attendance (mostly critics), but there was applause and I leaned over and shook Michael Uslan's hand and congratulated him when his name appeared in the credits. I, myself, cried twice...once out of sadness and once out of pure geeky uncontrollable happiness."
It’s difficult to imagine the mindset of a person who would be moved to tears by such a film, let alone want to sit through its nearly three-hour running time “again. And again.”

There is no emotion in the film. The characters do not bear any resemblance to actual people, nor do the situations in the film bear any resemblance to reality. So how could these people be so moved by it?

An answer, of sorts, can be found in this Nerdbastards post, “The 10 Best Things About ‘The Dark Knight Rises’” (how did he limit himself to just ten????):
One of the overriding memories I have of my press screening of this film is centered on Bane and Batman’s brawl in Gotham’s sewers. I was sitting next to a couple of fellow comic book geeks, and when Bane lifted Batman over his head we all held our breath. When he dropped him over his knee we all winced, and one of my fellow viewers whispered “Oh my God, he did it.” This was the oft-rumored iconic Batman comic book movie playing out on the screen, with brutal effectiveness.
The film brings to life images from the comic books that we comic book fans grew up on. We hold our breaths. We wonder if the film with the $250 million budget will show the image that was drawn into a comic book. When it does, we show our reverence in hushed tones. We cry. We give it a STANDING OVATION!!!



Those standing ovations, incidentally, began even before many of us had seen the film. (That's how sincere they were!) When the first negative reviews of the film started to come in to Rotten Tomatoes, the Rotten Tomatobots took to the message boards to use vituperations and death threats to try to convince those critics that, well, they were just so damned wrong about what we all knew in our hearts to be an amazing film.
The aggregating Web site RottenTomatoes.com suspended user comments on movie reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises" after commenters reacted harshly to negative reviews of the film and made profane and threatening remarks about the critics who wrote them. 
Matt Atchity, the site's editor-in-chief, said Tuesday it was the first time RottenTomatoes.com has suspended user comments, adding postings about "Dark Knight" reviews would likely be restored by the end of the week. The final film in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy opens Friday. 
"The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether," said Atchity. "It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn't even seen."
As anyone who has spent any time on the Rotten Tomatoes message boards will tell you, this was very fishy. The Rotten Tomatobots have been using vicious, hateful, and threatening language against critics who dare to criticize their favored intellectual property for years.



So what was really going on? Well, dig this:
RottenTomatoes.com is owned by social movie site Flixster.com, a Warner Bros. company.
And Warner Bros. is the studio that released “The Dark Knight Rises.”

So, the week the film is to open, a website that has for years tolerated the vicious comments of passionate fanboys suddenly announces that they just can’t take it anymore and they’re shutting it down, because people are getting TOO WORKED UP OVER A MOVIE THAT IS TO BE RELEASED BY THE COMPANY THAT OWNS THE WEBSITE.

The “Toy Story” films perfectly outlined the ways in which intellectual property owners co-opt fandom to promote their products. The Rotten Tomatoes stunt was a new wrinkle, but it was just more of the same.

Opening this Friday! The film that got the fanboys so worked up they actually made death threats against film critics who didn’t like it. Or, who claimed not to like it, since there’s no way anyone can dislike this film – they’re obviously trolls.

And yet, despite all this, the geeks understand intuitively that something’s not quite right. In this video, two geeks discuss the film, and are forced to admit, under duress, that it’s a merely “great film,” not an “exceptional” one.



And on comicbook.com’s hastily-revised update of the “10 best comic book films of all time,” “The Dark Knight Rises” only made it to number 3:
In spite of a flawed third act, The Dark Knight Rises functions beautifully as a third act all its own, following up Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to give a movie that’s so ambitious in scale and meticulously mapped-out in the big picture that some of the niggling details may not be 100%, but they don’t really impede your enjoyment of an absolutely inspired piece of filmmaking.
Oh sure, it’s just the “niggling details” that aren’t 100% (whatever the hell that means). Too bad those “niggling details” add up over the course of the film, to the point that nothing in the entire film makes even the slightest bit of sense.

But that’s just a niggling detail. We know what really matters – the fact that BANE BROKE THE BAT, JUST LIKE IN THE COMICS!

STANDING OVATION!!!

Comicbook.com also had to acknowledge that there were “five things that Nolan should have done.” Note that none of the five things mentioned includes using logic to tell a coherent story, or to try to fill in plot holes, or to not fall back on tired old superhero/villain clichés. My own favorite of the five offers more insight into the mind of the geek:
Clarify John Blake’s arc for those who don’t get it 
This is the one we feel the least passionate about, since Blake’s arc seemed pretty clear to us–but since his final fate has become the source for so much online discussion and debate, it may have been worthwhile to keep that final shot going for just another ten seconds or so, to see what ended up in his hands when he arrived at his destination. 
Was that the best way to say that without spoiling the ending? We want to avoid spoilers on this one. In any event, some people argue that it’s unclear what John Blake will do next after The Dark Knight Rises. We wholeheartedly disagree, but another ten seconds of filming and the director could have made it unequivocally clear to anyone with a pulse, so there’s an argument to be made that he might have been better off doing so.
Some people just don’t get it. Oh, we get it. This is a great film. One of the top-three all-time best comic book movies. But some people don’t get it. Those people need help. We’re not saying they’re stupid, not in so many words, but we’re saying they needed help. So, just a few more seconds tacked on to a movie that was already pushing three hours and had dozens of nonsensical scenes would cleared up everything about JOHN FREAKING BLAKE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

Never mind why every single character in the film always happens to be in exactly the right spot at the right time. Never mind that nobody could figure out that Bruce Wayne was Batman despite the fact that his armory was discovered inside Wayne Enterprises. Never mind that nobody apparently did anything to examine the background of Miranda Tate. Never mind that the police just lounged around doing nothing underground for three months. Never mind that everyone in the entire world outside of Gotham City just went on about their lives, occasionally asking each other, “Hey, you know whatever happened to that nuclear bomb in Gotham City?  Yeah, I haven’t heard, either. You gonna eat that?” Never mind that Bruce Wayne had the most miraculous recovery from a broken back in the history of comic book movies. Never mind that no one in the well prison has ever thought to just shimmy up that damn rope and get out of there. Never mind any of those “niggling details”—there are some people who don’t know whether or not John Blake decides to start running around in Bruce Wayne’s Batsuit, so those dummies need to have everything SPELLED THE HELL OUT FOR THEM.

I think that a lot of geeks are looking at “The Dark Knight Rises” as a test of their loyalty. Can they overlook all those “niggling details” and appreciate the true artistry and entertainment that must lie at its core? If you can do that – if you can love this film as much as you know you should, if you can understand it as the well-mapped out third act of the greatest comic book based trilogy in history, then you, my friend, are a true fan.

And now it’s time for true fans to move on to speculation about the inevitable Batman movie reboot. It’s what we do. It’s part of the process.

Thinking, on the other hand, is not.